2021 – Living What You Believe – Part One

As we enter the first full week of the New Year 2021 my thoughts turn to behaviour and lifestyle. 

As a leader I realize that I can’t lead what I don’t live. In other words, my actions can speak louder than my words and nullify what I am saying. As a leader I can’t ask my people to do what I am not willing to first do myself. 

As believers we should take the start of a new year to examine what is it we believe as Christ-followers and then see if how we live lines up with what we say we hold to be the truth. Again, often the way we live, the way we speak, and the way we behave can speak louder than what we say we believe deep in our hearts. One contradicting the other. Our talk and our walk must line up. What we believe on the inside must effect and even transform how we live on the outside – in our family, at work, in the community, and even in the church fellowship itself. 

This is a question of integrity. Living what we say that we believe. Leading in a way that shows what we truly believe. 

We are flawed, weak and broken people being put back together by the grace of Jesus. That is all our God has to work with. Even the apostle Paul, after being transformed by the grace of Jesus, was still in awe that God would use “the worst of sinners to accomplish heavenly purposes” (1 Timothy 1:15).

So, how do we live (and lead) with integrity when we are broken vessels?

I have been a follower of Jesus and a leader in the Church and ministry now for45 years and have some thoughts that help me to navigate this journey with Jesus that we are all on. Life as a believer can be complex, complicated, and often challenging. As I walk with Jesus year after year I have become stronger in my faith. But, I have also become more aware of my personal weaknesses. I am humbled to be called a child of God, and amazed that the Lord would use me as an instrument to expand His Kingdom and even lead His Church. There is a tremendous obligation on each of our lives to live and relate in such a way as to impact those who do not know Jesus and to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with the lost, the least, and the last. Maybe you feel the same way. To fulfill this mandate we must be people of integrity.

Here are some reflections on growing to be more like Jesus and thus living with integrity in our hearts and lives. These ideas apply to every aspect of life and ministry.

1> Practice what you believe (leader: Practice what you preach)

We believe that there is no other way into Heaven other than by being born again and receiving the gift of eternal life which by biblical definition is to have a personal and intimate love relationship with the Lord and with His heavenly Father (see John 17:3). 

We believe that the Lord has called each one of us, as believers and followers, to take this message out into our personal world – where we live and work and play. And then even to the whole world. We call this The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and commands us to work with him and complete this task. 

Do we live what we believe?

In my experience most church leaders do very little to reach the lost outside of the formal church services and programs. It is not a way of life for them. The same is true for those who attend church services on a regular basis and are thus “active Christians.” 

To lead and to live with integrity is to align our lifestyle with the things the Bible teaches and what Jesus expects from us as followers. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He expects us to fish – to seek the lost, the least, and the last – and not to rest until every people group in every nation (including where we live) have heard the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). I once heard a preacher say, “If you are not fishing, you are not following. You are simply deceiving yourself that things are good between you and God.”

This will mean learning how to share our faith in a natural and organic way. We need to be praying for the lost, building deep and decent friendships with people who are far from God, and regularly having spiritual conversations with people in our lives. This alignment of words, actions, and beliefs is a powerful witness. 

A Fresh Start – A New Year

Well, I stayed up all night to welcome the new year as I wanted to make sure 2020 really did come to an end. It has been a very different year with many disappointments and challenges. And yet, it has been an exciting year as we learned to live in a new normal which is still with us.

As I think about entering 2021 I am aware that it is, in some ways, an opportunity to do things differently. It’s a brand new year and we have an opportunity to adjust and change so as to live differently and maybe even impact the lives of others among whom we live – and maybe even those in another nation.  Yes, Covid may limit us in some ways but we can still touch lives for Jesus. Nothing can nor should stop us from doing that.

