Evangelism by J. Mack Stiles

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I had been looking forward to reading this book for awhile.  I honestly don’t know why I waited so long!  It’s a very quick read.  My husband and I actually read it out loud to each other together over a few evenings.

Stiles defines evangelism as ‘teaching the Gospel with the aim to persuade”.

Stiles’ main focus in the book is the importance of building a culture of evangelism within the church.  This will not happen primarily through evangelism programs that are sponsored by the church (an excellent point).  Stiles intimates that church leaders long for a culture of evangelism in their own churches.  My question is:  are church leaders willing to do what it takes to achieve this?  Even if it means cutting long standing programs or reducing the amount of formal meetings on the church schedule?  Are they ready and willing to release their people for the work of the ministry outside the brick and mortar church building?

What is a culture of evangelism you might ask?  The characteristics of a culture of evangelism are, according to the author:

  1. A Culture Motivated by Love for Jesus and His Gospel
  2. A Culture That is Confident in the Gospel
  3. A Culture That Understands the Danger of Entertainment
  4. A Culture That Sees People Clearly
  5. A Culture That Pulls Together as One
  6. A Culture in Which People Teach One Another
  7. A Culture That Models Evangelism
  8. A Culture in Which People Who Are Sharing Their Faith Are Celebrated
  9. A Culture That Knows How to Affirm and Celebrate New Life
  10. A Culture Doing Ministry That Feels Risky and is Dangerous
  11. A Culture That Understands That the Church is the Chosen and Best Method of Evangelism

While there’s a lot to like in this book, there is one rather glaring point that is missing and I would argue that it is a serious oversight.   Stiles’  writing came across as if he was blaming the average church member for the programmatic culture of evangelism that is the current norm in most churches.  There is no mention (that I noticed) of how pastors and other church leaders contribute to and perpetuate this problem.  The author says “a culture of evangelism is grassroots, not top-down.”  I strongly disagree.  Leaders must model and disciple their people in evangelism in order to grow a culture of evangelism.  What leadership celebrates and models, the church will become.

An area where this oversight stuck out for me was Stiles’ point that many Christians are isolated from non-Christians.  One reason he gives for this is that we can become too busy with ‘ministry’.  This is another area that I see as, in part, a failure of church leadership.  Many churches have a packed schedule of formal gatherings throughout the week.  What if we freed up our church schedules allowing members more time to pursue friendships and activities with unbelievers?  Does the leadership make it clear to their people that every believer is a minister and that ministry does indeed happen outside the walls of the church building?

Until church members AND church leaders recognize their own contributions to the problem of lack of evangelism in church culture, we can not move forward with solutions.  Every believer needs to take responsibility, repent where needed and seek to move toward obedience in evangelism by faith, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

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Living as Sent Ones

“How should we define the term missional? And, where are we going to find what it means to be missional?

The starting place should be with what the Scriptures say about God as sender and His purpose for sending as a place to begin. As Christians, we generally agree that we are ‘sent.’ But, affirming this is only a small first step. Being missional means having one’s identity shaped by being ‘sent.’

We have too long lived with a wall between our public and private lives. Our Christianity too often and too easily gets identified with our private life, our behavior, and our church activities. So, privately and perhaps even corporately as a church, we know that we are sent. But, the truth has not captured how we live. We too often engage our community as consumers and/or as a necessary evil. We rarely engage our community as a missionary. One of the problems in the church is that when we talk about the necessity to engage our community as a missionary, members hear requirement to put something else (another church activity) on an already crowded schedule. In that, the challenge is revealed. It is not about adding something else. It is about being something–a missionary–as you go.”

Ed Stetzer

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2011/june/developing-missional-churches-for-great-commission-part.html

Just Give Me Five Minutes With a Saint

“If you do not like the company of Christian people I cannot see that you can be a Christian at all.  ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.’  Is there anything on earth comparable to meeting with Christian people?  I would sacrifice everything the world has to offer to have five minutes with a saint!  What has the world to offer at its best and its highest, in all it palaces, and all its refinements, and all its art and literature, its everything, when you put it in the light of this– the fellowship of kindred and Christian minds, the children of God meeting together, talking together about the great deliverance, and about the new life, and the blessed hope that lies before them, talking about home, talking about the glory that is coming, happy together, facing the problems together, helping one another, strengthening one another, stimulating one another?  That is the joy of Christians living in community in the life of the church.  There is nothing like it as long as it is truly Christian.  Church membership does not of necessity give you that, morality certainly does not.  But when your church members are filled with the Spirit this is what follows; they have love, an interest in one another, a compassion, a desire to help, and are all together in a great and glorious spirit of conviviality praising the Lord, mingling their voice in song, and anticipating together what is yet in store for them!”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones  “Life in the Spirit In Marriage Home & Work” pgs 23-24

Identity and a Cute House

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In the last several months, I’ve come to realize I have a ‘thing’ about cute houses.  I want one and there’s something about not having one that just doesn’t feel right.

