Christians and churches today are emphasizing the building of community. The focus is first the building of community within the local church and then, after this, the building of the community they are located in. There are many things that God’s people, the Church, can do to build community – both within the church and within the wider community in which they are located. Here are a few that we might want to focus on. Using the acrostic of the word “service.”

S = spiritual formation. We agree that we will help each other grow spiritually. We will “speak the truth in love” and allow the truth to set people free. We focus on helping others within the church family and especially in our small groups to grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.

E = evangelism. We desire for our friends, family, and even those we work with and out neighbours to come to know Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom. So, all of our events and activities should involve inviting the unsaved that we relate to. We need to let them see true community and how Christians live and relate to one another. So, we are focused on the lost both already within the church community and those outside the church.

R = recreation. It is important if not imperative that Christians have fun together. This is very healthy for believers and also can be a good influence on non-believers. Often Christians are simply too serious about life. Yes, we all have problem. Yes, there is a tremendous need to see the lot saved. Yes, there are major issues in the world that are serious. But, the Bible states that God has given all things to us to enjoy. So, we need to loosen up a bit and not be so serious.

V = volunteerism. We will each volunteer to help our church. Every member of the body of Christ ministering to the body so that it can mature and become healthy. As well, each member should volunteer to help people in their neighbourhood or local community so that they continue to be the salt of the earth and a light on a hill. Every member is a minister within the church; every member is on a mission within their community.

I = international missions. We will become aware of the church in the almost 200 nations on the world. We will pray, support, encourage, and even finance the work being done in foreign nations. We will become willing to “go into all the world” as the Lord commanded. We will go because we love Him and thus obey Him. The first step is to simply become aware of each nation, the people, the culture, the situation, and what is happening about the Christian Church in the nations. Prayer is important here.

C = care. We will care for each other. As believers in a local church we will take care of one another. We will rejoice when others rejoice; we will bear one another’s burdens; we will encourage one another. Really, in the Church that Jesus is building the people provide the pastoral care. The pastor is simply there to equip the people for the work of the ministry. So, believers will care for and about believers and be there for them as members of the local church.

E = extending compassion. We will also reach out and help the poor and the needy in our local community and in our neighbourhoods. We will take our passion for Jesus and let it overflow into compassion for those who are hurting and need a helping hand. Remembering that we are helping because we are followers of Jesus and so we are to look for opportunities to tell them why we are loving and compassionate. The ultimate goal of expending compassion is the salvation of souls.

Churches around the world are stepping up and working to follow Jesus and what He is doing today in their area of the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus said He came to serve. So, if we are following Jesus we will certainly be involved in ‘service’ to others.

From Here to There – A Thought!

If you are a leader in the Church that Jesus is building you need to understand “From here to There.” The central work of those of us called to be leaders (of Bible studies, small groups, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, children’s ministry, worship teams, or the local church) is to move people from ‘here’ to ‘there.’ This means you need to work at stimulating a person’s vision of the future and their imagination. The role of a leader is to say, “Here’s where we are at,” and then to ask the question, “Where is there?” The leader’s job is to describe this future in such a way that produces passion in people, igniting their enthusiasm to the point where people say, “I no longer want to stay ‘here.'” Here sounds unconscionable compared to ‘there.’

A lot of that was what Jesus was doing when He would say, “You’ve often heard it said, …” which describes a current reality, “But I say to you, the Kingdom of God is like…” That’s the ‘there.’ Leaders need to offer people the opportunity to move out of a current reality by understanding the ‘there’ – a Kingdom reality of what Heaven is really like right here on earth. Then the leader needs to develop a practical plan and resources that allow people to begin the journey from ‘here’ to ‘there.’

Of course, this assumes that, as a leader, you are in an intimate relationship with the Head of the Church – Jesus Christ. And, that you are spending enough quality time with Him to know, from His vantage point, what the current ‘here’ is and what the next frontier or the new ‘there’ looks like. And, that you have spent enough time in His presence and listened intently to His voice so that you know how He wants you to get from ‘here’ to ‘there.’

As a leader, you are called to do more than feed the sheep. You are called to lead the sheep – going from one pasture to the next as the Lord directs. It is time for leaders to recognize that they are to both feed and lead and get busy doing so supernaturally after hearing the heart of God and knowing the direction of God. Otherwise, you are not really a leader or a true shepherd of the sheep.

