This month’s podcast features Joel Southerland. Joel serves as the Executive Director of Evangelism for the North American Mission Board. Join us today as we discuss evangelism and ministry. Show notes can be found here.
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:
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.
Today’s podcast features Dr. Frank Page. Dr. Page is the president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. Join us as he shares some insights on smaller membership churches and bivocational pastors.
Notes for this podcast can be found here.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, 12 delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, 13 who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, 14 who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, 15 men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, 17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18 for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; 19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.
In a recent post, I mentioned the reciprocal nature of wisdom. I stated that wise obedience to the precepts of God leads to blessings, which leads to wiser living, leading to greater blessings. As we examine the next section of scripture, it is important to note what those blessings are. So many people think that blessings from God refers to prosperity. While it is true that God can and does bless people with material blessings (the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it), the greatest blessings from God are beyond material.
The Lord gives wisdom and understanding, and as verse nine says, “then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.” How wonderful it is to understand every good path! That kind of understanding can save someone from a lifetime of foolish decisions and actions. Living a foolish life entails striving for personal pleasure from the wrong sources. The fool seeks pleasure from money, sex, drunkeness, etc. The person who lives wisely understands that Godly wisdom is the source of pleasure, as well as results in pleasure. Wisdom hidden in the heart leads to a fulfilling pleasure of godly knowledge.
Godly wisdom results in discretion. Discretion is knowing and behaving in such a way so as to avoid causing offense or revealing too much personal information. As we gain wisdom, we realize that we need to avoid evil people and compromising situations. Discretion informs us of who evil men and evil women are.
Evil men pervert their words. Our first reaction is to think of profanity, but that is not what the author meant by perverted speech. What he meant was that evil men twist the truth. There are evil men who will tell you that all religions are pathways to God. They tell you that as long as you try to live a good life, God will let you into heaven. After all, God is loving and compassionate. The truth is, God IS loving and compassionate, but He is also just. The Bible says that “there is none righteous, not even one.” God has a standard for heaven. He demands and deserves perfection. But no one has lived a perfect life except for Jesus Christ. The Bible also says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” The truth is that you can never earn you way into heaven, but God will save you from the penalty of your evil lifestyle by His grace. “For by grace you are saved through faith, not of works lest any man should boast.”
There is only one God, and there is only one way to enter His kingdom – faith in Jesus Christ.
The proverb continues by describing that godly wisdom will keep you from the forbidden, adulterous woman. While the evil man will corrupt you with his words and his ways, so to will the forbidden woman. This woman will entice you away from the one true path, and seek to devour you. While you and I are covenanted to walk with God, this woman will attempt to draw you from that covenant. She does not respect commitments, but goes to whatever or whoever feels good now. This leads to death and destruction. Avoid her at all cost.
Challenge for the week: See God’s wisdom and courageously avoid evil men and women. Avoid the lies and enticements which lead to death.
How often do you use your church building? For many, the answer to this question is 4 hours on Sunday morning, a couple of hours Sunday evening, and a couple of hours on Wednesday night. Other churches use their facilities more frequently with preschools, christian schools, and/or sports ministry on the weekend.
From a financial stewardship perspective, this is terrible. A church that utilizes it’s biggest investment for approximately 10 hours per week is ridiculous. From a missional perspective, a church that spends 20% of it’s budget on facilities and utilities, yet only uses the facilities 6% of the time (10 hours out of 168 hours each week) reflects poor stewardship of the resources of God.
While reading a recent report from The Centre for Theology and Community, I was reminded of the importance of exegeting your community and identifying ways of serving the community while sharing the gospel. One helpful approach is to utilize the facilities of your church for community activities. Be proactive. Don’t wait until a school or civic organization comes and asks to use your facilities. Go to them and make an offer. Think of needs within the community and make your buildings available to accommodate the need. This could be by providing counseling space, group therapy space, venues for concerts or plays, or any number of things.
How is your church doing at engaging the community? Invite them to use your space. Build relationships. Share the gospel.
Ed Stetzer has a brilliant post on his blog dealing with the importance of realistic expectations in church planting. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your church size/ministry with pastors serving in other places or even comparing your church with it’s performance in the past.
Focus on the ministry goals that you set for the year. Let your current ministry performance be the standard by which you judge your effectiveness. If you aren’t meeting the expectations you set, pray fervently, work harder, and analyze the situation to see if you are using the proper methodology to accomplish the task. If you are far exceeding the expectations/goals, then you need to reevaluate your goals, and adjust them to be more realistic. Don’t sandbag so that you can feel good about exceeding your goals by the end of the year. That is a false accomplishment. But if God blesses far beyond your expectation, give Him praise.
Most importantly, do not get caught up in trying to keep up with FBC Joneses. They are called to be obedient to God in their context. You are called to be obedient in yours.
The Great Commission is where we get our marching orders for making disciples. It very clearly says that we are to go and make disciples of all the nations . . . teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. I would like to focus on the teaching them to obey aspect of the task today.
We (pastors) often bemoan the fact that so many in the church do not share the gospel with the people they know. We get so tired when the church members act as though the pastor (or other church staff) is the only one who has the ability to share the gospel. Many times, the church members are right. How are they going to know how to share their faith if they have never been taught to do it. Furthermore, how are the church members going to study the Bible if they haven’t been taught how. We (pastors) have an obligation to teach our church membership how to be Christ-followers. In other words, pastors must teach the body to do “the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Eph. 4:12-13
There are many ways of accomplishing the task. The effective church will utilize a variety of approaches. More and more, the lecturing and working through a workbook approach is diminishing in its effectiveness. However, the modeling and mentoring approach remains highly effective.
