Public Invitation: Biblical?

 

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For many today the ministry of Billy Graham has come from memories to history. Billy Graham became popular for his evangelistic ministry. His crusades were widely attended and marked by his practice of the public invitation. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, public invitations were common among evangelists such as John Wesley, John Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, and Billy Sunday. These men were not bashful about calling sinners to repent and accept Christ publicly.

Today the climate towards public evangelistic invitations has turned bitter and even hostile in some Christian circles. As I reflect on this change in attitude towards the public invitation I can only think of one reason why every church should practice a public invitation—it is biblical.

Old Testament Examples

  • Moses. After Moses discovered the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, he stood at the gate of the camp and asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me” (Ex. 32:26). This appeal demonstrated the Moses was calling the Israelites to denounce publicly their sin and follow God.
  • Joshua. When Joshua addressed the people of Israel right before his death he said, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
  • Elijah. At Mount Carmel, Elijah asked the people of Israel who they would serve, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). While no one responded, the invitation was clear.

Examples by Jesus

  • Jesus publicly called his disciples. Jesus called Philip, Matthew, and the brothers Simon and Andrew with the simple phrase “Follow me.” It can be safely assumed that Jesus used a similar method when calling the other disciples.
  • Jesus publicly called individuals. Most notably Jesus called Zacchaeus publically. When Jesus arrived at the tree He said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Upon Jesus’ command and in an act of repentance, Zacchaeus declared that he would give back to all whom he had wronged. Clearly, this was a call of salvation and public repentance because Jesus explained, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
  • Jesus publicly called the crowds. In Matthew 11:28-29 and in John 7:37-38, Jesus invites the crowd to come to him. Each of these instances were invitations for them to come humbly and trust Jesus.

New Testament Examples

  • Peter. In Acts 2:14-41, Peter delivered one of the greatest salvation messages ever recorded. “And Peter said to them, ‘repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Peter preached for a response, and he expected one. By the end of the invitation, about three thousand people had been saved.
  • Paul. The ministry of Paul displayed a pattern of evangelistic preaching with the desire to call for response. As recorded in the book of Acts, Paul preached in synagogues located in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and Ephesus. In each of these situations, Paul proclaimed the truth of the gospel with boldness, presented the truth clearly and sympathetically, preached with respect to his hearers, and identified the difficulties that the listeners would encounter.
  • Philip. Philip experienced the work of preaching the gospel when he led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord. After explaining the Scriptures to the eunuch, he demanded that he stop and be baptized in the passing water immediately. The invitation was public and immediate.

The call to ask someone publicly to repent of their sin and follow Jesus is a call that is biblical. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the early church leaders all practiced calling individuals and crowds to follow Jesus. Pastors, call your people to repent publicly and believe the Gospel. Don’t allow the methodology of an altar call to stop you from giving a public invitation.

Don’t Criticize CEOs

CEO–  /ˌsēˌēˈō/ – noun– an individual who attends church on Christmas and Easter Only

A story has been of a husband who told his wife that he would do anything to save their failing marriage. It was Passion Week, and the believing wife knew that the Gospel was the only thing that could change her husband’s life. So, in a false move, she told her husband that if he would go to church with her on Easter Sunday that she would never ask again. Reluctantly, the husband agreed. He arrived with a cautious but opened mind. Unfortunately, the service began by the pastor belittling everyone who was only there because it was Easter. The husband left the church that day never to return to any church ever again.

This story is harsh, but this sort of story will take place in many churches this Easter. CEOs will be a part of your church this weekend and instead of condemning them let us embrace the opportunity:

  1. By Preaching the Gospel. This Sunday may be the largest concentration of lost people in your church all year. So Pastor, please preach the Gospel and what the resurrection truly means.
  2. By Praying for their Salvation. Begin now praying for the family and friends of your church members who will be coming to church possibly for the first time all year or in many years.
  3. By Training the Greeters. The first perception of the church for new guests will be the greeters. Make sure they have a smile and the information needed to make the guests feel welcome.
  4. By Connecting them to Your Church. People want to feel like they can be a part of something bigger than themselves so make sure that you have an intentional plan to connect guests to your church. Provide information about small groups, upcoming events, and for families, information about youth and children’s ministry.
  5. By Creating an Intentional Plan for Follow-Up. Every guest that provides information to your church should have a follow-up contact within 24-48 hours. Allow those who visited your church know that they were welcome that day and any future date they return.

Each week the church should be reminded that every person that walks through the doors of the sanctuary is a person created in the image of God and a person in need of the salvation found only in Jesus. As a church, we should anticipate and welcome the guests that come to our church. We should treat them with respect and avoid anything that will hinder them from knowing Jesus, especially on Easter Sunday. So please do not criticize CEOs.

What did we miss? What would you add?

No Restraints Conference-Deadline Soon

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The Caskey Center for Church Excellence would like to invite you to our annual No Restraints Conference April 21-22, 2017. The No Restraints Conference is a free two day event that seeks to encourage the minister, the minister’s wife, and the overall ministry taking place in smaller membership churches. This weekend is not limited to church staff members only and is open to anyone who has a love for the ministry of smaller membership churches.