The picture above is the house that we recently purchased in Carrollton.  I don’t even remember how long or how often it had been on the market.  The previous owners vacated it 3 years ago-it sat empty, waiting for its new owner.  I’m pretty sure that it was too ugly and too much in disrepair for anyone to even consider buying.  Then we came along.

The house met all of our criteria for purchasing a home in Carrollton:  located in an economically challenged and needy area, space for a home office for my husband, a main living area that could host a gathering of people.  There was just one criteria that hadn’t officially been on our list that I didn’t know I’d had– until we were faced with offering on the house.  I wanted a cute house- and this particular home did not fit my cute house criteria.

Three or so months later-it still doesn’t fit my idea of cute.  And that is ok.  I am learning that a portion of my identity need not be wrapped up in whether or not my home is attractive.  I’m not really sure how I came to believe that in the first place.  Although I have a sneaking suspicion where it came from.

Daily, I fight multiple battles to find my identity in Christ alone.  Having an attractive home is just one example of these battles.  I’m pretty sure it’s a first-world problem.  One of those first world problems that has crept into the American church as a whole.

In just a few weeks, we will move into our blue metal roofed-blue shuttered-red brick, rather non-cute house.  God willing, we’ll live our lives trying to reach our neighbors for Christ.  I hope when they see us–when they see me– they’ll see so much of the love of Jesus that an unattractive house won’t matter.  Maybe they’ll even see that we chose this particular house just to serve, befriend, love and reach them.

God wants us in this particular house, on this particular street, with this particular set of neighbors and we plan to live as though God sent us on a mission to this particular part of Carrollton.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this:  that one has died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Endeavoring to no longer live for myself–cute house or not 😉

The Doctor on World Reform

“We have to realize that this world in which we are living is not really our world.  As Christians we live in it, and we must take our part in it.  But we must not get excited about it; our biggest ambition must not be World Reform.  What must matter most to us is that ‘our citizenship is in heaven’.  If we are true Christians we know that this world will never be truly reformed.  It cannot be reformed, because it is under the power and dominion of the devil.  It is also under the ‘wrath of God’, under judgment, and will finally be destroyed.  Therefore a man whose whole idea is to make the world a better place and who thinks that such a program makes him a Christian is denying the essential teaching of the Scripture.  ‘Our citizenship is in heaven.’  The world is under ‘the god of this world’, the devil; and it is facing nothing but final disaster and final judgment.  ‘Put on the breastplate of righteousness.’  Realize the state of the world in which you are living; do not look to it for your pleasure, your happiness, your joy.  Use it, but do not abuse it.  Keep your eye upon your heavenly home, the place to which you belong–‘set your affection on things above’.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones  “Marching Orders”   A sermon on Ephesians 6:14

Pastors: Encourage Your Flock

I seem to run across a bevy of articles and blog posts on the subject of how church members can encourage or be kind to their pastor/pastors.  I never see any on how a pastor can encourage his people.  Here’s my nobody attempt at writing one-in no particular order-12 ways a pastor can encourage his sheep:

1.  Don’t look down on him because he doesn’t know Greek or hasn’t gone to seminary.

2.  Believe that he has the same amount of Holy Spirit as you do.

3.  Ask questions that reveal his heart and really listen to him.

4.  Don’t assume that he has more time and is less busy than you.

5.  Be thankful for him, the way God has gifted him, and his service to you and the flock of God.  Tell him you are thankful and why.

6.  Inform him-don’t just keep your staff and elders informed of what is going on in the church.  Inform him and value his opinion.

7.  Ask and listen to what he thinks about strengths and weaknesses of the church and strengths and weaknesses of the leadership of the church.

8.  When he comes to you with a concern about the church or your leadership-don’t react defensively and take what he’s said personally.

9.  Call him, text him, email him, invite him out or over for a meal-reach out and make an effort to have a personal relationship.

10.  Be willing to disciple, equip and train him-even if he doesn’t have a seminary degree or other formal education beyond high school.  Even if he’s someone who has a ‘colorful’ past and doesn’t fit the typical pastor/church leader stereotype.

11.  Don’t assume that his secular job is easier and less stressful than your job as a pastor.  He may not be burdened with the care of souls for an entire church body but he is likely burdened with the care of souls of those in his small group, his family and friends.  Add to that the difficulty of being a devoted Christian in a secular world.   Something you may have forgotten or not know much about.

12.  Trust him.  Equip him and then trust him with the work of the ministry.  Trust God and him–even if it ends in seeming ‘failure’.

I’m sure I’ve missed some.  Do you have any to add to this list?