Too often Christians have communicated a “gospel” that is really no gospel at all

At churchleaders.com Greg Stier  talks about rebranding evangelism, using Jesus’s model of evangelism. Two things stick out in his essay:

  1. In his point #3 titled “The gospel is ultimately a love story, not hate speech” he writes a very eloquent description of how God and Jesus got down and dirty in order to create and to save man: “God kneels in the mud to breathe into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. The first thing Adam sees when he awakens is the smiling, muddy face of his Creator. God then performs surgery on Adam and transforms his rib into his bride. God got muddy and bloody to make Adam and Eve. Then humanity rebelled and broke God’s heart while severing the relationship. But Jesus, the lover of our souls, would not be dissuaded. He got dirty again to come to this Earth and be born in a food trough for smelly barn animals. He got bloody again, but this time it was his own blood, not Adam’s. Jesus died to restore the shattered relationship. This love story is one of romance (walking in the garden hand in hand in the cool of the day), break ups (getting expelled from the garden), sacrifice, surrender and, of course, the ultimate “and they lived happily ever after.”
  2. In his point #4 he states: The goal of Biblical evangelism is to engage the lost, not enrage them.

And finally:

The rebranding of evangelism needs to happen because too often Christians have communicated a “gospel” that is really no gospel at all (See Galatians 1:6-9.) It’s been more about what we are against than who is for us (Romans 8:31-38.) It’s been more about rules than the possibility of a restored relationship through faith in Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5.

Here are the verses used in the paragraph above:

Galatians 1:6-9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Romans 8:31-38

 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:   “For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,

Titus 3:5

5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit

Ravi Zacharias – The temptation of Jesus

RaviIn the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus’ intellect, will, & imagination, but Jesus responded with the Truth, the Word of God. The same tempter came to Him on the cross at Calvary. Our salvation was totally dependent on Jesus’ response to temptation. Like Jesus, our response to temptation is not determined in the moment of temptation, but by our world view, our prior convictions. The Truth is that life is sacred because it is given by a Holy God. The greatest pleasure in life is knowing how to worship God. When we surrender our intellect, will, & imagination to Him, worship is the beautiful expression…

From One Love Ministries VIDEO by HiOneLove

Most Americans Don’t Understand Love

Piper: Most Americans don’t know what love is. I’ll state a definition that they might agree with and then I’ll give it a biblical translation. Maybe you would find people who would agree with the definition: Love is doing whatever you’ve got to do, at whatever cost to yourself, to make people as happy as they can be  forever. It cost Jesus His life to do this, to make people as happy as they can be  forever.

The biblical translation for that is this: Love is whatever you have to do, at whatever cost to yourself to help people have an all satisfying passion for Jesus forever. Those are synonymous definitions because Christ is the only source of everlasting joy. If you reject Christ, you don’t have joy- forever.

Therefore, the definition of love is eating, drinking, and doing whatever you do, in order to help people cherish Christ above all things. Seeing Him and savoring Him above all things. And that becomes massively helpful in what movies you watch, what you eat, what you drink, where you go, how you spend your time. Are people seeing in you and in your values- Christ as supremely important? Are you doing things that will cause them to read off of your life that you seem to be drawing your life from another place? That’s what love is gonna prompt you to show.

VIDEO by DGJohnPiper from the message “Don’t Waste Your Life” September 19, 2007

Related posts

Day of Pentecost and Spiritual Gifts

We may define spiritual gifts as follows: A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church. This broad definition includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, showing mercy, or administration) and gifts that seem to be more “miraculous” and less related to natural abilities (such as prophecy, healing, or distinguishing between spirits). The reason for this is that when Paul lists spiritual gifts (in Rom. 12:6-8); 1 Cor. 7:7; 12:8-10, 28; and Eph. 4:11) he includes both kinds of gifts. Yet not every natural ability is included here, because Paul is clear that all spiritual gifts must be empowered “by one and the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:11), that they are given”for the common good” (1 Cor.12:7), and that they are all to be used for “edification”(1 Cor. 14:26), or for building up the church. Read more here - (1) What are spiritual gifts?

