church attendees

The Need for a Holy Disruption in our Churches

The Bible is all about disruption.  The purpose of the preaching of the Word and the mission of the church in general is to disrupt. 

Fellowship is not simply about connection, it’s also about protection from the enemy and about disruption in the heart of God’s people.  As we fellowship in union with Christ and in communion with each other to build up each other in Christ, we connect to protect each other from the enemy

In Titus 1:9, we read about  giving instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it?  This is the point of 10-16.  In our fellowship, our protection radar is out.  Then in verse 10:  “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers an deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.”  Circumcision party are those called Judaizers, who insisted that in order to follow Christ, you must still keep the law of Moses.

In connecting with a body of believers, elders are not only to inspect those wanting to connect, but also do detect false doctrine and false living among God’s people in a three-fold process:  identify, silence, and rebuke.  We inspect to detect because others will be affected.

We identify them by their insubordination.  Paul commanded Titus to place elders in each town to keep the church in order.  The order is that of a doctrinal, purity order.  These folks were adding much to the pure gospel of Christ and telling them, “You are to stay true with sound ‘words’ (doctrine), but you’re coming in denying the sound words the elders preach (subordinate) with ‘useless words’ and lies.”  Our heavenly status is not secured by human accomplishments.

First Corinthians 11 contains a passage I read most every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. In outlining some of the sinful issues, Paul noted, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19).  God brings necessary divisions to identify fractious people.

We silence them for the flock’s protection (11-12).  Paul warned them that they upset whole families for personal gain.  Our teachings and thinkings, if you will, have consequences, both good and bad.  Trustworthy teaching from sound doctrine provides a protective and helpful consequence.  Empty talking and Christ-plus teaching does not.

Paul includes a curious statement by a Cretan ‘prophet’ who noted, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  This is a difficult assessment of the culture in which Paul is in—his agreement (tongue in cheek, possibly)—but

Kent Hughes tells of the time when a faithful pastor went on vacation, and in his place a nationally known speaker filled his pulpit.  At first, the man talked plainly about the gospel and faith in Jesus Christ, but then went on to suggest that anyone whose faith was genuine also had a particular view about American history and a certain political party.  The damage done was significant, and this caring pastor let him know.  Why?  The pastor responded,

“You may think that courtesy would restrain me from speaking strongly to you about what was said in my absence, but when it comes to protecting my people from a gospel polluted by human conditions, I am like a she-bear protecting her cubs.”1

The same could be said of heresy, preaching one end times view over another as a test of faith, church attendance, denominational affiliation, the type of Bible you must read—these matters must be identified and silenced!  This is adding to the requirements of being a believer in Christ.

We rebuke for the believer’s salvation (13-14).  Why would we rebuke?  Shouldn’t we simply leave them laying in the dust?  No, we rebuke so “that they may be sound in the faith.”

What’s sad is how many churches run away from these principals!   For many, the worst thing that can happen to a church is for disruption to take place.  The avoidance of leaders inspecting the belief’s of members before connecting is not Christ’s idea of protecting His church or His flock.  When Mark Twain observed the church, he noted that the church is about nice people hearing a nice sermon about how to be nice.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The tonic?  Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  Listen to the commands of God, not of people.  Listen to truth, not to myths.  Listen to the message of Christ, not Christ-plus.  Yes, the Word disrupts.

And that’s a good thing!  The message of the cross is scandalous, an offence!  It disrupts.  But a disruption will take place one way or the other.  Either the truth will disrupt the sin and falsehood, or (if we ignore the truth), sin and falsehood will disrupt the body.

May God bring us those much-needed holy disruptions.

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Five Ways to Change a Culture in Your Church

Over the past year, I have found my mind drifting toward how cultures develop in organizations–especially churches, but organizations in general.  This came to my mind on Saturday.  I participate in a Colorado Rapids Discussion Page on Facebook (the Rapids are our local MLS soccer franchise).  We had a great win in Toronto this past Saturday, so many of us took time to chime in and give our thoughts.  In my sharing, I did three things that violated some unexpressed, unwritten rule.

