Every Person

I remember one of the biggest forms of evangelism in America was when we handed out tracts. I’m not sure why we thought that was so good and I’m sure it helped lead some people to Christ, but I was always uncomfortable with them. They seemed to be more about scaring people out of hell than inviting them into heaven.

But some missionaries in Taiwan are taking an approach that has some similarity to the old evangelism tracts with a major and in my opinion positive change. It is scripture, not a story or a discourse on spiritual laws, but just the scripture that helps the people who are overwhelmed by the large amount of scripture of the Bible. They don’t know where to go or where to begin. They don’t know how to make head nor heals of it, but the method that New Tribes Mission has employed seems to be effective in Asian cultures.

Take time to click the link and read the article.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/may/32.45.html?start=1

This is more than the tract-like publications New Tribes developed. This is about cultural evangelism – reaching people where they are at.

One of the New Tribes training centers is close to where I live in Camdenton, Missouri. We have several New Tribers (as we affectionately call them) attend our congregation.

http://www.ntm.org/

What might we learn for our culture from this method?  That might be a question we should investigate.

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Significance and Evangelism

The past 50 years has seen a major paradigm change in American.  Used to be, we were satisfied with settling down to life as it existed.  It may be college, or a factory or service job.  Most of us got married and had kids, bought a house, and lived life enjoying the stability.

The paradigm change has been that people search to find meaning in their life instead of letting meaning rest in them.  They want to make a difference.  I encountered this with a young man who was going to graduate from high school last year and he was worried that his life would be nothing more than “I think therefore I am.”  My body functions, my mind has thoughts, and I live with my desires and the environment I am in, but does it make a difference.  A sad thought if that’s all life is.

Recently, Relevant Magazine presented an article about how the search for significance can also have a negative side (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/20665-trapped-by-the-search-for-significance).  It is worth reading.

People want their lives to be more than just existing.  As the Relevant article begins, “I have an insatiable need to feel extraordinary….”  That’s where we’re at in our culture.  I want to make a mark and be remembered for something significant and feel that I have done something significant.

We are significant to God and our lives no matter how extraordinary we feel, are just that, extraordinary.  I get a sense of satisfaction when I impact someone’s life positively.  I work with teens who have attachment disorders (For a definition and description click on this link; http://www.helpguide.org/mental/parenting_bonding_reactive_attachment_disorder.htm).  My main role with them involves as many as three elements; leading spiritual time and dealing with spiritual issues, being an encourager, and at times counselling from a Biblical perspective.  I see change in some the students and I understand that I have impacted some of them.  That makes me smile, because I know I have been able to help them, but I do not do it because I am searching for any sort of significance.  I get my significance through God and Christ.

I want to make a difference because God intends to redeem the world. The impact I want to make in this world is what God is doing. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” (New Living Translation).  God wants to save everyone.  His desire is to redeem each individual.  My satisfaction isn’t that I have done something that impacts someone, but that I have been saved by God, gifted by his Spirit, and he does incredible things in and through me and sometimes without me.

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Exploring Religio-Spiritual Themes

Okay, so technically I am not a theologian.  I mean I do not have a theology degree from a seminary or university, but if we are working through, studying and figuring out theology, aren’t we then in realistic ways, theologians.

I got this definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theology

the·ol·o·gy

[thee-ol-uh-jee]

noun,plural-gies.

1. the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.
2. a particular form, system, branch, or course of this study.

Even by definition #1, I qualify as a theologian, though I don’t get paid for it.

At the moment, I am exploring a handful of things that are related to theology:

  • Biblio-theology and all that means
  • Where the church and religion is headed
  • The need for and way of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ
  • Even how history still plays a part in the future of church and religion

I have a lot of questions.  Maybe they’re not your questions, and maybe you have the answers to the questions I am exploring.  Pass them on if you have them.

It’s a Biblio-Religio-Spiritual-Theology Safari.

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Why Plant Churches?

