Surviving the Deep Winter of the Church

Originally published by Charisma Magazine – Monday, 04 October 2010. Written by: David Housholder

The current economic recession is much more severe than we first thought, and the discouraging thing about it is that it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Along with this financial downturn, we, as a church, seem to be approaching a spiritual “deep winter.”

The church of Jesus Christ has gone through more ups and downs than any other institution in history. Saying, “We have seen it all before,” is never an overstatement with us. We’ll get through this coming season as we have (100 percent) in the past. We outlast every other endeavor on earth, over time—always have, always will.

Please hear me: I am a militant optimist about the eventual outcome: God will get His way with all creation. But I am also good at reading the signs of the seasons. (Remember Jesus talking about the fig tree in Matt. 24:32?).Many of us came to faith in the heady days of the Jesus movement, the explosion of praise music, the charismatic renewal and the church-growth movement. We had spring, summer and even—as these movements matured nicely—autumn.

You may disagree with me, but I sense the chill of a long winter setting in. It could last a half generation, or longer.

Many Christians are just tired. One visitation pastor said to me last week over Thai food, “I am just so over church.” She echoed the feelings of many young adults raised in our congregations who are staying away in droves.

Evangelism (actually leading nonbelievers through Christian conversion) seems like pushing water uphill. Most of our evangelistic tools from the ’60s are totally ineffective with many of today’s folks. (If you haven’t had to rewrite your “napkin drawing of a bridge” illustration about salvation, you haven’t been paying attention.)

I can’t tell you the last time we had a wave of “church shoppers.” It seems like we have to create the demand for churchgoing itself. Many of our churches would not fill up next Sunday even if we offered $100 bills to new visitors.

Everybody wants to be “spiritual” but not necessarily committed to church.

Can you remember the times when thousands of young people, after attending concerts at Calvary Chapel church, were baptized in the Pacific; or the first time you heard “Shout to the Lord”; or the first time you saw signs and wonders blowing through your congregation full-steam; or when starting contemporary worship and small groups actually led to church growth?

We’re simply in a different season now.

We also find ourselves, as a church, in the razor-sharp meat grinder of the culture wars between the political right and left, which is shredding what little stability we have as wintertime approaches. Some of our congregations have literally been torn asunder by this “perfect November storm.”

This winter “season” could last many years; there’s no way of knowing how long it will last. So what good news is there in all of this?

Actually, there’s a lot for which we can be thankful:

1) Winter is a time for study. Picture Abraham Lincoln reading his Bible in the log cabin, to candlelight, in the primeval winters of a younger America. I like to imagine my Scandinavian ancestors huddled around the stove reading the classics, with everything pitch-black outside. We’re too busy planting and harvesting during the sunny days to take study and growth seriously.

2) Winter is a time for relationships. In the kingdom, we are brothers and sisters for eternity. As some church programs dry up for lack of interest, we can refocus on eating and praying with those people in our fellowships who mean the world to us. When the task-orientation of high summer sets in, it’s easy to see relationships as disposable. In the winter, we have to huddle together for warmth.

3) Winter is a time for prayer. In the frenetic days of summer, it’s easy to be too busy to pray. The darkest days of Advent are the time to light candles. Cultivation of a prayer life is hard when church life is at full throttle. Busy pastors never have time to pray. The best time for that is winter.

4) Winter is a time to turn your heart toward home. It is not a time of travel. That comes later. Our church buildings were packed during the Jesus movement. Now, during an emptier season, we can focus on a Josiah-like repair of our houses of worship. You church building has deferred maintenance that needs attention.

5) Winter is a time to safeguard our treasures. The “weather” can be hazardous outside. In past winters, Christians in monasteries had to safeguard the treasures of the faith while pagan hordes ravaged the countryside. We also need to keep the fire burning in the fireplace. The flame of the Holy Spirit must not be allowed to go out, or we will freeze to death. We need to defend the bride of Christ and keep her warm at all costs.

6) Winter is a time for dreaming about the coming spring. Planting season is around the corner. The trees will bud. The robins will return. God will do all kinds of new things among us. Many will come to faith. Our churches will fill again. But God will do that in his time. We don’t know the day or the hour; we can’t even predict a simple childbirth, let alone a spring thaw.

