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Archive for the tag “religion”

Why Preaching is Sometimes like Halloween…by Robert Beike

Sometimes preaching can be like Halloween. It can be a very frightening experience. Consider how many neighbors come to worship dressed as “church people,” many wearing masks to hide their real feelings. When you factor in all the people who promised to “be there in spirit,” church can be a pretty spooky place. Even the Pastor, often, wears a costume. It might be the coat and tie of past pulpiteers, or shirtsleeves and skinny jeans of a post-modern “communicator.” Either way, he’s dressed for the occassion.

The sermon itself can be a scary proposition.The preacher’s wife is scared that her husband will be misunderstood, or she embarrassed in some way. The preacher’s children are terrified they may become the main attraction in their father’s illustrations. Guests are afraid they will be singled out or feel left out, and the congregation must be scared of something. Why else would they huddle for safety in the back of the sanctuary. But, the most frightened of all is the preacher himself.

The preacher stands before an expectant gathering scared that he will misrepresent or miscommunicate the precious word of God. Worse, he fears that the Spirit of God will not show up to animate the dry bones in the pews. Real, too, is the fear of unleashing a disembodied sermon to wander aimlessly for 45 minutes, or the appearance of a fleshless skeleton of a message that speaks more about work ethic than the exposited Word. The preacher is often haunted by the undead apparitions of sermons past, never quite alive, but unwilling to vacate his tortured consciousness. The preacher knows too well that what is pieced together in the laboratory of his study can take on a life of its own in the pulpit. Loosed from theological restraints, or unteathered by grace or compassion, a sermon can run rampant and out of control, leaving a trail of confusion and mayhem. Monday could find deacons or elders at his office door, carrying torches and pitchforks, demanding the end of the three point monstrosities the preacher harbors in his filing cabinets.

But fear is no match for faith, and it is faithfulness that drives the preacher to dispense healthy offerings from God’s Word and to transform the scary into the sacred. It is faith in God and faithfulness to their calling that helps preachers get past the fear and experience the hallowed in the preaching event. “Call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:5,6).

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LET MY PEOPLE GO!….by Robert Beike

You have probably experienced riding along in your automobile, making good time, visions of your destination dancing in your head, when you begin to see the ominous red glare of tail lights, and traffic soon rolls to a stop. You inch forward, hoping for a breakout, but none comes. So, you sit, and steam, and grow frustrated, until in desperation, you begin to look for an available exit. This is not what you anticipated. It’s not what you planned for when you turned those ignition keys and began your journey.

Such experiences on our highways might be a necessary nuisance, but similar scenarios in our churches can become unnecessary tragedies. Sadly, many churches suffer from people gridlock. God is calling people to a high-octane adventure, a journey of spiritual growth, service, and mission. Yet, far too many are stymied by ecclesiastical bottlenecks leading to spiritual stagnation. Believers find themselves sitting, steaming, and frustrated. Consequently, they are taking exit ramps in alarming numbers, traveling alternate routes that lead into spiritual cul de sacs.

Most churches, unwittingly, are structured to hinder, rather than harness the power of God’s people. Instead of systems and strategies to help people discover and deploy their God-giftedness and purpose, church structures have become strictures that tether people to the church building, and Sunday/Wednesday activities. Their “mission” is to serve as vendors for the consumers who show up to partake of the programs offered. Worse, they may be relegated to the role of consumer themselves, tuned in to that popular station w.i.i.f.m. (what’s in it for me).

God may be saying to His church, as he did to Pharoah, “Let My People Go!” Pastors chronically lament a worker shortage, and that 20% of the membership does 80% of the work. But, that could be good news. Maybe doing “church” as is only requires 20% of  the workforce. That leaves 80% to be released into God’s harvest field to be the church.

What process does your church have to transform its membership into missionaries? Is there an intentional equipping of people to study the word for themselves, pray effectively, share their faith, and utilize their giftedness and skill sets? Let God’s people go to where they live, work, play, and go to schoo,l to demonstrate the love of God. Encourage them to be the church wherever they go, to be good news to whoever they meet, and to engage their world in ways that makes God smile, and makes a world of difference.

