Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The road to revival

In 100 AD there were 25,000 Christians in the world. By 310, there were 20 million. Christianity became the dominant religion of Rome even though they were largely an underground without political power or centralized structure. Somehow they managed to turn a hostile government to their favor.

Fast forward to the 20th Century. Mao Zedong wants to purge China of all Western influence, including Christianity. He deported foreign missionaries and ministers, took ceased all church property, killed all senior leaders and outlawed church gatherings. At this time the church had been well-established in China with two million members. When contact with the Western world was re-established in the 80's the Chinese church had grown to 60 million. At the dawn of the 21st Century membership grew to 80 million.

Like the early church, they lacked professional clergy, formal training and centralized organization. Also, like the early church, they operated underground moving person to person. Neither movement tried to enact legislation that required nonbelievers to behave like Christians. Neither movement tried to gain political power

In his book, “The Forgotten Ways,” Alan Hirsh observes that revivals begin on the fringes of society among the poor and marginalized. It seldom (if at all) starts at the center. In fact, when the institutional church begins its inevitable decline, there is usually a vibrant grass-roots movement forming.

The established church in America wants to reach the middle class, family values types; the “soccer moms.” Most churches are competing for this segment. The result is that only 18% of the US population attend church. What about the other 82%? What about the 40% of San Antonians who claim no religious belief; the “nones?”

The contemporary church growth movement sought to make it easy for people to go to church. Recommendations included sticking to your own people group, using music that appeals to your demographic, parking lot attendants, and excellent children & youth programs. No cross bearing nor sacrifice. Forty years later, church attendance decline continues.

George Barna predicts, in “Revolution,” that the church will lose 50% of its attendance in the first quarter of the 21st Century. COVID-19 may have accelerated and increased the decline. In 2008, The Christian Century (5/6/08) reported that 3700 churches close every year. These tend to be inner city and rural churches but also include failed new church starts.

Hirsh recommends reseeding an established church with new, grass-roots folks who will respect the needs of the old guard. Perhaps several new church starts and/or parachurch groups can share space paying rent to help with the utilities and maintenance.

Frank Tillapaugh, in “Unleashing the Church,” states that we need a marriage between the established church and the parachurch. I would replace the term “parachurch” with any organization that is doing Kingdom work, even those that don't identify as faith-based.

We need to get back to the methodology that helped the early church, the 20th Century Chinese church, and many others to become disciple making machines. There is no short cut; no easy way. There is only people who know going to people who need to know Jesus.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Foot washing today


Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things,you will be blessed if you do them.
John 13:14-17 (NIV)


In John 13 we read that Jesus washed the disciple's feet. An unpleasant but ordinary task usually performed by a servant. Jesus set the example for all of us who call ourselves His followers. Churches that practice foot washing today have turned into a religious ritual that could be missing the point. The story below is a demonstration of humility and service that illustrates Jesus' point. It is taken from the journal of one of our deacons.

A day of ministry…

About 3:45 pm I got a call from a disabled woman. She thinks she might have a dead rat in her house. My husband and I arrived at 4:30 pm. When we walked in the door we could smell the dead rat, plus lots of dog feces in 2 of the 3 bedrooms.

My husband picked up the glue trap in the bedroom (with dead rat attached,) disposed of it and, then, picked up all the dog feces in the house.

I talked with the disabled woman while picking up lots of trash in the floor of her bedroom  and put her mattress cover in the washing machine, while my husband mopped the 2 dog-poop rooms, the bathroom, and the hallway.

I pulled the kitchen trash bag out the container, which smelled like dead rat. I looked in and there was a rat in the bottom of the container – I screamed! Then my husband looked inside discovered two rats in there – a dead one, and a live one that was eating the dead rat’s head. He took the container outside, killed the live one, and threw them both away. I washed out the kitchen trash can.

Next, we mopped the bedroom because there was a trail of diarrhea on the floor. I sat and listened to the woman while my husband washed her dishes.

I put out a fresh bowl of water for her dogs, swept up all the rat feces in the kitchen floor, then mopped it.

We went to the corner store to get her some Gatorade and, then, moved her laundry from the washer to the dryer. 
 
After dinner at Whataburger, we went to Walmart to buy a 2 weeks supply of Gatorade and more rat traps for the woman we are helping (she always gives me her debit card when I shop for her).  When we delivered it to her house, I got the sheets and mattress pad out of the dryer and made her bed while my husband set out 8 rat traps in the house.

I think we left her house around 8:30 pm.

Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto
one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40 (KJV)

Note: This disabled woman is currently undergoing chemotherapy. She is unable to walk her dogs and, so, they often do their business inside but they are her only companions. Baptist Temple is seeking ways to help her in her time of need.

 

Monday, August 24, 2020

How did we get here?

Just about every church, denomination and business wrote a 2020 vision statement at the turn of the century. What could be more poetic? I'm sure the plans included growth, efficiency and technology upgrades but no one planned for a future that included the COVID-19 plague, rioting and a nation divided politically.

God created the world and on the sixth day. He looked around and said it was good. He'd created humanity in His own image and told them. “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28)

He had one rule and the first humans broke it. As a result a curse fell on them and all creation. War, disease, pestilence, violence and exploitation would become the way of the land. (Genesis 3)

Later we are reminded that humanity was created in the image of God but Adam “had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.” (Genesis 5:3)

Evil multiplied and filled the earth. God regretted creating humanity and destroyed it in a flood but Noah found favor and was saved with his family along with a remnant of all creation. (Genesis 6:11-14)

Thoughts of the end of the world proliferate at times like this. The world seems to be ripe for Christ's return. We hear of wars and rumors of wars, hunger, natural disasters, immorality... It sure feels like the end is near.