7) Winter is a time for faith. The church is sturdier than you think it is. It is not going under or out of business. Jesus guarantees us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

God must love physical seasons—He invented them. And plainly, by history, He also loves spiritual seasons. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season.”

Not every season is a season of revival. Don’t beat yourself up as a leader because things are not as they were in the spiritual summer. You are not the master of the weather. Another summer will come.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a lengthy winter season is not coming to the church. But I think it is. Winter is not a bad season. It’s just different. Is it time for you or your church to embrace the good parts of winter?

And it never hurts to look forward to spring—which always comes: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).

About the author: David Housholder is the lead preacher and teacher at Robinwood Church in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Read more: http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/prophetic-insight/29361-surviving-the-deep-winter-of-the-church#ixzz12xnOzNN4

Change From the Inside Out


Often at this time of the year we look at what has been – the year that is ending – and make plans for the year that is about to dawn upon us fresh and clean as the calendar pages turn and we face January and the start of a new year. Taking time to do this – taking a personal inventory – can be the start of something new if we don’t fall into a very common error.

At this time of the year many people make personal new year resolutions. These are decisions, based on a look back, that they hope will change things for them in the year to come. You know, such as, “Next year I am going to exercise every day.” As someone who goes to the gym almost daily I find this time of year rather humorous. For the week after Christmas and the first two weeks into the new year we end up with a 400%+ increase in people exercising. Many of them have taken out new memberships in the gym as part of their new year resolutions. However, by the 15th of January our numbers are back to the regular levels with few of the new people continuing on with their resolution into week three of the new year.

Here is the problem – new year resolutions are based on what people wish would happen not what they want to happen. It is based on the outside and not the inside. So, on a whim, they make a change or two but are not committed to really seeing it through with all that this might mean. So, as soon as it becomes an effort, crosses the line from fun to discipline, or does not give them their expected outcome or results – they call it quits. Estimates are that over 90% of new year resolutions end this way.

For real change to happen on the outside – actions, behavior, attitude, life-style – there must first be a definite change on the inside. All permanent change starts on the inside and works outwards into one’s daily priorities and life-style. So, unless there is a definite “change of heart” new year resolutions are simply wishful thinking resulting in nothing but disappointment and even frustration.

Now, think about this on a spiritual level – not just on the physical level where so many of us really focus and live. You make a new year’s resolution to read your Bible every day, pray more, witness to those who don’t know Jesus – whatever your spiritual “need” is at the moment. If you are simply adding a new discipline, a new event, a new demand upon your time, a slot filled on your daily calendar – then it is destined to fail. However, if your spirtual reolutions are based on an inner hunger, a thirst for more it is most likely, with a little effort and daily planning, to be successful long-term.

All permanent change starts on the inside – not the outside. It begins with a need being felt and recognized, a quality decision being made, timetables adjusted and organized, and a focus on the end results of the change so that you will not give up when the going gets rough or the novelty wears off.

What is it that you ar “feeling” needs to change in your life? What are you sensing in your heart or spirit? What is the Lord asking of you in 2011 that is going to require some changes, adjustments, and disciplines? As we take a deep breath after the Christmas rush and before we get into the new year celebrations – take a good look deep in your heart and soul and listen for the Lord. There are some felt needs on the spiritual realm that need dealing with. Handled properly they will also have a major impact upon your physical and outer world.

Failure to take the time or make the time will result in another year of “same old, same old” and you experiencing the same frustration 12 months from now that you feel as 2010 comes to an end. Only you can change this. Then you can truly have a “happy” new year.

New Year’s Party and Handover

The New Year is fast approaching. And, many will celebrate the turning of the calendar from 2010 to 2011. They will go out and party. Many will get drunk. Some of them will say emphatically that they are Christians. They seem unaware that drunkenness is spoken of as a sin in the Bible – or, they believe that in spite of deliberately going out to get drunk – that God, because of His love and mercy, will certainly forgive them. That’s an interesting hope or belief that might not stand up under too much scrutiny. However, in spite of that theological argument, I still don’t understand why anyone would want to usher in the first day of the new year with a handover. Maybe I am just getting older. Maybe I am just getting wiser. Maybe both. Most likely, my view is tinted by the fact that I am a recovered alcoholic.