  • I posted a picture of Rapids player Drew Moor’s fall late in the game.  (Someone responded: “Oh, no!  Are we going to post pictures from the TV now?”  O-K.)
  • A few hours after the game, I posted a question about next Saturday’s game against San Jose. (“Can we just enjoy the win for a few hours before thinking about the next game?”  Sure, why not?)
  • Lastly, a thread arose about Edson Buddle’s 99th career MLS goal.  Buddle makes a lot of money for a Rapids player, causing some fans to question whether his paycheck matches his production.  So, I posted a just release article featuring Buddle’s comments from the Rapids website.  (“Um, Matt, most of us read the Rapids website.”  Figured that, but it was just released, didn’t think you all saw it,  and was pertinent to the conversation. )

Exasperation Station.

Lest you think I camp out on this site, this all took place in a span of about 15 minutes.  I finally said in exasperation, “I’ve gotta start writing down and keeping up with these unwritten rules.”  (Many agreed.)

I share this to show that each home, each organisation, and each church has a culture filled with unwritten rules.  Those on the outside coming in like what’s presented–until they get inside it and find so many rules that are a ‘given’ to that organization, they make a quick choice as to whether to leave or conform.

Most inside those organizations do not realize the extent to which this culture lives and moves and has its being.  It’s built–not intentionally and not quickly, but slowly and methodically over time.  With a lack of intentionality and focus, a culture/mission drift takes place.

But also taking place is a number of unwritten rules lurking in the corners of the mind and heart–and likely somewhere in a classroom or parlor or food pantry.  When violated, unwritten rules become spoken principles.  Though unwritten, they are written on the writing tablets of our hearts–chiseled in, impossible to erase.

Every pastor sees this in his church.  Every church sees it in their pastors.  All of us have our ‘givens,’ but those ‘givens are not always understood or shared.

So…

What do we do?  What are some ways to begin change in the culture of the church, moving it from a Great Complacency to a Great Commission Missions Hub?

  1. Prayer.  Only God can change hearts.  I never could change one–neither can you.  Praying in love for your church not only works to change the church, but works to change you.  Some prayers are prayed only with the object of someone else’s change taking place, but all the while not seeing change needed in your own heart.
  2. Proclamation—persistent, consistent proclamation—from the Scriptures.   The mistake most young preachers make (and this young preacher made elsewhere) is coming in with their own unwritten rules or assumed understandings from Scripture that they assume their church holds.  So they want to jump from A to F without first hitting B, then C… .  F could be biblical and necessary, but we must teach and lead so they see it from Scripture and not simply as another ‘thing’ the pastor wants to do.  Mission, vision, and passion for the Great Commission must permeate all we do, say, and even think!
  3. Patience—lots of pastoral patience.  Change won’t happen in 15 minutes.  Not even your sermon happens in 15 minutes.  When Paul told young Timothy to teach with “all patience,” this means that we roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of making every minute, hour, day, week, month, and year must systematically and methodically move toward a biblical and missional purpose and vision.
  4. Pastoral modeling of said culture.  If I preach and teach toward a certain culture, but I fail to model it in my own life?  Hypocrite, thy name is Pastor.  I must drive and thrive in a Great Commission Culture in my own heart.  My heart has to be my primary missions hub.  When hearts are changed, then cultures change.  But, pastor, it must start with you!
  5. Loving others, both inside and outside the church, in Jesus.   I meet people who are very hard on those in the church, all the while being evangelistic outside the church.  I also meet people who feel very at home with their church family, but very judgmental and condescending to those outside the church or Christ.  Romans 12:9-21 gives us a principle to love one another, both inside and outside the church.  When hearts are changed by Christ, he pours in His love in us to care for others and share the truth of Christ with others.

I was told by another pastor that it often takes 3-5 years to overcome the direction set by your predecessor.  This is less about the predecessor and more about pastors staying longer in their churches than the average 4.5 years.  I’ve been at my church for just under 2 1/2  years.  My prayer is to have a zero behind that 2, making it 20 years.  By that time, I’ll be 60.  Time will tell if God will keep me here that long, but that’s my aim.

