Speak

9 12 2019

speak


And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak.
2 Corinthians 4:13


Many churches and even many Christians do a good job of serving their communities. They host floats in the annual Christmas parade. They provide canned foods at Thanksgiving. They serve food at homeless shelters. Etc. Etc. Etc.

All of these things are good things! We should not stop doing these very worthy events to serve and better our communities.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming) in the absence of a declaration of the Gospel, our churches are no different than any other philanthropic organization.

There is a reason the Church in America continues to decline. There is a reason that my denomination (Southern Baptist) continues to see a decrease in baptisms and an increase in churches closing their doors. That reason is simply that we are not seeing new people choose to follow Jesus. God’s plan to get the Gospel to others is for us to share that good news with others, and it is painfully obvious that the sharing is not happening.

Now, I am not saying that we only provide canned foods to someone if they will listen to a Gospel presentation. Or, we pass out Gospel tracts while we walk in the parade.

What I am saying is that we, as Believers, are, or at least should be, compelled to get to the Gospel at some point.

I see it as a very simple step-by-step formula…

  1. Good works
  2. Relationship
  3. Spiritual Conversation
  4. Gospel
  5. Holistic Ministry
  6. Effective Teaching

This formula equals disciple-making disciples!

Let me give you an example… While out serving at a community homeless shelter doing a good work, John, who is a Believer, meets Mike. Mike is not a Believer, but he sees a need to help the homeless community out. As they serve food together, John and Mike discover they work for the same large company, so they already have a lot in common. A friendship is built, and over the course of months John is able to talk about spiritual things with Mike. Mike even begins to ask his own questions as he sees how John works and treats his family with love and respect. Mike even starts to come to some of the church events! Eventually Mike asks what it means to be saved, and John is able to share the Gospel with him. He accepts Christ and begins attending John’s church where he and his family are ministered to and receive great teaching through sermons and John’s discipleship group. As a result, now Mike feels the need to begin sharing the Gospel with others.

I realize that it is never this cut and dry, but I hope this shows you how the formula is intended to work.

We tend to get messed up in three different ways.

  1. Picking One – This is what we talked about in the beginning. Most Christians might just choose to do good works and never move on to the other steps. Some churches say that they are just going to teach the Word. Some individuals have the spiritual gift of evangelism, and all they do is share the Gospel to get converts.
  2. Stopping – This is where we might do a good work and build a relationship with someone, but we never get to spiritual conversations or the Gospel. Or, we see someone come to faith in Christ, and we leave them be with no ministry or teaching.
  3. Lack of Training – This is where in any of these steps we mess up because we don’t fully understand it. For instance, standing up and lecturing a group is one way to teach, but is it effective? How many Believers can articulate a clear Gospel message?

If I were to pick where the US Church is weakest, I would say that the majority of Christians simply don’t share the Gospel. There is little passion for getting the Gospel to unbelievers, and there is little understanding of even how to share the Gospel if the heart was willing.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:13 that he believes so he speaks. It’s that simple. If we truly believe that sharing the Gospel could save someone from an eternity in Hell, then we speak.

Later in 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul says that the love of Christ compels him to share the Gospel. In light of what Jesus did for me, I have no other choice but to share it with others.

In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says that we are ambassadors of reconciliation. It is simply our duty, and, if our Lord commands us, we do it. We are now, as a Believer, a new creation created with the one and only purpose to bring God glory by sharing the Gospel with those who are lost.

My prayer is that the Church will recapture its heart to see disciples made through the sharing of the Gospel message.





Busy. Busy. Busy.

2 12 2019

busy

Normally, when someone would ask how I was doing, I would reply, “Busy.” I have recently been convicted of that. Maybe God could use my conviction to influence you towards a different stance as well.

I have realized that old habits are hard to break, so I still find myself replying with the word busy. When I do this and catch myself, I usually follow it up with something like, “It keeps me out of trouble,” or, “I’m really not that busy.”

When you hear a particular saying over and over again, you tend to forget the meaning. I have always heard it said that you are only as busy as you want to be. This is true, but we tend to forget. Our busyness or lack thereof is a choice.

We, also, have the choice of what to be busy about. After being in the ministry for over 25 years, I have found that most people choose everything else first over ministry or mission. If there is any margin left, well, that can be given to God.