However, the one thought that dominates today, on the first day of a new year, is that if we do what we have always done we will simply get what we have always gotten. Poor English but a great though nonetheless. It can’t be “business as usual.” We can’t just have the same old same old… We are living in a ‘new normal’ and things will not go back to how they were before the pandemic. The pandemic has brought many changes to the way we live and some of those changes will remain with us. For example, we will value time with family and friends more than before. We will no longer take “life” for granted. We will hopefully make the most of every day we live and see it as a gift and not a given.

The Church has also been greatly impacted during this past 10 months. And, it too has made major adjustments in how it does life. Limitations on numbers who can meet together; meetings by Zoom; using technology as never before; learning to ‘do church’ without programs and personalities. The new year will see continued change as we adjust to the new normal and learn to reach out effectively to those who do not know Jesus. Church as usual is finished. The pandemic has given those of us in leadership the opportunity to think about what we do, how we do it, and why it is done the way it is. Change is inevitable.

I believe that the pandemic has brought and will continue to bring the Church back to basics and the result will be a Church more like the New Testament Church. House churches will be the norm – and many current church buildings will be sold off or given away. Leadership will rise up from within the body and not come in from a seminary. We will see the continued rise of the fivefold ministry within the Church that Jesus is building. And, the continued rejection of the fivefold ministry from those who are content with what is and the status quo. Outreach and evangelism will become the main focus as we now realize how quickly death can happen as we have watched tens of thousands die from Covid including friends and family that we did not witness to and share with when we had the opportunity.

January 1, 2021 is a fresh start to a new year. In 2020 we saw so many things that we simply took for granted removed, torn down, altered beyond recognition. 2021 will be a year to carefully rebuild both our personal way of life, our communities, and the Church. Let’s be wise and not simply go back to business as usual. Let’s take this God-given opportunity to rebuild wisely, building on the biblical model of life lived in the presence of God so that we experience His peace and walk in His power.

We have been given a new year, a new world in which to live, and a new opportunity to see and be a part of the Church that Jesus is building.

I am excited and expectant.

Reaching into 2021

Tomorrow is a new year – the year of the Lord 2021. And I believe it will be a year when the Church sees some major changes as the Holy Spirit moves and reveals the next steps taking us back to the biblical model of the Church and church leadership. 

Many people who have never belonged to or attended a Church will find hope and comfort in joining the community of believers. They will be looking for somewhere to belong that brings them the peace and purpose they have not found elsewhere – especially during the uncertainty of the pandemic of 2020. They will not be believers but they are searching for community and connectedness. They want to belong.

As they join in the activities of the local assembly (fondly known as the church) they will feel loved, accepted, and forgiven. This will allow them to open their hearts to actually discover what it is that those who call themselves believers actually believe. In past decades this was the opposite way around. People would discover what the church believed and then join and belong. However, now the need for community surpasses the need to know the beliefs of the group. So, they now come to belong and in the process of being accepted discover what the local church believes.

So follow the train of thought here as we enter into 2021 and the major changes the Church in general will experience. People will join to experience hope belonging before they believe. However, belonging opens the door to believing. Once they believe and are born again and their heart has been touched by the Gospel of the Kingdom they can then be expected to adjust their life style and behave as a Christian, a disciple of Jesus. Careful, I didn’t say obey the rules and regulations or come under the rituals of the Church. As they walk with the Lord they will discover what the Lord wants them to change in the way they think, live, and relate. They will change behaviour and morals and ethics. They will adjust lifestyle and behaviours. Their perspective will be a kingdom perspective and no longer a worldly perspective. This will be a slow process and a journey of adjustment. However, belong becomes believe which then becomes behave.

As their behaviour changes they will become more and more like Jesus. He will mold them and “make them” as He promises to do. Of course, this assumes they are true disciples and thus following him. The faith journey is one of walking with Jesus through daily events in life and responding to Him as He guides and directs within those events and circumstances. Thus we become more and more like Him gradually changing behaviour, words, and actions as we become more like Him.

