Go Home

Continuing my lectio divina reading of the book of Mark, in chapter 5, this verse stood out for me:

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you …” Mark 5:19b

Jesus has just cast an unclean spirit out of a man who had been suffering for years.  As Jesus gets in the boat to leave the area, the healed man begs to come along.  Instead he is instructed to go back to his home, to tell the people he knows about what has happened.

This reminds me that sometimes it’s not easy to talk about our faith in Jesus to the people closest to us.  We probably all have friends and relatives who are not believers, or who profess belief but don’t really practice the faith.  Maybe they know that we go to church.  Maybe we send them a Christian Christmas card each year.  Maybe we even invite them to worship with us occasionally.  I find myself asking, after reading these verses, is this enough?  Have I really tried to tell them how much the Lord has done for me?  Would it make a difference?

Jesus doesn’t say we need to know a lot of theology;  he doesn’t say we have to worry about their reaction;  he just says to tell what He has done for us.  So think about it.  What has Jesus done for you?  In my case, I could say, He has kept my marriage intact (nobody can survive 50 years together without the grace of God!). He has enabled me to forgive others (thereby avoiding all the problems that come with chronic resentment).  He has given me good friends in the faith with whom I can work toward common goals.  He has made my life meaningful.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without Jesus.  I know it would not have been as good.

So, that’s all I have to do.  Tell others, especially those in my closest circle, what He has done for me.  I can do that.  You can do it, too.

For more of my lectio series on the book of Mark see:

Pay Attention to What You Hear

I Can Do Better

Come Here!

 

 

resuscitating evangelism by Jordan Easley and Ernest Easley–Book Review

Sometimes we feel guilty because we are, and this book will make many readers feel deservedly guilty (I include myself here).  We all know that as Christians, the Great Commission tells us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”(Mark 6:15).  But here’s the question:  when was the last time you shared your faith with someone? Be honest. If you can’t remember, you’re not doing your job as a faithful follower of Christ.

The authors walk us through the reasons we avoid evangelizing:

  • Apathy (I don’t really care)
  • Apprehension ( I’m afraid)
  • Abdication (it’s not my responsibility)
  • Inadequacy (I don’t know enough)

While stressing that evangelism is not the responsibility of the pastor or staff alone, the authors believe it is necessary for the leaders of the congregation to create an atmosphere that expects and values evangelism.  This can be done through careful planning, so that there are regular, consistent (weekly, monthly, yearly) evangelism events.  Some should be training, others reaching out into the community.  Most churches have a preference (perhaps due to the giftedness of their pastor) for either discipleship or evangelism.  Actually, both are needed for the congregation to remain healthy and growing.

Every church can evangelize. Good suggestions were included for those who want to change their church culture.  This is not something that will happen quickly, but requires attention and effort over the long term.

Overall this book was biblically based and helpful.  Take note that the authors are Southern Baptists, so some of their suggestions, for example the “invitation” at the end of the service, simply could not be used by Lutherans because of our theological differences.

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  It was easy to read, and most will find some practical ideas for increasing evangelistic activity in their church.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/resuscitating-evangelism-P005811473

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

 

 

A Quote on the Christian Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I wonder how many of us meet this standard?

For other quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer visit these posts:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian Freedom

Staying On Course–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Piety

The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs–Book Review

This book review was written for our Fanning the Flame team by one of our members, Barbara G.  I have edited it a bit to make it shorter for the blog.

The author of this book truly loves the Lord and is trying to convey to the reader what we, as people who love Jesus, should do with our lives.

This book is divided into sections.  The first stresses the mission of the world.  That mission is Christ’s Great Commission that he gave to his disciples before his ascension.  The Great Commission is for the whole church of Christ and not just the apostles.  Jesus said there were four horizons for the apostles to spread God’s word.  The first was Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem for the church should be the town in which we live, work and raise our families.  What are you and your church doing to draw people to Jesus in your Jerusalem?  The second horizon is Judea.  This is our country.  We send our ministers to all parts of the U.S.A. to spread the word of God as Jesus commanded.  Is your church  doing their part in your Jerusalem?  The third horizon is Samaria.  These are people in our community who are different from us.  There is a lot of hostility in our country today and that is why we must preach the word of God to everyone in our community.  Is your church building bridges in your community to those who are red, yellow, black and white?  The fourth horizon is the Ends of the Earth.  Is your church sending missionaries to countries all around the world to reach those who know nothing about Jesus Christ?  Barr says the last horizon is the original, literal Jerusalem and Judea.  God is not forgetting the people of Israel.  They are God’s olive tree into which we are grafted, if we are Gentiles.