This weekend will include two keynote plenary speakers: Dr. Ed Stetzer and Phil Waldrep.

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer

Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer has written extensively in the areas of church planting, revitalization, evangelism, and pastoring.

Phil Waldrep
Phil Waldrep

Phil Waldrep is the President and Founder of Phil Waldrep Ministries, a ministry that seeks to provide Biblical truth with practical application. Waldrep speaks at conferences and retreats in churches across America. He has a heart for pastors and seeks to encourage them through Scripture. Waldrep is also the author of Reaching Your Prodical

Breakout sessions for the event will include topics such as Logos Bible Software training, Money Matters, Accountability, and a special Excellence in Marriage session lead by Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS and his wife, Dr. Rhonda Kelley.

A special program just for ministers’ wives will be led by Courtney Veasey, Director of Women’s Academic Programs at NOBTS.

For registration, schedule, and housing information please visit http://www.nobts.edu/caskeycenter/conference.html

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Child Evangelism

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Many of us have seen it or heard of it. A preacher shares the gospel message with a group of children. At the end of the presentation he asks something like, “How many of you want to have Jesus as your Savior today?” A few hands go up, then a few more. Before you know it little hands all over the room are raised. The preacher does the only thing that he has been taught to do. He asks all the children in the room whose hands are raised to close their eyes as he guides them through the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

Unfortunately, this is not the best way to talk to children about Jesus. It is not the “Sinner’s Prayer” or the public presentation of the gospel that makes this situation uncomfortable, but the fear that the children may not understand the decision they have made. Child evangelism is probably more difficult than any other age group. Children have limited knowledge and understanding of our church language and vocabulary. Children may even struggle with why they need Jesus in the first place. So, with all of these variables that take place in child evangelism here are just a few do’s and don’ts:

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t be manipulative. Children need Jesus, but they still need to make that decision for themselves. They don’t need to make a decision to impress their friends, and they don’t need you to make them scared of hell simply to accept Jesus.
  2. Don’t pressure. Much research has been published verifying that the likelihood of someone becoming a Christian diminishes after the age of eighteen. While this should call the church to urgently reach children, we should never pressure a child into making a decision that they do not want to make or do not clearly understand.
  3. Don’t use adult terminology that they do not understand. Words such as sin, repent, righteousness, sanctification, and justification are all concepts that a child should come to understand, but use definitions and concepts that they will understand now. This can also mean you cannot give them a bunch of bible verses and expect them to understand those either. Even some of the modern translations are too difficult for children to understand.
  4. Don’t turn away question. Children learn by asking questions. When a child asks an inconvenient question answer it anyway. This is a teachable moment that shapes the child.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail. Often times we can feel like failures when a person does not accept Christ, but that is not our fault. Children especially learn through repetition so tell them about Jesus over and over.

Do’s:

  1. Do show them that you care. Children will always listen to people who they know care about them. So have fun, be silly, and show them the faith you have. If they decide to follow Jesus, continue to care for them by showing them how to follow Jesus daily.
  2. Do tell them it is important. While not pressuring, explain to the child why salvation is important. They may have never considered that they even need Jesus.
  3. Do be clear. When sharing the gospel with children make sure that you use words and examples that they understand. Evangelistic tools that include visuals and pictures such as bracelets and EvangeCubes may be beneficial.
  4. Do share the gospel with their lost parents. One of the best ways to reach a lost child with the gospel is to reach their lost parents. Children value what their parents value and they talk about what their parents talk about. They are at times mini versions of their parents. If you can reach their parents, you have a far better chance of reaching the child.

Child evangelism is difficult, but it works. When I was seven years old, I attended a Vacation Bible where a church and a pastor used these principles to share Jesus with me. The gospel presented to me that day was loving but not pressured. It was urgent but not manipulative. I am forever grateful for that day when God used them to share Jesus with a child, like me.

 

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

Stop Worrying

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“D
o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”- Corrie Ten Boom

I am a youth pastor at a small membership church. This past weekend the pastor was out of town and I was helping coordinate the day by making sure everything was in order for the church and for our guest preacher. This past weekend was also the coldest couple of days that we have had all year with temperatures floating around freezing. So, Saturday night I went to the church to turn the heat on so the building would be nice and warm Sunday morning. Long story short, I discovered that the entire heating system was broke!

Needless to say, I went into panic mode! “What am I going to do?” “The people will never quit complaining.” “There will be newborns in the nursery.” “Once everyone realizes what’s going on they will leave church.” “Giving will be down.” “Everyone will be mad.” “How am I going to fix this?”

The answer to the last question was simple, I was not going to fix it. Nor would it be fixed in time for the service. In the midst of all the panicking there were a couple things that I failed to realize:

  1. Worrying does not accomplish much. My worry did not magically fix anything.
  2. Worrying just demonstrates a lack of faith. My worry simply showed that I did not believe God could turn this situation for his good.