Even so, prayer, preaching, patience, pastoral modeling, and providing love to those inside and outside the church.  That’s a start!

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Three Reasons Why Leaders Must Equip the Church

Ministries-Equipping-2.10 Why did God give leaders? “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (4:12). We must take the step from realizing God has given leaders, to the next step of realizing why these leaders were given—to equip. It goes back to the acronym we’ve given for equipping: engaged in a quest to invest in people. God sent leaders on a quest to invest in the people His Son bloodily redeemed.

Now, let’s take another step. That God has not only given you the opportunity to be equipped, but He saved us and called us to His work. We were not born nor born again completely ready to move forward in our faith. We need equipping—the bones of the body of Christ need setting so they may be whole. Our leaders of our churches must engage in a quest to invest. Saints that have come to Christ and connected with His church most be on a quest to be invested in out of a thirst to contribute to their King and His kingdom!

Why?

First, for the sake of unity in the church. The reason we are equipped is to keep the church unified. How? I read a lot of leadership materials that help with organizational structure, but none of these structures and practices can change a heart. You have all the right structures and operate well within those structures, but you are unifying around the wrong thing.

Leaders were called to focus on “prayer and ministry of the Word.” This shows the primacy and sufficiency of these two items. We can surely be unified around lots of things. Our entire city last week rallied around two phrases: Time to Ride and United in Orange. We can be unified for lots of reasons: denominational loyalty, sweet fellowship in loving each other, tax brackets, how we dress, age and other types of demographics.

But our unity is based on the truth of God’s Word (its truthfulness, it’s eternal nature, its inspiration, but now the days is our sufficiency). If we continue to pull from other resources rather than Scripture, then the ‘church’ will be centered around something that we deem more sufficient or as sufficient as Scripture.

Secondly, for the sake of maturity in the faith. We are called to grow into Christlikeness. We are called to be like Christ. This is why God saved us and connects us to His church—movement toward Christlikeness. And how did Christ walk? Again, we beat the drum of prayer and ministry/obedience to the Word. Why? Because we are not intended to be children anymore.

Children. What does he mean here? Jesus told us to become as little children. That seems like a good thing. Isn’t Paul contradicting Jesus in saying being a child is bad? When Jesus spoke of a child, he meant in dependence. This is the stage of young children, completely dependent on their parents. But children also struggle with focus. During the Christmas season, you take them to a toy store or they see commercials on TV—“I need that! I gotta have that!” They grow up and older children in their teenage years want independence.

Paul here is talking of an unfocused, unlearned child who runs to everything that’s shiny. That’s bad. What is needed is the child Jesus speaks of—dependence on Christ through prayer and ministry of the Word, but also an independence where we seek Him on our own. John MacArthur gets it right.

“Even the most biblical and efficient of church organizations will not produce spiritual maturity without the leadership of God’s gifted ministers who are continually in prayer and in His Word. Administration and structure has its place, but it is far from the heart of spiritual church growth. The great need of the church has always been spiritual maturity rather than organizational restructuring. All the books on leadership, organization, and management offer little help to the dynamics of the church of Jesus Christ” (John MacArthur, Ephesians, p. 154).

Lastly, for the sake of purity in knowing Christ. “The knowledge of the Son of God.” Children are being tossed around. By what? The picture is that of one on the stormy sea being knocked about by the high and destructive waves that threaten to bring them under. These waves are kicked up by the wind. What does the wind represent? The wind of the false teachers preaching a false doctrine.

With our vision, this knowledge is not simply a “come to Christ” knowledge, but a “connected to Christ” knowledge. This serves as a deep desire to dig into all that Christ is. After all, he is “the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge.” When does this learning stop? After you graduate seminary? I tell you, even though I have a degree, it was then I realized how little I really knew.

So pray for your leaders that (1) they would seek Christ with all they have, (2) that they would see a need for themselves to be equipped, and (3) that we all would take advantage of the opportunities for equipping and growing and see this as a blessed privilege Christ has given us.

