Christ in the Community

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If your church were to close the doors today, would the community notice? This question is often asked to convey the need to be present and helping in the community. Many times, pastors and church members feel they are active in the community because they are doing x or y. However, sometimes x and y are things the community doesn’t need or doesn’t know the church is there doing it.

It is very important for the church to exegete the community in order to determine what needs are present, and which ones the members of the church can meet. This will allow your church to be able to provide real ministry care rather than symbolic ministry. Symbolic ministry is the type of ministry where the church goes out and does something that the community doesn’t need, but the church feels good about it when they are done. Unfortunately, the church members are the only ones who are helped in this instance. Strive to do ministry that meets real needs in the community. There may be needs present that are beyond the abilities of the members of your church. In this situation, you can partner with other churches in the association to meet the needs.

As you are doing ministry in the community, don’t forget the most important thing. Charles Roesel, Pastor Emeritus of FBC Leesburg, FL, stated, “As a local church, find out what’s not being done in your community and do it! You’re the only one who can make sure they have a Christian witness.” The key to effective community ministry is that you remember that you are being a witness for Jesus Christ. Don’t fill their stomachs without addressing the needs of their hearts.

What works best? That depends on the needs of your community. Here are three steps to implementing a ministry evangelism strategy:

  1. Prayer walk through the neighborhoods of your community. Pray onsite with insight. Investigate the issues and concerns of your neighbors. Prayerfully travel through the neighborhoods asking God to reveal the best approach to meet needs in the community.
  2. Identify four or five key needs of the community. Meet with your church members, and ask them to prayerfully consider how to meet these needs. Is it something that your members are equipped to handle, or do you need to find help? Design a strategy to minister to the community needs.
  3. Implement the strategy. Meet the needs. Share the gospel. Every three months or so, evaluate the effectiveness of the ministry. Reboot as necessary.

Some examples of effective ministry evangelism projects are*:

Ministries to Parents and Married Couples

  • Family seminars
  • Parents’ day out
  • Marriage-enrichment seminars and retreats
  • Cradle Roll
  • Premarital counseling and seminars
  • Lamaze/birthing classes

Ministries to Women

  • Pregnancy care
  • Women’s care
  • Clothing
  • Lamaze/birthing classes

Ministries to Men

  • Rescue mission
  • Single fathers
  • Clothing

Ministry to Children

  • Day care
  • Mother’s day out
  • School clothing
  • School backpacks
  • Foster care
  • Summer day camp
  • Vacation Bible School
  • After-school care
  • Tutoring
  • GED program
  • Fall Festival, Trunk or Treat

Ministry to Senior Adults

  • Adult day care
  • Homebound ministry
  • Nursing homes
  • Transportation to church, doctor’s appointments, and treatments
  • Lawn care
  • Widows
  • Day outings

Ministry to Single Adults

  • Car repair
  • Home care
  • Meet and Greet

Ministry to Special Needs

  • Deaf persons
  • Blind persons
  • Caregivers

Health-Care Ministries

  • Aerobics
  • Healthy lifestyle seminars
  • Health screening
  • Bloodmobile
  • Flu shots & school physicals
  • Clinic

Sports Ministries

  • Athletic events, host
  • Athletic teams, provide a meal before a game or, popsicles during practice

Ministry to the Community

  • Food bank
  • Christmas toy store
  • Financial seminars
  • Income tax assistance
  • Bereavement
  • Furniture barn
  • Clothes closet
  • Families of prisoners
  • Personal-care kits
  • Homeless assistance
  • Counseling
  • Soup kitchen
  • Prisoners
  • Special events
  • Grief recovery
  • Eating disorders
  • Disaster relief
  • Utilities, rent & gas assistance

Ministries to Persons in Crisis

  • Rape crisis
  • 24 hour crisis line
  • Crisis counseling

*List from Appendix 2, “Meeting Needs, Sharing Christ: Ministry Evangelism in Today’s New Testament Church” by Donald A. Atkinson and Charles L. Roesel, Lifeway Press, Nashville, TN 1995.

 

Availability of Wisdom

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Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Proverbs 1:20-33

There certainly is an abundance of fools despite the availability of wisdom. In the above passage, the personification of wisdom makes a strong indictment against the people of the world. Wisdom describes how simple it is to gain wisdom, yet people prefer to live as fools. When the proverb says that Wisdom shouts in the streets, he is saying that Wisdom wants to be found. We have access to that which makes us wise. It is not difficult to discern wisdom. The difficulty is to choose wisdom over folly.

Despite Wisdom’s invitation, there are so many competing ideas and philosophies appealing to the people of the world. The streets are noisy with the din of folly and self-satisfying ideologies. God wants us to know His wisdom so that we might have a blessed life, yet He laments the poor choices the world makes. “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” The simple in this question are those people who do not strive toward knowledge, specifically knowledge of God. These are the people who live for pleasure in whatever form seems pleasing. They focus on who is winning American Idol or their particular favorite soap opera. They focus on NASCAR, basketball, football, or other sport. They string together days and weeks focused on pleasure and escape. They simply exist.