Each day of your life is a God-given gift. Today could be your last day and you don’t even know it. There may be no tomorrow for you and for many others like you. No one is guaranteed another day let alone another year. We are, as believers, to live for today – not the new year. We are to live today – not yesterday, wallowing in our regrets and guilt. The only time we have is “now” and we should live “today” to the fullest. Yes, review the last year and see what was accomplished and maybe what you could have done better – making some adjustments to your attitude and approach, actions and activities. Take a look at next year and plan it out a little so that you are not simply flying blind. But live today!

As difficult as it is to root ourselves in the present, it is the only place we have to live and the only place where relationships are built. In the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

In the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” Morrie states, “I believe in being fully present.” Life and relationships had grown clearer to the dying professor, and he explained to his younger friend gently, “That means you should be with the person you’re with. When I am talking to you now, Mitch, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us. I am not thinking of what’s coming up on Friday … I am talking to you. I am thinking about you.” He had learned, as he was dying, how to live for the present – in the now.

As believers we know that the Bible states our days are numbered and limited. The Bible states that only God knows the specific number of days we will live. Jesus tells us to live one day at a time when He states “sufficient are the evils of today for today” So, our focus needs to be – today – here and now. Yes, we know we will go to Heaven when we eventually leave this earth, whenever that may be. But, meanwhile let’s not spend time focusing on and celebrating the new year or regreting the past year and the mess we have managed to make of it. Instead, celebrate today! It may be your last one so live it to the fullest and without regret – touching lives for Jesus as you do.

Inculturate – McDonald’s Does

Large corporations change to fit the culture in which they want to do business. In October I had a meal in a McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow on my way to the city of Ivanono. There were things on the menu that you would not find on a McDonald’s menu here in my own country. They have adapted to the culture in which they are located without losing their distinctiveness – they still sell Big Macs and other staples of the McDonald’s empire. Definitely McDonald’s and recognized as such – but different. This is the process of inculturation.

Now stay with me …. The Roman Catholic bishops of Indonesia have defined inculturation as: “…the process of integrating Christian life experience within the local culture, so that this experience not only is experienced through local cultural elements, but also becomes an animating force giving that culture a new orientation and recreating it. Thus within that culture a new “communion” emerges, which in turn enriches the Church universal.”

Read it once or twice more. This is what McDonald’s, KFC, and other multinational corporations do and do well. The Church generally does not.

Right now when someone receives the Lord as their personal Lord and Savior and are born again they often undergo a “cultural circumcision.” This process removes them from their friends and their native culture and places them (while training them) into a “Christian” culture which is alien and strange. They are taught to talk differently, walk differently, see things in a different light. They are to conform to the standards of the Christian sub-culture they find themselves in – dress code, entertainment standards, acceptable dating practices…. the list can be endless and sometimes is. In some groups it is even called a “holiness code.”

Of course, this makes the new convert so different from the people they once related to that this person can no longer influence their friends because the friends now see them as strange and different and unable to relate to their “real life.” An evangelistic failure.

Leonard Sweet states…”Incarnational Christianity is an absorbent culture, which enables other peoples to belong to it without damaging their own tribal and nationalistic identity.” In other words, to remain distinctively a McDonald’s restaurant while still being able to relate to the culture in which they function.

Sweet goes on … “Here is a portrait of Christians of the second century, as described in the Letter to Diognetus. What strikes the author (of the letter) the most about Christianity is it cultural adaptability: ‘Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.'”

It is sad to say but mulitinational corporations are proving to be more “incarnational” than churches. They are holding to their distinctiveness yet are relating well to their culture and bringing major changes to that culture as a result. The Church could benefit from studying this business model and making some serious changes in the way they assimilate new believers into the Christian faith. We are not called to be part of a sub-culture that does not adequately relate to the predominant culture – we are called to be salt and light within the culture itself bringing permanent change for good to that culture.

Playing By the Rules

I am not much of a history buff but I do read my share of it when trying to get to know a nation I am about to minister in. In high school I remember it was somewhat boring but the older I get the more I realize that we need to know our history to understand who we are and where we are heading.

I found it interesting recently when reading up on some history to discover that the American Revolution was won by the Colonists partly because the British were categorical imperialists. The British knew the rules of war and refused to compromise those rules even when attacked by soldiers who could not have cared less about their combat categories and canons.