There are two reasons why the busyness leftovers are given to the church and not the first fruits…

  1. Church leadership has failed to give good training, a compelling vision, and proper placement for ministry and mission. (equipping the saints for ministry)
  2. Christian individuals have failed to rise up and follow the God-given commands to ministry and mission. (disciple-making)

My conviction has come through me doing a study called Deepen Discipleship with a group of guys at the church. We have been reading through a book of the New Testament each week. Through this reading, among other things, I have realized that…

  • I am not busy. Paul was busy.
  • If I am busy, I’m not busy with things of eternal consequence.
  • I complain WAY too much.
  • In light of what Christ did for me and continues to do, I have no right to be busy with anything other than the things He calls me to.

These lessons may sound really simple, but it has been my personal experience and my experience working in professional ministry that most people, including me, still need to work on these things.


5 Practical Steps You Can Take To Solve The Busyness Problem

  1. Stop saying and believing that you are busy. Understand that busyness, in most cases, is a state of mind and not an actual reality. Busyness is also relative. Always hold up your life choices to the standard of the Bible.
  2. Practice gratitude. Every morning write down one thing that you are grateful for.
  3. Read God’s Word. Read the Bible every single day. This is how the Holy Spirit convicts and speaks to us.
  4. Prioritize your time. Take a hard look at your calendar (and the things not on the calendar) and see if it is filled with temporal things or eternal things. Make changes where necessary.
  5. Make disciples. This is why we, as Christians, were left on Planet Earth. You will find your greatest fulfillment in doing what God created you to do.

 





Where Are The Young Men?

18 11 2019

youngmen

As a mission pastor, I get the incredible opportunity to speak to and spend time with many of our missionaries who serve with the International Mission Board. I just had coffee with an incredible man of God serving the Lord in a very difficult place in Southeast Asia.

Usually during any meeting that I have with a missionary, I try to ask them what their greatest needs are. I used to be surprised by the answer I received, but I have now gotten the same answer so many times that it now just saddens me.

When I asked this particular missionary from Southeast Asia what his greatest need is he answered that they need two young men to come and serve with them.

This is the same answer I get all the time now.

I know missionaries who have had open jobs for young men to fill for years now with absolutely no interest.

What is happening? Where are the young men? Why are we having such a difficult time finding young men who would be willing to go serve the Lord by being an international missionary?

This is not just happening internationally, but there is also a shortage of young men willing to plant churches here nationally or even being apart of a church planting team.

I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why young men are not answering the call to missions, but I am going to try list the ones I highly suspect.


6 REASONS WHY YOUNG MEN ARE NOT ANSWERING THE CALL TO MISSIONS

  1. Disobedience – This might seem ridiculously obvious, but I think it needs to be said. Young ladies seem to be answering the call to go, and so I would suspect that God is calling the same amount of young men. If He is, these men are just simply disobeying that call. I certainly don’t believe that every young man is called to go as a missionary or a church planter, but many are!
  2. Lack of Awareness – This is our fault! If we are not teaching the Biblical commands to go, we will not see that fruit. If we are not intentionally making disciples, we will not see obedient disciples made. Our churches need to get serious about intentional disciple making, maybe especially among our boys and young men.
  3. Hindrances – Hebrews 12:1 tells us to cast off any hindrances. These are not necessarily sins in and of themselves. For instance, watching Netflix is not necessarily a sin. Binge watching that gets in the way of impacting the Kingdom of God is sin! Playing video games is not necessarily a sin, but playing them all the time could be. This could apply to almost anything good. We, as humans, have an uncanny ability to take what is good and turn it into something bad.
  4. Sin – Hebrews 12:1 tells us to also cast off sin. I think this verse also implies that we should cast off the feeling of being unworthy as a result of sin as well. The sins that I see as being most prevalent among our young men today are lack of integrity, lack of commitment, and poor time management. There is a reason for the relatively new stereotype of the 30 year old single male living in his parent’s basement.
  5. Pornography – Yes, this is a sin, but I believe it deserves a separate category. The Bible seems to also separate sexual sin into a different category (1 Corinthians 6:18). I first heard this proposed as a reason young men are not going as missionaries at a Passion Conference about 13 years ago in a sermon given by John Piper. It made perfect sense. The actual sin of watching and the corresponding guilt keeps many men unable to walk in the footsteps of Jesus in a day-to-day way, much less going overseas as a missionary. The accessibility of pornography through our phones has given our enemy a great tool to keep many young men from doing anything significant for God.
  6. The American Dream – Our culture and even many, well-meaning Christian parents propagate the myth of the American Dream that is to settle down into a good job with a good home and a nice family. The problem with this is that it is not Biblical. In conservative Christian circles we vehemently oppose the “health & wealth gospel,” yet at the same time we seem to live it and teach it to our children. When the only thing our children are asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” why are we surprised when they grow up selfish and entitled? We should be asking them what they think God wants them to do and supporting them in the way God leads them, even if it means that we must say goodbye to them as they board a plane for long-term missionary service in another country.