In the next section the kindness and perseverance of God are explained.  God doesn’t give up on us. Our personal history is part of God’s plan. Someday we will meet someone we can introduce to God, and then we will see clearer God’s plan for our own life.  In this section, he gave his testimony and explained the barriers we face when we decide that we want to evangelize to the world.

In the final section, he reveals how we must respect all those with whom we share God’s word, and explains how Jesus did it.  We must learn about the beliefs of other people so that we can see how and why they live the way they do.  We must use much kindness, love and understanding as we clarify God’s good news to those we try to reach.  Lastly he explains how Paul denounced the Greek’s confidence in rhetorical skills, rather than in truths.  Paul said, give God’s truth in your quest to win souls for Christ and God’s truth will be the words that convince their hearts.  Clever words are not necessary.

Mercy Ministry & Evangelism — Fanning the Flame CD

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38

I gathered with some other Fanning the Flame team members recently to listen to a CD lecture by Pastor Harry Reeder on the topic of mercy ministries.

Pastor Reeder called mercy ministries “the gateway to the kingdom of God” and the preeminent strategy for evangelism.  Unfortunately in our churches we often regard such ministries as simply a drain on our resources.  The greatest mission field is those who are in need of mercy.  Most of our evangelism efforts center around gospel words, but some won’t listen to those words until they see our gospel deeds —  deeds of love mercy and justice.

Here’s what will happen when we undertake mercy ministries:

  • God will be glorified because the world will see a full picture of authentic Christianity
  • People will be influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Our own members will be encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they are incorporated into ministry

He did have a word of warning.  It is important to ensure that the ministries undertaken are constructive.  They should take time to teach that God has a purpose for pain and suffering and that He can take our brokenness and use it.  Those who are suffering are not victims, and we must love them, not tolerate them, building on improving self respect rather than guilt and shame.

Here are some of the steps Pastor Reeder’s recommends:

  • Make mercy and mercy ministry a part of the congregational culture
  • Do Bible study and preaching that will lead members to develop a theology of mercy
  • Equip people to be involved in mercy ministry as part of discipleship training
  • Pray for a champion for this ministry
  •  Ask God to reveal a starting point for the ministry
  • Make sure mercy ministry is gospel-driven, Christ-centered and has evangelism embedded in it
  • Create a project/s that allow a low level of commitment and an ending date to encourage people to give it a try
  • Make sure leaders take responsibility for the project
  • Be strategic–impel and compel others to get involved

For me, the real eye opener is the idea that mercy ministry should be the 1ST strategy for evangelism.  As spiritual gifts coordinator, I have discoved that we have few people with the gift of evangelism, but many with the gift of mercy.  We can do this.

Scrappy Church – Book Review

“Is your church dying from self-inflicted wounds?”

 

“Leading a church would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to deal with people”

 

“A God powered minority”

 

“God did not put the church at that address by mistake, there is a plan”

 

“Cultural Christianity is dead”

 

These are just a few of my most thought-provoking quotes from the book by Thom Ranier. Scrappy Church is not for the faint of heart. It gives a thorough review of all things that may be driving your church to extinction.

 

Author of over 20 books dealing with church health, Mr. Ranier gives an honest look through the eyes of members, leaders, and visitors to show how a church can kill itself without even realizing it. But he does not leave you hanging on for dear life. He also gives a blueprint for preparation to turn the church around, I will briefly overview this blueprint later.

 

He gives the main characteristics of a church to become “Scrappy”, focusing on prayer as one of the main and most important items. He tells us to remain positive, partner with other churches in the area and do not consider them the enemy, and focus on outreach.

 

Under his blueprint for preparation, Mr. Ranier lists three different areas to work on: Outward Deluge, Welcome Readiness, and Backdoor Closure. None of these points can be met honestly until the church undergoes an “Attitude Adjustment”. And it is not just the members, but also the leaders and even the Pastor that need to take part in this step. These three items focus on the structure of the church as a welcoming body of Christ.

 

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it as a read to build or even maintain the health of your church.

You may purchase this book at:

 

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/scrappy-church-P005812466

 

This book is also available as an ebook

 

 

I have a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

Fanning the Flame #5

Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.  Mark 1:19-20

This week the Fanning the Flame team of St. Paul’s had our first meeting with Joe Weatherly, our coach.  After weeks of prayer and meditation, we are ready to start forming a vision.  What do we want our church to look like in several years?  Where do we want to go, and how do we start?

One thing we talked about is how, since our congregation is small, we get focused on the task at hand, and don’t take time to consider and plan for the future.  When I look at the passage above, I’m struck by the fact that James and John were busy when Jesus called them.  Mending the nets was important.  They couldn’t earn a living without the proper equipment. Yet when Jesus called, they left that work to follow Him. We too can get absorbed in maintaining our building, holding fundraisers, cooking for fellowship dinners, planning weekly worship, and more.  These things are important, but following Jesus is more than that.  Following Jesus means sometimes dropping everything else to listen to His plans for us.  That’s what we’re trying to do.