For example:
It was unethical to attack at night
It was unethical to attack from many fronts at once
It was unethical to hide and fight rather than wear red and stand up like a man

So, the American Colonists did all three. They were able to break all the rules and actually defeat a very well-trained fighting machine. The British lost because they did not understand the culture of the people they were fighting and their willingness to disobey the “rules of engagement” and do what seemed to be wise at the moment considering the situation.

The Church today needs to take a lesson from this small piece of history. If she continues to hold on to tried and tested methods of explaining the Gospel and expanding the Kingdom then we will lose the war we are waging for the souls of mankind. These methods are no longer working. The message never changes but the methods must. Ask the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses and the Muslims – they know.

When the world changes, and it has, new cultural categories emerge. If the Church insists on clinging to the old categories regardless, as the British did to their regret, then it will lose the war while religion and philosophy will continue to change and inculturate and win the hearts of the people. The rules of engagement must change for us to begin again winning the hearts of the people to whom we minister.

Take note of the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand as created originally by Colonel Sanders in his retirement many decades ago. To relate to a changing culture in North America it is now known as KFC and their menu selection has increased and changed considerably. Overseas – they work with the culture in which they are located. In Japan they offer tempura crispy strips. In Thailand with fresh rice with soy or sweet chili sauce. In Holland with potato-and-onion croquettes. In France with pastries. In northern England with gravy and potatoes. In China with chicken that gets spicier the further inland you travel. They are responding to the changing cultures in which they find themselves…. And so must the Church of Jesus Christ.

It is time to seriously study the people group we are trying to reach and then inculturate.
More on the need to inculturate tomorrow in the blog…

Anything But Normal

When you read the book of Acts and watch the early church and its corporate life as well as what individual members attempted – you reach the conclusion that it was anything but normal. The disciples of the Lord Jesus made strange and unsettling claims that were mind-bending and life-transforming.

Today’s church has become much more normal with its truths creedalized, the church bureaucratized, and the life of the church institutionalized. The very life of this ‘new life’ that Jesus offers has been sucked right out of it. The abundant life has become abundant repetition and serious boredom for most.

As I read and reread the book of Acts I am more convinced that to impact the 21st century we need to understand the first century. To be the church of Jesus Christ today we need to understand the church of Jesus Christ then – at its very beginning – its roots. Winston Churchill stated, “The further backward you look, the further forward you can see.” I believe that to be true.

The Christian faith is more than a set of doctrines or even a code of conduct for life. The Christian faith is Christ Himself and life-in-Christ. Christ is the heart of God’s revelation and salvation. Jesus is not merely a good way, a better way, or one way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no salvation outside of Jesus the Christ. So, a Christian is someone who personally knows Jesus Christ (and thus Father God) as well as involving a person in an adventure of living Christ’s life with Him. This will, of course, set you apart from the nominal or normal Christian. And, definitely make you really different than your non-believing neighbors. You will march to a totally different beat of the drums not heard by either.

In the 18th century, those who were excited about their faith and live the Christ-life – people like the early Methodists – were portrayed as insane. Some, like Alexander Cruden, the compiler of biblical concordences, were actually put away in madhouses. They were not “normal” and bothered those who were. They were not your average Christian and so the average won out by persecuting and even imprisoning what should have been “normal” for all Christ followers.

In our new post 9-11 world we need to wake up and realize that we are no longer a dominating presence that is influencing the direction of society. But, we are becoming a persecuted and impoverished minority whose ways of living, loving and thinking can expect to be mistaken for madness. We are seen as narrow-minded and intolerant; dangerous and damning. And, our behaviour is beginning to be pushed to the fringe of our society and is even coming under fire by those who do not share our beliefs.

Here in the new 21st-century context Christians who live the Christ-life can expect to be kidnapped, arrested, harassed, ridiculed … even the old Roman imperial turned-down thumb – killed.

A Chinese court has charged Hong Kong trader Li Guangquiang with using “an evil cult to damage a law-based society.” His sentence is two years in prison. His crime – Bringing Bibles into mainland China. The complicity between the US military and the Peruvian Air Force in shooting down a US missionary seaplane near the Colombian border (20 April 2001) – which killed 35-year-old Baptist missionary Veronica Bowers and her seven-month-old daughter, Charity – is a foretaste of our future.