Repentance, Rest, and Trust

Isaiah the prophet wrote “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'” (Isaiah 30:15). Of course, this is totally counter intuitive. This is the logic of an upside-down Kingdom – God’s Kingdom.

I understand that we need repentance – afterall, 2 Corinthians states that without repentance there is no salvation. In fact, many today believe they are saved because they have said a Sinner’s Prayer. They have been told that now they are good to go with God. Not so. The Bible states that salvation and being born again comes from:

1> Being convicted of one’s sins (John 16:8-10 states this is the work of the Holy Spirit)
2> Responding to that conviction with godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 – and not worldly sorrow)
3> Confessing one’s sins (1 John 1:9)
4> Receiving forgiveness
5> Asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior – not just Savior.
6> Becoming involved in the the life of a true disciple and kingdom builder

Anything less is not the true Gospel of the Kingdom but is simply cultural Christianity and is fondly known as the gospel of salvation which really is not a gospel at all.

Understanding and responding to the true Gospel allows one to rest in what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross of Calvary and through His resurrection from the grave.

But the second half of the verse is where I am parked at the moment…

In the church today few seem to have found this idea of “quietness” that arises out of “trust.” As we trust the Lord and all that He has accomplished on the Cross I believe there should be a sense of inner quietness that translates into a lifestyle without the striving, strutting, constant anxiety, perpetual activity, and underlying uncertainty that the majority of people live with on a daily basis. Christians who are following the Lord and “resting” in Him should be living a different lifestyle than those who do not know Him. Yet, looking around, most believers live a similar if not identical lifestyle as those who do not believe. There seems to be little “trust” leading to almost no inner “quietness”.

If we were to learn to “trust” the Lord and “rest” leading to “quietness” – surely this inner state of being would lead to an outer change in lifestyle. A lifestyle with less motion and commotion; a lifestyle with a sense of inner and outer peace (afterall we follow the Prince of peace); a lifestyle with time for people and a slow cup of coffee with friends; a lifestyle that is not based on consumption and shopping but on contentment and gratitude for the simple things in life. Maybe I am wrong – but, are we really living with a Kingdom lifestyle or have we simply bought into and accepted the world’s way of life as the norm? Are we really trusting Him or simply going with the flow of society with bank loans, overdrafts, credit financing, and accumulating ‘things’ that have no power to make us feel better about ourselves nor do they add to our sense of “worth.”

Here’s another thought – after a full week of ministry that takes me to four cities in four days and many hours of preparation and actual public ministry – am I working in and from His strength? Am I trusting Him or simply doing what I am good at after 40+ years of ministry? Am I experiencing His strength as I prepare, travel, minister and return? What does this strength look like or feel like? Is it the difference between doing things in the flesh and walking in the Spirit (see Galatians 3:3)? If I have discovered and experienced His strength in my “quietness” – how does this effect my ministry and even my physical strength and recovery time?

Just thinking out loud – “…in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Lots in there to think about!

The World Is Changing

In this moment in time – an exciting time – significant transitions are taking place. Traditions, conventions, and professions that have been around for decades, sometimes centuries, are disappearing or changing shape before our eyes. I recently listened to a discussion where journalists were discussing the changes in the way they report things today – and how the print media is having to adjust to new forms of reporting as well as new ways of communicating. People are no longer looking to newspapers for their news but to social media – it is more current and on the spot and not 24 to 36 hours old by the time it reaches the consumer.

Think about the THEN and NOW

Encyclopedia Britannica
THEN: Muti-volume sets are an authoritative source of information in libraries and at home for 244 years scripture is primarily through a physical book, printed by the millions for more than 435 years
NOW: Over the last five years, people begin accessing Scriptures on mobile devices in record number. One Bible app (YouVersion) sees 2.2 billion minutes of engagement each month with their Bible App.

THEN: For 90 years, TV, radio, and newspapers are first on the scene to cover news and determine what merits coverage at all
NOW: Social networks are the go-to source for breaking news, developing stories and untraditional coverage

THEN: Over the course of 81 years, networks bring us a finite range of content featuring professional talent. Only available at certain times unless we can record it
NOW: Available on demand. Seemingly limitless array of content featuring both professionals and everyday people

THEN: Access to Scripture is primarily through a physical book, printed by the millions for more than 435 years
NOW: Over the last five years, people begin accessing Scripture on mobile devices in record number. One on-line Bible (YouVersion) sees 2.2 billion minutes of engagement each month with their Bible App.

