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For some reason, people often think of faith and reason being contradictory, that somehow, when you become a Christian, you must check your brain at the door. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our reason is a gift f…
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Last month, I challenged all of you to intentionally seek out those in your life who are not connected with a church. I’ve seen some of that happen already, which I find encouraging, and I look forward to meeting more of your friends and neighbors.
But a life of discipleship goes beyond Sunday morning (or Wednesday evening). Remembering the Sabbath means remembering Christ, our Sabbath rest, Who brings our worries and cares to an end and gives comfort and peace every day.
What does that look like? In many ways, it’s a matter of living out your vocations: doing your job to the best of your ability with the knowledge that you do that job to glorify God, loving your spouse with the same love Christ and His church share, loving and teaching your children (no matter how old) about our loving Savior by telling them about and showing forgiveness to them.
It also means being in the Word and prayer every day. Set aside time each day for prayer. For different people, that can mean different things. Maybe for you, the best time is right before bedtime or when you get up in the morning. Maybe it would work best for you to pray before supper, but instead of “Come, Lord Jesus,” take a couple minutes to give each person in the family to pray together about whatever is on the mind and end with a prayer thanking God for providing food. (Parents, this will also help you know what’s on your kids’ minds.)
I’d also like to see everyone involved in at least one group Bible study each week. If none of the studies we offer on Sunday morning or evening work for you, talk to some friends, whether from Shepherd of the Ridge or other Christians, and find a time you can get together with them each week for a round table-style Bible study, where each person reads a verse or paragraph and offers a thought about how that passage applies to your life. Another impromptu method of study is to work through a book of the Bible, asking how each passage relates to God’s plan of salvation. Think of it as a group getting together each week to solve a mystery, and work together to unlock that from the passage.
If you’ve gotten this far and said, “None of that will work for me,” then this is your chance to get creative. Don’t give up! Maybe you have coworkers who’d like to share a devotion during your lunch break. Maybe you have Facebook friends who’d like to discuss a passage on your “wall” each day. If you have friends or relatives you call regularly on the phone, suggest doing a phone study with them!
What other suggestions do you have? Leave a comment below!
First off, let me throw some statistics at you. According to a recent survey, as many as 96% of “unchurched” people are at least somewhat likely to attend a church service if invited by someone with whom they have an established relationship, a friend, coworker, etc. At the same time, only 21% of active church-goers invite anyone to church over the course of a year. In addition, 70% of the unchurched say nobody has ever invited them! And one more statistic from that study: “For the vast majority of the unchurched, the church is still relevant today. Indeed many of them perceive the church to be the most relevant institution in society today.”
Now, let’s do a little math. Our average Sunday attendance is right around 90 and has been for at least the past 10 years. I bet all of you, if you think about it, could think of at least three friends or coworkers, probably more, who don’t attend a Christian church on a regular basis. Some of those, should they accept your invitation, will bring spouses or families. So if we shoot low and assume at least 2/3 will accept the invitation and, on average, bring one additional family member (some are single, but some have kids, so it averages out), that’s 90 x 2/3 x 2 = 120 visitors per year in addition to those who find the church through other means. If half of those friends are willing to come more than once (Don’t stop with the once!), that’s 160 per year. In short, that means we should see, at the very least, an average attendance spike of 3+ visitors per week. Even at that bare minimum rate, we’ll be up to an average attendance of 130 in just 10 years, and that’s not counting any other evangelism programs we implement during that time.
All that said, I firmly believe that many of you have more than 3 unchurched friends. On any given week, about 10% of the town attends a service somewhere. That means that, of your 10 closest friends, 9 are home on Sunday morning, waiting for you to invite them.
So here’s what I’d like everyone, young and old, adult or child, to do:
- Make a list of all your friends and coworkers with whom you have a personal relationship.
- Cross off anyone that you know attends a Christian church regularly.
- Who’s left? See if you can come up with twelve separate households.
- Write their names on a calendar, one per month. If you have less than 12, just fill in the first part of the year until you run out. Maybe God will provide someone else to be added to the end of the year.
- Each month, make a point of inviting that person. Offer to drive. Kids, ask your parents about having a Saturday night sleepover, then bring your friend to church and Sunday School the next day.
The Fine Print
- Following this will not make you a better Christian. It will not make God love you more. (He couldn’t possibly love you more than He already does.)
- This is not about numbers. In fact, if your friend is a member of a Christian church but just doesn’t attend, if you think they’d be more willing, offer to go to their church with them! This is about bringing people to hear the Gospel so the Holy Spirit can give faith and eternal life to your friend.