Too many Christians are living like the society they are suppose to be transforming one person at a time. They are not living like Christ and so are having little to no impact on their world. They are also living as if Nine-Eleven never happened. We are living in a different world, believer. It is time to become aware of the new world in which we live and learn how to express the life of Christ in this new world order. That’s our calling as believers and our work for the Lord in this rapid changing society where we are truly seen as outsiders and social misfits.

I like what Novelist Benjamin Cheever said, “To be a Christian in polite society is to be a foreigner, an outsider…It’s as if you had told them about your colostomy bag.”

Written on the anniversary of 9-11 (September 11, 2010)

Lead, Follow, or GET OUT OF THE WAY

The young people today want opportunities to lead but understand that they need to be mentored in leadership as well as life skills first. So, they are looking for mentors or “fathers” who can walk with them, share their life openly with them, and teach them as they share experiences together. Often they have not had a good role model in their earthly father and so on a scale of 1 to 10 the leader is often starting from a minus 6 with their young disciple. However, with a lot of love, acceptance and forgiveness the hearts of young people are very winnable and open to being molded by someone who has demonstarated that they care.

They are not near as interested in simply reading a book and then discussing what they are reading. This is the old form of discipling and mentoring. They want to be led but they want to be hands-on and learning skills that will allow them to be a leader in the future. They want experience and not just more education. Information will need to be imparted as experiences are shared.

The people they will follow willingly are those who are self-regulated. This means that the leader must know and understand themselves – who they are and what they are called to do as well as how they are to do it. They must be very secure in who they are and open to sharing every aspect of their life with those they are leading and mentoring. They must be real and accessible. They must be totally accepting of those they are leading and mentoring – never judgmental. They must focus on the essential heart issues of the follower or disciple of the Lord they are mentoring – and not on external “seeables” such as dress code, tattoos and piercings. Always keeping the main thing the main thing and that is demonstrating and sharing the very life and nature of God with these young people.

Today’s youth have tremendous untapped potential and are willing to give themselves 100% to a cause they consider worthly of their commitment. The cause of Christ is just the type of total commitment challenge that they are looking for. It allows them to be moving forward with purpose as they add value to other human beings (an important value most share).

If you are open and willing to be this type of leader – then find some young people and lead them. If you are the old-style leader … step aside and let the younger generation lead and watch with amazement what they can accomplish.

Ozzy and Shaaaaron


Do you think of your world in terms of living in an “Ozzie and Harriet” world like the one that I grew up in or in terms of an “Ozzy and Shaaaaron” world that is actually out there. Maybe, like some church leaders, you view your surrounding, fast-changing culture, through “Ollie” glasses – “another fine mess you’ve gotten me into” – and feel helpless because you don’t know how to impact it.

The world has changed and many believers and churches have not adjusted to the changes – or even noticed them. The Church seems unable to understand the rapidly changing world in which we live. This results in the Church and individual believers having little to no impact on the culture in which we find ourselves and little opportunity to share the life-changing message of the Gospel. We are usually better at God-Talk than God-Walk in this new culture. We have failed at cultural exegesis while remaining decent at biblical exegesis. And, thus we speak many words but are not connecting and not really communicating.

I found it interesting to note how universities (and a few seminaries) are changing so that they can still connect to and communicate with their culture. They have recognized that if they hope to continue to train and equip their students they need to at least understand the “Ozzy and Shaaaaron” world in which we live. As someone trained in numerous seminaries and having earned (so far) two Master’s degrees I was amazed to learn that at Washington State University there is a “Taco Bell Distinguished Professor of Hotel and Restaurant Administration.” There is now at Stanford Univesity (Ivy League School, folks) a Yahoo! Chair with an emphasis on information systems technology. The most “distinguished” professors of marketing at the universities of Arizona and West Virginia hold the Coca Cola Chair and the K-Mart Chair respectively. They are adjusting to their changing culture so that they can continue to equip their students for life in the real world. The Church is called to equip believers!