So we belong which enables us to come to faith and believe in Jesus Christ. As we change what we believe our behaviour changes and we behave more and more like Christ and less and less like the world. As we continue to follow Jesus as His disciple and we behave in accordance with the changes He is bringing about in our lives we become like Him. Then we can be a part of what He is doing and build the Kingdom and the Church with Him. 

Simple to understand not always simple to accomplish. But this is what we are called to daily throughout 2021 – Helping others to enter into the community of faith so that they can begin the journey by belonging with our help…

      • Belong
      • Believe
      • Behave
      • Become
      • Build

 

Goals for 2021

As 2021 is just about upon us my mind turns to goals for the new year. There are two steps to this for me personally and professionally.

First off, I review my 2020 goals seeing which ones were accomplished, partially finished, or simply never touched. I revamp the ones that were not achieved if they are to be carried forward into 2021. Fine tuning them because I have moved forward in life and made substantial changes during the past 12 months. If they were not accomplished and are no longer part of where I am at and where I am heading, I simply remove them from the list of things I want to do or feel that the Lord is telling me to do. 

Then I add to the list those new goals that appear because of the circumstances I am now facing – such as Covid and being unable to travel. And, I add any new ones the Lord leads me to set for the gift of a new year of life, health, and ministry. As well, any personal goals that I would like to aim for – weight loss, learning to paddle board, trying out new campgrounds.

These are all jotted down on paper or on screen and then comes the time to arrange them and fill in the details of the goal… 

I do this by listing the general categories … 

      • Personal – weight, exercise, rest, reading…
      • Family – gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries
      • Financial – saving, investing, spending, house repairs, budget
      • Friendship – what I am looking for in a friend (another list)
      • Fun (vacation and days off)
      • Faith goals – what I am believing God for 
      • Household goals – repairs, painting, decorating
      • Ministry goals – the call and the message for the new year 2021 
      • Study and reading goals – number of books and areas to study
      • Marriage goals
      • Writing goals – blogs and books

And then filling in the goals for that area being as specific as I can. Of course, a goal can be changed, adjusted, revamped, or eliminated as the year begins and situation and circumstances dictate. These goals are simply to help me to know the direction I am aiming in each of these and other categories. Remember, if you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it. 

I schedule time in my annual calendar for a review and revamp every three months. So, the goals are solid but fluid. Change is inevitable. But the overall direction of life for the year remains the same as determined by the big picture of all the goals together. 

So, much more detailed than …

    • More sleep
    • More music
    • More coffee
    • More books
    • More sunsets
    • More creating
    • More long walks
    • More laughter
    • More hugs
    • More dreaming
    • More road trips
    • More fun
    • More love

However, if this is your first time doing goals for your life and the new year this would be a good start as an outline that then needs to be filled in somewhat.

Kingdom Voices – Part Three

Most of the indigenous churches are not under any denomination. They are independent and small. Most of the pastors of those churches have only a little training or no training at all. Not even informal training. They just jump into the arena and start leading the church. So sometimes it looks a little out of control, humanly speaking. But I think the Holy Spirit is leading them. 

My observation is that God is going to use house churches, not the denominational churches. Most of the churches will be led by people — we would say lay leaders — who take the responsibility of leading these small churches. And that brings several challenges. Because what I believe is, no church is independent. I mean, one church is born out of the work of the believers from another church. I think in God’s Kingdom, every church is connected organically and spiritually. So, how do we best bring a structural expression of that association God has already created among these churches — a structure that would give them complete freedom to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit without any control from the above? And at the same time, how do we have them come together and work together?

In Acts 20, Paul called together the elders from the city of Ephesus. There were house churches led by a team of elders, but they all came when Paul called them to come together. So though they were independent churches led by elders, Paul somehow connected them to each other — in a kind of hub. Eventually Timothy came and led that hub and gave them direction. But Paul created a kind of structure, a free structure, a hub model that took the gospel out in a concentric way. Paul got them to focus while he enabled them to develop. We can learn from this and do the same. 