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More ARBC Visioneering: Taking the Next Step Where Jesus is Enough

We are going through a very interesting process at our church. In many business practices, this is called a systems analysis. The idea behind this Team is to analyze the various systems and structures in our church to see if they are moving the mission of our church and the vision of our church forward, or are some of the systems operating as obstacles to moving this forward. I am thrilled that our church is at the point where we can begin to look at how we get things done from a biblical and practical standpoint.

Larry Osbourne, in his book Sticky Church, opens Chapter One with the following:

If the back door of the church is left wide open, it doesn’t matter how many people are coaxed to come in the front door . Or the side door, for that matter. Yet most churches give the back door scant attention. We’ve discovered lot of ways to reach people. We’ve offered the high-powered programs and slick marketing of attraction of churches , the cultural 70% of missional church is, and the relational intimacy of small churches. But we’ve also become so focused on reaching people that we forgot the importance of keeping people. And that’s the thesis of this book.  Our churches need to be stickier.

Indeed.  Our churches need an intentionality regarding what they believe, why they believe it, and why and how they want others to come onboard the gospel ship.

Below is a scheme that seeks to put our mission of ARBC into action with a forward-looking vision:

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In the middle is the word ‘cultivate.’  Our aim is to minister and equip those inside the church, sowing the gospel seeds in them, so that the other aspects of our steps would be affected by this growth. 

The first aspect in this cycle is the word come. We work to get folks to come so they will take the next step and connect with Christ and His church (2 Corinthians 5:11-13).

  • Be intentional in relationship, so that others will simply consider Christ.
  • Be intentional in bringing non-churched individuals to church (especially cultivating through your FRANs—friends, relatives, associates, neighbors).
  • Work to connect to first-time guests so they will connect with Christ (second C) (cultivate an evangelistic, relational mindset with un-/non-churched).
  • Big front and side door events (experts say churches need at least nine of these a year)(cultivate this by offering classes of spiritual and practical nature, Connect groups in the homes, seasonal family activities, etc.).
  • Evaluate the appearance of the building, external and internally (cultivate an attitude of thinking not only about members but unchurched).

Connect.   We work to have folks connect (not just attend) so they will take the next step and contribute to the cause of Christ and His church (Hebrews 10:23-25).

  • Lead them to a saving knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, connecting them to the vine so they as branches will grow.
  • As they surrender to Christ, bring them in obedience to baptism and membership, should they ascribe to our doctrine and vision.
  • Provide opportunities for them to mature, moving forward in their faith in learning and service.
    • Have them connect with a small group (Sunday School, Connect Group).
    • Have them connect with a serving group (fellowship team, security, usher, greeter, missions work–or make something up).

Contribute.  We work so they are equipped as mature believers to take the next step and contribute as leaders of Christ’s church and in His kingdom outpost (Ephesians 4:11-12).

  • Should they continue to grow and mature, they become pastors, deacons, teachers, and core leaders in the life of our church and community.
  • Explore the gifts God has given them as they look at their gifts of speaking and/or serving gifts in the church, in home, and in culture. 
  • Contributing so that non-believers will come.  Leaders should be equipped to help others learn how to bring others to Christ and His people. 
  • Contributing so that believers will connect.  Leaders should also be equipped to help others learn how to connect new and not-so-new believers to Christ’s kingdom work at ARBC and beyond. 

Pray for us as God continues to refine our hearts, our culture, and our systems at ARBC to help all peoples take the next steps in their journey with Christ.

Jesus is enough!

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First Impressions: Making the Most of Seven Seconds

Palm Sunday 2“Don’t offend them—you let me do that.”  In essence, this is something I heard Andy Stanley said that he conveyed to his staff.  I get this—the gospel of Christ is offensive to many.  Our bathrooms, parking, décor, lack of signage, etc., should not be.  Are my eyes opened to this reality?  Are yours?

Tim Cool penned an outstanding book called Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space.  Rather than this book being simply about buildings, I found that this book was mainly about the vision of the church.  The chapters are short, accessible, and thought-provoking for churches ready to take that next step.

