Is your church balanced in these two areas?

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?

 

3 Reasons You Should Consider the Podium Cue App for Your Next Speech

Podium Cue is an iPad app that helps speakers organize their main points for effective presentations. Designed by Pastor Ron Hudson (@ronhudson) for just this purpose, I have found the app to be very useful. If you do public speaking of any kind – especially preaching – this may be the app for you.

3 reasons to consider using this app are:

  • It will force you to be familiar with your topic
    The app is designed to use “big picture” thoughts, not detailed paragraphs. In fact, you can’t put a lot of words on each “slide”. If you need your entire sermon or speech in front of you, this isn’t for you. Some speakers (myself included) actually speak better without a manuscript in front of us. We work to know the material well, and only need road “markers” to guide us to our final destination. By not being tempted to “read” from the manuscript, we speak more from the heart in the moment. For a preacher, this is a powerful opportunity for God to move through you.
  • It is much more effective than glancing at a page of notes
    If you are like me, you highlight or bold or mark the next point you want to make on your page of notes. And if you’re like me, sometimes during your speaking, you have to scan, re-scan, and scan again to finally find that next point. It’s just hard to do sometimes. That’s one more thing for you to worry about, as if public speaking isn’t challenging enough. Podium Cue eliminates all of this “searching” while giving a speech.
  • It will make your life that much easier
    I unashamedly acknowledge that I love this app because it’s cool. But it’s cool because it’s simple, goes wherever I do, and takes less effort than a notebook or multiple printed pages might. In short, it solves a common problem in an up-to-date, simple way. It will make your speeches, and therefore your life, much simpler.

I use Podium Cue now whenever I speak. It has replaced my highlighted Microsoft Word document (including an electronic version). I highly recommend my readers check it out.

podiumcue.com

On the App Store

Question: What technology do you use when speaking? Leave a comment!

 

 

3 reasons your new church building doesn’t (really) matter

The Philippines recently experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that was devastating for the area of Bohol where it was centered. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Watch this video and see how suddenly things can change:

I have been jolted a few times by earthquakes myself, in California and in the Philippines, and it is a very unnerving experience. But watching this collapse unnerved me in a different way. Here are some things I was reminded of:

1 – Church buildings are important historically, not eternally.
There is a difference. What we think of as so important now culturally, nationally, and historically will one day be no more. Think of that. The Bible says that heaven and earth will one day pass away, and God will fold them up like a coat (Hebrews 1:12). So, in reality, every historical building that you see will one day be gone. That should give us an eternal perspective.

2 – The church is made of people, not bricks and stone.
No doubt, there are many distraught people over the collapse of this centuries old church. Likewise, we mourn and are discouraged when old church buildings in our towns are converted into houses, restaurants, and bars. But are we concerned about the building, or the fact that there are no worshipers filling it? That’s the question.

3 – We should be more shocked about falling numbers of disciples than a falling bell tower.
When I first saw the video above, I let out an audible “wow”. It just came out. The sight of something like that in real life is shocking. But we should be more emotionally and spiritually moved by the fact that people around us every day are rejecting Christ. We should be more impacted by declining discipleship than by a crumbling building. Are we? Are you? Am I?

Please don’t misunderstand this post. My heart is in the Philippines. I do hurt for the people impacted, and I am sorry that this historic structure collapsed. But my point is still valid: the building is not important eternally; the people are. In our churches, we are often more impacted by a change in the physical environment around us (new worship center construction, renovated nursery area) than we are by life change in the people around us. It shouldn’t be that way.

Question: What about you? Do you find yourself more impacted by a change in environments or a change in a life? What do you think about my assertions above? Leave a comment below.

The Martyr’s Mirror

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If you are a Christian from the Western world – you don’t deal with a lot of physical suffering for Christ. You certainly don’t deal with martyrdom. I think that’s a good thing. Good, but not certain.

I keep a book open in my office (see the picture above). It’s called Martyr’s Mirror and it recounts Christian suffering throughout history. Think Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s on steroids.

I keep the book always in view to remind me that most believers in the past have not enjoyed the freedoms we do today. Many of them paid the ultimate price for their faith. It also sobers me to consider whether my faith is strong enough to endure such a thing.

Here’s one entry as an example: “A. D. 1067, there was a God-fearing man, whose name was Henry, and whom the Romish historian calls a stranger, perhaps because he was obliged to live secretly or as a stranger among the Romanists. It is stated of him, that he preached the Gospel of Christ in the uttermost parts of Sweden, and that he was apprehended for this cause and beheaded for the name of Christ.”

It does us good to remember that our freedoms are not a given, and there may possibly come a time when Christ demands of us the ultimate sacrifice.

Note: If you’d like to read more entries from Martyr’s Mirror, click here.

If you want to buy a copy click here: http://amzn.to/He40It

Introversion [Series] – Theologians keep the rhythm for the rest

Timpani

When an orchestra plays, everyone assumes that the conductor is controlling the tempo and rhythm (possibly even the conductor himself). But the dirty little secret of an orchestra  is that the drummer or percussion section really controls the rhythm. As long as the drummer is paying attention and willfully following the conductor, all is well. But If the drummer decides to speed up during a live performance, guess what? Everyone else speeds up too – even the conductor. Short of stopping the piece and starting over, the drummer has even the leader of the orchestra at his will. If you play an instrument, you know this to be true.

The percussionist drives the orchestra.