We haven’t spent much time on church planting since we began this blog. But that was one of the reasons for the blog, to discuss and promote planting new churches. There is a need to have churches that reach the lost. My congregation is trying to move into the mind-set of winning the lost instead of trying to incorporate current Christians from other congregations into our fellowship. They are welcome, but moving sheep from one shepherd and field to another, is not the purpose of the church. Reaching the lost is our work (e.g. Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

I now lead a group whose purpose is to start churches in the area of the participating churches, even expanding the area. We have located 3 and maybe 4 spots that need a church. Why? What reasons are there for planting a church especially when there are other churches in the area?

1. Huge numbers of North Americans call for new churches. The average size of churches in America are under 125 people. In fact, that’s about 90% or more of American churches. There is a need for more churches since certain growth limits apply.

2. The number of churches in North American have actually decreased in proportion to the population. With over 300 million people living in America and church growth as a whole failing to come close to keeping up with population growth, more churches are needed to fulfill the need of winning the lost to Christ.

3. New churches reach lost people better than any other form of evangelism. Most new churches that come into existence grow by winning the lost to Christ while existing churches have the tendency to share sheep (see the quote with the picture at the beginning of the post).

4. The older churches grow, the less evangelistic they become. Only about one half of American churches added one new Christian in the past year. My own congregation grew by 2 families and 1 individual last year (7 total; we average about 45), but didn’t add a single new Christian. By the time most churches reach 15 years, they have reached their maximum size.

5. Many current churches are in survival mode and will eventually close. The life of a church is similar to human life, 70-100 years. 9 out of 10 churches are on the down side of their life-span. So new churches are needed.

6. Half of all people in the US and Canada live in just 43 cities with populations over 1 million. Yet, only 1 out of 9 Bible believing churches exist in these cities. Many people in these densely populated cities have the least opportunity to hear about Christ.

7. New Churches are needed to reach the growing ethnic population in America. Immigration is the fastest source of population growth in North America. In America, one-third of the population are ethnic Americans. M.O.V.E. (Missouri Operation for Vigorous Evangelism) established a Hispanic congregation in Columbia (MO) in the second of half of 2009 and it is growing.

8. Today’s churches are not reaching today’s young people. Most people become Christian before age 20 but only 4% below the age 22 are saved.

9. Our children and grand-children need room for them to become responsible Christians and leaders. People are more committed to and responsible to ministries that they help lead.

10. New churches will counteract the rise of false religions in America. As America becomes more diverse ethnically, it has become the most diverse religiously. They bring their religions with them and Christianity is on the decline.

These are just 10 reasons for planting new churches. For further detail, go to http://sharperiron.org/2007/01/22/ten-reasons-for-church-planting (where I gleaned this particular information) and read the full article at SharperIron .org.

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More about God and Haiti

If you Google “God and Haiti” the first options you’re presented with are things like, “Does God Hate Haiti?” It seems Pat Robertson seems to think so, and understanding God’s will and why this happened is not easy.

But there are better options.  I hope some of the questions have been answered in my previous posts about all this.  But I have a few links that should make us think and realize that God is in this and is with the Haitian people.

http://www.jaxobserver.com/2010/01/16/as-tragedy-unfolds-ffaithful-question-gods-will/

and

http://tomatosoupcake.blogspot.com/2010/01/does-god-hate-haiti.html

and

http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20100119/OPINION/1190303/1004/NEWS01/Vaughn-CroweTipton-God-isn-t-causing-the-suffering-in-Haiti

Hopefully these will cause us to think and continue to trust God.

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God and Haiti

I am burdened deep in my heart at the moment.  I remember when New Orleans was devastated by a hurricane.  Now Port-au-Prince, Haiti has been devastated by an earthquake.

But, the most important thing is that the people of Haiti still need Jesus.  There is a lot religious superstition and the practice of voo-doo in Haiti, but the Gospel is greater than superstition and more powerful than evil spirits.

