Monday, January 27, 2014

Stop trying to find the right evangelism method...just be a witness! Acts 1:4-8

Consider these statistics:
  • 85% of all evangelical churches have "evangelism" in their mission statement. (Evangelical churches can be broadly defined as churches that have a high regard of scripture, believe converts should demonstrate conversion with changed lives, believe faith should be spread by converts, and believe the cross is central to the gospel. (
  • Less than 5% of Christians in a typical church are personally involved in evangelism.
  • A typical church spends less than 2% of their budget on local evangelism.
Those statistics are taken directly from whose research came from the Barna Group.

I have no idea how those statistics play out in your particular congregation, but just think about this to evaluate how true it is for your more and more people bemoan the shrinking of churches, consider what would happen if just half of the members of a congregation converted just one person in the course of 5 years. I'm not a numbers guy so I won't try to figure out the details on how much growth we would see in the church compared to members moving away and dying, but I do feel confident that we would see growth!

Why is personal sharing of faith (evangelism) such a rare thing among professing Christians?

I believe it might possibly be due to one more statistic from the same source as above:
Only 9% of pastors and 2% of lay people say they are gifted and most do not feel adequately trained in evangelism.

In other words, our church buildings are filled (or only partially filled depending on how you are using the word) with followers of Christ who believe and know they should be sharing their faith with others, but they feel completely incapable and inadequate to actually do so. I don't know about you, but if there is something I don't really feel comfortable doing, I tend to just call someone else and let them do it! (That's why so many fix-it jobs around my house stay un-fixed for so long!)

I took a high school group to Evangelism University last week. EU is a youth rally that is designed specifically to train teens to share their faith. I was discussing all of the training with one of the dads (Michael Hansen...check out his online ministry here) on the bus. We lamented the fact that evangelism has become such a complicated and formal process and discussed that one of the possible reasons for having to have formal training is that there is not much true discipleship (mentoring) going on and that even if there were, we are currently at a spot where it seems like almost no one is evangelizing or even knows how. So even if there were discipleship going on and evangelism was brought up, it would be a very real potential case of the blind leading the blind! (I'm including myself in that indictment!)

But as I read this passage in Acts this morning, I immediately remembered our conversation and I thought again about the actual simplicity of what Christ asks us to do.

We are called to be witnesses of what we have seen. Yes, the apostles were given some extraordinary things that they saw. They saw and touched the risen Christ. Three of them saw his transfigured state on the mountain. They saw blind people given sight, deaf people given hearing, lame people walk, and dead people live. And they were commanded to tell people what they had seen. To be witnesses.

The truth of the matter, is that we are asked to do no more and no less...and it doesn't matte whether what we have seen personally is a paralyzed leg changed or a habitual liar made truthful. We are called to be witnesses. We are not called to sway the jury of someone else's mind and soul. We are called to testify to what we have seen God do in us and around us through Christ. Anyone can tell a story. True, some are better storytellers than others, but anyone can tell a story. It takes no training. It takes no special miraculous gift of the Spirit. It simply takes someone who is devoted enough to Christ and His kingdom to testify to where they have been in the past and where God in Christ has brought them to now.

But that still doesn't speak to the power of Jesus' instructions because we have not yet mentioned the power that He promised them to be His witnesses.

Before he told them to be witnesses, He told them to wait. To wait for the power of the Holy Spirit. And it was the power of that Spirit that would enable them to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. Can you imagine the increase in the numbers of evangelists in the church today if we really understood the power of the Spirit the way the first-century church did!? Maybe I should make that a stronger statement...can you imagine the increase in the numbers of evangelists in the church today if we really believed in the power of the Spirit the way the first century church did!?

My prayer is that as we walk through the book of Acts, we will be awakened to the power of the Spirit that was and is alive if we only have eyes of faith. My prayer is that we will turn the world upside down once again not because we have the right method or find enough talented men to fill pulpits, but because we have the right motivation (direct command from an infinitely loving Christ) and re-find the power of the Spirit that fills our lives.

Maybe in our rush to figure out how to fill our pews once again, we need to simply pause and wait for the Spirit again. And while we are waiting...maybe we can just start being witnesses and telling stories about the Christ who promises us resurrection because of His resurrection.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can I follow without gaining followers?- Matthew 28:18-20

"To be a disciple of Christ is to make disciples of Christ. 

It is impossible to know Christ 

without having an urgent desire to make Him known."

I believe that quote is from a sermon by David Platt. I can't remember for sure where I heard it, but it has stuck with me. In fact, I have it posted on my office door. How does it hit you? Do you agree with the statement or disagree?

I've heard references many times to the fact that people have different gifts and talents and therefore different ministries. That is an absolute fact. (See 1 Corinthians 12, etc.) But does it mean, therefore, that some disciples of Christ who do not have the gift of teaching or preaching or discipling are therefore exempt from actively making disciples?

