Tag: gospel (page 2 of 2)

The anticipation

I love being a dad.

It’s not easy, by any stretch of the imagination.  But it’s good.

And one thing that we as a family love is laughing together.  And one way I personally promote that is by tickling my son.  It makes both of us laugh hysterically.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tickled a 2-year old, but it’s pretty funny.  It’s hard not to laugh along with them.

And I noticed this the other day: my son starts laughing before I even tickle him.

I just curl up my hand, like I’m going to tickle him…and just get it close to his belly, and he starts to cringe up in laughter.  And it’s not one of those courtesy chuckles.  It’s an all-body laughter.

The anticipation plays into his overall tickle experience.

 

And I’m convinced that Sunday mornings are similar.

From week to week, we should be building anticipation as to what’s coming next time.  Whether that’s through

  • sermon series
  • serving opportunities
  • small group/Sunday alignment
  • emails saying, “Get ready…”
  • social media connections
  • website resources
  • mixing things up on Sundays so people really don’t know exactly what to expect
  • building relationships that encourage continued gathering with other believers

We should be thinking, “What’s encouraging our folks to come back next week?”* Is there a reason for a newcomer (who may or may not be a follower of Christ) to return?  How are you communicating to them that coming back next week is vital?  Are you following up throughout the week?

If you believe that the message you’re presenting is valuable, why would you not create tension and anticipation for what’s coming next?

TV shows do it.  Movies do it.  Radio talk shows create it.  Teachers create it.  Guys who want a second date build it.

If you want a second round with a visitor, you’ve got to build anticipation.

How are you building anticipation?

Should we build anticipation, or should the message simply speak for itself, standing alone?

*Before you leave theologically charged comments, let it be known…I believe that God is the one who draws and changes hearts.  He is the Motivator.  It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance.  I just don’t want anything to get in the way of that, if I can help it.

 

 

 

New York City

A good friend of mine, Freddy T Wyatt, is a church planter in New York City.  He’s doing great work at The Gallery Church.

And this year, he’s asking that you send your VBS offerings to The Gallery Church to help propel the Gospel forward in NYC.

Check out this video, and consider partnering with The Gallery Church this summer, helping them to do what God’s called them to do in NYC.

VBS Missions Offering from Freddy T. Wyatt on Vimeo.

 

David Platt and The Modern Gospel

In writing about how modern churches often present what an appropriate response to the Gospel should be, David Platt says

We already have a fairly high view of our morality, so when we add a superstitious prayer, a subsequent dose of church attendance, and obedience to some of the Bible, we feel pretty sure that we will be all right in the end.

The modern-day gospel says, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.” Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, “You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life.  Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.”

The former sells books and draws crowds.  The latter saves souls.  Which is more important?

Taken from Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt, p. 32

 

Coca Cola and the Gospel

I’m reading through a book that will soon be released.  Written by Ryan Chappalear (founder of Africa For Jesus), it is being published right now.  In the book, Ryan is comparing the spread of Coca Cola with the spread of the Gospel.  I’ll put a full review together for my blog later, but wanted to share this extended quote with you.  I hope that it begins to change the way you think about effectively spreading the Gospel to the ends of the world.

When Coca-Cola expands, they understand that in order for their brand to be embraced, it must be looked upon as a local product.  That is why most bottling plants are operated by local businessmen and jobs are filled by locals.  One or two Coke reps from the USA may visit now and again, but in order for Coca-Cola to have the greatest impact in the local market, it must appear indigenous.

I first realized this when I was in Bible school.  My plans were to live in an African village, learn the language, learn the culture, and then preach the Gospel.  I thought that in my lifetime, I could reach five villages with the Gospel.  But God showed me a new way.  A better idea. I learned that for 100 years, God had sent Western missionaries to Africa to train them.  There are now literally thousands of Bible training schools across Africa, effectively preparing their own people to spread the Gospel.

After discovering this, it no longer made sense for me to go myself.  I could only reach five villages.  But if I helped locals become missionaries, I could literally help reach thousands of villages with the Gospel.  Almost immediately, I knew my purpose in life:  To empower the African Church to reach their own people. (chapter 2, pages 1-2)

Like to read the whole book?  It’s coming out soon.  Check HERE for updates.  In the meantime, why not sponsor a native missionary?

 

Offended by the Gospel? Good!

We sang this song this past Sunday at Grace:

Jesus Paid it All

I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray
Find in me thine all in all

Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Lord now indeed I find
Thy power and thine alone
Can change the lepers spots
And melt the heart of stone

The Gospel is offensive!  It says:

You are helpless ( Psalm 10:12, Daniel 10:8, Matthew 9:36)

You are hopeless (Proverbs 24:19-21, Ephesians 2:11-12)

You are dead (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 5:12)

You are needy (Psalm 79:7-9)

You are not perfect (Romans 3:8-10)

You are weak (Romans 5:6)

You are not God (Job 38-40:2)

The Good News is that we have been redeemed by a Savior who is none of these things.

 

Are you speaking another langugage?