Obedience to Christ mandates every believer fleshing out the great commission with their God-given gifts and resources. Reaching our neighborhoods and the next towns will remain forever elusive unless the church releases the ordinary Christians God is calling to do the extraordinary task of loving their neighbors to Christ.

The 10 Most Important People in Your Church on Sunday…by Robert Beike

1. Guests — Are newcomers treated as visitors who may come and go, or as guests who are expected, planned for, and made to feel welcome?

2. Greeters and Ushers — Smiles are the most cost effective outreach tools a church can employ. The first 4 minutes a guest is on your property are the most critical. What kind of impression are you making? Is your attitude saying, “stay away,” or “come and stay?”

3. Custodial Workers — Is your facility clean and uncluttered, especially in the ladies restroom and nursery?

4. Nursery and Children’s Workers — Are parents confident their children are well cared for and safe?

5. Sunday School/Small Group Workers — Are all attendees valued and made to feel welcome? Is God’s word being taught for transformation and not just information?

6. People who sit next to new people — Are new people ignored or included? Are they introduced to others and their comfort considered?

7. Worship Leader(s) — Is there warmth and enthusiasm? Are the people engaged in authentic worship, escorted into the presence of God?

8. People who sing — This includes the congregation as well as singers of special music. Are they smiling? is there joy? Genuineness?

9. Pastor — It’s no mistake that the pastor is so far down on the list. Unless the first eight are positive influences the pastor’s role is extremely difficult. Still, the pastor can make a huge difference. Is he engaging and people friendly? Does he handle God’s word with integrity? Does he communicate God’s truth clearly?

10. Follow-up Person(s) — Is appreciation for guests’ attendance expressed? Is an invitation for further involvement extended? Are questions adequately answered? The first 48 hours following the service is critical in securing their further participation.

 

PRAYING BY THE NUMBERS (Five Prayers Every Believer Should Have On Their Speed Dial)…by Robert Beike

Scripture tells us to “Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Because prayer is a Christian’s lifeline there are at least five types of prayers we should have on our speed dial, ready to send at the appropriate time.

911 PRAYING / PRAY IN EMERGENCIES

(Psalm 102:1-2) “Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide your face from me in the day of trouble. Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call.”

This is easily the most common kind of prayer. 911 praying is a cry for help. The emergency may be our own or someone else’s. It might be sudden and temporary or sustained and long term. It could be a cry for help, or hope, or healing, a need for rescue or escape. The prayer may be as simple as David’s “Help, Lord” (Psalm 12:1), or Peter’s “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). But, God is already tuned to the problem and ready and able to respond. So, if in need of the ultimate crisis intervention, punch in a 911 prayer with confident expectation.

411 PRAYING / PRAY FOR INFORMATION

(James 1:5-6a) “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.”

Where to go for wisdom? Who to ask for direction, or understanding? We are confronted with these questions every day as we process life’s information and make choices that determine our life paths. While the wisdom of the world is ever present, the wisdom of God is always accurate, timely, and generously given to those who ask. The difference between taking risks in faith and a reckless decision is the promises of God. When you have a need to know, hit 411 on your prayer speed dial.

111 PRAYING / PRAY EVANGELISTICALLY

(Romans 10:1) “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.”

Part of every believer’s prayer life should be the earnest intercession for the salvation of others. 111 praying is for one person to become one with the one and only true God through Jesus Christ. One approach is to pray for the salvation of one person for one minute at one O’clock each day. If necessary, a different person could be prayed for each day of the week. Set the alarm or alert on your cell phone and pray. Ask God to remove any obstacles that might keep this person from hearing and responding to the good news of God’s unconditional love. Ask him to orchestrate circumstances in the person’s life to produce receptivity to the gospel. Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send someone to share Christ with them. Then make yourself available to be that someone.

714 PRAYING / PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

(2 Chronicles 7:14) “And (if) My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

Research shows that the fastest growing religion in the world is Christianity–except in North America. With three-fourths of our population living in spiritual darkness, and three-fourths of our churches stagnant or dying, our desperate need is a widespread spiritual renewal. We are like fish in a dried up pond, gasping for air and clinging to life. 714 praying is not an option.

