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Quotable

3 Jan

“It is the church’s mission to witness to the Kingdom.  The church cannot build the Kingdom or become the Kingdom, but the church witnesses to the Kingdom–to God’s redeeming acts in Christ both past and future…[Thus] the history of the Kingdom of God has become the history of Christian missions.
-George Eldon Ladd

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Quotable

13 Sep

The Lord Jesus said “Go”, but for too long we have been saying “Come”–“Come to our buildings, our activities, our territory” but people are not coming any more.  If we want to begin to impact our desperately needy society and draw people to Christ, we will need to open up the doors and go to them.  We must commit ourselves to the task the Lord Jesus gave his disciples: to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and to the end of time.
-Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St. Ebbe’s Church, Oxford

The full article can be found here.

Evangelism Tools

3 Sep

I realized this afternoon that I have never taken the time to post on evangelism tools.  1 Peter 3:15 states:

“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”

Therefore, we, as Christians, should know how to clearly communicate the Gospel message upon which we place all our hope and trust.  Tracts can be valuable tools for doing this.  They can be great complements for our proclamation of the good news, as well as something tangible a person can take for further consideration/contemplation.  For a long time, I have had a link to something the folks at University Reformed Church put together called, “The Story.”  However, there are other good tools.  Below, are links to three different tracts that may prove helpful to you in the various ministries God has called you to:

Jesus.  Who, why…so what? (Available from The Good Book Company, here)

Two Ways To Live (Available from Mathias Media, here)

The Story (from University Reformed Church)

Making People Uncomfortable

22 Apr

I wonder sometimes if, in our efforts to make Lord’s Day service more comfortable to those outside the church, we have actually thrown out elements that could serve as means of provoking questions and curiosity within unbelievers.

Let me explain…

On several occasions, recently, I have heard people arguing for churches to have more evangelistic services (nevermind the oxymoron present here, as I should think that the Gospel is presented in every service), and to find ways to make services more comfortable for visitors (presumably unbelievers).  And what are some proposed ways of accomplishing this?  Shorter sermons (perhaps even interactive dialogues, and surely with more practical info/tips), more upbeat/popular music, foregoing communion and/or baptisms as well as corporate and responsive prayer.  In addition to these, things such as attire, building aesthetics, and other stylistic elements could be added to the list.

And while I am more than willing to uphold the adage, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity,” I think we should consider how the various aspects of our services point to the Gospel, reflect the beauty of salvation, and may provoke questions and curiosity in people who have experienced such things.

An example would be communion.  I’ve oft heard it argued that communion can lead unbelievers to feel excluded and alienated.  The question that we should ask is: Should it make them feel otherwise?  Communion serves as a representation of the love and fellowship of believers as they gather together to receive the grace of God in remembering and celebrating Christ’s atoning work on their behalf, and enjoying a foretaste of the feast to come in the Kingdom.  This should provoke a level of discomfort in unbelievers because not only are they being excluded from the other people, but also because they are alienated from the Lord God.  It may also provoke unbelievers to ask questions about communion, the nature of it, and what it represents, opening up avenues for directly proclaiming the Gospel that is implicitly revealed in this act.

Similarly, the way we view God’s Word, and its preaching, in our service also points to the sufficiency of Scripture, its power to work in the lives of both believers and unbelievers, and provides a talking point with unbelievers: What did you think of what the pastor had to say?

Other examples could be mentioned, but I think these suffice to make my point.

One may make the objection that we should eliminate all hindrances to unbelievers hearing the Gospel, but what if each of these elements serve the purpose of presenting the Gospel to unbelievers?  I will not take the time here to discuss how the various elements of a service can reflect the Gospel, but I believe they can and should do so.

Another objection may be that if unbelievers do not feel comfortable, they may not come back.  We may miss our opportunity to share the Gospel message with them.  And while I can see the sincere desire to see unbelievers come to a saving knowledge of the Gospel represented by this objection, I think it fails to adequately account for the sovereignty of God, and the work of ministry that believers are called to outside the walls of the local church gathering place.

In the end, I’m not advocating a staunch defense of traditionalism or inflexibility.  I merely wonder if, in wanting to make unbelievers comfortable, and the arena for Gospel proclamation more palatable, we jettison things that could prove helpful in evangelism and the conversion of people living apart from Christ.  It may be worth further consideration…

The Church Supporting Pastors

6 Apr

greenchurch

In a day and age when many flocks are shepherd-less, new ways of supporting pastors and teachers may enable local congregations to be taken better care of, and serve as a means of drawing the Church together in closer unity.  

For the past year, I have had the opportunity to serve as a pastoral intern at First Baptist Church in Pekin, Illinois. During this time, I have had the privilege of preaching to God’s people (you can find an outline of my sermon here), training leaders for various ministry opportunities, serving the needy in our food pantry, visiting widows and shut-ins, and currently teaching a Sunday evening series through Exodus.

I have had this opportunity for one reason: the support of the Church.  By “the church” I mean First Baptist Church and its willingness to extend to me an internship, but also the Church Universal.  For, I have been able to be on staff at FBC because of the faithful financial and prayerful support of believers in various congregations; people in St. Cloud, Mankato, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as East Peoria, Pekin, and Green Valley, Illinois.  And as I have thought more about this, it has led me to believe that this may be a way of providing shepherds to flocks across our country for the continued work of Gospel-ministry and building up of the Church.

We oftentimes hear of organizations that support–by the giving of churches and individuals–pastors in countries around the world.  One example that my wife, Christina, and I have been able to partner with is Serve India Ministries.  It is exciting to think of the ways God is working to enable trained national pastors shepherd the small village flocks in this country.

Yet, when it comes to North America, the general way men who have trained for pastoral ministry can serve the Church is by job hunting and competing against one another.  And while seminaries are valuable assets to the Church, equipping men for the work of vocational ministry, they are oftentimes seen merely as necessary resume builders to prove a candidate worthy of “a job” and saddle men with large amounts of debt.  Some churches jump at the first person who comes along, regardless of their theology, experience, or character, and others reject faithful, capable candidates because they do not possess an M.Div.  Churches with large staffs continue to add shepherds, while others struggle for years to find one.

So the question is: What do we do?  I think the answer, in part, lies in local churches joining together in prayerful and financial support of pastors so that many more local congregations may be cared for by those who have been called to vocational ministry.  Just as I have had the opportunity to serve at FBC in Pekin due to the support of people in six different congregations, perhaps pastors and/or candidates could be enabled to serve on the basis of such support.

This is not a fully teased out thesis, but rather some thoughts on the future of vocational ministry and pastoral care in North America.  And while there are many things that could be discussed, I just want to list three benefits I see that could come from such an approach:

1. More passionate, faithful, trained ministers serving the Church for the building up of believers across our country/continent (alleviating the burden on the shoulders of many small/medium sized church pastors, and providing ministers for shepherd-less flocks)
2. Churches helping churches, uniting the Church to the glory of God (those with financial resources helping to supply those without)
3. A way for churches to engage in a national outreach and ministry outside of church planting

Let me know your thoughts on this, as well as other approaches that can be implemented for the building up of God’s people, for God’s glory, and for their edification and joy.

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