Rev. Vasantharaj Albert

Vice-President of the Non-Denominational Association of Independent Churches (NAIC)

Just a thought to add to and interact with the above…

It could be that the elders were “elders of the city of Ephesus” and that they had oversight of the ‘Church in Ephesus.’ That these elders were not ‘in charge’ of individual house churches but were in oversight of all of the work of the Kingdom (and thus the church) in the city. That Ephesus was an apostolic center from which the gospel spread out into the surrounding provinces and regions. The churches were, to my understanding, led by regular believers who taught from the Scriptures and led the house church to which they belonged. The elders were in oversight of all of the house churches as ‘THE church in Ephesus’ and this eldership was most likely composed of members of the fivefold ministry – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers. 

If you interpret Acts 20 as the Kingdom Voice quoted above did then each house church would be led by an “elder” which really is the old, traditional pattern we now have of the Church with each church being led by a pastor. Changing the words does not change the structure or give new life to an old wine skin. 

Each house church being led by a regular-type believer who has some leadership motivation (Romans 12:4-6) is my understanding of the biblical church. The ‘elders’ were in oversight of the Church in the city which would be comprised of hundreds if not thousands of small house church. 

This would make a lot more sense and incorporate the fivefold ministry into the life of the church (read: house churches in the city). 

Kingdom Voices – Part Two

There are folks who say, “Yeah, you know, this Kingdom stuff’s good. But when do we get people to the church?” Jesus established the church to get people to the Kingdom, not the other way around. The church is not the destination; the Kingdom is. And some folks in church as an institution struggle with this wider bandwidth of church expression because it doesn’t fit the categories that we’ve developed. We want to wrap it in biblical language and theological stuff, and we develop the classification of clergy versus laity and who can do what.

I’ll that it a step further and challenge our language. When we talk about planting a church, there’s no such thing. It’s the church, not a church. So when people tell me they feel called to plant a church, I generally say, “I doubt it,” you know, just to mess with them a little bit. Just to get their attention. Now, if you want to plant the church, I’m all over that. If you want to plant a church, that typically means you’re going out to plant a worship service. And a church grows up around it, and then you have a bunch of consumers again. 

Reggie McNeal                                                                                                                                                                    Missional Leadership Specialist, Leadership Network.

It seems to me that we are in a “Covid season” when God is shaking everything that He can shake so we will examine openly and honestly everything that we do and why we do it. Thus tossing out anything that is not biblical and definitely anything that is not encouraging effective soul winning and disciple-making.

The Scripture states: “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words … one last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern. The phrase ‘one last shaking” means a thorough house cleaning, getting rid of the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand, clear and uncluttered” (Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version).

And, as the “Covid season” comes to an end – and it will – we will then not be able to return to what was. Church as it was will be finished. Business as usual will no longer work. And, in fact, the Church will be much smaller as God pulls together a powerful remnant and removes the goats from the sheep, cultural Christians from true believers, followers from true disciples. 

Cleaning Out the Clutter

We are called, as disciples, to “go into al the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). This includes going and staying. “Staying” in that “all the world” includes family, friends, and neighbours. “Going” in that there are over 6,000 people groups that have not heard the name of Jesus and are not aware of the gospel of the Kingdom.

To think about “going” and “staying” in terms of winning the lost and discipleship we need to grapple with decisions about our priorities and our focus in life in general. Even with a sincere desire to be radically obedient, it is not always easy to make decisions about what matters most. 

The Great Commission is a clear word of instruction. 

Matthew 28:18-20  “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Jesus has told us frankly that obedience – and thus sharing the Gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission – is the result of our love for Him.

“If you love Me, you will obey Me” (John 14:15)

That God has a special concern for the lost is beyond debate. Even so, His special concern is not always our special concern, even as we are striving, in love, to be obedient!