SOLUTION

I believe the only solution is disciple making. Our parents need to do it first in the home. Our churches need to have intentional discipleship programs starting at an early age.

We need to get our young men into disciple making groups that hold each other accountable, teach them Biblical principles, and inspire them to charge the gates of Hell for the glory of God.

 

 





Missing Verses

30 10 2018

missingverses

I love gospel songs! These are the songs where the lyrics detail the gospel. There are many Christian songwriters that are coming out with fantastic gospel songs. Here are some of my favorite examples…

As much as I love these songs, think we ought to sing these in our churches, and teach them to our children, I am concerned that these and many of the worship songs that we sing today are missing a key piece.

In their fantastic book, The Discipleship Gospel, Bill Hull & Ben Sobels talk about how many of us have been seduced to follow a “forgiveness-only gospel.” I believe that many of our songs reflect this false gospel.

Most of these gospel songs and even many old hymns follow a particular pattern. They lead you to sing about our lostness without Christ, Christ’s death on the cross, Christ’s resurrection, and our resulting forgiveness and freedom. They usually end with a stirring verse about how we will be with Jesus in heaven one day.

You might be thinking that this particular pattern is the gospel and would make a pretty good song. The problem is that it leaves out a key component of the gospel: following Jesus in obedience.

Our churches and our songs teach us that we can simply believe the Christ-story, yet never do what our Lord commands. Jesus said in John 14:15 CSB, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” This is just one of many scriptures that relate following Jesus to true salvation.

Our churches are full of people that “asked Jesus in their hearts” (not a Biblical phrase) as a child or teenager at a Vacation Bible School or summer camp but have never made a disciple (Matthew 28:19). They live their lives as if they bought Hell insurance from Jesus years ago, and when they die that’s their ticket to Heaven. They are good people, go to church, serve as volunteers, give money, etc. but in the end Jesus will announce to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” (Matthew 7:23 CSB)

Jesus’ basis for judgement in Matthew 7 is our obedience after placing our faith in Him. Our obedience can never save us, but it does prove us. It’s as if we are saying that we are apple trees but are producing lemons or maybe nothing at all.

The full gospel says that in faith, through the power of God, we are born again into a Kingdom ruled by a King whose Word is law. This King has commanded us to follow Him in love to make disciples of all the nations. We actually get to be apart of His plan of redeeming more people!

Most gospel songs and gospel presentations leave out the part of our obedience to share this good news and our role as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I would like to challenge our Church’s songwriters to start thinking about this. I’m not saying that every worship song should be a doctoral thesis on the gospel, but we should be cognizant of the false forgiveness-only gospel that has permeated our culture.

For a more thorough examination of this topic, I would refer you to a great book called Cat & Dog Theology by Bob Sjogren & Gerald Robison. I had the privilege of hearing Bob Sjogren speak at a Passion Conference years ago. During that time he introduced us to how he was changing songs our children would normally learn in church to reflect an obedience-based gospel.

There are some really good worship songs out there that present a full gospel…

It is also possible to add verses to really good songs! I recently wrote new verses to two songs: O Praise The Name and Living Hope. I was honored when our Worship Pastor, Keith Clutts, surprised me a few Sundays back by singing Living Hope, including my new verse…





5 Ways To Launch Missions

22 01 2018

launchmissions

Your church only does a couple of mission trips every year and very rarely even talks about missions. You want to launch missions to the next level, but it seems like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be.

Over 7 years ago I started at a church that asked me to take their mission efforts to the next level. It wasn’t easy, and I made plenty of mistakes. But I learned a few things along the way that were successful.

These 5 ways to launch missions are things that you can easily do in your church with a little bit of effort and creativity.