Grudem: The New Testament lists specific spiritual gifts in six different passages. See table here -1 Corinthians 12:28 , 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Peter 4:11.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

    1. apostle   – (1-8 from 1 Cor. 12:28)
    2. prophet
    3. teacher
    4. miracles
    5. kinds of healing
    6. helps
    7. administration
    8. tongues
    9. word of wisdom   – (9-13 from 1 Cor. 12:8-10)
    10. word of knowledge
    11. faith
    12. distinguishing between spirits
    13. interpretation of tongues
    14. evangelist        -   (14-15 from Ephesians 4:11)
    15. pastor-teacher
    16. serving    -  (16-20 from Romans 12:6-8)
    17. encouraging
    18. contributing
    19. leadership
    20. mercy
    21. marriage     – (21-22 from 1 Cor. 7:7)
    22. celibacy

1 Peter 4:11 whoever speaks (covering several gifts) and whoever renders service (also covering several gifts).

What is obvious is that these lists are all quite different. No one list has all these gifts, and no gift is mentioned on all these lists: in the context of speaking of marriage and celibacy, Paul says, “Each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”

Click here to read more…  (2) How many gifts are there?

Grudem: Paul says that if we have the gift of prophecy, we should use it “in proportion to our faith” (Rom. 12:6), indicating that the gift can be more or less strongly developed in different individuals, or in the same individual over a period of time. This is why Paul can remind Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:14), and can say, “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (2 Tim. 1:6). It was possible for Timothy to allow his gift to weaken, apparently through infrequent use, and Paul reminds him to stir it up by using it and thereby strengthening it. This should not be surprising, for we realize that many gifts increase in strength and effectiveness as they are used, whether evangelism, teaching, encouraging, administration, or faith.

Texts such as these indicate that spiritual gifts may vary in strength. If we think of any gift, whether teaching or evangelism on the one hand, or prophecy or healing on the other, we should realize that within any congregation there will likely be people who are very effective in the use of that gift, perhaps through long use and experience, others who are moderately strong in that gift, and others who probably have the gift but are just beginning to use it. This variation in strength in spiritual gifts depends on a combination of divine and human influence. The divine influence in the sovereign working of the Holy Spirit as he “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). The human influence comes from experience, training, wisdom, and natural ability in the use of that gift. It is usually not possible to know in what proportion the divine and human influences combine at any one time, nor is it really necessary to know, for even the abilities we think to be “natural” are from God (1 Cor. 4:7) and under his sovereign control.

But this leads to an interesting question: how strong does an ability have to be before it can be called a spiritual gift? How much teaching ability does someone need before he or she could be said to have a gift of teaching, for example? Or how effective in evangelism would someone need to be before we would recognize a gift of evangelism? Or how frequently would someone have to see prayers for healing answered before he or she could be said to have a gift of healing?

Christian Post: Religious Groups Fear Christian Purge From Military

Photo via Wiki Media

Religious liberty groups have grave concerns after they learned the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to “rape” and advocated that military personnel who proselytize should be court martialed.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is calling on the Air Force to enforce a regulation that they believe calls for the court martial of any service member caught proselytizing.

President Mikey Weinstein and others from his organization met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23. He said U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished – by the hundreds if necessary – to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.”

“Someone needs to be punished for this,” Weinstein told Fox News. “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was stunned that the Pentagon would be taking counsel and advice from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

“Why would military leadership be meeting with one of the most rabid atheists in America to discuss religious freedom in the military,” Perkins said. “That’s like consulting with China on how to improve human rights.”

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/religious-groups-fear-christian-purge-from-military

Are you contributing to the death of your Church?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). In an article at ChurchLeaders.com he writes about the 7 Deadly Sins of a Dying Church.  Let’s look at the list from a personal perspective and identify where we are lacking and where we need to make personal changes that will reverse the trend of a dying church. Here are the 7 areas to look at:

Sin #1: Doctrine Dilution

One of our consultants sat in a Bible study class of a church that had brought in our team for a long-term consultation relationship. He had been told that the class included some of the church’s strongest leaders. Much to his surprise, the entire Bible study was a debate on whether or not a non-Christian might go to heaven. After much argument, the conclusion was that God would indeed allow such a person into heaven.

When such cardinal truths as the doctrine of exclusivity become issues of doubt, a church is in trouble. There’s little motivation for outreach and evangelism if other paths and other religions are equal to Christianity.

Ironically, in our survey of unchurched persons across America, we found that these non-Christians were much less likely to attend churches with weak doctrinal beliefs than those with strong ones. “Why should I waste my time in a place that does not have much certainty of belief,” Amy, a 29-year-old unchurched person from Arizona, told us. “I can find plenty of uncertainty in the world.”