Consider the priorities that inform our living and the decisions we make in daily life. Typically, those priorities are clearly reflected in our conversations and gatherings; our priorities are reflected by the way we use our time and money. To illustrate the struggle of determining priorities, imagine a group of believers in a regular, traditional church or even a house church. 

What occupies our attention? What are we most concerned about? What are the most frequent topics for discussion when we gather? What do churches care most about? What matters most to individual believers? What is the mission agenda of the church? Of the individuals believer? In other words, where do we place our focus?

Generally the conversation centers in and around the needs and the lives of the believers. Their current medical struggle. Their job. Their family members. Their current pressures and concerns. Their finances. Their upcoming vacations or business trips. At times, they might be concerned about issues the local church is facing. But those times are few unless you are in leadership and thus the issues are of “personal” importance to you.

Seldom will you hear believers talking about the non-believers they are building relationships with in the hope of, one day, sharing the gospel of the kingdom. Oh, they may mention the name of a person to pray for who is not saved but that is not the same as seeking prayer for your witness to that person and the relationship you are attempting to build with them. Unless led by a mission-minded leader you will seldom hear the conversation turn to those “people groups” who have yet to hear the gospel and won’t hear it unless someone is send – which means someone must go. 

So, our concerns are often not in line with the concerns of the Father nor the concerns of the Head of the Church, Jesus. 

Here is my point: We need to clear out the clutter of our own lives until the needs of the lost become and remain our primary focus. The lost need to hear, to understand, to believe the gospel, to be baptized, and then be gathered into house churches and discipled. Responding to the needs of the lost is our God-given task. As we obediently answer God’s command, nothing can be more important than the needs of the lost. So, we need to remove the “self” clutter and focus on the needs of the lost – especially the need to be born again.

The kingdom truth: The need for the lost to hear the good news always exceeds the needs of the believer and the local church. 

Words That Have Lost Their Meaning – Part Two

Another word that has lost its meaning is the word “missionary.” Missionary is not a Bible word, but it is a word that has come to define the response to Jesus’ command to go out with His message. A missionary or a missionary group is an individual, a family, or a team committed to proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. It is often a word used to describe a person who proclaims the gospel to people who have never heard and people who have little chance of hearing. Often workers who share their faith are required to learn other languages and cross cultures; often, that is required even in our home countries due to the diversity of nationalities and languages now present in almost every nation.

In reality, the word should not be used. However, often it is used in reference to a leader in the Bible who is actually in the role and calling of an apostle. Paul and Barnabas being two examples. Words that could be used in place of the word ‘missionary’ could include “worker,” “sent out ones,” or “overseas workers.”

However, truth be known the real word to be used should be “disciple” or “follower” because all true believers are called to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Going  out to proclaim the gospel does not make you a missionary. Nor does it make you a “worker.” It simply means you are being an obedient follower or disciple of Jesus. Could we call them “sent out ones?” Yes! Because the church was always meant to be apostolic. The word apostle means “the sent one.” So, when apostles are part of the ministry team and the foundation of the local church, then the church, under the leadership of an apostle, becomes apostolic. The people come to understand the need to “go into all the world” and so become apostolic (sent out ones) in their nature, in their thinking, and in their actions.

The root idea of “mission” is the sending activity of God. In one sense, certainly, Jesus sends His followers to their families and friends and neighbours. In a deeper and true biblical sense, Jesus ultimately sends His followers to proclaim His grace throughout the entire world.. starting in Jerusalem, through Judea, on to Samaria, and then to all the people groups, especially in places where His grace has not yet been proclaimed. Scripture is clear in helping us to understand that, in this sense, every believer is a sent out one. The command to be on mission is a command common to every follower of Jesus. It is a command to be both local and global. 