Let me tell you what did happen Sunday. Some people did leave early but only a handful.

Those of us who did stay for church service were blessed. Deacons came early and served the church by putting together heaters for the nursery and senior adult Sunday school classes. Church members worked together and found blankets for those who needed them. The Word of God was still preached, and we were reminded once again of how blessed we were. All over the world on Sunday there were believers being persecuted for their faith, worshipping in secret, and worshipping in less than ideal buildings. Our only problem was we were a little cold.

God has been so good to each of us. When troubles come our way the last thing that we need to do is worry. What we can do is pray and allow God to do what only he can do. (Philippians 4:6-7).

Open Letter from a Church Staff Member to Their Pastor

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“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:2-4

 

Dear Pastor,

Let me start by saying, you have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Between sermon prep, deacons’ meetings, committee meetings, Bible studies, and hospital visits you stay busy. Not to mention you are juggling the responsibility of leading and guiding people. You have so many different people gathered under one roof and they each have an opinion. The senior adults complain about this. The youth complain about that. The choir is annoyed that you didn’t compliment their special music, and the deacons don’t think you are earning your keep. But don’t worry I see how hard you work. I see you come to work early and stay late. I see you labor in the ministry. I have seen you neglect your wife and kids to be at the bedside of a dying church member.  I have seen you weep and pray over the lostness in our community. I have seen you preach with fervor on Sunday even after a long week. I have seen you care for your family in the best way possible, and in the midst of it all I have seen you carry the weight of knowing that you will have to answer to Jesus one day for all that you are doing.  But I have one reminder for you as a staff member—I need you.

  1. I need you to give me advice and wisdom when I don’t know what to do.
  2. I need you to go out of your way to let me know when I’m doing things right because the last thing I want to do is let you down.
  3. I need you to value my opinion.
  4. I need you to let me do my job and not lead as a dictator.
  5. I need you to know that I will never publically belittle you. Please show me the same respect.
  6. I need you to know that I pray for you.
  7. I need you to know that I want to be your friend.
  8. I need you to know that I have your back, please have mine.
  9. I need you to know that I don’t want your job.
  10. I need you to let me know when I do something wrong because I long to be the best minister that God has called me to be.
  11. I need you to be my pastor and not just my boss.
  12. I need you to know that I trust you; please trust me.
  13. I need you to have an open-door policy with me.
  14. I need you to know that this list could keep going, but at the end of the day I just wanted to be treated like an equal. I want my opinion to be valued, and I want you to know that I would never do anything to undermine your leadership.

 

So with Christ as our Chief Shepherd let us go lead His people well!

 

Your Partner In Ministry,

A Church Staff Member

Self-Control is a Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

 

“You know, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.” That statement had to be one of the most piercing statements I had ever heard. Dr. Dale Younce was taking prayer requests in my freshman Spiritual Formations class at the University of Mobile. A fellow classmate had requested prayer for his desire to have more time to read his Bible and pray every day. It seemed like a legitimate prayer request to me. Here was a brother in Christ who desired to walk with the Lord closer and needed more time in his busy schedule to spend with the Lord. Until I looked back at Dr. Younce, who with a simple look over the top of his glasses and a softness in his voice said, “You know, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.”

The fruit of the Spirit are the characteristics displayed in the life of a believer that show everyone they have the Holy Spirit living inside of them. I find this particularly true in the area of self-control. As pastors, church leaders, and followers of Christ what does your self-control display to those around you? Far too often I find pastors who are struggling to find time to prepare for sermons and Bible studies. They struggle to find time to intentionally share their faith. They struggle to find time to spend with their family. They struggle with their weight, and they even struggle to find time to personally spend with the Lord. Yet, they do find time participate in many activities that amount to very little in their life.

As I look back on this encounter with Dr. Younce there are a few truths that are clear:

  1. As followers of Christ we have the ability to display self-control because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit our lives.
  2. Self-control is one way that a lost world knows that you are a follower of Christ—don’t blow your witness.
  3. Anything short of self-control is sin.

 

Every day I realize that the real problem in my finances, my health, and my devotional life are caused by the man in the mirror not being faithful to display self-control as Christ has called him. Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to have a Savior who loves me regardless and offers forgiveness for my failure to display self-control. Maybe today is your day to look to the Savior and repent of your lack of self-control.

What does a healthy small church look like?

Here is the question that we have been asking at the Caskey Center. What does a healthy small church look like? While we do not have a definite answer quite yet in this blog by Karl Vaters,  author and a pastor of smaller membership church, he addresses some insights about what a smaller membership church may look like.

 

Healthy, Growing Churches

Since 2003, Dr. Bill Day, Associate Director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health and Professor of Evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has being monitoring and recording healthy, growing churches. Since the 1980s churches and denominational leaders have been discussing the state of the church. Is the church as a whole growing, plateaued, or declining. In this slideshow Dr. Day speaks to this exact topic and how the church has changed in the last 12 years. The results may shock you.

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