618 PRAYING / PRAY AS A SPIRITUAL WARRIOR

(Ephesians 6:18) “With every prayer and request, pray at all times, in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”

Spiritual warfare is real, and so are the consequences of ignoring it. When a person is born again into the kingdom of God, it is like being parachute dropped into enemy territory. Engagement with the enemy begins immediately. But God has given us sufficient armor (Ephesians 6:14-17), a host of heavenly allies (2 Kings 6:16-17), and a powerful arsenal (Eph. 6:17). Although Satan has placed a target on every church, believer, and family, we can stand firm and join the resistance movement by praying. Deploying all kinds of prayer energizes our armor, mobilizes our allies, and empowers our arsenal. Pray as a spiritual warrior, being assured that there is victory in Jesus.

The “iPlant” (10 Essential Applications for Church Planting) PT 2…….by Robert Beike

Whether you are a believer God is nudging toward planting a church or a church looking at sponsoring a new work, consider an “iPlant” and these 10 essential applications for maximum kingdom impact. The first 5 from part 1:
* INCARNATIONAL PRESENCE
* INDIGENOUS APPROACH
* INSIGHTFUL PREPARATION
* INTENSIVE PRAYER
* INTENTIONAL OUTREACH

Pt 2

INCLUSIVE MINISTRY
(1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:8-10)

Every member is to be on mission for God; involved in the ministry of both the “gathered” and “scattered” church. Spiritual gifts must be discovered, deployed, and developed. A God-sized impact on a community or people group depends on the inclusive ministry of all God’s people. Help others to catch the vision of being missional, and release them into the harvest field.

INSTRUCTIVE PROCESS
(Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:42;11:25-26; Ephesians 4:12-13)

Remember the goal is to make disciples who can reproduce disciple-makers. A systematic process should be in place to build up the body of Christ, making its members fit for the kingdom of God, and equipped for service. The study of God’s word and development of Christian skills are to be designed for every stage of spiritual development. Think discipleship by design.

INSPIRATIONAL WORSHIP
(Psalm 34:3; Isaiah 6:1-8; John 4:23-24)

Christ-centered, Bible-based, Spirit-led, God-glorifying, believer-edifying, guest-appealing worship is critical. Whether in a living room or auditorium, the Savior is to be magnified, the saints motivated to serve, sinners moved to repentance, and the repentant experience grace and renewal. Times of worship act as a fueling station, and strategy session, that provides impetus for the work of the church–beyond the walls.

INNOVATIVE MEANS
(Mark 2:22; Proverbs 18:15)

Don’t be afraid to color outside conventional lines. Creat a climate conducive to risks and experimentation, where failure is not seen as final, but tuition necessary for ultimate success. Avoid being trapped by the familiar, wed to the comfortable, or driven by the traditional. Neither become enamored with everything new, but rather embrace what honors God and is effective in fulfilling His purposes. Remember, creativity runs in God’s family.

INVESTMENT OF LIVES
(Romans 12:1; Isaiah 6:8)

Planting churches requires seeing ourselves as “living sacrifices,” an offering poured out for the kingdom of God. A faithful investment of time, energy, and resources in God’s kingdom, will pay divine dividends.

5-G Evangelism Connection

Likely, you are familiar with 4G networks, the latest and fastest way to communicate electronically. But, you may be unaware of the 5G evangelism connection, the most effective way to communicate the gospel. 5G evangelism involves:

1.GODLY PRESENCE

A godly presence is the necessary foundation and framework of evangelism. There is no substitute for “being there,” connecting with people where they are–where they live, work, and play. Jesus provided our pattern when He became flesh and dwelt among us. Now, He has sent us to flesh out the great commission among others. Being missional requires an incarnational, relational, and sacrificial presence. Christians must be good news as well as share the good news. The Christian life is a daily show and tell experience, in which good works must be a normal and vital part.

2.GROUNDED PROCLAMATION

If a godly presence is the foundation and framework of evangelism, proclaiming the gospel is like doors and windows. The sinless life of Jesus, His sacrificial death, certain resurrection, and gracious offer of salvation, is like light shining into a dark room, and provides the way of entrance into God’s eternal family.

