Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It’s Time to develop a passion for the Great Commission

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

The numerical decline of the church in America is not as tragic as the fact that the church in America is losing its ability to influence society. Not just the church but individual Christians as well. News reports generally show a remarkable similarity in the lifestyles and choices of Christians and non-Christians. As we continue to fail in our mandate to make disciples, we keep finding it harder to differentiate ourselves in life from those who are non- or even anti- Christian. The church can impact the world not by creating more converts but by making disciples. Evangelism involves a process that begins with a personal decision and is not finished until the fish becomes a fisherman.

Many Christians are afraid to share their faith because of the fear of rejection. They might wind up losing a friend. However, we must be mindful of the fact that it is not us that they are rejecting. It is Jesus. You can still be friends. You can still pray.

Another barrier to evangelism is that many Christians are unsure of how to share the gospel. Well, you don’t have scream, put on a suit or, even, thump a Bible. One effective technique is simply sharing what faith in Jesus has meant in your life. Remember the man born blind (John 9)? He simply said, “I once was blind but now I see.”

Inviting someone to church is another effective technique. The famous apostle, Peter was introduced to Jesus by his less familiar brother, Andrew. The Woman at the Well brought many in her village to meet Jesus (John 4).

It’s important to note that baptizing comes before teaching. We are called to belong as well as believe and belonging starts before a decision for Christ can be made. We need to build relationships with people as part of evangelism. Involve yourself in the lives of unchurched people. Invite them over for coffee. People are usually open to talking about spiritual matters with people they know.

Teaching is an essential part of disciple-making and the biggest part of the process is small group ministry. It combines community building with Bible study. It gives close attention to the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of all who participate. If you are a mature Christian you need to help lead a small group.

Modeling is, also, part of the process. You are a disciple-maker. If you are a SS teacher you are a disciple-maker. If you are a Deacon, you are a disciple-maker. If you are a leader, you are a disciple maker. If you are a CHRISTIAN you are a Disciple maker.

Your goal as a disciple-maker is not to make people smarter about the Bible. It is to make people more like Christ. Your goal as a disciple-maker is not to grow your class larger. It is to send people out into ministry. Our success as a disciple-making church is not measured in how many people we can gather on Sunday morning. It is measured in how many are working to build the kingdom.

Sermon Audio

Monday, April 19, 2010

It’s Time to discover & fulfill our God-given mission

If the church is to be relevant today, we need to discover and fulfill our God-given mission. The church’s mission statement is not hidden. It is found in all four gospels (Mt 28.19-20; Mk 16.15; Lk 24.47; Jn 20.21) and Acts 1:8. It is also found in Paul’s letters.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5.17-21

God made us partners in His ministry of reconciling humanity to Himself. Our involvement is significant. We are called Ambassadors for Christ. We have Christ’s authority for carrying out God’s mission.

The church gathered gains spiritual power. The church scattered brings that spiritual to all the dark corners of the world. God’s people can be found in places where people are hurting enabling us to bring words of hope and encouragement from the gospel.

God’s people can be found in key areas of society that have been corrupted by sin. These include government, media, entertainment, business and education. These areas that can be a blessing are often sources of injustice, oppression and corruption. “Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:18).”

We must use our prayers and influence and work to reconcile these areas bringing them into harmony with the teachings of Jesus. It was the church that has historically brought so much justice and relief of human suffering into the world. We must rediscover that missional spirit so that the church continues to be a transformational force in society.

Sermon audio

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It’s Time to Reach Our Spiritual Potential

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV

Renewal in the church begins with each of us as individuals reaching the spiritual potential for which God created us.

We can all achieve spiritual maturity. It is a myth that only very special people like Mother Teresa and Billy Graham can achieve full spiritual potential. God calls all of us to maturity. Just like physical and emotional growth, spiritual growth is normal. AND, just like physical and emotional immaturity, spiritual immaturity is a sign that something is wrong!

Spiritual maturity is not automatic. “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others, but instead you have dropped back to the place where you need someone to teach you all over again the very first principles in God's Word. You are like babies who can drink only milk, not old enough for solid food. And when a person is still living on milk it shows he isn't very far along in the Christian life, and doesn't know much about the difference between right and wrong. He is still a baby Christian!” Hebrews 5:12-13 TLB

Spiritual maturity is a process that takes time. “Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18 TEV

The process requires an effort on your part. “…train yourself to be godly.” 1 Timothy 4:7 NIV

Part of the process includes Bible reading and study, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and serving others. There is a progression where one moves from awareness to commitment to leadership. Not just positional leadership but, rather, influence that comes when others recognize you as the real deal.

The Church is the hope for the whole world but Christians today are failing to meet their full spiritual potential.
     Our salt has lost its saltiness because our indifference.
            Our light is hidden under the bushel of better things to do.
                   The church is weak and frail due to lack of
                               spiritual exercise.

If we are to renew the church and bring the hope of the gospel to the world, we must begin the renewal in our hearts.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Robbing St. Peter's to grow St. Paul's

In the last 30 years we have gone from a handful of megachurches to a handful in every major city. These big box churches have perfected the attractional model of church growth where the main focus is the weekend worship service. Like big box stores they offer more and better services than the smaller mom and pop churches can.

On the other hand, while megachurches flourish, overall church attendance continues to decline in America. Like mom and pop shops that suffer when a big box store opens nearby, neighborhood churches suffer when megachurches attract Christians from surrounding churches. Small churches cannot compete with the professionalism and production values offered by the megachurches.