Beyond the simpletons, Wisdom laments the outright scornful when she asks, “How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” Scoffers and fools are different from the simple because they have been exposed to wisdom, and have rejected it. How foolish it is that someone with a finite perspective would reject the instruction of one with an infinite perspective.

More dangerous is the one who deliberately rejects Godly wisdom. This isn’t more dangerous because their consequences will be more dire than the simpletons and fools. It is more dangerous because they have the ability and even desire to lead others to their way of thinking. These include the atheists, the rationalists, many professors and teachers, and even governments. Scoffers attempt to draw others to their way of thinking because they have deluded themselves by believing their thoughts are correct or even wise.

Even though the simple, the fools, and the scoffers disregard the wisdom of God, He still provides them the opportunity for salvation. Wisdom states clearly, “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.” How can anyone turn down this offer? This isn’t some goddess of wisdom. It is the wisdom of the Most High God personified. When we consider the consequences of disregarding God, the invitation He offers of repentance leading to having the Holy Spirit poured into us is amazing.

So what are the consequences of disregarding the wisdom of God? Plainly stated in the passage is the answer. Because the simple, fools, and scoffers disregard God, He will mock when terror strikes, laugh at calamity. He will cut them off so that they will not find Him with a diligent search, nor will He hear their cries. Is this because God is mean? Clearly the answer is no. How can it be mean of God when He makes His wisdom available so readily- He makes His salvation available so freely?

Everyone must take responsibility for their actions and decisions. The simple are killed by their turning away. Those who hated knowledge and scoffed at God will reap their own reward. The complacency of the fools destroys them. Ending on a bright note – whoever listens to the wisdom of God will be secure and live without worry of disaster. Will you join me on this quest to hear and know the wisdom of God?

Mind your Mom and Dad

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“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9

Knowledge without application is useless. Possessing knowledge or wise instruction without applying it to one’s life is just plain stupid. Proverbs 1:8-9 warns the reader to hear, know and keep the teachings. Those who apply the teachings will have a joyful, fulfilling life. In this passage, there are a couple of important things I noticed. First, parents have the responsibility to teach morality and good life skills to their children. In the United States today, too many of us have succumbed to the professionalization of all aspects of life. Where once Americans were known for their self-reliance, now we employ professionals to do all of the things we can’t be bothered with mastering. Handymen make minor repairs in our homes. Physical trainers assist us with exercising (something we did naturally as children). Mechanics fix our cars. Teachers train our children not just with reading, writing, and arithmetic; we also have tasked them to teach our children how to live morally.

Teachers should not be expected to raise our children. Furthermore, when public educators are expected to teach morality, one must determine what moral standards are appropriate in an irreligious arena. The prevailing public standards are based on Secular Humanism. Secular Humanism is a worldview which suggests human reason, ethics and justice can lead to happy, functional lives without the influence of God or religion.

The problem with Secular Humanism is that man is the judge of what is moral. Moral standards must be constant. Morality must be universally true. That is, these standards should be true at all times and in all places. When man is the judge, morality tends to change with the whims of man. This cannot stand. God is the only constant in the universe and His precepts are prescribed in the Bible. Parents should be well versed in biblical morality and they must train their children to live accordingly.

The second thing I notice about this passage is the phrase “for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” What the writer means is the application of wisdom rewards us with health and prosperity. The garland represents health, and prosperity is represented by the pendants. Do not mistake this statement to mean that the proverbs are a recipe for wealth. People mistakenly believe they can treat the Bible as a quick fix and get rich quick scheme. It must be known that the application of wisdom over the course of a lifetime is what leads to health and prosperity.

Wholesome Social Media Presence

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Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Eph 4:29

There aren’t many alumni of Georgia Southern University from the 80s and 90s who don’t know Brother Jim. Every year or two, usually in the spring, Brother Jim would show up on campus and “preach.” A more accurate assessment would be that he would show up and spew venomous vitriol and insult all who passed by. He said he was preaching the gospel, but really he was trying to get people to assault him so that he could sue them.

Brother Jim was a real problem for Christ followers on campus. He did much to harm the witness of believers by claiming he was a Christian. By calling people sluts, whores, whoremongers, and worse, he gave non-believers and skeptics all the ammunition they needed to distance themselves from the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, I believe many Christ-followers are inadvertently doing the same thing online. It would be easy to say that my Facebook and Twitter feed has been filled with incendiary posts for the last week, but it has actually been that way much longer. Some of it is understandable as I have many “friends” and “followers/people I follow” who are not believers. More and more often lately, I have been appalled by the posts of Christ followers.

