Note: This story was originally published at Fox News.com, I felt led to share it here.
Last Sunday, Hugh pulled his conversion van into a gas station on HWY 235 to use the free WiFi at the gas station. “I was searching for something meaningful, a message, a sign.” However, all Hugh found in his inbox was junk. Not too long after that, his iPad died. Downtrodden and flustered, Hugh tossed his iPad into the back seat.
It was then that he looked across the highway and noticed the Church of Christ sign.
Hugh, an avid fan of Apple products since the Lisa, realized the sign was written just for him:
God is listening.
Hugh unbuckled his seatbelt and exited the car, talking to himself about the sign. “I was overcome with emotion, the church sign really tugged on my heart strings.”
At that moment Don Shardy, the chairman of the deacons from Christ Church walked out of the gas station with two dozen doughnuts and heard Hugh’s mumbling. “When Don asked me if he could help me,” said Hugh, “I realized it was time to let go and let God.”
A few minutes later Hugh and Don walked into Christ Church together, where Hugh asked the congregation if anyone had an iPad charger. Once his iPad was charging, Hugh shared the story of how the church sign led him to Christ in front of the entire congregation.
As deacon Don reflected on that event he noted that “if Eleanor had not eaten most of the doughnuts I would not have drove over to the gas station, if I had not gone over to the gas station, I would not have met Hugh.”
Philip Nation, the captain of the church’s evangelism sign team, was in tears when he proclaimed, “I am just so excited to see fruit from the tiring labor of finding thoughtful and clever sayings to display on the church grid and lock sign system.”
Philip and Hugh stood speechless for several minutes until Hugh looked at Philip and said with a tender voice, “…thank you for giving to the Lord. It’s becuase of your faithfulness that I saw the sign, it opened up my eyes…I saw the sign.”
This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.
We have all heard of the economic law labeled the Pareto Principle. According to Vilfredo Pareto, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. This principle has been applied to the fields of business, science, software and even criminology. In church life, it is usually said that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work.
In other words, 80 percent of the congregation remains passive when it comes to living on mission for God.
While it may not be true of all congregations, I think it is safe to say that large portions of the body of Christ do treat church like consumers. For the 80 percent, as theologian David Wells has reminded us, the church is a place to come and receive religious services and goods. If their needs are not met, they begin church shopping.
However, in 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul is clear, the body does not consist of one member but of many. And the apostle Peter is even more explicit, “… As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). This is how God designed the church. And God calls each and every individual to serve the body with the gifts they have been granted.
The simple truth of the matter is that Christ came to seek and save the lost so that the saved would serve one another and seek the lost. In fact, it is very clear from the New Testament that by the fruit of ones life, others can observe the genuineness of their salvation. Church consumers attend church to have their needs met.
True members of the church have been served to deeply by Christ, that their needs are abundantly met, and that flows over into their desire to meet others needs. The church body is just that, a body. And a body needs all of its parts functioning in order to be healthy. The question is, if you have been saved, are you being a good steward of God’s gracious gifts?
This was originally posted at The Biblical Recorder.
There is a strange idea in the American church, namely, that the church is a body of believers with a gifted pastor or pastors equipped to do the ministry. At first glance, one might not see the error in this ministry philosophy. Certainly, the pastors are gifted. However, according to Ephesians 4:12, the pastors are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Therefore, it is more biblical to conclude that the church is not just a body with gifted pastors, but also a body of supernaturally gifted believers.
God has uniquely gifted each person in the church to serve Him. No one pastor has all the gifts necessary to fulfill the ministry of the church. In fact, Jesus Christ is the only individual who ever walked the earth that embodied all of the spiritual gifts. This is why the church is referred to as the body of Christ.
A body is made up of different parts, each one fulfilling its specific purpose for the health of the whole.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul reminds us that there are a variety of gifts and services. The common thread that holds the entire body together is the same God who empowers each one. And each one is empowered to work together in order to bring God the glory. In fact, if only one person were gifted in the church for ministry, it would be hard for that individual to not receive the glory for their service. This is the root cause of the error that Paul is addressing in this passage.
The Corinthians church had begun elevating certain gifts over others, and thus, the body was not functioning properly. We are all called to use the gifts God has given us for the common good. Valuing the various gifts God has granted the church helps guard against the natural envy, rivalry and superiority that comes with elevating certain gifts over others.
Let us remember, the church is a body of supernaturally gifted individuals to bring God glory through collected ministry. It is God who has gifted each one according to His sovereign will.
Live around Raleigh?
This is a great opportunity for individuals and church groups to consider Dr. Reid’s call to “move from gospel presentations to gospel conversations, from specialists to normal people living for Jesus in gospel-focused ways.”
The training will be from Friday, March 11th from 6:30-8:00pm to Saturday, March 12th from 9:00am-12:00pm at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, NC.
Free childcare will be available for those who register. Sign up today!
This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.