Jesus can change the heart of the most educated individual and those who barely know how to talk.  Jesus can heal wounded bodies and injured hearts.  Jesus can free from bondage by demons and the powerful effects of sin.

Is this judgment from God as some modern day “prophets” have declared?  I don’t know.  God hasn’t told me, but more important than that, the message of Good News brought as help comes from the devastating effects of the earthquake can draw many Haitian people into God’s family of the saved.

That is one of the reasons so many of us support mission work in Haiti.  One of which is our brother and native Haitian, Salonique Adolphe.  Pray for Salonique and the Living Water church as they minister too the people of Port-au-Prince.

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Where is God in All of This (A note about Haiti’s disaster)

I am sitting here in the comfort of Panera Bread working online because of WiFi access.  Uploading sermons to our churches website, updating that information and further using the advantage of hi-speed internet unavailable to me at home and the office.

Can you already see a comparison to the life that most Haitians live.  I’m not sure about their ranking, but Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world.  I complain that I have slow internet service, but many in Haiti don’t even have electricity.  I’m enjoying a cup of dark and rich coffee, and many people are lucky to have a full meal each day.

As Jim Carey as the The Grinch said when he began to feel the emotion of love and compassion, “Whats the DEAL?”

Then, add the devastation from a very powerful earthquake and the Haitian people are struggling even more.  We are feeling for them.  Many organizations such as IDES (http://www.ides.org/) are there helping through the churches in Port-au-Prince.  I borrowed the picture in this post from their web-sight.  Many churches have sent more than money, they’ve sent people to help.  Some are gathering materials that should be needed; medical supplies, building supplies, etc.  I just heard about a hospital that has only 2 doctors and 2 nurses working.  They’re overwhelmed.  They are Americans and they don’t know where the Haitian doctors and nurses are.  They’re swamped.  The dead bodies are piling up.  The spread of disease from this situation grows daily.

People around the world, both secular and religious, governments and individuals, and organizations like IDES and World Vision and the Red Cross are there or on their way or in the process of arranging and sending help to the Haitian people.  Their compassion for the situation is admirable.  People still have a heart for those in severe need.  They step up when they are aware of severe situations and many of us feel guilty that we cannot go ourselves or that we are incapable of anything but praying for and giving funds to the needy.

Some are going to ask, “Where is God in all of this?

I’m not sure this is God’s judgment like some have publicly claimed and preached from pulpits.  I am sure that somehow, it is a part of God’s will allowing this to happen at least.  But God is raising up an army of people to help for a couple of reasons that I can see:

1. The Haitian people were in need anyway and it draws our attention to their plight.   Governments, churches, and individuals will concentrate on providing help that will go far beyond the devastation of this earthquake.

2. It’s gets a lot of us off of our lazy, fat, narcissistic butts (especially here in America).  We are drawn away from a selfish focus to an outward concern that should last longer than the months and years it will take to bring healing to Haiti (or any other place in the world that such a tragedy may strike).

Due to economic circumstances and certain job situations in our family, we are cutting back in our household.  It’s very easy to put on blinders and be selfish while trying make ends meet.  To reason that we don’t have enough to help.  But we can’t not give.  We are going to sacrifice to help.   Most people are giving something and every dollar makes a difference.  That dollar is a band-aid or a bottle of water.  Combine the dollars and its’ a penicillin shot, or a cast for a broken bone, or food for an extended family who lost everything.

God is caring for the Haitian people.  And your participation, whether you are a follower of God or not is one of the ways he is at work to care for Haiti.

Our congregation supports a children’s home and a missionary and his church in Haiti.  Salonique Adolphe and the Living Water Christian Church is going from Gonaïves to Port-au-Prince to help 1000 people each week.  We are sending aid from our budget and designated gifts from our members to them to add to their aid.  If you would like to contribute to Salonique and Living Water’s efforts, please feel free to contact me for details.

3. A third way that God is at work there is through our prayers.  Remember to pray for Haiti regularly.

God bless you and God bless Haiti.

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