The word “pastor” is another word that has lost its original meaning and almost any meaning in today’s world. The word ‘pastor’ appears once in the New Testament and it is in regard to the fivefold, trans-local ministry of Ephesians 4:11-12.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

This ‘pastor’ travelled as did the other four of the fivefold ministry team. However, as soon as we hear that word today we do not think “trans-local” but local … the leader of a local church. This was never the plan in the early church as seen in the New Testament. It was also not the plan the Lord had when He stated He would build His Church. The local churches in the New Testament were all led by apostles … James as leader of Jerusalem is an example. The spiritual oversight of the local assembly was in the hands of a group of elders, not a solo pastor. The work was done by the saints as they were equipped by the fivefold ministers. So, there was no need for a local full-time, paid pastor nor a part-time bi-vocational pastor.

Let’s admit it… there are 59 “one another” versers in the New Testament and no one man or woman – no pastor – can fulfil all 59 of these commands for every person who is a member of the local assembly no matter how big or small the assembly is. So the five-fold pastor comes in to a local assembly and teaches the people how to care for “one another” and thus fulfill the 59 ‘one another’ commands. 

There are many other words that we use as believers that have lost their original meaning or all meaning … but these are the ones that really bother me personally and that, I believe, are preventing the Church from the needed changes that will take it in to an effective, fruitful, and productive future. 

Words That Have Lost Their Meaning – Part One

I recently spoke on a Saturday morning to a group of believers in Eastern Canada. Near the end of the morning of teaching I asked them if they were glad that they had come to church. Everyone said that they were glad to have invested the time. Of course, they did not come to Church; they are the church. They came to an assembly of believers in a building set aside for assemblies. We are the Church. God’s people are the Church.

It got me to thinking about how we use words that have really totally lost their original meaning and now refer to something other than what the word first referred to. And, that maybe it is time to, once again, redefine the words we frequently use as believers.

The Church is the called-out, baptized, gathered-together people of God. Church is defined by community-belonging, it acts on Jesus’ call to be people on mission, it will reproduce itself (which will result in both new believers and new communities of faith), it will finance itself, it will provide care and support for those who make up the church, and it will choose its own leaders and polity. The categories and activities highlighted in Acts 2 are a helpful guide: a church will be committed to worship (usually inside of homes), and missions which lead to a fulfilling of the Great Commission from across the street to the ends of the earth. The Church includes fellowship, education, equipping and strengthening the believers for ministry, and a lifestyle of discipleship which is an interchangeable term with evangelism. When did Jesus disciple His disciples and when did He evangelize them?

Because I work with house churches in a number of nations …A house church is typically a small body of ten to thirty believers who meet together in homes. Organization of house churches can vary significantly, but leadership is normally fluid and adaptable. When a house church grows to a certain size, it will typically divide into smaller groups (thus multiplying and planting another house church). House churches were the norm in New Testament times, and they are the norm in many settings today. 

The issue I see with house churches is that when a house church is birthed or joined by  a number of traditional Christians from mainline denominations they really expect the house church to simply being a smaller version of the traditional congregation that they recently left. Thus they expect all of the elements of the traditional church service including having a “pastor / teacher” who shares a teaching / sermon each time they meet. This is not a true biblical house church. 

With churches in general – both those that meet in larger buildings and those that meet in homes – I think we have a major problem. We seldom see the Church functioning as it should be. Most churches are not “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). They are teaching believers but it is simply more information to be remembered in the head and does not touch the heart. Thus there is just information and not life-transformation. Believer’s lives are not being changed. People are not being equipped for ministry – enabling them to better touch the hearts and lives of others who do not know the Lord. The ministry is not shared equally among the many but is the work of just a few – who are often seminary trained. And, in leadership, there is simply the ministry of the “pastor” and not the fivefold ministry – thus not the full ministry of the Lord who was an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a paster (Great Shepherd) and teacher. 

So, words like “Church” and “House Church” can mean so many different things depending on who is speaking and who is listening. I believe it is time to define the words that we are using. And, to define them biblically. Then to make the changes necessary to come into line with the true meaning of the word “Church” and other words that we use regularly. 

That would be a first good step to actually becoming all that the Lord wants us to be. 