Sin #2: Loss of Evangelistic Passion

It is no surprise that declining and dying churches have little evangelistic passion. In my January/February ’05 Outreach column, I highlighted one of the major reasons for evangelistic apathy: Many senior pastors either don’t have or have lost their evangelistic passion. Congregations tend to follow the passions and visions of those in key leadership positions, particularly the pastor.

Sin #3: Failure to Be Relevant

Unfortunately, many churches in America are out of touch with the changing trends and values of today’s culture.

Some churches, for certain, abandon many of the cardinal truths of the faith in their quest to be relevant to the community they serve. But even more churches are woefully unaware of the realities, hopes, and pains of those around us. Failure to be true to doctrines of the Christian faith leads to apostasy. Failure to understand the world in which we live and serve leads to irrelevancy.

Sin #4: Few Outwardly-Focused Ministries

In a recent survey of churches across America, we found that nearly 95% of the churches’ ministries were for the members alone. Indeed, many churches had no ministries for those outside the congregation.

Many churches seem to exist only for themselves. While there certainly should be ministry available for church members, often the balance between external and internal ministries is heavily skewed toward internal. When churches seek to care and minister only to their own, it’s a likely sign that decline is in motion and that death may be imminent.

 Sin #5: Conflict over Personal Preferences

Some of the more vicious internal battles in congregations today are not fights over defending the great truths of the Christian faith. Instead, members have conflict over their preferred worship style, the way a room is painted or carpeted, and the type of pulpit the preacher uses. Battles like these are sure signs that members are more concerned about their needs than the needs of the hurting and unchurched people who live and work next to them.

 Sin #6: The Priority of Comfort

A few years ago, my youngest son, Jess, was a high school senior on the football team. Because he gave so much of himself in the Friday night game, he often slept late on Saturdays. Around noon, he’d trudge down the stairs, turn on the television in the family room, and collapse on the sofa.

One Saturday, I passed him as his extended body contorted on the sofa and noticed that my football player son was watching HGTV. Curious, I asked Jess why he was watching a home and gardening show. His response was classic—“’cause the remote is broken.”

 Sin #7: Biblical Illiteracy

Only 3% of churches in America have a planned method of instructing their members to learn the Bible in its entirety. While studying the Bible shouldn’t be limited to a church setting, it’s imperative that churches take the lead in these types of endeavors.

When only three of 100 churches even attempt to provide a way for their members to understand Genesis to Revelation, biblical illiteracy is likely to occur. And biblical illiteracy means that our churches may not be obedient to the calls of Scripture because they don’t know what the Bible says.

Al Mohler – We want a King

Mohler

At Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week February 6, 2013 at Moody Memorial Church. Uploaded by MoodyBibleInstitute

1 Samuel 8

Israel Demands a King

8 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba.Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

Samuel’s Warning Against Kings

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The Lord Grants Israel’s Request

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”

The second text is from Revelation 19:11 - The Rider on a White Horse

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is calledFaithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with itthe false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two werethrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Why America has not been reached for Christ yet

Greg Stier of www.dare2share.org, article posted at churchleaders.com

street evangelismGreg Stier gives 7 reasons:

  1. We have outsourced the work of evangelism … Stier says we wait for big names to come to town and preach instead of doing it ourselves (as is our God given duty).
  2. We have lost our sense of urgency
  3. We are ashamed of the Gospel … as he says, “nobody likes being mocked.”
  4. Many Christians can’t explain the Gospel (a BIG ONE- how can we explain when we don’t know/read it?)
  5. Church leaders are not leading the way
  6. We’ve forgotten how to pray (only the older people do it?)
  7. Churches don’t mobilize their young people to do it.

For resources on how to share the Gospel visit www.dare2share.org

Paul Washer – Man’s problem is that God is good

Paul Washer:

Tonight I want to talk to you about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in an evangelicalism that has taken the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reduced it down to a few, tiny spiritual laws and principles. We have taken the glorious Gospel of our blessed God and reduced it down to something far less than an intellectual creed. We’ve made it into a cliche. There are countless individuals throughout the West, throughout the United States and Canada and many other parts of the world that have been infected by our teaching by individuals who believe themselves born again and they are not because of the type of Gospel that we preach in this land, that we have exported to other lands.