I believe I am standing on Biblical ground to agree with the quote above that "to be a disciple of Christ is to make disciples of Christ." The method of discipling and the ministry that someone is discipled into may look very different depending on who is recruiting and making disciples, but all of the disciples will be led to Christ and will be led to create new disciples of Christ themselves through whatever ministry and outreach best suits their personal set of natural and spiritual gifts.

In other words, what if a Christian who is passionate about being a coach realized that his main purpose in life was not to win games, but to win souls to Christ? What if he made disciples of his team and his assistant coaches and taught them by word and by example what it means to be lead by faith (trust) in Jesus Christ when in the gym or the classroom?

What if someone who is a very successful business person realized that their purpose in life was not just to make money, but to make disciples who used their business skills and leadership to serve others and to win them to Christ?

What if stay-at-home moms realized that their purpose in life was not just to keep their kids healthy and safe, but to teach other young ladies what it means to be a wife and mother who trusts in Christ for daily living?

What if....fill in the blank.

I see three parts to Matthew 28:18-20 that basically say this:
  1. Jesus has all authority. If that is true, then we disobey him at great peril. 
  2. THEREFORE, His disciples are called to make disciples everywhere in the world. That includes not just the decision to follow initially, but the guidance and teaching on what it means and how to follow Him in daily living.
  3. When we are His disciples and are making disciples, we can be sure of His presence with us. When Jesus initially selected the twelve apostles, Mark tells us that he selected them "that they might be with him, and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" (Mark 3:14). How appropriate that before he leaves the earth, he renews his promise to "be with them."
Last year we studied through the sermon on the mount which is the biggest bulk of Jesus' teaching on what it means to be a follower of Christ and a citizen in the kingdom of heaven. This year, I want us to look at the book of Acts in order to see how the early Christians put his words about life into practice in their own lives as they strove to be disciples and to make disciples.

Next week, I want to look at one more statement of Christ from the book of Luke just before the ascension, and after that, I would like us to move slowly through the book of Acts. If you have suggestions of passages to consider in Acts, please leave a comment below.

May we always strive to be true disciples of Christ not so we can earn our way into being with Him, but because He chose us to be with Him. And may we realize that a big part of what it means to be a disciple is to make disciples. Who will you lead a step closer to Christ today?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Surprised at Judgment Day- Matthew 7:21-23

(Before you start reading, I need some help! Take a minute to think of suggestions for upcoming VOWs. What direction should the VOW take for 2014? Leave a comment below or shoot an email to
Picture it this way.

Let's say that for whatever reason your name holds a lot of sway. Use your imagination...maybe you are filthy rich...maybe you are the most popular president both in the States and internationally that has ever been in the U.S....maybe you are a world-renowned athlete or actor/actress or singer or. It doesn't matter. Just have fun with it.

Got that in your mind?

Ok, now let's pretend that you have several children. Let's say that nothing negative really happens...they just start to drift away from you. There was not a defining confrontation that drove you apart, there was not a slight or an insult. They just quit returning your phone calls. They wouldn't answer your letters or your text messages. They blocked you on Facebook. And they certainly never came home. Basically, for whatever reason, they just didn't want anything to do with you personally.

However, while they never contacted you or asked for your input, they did continue to use the status of your name to accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. Some of those things were even good things. They let everyone they came into contact with know that you were their father/mother. Why? Because it opened doors that might not otherwise be opened to them. It forced others to look at them with respect and pay attention to what they said. Yes, they used the name for many purposes...but no matter how hard you begged, they wouldn't come home or renew their relationship with you.

Now let's say that process began as soon as they were teenagers and carried on throughout their life. And let's say you live and abnormally long life. You remember them as children, but you know nothing about them personally as adults.

Picture sitting down to write your will at the end of your life. But let's make it complicated. Your children all know you are near death. And they all come calling when you are on your deathbed.

Would you write your children into your will knowing they never had a relationship with you? Knowing the only reason they didn't change their name was because yours was more convenient?

Of course this analogy breaks down in many, many spots. But do you get the point? Do we use God for His name and what it can accomplish- whether good or bad- but fail to pursue a relationship with Him?

It's interesting to me that the things claimed by those whom "Jesus never knew" were the big things done in his name. Casting out demons, working miracles, prophesying.

I wonder if the reason people will go to judgment falsely assured of salvation is because we think salvation is found in the "big things" and we fail to be obedient in the "little things." The things like loving enemies; obeying our parents; abstaining from gossip, slander, and lies; welcoming the stranger, orphan, and widow; breaking down the walls of division between us (race, social class, economic standing, cultural upbringing, etc.) in Christ.

Jesus said very plainly, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

No matter how many demons we cast out, prophesies we utter, miracles we perform, mission trips we go on, community service projects we participate in, or political rallies we organize in order to fight immorality in our country, if we are not obedient to his command to "love one another as [he] has loved [us]" (John 13:34), then we have not known him...and he has not known us.
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.... We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 3:11-24

May we all strive not to do more and better, but to love more and better. And may that guide us into even greater works as we do good works in Jesus' name.