The Church needs to recognize both the changes that are happening and also the speed of the changes. And, we need to connect with the changes so that we can touch the hearts of the people in our culture and in God’s world. At one time the Church of Jesus Christ was at the centre of most advancements and changes in society. I believe we can become the leaders once again. But, to do so, we need to embrace the changes that are happening and harness them for the Church and the message of the Church – The Gospel of the Kingdom and salvation only through Jesus Christ.

I believe the Church has the talent and resources to once again become influencers of culture and agents of change. Instead of waiting for the future and reacting to what the culture is doing – we can create the future and impact our culture. But we have to change and that seems to be a very difficult thing for Christians and churches to do.

Evangelism Now – Part Six

As we draw the week and this brief look at evangelism to a close remember that we are not responsible to bring people to Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit who will convict them of their sin and draw them to the foot of the cross of Christ. Our work is to take Christ to them. We are to allow the life of Christ that is within us to impact others where we live, work and play.

John 1:4 states about Jesus: “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” What drew people to Jesus was the life of God in Him. He was alive spiritually and this made such a difference in His life and in the way He related that people were drawn to Him. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14 that we are the light of the world. But really, it is the life of Christ living in us that is the light. And as we release His life in us and it flows from us it will impact the world around us. This is why Paul wrote, “It is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”

We have this intimate relationship with Jesus. When we were born again the Holy Spirit came to live in our spirit and enables us to relate to the living Jesus Christ. John 17:3 defines eternal life as a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ. This is a gift that we received when we were born again and saved from our sins (Romans 6:23). However, this intimacy is not just about “you and Jesus.” Intimacy without impact and influence is simply nothing more than self-centered religion and narcissism at best. The intimacy we have with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection must influence others around us and eventually impact the world. Intimacy – Influence – Impact. This is evangelism at its best – rooted in your personal relationship with Jesus.

This s not an option for those who claim to love Jesus. Jesus said, “if you live Me, then you will obey Me.” He also said, “go into all the world and make disciples.” If we are not “going” then we are not obeying Him; and thus we really do not love Him. If we are not soul winning then we are not even following Jesus. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I wil make you fishers of men.” If we are not fishing, then we are not following. It is simple truth – but truth we often don’t want to face. It is time to step out of religion and enter into the true Christian faith – to stop looking at the benefits and start asking about the responsibilities…

Just a thought….

Evangelism Now – Part Five

To fully proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom we need to be moving in the power of God. Paul, speaking of his ministry for The Lord, writes: “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience – by Word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God – so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fully preached the Gospel” (Romans 15:18-19)

In the age we now live in it is not enough to simply speak the Gospel – we need to demonstrate it (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). For people to have a true encounter with the living God they need to hear and see the Gospel. Then we will have touched their head and their heart – resulting in transformation of a life and not just the imparting of more information. Heart not just head; transformation and not just information. Then we will have, like Paul, fully proclaimed the Gospel.

For this to become a reality in the life of willing disciples the Church will need to change the way we see Sundays. We need to design Sundays as a time to train and equip the saints of the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-15). Sundays need to be viewed as a time to teach the people how to effectively reach out to touch the hearts of the lost that they come into contact with where the live, work and play. And, to do so supernaturally, flowing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

This is not an option – this is basic Christianity. All born again believers need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit so that they walk in power and can be true witnesses to the resurrected and living Jesus Christ. Jesus said this power is released in our lives when the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1:8) and we have this second encounter with the living God. It is essential and not optional. It is part of the full Gospel and it is time for the Church to recognize this truth and receive what The Lord supplied that enables us to supernaturally “fully proclaim the Gospel.”

This power and the supernatural gifts is what will make us effective in witnessing for Jesus and sharing the Gospel in the culture and the day and age we now live in. Walking in His power and flowing in the gifts must become a part of every day life…

Evangelism Now – Part Four

As we have seen – the Church will need to change the way we have been looking at evangelism and fullfilling the Great Commission if we hope to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation and people group in the world. We have looked at the need:
1> For a clear understanding of the Gospel and how to express it today
2> A stronger focus on disciplship as we are called to “make disciples”
3> A greater passion for missions which requires a fresh understanding of the priesthood of all believers
4> How to evangelize in a post-Christian society or in the age of the “nones.”
5> A fresh understanding of being incarnational communities where we live – and so attractional and missional at the same time

Today, a simply turth to understand but ofen one that is difficult to implement. We need new thinking in developing fresh ideas that help us to reach out and effectively take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the people who need to hear it. God often uses tools to accomplish His work. The bus ministry that was big in the 1970’s; radio ministry in the 1950’s; Today, these and other ways of reaching people are no longer effective.