After Jesus' resurrection, the disciples gathered around the risen, triumphant savior and asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

God's plan has always involved blessing humanity. Following the flood, he declared again that humans were made in God's image and issued a new order to multiply. (Genesis 9:6-7) When called Abraham, God said, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

When the time was right (Galatians 4:4), God sent His Son into the world. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. (John 3:16-17)

When become followers of Christ we become new creations (born again.) God reconciles us to Himself through Jesus Christ and turns over to us this ministry of reconciling the world to Him. We are Christ's ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In times like these we a-re called to continue to be Jesus' witnesses, obeying his call to “make disciples.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Experiencing God during the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted,
and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah 6:1

Isaiah saw a vision of God during a time of political change. There was always an air of uncertainty during theses times and Isaiah is reminded that God is still there; still on His throne.

We need to remember that God is still on His throne today as we face an election year marked by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and violence in our cities. Some are paralyzed by fear, others are in denial but most are taking it one day at a time, putting life on hold until 2021.

Like Isaiah, we must focus on God's holiness and His faithfulness during past times of turmoil and fear. Paul, while in prison, wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21.)

To the Romans (8:28), Paul wrote “...all things work together for good to those who love God.”

If we live for Christ, our time on earth is dedicated to His service. Isaiah answered God's call. “Here am I. Send me,” he said (Isaiah 6:8)

We, too, need to boldly answer Christ's call on our lives in these troubled times. The world needs Jesus now. This is not the time for the church to wait.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful
are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Romans 10:14-15

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

God places His agents everywhere

Joshua sent two spies to look over Jericho's strengths and weaknesses. It is good to do research in an area into which God is calling you. Lots of info can be found online but the real stories come from the people living in the neighborhood. Joshua, himself had been one of the 12 spies sent by Moses and knew the importance of gathering good, up to date information.

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 of his followers in pairs to every town and place he would be visiting. They were to look for the person of peace; someone who was ready to receive the gospel. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)

In each town they would find a person of peace who would become a worker in the harvest field. Paul discovered such a person when he arrived in Philippi to preach the gospel. He did not have any local contacts, not even a synagogue. He went to the river, where a group of women gathered for prayer. It would not have been his first choice but here he met Lydia. She became a follower of Jesus and led her household to Christ, starting a church in her house. The Holy Spirit goes before us preparing people's hearts.

Joshua's spies went to Rahab's place where they could keep a low-profile and pick up some news. The King of Jericho found out and sent some guards to apprehend them but Rahab (who had hidden the spies) tells them they’d already left.

The spies were hoping to find an informant but they found an ally; a person of peace who provided provided protection, hospitality, and guidance. She told them of the fear that gripped the city when they learned of God's power. She confessed her faith and asked that she and her household be spared.

As a pagan and owner of shady business, Rahab was an unlikely ally but hidden behind the imposing walls of Jericho was a woman who carried the Divine Seed. Rahab was rescued and would become the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, a Moabite widow, ancestress of David and Jesus Christ.

God uses unlikely people like Moses a murderer (morally unqualified) who did not speak well (physically unqualified) and David did not look like a king (boyish) nor act as a king (mishandled family matters.) In fact, Jesus was a friend of sinners! God uses the foolish to confound the wise.

At the same time, God has His people everywhere. Remember the men who had a donkey that Jesus was to ride into Jerusalem? The disciples didn't know them but they were ready and knew what to do. How about the man carrying water who knew the secret location to the upper room where Jesus would spend his last hours of freedom?

Knowing that God has people everywhere and that we might not recognize them, we must be ready for divine appointments.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have shown
hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Meet Baptist Temple's 2020 Summer Intern Team

Baptist Temple welcomes four Baptist University of the Americas students as summer interns. They will work to help us navigate ministry in these changing times as we continue to reach out to our community with the love of God

Jonatan Solis is a native of Ecuador and is majoring in Human Behavior at BUA. He is called to work with children and youth and will seek to work as a counselor upon completing his education. He has served on many short-term mission teams including multiple trips to the Amazon region of Ecuador. Jonatan plays the guitar.

Valentina Sanchez is from Colombia and is majoring in Human Behavior at BUA. She had previously worked at Baptist Temple during the summer of 2018 as part of the BUA summer mission team. She looks forward to working in the garden and developing Bible Discovery Groups in the community.

Daniela Peña is from Colombia and is majoring in Music and Human Behavior at BUA. Her calling is to work with children and youth and plays the piano. This summer she will be working to develop Bible Discovery Groups in the community.

Juan David Cabrera is from Colombia and is majoring in Business at BUA. He will be applying his experience in church media to help enhance our current offerings and will be working with the team to use soccer and basketball to reach our community with the gospel.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

From Seed to Harvest


The Seed

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32 NIV

“The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11 NIV

The Sower

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 NIV

“He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV

The Soil

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” Luke 8:5-8 NIV

“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:10-15 NIV 


The Season
 

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:35  NIV
 

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV
 

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4 NIV
 

The Sickle
 

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2 NIV
 

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:6 NIV


*from E3 Partners