I am not Ashamed

By Scott Armstrong

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” There it is, in black and white in verse 8 of the first chapter of 2 Timothy.  No getting away from it; testifying about what Jesus is doing in our lives is the expectation.  It’s what Christian’s do.  So, why is doing it so hard?

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I’ve been a missionary in various countries for the last sixteen years, and I’ve realized over that period of time that I, too, fell into the category of being “afraid” to share with non-believers what Jesus was doing in my life.  As a missionary, it’s part of my job description to be ready at all times to share Jesus Christ with whoever I might meet.  But amazingly enough that was part of my job description before I became a missionary, as well.  It is something that I should have been doing on a daily basis since the day that I became a Christian.

Maybe you’re thinking that you’re not experienced enough. What would you say anyway? Well, is God working in your life? Have you seen his healing hand, or his hand of protection, or his hand of mercy? Those are stories that you can share – nobody can say that they didn’t happen.  They might not believe that GOD was the reason that they resolved, but it shouldn’t stop you from sharing them.  Every time that you share about the greatness of God, a seed has been planted.

So, are you ready to start sharing what God is doing in your life with your friends? Don’t be ashamed to testify about how awesome our God is.  In fact, once you start doing it, you’ll find that it becomes easier.  Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

*This reflection is part of a series of devotionals written for youth by Scott and Emily Armstrong.  

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Are We More Invested In Bringing People to Church? Or to Jesus?

By Karl Vaters

Church attendance should be a tool to help people draw closer to Jesus. Not the other way around.

I have a confession to make.

As a pastor, I have too much invested in getting people to attend church.

My salary depends on it.

My reputation depends on it.

My sense of self-worth depends on it.

All to a much larger degree than I’m comfortable with.

And I’m not alone.

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Come to Church? Or Come to Jesus?

The way most church systems are structured, many pastors have a greater stake in getting people to come to church than getting them to come to Jesus.

In fact, sometimes it’s detrimental to our bottom-line to have people draw too close to Jesus.

When people are more committed to the church than to Jesus, they will

  • Attend regularly and quietly
  • Spend all their volunteer hours at the church
  • Give all their charitable donations to the church
  • Be happy with the status quo

When people are more committed to Jesus than our churches, they might

  • Volunteer for some of their ministry outside the church walls
  • Find other places that are worthy of some of their charitable donations
  • Leave when God calls them into full-time ministry
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Make us feel threatened by reducing the clergy/laity dividing line

But we have to do it anyway.

We have to point people to Jesus more than to the church.

 Church Is a Tool, Not a Goal

Overcoming our tendency to emphasize church more than we emphasize Jesus won’t be easy. And I’m not in a position to point any fingers. I’m as much a part of the problem as anyone.

But I have a longing. For more. For better. For deeper.

I want to live, preach and disciple people in such a way that they’re committed to Jesus, not just their church.

Of course, church is valuable. It matters that we participate in a local body of believers through worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry. If it didn’t matter, I’d leave the pastorate today.

We’re not commanded to bring people to church. We’re commanded to disciple them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

But we’re not commanded to bring people to church. We’re commanded to disciple them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Church attendance is not the goal. It’s a tool to help us reach the goal.

As a pastor, I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis.

A Matter of Pastoral Integrity

I don’t want to pastor a group of nice, polite church attenders, or waste my time entertaining bored believers.

I want to participate in the gathering, training, and releasing of an army of Jesus-worshiping, people-loving, barrier-breaking world-changers.

Sometimes it feels like my salary depends on the former. My integrity depends on the latter.

I also want my bills paid. But making pastoral decisions that have more to do with holding on to our salary packages than making disciples has made much of the western church anemic.

The church I pastor is no exception to that. At least not as much of an exception as it should be. That’s not their fault as much as it is mine.

Jesus promised that if we serve his kingdom first, “all these things” will be taken care of.

Let’s trust him to do that and turn the church loose.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/january/invested-in-bringing-people-to-church-or-jesus.html?start=2

 

Belong, Believe, Become: A New Process of Evangelism

By Eddie Cole

The American evangelical process is shifting.

“Churches aren’t growing because of conversions. Churches are just swapping sheep.”

Have you ever heard someone make this claim or something like it? I have—way too many times, from pastors and church members alike. What do we make of this kind of comment, and how do we respond?

First, a note of encouragement: just because you don’t see conversions, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happening in churches in America. They are.

The gospel has never stopped being powerful. Conversion growth will continue to happen. Nothing can prevent the power of the gospel from working in the lives of those who believe it enough to act on it.

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Some Practical Suggestions for the Disheartened

#1: Don’t pout – PRAY! God is able to make you and your church mighty in gospel ministry. Do you remember when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and empowered them to be His witnesses? The Holy Spirit came when they were gathering for prayer.

When God’s people pray, things happen.

#2: Consider spending some time addressing what needs to change in your approach to reaching people. In a recent meeting with Evangelical leaders, I learned that many American churches experiencing conversion growth have discovered a slight, but significant change in the process for how to effectively evangelize.

Compare the old American Evangelical process to the new…

For decades, the most effective process used by American Evangelicals followed this pattern:

  1. Using a tool like the Four Spiritual Laws, a gospel tract, or the EE presentation, a Christian presented an unbeliever with the opportunity to believe in Christ by sharing truth with him or her.
  2. The Christian would then invite the new convert to become a part of a church.
  3. The Christian would then help the new convert to enjoy a sense of belonging with the church.

Today’s process looks more like this:

  1. The Christian invites people to belong to your community (love them even if they don’t believe), and through that…
  2. The Chrisitian helps them see why they should believe in what the Bible claims about Jesus.
  3. Once they believe in Jesus, the Christian encourages them to become a part of the church and join in the mission of evangelizing others.

Simplifying it, the process shift looks like this…

  • Old Process = Believe, Become, Belong
  • New Process = Belong, Believe, Become

This reminds me of how my friend Jeff became a follower of Jesus. Jeff saw me and another friend working out in the park that was right next to our church and he stopped to talk. My workout partner and I took a break and chatted with him for a few minutes. We ended up inviting him to come to church with us that Sunday. Not only did Jeff come to church Sunday, but he loved it and kept coming.

The church family wrapped its arms around him and welcomed him. He loved the music and even appeared to like most of my messages. Eventually, the gospel took hold of his heart. After several months of coming, he gave his heart to Jesus and I was privileged to baptize him.

Jeff was the kind of person who stereotypes would dictate ‘hates’ Evangelicals. Some would suggest he’d never come to one of our worship services. But God did a powerful work in him because of the love he was shown by Christians. The way God worked in his life shows an example of the shift in the process of evangelism.

The newer process – belong, believe, and become – worked with Jeff. It’s working in many lives and for a growing number of congregations.

Be ready at all times to share the gospel truth, because it is the gospel that changes lives. Let us begin the process by simply showing gospel warmth until that door of conversation opens. In other words, love people until they ask, “Why?”

 

This original article was published on: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/church-growth.html