It really doesn’t matter the issue: Trump vs. Hillary, Women’s Rights, Abortion, Gay Marriage, Islamic Terrorism, Israel, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, IMB, Calvinism, Traditionalism, Gluten, Exercise, and on and on. For some reason, many Christians have bought in to the notion that the right to freedom of expression is a mandate to expressing every thought, feeling, and fear.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians that we represent Christ in the world. We must confront the evil in the world in a manner that shows grace and love. Remember how Jesus responded when the crowd brought the adulterous woman to him. The Pharisees were testing Him, but Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” John 8:7. Though Jesus could have thrown the stone, he responded with love and forgiveness.

We are to be ambassadors for Christ to this world. In essence, we are to act, speak, and live as Jesus so that the world will know the difference between the sinful flesh and the loving Savior. Let me encourage you to extend that Christlikeness to your social media presence. Show God’s love and mercy in all that you post.

What I Have Learned Being a Youth Pastor

I have served as the youth minister at two different smaller membership churches. I have seen many students grow deeper in their love for Jesus and His church, which has been my greatest joy. With that said, there were three important lessons that I had to learn.

  1. Youth ministry is hard. Youth ministry is hard because it is a time commitment. After a long day of work in the office most people go home and relax for the rest of the evening, not youth pastors. Students go to school all day so most ministry takes place in the evenings. In my youth ministry, my wife or I have ministry responsibilities in the evenings four day a week and often on the weekends. Youth ministry is also hard because students will let you down. You will labor in teaching them the Bible only to realize that they won’t open their Bible again until they are at church next time. You will discover that often they will pick secular activities over godly activities. You will discover that they will date people who are not leading them closer to Jesus. We have discovered that the time commitment is demanding and that it is extremely difficult to see students not follow Jesus but we keep going because…
  2. Youth ministry is a calling. The reason we keep going is because youth ministry is our calling. God has entrusted us to care for the students at our church. Whether your youth ministry has 2, 22, or 222, the calling to care for these students is a high calling. There have been times early in my youth ministry where I only had two students come to church. On that night, we sang and taught as if 200 were there because…
  3. Youth ministry is worth it! I will never be able to explain the joy that fills my heart when I see a student come to the Lord for the first time. I will never be able to explain the reaction a student has when they attend their first mission trip and realize it is not about them. I will never be able to explain the joy that a student expresses when they stand in front of their peers and tell them what Jesus has done in their life. I will never be able to explain the feelings you get when a student calls you crying because they realize that their best friend at school does not know Jesus. It is in those moments that you realize that all of your time, energy, and dedication was worth it!

So, youth pastor, do not give up. Even when you feel as if you are failing, your work is worth the effort. Yes, it will be hard, but ultimately it will be so worth it.

written by Patrick Weaver

Leading from the Second Chair

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When asked what the most difficult instrument to play was, Leonard Bernstein replied it was the second fiddle. So many people want to be the leader, they want to be in the limelight. The same thing is true many times in ministry. It can be very difficult to be called by God to serve in ministry under the leadership of another.

For thirteen years of my ministry, I served as a youth pastor. I served with some wonderful pastors, and one or two that presented challenges. My last youth ministry position was under the leadership of the best pastor I’ve ever had the privilege of serving. He cast the vision for the direction of the church, empowered his staff ministers to lead in their ministry areas, and then supported them in their ministry.

One valuable lesson I learned was the ability to lead from the second chair. I found that the senior pastor was willing to give me the opportunity to make decisions when he understood that I wanted to achieve the same goals that he wanted to achieve. The following three items are helpful to successfully lead from the second chair.

  1. Never contradict the senior pastor in public or in private. If you have a different opinion, go privately to him to discuss it, but if you still disagree you must conform to his leadership. He’s responsible to God for the direction of the church.
  2. Whatever your role, do it as a humble servant to the glory of God. Remember Col. 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
  3. Make up your mind that the best way to serve the church is by making sure the senior pastor is successful. Do your best to anticipate what he will need in order to accomplish his ministry goals.

You may ask, “So what if I do this and the pastor takes credit for my work?” My response is what is your motivation for ministry? Are you doing it to get credit/praise, or are you doing it to expand the kingdom of God? If you seek the praise of man, that will be your reward. Let me encourage you to seek to be obedient to Christ and receive the reward of the inheritance rather than the praise of man.

 

Gospel Lighthouse

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Your house can be a hub for sharing the gospel. It’s a very simple approach to being a witness to your neighbors. When God calls us to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, He means for us to begin with those in your immediate vicinity.

Prayer

Begin by praying for your neighbors to your right, left, in front, and behind you. Pray for them lovingly by name. Pray that they will be receptive to the gospel, and would hear the truth.