In Chapter 24, entitled, “Seven Seconds: Make the Most of It,” he tells us things that we as established churches need to hear about those who visit our church:

Seven seconds: that is how much time you have to make a first impression.  Some experts say more, some say less, but most pundits agree that seven seconds is the average time you have to make a first impression.  Think about that.  That is not much time.

There are dozens of posts on the Internet that will give you hints to best utilize these seven seconds when going to a job interview or making a sales call.  But the same principle applies to the guests at our churches.  Have you ever thought that your guests are looking at their experience in much the same way they might evaluate a buying decision?  Don’t get defensive when people enter your facility for the first time with this perspective.  This attitude may not be healthy, but it’s a reality churches must understand.

So what can you do in those first seven seconds to influence their experience?  I actually believe that a guest to your church will have multiple seven second encounters.  Below are the areas that I believe most critical:

  1. The parking lot experience.  We nee to be aware that if this is a challenge and their first seven seconds on your site are frustrating, that may not stay.  Even if they do stay, then you began the visit with a tone of frustration.
  2. Where do I go now?  Way-finding and signage are too often underwhelming, which can add to the anxiety of our guests.
  3. What door do I go in?  Guests do not want to ask questions and do not respond well to facility ambiguity.
  4. The First “Hey.” The first person to visually, verbally, and physically interact with a guest sets the tone for the entire experience.
  5. We have been preparing for your visit.  As they step into your facility, will a guest see that you have been intentional about their arrival?  Are things clean, neat, inviting, engaging, and well maintained with a sense of pride?

Don’t squander those seven seconds.  Be intentional.  Be deliberate.  And be consistent. 

Thoughts?  What are we doing to make the first impressions of our guests positive ones?  This matters to me because lots of these take place even before I get up to preach! 

What think ye?

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The #1 Reason Why Folks are Leaving the Church (Even If They’re Not Physically Walking Out the Door)

All of us as church leaders lament the wide open back door that many churches that see many church members and attenders leave the church.  In my 20+ years of ministry, this is what I see. 

They hear the Bible in the pulpit, but see pragmatics in the pew, in programs, and in public.  To elaborate, they hear about how God’s Word is without error, cannot fall, cannot fail, authoritative, and even sufficient for all things in the faith and practice (and hear the Amens from many in the pew), but many fail to take that and put that mirror to their churches and their lives. 

We count on grace, but in the process we write our own laws based upon what ‘works,’ rather than based on the work that the Spirit reveals about who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He intends to do through us. 

Many pastors preach from the Scriptures, preaching with all their hearts from God’s sacred writ.  But for many churches, there is a disconnect between the pulpit and the person sitting in the pew.  Preachers preach the Bible, but in most other areas of the church, the Bible is not even opened or consulted—and thus, we show we do not feel the Bible is sufficient for all matters in the church.

Thus, we rely on pragmatics—that is, we rely on simply what works and what brings the most results.  Pragmatism was developed by the philosopher William James, declaring that the value of any truth was utterly dependent upon its use to the person who held it.  Bruck Kuklick reflected on James’ philosophy:

James went on to apply the pragmatic method to the epistemological problem of truth. He would seek the meaning of ‘true’ by examining how the idea functioned in our lives. A belief was true, he said, if it worked for all of us, and guided us expeditiously through our semihospitable world. James was anxious to uncover what true beliefs amounted to in human life, what their “Cash Value” was, what consequences they led to (from his introduction to William James’ ‘Pragmatism’).

How does this translate to how we view Scripture?  Subtly, but dangerously.  If we come to Scripture simply looking for the ‘cash value’ of what works for us, we miss the point of Scripture.  What may be ‘true’ for one person would be ‘not true’ for another, and so forth. 

Do we find ourselves ‘Amening’ something in the pulpit, but fail to plug that in to other areas of our church and our lives?  The people who are new to the faith, as well as those members who may be looking for authenticity, see the false dichotomy we set.  While the pulpit must speak loudly, our actions speak louder.

When we look for the bottom line of why we should do what we do, do we look to Scripture or to what works?  Here’s how our pastoral team will lead out in this.