  1. EDUCATION  If someone forced me to only name one thing that is the most important to do in order to change the mission culture of the church, I would say, without hesitation, education. I have always believed that my church is full of good people who, if they only had basic mission knowledge, would rise up to the challenge. I have found this to be true. An invaluable book that I have passed out like candy to increase education is John Zumwalt’s A Passion For The Heart Of God. And the best class on missions is Perspectives.
  2. KEY INFLUENCERS  You need to sit down and make a list of the key influencers in your church – not just those in formal leadership positions, but also those people who pull the strings behind the scenes. Heavily recruit these people to go on a mission trip with you. You know that short-term mission trips change the lives of those who go. If your key influencers go, they will come back and champion missions in your church.
  3. PARTNERSHIPS  Don’t do a trip to a different, exotic location every year. Find missionaries or church planters to form a long-term partnership with. Make these incredible people family to your church. Treat them as the heroes they are when they come to visit. You will quickly find that people care more about missions when it ceases to be an abstract idea and becomes a real live family that are making real live disciples.
  4. REPORTING  You have to tell the stories. Five years from now you will never remember your pastor’s finely crafted three points, but you will remember many of his stories. You need to use any and every means possible to get stories out, including videos, social media, newsletters, etc. One of the best things that we do is to produce a short (no more than 4 minutes) video every week to show in every small group. It is a lot of work, but has been well worth it.
  5. CULTURE  Changes in culture don’t happen overnight. But they do happen slowly as a result of a lot of hard, intentional work. To launch missions to the next level missions has to be more than a separate ministry. It must become the heartbeat of the church. To see a culture change you must be willing to aggressively and persistently do all of the above. After doing these things, over time you begin to see subtle changes that indicate that the culture is changing, like the pastor talking about missions in his sermons, church members taking ownership in the partnerships, missions giving increasing, etc.

Launching missions is much like launching a rocket… there is a ton of preparation, but when it takes off, it is spectacular and worth all of the hard work to see it bring God glory!





Jesus, God’s First Missionary

13 12 2017

jesusgodsfirstmissionaryJesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
John 20:21 CSB

For the most part, followers of Jesus do a good job of trying to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Pastors preach great sermons on the purpose of Jesus’ coming. Choirs sing carols that focus on the incarnation. Every home has a miniature manger scene, and we all read the Luke 2 account of the birth of Jesus before opening presents.

Something is missing, though.

Jesus did not just come to redeem me or my family back to God. He was sent by the Father to redeem every people group.

If I am a follower of Jesus, certainly, I need to be grateful for the Father sending Him to me, but Christmas is now no longer about me! It now serves as an example that I am to be about the business of redeeming those who are lost.

The Father sent Jesus. Now, in the same way, Jesus is sending us. Jesus was and is our atoning sacrifice. His blood covers my sin so that I now stand before God in righteousness. But Jesus was also God’s first missionary in a long line that extends to you and me.

Once we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved (Romans 10:9). We are not then immediately translated to heaven, but physically still remain on earth. The reason we are left is that God in His incredible grace allows us to be His plan to reach the rest of the world.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Christmas is a love-fest on you and your immediate family. Yes, it should remind us of God’s grace and mercy and blessing, but more importantly it should spur us on to sharing the good news of Jesus with those who need to hear it.

5 Ways That You Can Be A Missionary This Christmas…

  1. Consider giving to your church’s world missions offering. Our church takes up the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every December. 100% of the funds collected go straight to the more than 4,000 missionaries serving on the field with the International Mission Board.
  2. Make plates of Christmas goodies or cookies and take them to your neighbors. Place the treats on a dish that needs to be returned. Ask your neighbor how you can pray for them through the Christmas season and invite them to church. When they return the dish to you, follow up on the prayer request.
  3. Just determine in your mind that you are going to intentionally engage people in spiritual conversations over the course of the next few weeks.
  4. Take time to pray for missionaries that you know serving overseas and who will not be able to be with their families on Christmas Day. On December 25th, take a moment and send them an email, letting them know that you are thinking of them. Holidays are especially difficult for our missionaries.
  5. Find someone in your area who is fostering children in their home and offer to help with Christmas gifts, a meal, or finances.




5 Ways To Cultivate Spiritual Conversations

21 11 2017

*This is adapted from the book God Space by Doug Pollock, which I highly recommend!

spiritualconversationsIt should be shocking to us, as followers of Christ, how few Christians are actively sharing their faith. We are commanded by our Master and Commander, Jesus, to make disciples, yet how many of us have made a disciple recently? When was the last time you even had a spiritual conversation and planted a seed with someone who is lost? For that matter, how many lost people do you know and consider friends?