As we looked over our ideas, the fruit of our time listening to God, we saw that for us following Jesus means more community involvement.  Our focus must change from taking care of those within our walls, to going out and caring for others.  Like the disciples, we must become fishers of men.  We must trust God to keep our nets mended as we minister to His people;  all of His people.

Beth Ann will be writing a vision narrative, a cohesive whole, based on the thoughts, ideas and inspirations we listed.  Maybe she’ll post soon on what that process is like.  I’m looking forward to see what she and the Holy Spirit come up with.  Maybe our readers are, too.  In the meantime, pray, pray, pray, for St. Paul’s and our plans for the future.  I’m pretty sure whatever happens, we’ll be blessed by this process.

Interactive Study Blog – Book of Jude

Okay, so I know it has been some time since I posted a study blog, no excuses from me – just did not set aside time to get it done.

I have chosen to review the Book of Jude. Although it is only one chapter, there is a wealth of information that I feel needs to be covered.

Let us start with a bit of background on the book itself. The book was written by Jude, Jesus’ brother. There is no indication to whom the letter was written, but the contents are as applicable today as they were when it was originally written.

The book seems to focus primarily on false teachings and reckless sinning. I feel this is an extremely important subject today. I see and hear a lot of “Pastors” talking about how God wants us to be happy and successful. This seriously concerns me. In the scripture we are clearly told that we are not to store up treasures on Earth and that all our treasures are in heaven (Matthew 6:19) Now I am paraphrasing this scripture here, but that it was it says. We are not to long for material things on this world but we are to strive for a spiritual fulfillment that only comes from the Word of God. We must also show concern when we are told that we have God’s grace and can sin with immunity. NO we cannot. We are to; again, strive to be better each and every day and to not sin. Now we will always sin, but there are those sins which we do have control over and yet continue to do that concerns me. Now I have to admit, I have those types of sins myself, and cannot seem to stop doing them, but everyday I try and so one day I am certain I will stop.

I guess what I am trying to tell you, is that No one can sin without there being repercussions, either on Earth or in Heaven – we will all be held accountable on judgment day. Also, we must also stand up for the word of God. If you know that the person that is preaching is not using the correct scriptures or using only the parts that suit them – You need to stand up and say something. Do not be afraid of standing up for the word of God, God will smile down upon you for doing so.

We are also called to witness to all, even those we think may not need it – they probably need it the most- our family, whether it be our blood or church, our friends our co-workers. Now I know that it is politically incorrect to spread the Good News in most social settings, but remember that we spread the news not only through words but also in the was we live our lives. So keep that in mind the next time someone makes you angry. You may be the only face of Jesus they see, make sure it is a good one they see.

In closing, when in doubt, ask your Father (god), your Brother (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit for guidance through prayer. They are always listening and ready to give a hand.

God Loves You And So Do I

Michele

Evangelistic Acts

“..the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  Acts 12:24

If you’re looking for a primer on evangelism, turn to the book of Acts.  If there is one overarching theme of Acts, it is the verse above –the spread of Christianity.  Acts is also a book about people, individuals, who through their words and deeds made an impact for Christ.  I’m going to list a few of them here.

  • Philip:  one of the first to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-40)
  • Peter:  led by God to Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to become a Christian(Acts 9:32-10:48)
  • Barnabas:  went to Antioch as an encourager; traveled on to Troas (Acts 11:25-30)
  • Apollos:  left Alexandria for Ephesus, preached in Athens and Corinth(Acts 18:24-28)
  • Priscilla & Aquila:  taught the complete gospel story to Apollos (same reference as above)
  • Paul:  went on missionary journeys along with Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 13: 1-14); Silas, Timothy and Luke (Acts 15:36-18:22); Erastus (Acts 18:23 and 19:1-21:4)

In all, Acts mentions over one hundred people who contributed to the growth of the church.  It’s inspiring and exciting reading!

Prayer for the Growth of the Church

This prayer comes from the book Prayers of the Reformers compiled by Clyde Manschreck.  It was written by John Calvin.

“Grant, almighty God, since thou dost try the faith of thy people by many tests that they may obtain strength from the unconquered fortitude of thy Holy Spirit.  May we constantly march under thy standard, even to the end, and never succumb to any temptation.  May we join intelligence with zeal in building up thy church.  As each of us is endowed with superior gifts so may he strive for the edification of his brethren with greater boldness, manliness and fervor, while he endeavors to add numbers to the cause.  And should the number diminish, yet may some seed always remain, until abundant produce shall flow forth from it, and such fruitfulness arise as shall cause thy name to be glorified throughout the world, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”