  • We will preach that the intention of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church is to have discipled disciples discipling.  We long to make much of Jesus so others will make much of Jesus.  Then those ‘others’ will make more ‘others’ that make much of Jesus (see 2 Timothy 2:1-2).  This involves patiently equipping others to see the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel in their homes, workplaces, school, and with their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors.  Thus, discipleship breeds evangelism, which breeds more discipleship. 
  • Regardless of the meetings we are in (deacons, stewardship, security, worship team, greeters and ushers, custodial, administrative assistants, etc.), the goal will be to see what must be done to plant that discipleship, gospel seed in the hearts of all who come and to remove whatever obstacle is in place to keep this from happening. 

More details as God begins to clarify and crystallize. 

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Are We Blaming Satan for Something God is Doing?

God takes time to prune the believers to make sure that the spiritual nutrients go where they need to go.  At times, we go through this painful process, and because we are Americans with a low pain tolerance in every way, we think that all suffering and all pain has to be connected to Satan.  But the vinedresser goes through the painful process of pruning so that we will bear stronger fruit for Him.

Look with me once again in verse 2-3:

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. . . . If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We all understand at least in theory that the Bible is an important book. We were reminded in our denomination that a gigantic battle was fought (and largely won) in regards to the nature of the Scriptures being the literal, actual, inspired Word of God.

Yet, statistics bear out that fewer and fewer in our denomination are reading the Bible less and less. They are looking to other things for fulfillment, satisfaction, and direction. So the battle on the Bible front for many in our congregations is that of the Bible being sufficient! Is the Bible enough?

According to Jesus, the Bible is plenty. How is a Christian made ‘clean’? By His Word—we call this the Bible. We said this pledge in VBS:

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word.
And will make it a lamp unto my feet,
A light unto my path.
And will hide its words in my heart, that I may not sin against God.

While this pledge is taken largely from Psalm 119:11 and Psalm 119:105, there is another Psalm 119 verse that speaks volumes:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.

We drastically underestimate the creating and cleansing power of God’s Word. But this is how we are made ‘clean.’ Consider the vine analogy again. Basically the vinedresser of a grape vineyard is to cut off the dead branches, then prune the suckers off the branches that are bearing fruit. Why? Because the water and the light that comes to give that plant nourishment is needed for the productive branches. It will be used for the dead branches or for those suckers—when it could be used to produce fruit.

In order for us to bear fruit, we must take prayerfully consider what is sapping our spiritual energy that may keep us from bearing fruit as we should.

When God cleans us with His Word (a Word that comes from Him), we see another avenue of communication that opens up: prayer. Look at verse 7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The pruning brings the spiritual nutrients and keeps spiritual energy from being sapped. Then the spiritual wherewithal opens up another aspect of the connecting and abiding in Christ. The Word comes to us, then prayer is another way we abide—we long to have His will accomplished in our hearts and minds and lives and in the church and in the world. We pray in His name.

(This is Part II of What Makes a Disciple of Christ?  Part I is here.)

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Four Types of Discipleship I’d Like to See at ARBC

By God’s marvelous providence, I’ve had a chance to welcome a number of guests into our church from the area.  Some are brand new to church world, others are looking for churches where they can hear the Word preached and taught, and as a ripple effect from that, develop relationships that will help them to stay focused. 

In other words, people are yearning for discipleship.  They are not simply wanting to find a church, they are wanting to connect with Christ.  Sadly, for so many, these are not synonymous.  Steve Timmis and Tim Chester in their book Total Church, says, “Every Christian is a disciple of Jesus because in the kingdom of God it is only Jesus who has disciples.  it is legitimate to talk about Christians discipling one another as long as we recognize that we are describing the process by which disciples of King Jesus help one another to be better disciples of King Jesus” (p. 111). 

From my observation, there are four areas of discipleship that take place in the life of a local church.  None should be dismissed, and they should all be kept in some semblance of balance.  The four areas are church, classroom, community, and conversation.  In all of these, communication takes place.  But as you go from church to conversation, it becomes more interactive, even to the point of having one-to-one conversations.  Even then, we have to be careful not to dominate in these areas. 