Many people today say that the West is hardened to the Gospel. What you need to understand is that the West is not so much hardened to the Gospel anymore than any nation has been hardened to the Gospel. The problem here in the west is not Gospel hardness, but Gospel ignorance. Most people in the west are ignorant about what the Gospel truly is. Most people sitting in the pew are ignorant as to what the Gospel truly is and the reason for that is that most of the men standing behind the pulpit  are ignorant about what the Gospel truly, truly is.

Tonight we’re going to take a look at what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is and you will be wondering now, “Why did I choose to begin in the Book of Exodus?” Well, there’s a very important reason, because there’s something found here and then in another text to which I am going to take you  before I go to the main text explains the reason for the Gospel. Why do we need the Gospel of Jesus Christ? (Notes from the first 2 min 38. VIdeo length 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Published on Oct 23, 2012 by 

What is man’s greatest problem? It is that God is a just and good God and must punish evil. Yet in His mercy He has made a way in which sinners can stand just before Him through the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The life of Greg Laurie – Lost Boy – Full documentary

Greg Laurie has written a book on his life story and has recently posted part 1 of the film ‘Lost boy’ which is based on the book.

Published on Sep 21, 2012 by  Documenting the family history leading up to his birth, as well as his early childhood and teenage life, this week’s episode gives a glimpse into Pastor Greg’s troubled early years. Through it all, one message stands out above all others: God is in the business of finding those who are lost.

Greg Laurie webcasts page - http://www.harvest.org/media/

Part 1

Part 2

 

Horatius Bonar Poems – How Long? – On the Threshold – Heaven at Last

Listen to the reading of a short (5 min) sermon – Man acting as a devil, by Horatius Bonar here.

Horatius Bonar 1808–1889 Scotland

photo courtesy www.newhopemusic.com

poems via www.spurgeongems.org/ipoems.htm

How long ?

My God, it is not fretfulness
That makes me say “How long?”
It is not heaviness of heart
That hinders me in song,
‘Tis not despair of truth and right,
Nor coward dread of wrong.

But how can I, with such a hope
Of glory and of home;
With such a joy before my eyes,
Not wish the time were come
Of years the jubilee, of days
The Sabbath and the sum?

These years, what ages they have been!
This life, how long it seems!
And how can I in evil days,
‘Mid unknown hills and streams
But sigh for those of home and heart
And visit them in dreams?

Yet peace, my heart and hush my tongue;
Be calm, my troubled breast;
Each restless hour is hastening on
The everlasting rest.
Thou knowest that the time thy God
Appoints for thee is best.

Let faith, not fear nor fretfulness,
Awake the cry, “How long?”
Let now faintheartedness of soul
Damp thy aspiring song,
Right comes, truth dawns, the night departs
Of error and of wrong.

                          —Horatius Bonar

photo courtesy Wikimedia  David Tutwiler - Homeward Bound

On the Threshold

I’m returning, not departing;
My steps are homeward bound,
I quit the land of strangers
For a home on native ground.

I am rising and not setting;
This is not night but day,
Not in darkness, but in sunshine,
Like a star, I fade away.

All is well with me for ever;
I do not fear to go,
My tide is but beginning
Its bright eternal flow.

I am leaving only shadows
For the true and fair and good,
I must not, cannot, linger;
I would not, though I could.

This is not death’s dark portal,
‘Tis life’s golden gate to me,
Link after link is broken,
And I at last am free.

I am going to the angels,
I am going to my God;
I know the hand that beckons,
I see the holy road.

Why grieve me with your weeping?
Your tears are all in vain,
An hour’s farewell, beloved,
And we shall meet again.

Jesus, Thou wilt receive me
And welcome me above;
This sunshine which now fills me
Is Thine own smile of love.

         —Horatius Bonar

Heaven at Last

Angel voices sweetly singing,
Echoes through the blue dome ringing,
News of wondrous gladness bringing…
 Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Now beneath us all the grieving,
All the wounded spirit’s heaving,
All the woe of hopes deceiving…
Ah ’tis heaven at last!

Sin for ever left behind us,
Earthly visions cease to blind us,
Fleshly fetters cease to bind us…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

On the jasper threshold standing,
Like a pilgrim safely landing
See, the strange bright scene expanding…
Ah ’tis heaven at last!