I had the opportunity to preach at a Korean church yesterday.  It was definitely a different kind of an experience.  I’m not sure if your experience at the church where you attend is anything like mine, but typically the American church experience goes something like this:

1. Arrive 5 minutes late.

2. Sit in the back.

3. Say hey to a couple of friends on your way to lunch.

My experience yesterday flew in the face of this, in a good way.  The music started 20 minutes before the service started, to get people in the mood to worship.  We sang hymns (first in Korean, then in English for the few English-speaking spouses…and me and my family), read Scripture (again, first in Korean, then in English), heard announcements (I don’t think I have to say it again, but I will anyway…first in Korean, then in English), then I preached…first in English, then in…just kidding.  I preached, then the English-speaking people were dismissed while the Korean pastor preached.  We discussed the implications of my sermon, very much like what we do in small groups at Grace Community Church.  After that, everybody stayed around to eat lunch and fellowship.

Here’s what struck me: when the congregation was worshipping in Korean, I had no idea what they were saying.  I don’t speak or read Korean.  However, I knew what they were doing.  I could tell that they were worshipping, and were going at it with all of their hearts.  I so wish I could have joined in their songs and prayers.  But I had to wait until they spoke my language.

In your church, are you “speaking another language”?  You may be communicating in English, but are you using words that outsiders don’t know?  Do people who attend your church have to have a theological degree, or at least have been going to church for their whole lives, in order to follow you as you preach, pray, and sing?  Is the theological vocabulary you are armed with alienating “outsiders?”  If I remember correctly, Jesus could communicate the life-transforming power of the Gospel to the Pharisees AND the people who had no clue about Scripture.

This is not a call to “dumb down” your worship services.  This is a call to make them accessible to a wide audience.  Not by muddling the truth and preaching a false Gospel.  Preach the Truth!  But preach it in a way that lost people are left with a choice to respond to the Gospel…not merely wondering what “atonement,” “depravity,” “Gospel,” “redeemed,” and the vast array of other insider language that we use.

May those we minister to be left amazed by the love of our Savior and not the complexity of our language.

 

Gospel-focused small groups

Like I said in the last post, I fully believe in our system of creating followers of Christ. However, I would be ready to throw it out today if the system were the problem.  I never want to be so connected to community groups, and the way that we do them at Grace Community Church, that I am unwilling to abandon them in favor of true discipleship.  My goal in ministry, in a broad stroke, is to “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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)  My goal is not to start 5,000 community groups and train 10,000 leaders to host a group in their home.  I want to make passionate disciples of Christ!  Right now, the way that I do that is to start new community groups, shepherd our current community group leaders, and recruit new leaders.  Though these activities may seem mundane, I believe that true growth in godliness happens best in the context of community.  So, I willfully and joyfully take on the administrative burden and the difficulties that go along with assimilating people into group life at Grace.

Why are we not making disciples more quickly at Grace?  There are a variety of reason.  Here are five:

1.  Not everybody who hears the Gospel becomes a disciple the first time they hear it.  I know that I sure didn’t!  Did you?  Then why should I expect vastly different results from those in our community groups?  God didn’t give up on me when I rejected His call.  Instead, He continue to pursue me.

2. The devil is real!  “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)  Satan loves to distort the Gospel, remind us that it’s not relevant to us today, and snatch it from our hearts before it has the chance to take root.  In short, he’s vying for the worship of our hearts, and this is true whether the Truth is coming from the pulpit or from a couch in somebody’s living room in a small group setting.

3.  I need to take it upon myself to apply the Gospel to my life every day.  CJ Mahaney, in The Cross Centered Life, says it well,”If there’s anything in life we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others; I mean passionate in thinking about the gospel, reflecting upon it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world and all of life” (15).

4.  Our group leaders need to take it upon themselves to ask difficult questions that drive their group back to the Gospel.  “How are you living out the Gospel today?  How are you more like Christ today than you were 12 months ago?  What part does the Gospel play in your everyday life?  What is the Gospel?  Why did Jesus have to die?  How is the truth that you are a sinner saved by grace affecting the way you parent your children, or love your spouse, or work at your job, or serve in your church?”

5.  Group leaders need to be reminded that they are the shepherd leaders of their group, and as such, should concern themselves greatly with the eternal state of the souls in their group.

Based on that, here are 5 things I resolve to do:

1.  I will not give up on people.

2.  I will create an atmosphere of openness and vulnerability in our groups.  It is only when group leaders, and group members, are open and honest about their struggles, that the more reluctant folks will feel the freedom to open up their lives, and the struggles they are facing.

3.  I will apply the Gospel to my life every day.  I need to preach to myself, reminding myself that I am a sinner saved by grace, that Christ died to free me from my sin, and that Satan wants to destroy the Gospel in my life.

4.  I will develop Gospel questions to put into group leaders hands that help them have intentional, Gospel-focused  discussions that are laid back enough that everybody feels comfortable asking even the most “simple” questions (though these tend to turn out to be some of the most profound questions).

5.  I will pray for all of my group leaders, that they will shepherd their group in a way that honors God and holds high the banner of the Gospel.

Are your groups structured so that basic Gospel questions and concerns can be brought to the table?  Or are you so laid back that the Gospel is never discussed?  Or are you so “holy” that you jump to “deeper” questions (as if there is anything more life-changing and “deeper” than the Gospel!)   Are you group leaders ready and willing to ask these questions?

Do you or your group leaders make the mistake of assuming that, just because a person is attending your church and frequents your small groups, he or she is saved?  How are you giving your group members the freedom to explore faith?

How are you living out the Gospel today?

 
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