Care

Find ways to show God’s love in a practical way. Perhaps you can help your neighbors with yard work, or take them a plate of cookies. The best approach is to look for a need and then take care of it. The principle is that we want to love our neighbors so that they will know that God’s love is real.

Share

As soon as you begin praying for your neighbors, you should look for opportunities to share the gospel. The Holy Spirit will direct you. The key is to be consistent. Continue to pray, care, and share with your neighbors.

Repeat

So what do you do when your neighbors become Christ followers? Celebrate! Rejoice for the wonderful work God has done in their lives. Then move to the next neighbor. In this way, the gospel will spread in concentric circles from your house.

Certainly, you don’t want this to be your only evangelistic effort, but it should definitely be a significant part of your personal evangelism strategy.

Fear of the Lord

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Why am I on this journey to live wisely? More importantly, why look at the wisdom literature of Proverbs when there are others who could also inform me?
What we would consider to be wise in our own eyes does not have the benefit of perspective. It could be true, or it could be a false understanding of things. When we choose our own version of truth, the litmus test is our own knowledge and experiences. This relative truth lacks perspective. Therefore, wisdom and knowledge must come from an external source which has stood the test of time. The Book of Proverbs in the Bible was written between 1,000-700 B.C., which makes the book nearly 3,000 years old. Also, the Book of Proverbs is widely regarded as wisdom literature. This a universally held position by Christians and non-Christians, those who possess a biblical worldview and those who do not.
Also, the first passage of the first chapter of Proverbs answer the question of why one should study the Book of Proverbs: Solomon wrote Proverbs so that the reader would know wisdom and instruction. Wisdom involves more than possessing knowledge. It incorporates observation, instruction, obedience, diligent planning and a certain sensitivity to the will of God. After all, as Prov 1:7 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;” The fear does not necessarily mean to be afraid of God (though we should be afraid of the most powerful being in all the world if we make ourselves his enemy), rather it means we should be respectful or “reverent obedience.”
Solomon continues with his reasons for the reader to study the Book of Proverbs:

“to know wisdom and instruction, to discern sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion, a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.”

Wisdom requires action. To possess understanding and instruction means one must behave wisely. Wise living leads to righteousness, treating people with justice and equity. To seek wisdom and knowledge is a defining characteristic of wisdom. After all, a wise man will hear and increase in learning (or knowledge).
Are you wise? Do you desire to live wisely? Join me on this journey toward wise living by walking systematically through the Book of Proverbs.

A Sabbath of Technology

I remember in 1996, I turned down the opportunity to get a cell phone because I didn’t want everyone to be able to get me. I thought having a cell phone meant that people would be able to call me while I was in my car, and I valued my personal time to unwind. A year later, I had my Motorola bag phone.

Little did I know just how much cell phones/smart phones would integrate into the lives of so many people. I came to rely on my cell phone and Palm Pilot PDA. That reliance transferred to the iPhone. Now I have to check my messages within the hour of waking.

In a Jan 9 article of the NY Times, Jane Brody laments the rise of the smartphone addiction. Couples scan Facebook while at dinner. Kids text one another while in the same room. It seems as though no one interacts with the world around them without the shield of the smart phone to protect them.

Our creativity and our sanity requires that we spend time in an analog world. Put away the technology. Go for a walk. Connect with real, live people for a few hours each day.

Let me encourage you to take a Sabbath rest from technology each week. I do my best to avoid technology on Sundays, though I tend to use a Bible app on my phone while at church.

Take a break from the technology, but finish this blog post first! What are some ways that you can fast from technology?

Birds of a Feather

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“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”— my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” Proverbs 1:10-19

It has been said that the only difference in who you are five years from now will be the result of the books you read and the people with whom you associate. Generally speaking this is true. You will resemble most those people with whom you spend the most time. Some people might claim it’s a case of chicken and the egg, you hang out with people like you, but you are ultimately influenced by your peers in some form or fashion.

Evil people who steal, kill or swindle will suffer the consequences of their actions. Whether we want to take responsibility or not, there are consequences for every decision, every action. This passage contains a warning to avoid associating with the wrong people. If you want to avoid calamity, prison or an early death, do not hang out with bad people.

Of course, the opposite must also be true – a joyful life can be attained by associating with people seeking to live wisely. The best place to do this within a group of Christ-followers, AKA the church. The church is not a building or a social gathering (though it is social in nature), it is the people, those who obediently follow Christ. Please understand, I do not believe the church is full of perfect people. In fact, I am certain there are no perfect people. Only through Christ are we made perfect.

When we associate with other Christ-followers, we hold each other accountable. Heading towards a common goal of becoming progressively Christ-like in our thoughts and actions, Christ-followers encourage one another to strive for the greater morality. We exhort one another to love exceedingly more and more each day.

So, in light of the passage above, in order to live a fruitful, wisdom filled life, one should strive to avoid the wrong type of people.