What a city! what a glory!
Far beyond the brightest story
Of the ages old and hoary…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Softest voices silver pealing,
Freshest fragrances spirit-healing,
Happy hymns around us stealing…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Gone the vanity and folly,
Gone the dark and melancholy,
Come the joyous and the holy…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Not a broken blossom yonder,
Not a link can snap asunder,
Stay’d the tempest, sheathed the thunder…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Not a tear-drop ever falleth,
Not a pleasure ever palleth,
Song to song for ever calleth…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Christ Himself the living splendour,
Christ the sunlight mild and tender;
Praises to the Lamb we render…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Now at length the veil is rended,
Now the pilgrimage is ended,
And the saints their thrones ascended…
Ah, ’tis heaven at last!

Broken death’s dread bands that bound us,
Life and victory around us,
Christ the King Himself hath crowned us…
Ah,’tis heaven at last!

                         —Horatius Bonar


Pastor Kerry Shook Interviews Nick Vujicic

Visit Nick Vujicic’s website at  http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

An amazing man- Nick Vujicic, born without any limbs, and no medical explanation for it, recounts how when he was 15 years old he read John chapter 9 and was convinced that God knows, God knows what He is doing. Just like no one could tell the blind man in John 9 why he was that way, Jesus told him that it was done so that the works of God can be revealed through him. And Nick says, “Just, this tangible faith and peace that someone understands. That God, who is bigger than my circumstance is letting this happen for a reason.”  Published on Jun 8, 2012 by 

Pentecost (3) Gifts may vary in strength

by Wayne Grudem – Paul says that if we have the gift of prophecy, we should use it “in proportion to our faith” (Rom. 12:6), indicating that the gift can be more or less strongly developed in different individuals, or in the same individual over a period of time. This is why Paul can remind Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:14), and can say, “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (2 Tim. 1:6). It was possible for Timothy to allow his gift to weaken, apparently through infrequent use, and Paul reminds him to stir it up by using it and thereby strengthening it. This should not be surprising, for we realize that many gifts increase in strength and effectiveness as they are used, whether evangelism, teaching, encouraging, administration, or faith.

Texts such as these indicate that spiritual gifts may vary in strength. If we think of any gift, whether teaching or evangelism on the one hand, or prophecy or healing on the other, we should realize that within any congregation there will likely be people who are very effective in the use of that gift, perhaps through long use and experience, others who are moderately strong in that gift, and others who probably have the gift but are just beginning to use it. This variation in strength in spiritual gifts depends on a combination of divine and human influence. The divine influence in the sovereign working of the Holy Spirit as he “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). The human influence comes from experience, training, wisdom, and natural ability in the use of that gift. It is usually not possible to know in what proportion the divine and human influences combine at any one time, nor is it really necessary to know, for even the abilities we think to be “natural” are from God (1 Cor. 4:7) and under his sovereign control.

But this leads to an interesting question: how strong does an ability have to be before it can be called a spiritual gift? How much teaching ability does someone need before he or she could be said to have a gift of teaching, for example? Or how effective in evangelism would someone need to be before we would recognize a gift of evangelism? Or how frequently would someone have to see prayers for healing answered before he or she could be said to have a gift of healing?

More

Evangelism is not….apologetics, social justice, personal testimony…

Dr. Kevin Shrum has been in ministry for 29 years, currently pastors Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is an Adjunct Professor of Theology for Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.Posted on Churchleaders.com, Dr. Shrum explains why some actions are not evangelism  and some are just pre evangelism:

Evangelism is…

So what is evangelism? Evangelism is a believer sharing the person/claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a person who has yet to believe the claims of the Gospel or trust the person at the center of the Gospel — Jesus Christ. The Gospel is “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 10:9-13) The Gospel is clearly stating what God has done in Christ for the sinner, calling for repentance and belief. To fail to do this is to fail at evangelism. All the other dimensions of church life are but outgrowths and/or complements to the Gospel itself.

Evangelism is not…

1. Evangelism is not denominational renewal, reconstruction, or even deconstruction.

Sometimes, these are necessary to advance the cause of evangelism, but they are not evangelism.

2. Evangelism is not inviting people to church or an evangelistic event.

Inviting people to events is important, but it’s not evangelism — it is pre-evangelism.

3. Evangelism is not imposing our will or beliefs on another person.

We make no apologies for attempting to persuasively make the case for Christianity. But in the end, only God can change the human heart.

4. Evangelism is not personal testimony.

A personal testimony does not save a sinner. The Gospel does. It’s quite right to support a Gospel presentation with what the Gospel has done in one’s life. Yet, we must never confuse the Gospel itself with a personal testimony.