In much the same way, theologians – the thought leaders of the Christian world – drive our churches. They uncover the Biblical principles and mandates that apply to our lives and current world situation. They influence our pastors, missionaries, seminary professors, and Sunday School teachers. They write books and other materials discussing their findings and thoughts, and in doing so influence the action oriented leaders who take those ideas and apply them each week.

The sermon you will hear (or preach!) this Sunday is most likely influenced by the thoughts and conclusions of one or more theologians. As your pastor (or you!) prepares the message, he consults books, commentaries, and articles dealing with the subject he is addressing. He brings forward the quiet thoughts of the theologian.

Theologians are not some obscure people existing only in the back rooms of giant seminary libraries, up all hours of the night discussing with the walls the things of God. Theologians – past and present – influence your daily life more than you know. Many of them are obscure to most people. Their names are not on bulletins or billboards. They are not recognizable by even the most studious believers. And yet, in their quiet ministry, their voice is heard louder than even those that stand and speak.

Theologians – quiet ministry – drives the church.

 

3 Decades

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This week I turn 30 years old. That’s 6 5’s, 10 3’s, or 30 1’s depending on how you look it. However, you view it – well, it’s more than 29.

I have been reflecting on my past and future, and I’ve determined 2 things about my next 30 years (and beyond Lord willing!):

I want people to see Jesus in my person and my path.

1) My Person

My words, deeds, character, relationships – who I am. I want people to see Jesus there, everyday; for those that know me today, in the present.

2) My Path

The legacy I leave behind – my path. I want people to look down my road and see Jesus walking beside me, guiding me, helping me; for those that remember or hear of me then, in the future.

What about you? What about your next 30 years?

On Destiny

God has gifted you with certain abilities, including spiritual gifts. He has also orchestrated for you to be passionate about certain things. It is at the intersection of these two – passion and ability –  that we find our purpose. It is here that we are able to serve God most effectively.

Find the place where your passions and gifts overlap. Therein lies your destiny.

Think Like a Farmer

Ready to Harvest

Concerning evangelism, discipleship, and church work in general we often create unnecessary pressure for ourselves, because we think outside of our role.

A farmer understands that it is his job to till the land, plant the seeds, water and nourish the seeds, and wait for the harvest. He has fulfilled his duty if he does these things faithfully. It is up to God (and the environment He created) to produce a crop. In other words, the farmer knows there’s only so much he can do.

All that we can do is share the gospel, pray, and do our best to provide discipleship opportunities. It is the Holy Spirit who does the saving and sanctifying.

Let’s think like farmers.

5 steps to a successful missions trip

 

As a missionary, one of the best parts of my job is welcoming groups (or individuals) over for a short term missions trip. If you are planning a missions trip at any point in the future, here are some thoughts to make yours successful.

5 ways to make your next missions trip a success:

1 – Be Prayerful
Pray before, after, and of course during your trip. Pray for those you will minister to, but most importantly pray that God will speak to you during your trip.

2 – Be Ready to Share
The underlying point of a gospel mission trip is to share….the gospel! Make sure you are ready to do this! Sign up for evangelism training at your church before the trip. If that’s not an option, one of the best ways to prepare is to think about, write down, and practice telling your own testimony of coming to Christ.

3 – Go with a Gameplan
You should know what your goals are before you set out. This means partnering with a missionary or organization with a specific mission. They should be able to tell you exactly how you will plug in to their system, and what effect you will be able to have. They should also have a follow up system for those people you reach.

4 – Be Teachable

Just because you are from North America doesn’t mean you know everything (I know, it was a shock to me too). We have had mission teams come over to “teach” our church teams how to do drama – only for them to realize that we have a whole staff of professional level drama instructors who produce their own dramas every month! The point is to have a servant attitude. Maybe you will be able to teach, or maybe you will be able to learn!

5 – Keep a Record
Keeping a journal will help you process every day what you have seen, and reflect on what God is doing around you. It will also help you greatly as you prepare to give reports on your trip to friends and even your church.

Mission trips are most powerful because you are out of your routine. If you do these 5 things, God can use a missions trip to radically change your perspective on life and serving Him.

These are my thoughts garnered from the past few years of experience. What would you add?

A Positive Take on Miley Cyrus

Disclaimer: clicking the links to the news articles below will show pictures of the VMA performace.

I purposely have not watched any clips of Mylie Cyrus’ VMA performance.  I recommend that you don’t either. For one, you will never be able to erase whatever you see from your memory. The Psalmist says “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3) and we should follow suit.

But that’s not the point of this post, it’s just free advice.

The point is that while I was disappointed and sad (but not shocked) by Miley’s recent performance, I was encouraged by the response to it. Major news networks including NBC featured stories highlighting the vulgarity and uselessness of the performance. It seems that even the secular culture sat up and said “ok, enough with that- it’s too far”.

Now, this cultural reaction will not mean any negative effect on Miley’s career. In fact, analysts suggest she can expect a 10-20% increase in sales.

But it does mean that there is still a cultural conscience that can be appealed too. There is still something present in America that causes people to stop and say “that just isn’t right”. And as Christians, that should give us hope. It should give us confidence too.

Our churches should have the confidence to stand up for our convictions, and encourage people to stop buying and therefore justifying this kind of display. We should have the courage to broadcast biblical answers to the questions that people are currently asking regarding morality. Our confidence should be rooted in the fact that our cause is righteous, and strengthened by the fact that there is still a glimmer of national cultural conscience.

If there had been no negative reaction to last week’s VMA performance, I would be admittedly discouraged. Instead, I am hopeful that the flame of righteousness still burning in America can be fanned into a revival once again.