- You cannot do anything to create faith in your friend. Only the Holy Spirit does that, but He works through the Gospel, so your job is simply to bring the soil to the seed and watch God make it grow.
- Make sure to answer any questions about what to wear or anything else. Let them know you’ll sit with them and answer any questions they have. Many people don’t come simply because they’re intimidated and worry that they won’t know what to do, so let them know that we put step-by-step directions in everyone’s hands.
- If your friend isn’t comfortable with a service, keep an eye on the church calendar for picnics, movie nights, Bible studies, or other activities to help them connect with a church community and help them see that these are friendly, fun-loving, non-judgmental people.
God has put us here in the middle of a hurting world, and He has given us the Cure. The more we share it, the more our joy increases. May your year be filled with the joy of a life lived as a forgiven and eternal child of God.
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As part of my personal devotions, I listen to other pastors’ sermons, since listening to my own seems a bit redundant. Yesterday, I was listening to a brilliant sermon by Pastor Joe Burnham of Denver, and I’d like to share some of his insights on evangelism.
He separates people into two categories, those with a church background and those without. Using the illustration of a Dot-to-Dot activity, those who have spent some time in a Christian church have the dots, the basics of the faith, but if they don’t understand the Gospel, they need us to help them connect the dots. Usually, they have the dots of the Law, but without connecting them to see that Jesus has fulfilled the Law on our behalf, they can’t see the actual picture God has given us.
Others, like the men in Acts 17:16-34, have little or no experience or education in the Christian faith, so they need us to start with the very basics and actually draw the dots before we connect them. But first, we need to be on the same page, and this is done by finding a point of commonality. What do we have in common with that person, and more specifically, like Paul’s “Unknown God” example, what do our beliefs have in common with theirs? Once we have some common ground, we have a place to start.
Think about your friends who are not connected with a church community regularly. Do they have the dots that just need to be connected? If not, what common beliefs do you share? How can you start there to help them understand the truth God has revealed to us?
Since Pastor Joe explains it so much better than I do, I invite you to listen to his entire sermon for a more detailed explanation. He has given me permission to include it with this post.
We have two forbidden topics in our culture: religion and politics. But somewhere along the line, people started talking about politics. Maybe somewhere along the line, we figured out how to discuss our views like reasonable adults without attacking each other to improve understanding of each other and relate better to one another–that, or we just don’t keep our opinions and beliefs to ourselves very well.
That being the case, since our entire worldview revolves around our understanding of Who God is and how He relates to us, it makes sense that we should be able to discuss our understanding of our place in the universe with each other, but we can’t expect to just walk up to a random person on the street or in the office and have that deep of a conversation. So here are some tips to that end:
- Don’t treat people like merit badges. You don’t earn points with God for sharing the Gospel (you don’t need to–Jesus already earned everything for you), so don’t accumulate “targets” the way businesses try to accumulate customers.
- Love people, and don’t just love them so you can share the Gospel with them. Love them as Christ loved them by being a good friend.
- Instead of going out and looking for “targets,” look at the friends you have now. How can you be a better friend, and how can you develop deeper relationships with those friends? (Hint: Think about the people everyone likes because of their generosity, the “would give you the shirt off his back” kinds of people) Follow that example with your friends.
- Be real with people. Listen to them, and when you can offer comfort in bad times, remember that there’s no better comfort than the promise of the resurrection and eternal life. Let your friends know that it really is going to be OK.
But what if that opportunity doesn’t come? You don’t want to wish for something bad to happen to someone so you can provide comfort in the Gospel! Here are some hot current topics, though, that have a spiritual element, and if one fo these topics surface, don’t be afraid to offer some Godly wisdom into the conversation:
- Gay marriage: it’s not what God wants, because He wants so much more for us, to know the love He’s shown us in Christ.
- Health Care: the Bible doesn’t give direction as to how the government should proceed, but since God loves us, how can we help people on a local level while we wait for the government to figure out which direction it’ll go?
- War in the Middle East: discuss the importance of praying for both our troops and our enemies, that God would thwart evil plans and bring peace and healing
- The economy: share your assurance that, even without employment, God will take care of you, and that our problems are nothing compared to His problems
If you’re interested, let me suggest an activity for your family: as you watch the news together, discuss each story with each other and how we as Christians can respond. How does our assurance of God’s love and the promise of the resurrection affect the way we understand that story. A DVR (like a TiVo or similar devices) comes in handy for this, but otherwise, use mute buttons during the commercial breaks for these conversation opportunities. Parents, this is a great and simple way for you to pass on your values in a very practical way to your children.
What other topics or tips do you have? I welcome your comments.
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