When we read the theologically rich letter to the church in Ephesus, we get the sense that these early Christians needed gospel encouragement. Like us, this church found herself in a world of hostility toward the Christian faith. One of the great themes of Ephesians is that Christ has given powerful gifts to His church to, among other things, stand against the onslaughts of the defeated one and his allies.
The Christian life is war. In Ephesians 6:12 we are reminded that we wrestle with the cosmic powers of the present darkness. If we are honest, this is a tiring thought. But the Good News is, we will not be overdone.
God does not leave us on our own but empowers us through His Spirit. We war with the power of God’s strength. And on the cross, Christ defeated the powers of evil. In the resurrection, their defeat was sealed. In the gospel, we have an announcement that it is finished, Christ has won!
So, while we may be weak in body, we are strong in spirit. When we are brought to our knees in fatigue from the war, we find that we are in the appropriate position for prayer. For this reason, we pray “… according to the riches of his glory,” that God would grant us “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit” in the depths of our souls (Ephesians 3:16).
The Good News is that God is able to “… do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Though we are weak, He is strong. This juxtaposition of power and weakness, shows that victory is a gift of grace. When we realize this truth, we can triumphantly proclaim, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
What gives us the power to fight when there is no fight left within us? We are empowered by the spirit of God. We are also encouraged to endure, when the Spirit reminds us that Jesus’ victory is our victory.
This was originally posted at the North Carolina Baptist Convention’s website, and at the Biblical Recorder. I am leading a breakout session on this topic next week at the REVEAL: Disciple-making Conference.
As church leaders, we all desire to lead evangelistic churches. Proclaiming the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ is central to our ministry and our faithfulness to the mission of God. In my experience, there are two primary strategies for evangelism in the modern American Church. It would seem that local churches lean heavily toward event-based evangelism or a more individualistic approach to evangelism.
In event-based evangelism the idea is, “get the unbelievers to the church event so they will hear the gospel and prayerfully be saved.” The problem is, many church events like this tend to attract Christians from other churches rather than unbelievers. While people should hear the gospel at a church event, they shouldn’t have to come to a church event in order to hear the gospel. Simply put, we should not become dependent on an event to reach the lost.
The individualist approach tends to promote an evangelism that is primarily undertaken in isolation. In other words, individuals are sent out like lone rangers to share the gospel by themselves. Certainly, individuals should present the gospel when the opportunity arises. However, an evangelism strategy that primarily depends on individuals has the potential to crush our people under the burden of carrying out the mission of God on their own.
While there are benefits to both strategies, as we see, there are also a few drawbacks. Something seems missing if these are the only two ways we train our people for evangelism. What if we started to think of evangelism as something that is done in the context of community?
In my experience, it is becoming more and more the case that people are attracted to biblical, Christian community before they are open to the biblical, Christian message. Skeptics need to see the power of the gospel lived out in the context of a Kingdom community.
In other words, Christian proclamation makes the gospel audible, but we also need a corporate witness to make the implications of the gospel visible. The local church “examples” the power of the gospel to those around them. The world should look at the Church and see the gospel interpreted in every day.
Our loving commitment to one another despite our differences and our grace toward one another’s failures are a beautiful testimony to the gospel. True gospel fellowship within the local body transcends the barriers of race, sex, class and education, creating a community bound by the gospel alone.
With this in mind, introducing people into the Church community as a relational network becomes an important part of our being a faithful presence in the world around us.
Now, our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe. Isn’t this what Jesus said in John 13? “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The ongoing witness of a church community is much more powerful than a one-time event. The collective witness of a church family is much more widespread than the impact of one individual.
This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.
We live in a spiritually dark world. There is a lurking darkness not only in the world around us, but also deep within our souls. The bad news is, there is no escape. No political or moral agenda can rescue us from this darkness.
Even worse, there is no way for us to rescue ourselves from the darkness of sin in our own lives. When G.K. Chesterton was once asked, “what is wrong with the world?” His response was personal and profound. He simply said, “I am.”
The Good News is, Jesus came to earth to rescue us. He came to rescue us from the sin that plagues the world we live in. Jesus also came to rescue us from us.
Jesus entered into the darkness of our world, and there was light.
The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus, the light of the world, “… shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Jesus is our only hope. And just like in Genesis, when God spoke into the darkness and there was light, the light of the spoken gospel shines in our hearts and saves us from the darkness of sin. This light of God’s love gives us warming comfort in the cold darkness of the world we live in.
As God’s people, we are called to be a light to the nations, a city on a hill. In this sense, God calls us out of the darkness into the light, and then commissions us to go back into the darkness with the light.
The Good News of the gospel is a light to everyone groping around in the darkness of sin. Jesus, the light, is our salvation. And the Good News gets even better. Those who come to the light will one day forever dwell in the radiant glory of God.
The New Jerusalem is described as having “… no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk” (Revelation 21:23-24).