5. Evangelism is not social work/justice or political involvement.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking social justice, feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, and addressing institutional-political injustices. But social justice, food in a hungry belly, and a jacket on the back of a homeless man do not prepare that soul for eternity. Good deeds complement the Gospel enterprise; they do not replace it.

6. Evangelism is not doing apologetics in order to win an argument.

Apologetics is a necessary part of the Christian mission. Apologetics can help answer questions and remove intellectual objections, but only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change the heart.

7. Evangelism is not the results of evangelism.

It is very easy to get caught up in numbers in the church business. And numbers are important. Even Jesus told three successive stories involving numbers in Luke 15 — one lost sheep, one lost coin, and two lost sons. But souls are not notches in our belt or numbers on our denominational charts. “One” represents a precious soul for whom Christ died. This means that we are to communicate the Gospel regardless of the results — God alone takes care of the results.

8. Evangelism is not church planting.

Church planting is biblical and necessary. Many church plants succeed at a higher rate of growth than already established churches. But it’s not because of the magical words — “church plant.” The reason church plants grow fast for a season is because the believers of that new church have been reminded of the basics of one person sharing the Good News with another person.

Read the entire article at www.churchleaders.com

Tim Keller – A Call to Justice

Tim Keller speaks in Durham North Carolina June 2012 from Deuteronomy 15:

When you try to take the Gospel out of your private ice and even out of the church and out into the world, there’s basically two ways to do that: word and deed. You talk to people about the love of God (evangelism) and you can embody, you can show the love of God in deeds. Take a look at Luke 10. The first half is Gospel messaging- it’s talking about the love of God. Te second half of Luke 10 is Gospel neighboring; it’s doing deeds of love, it’s showing the love of God.

When you go out into the world to do evangelism, first of all nobody but christians are going to help you. And even if all christian churches come together to do evangelism in a big place, it’s actually tricky because you’re trying to get people into the churches and which churches do they go to? But when it comes to doing justice… sometimes the Bible talks about doing mercy, which is really the motivation, or doing service, which is really the form of the action and justice is the effect of the action.

Whenever the Bible says to go out into the world and show in deed, like the Good Samaritan did… go out there and do justice, it brings , first of all non christians who say, “Let’s do this with you and the churches have got to come together. There is no better way for churches to come together than to do justice and show the world the love of Christ.

Tim Keller preaches a sermon on Deutoronomy 15 that talks about a call to justice, then the power for doing justice and the testimony of justice.

Uploaded by  June 2012

Atheist Student Saved by the Sovereign Truth of God (via) I’ll be honest

Michael was challenged with the true Truth while on a college campus and he soon came to realize that his philosophy and atheism could not stand against the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a great video to pass on to young people and especially college kids as Michael discusses how he delved deep into philosophy scrambling to find anything that even remotely seemed like “truth” to him, personally. Instead of finding answers it sunk him down low and he found no value in it. Then he took a class on the varieties of religion and he started to value people with faith. He then started reading Richard Dawkins and considering God through Dawkin’s writing. Then came the Kirksville  Evangelical outreach. Michael was sitting and mocking an Ill be honest card about how you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. He was mocking it with 2 of his friends. Then a girl from Columbia went up to them and engaged them in a conversation. This led to Michael thinking more and more and after about an hour his friends left and tried to pull him away. His discussion with the girl lasted 3 hours.

Michael was trying to get at her any sort of argument he could come up with. No matter how hard  the questions he threw at her, what struck Michael was that every single response she gave was essentially the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the good news of His coming, His dying and the reality of sin. There was discussion of what he was bringing up but there was no argumentation. She would say, this doesn’t really matter. What matters is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. By the time they split, there was a real drive for Michael to want to read the Bible. To see what she was talking about. To see if any of it was true….(these notes are just from the first 8 minutes. There’s much more insight in the following 14 minutes)

Watch the video, it is a tremendous learning experience for me as to how to talk to a non believer. The student who talked to Michael did not argue, did not delve into philosophy, she answered all of Michael’s questions with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think our biggest impediment in engaging non believers is the fear that we won’t know how to answer their hard questions, we feel we are lacking in rhetorical skills. But we do know the Gospel, and that is enough to get us to start conversations and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

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C.S. Lewis – Three kinds of men – Which type is you?

photo – Cleveland Baptist Church (.org)

An interesting illustration from C.S. Lewis’s short essay, “Three Kinds of Men,” from his collection of essays, Present Concerns (pp. 9-10) via Gabi Bogdan:

There are three kinds of people in the world:

  1. The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Men and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them.
  2. In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them – the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope like other taxpayers that what is left over will be enough for them to live on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and time “off parade”, “in school” and “out of school”.
  3. But, the third class is of those who can say like St. Paul that for them “to live is Christ”. These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of “Self” and God” by the simple expedient of rejecting the Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned around, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

Yikes. The second example sounds like a lot of us at some point in our life, even after our conversion.  Upon doing some honest introspection, we find that at times we were in fact “begrudging”  and “disobedient” Christ followers. May God help us to live for Christ, and rejoice in the time spent in Him and for Him as Paul instructs us in Ephesians 1:21! Thanks to Gabi B. for the quote via iPad.

Are you contributing to the death of your Church?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). In a recent article at ChurchLeaders.com he writes about the 7 Deadly Sins of a Dying Church.  Let’s look at the list from a personal perspective and identify where we are lacking and where we need to make personal changes that will reverse the trend of a dying church. Here are the 7 areas to look at:

Sin #1: Doctrine Dilution

One of our consultants sat in a Bible study class of a church that had brought in our team for a long-term consultation relationship. He had been told that the class included some of the church’s strongest leaders. Much to his surprise, the entire Bible study was a debate on whether or not a non-Christian might go to heaven. After much argument, the conclusion was that God would indeed allow such a person into heaven.

When such cardinal truths as the doctrine of exclusivity become issues of doubt, a church is in trouble. There’s little motivation for outreach and evangelism if other paths and other religions are equal to Christianity.

Ironically, in our survey of unchurched persons across America, we found that these non-Christians were much less likely to attend churches with weak doctrinal beliefs than those with strong ones. “Why should I waste my time in a place that does not have much certainty of belief,” Amy, a 29-year-old unchurched person from Arizona, told us. “I can find plenty of uncertainty in the world.”

Sin #2: Loss of Evangelistic Passion

It is no surprise that declining and dying churches have little evangelistic passion. In my January/February ’05 Outreach column, I highlighted one of the major reasons for evangelistic apathy: Many senior pastors either don’t have or have lost their evangelistic passion. Congregations tend to follow the passions and visions of those in key leadership positions, particularly the pastor.

Sin #3: Failure to Be Relevant

Unfortunately, many churches in America are out of touch with the changing trends and values of today’s culture.

Some churches, for certain, abandon many of the cardinal truths of the faith in their quest to be relevant to the community they serve. But even more churches are woefully unaware of the realities, hopes, and pains of those around us. Failure to be true to doctrines of the Christian faith leads to apostasy. Failure to understand the world in which we live and serve leads to irrelevancy.

Sin #4: Few Outwardly-Focused Ministries

In a recent survey of churches across America, we found that nearly 95% of the churches’ ministries were for the members alone. Indeed, many churches had no ministries for those outside the congregation.

Many churches seem to exist only for themselves. While there certainly should be ministry available for church members, often the balance between external and internal ministries is heavily skewed toward internal. When churches seek to care and minister only to their own, it’s a likely sign that decline is in motion and that death may be imminent.

 Sin #5: Conflict over Personal Preferences

Some of the more vicious internal battles in congregations today are not fights over defending the great truths of the Christian faith. Instead, members have conflict over their preferred worship style, the way a room is painted or carpeted, and the type of pulpit the preacher uses. Battles like these are sure signs that members are more concerned about their needs than the needs of the hurting and unchurched people who live and work next to them.

 Sin #6: The Priority of Comfort

A few years ago, my youngest son, Jess, was a high school senior on the football team. Because he gave so much of himself in the Friday night game, he often slept late on Saturdays. Around noon, he’d trudge down the stairs, turn on the television in the family room, and collapse on the sofa.

One Saturday, I passed him as his extended body contorted on the sofa and noticed that my football player son was watching HGTV. Curious, I asked Jess why he was watching a home and gardening show. His response was classic—“’cause the remote is broken.”

 Sin #7: Biblical Illiteracy

Only 3% of churches in America have a planned method of instructing their members to learn the Bible in its entirety. While studying the Bible shouldn’t be limited to a church setting, it’s imperative that churches take the lead in these types of endeavors.

When only three of 100 churches even attempt to provide a way for their members to understand Genesis to Revelation, biblical illiteracy is likely to occur. And biblical illiteracy means that our churches may not be obedient to the calls of Scripture because they don’t know what the Bible says.

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