More next time…

Will the Real Christians Please Stand Up

There seems to be multiple definitions of the word Christian. It is used in a variety of ways. So, I have found it helpful for myself to define the word and even group those who call themselves Christians into these categories.

Census Christians are people, who, if asked about their religion, would say “Christian.” This designation might not relate at all to anything that these people believe or practice. Often, this is a cultural answer. If asked about their religion in certain geographic areas, for example, many people might answer, “Of course I’m a Christian. Isn’t everybody?” These people are “census Christians.” On a census, these people would check the “Christian” box. What that designation actually means is anybody’s guess. 

These people are also known as Cultural Christians as their lives are identical to their neighbours — those who are not believers.  Being a Christian has not altered their values, morals, ethics, priorities, or lifestyle. 

Member Christians claim some sort of identification with a particular Christian institution or organization. Again, this does not mean that these people necessarily participate or even that they show up at their church. These people simply have some sort of personal connection with a church and they identify themselves with that church. They might say, “I am Catholic,” or “I am Baptist,” or “I am Methodist.”

Practicing Christians actually participate in the life of a church. They typically attend worship services. In some fashion, these people are involved in the forms and rituals of the faith. Often their connection with the church is limited to weddings, baptisms, and funerals. They usually attend at Easter and Christmas. 

Believers (or Committed Believers) are people for whom the Christian faith is central, life-changing, and life-shaping. These Christians strive to live out their faith and communicate their faith to others. To use the language of the evangelical world, these people have a personal relationship with Jesus. Often they will use the language of John 3 and talk about being “born again.” They have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus (John 17:3)

Hidden Christians are people who believe secretly. Fearful of persecution, these people keep their faith to themselves. In some settings, these believers might keep their faith secret from government officials and employers. In other settings, they might keep their faith secret even from family members and friends. These believers might not ever experience specific acts of outward persecution, but the fear of persecution has caused their faith to be completely inward. For the most part, their faith, though real, is hidden. In most cases, they have not “joined” a church, through this might be an artificial measurement since, in many settings, there is no official institutional church to join.

When I use the word Christian I am referring to and speaking of people who know who Jesus is and who have had a personal encounter with Him and are thus born again. I am referring to people for who knowing Jesus has transformed their life. People who are a journey as they obey the will of the Lord. They are followers of Jesus, His disciples. So they wold fit into the last two categories — Believers (or Committed Believers) and Hidden Christians. 

For me this means I see that many who call themselves Christians are not and so are still in need of being born again. Just because someone calls themselves a Christian does not make them a Christian. Just because they go to church regularly also does not make them a Christian. Having a life-changing encounter with the love of God as found in Jesus Christ — being born again — is what determines if you are a true Christian and follower (disciple) of Jesus. So, I can honestly say that I view many who call themselves Christians as people who need to be evangelized. For truly they are religious and not righteous.

And, even in the born again church I believe well over 50% of those who are members and attending are not truly born again. They said a Sinner’s Prayer and were told that they were now born again. That’s a lie. To be born again one must experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit, respond with godly sorrow, and repentance. Then pray and ask the Lord to forgive you and become Lord in your life. (See: 2 Corinthians 7:8-10) To be born again is more than having a head knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is and what He accomplished on the Cross of Good Friday and then praying a Sinner’s Prayer. Head knowledge is not enough – you need to encounter the truth and have it change your heart. 

So, Christians are those who have heard the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and responded with godly sorrow and repentance are true believers. If you have only heard the gospel of salvation and not experienced conviction and godly sorrow with repentance then you know the truth but it has yet to set you free. Head knowledge is not enough. The Bible says that even the demons know who Jesus is and what He did and they are not saved and are not going to heaven (James 2:19).  

The “Gospel of Salvation” is a man-made belief. The Gospel of the Kingdom is the only true Gospel and it will set you free and through it you become a true believer, a Christian.