There are all kinds of books, videos, and podcasts on the subject of church growth. We hear all about these churches that have hundreds to thousands of members, and have experienced so much growth in their church. For me I know that I can look at church growth and think it is equivalent with how well we are spreading the gospel, or with how well I am spreading the gospel.It is impossible for any thinking pastor to not consider church growth during their ministry. If a church does not ever experience growth, there will come a day where it will be no more. I fear though that sometimes church growth can become an idol and I can spend more time thinking about how to grow the numbers in the church, rather than making disciples in the church. Now the way to focus on this and sound biblical and pious, is to call it evangelism. Perhaps you have heard pastors talk about this from the pulpit. They will say things like, "We need to do more evangelism in order to grow God's kingdom" or something to the effect. This has the consequence of making evangelism only for the unsaved. For much of my life I viewed the gospel in this way. I would think to myself, "Self, I've got the gospel, now let's move past it." I was wrong in thinking this way. I struggle with sin. I'm prideful, lustful, misleading, greedy, and lazy and self centered. These are only some of the sins that I battle against every day of my life, and they are not pretty. I know that I am a Christian however I still struggle with these sins. I need the gospel just as much today as I did back when I first believed. I think this is true of all Christians, but how often do focus on evangelizing each other? How often do we as a church tell us that we are forgiven, bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ?This is biblical and so obvious when we look at the majority of the New Testament which is made up of the letters to the church, and yet in all of those letters the gospel is presented and sometimes it is presented multiple times. Paul goes through the gospel in such detail in the book of Romans, and yet he is writing to a church in Rome. He even says that he is looking forward to evangelizing the church in Rome. If our church ever feels like it can move past the gospel, then we are not being consistent with scripture and something has gone wrong. So how does this translate into reaching out to other people? I clearly pointed out that if a church does not grow then it won't be around in time, so how does sharing the gospel with fellow believers, lead to sharing the gospel with unbelievers? To understand this, one needs to understand the transforming work of the gospel on the lives of believers. When we understand the depth of our sin, and we know the forgiveness that we have been given through Jesus Christ that is going to have an effect on the way that we live, and thus will lead people to ask us about salvation. As we are transformed more and more by the Holy Spirit, it will be seen in how we dress, how we speak, how we drive, how we work, what we watch, what we listen, and this be noticeable to unbelievers. So for those who are seeking God, we should be ready to give a response when asked. I hope no one has misunderstood what I am saying in this. I am not advocating for there to be a stop in church activities or any such thing, however I am saying let us do things out of love for our neighbors rather than a clever way to get them into the door. Let our out reach miniseries be driven by a desire to restrain the suffering in this world because of our sin, and as a way of expressing love to other people rather than something for us to invite a friend to church. Let us also understand the gospel in our own lives so well that we are able to answer questions like, "What does it mean to be saved, and how can I become a Christian, and how to get peace with God?" Perhaps if we focused more on the good news of Jesus Christ rather than growing a church, we might be surprised by how much evangelism we really do, and maybe we will be given the chance to see what God does in bringing those who are dead, to life in saving faith. What do you think about evangelism and church growth? What did you think of this blog post? Comment below and let me know what you think!
This blog post is inspired Dr. Moore's most recent post about how freedom of religion is not freedom from ridicule. In this post he talks about how as Christians we ca sometimes be tempted to stray away from the public square out of fear of being made fun of and mocked. Christians can also be tempted to be want to throw a fit when we are mocked by other people. Dr. Moore made the point that when someone made fun of his beliefs or where he was from they felt as of they were making fun of him. Mocking or teasing has always been an issue that has made me a little uncomfortable. It's tough to know when someone will take offense to a joke or not. At the same time I think the excuse, "I was only joking" has been used too many times to cover up for some really intentionally hurtful things, however as I have gotten older I have learned the value in humor, and laughing at one's self. Humor when it is done right offers a great way for one to be self aware. I think self awareness is a quality that is severally lacking in our current culture. I do not mean to say that people do think of themselves enough, but rather people are not really aware of how they really are or how they might be seen by other people. I can't speak for everyone else, but I have a certain fear of knowing how other people see me. It forces me to see myself in ways that can make feel guilty because other people can see the flaws that work hard to cover up from myself. The same can be said for the church. The church is a collection of people who are both sinners and saints, and thus the church will do some good things, and the church will do some not so good things. There are people who are watching the church and are going to point out when we mess up. This doesn't feel good, but in the end it is good for us, because it shows where we have messed up. Beyond that there is a form of ridicule that Christians should understand and no lose their temper over. This is when our beliefs are mocked. I'm not talking about making fun of God, I'm talking about people mocking us because we believe Jesus rose from the dead. As Christians we have to understand that we believe is not what a lot of other people believe. Now there is good historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, and there good reason to believe, but ultimately we have to understand there are going to be people who don't believe and won't believe and they will mock us because it seems silly to them. So what do we do with these people? We don't hurt them of course, we don't even get mad at them, but what we do is we keep calm and believe on. We should be afraid to fly our flag that is weird for other people. It was not by avoiding looking foolish that the church grew in the first century into what it is today. Are we willing to take some mocking in the name of Jesus? I think so many of us are quick to say yes and then when we are mocked, we get upset or mad and say things like, "They can't do that" or "They shouldn't be allowed to do that" As a Christians we are going to get called lots of things, hateful, ignorant, etc... We don't need to too upset over these remarks, and understand that while we might look foolish in the world's eyes, we look just fine in God's. We don't hide our faith, we show it for the world to see, and we shape our lives around it. After all if we are not willing to be mocked for the sake of Christ, then how important is Jesus to us really? If we are willing to compromise our beliefs just because a large number of people disagree with us and are vocal about disagreeing with us, then how important are these beliefs that we are dropping for the approval of other people? So I've kinda split into two different topics in this blog post, but let me recap so that at least I can keep things straight. There are two types of mocking that Christians should be okay with. The kind of mocking that points out the ways that the church is not being consistent with the word of God, and the mocking that is being made because we are Christians. We should not get upset when we are mocked and if we can admit our short comings then let's do it, but if we are being mocked for what we believe then let's not care, and go on believing even if we are mocked. Jesus was mocked too, and scriptures tell us that we will be mocked for following Christ, and we should not be scared of this or try to avoid, but be a good sport about it, take in stride and trust that Christ is faithful. What do you think? Do you think Christians can ever make a joke about another belief in a good spirit? Do you think Christians should just avoid those types of jokes? Have you ever been mocked for your belief? How did you respond? Comment below and let me know!