As believers, we can and must be good stewards of our ministry and the call on each of us lives to reach the lost. We need to seek The Lord and hear from Him what tools He would have us use today in our part of the Kingdom. For some it may involve multisite churches, viral church planting, and finding new ways to reach those who are lost. God has a way specifically designed for you…

As the Church continues to navigate an increasingly post-Christian culture, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to face some truths and change some behaviours to reach the world with the message of the Gospel. We want to be a part of what His team is doing before His return.

More next time….

Evangelism Now – Part Three

As we continue our current series…

4> Evangelism in the age of the “nones.”

One of the major changes we are already facing is reaching out to those who are part of the group called the “nones.” This is a fast growing segment of the population who have absolutely no “Christian consciousness” whatsoever. They do not own a Bible, have never read a Bible, do not go to Church and literally have no reference point from which to consider the message of the Kingdom that the Church is to spread worldwide.

So, we need to learn how to present the Gospel in ways that does not use religious terms or rely on religious (Christian) imagery. We need to do away with Christianese and learn to present the Gospel in the language of the people who belong to this segment of the population called the “Nones.” This is not as easy as it sounds. We are so use to talking to ourselves and using words and phrases that we all understand – that to switch and speak the same message to those who do not have a Christian upbringing or Church perspective becomes an adventure with a steep learning curve. But it is doable with focus and hard work.

5> Attractional and Incarnational

The day and age when we invited non-believers to attend a Sunday service where we then expected them to stand and worship a God they did not know and listen to a teaching from a book they did not believe in are long gone. Churches that once focused their energies and efforts towards attracting people to the Sunday service where the pastor or other leader would present the message and give an opportunity to respond will need to change their approach to spreading the Gospel. The days of simply relying only on “attractional evangelism” are long gone. People simply don’t want to wake up on Sunday morning and go to church simply because someone invited them.

This attractional method of evangelism still works, at times, if you invite an unsaved friend or neighbour to a small group where they can get to know others in a comfortable setting – such as the home of a friend or co-worker. Churches need to find new ways to train and equip their people to reach out to their neighbours. Jesus told us to “go;” He did not say to “invite.” So, we are to go and reach out in the regular routines of daily life. This is called incarnational evangelism… living out the Gospel or good news where you live, work, and play. This is the believer being, doing, and telling the good news of the Kingdom in their daily lives as they go about their normal routine.

Attractional evangelism needs to continue but we will need to add to this incarnational evangelism. This switch from attracting seekers to living the Gospel out in plain sight among the “Nones” will require some rethinking of what we do and how we do it. Time to train and equip the saints to do the work of the ministry in the new world we are now facing.

Evangelism Now – Part Two

We have been looking at the things that the Christian church will need to face in the next ten years as the culture continues to change and we adjust our methods to reach those living without Jesus in our cities and towns. Because of the internet and social media the world is changing even faster than ever and we must be aware of the changes and adjust our sails accordingly.

So far we have looked at:
1> A clearer understanding of the true Gospel
2> A stronger focus on discipleship

3> A greater passion for missions. We need to stand up against the clergy-laity divide that still haunts the Church. It was never Jesus’ intention that there be the paid professionals and the unpaid amateurs when it comes to the journey of faith and fulfilling the Great Commission to go into all the world. The word “laity” really means you are an amateur. For example, I go to see a doctor when I have physical issues – the are the experts and I am the laity…the amateur. So, since the Church became an organization and no longer an organism – we have left the ministry in the hands of the clergy – the experts. We have ignored the “priesthood of all believers” and created a two-class status.

So, when it comes to winning the lost both here at home and in the nations of the world – we leave it to the experts. We have a natural tendency to look at the professional ministers and say that they are the ones who are called to the mission, while the people in the pews, the amateurs, are merely consumers of religious goods and services.

We need to see all of God’s people engaged in God’s mission, from their respective neighbourhoods all the way to the nations. This is a change we need to see immediately so that we can begin to train and equip all disciples to go into ALL the world and make more disciples.