These are difficult questions because at their root they expose us as disobedient children. It might even be said that this chronic disobedience could be an indicator that we are not a follower of Jesus after all. When there is a blatant disregard for the command of Jesus, it might be safe to assume that he is not our Commander.

I have come to realize, though, that there are many believers who simply and truly do not understand how to share the good news. Gone are the days of personal evangelism training in churches, not that these were that effective. The majority of them were geared towards getting a Christian to cold call a total stranger and share the complete gospel with them in one sitting! Very few people desire to do that or are good at that, and there is not a lot scripture that indicates the apostles or Jesus went around knocking on doors and sharing a set of memorized questions. This is why most of these trainings faded over the course of a few months.

I believe there are, also, many believers who cannot even express the gospel in a coherent form or share an effective personal testimony.

Aside from all of these things, there is even a lack of ability to start and facilitate a simple spiritual conversation. I think it would amaze believers if they could just get a spiritual conversation going how the Holy Spirit would jump in and help them know what to say (this is scriptural). Many believers will go an entire day, week, or even month without talking to any lost person, much less engage a lost person in a spiritual topic. My goal is to give you some tips on how you can get a spiritual conversation started with a lost person. There is no memorizing here, just a simple art form that anyone can learn and God can use to great effect.

5 Ways To Cultivate Spiritual Conversations

Praying
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do you pray before you head into the gym or enter a restaurant that God would give you the opportunity to speak with someone that needs to hear the gospel? In your personal prayer time, do you spend more time praying for yourself and sick people than lost people? Obviously, praying for God to intervene and provide you with opportunities is hugely important, but secondarily it helps us to be more intentional. If you pray that God would help you to have a spiritual conversation, you are going to be more on the lookout for that conversation.

Noticing
This is all about being intentional in every circumstance. When a waitress comes to take your order, do you simply order your meal or do you notice her name and maybe even her countenance? When going through the line at the grocery store, do you notice that the cashier might be down? When talking to co-workers that you have known for years, are you really noticing what they are saying? Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” You may think you know someone, but take the time to intentionally notice them from a spiritual point of view. When you notice something, ask about it. Draw out those deep waters. You never know how God might use you to change someone’s life from simply taking the time to notice them.

Serving
This is something that anyone can do but involves a little planning beforehand. Plus, this can include a million things, like mowing your neighbor’s lawn, giving a friend their favorite candy bar, buying a stranger’s lunch, taking a plate of cookies to your neighbors, etc. The key here is waiting for them to pop the magic question… Why? When someone asks you why you are serving them, this gives you permission to jump into a spiritual conversation. You can simply say, “I love Jesus, and I wanted to show you that Jesus loves you in a practical way,” or “I’m a follower of Jesus, and I simply want to be kind in small ways as he has been kind to me.” Anything like this can get a conversation going.

Listening
If you read the gospels, you find that Jesus asked a lot of questions. By asking questions, he made people face the hard truth about their lives and talk it out for themselves rather than just give them a simple answer. If there is anything that Christians need to learn today, it’s how to ask good questions and just be quiet and listen. Listening is certainly a lost art form. Our tendency seems to be talking and then only hearing what we want to hear. When having a spiritual conversation with someone who is far from God we must be willing let them have their say and not get offended. We need to listen with compassion and be able to see through the barbs that are only intended to get a rise out of us. When we don’t respond negatively, we become a safe person – someone that they can trust. This keeps the door open for more conversations and eventually the sharing of the gospel.

Wondering
This is a fantastic way to engage people in spiritual conversations without being threatening at all. It involves asking a “wondering” question based on what you have been hearing. So the first step in wondering is good listening. When you hear something that sparks your curiosity, wonder about it. For example, you and a co-worker are talking about the latest political news, and they make a statement about Planned Parenthood. You could wonder by saying, “I wonder if there is a supreme being in the universe that created us, what he would think about abortion?” Do you see how this is much less threatening than just simply stating your view and walking off mad? It opens up the topic to more dialogue but gently shifts it to spiritual matters. By wondering with them, you have also become a sojourner with them, not an antagonist.

Conclusion

I hope you can see that these 5 simple things are not difficult to do to get into spiritual conversations that could possibly lead to the salvation of one who is lost. The one thing that is going to trip most people up is when we don’t intentionally do any of these things, and they just get relegated to more Christian stuff that we know but don’t practice. We have to make ourselves begin to practice these things. It’s just like anything else where we have to make ourselves do the right things at first, but eventually they come naturally to us.








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