Church.  In a worship gathering, God has called us to listen to the proclaimed word, administered by a preacher.  While some call for more of a conversation, there will be other venues for this mode of communication and discipling.  Here, we proclaim, teaching them to observe everything commanded (Matthew 28:19).  To think that we do not have discipleship going on in this venue is to miss the entire point of the preaching part of the service.  Each of us has a job to do:  the preacher preaches as he has listened in his study, the congregant listens as the preacher preaches from the produce of his study. 

Classroom.  While more interactive (at least here, the teacher asks questions or for any insights and feedback), the classroom is still teacher-led.  Sunday School traditionally has been like this.  And I am a big fan of Sunday School or structured Sunday morning Bible studies. 

Community.  Here, I see people getting together during the week for discipling, accountability, prayer, and study (a book of the Bible, or a book about a biblical topic)—but somewhere other than the church building.  This communicates that ministry can happen other than the four walls of a church.   This communicates that discipling is not just in a sanctuary or classroom, but in all of life—and in the home, the place where the most influencing takes place. 

Conversation.  It’s amazing that Christians can be together as friends, one-on-one, but go for years without discussing anything regarding their spiritual walk.  No praying together, sharing Scripture together, sharing spiritual burdens together.  It’s no wonder that so many may come into a worship time and not get much out of it—and spend a good deal amount of time looking at their watches.  Our spiritual systems have not been trained to do otherwise.  It’s not a lifestyle.  Church is simply an event to clock in, then clock out with nothing significant happening and no true reaction to the Word.  We must have conversation with Christ in prayer so we can have meaningful conversations with others to help one another grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). 

This is what I would like to see at ARBC.  Thoughts?

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A Believing Community is a Persuasive Apologetic for the Gospel

John Divito who serves at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, recommended a great book to me by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community that really helps us see the local church as a gospel community on mission—something that chimes with me.  I was especially struck by a paragraph in chapter three on the topic of evangelism.  First, the quote: 

In our experience people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message.  If a believing community is a persuasive apologetic for the gospel, then people need to be included to see that apologetic at work.  People often tell me how they have tried telling their unbelieving friends about Jesus, but they do not seem interested.  So they want to know what to do next.  My answer is to find ways of introducing them to the Christian community.  The life of the Christian community provokes a response.  When Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” he is not speaking to individuals but to churches (1 Peter 3:15).  Too much evangelism is an attempt to answer questions people are not asking.  Let them experience the life of the Christian community.  The church is the home in which God dwells by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).  Its life is the life of the Spirit, and its community is the community of the Spirit.  Let our relationships provoke questions.  And do not worry if your church life is sometimes less perfect than it should be!  We do not witness to good works but to the grace of God.  Our commitment to one another despite our difference and our grace toward one another’s failures are more eloquent testimony to the grace of God than any pretense at perfection.

This really chimes with me for a number of reasons. 

First, I agree that a powerful apologetic is seeing the church (warts, wrinkles, grace, and all) at work.  

Secondly, our evangelistic efforts should primarily come out of relationships we forge.  If they see Christ in us, they will give more of a hearing to us about that Christ they see. 

Thirdly, this affirms the conviction I have put forth to our people at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church here in Centennial, Colorado:  invite, invest, involve.  Invite your unbelieving friends to our community and let them see our faith in action among our people!  Powerful indeed!

Thoughts?

If you’d like to buy this book, click here to get it.

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When Confessing Sin to One Another

This past Sunday, I preached from James 5:13-18 and was struck by God’s desire for the church body’s involvement in confession of sin.  Yet, some take certain aspects of this too far.  Here are some good rules of thumb:

  1. If you have sinned against a brother or sister in Christ, go to that brother or sister in Christ and confess to them one-to-one (see Matthew 5:23-24).
  2. If you have sinned, but not against anyone in particular (except God, or course), find a mature Christian of your gender and share this with them for accountability and for partnership in prayer. 
  3. If you have sinned against the church body or your sin affects the church body, confess it to the church body. 

Thoughts?

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