Although megachurches target younger adults, Gen Xers still tend to stay away from church and Millennials have the lowest church attendance rate of any previous generation. Not only does overall church attendance continue to decline but, also, hundreds of churches in the US die every year and more than 80% of our existing churches are plateaued or declining.

At the same time, denominational leaders and seminary graduates spend precious resources to start the next megachurch. We have gotten good at the attractional model but, rather than being the answer, it appears that it might be part of the problem. We are growing some churches by subtracting from others.

American churches are in need of renewal and revival. Over the years we have allowed the Sunday event to drive the ministry. Sunday is when we worship, teach, fellowship and evangelize. Missional activities are an optional add-on.

If we are to renew and revive the church we must look to the Bible and rediscover the missional church. Missional is a term that is being used to indicate a movement to align the church away from Sunday-oriented, entertainment-style gatherings and back to the church carrying out God's mission. Missional means more than a church doing mission activities. It means a church understanding how God is at work in the world and joining him there.

Baptist Temple is beginning a sermon series entitled “It’s Time… a journey to missional faithfulness”. Over the next six weeks we will explore how to recover the vitality of the church. We will seek to restore the relevance of the church by returning to the mission of God.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Mission teams can greatly expand the ministry of inner-city churches

Nearly 100 students from the University of Texas at Arlington Baptist Student Ministry spent six days at Baptist Temple to minister in San Antonio. They formed 11 teams, partnering with churches to host backyard Bible clubs in low-income neighborhoods and apartment complexes, serving in a soup kitchen and at a nursing home.

One of the things that struck the students was the poverty found in San Antonio. “One of the main things that surprised me is the neighborhood here around the church has a lot of poverty.” said UTA student, David Weick, “It’s a level that most of us don’t see when we go around in our towns. It’s amazing to see the need of the people here and to see how the church is stepping up to meet the needs.”

These short term missionaries have a long-term impact in urban areas where the need exceeds the resources. In Chicago, one large team was so helpful in so many areas that several local ministries banded together to continue their work. In New Orleans, short-term missionaries worked in tandem to run a day camp all summer. In Miami, short-term missionaries helped jump start a children's Sunday school in a church that had no children.

These collaborations between churches that have abundant resources and those who do not demonstrate the unity of Christ's followers and unleash the power of the Holy Spirit in mighty ways. I have been on both sides of short-term missions and know that everyone involved benefits.

Baptist Temple will host several teams this summer to bring a variety ministries to San Antonio. We will also team up with several churches to send a group to minister on the Mexican border.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Hurricane season can put churches on the front lines of ministry

I recently attended meeting last week with the Baptist Children and Family Services (BCFS) Medical Sheltering Operations Coordinator, Jon Bodie. Also at the meeting were Methodist, Presbyterian, non-denominational and Baptist churches who had agreed to use their gyms and fellowship halls to house hurricane evacuees who need special care.

BCFS is the principal medical needs shelter provider for the state of Texas, serving more than 1,700 evacuees in Katrina and Rita, and sheltering more than 2,800 evacuees during 2008 from Hurricane Ike, Dolly and Gustav.

Some hurricane evacuees are medically frail and cannot be adequately managed in a general population shelter. These individuals have breathing devices, walkers or need regular medication but are not sick enough for hospitalization. They are sent to specially prepared shelters provided by churches throughout San Antonio. The churches provide space and volunteers and BCFS provides medical staff, food, laundry, garbage removal, security and all other needs.

BCFS also provides training for general volunteers and shelter managers. Churches are needed to be shelter sites and provide volunteers. Even churches that cannot provide a site can provide volunteers to serve at other sites.

When disaster strikes everyone wants to be on the frontlines of ministry but the unprepared are left on the sidelines. Plan now to be a vital part of this ministry response. Contact Jon Bodie: JBodie(at)bcfs.net

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…” Luke 12:35 (NIV)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Three Views of the Empty Tomb

Message from Easter Sunday, April 4:

Three Views of the Empty Tomb (John 20:1-18)

Three people came to an empty tomb and came away with different experiences. One found faith quickly, one left too early and one waited until she saw Jesus.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Flash mobs for the common good

A flash mob is a sudden gathering of a large group of people in a public place to do an unusual act and quickly disperse. The people are alerted via text message, Twitter or Facebook. The message is spread virally, as people alert their friends who alert their friends, etc.

The result is 500 people showing up at a designated time and place to have a pillow fight. Sadly some flash mobs have gathered in recent days to do violence.

Flash mobs can also be used for good. Before the social media revolution we had phone trees and fax broadcasts. When a Chicago church became the target of activists who sought to disrupt their Wednesday night prayer meeting, area pastors got on the phone and organized their own demonstration; a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Churches were called, phone chains activated and 1000 people crowded into Armitage Baptist Church for prayer that night. Outside 10 different political groups chanted offensive slogans.

Shortly after the service began, seven school buses parked across the street and the very large youth choir of Salem Baptist burst out and began to sing loudly. The protesters were trapped between the choir singing on one side and the church singing on the other.

The power of praise was too strong. In ten minutes the protesters were silenced, in twenty they were gone.

I saw a video on TV this morning of Fred Phelps’ religious group protesting a soldier’s funeral. A group of people with large American flags placed themselves between the protesters, blocking their offensive signs from view of the mourners.

Phelps’ group won a court decision regarding their right to free speech. Imagine the impact if social media was used to alert veteran’s groups and churches whenever Phelps’ group shows up to disrupt a funeral and are disrupted by a much larger counter protest.