Before I get too far into this blog post I want to apologize for my absence. I had been sick, and for a while I was not too sure what it was that I should be writing on. There are all kinds of story in the world today. With the election coming up I'm sure many people will be doing a lot of writing about why they think the candidate they are promoting should be President.Today however I want to focus on something that I have been thinking about for a while now and that is the apparent lack of trust in culture. I don't know about you, but trust is not a word I hear often. It is a concept that I am seeing less and less. The big question is in today's world who can trust? There just doesn't seem to be the same kind of trust today that there was in days past. You have probably heard or told stories of people talking about how they use to leave their doors unlocked, and how they use to trust their kids with people they did not know as well, and yet nowadays we would look at these people and say that they are foolish. We have learned through the power of communication that some people who may seem nice are not and that even are neighbors could be bad people with the intention to harm us, or our family. This lack of trust has extended to news sources. When was the last time you read an article that did not appear to trying to get you think a certain way or have a certain worldview attached to it. We have learned how preachers can fail us and instead of trying to teach the word of God, they are instead wanting to rob us, and trick us, or control our minds. With the rise of psychology we have learned that we may not even be able to trust ourselves, because of past experiences that cause us to think certain ways. Now life is not as bad as I am painting it. of course there is still a great deal of trust that many people have in the world, but I wonder if that trust is more from ignorance or just not thinking. For example how many people really think about or know all the ways their accountant could get them into trouble with the IRS? We also have seen this in relationships. Marriage seems endanger of becoming a relic of past as more and more people are not getting married. The current generation has seen the failures of the institution and no longer trust it to be the life long journey that it once was. Along with that there seems to be a sense of distrust among men and women in general. Women are told that all men are potential rapists and would rape them if given the chance. At the same time men are told that many women are just wanting them for their money and stuff and want to take it if given a chance. Children doubt their parents. They doubt that parents actually know what is best for their children rather than not wanting what is best for their children, although with all the stories of abusive parents, there is also a case for that as well. Surprisingly many parents do not think they know what is best for their children past a certain age. To say that we live in uncertain times would be an understatement. There is a lack of trust between government and people, and there is a lack of trust in schools, and there is a lack of trust in just about every area of life. To be honest it is easier not to trust. You don't make yourself vulnerable, and you don't risk looking like a fool. As someone who struggles with trust this is the reason why I do not like to trust, because I do not want to feel the sting of humiliation for trusting when it turns out that I shouldn't have trusted. This lack of trust is a problem, because trust is vital for relationships and trust is vital for communication. This is a big problem that I see today, and that problem is people do not believe the words that are coming out of someone's mouth. When they say something like, "I like pizza because it taste good." For some reason they don't hear that and instead try to think about what the person really said. While there is a sense of reading between the lines with people's words, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and to try and make into something more leads to confusion and miscommunication. A harmless example of this is all those theories about movies that float around the internet. The theories that take simple things in movies and make these complicated theories based around one or two things. They don't trust the film makers that what they put in the movie is just what they put in the movie. Of course we see the problem of a lack of trust but what is the solution? How do we trust others knowing that they can and perhaps will abuse that trust? To be honest I'm not sure how to answer that question. I believe the answer lies in the gospel where we understand that just like ourselves everyone else is a sinner and so at one point will let us down, or betray us, and yet we forgive just as we are forgiven, and if the person repents then we can trust again. We are told that trust is something that is hard to build but easy to loose, I would also like to point out that trusting someone can be hard too. It's easy to set things up to where you don't need to trust someone, and yet I think there is something noble about trusting other people. especially those who are particularly important to us. I think we can also learn something about trusting Christ about our salvation and the fact that we are in him, even though we still deal with being sinners, and we don't like we have been saved by Christ, but we are to trust in his word. I'm going to keep thinking about this, and perhaps I can come up with a better answer in time. What do you think? Do you think our culture has a problem with trust? What do you do to help you trust others? Comment below and let me know!
Here you can read various thoughts and discussions that come from the mind of our Pastor