The world is changing rapidly and if we, the Christians, hope to communicate and connect in ways that allows us to impact life today (without compromising our values, ethics, and message) we need to keep in touch with the people to whom we hope to preach on Sundays. They won’t come if we are not speaking into their world (and inviting them). And, if they do they won’t come back unless we have connected and communicated in a meaningful way to their world.

The message we have to share never changes but the methods we use and the way we speak it must constantly change and keep pace with the changes in our world.

I like what Leonard Sweet wrote. “I am horrified that when I went to school the press covered stories of how many coeds could cram into a phone booth; now that my kids are going to school, the press covers stories of how many men porn stars you can have sex with at one time.” (page 69 – Jesus Drives Me Nuts)

The world has changed. University has changed. Television has changed. The world that Hollywood portrays on the movies has changed (more on this tomorrow), what we accept as “normal” has changed. What we focus on and are investing time and energy in has changed. And, we need to study our culture and listen carefully to people (listen before you speak) to see what their world is like and then learn to speak to that world in a way that they can really hear us. This will take work, time, effort, investment of money (coffee anyone) and brain power as you learn, analysis, understand, adjust, relate (connect) and then practice speaking cross-culturally as missionaries to a foreign nation.

I’m not talking about going to a third-world country. You are called to take the Gospel to your own “world” first – and it is time to recognize that you are an ambassador of Jesus to the people you relate to every day. And, like any good missionary or ambassador you need to study and come to know the culture and the language of the people to which you have been sent. Otherwise you (and the Church) will remain a sub-culture that is simply written off and ignored by the mainstream of society and seen as not relevant and out-of-touch which, regretfully, if often very true.

So, we need to be always in tune with the Holy Spirit, but also in touch with the culture.

Picture – The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (Nelson) and their two sons
Picture – Ozzie and Shaaaaron Osbourne of “Family Jewels” and also a member of K.I.S.S.

What They See Should Be Who You Are

As believers in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are called to bear witness to Him in thought, word and deed. Our lifestyle – the way we live, what we purchase with our money, how we invest (or waste) our time, who we hang around with, what we do for entertainment – should all speak of our loyalty to Jesus Christ and the fact that we are a follower or disciple of His. We are to be living testimonies of His grace and His goodness. And, our words, our attitude toward others and our actions should be telling others the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made (and is making) in our lives (1 Peter 2:9 The Message).

There are some basic core beliefs of the Christian faith. This summer I have been preaching weekly on “The Basics” (these sermons are posted on-line and are free to listen to. As well, the written text is also available for download). The list of basic beliefs keeps growing so the series will not end when the summer weather does. But, it has been fun to revisit some of the basic beliefs and to share them in a simple way so that they are understood and can be applied instantly. I have discovered that many Christians do not know what it is they are suppose to believe nor how to apply the things they do believe to their lifestyle. These basic beliefs are suppose to be foundational to our lives. But they can’t be if we don’t know them – really know them deep in our hearts as well as understand them mentally. Afterall, it is upon these foundational, basic truths that we are to build and consciously design a lifestyle that speaks to and reveals our beliefs and the Savior we follow.

From these core basic beliefs we then determine our personal core values – what it is that we, as an individual follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, hold to be foundational to our personal life. What is it that we are doing with the core basic beliefs of the faith? How are we applying them to our own personal lives? They have to be more than a philosophy of life. They have to be more than something held at arms length that we pay lip service to. They have to be more than a comfortable thing to trust when we are approaching the end of our lives (eternal fire insurance). What we believe as Christians must help to determine and shape the way we are going to live our lives and what we are hoping to accomplish with our short time on Earth.

Most believers that I relate to could not tell you their ‘core values’ or the building blocks upon which they are building their lives. They have not internalized the basic beliefs of the faith. Some – dare I say most – could not even tell you the basic core beliefs of the faith they claim to follow. I don’t blame the followers. I think it is the direct result of too much pop theology from the pulpit mixed with self-help psychology. The Church is in sad shape.

When a believer knows the basic beliefs of the faith and have allowed them to form the foundation of their daily life – creating their own personal core values based upon what the Bible-believer knows to be truth – their core values then help them to form life principles. A life principle is the actual way that they are going to live their lives which of course then determines what others see and hear.

