The apostles were tasked with selecting someone to replace Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and subsequently hanged himself. In their selection process we gain an insight into the reason for the selection: the need to have another witness among the people.
And this reason gives us an insight into the focus of their witnessing.
Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. Acts 1:21-22
The apostles were not focused on the fact that Jesus was a great teacher, or that following Him meant a better lifestyle, or that He was a pretty nice guy. They were witnessing to the fact that Jesus is God, that He had risen from the dead, and that He had walked among them, alive, and ascended miraculously back into Heaven.
To them, the truth that Jesus is God the Savior was an overarching, all encompassing, wonderful, powerful truth.
May our witnessing have the same focus.
What in the world is going on? At the time of this writing, the world seems to be imploding. Israel and Hamas are engaged in an increasingly tense war. ISIS Islamic troops have taken control of much of democratic Iraq. On top of that, my own country has basically opened its borders freely to every nation on earth, no questions asked. What is happening?
I enjoy reading Ann Coulter’s columns. Agree or disagree, she is entertaining and always clearly defends her position. But her latest column is off base. Coulter questions in her most recent post, titled “Ebola Docs Condition Downgraded to Idiotic”, why Dr. Kent Brantly, an American missionary, chose to go to Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak when there are people suffering in America. She makes the argument, through sarcasm, that there is much to do in America – why leave home?
I’m all for providing clean water and food for the needy. Really, I am. Our team in the Philippines operates daily feeding centers and other humanitarian efforts. But that’s not our mission. Our mission is much more important than that.
A recent article on Christianity Today is reverberating through the Christian blogosphere, and for good reason. The article is titled “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries” and it details the startling findings of sociologist Robert Woodberry. The implications are incredible for the future of Christian missions.
Why does this video make us emotional? It’s one word: sacrifice.
We understand the sacrifice that the soldiers – and their families – make every day. And when those sacrifices are rewarded with a surprise homecoming, it brings us to tears. Even outside looking in, sacrifice moves us in powerful ways.
This is one reason the gospel is so powerful – it is the story of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.
“Now that’ll preach”, as we say down South.
This is an excerpt from a book manuscript I am currently working on. The book is about how we have redefined church in the last few decades, in some ways to its detriment. This passage deals with the topic of evangelism and discipleship coexisting in a ministry. It can be done, should be done, but there must be balance. There are numerous opinions on this topic. This is mine.
There must be a balance between evangelism and discipleship. Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, these two can be experienced simultaneously. For example, it is certainly possible for a witnessing opportunity to act as a discipleship lesson, as the discipler models for the disciple how to share their faith effectively. There are certainly other examples.But sometimes these two are mutually exclusive by nature.
In a church, evangelism and discipleship should each be consistently done, yet not so exclusively as to the detriment of the other. There should be balance.
There must be balance in our content. I believe that every sermon should carry the gospel in some form – because the gospel permeates everything we believe. But I don’t believe that every sermon or Bible study can have as its lone subject the gospel. This is what Paul meant when he wrote that we should move on from the basic teachings about salvation and on to deeper things . This is discipleship. If every sermon is focused only on the basic facts of salvation, it would be to the detriment of the believer’s discipleship. On the other hand, if every message from the church is about deeper Christian life and truth, it would be to the detriment of the lost who are present. There should be a balance in content.
There must be balance in our chronology. Balance must be present on a weekly basis as well as a seasonal or yearly basis. This is why homiletics is so important in the life of a pastor or pastoral team. A pastor must understand first how to prepare each individual sermon with this balance in place – so that the Christians are fed and the lost are convicted. Sometimes the message will speak to one group more heavily than the other, but both should receive something from that week. Likewise, planning out the sermons for the season or even the year is also a crucial task. True, it helps the pastor and other ministries (media, drama, small groups) prepare in advance for the coming week’s topics. But there is a more important reason to plan out sermons or series well in advance. Doing so will ensure that the church strikes a healthy balance between evangelism and discipleship on a monthly, seasonal, or yearly basis. And by doing this, the church leadership can be sure that they are maintaining the church’s focus on the lost while also building that focus on the foundation of growing Christians. Failure to build this balanced foundation ministry-wide results in a church that is all but ready to crumble.
Is your ministry a balanced one? How do you maintain balance?
We are most ineffective in sharing our faith when we forget the 2 essential ingredients: grace and truth.
And pastors, this includes forgetting from the pulpit.
Some of us tend to be heavy on the grace side, using “Jesus loves you” as our talking point of choice, but not really mentioning the sins that are so prevalent and need to be dealt with. Or at the least, mentioning them as a side note. Others of us preach repentance to dirty, rotten sinners without so much as a hint of God’s love for them.
Neither bias is right. Neither is biblical. There must be a balance.
The Bible says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth” – He was not lacking in either department. Nor was he skewed one way or another. (John 1:14)
I teach personal evangelism to our freshman students here in Metro Manila. I use the example of a coin when teaching them how to share the gospel. On one side, you have the “good news” – the fact that Jesus gave Himself for us. That’s grace. On the other side of the coin, you have the need for repentance. That’s truth. And like a coin with two sides, the availability of grace and the fact that sinners must repent cannot be separated. They should – they must – both be present. In fact, like a coin, you cannot have one side without the other.
I contend that all of us (myself included) stray to one side or the other at times. Maybe it’s our personalities, maybe it’s our training. But we all at some point forget to emphasize grace, or we come very close to leaving out truth.
So what is the solution? The good news is that we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us stay more balanced – to be more like Jesus. Jesus was full of grace and truth. He wants you to be the same way, and He will help you get there.
Share the truth in love and grace.
Which way do you most often stray?
Making Jesus famous has been a big buzz topic the last few years in Christianity. For a while, it was the cool thing to say that you were “seeking to make Jesus famous.” I always had a little quirk about agreeing with that sentiment, because
1) I can’t really find a Bible verse that directs us to do that
2) Jesus doesn’t need us to make Him famous (Philippians 2:9-11 tells us God will do that)
3) I think “fame” as we think about it in our entertainment culture is not quite the same at what the Bible has in mind.
Jesus becomes famous when lives are changed. In the Gospel of Mark chapter 1, we read the story of Jesus casting out a demon in the synagogue. When He did, His followers were “amazed” at His authority. And because of what Jesus did, verse 28 tells us what happened:
And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee. Mark 1:28
Jesus becomes famous when lives are changed. Want to make Him famous? Go tell someone about Him who doesn’t know Him
They will be changed, and He will be famous.
Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Colossians 4:5
I was struck with this verse the other morning, and the urgency from which it emanates. Paul urges us to redeem the time that we have to share Christ with others. To redeem means to “buy up”, and this caused me to think of two examples: the stock market and Christmas shopping.
If stocks are selling low, it is urgent that you buy them up now, quickly, before the opportunity is gone. And if the store is having a huge Christmas sale, you better go stand in line and be the first one there – it’s urgent that you do so and the time will soon pass to buy everything up.
Do we have this same urgency for redeeming souls from hell? This passage was convicting and moving for me. I hope it is for you.