In future blog posts, we will examine tools for discipling new believers. I will begin with sharing from my personal journey. I became a Christ-follower at the young age of 7. My church did not have a New Believer’s Class for kids, so I joined the adults (about 5 of us altogether). We worked through Ralph Neighbor’s text, Survival Kit for New Christians. It was very basic, but just what I needed at the time. The foundation was established, and I grew in my Christian walk over the years.
What do you use in your church? What have you found to work well?
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
(Proverbs 2:6-8 ESV)
Men and women around the world search for wisdom from a number of places. We read Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Neitsche, and others. We look for wisdom in religion. Some people even seek wisdom from social media, traditional media, and other novel locations (children, sports figures, nature, etc.). The passage from Proverbs 2 tells us not only the source of all wisdom, but also how to obtain that wisdom. “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
If you are interested in understanding how the world works, it is best to go to the creator. He alone knows the intricate design of the universe. Just over the last few months, physicists were baffled to learn they had a wrong understanding of light particles and the speed of sub-atomic particles. Turns out neutrinos are faster than light! God alone knows the best plans for the future as he is beyond time. God simultaneously occupies the beginning and the end of time. His omniscience uniquely positions him as the best prognosticator. God alone knows how to successfully navigate relationships since he created all mankind, and has existed for eternity in a relationship of three in one.
So how does one obtain wisdom from God. The truth is it is freely given to all who seek it. Unfortunately, most people won’t seek the wisdom of God. They think they know better. That is the essence of sin – “I know what is best for me. The man in the mirror is a god unto himself.” Wisdom is knowing your limitations, and seeking help from one who transcends those limitations. The wise person seeks God’s wisdom as it transcends all earthly limitations.
By seeking the wisdom of God, an interesting thing occurs – the wisdom seeker patterns his/her life after the statutes of God in order to please Him. By walking in integrity and living an upright life,the wisdom seeker pleases God, who rewards with wisdom. The reward of wisdom, in turn, helps the wisdom seeker to live more upright and with integrity. God’s wisdom protects His chosen ones (saints) from a life of evil. By living wisely according to God’s word, the wise person lives a blessed life, gaining more wisdom.
Living Wisely is a reciprocal lifestyle. By pleasing God, we are blessed. The blessings of God allows us to continue to please God, leading to more blessings.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
This first sentence in this chapter is very active. It is a promise based on conditions. If is the operative word here. Before looking at the cost, let’s examine the reward. This reward is found after THEN in verse 5. The reward is understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God.
Earlier this week, Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist who is considered to be one of the brightest men in the world by the world’s standards, said that the notion of heaven is a fantasy for those who are scared of the dark. When someone of his pedigree makes a statement like that, we must examine the facts closely.
I first encountered the work of Stephen Hawking through his book, “A Brief History of Time.” It was an interesting book which stimulated thought. At this point in his journey, Hawking stipulated the possibility of God because of the vastness of the universe. I recall thinking at the time that he was a rarity among intellectuals by admitting his ignorance on the matter. I respected his work because he followed a principle of scientific study of not making unsubstantiated claims. He had not observed or gathered evidence of God, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of God’s existence.
Twenty years later, Hawking violates this principle. I wonder what happened. I cannot know for certain because Hawking and I are not associates. We’ve never met or communicated by any method other than my reading his work. In light of this, I can postulate a premise based on his work and biblical principles. I believe Hawking has spent a lifetime thinking on things of this world and not seeking God.
Consider the promise of this passage of scripture. For Hawking (or anyone) to gather evidence of God, to discover the knowledge of God, he would have to satisfy the “if” conditions. There are eight actions one must take to discover the knowledge of God. These are:
1. you receive my words Read the Bible
2. treasure up my commandments with you Meditate on Scripture
3. making your ear attentive to wisdom Listen to Godly teaching
4. inclining your heart to understanding Seek to understand the Bible
5. call out for insight Ask God for wisdom through prayer
6. raise your voice for understanding Pray continually for wisdom
7. seek it like silver Value Godly wisdom
8. search for it as for hidden treasures Earnestly seek Godly wisdom above all else
In essence, practice the Matthew 7:33 Principle. Jesus taught us to “seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these will be added to you.” The promise of God found in Matthew and Proverbs is that He will reveal Himself to those who seek Him. I have found this to be true, as has millions of believers throughout the world and across the ages. The logical conclusion, then, is that Hawking has not sought the wisdom of God.
But it is not too late yet – for Hawking or for you. The good news is that the Creator wants to be known. Even better than that, God is searching for you! If you don’t believe me, then accept my challenge and see for yourself.
I challenge you to prioritize over the next month to seek God first above everything else you do. Follow the eight actions listed above with an open heart and open mind and see that God will reveal Himself to you. I recommend reading the gospels first (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and then go from there. Contact me or talk to other believers if you have questions. Comment below for a public discourse if you prefer. The only posts I will not publish will be vitriolic or inflammatory. Aside from that, all points of view will be accepted and discussed.
What do you think? Am I right? Share your story below. Am I wrong? Provide evidence for your position.
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:
Some examples of effective ministry evangelism projects are*:
Ministries to Parents and Married Couples
Ministries to Women
Ministries to Men
Ministry to Children
Ministry to Senior Adults
Ministry to Single Adults
Ministry to Special Needs
Ministry to the Community
Ministries to Persons in Crisis
*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.