A personal example of a “life principle” that I live by is what I call “My LAF Principle”. This means that one of the guiding life principles of my daily life is that I “Love,” “Accept,” and “Forgive” people all of the time. I try to express love towards everyone – the love of God that I have personally experienced. I love them by the way I act, talk, and respond. I accept them just as they are. I do not judge them. I do not form a preconceived idea of how they are going to react or respond. I don’t judge how they look or dress. I simply accept them as Jesus would (unconditionally). Afterall, that is how Jesus accepted me. And, I determine ahead of time and on a daily basis to forgive anyone who hurts me or offends me – a decision and not a feeling. I do this even when they don’t deserve it. Did I deserve to be forgiven? Absolutely not! So, I live my life based on three life principles that determine what others see in me and hear from me. Of course, there are many other life principles by which I form my lifestyle. This is simply one of many.

When all of this comes together – and it must for the believer – then we live a life of integrity. People should be able to look at how we live our lives and what we are doing in our lives and recognize and know that we are believers…. our words, attitudes and actions should line up with our core values which are based on the foundational truths we have determined to personally embrace. Of course, all of this must, for the Christian, be rooted in the essential, non-negotiable, doctrines of the Christian faith. Our basic beliefs.

Talking to Whom?

Acts 2 … “everyone heard the message in their own language” and three thousand people came to Christ that day. They understood the Gospel and with the Holy Spirit bringing conviction and godly sorrow, they repented, were forgiven and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they became born again.

Today we do not see multitudes being saved and the majority of churches do not see even one new convert a year. Let’s remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit still works today – His task has not changed and He is neither on holidays nor retired. So, the problem we have is that apparently we are either not sharing the Gospel one-on-one and from the pulpit or the way we are sharng it is no longer speaking to the people listening. In other words, they are not hearing it “in their own languge.”

Here is what I believe to be another major truth: There is no stopping the church from reaching people and impacting the world when they communicate God’s powerful truth and life-changing hope in the language of the culture with passion, focus, and faith. In other words, in order for people to genuinely benefit from and apply God’s truth to their lives, they have to hear it in a language they can understand.

Paul writes (the Holt Spirit is communicating to us through his writings): Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. [1 Corinthians 9:19-23]

It is time for the Church and individual believers to take seriously Paul’s comments and learn how to be with and communiate to the people they work with and live beside – family members, friends, fellow workers, and all others. We have become so accustomed to sharing the Gospel with each other (other Christians) that we often no longer know how to communicate it effectively to those who do not know the story (most of the younger geneerations today) and those who do not know the terminology of the Bible.

Add to that “language barrier” a general inability to even express the Gospel in a way that makes sense to anyone. In other words, maybe you are saved or born again but can you explain to another person why they need to be born again and how they would go about becoming born again. Often believers know the message in their heart but honestly are clueless in how to communicate the message in a way that will make sense to non-believers and help them to understand the peril of their spiritual condition.

Let me get personal – are you sharing your faith and the Gospel with others on a regular basis “as you go into all your world doing your daily activities?” Are you being obedient?

Let me get personal – if you are, how well do you know the Gospel?
Not asking here if you know it in your heart or head. I’m asking you – can you talk about it in a way that makes sense even to other believers? Many times we can know something “inside” and not be able to adequately express it in words.

Let me get personal – if you know the Gospel well enough to share it with others, are you doing just that – sharing it with others? Statistics prove most believers do not!

Let me get personal – if you know the Gospel and can communicate it in a decent way so that it can be understood – are you are working at sharing it with others, are you presenting it in words and phrases that a generation which has no Christian consciousness can understand?

In other words – it is one thing to talk with others who understand the need and the terminology but are you able to communicate to those around you do not go to church, many have never been in a church, they have not read the Bible and may, in fact, not own one. They do not base their lives on Christian absolutes or standards and, in fact, don’t even believe in “absolutes.” And, they don’t speak Christianese. How well can you communicate the precious truths that can save a soul from eternity in hell?

I believe it is time for each individual Christian to take a good look at their knowledge of the Gospel, their skill set in presenting the Gospel, their ability to speak in a way that they are being understood so that each can hear the Gospel “in their own language,” and to be serious honest with themselves about their lack of obedience in doing the one thing the Lord commanded His Church to do … “go into all the world and preach the Gospel, making disciples in all nations.”