Proclaiming the way of salvation, whether verbal, written, sung, or signed, must be grounded in Scriptural authority. Our witness must align with God’s Word. It is the truth that sets people free, not wishful thinking, or worldly opinion. But, our proclamation should also be grounded in cultural sensitivity. When properly understood, culture offers common ground and a conduit for the good news of God’s life changing love.

3.GRACIOUS PERSUASION

Often, a person is unresponsive to a straightforward, and heartfelt gospel presentation. Prevailing spiritual blindness, and a cultural hostility toward Christianity usually requires a persuasive element of evangelism.

Persuasion sounds like arm-twisting, but gracious persuasion is a Christ-like way of leading someone out of darkness and into the light. The Apostle Paul exerted great time and energy persuading Jews, Gentiles, governors, kings, and queens to receive Christ. With speech seasoned with salt, and lives reflecting the light of Christ, we can persuade others to cross the line from death to life. Just as a beggar who has found bread persuades another beggar that it is true, we can convince someone to act on the truth.

4.GOD’S PROVIDENCE

Lest we think evangelism is all about us, God’s providence is the one indispensable key to the process. God removes the scales of spiritual blindness, and readies human hearts for the gospel seed. a sovereign God providentially connects those needing the gospel with those willing to share it.

Winning the world to Christ is a spiritual enterprise, and is possible only when Spirit-filled believers on mission for God learn to trust and obey Him completely.

5.GATEWAY PRAYER

Since evangelism is the work and mission of God, we look to Him for the means to succeed as evangelists. Prayer is the gateway to advancing the kingdom of God. Fervent and faithful prayer reduces strongholds, removes obstacles, and releases those held captive by the enemy. A blanket of prayer can warm a person or people group to the gospel. Persistent prayer can open closed doors and closed minds. Prayer produces boldness in the witness and brings power to the witnessing process.

Gateway prayer asks for God’s blessings, seeks God’s guidance and timing, and knocks on heaven’s door for divine resources necessary for eternal and supernatural transformation of souls and communities.

A Church Planting Check-Up…. by Robert Beike

A survey by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention revealed a few years ago that 98.6% of responders agreed that sponsoring new churches is Biblical, and that the great commission cannot be fulfilled without starting new churches. Those results indicate a theological temperature that appears to be a normal and healthy 98.6. In the same survey, 96.2% agreed that churches starting churches is the preferred method of church planting–another healthy indicator. Yet, upon closer examination, there seems to be a serious spiritual abnormality affecting the reproductive process of the body of Christ. Somewhere between only 4% and 20% (depending on who’s reporting) of SBC churches are, in any way, involved in starting new churches. That seems a long way from normal and healthy. Our brains are obviously sending theological messages that the body refuses to acknowledge.

Why is there such a disconnect? And what will it take for church planting to become the habit of all churches and not just the hobby of a few? The problem is no doubt systemic and complicated by multiple issues. However, there are three chronic ailments that if left untreated will continue to retard kingdom growth.

Church Planting is not normal for most churches, first of all, because of impaired vision. A lack of kingdom focus blurs the purpose of the church. As Jesus stood with His disciples beside the well outside the city of Sychar and watched people streaming from the town toward them, He said, “Open your eyes and look…(John 4:35). Jesus intends that we really see people, to view them in a way that transcends the physical. But, like our physical eyes, our spiritual eyes are subject to maladies that prevent us from seeing clearly.

People blindness comes in a variety of forms. A church’s vision is often clouded by prejudice. Other churches suffer from tunel vision, allowing those on society’s fringe to go unnoticed. Near-sightedness is another common affliction in churches. Spiritually myopic churches can’t see beyond their own local context, and their mission awareness is restricted to those who are “just like us.” Still others, ironically, have a far-sightedness that enables them to see needs afar off, even on the other side of the world, yet prevents them from seeing needs on the other side of their own town, or street.

Clearly, our vision needs correcting. Acquiring a kingdom focus begins on our knees in the word of God. Getting beyond our blind spots and into our mission field requires us to become like the blind man, who was asked by Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man responded, “Lord, I want to see!” (Luke 18:41).

Heart Trouble is another malady hampering our church planting effectiveness. If subjected to the careful scrutiny of the Great Physician, we may discover our hearts have shrunk to the size of our church rolls, and our heartbeat out of sync with God’s mission.  God’s heartbeat resonates clearly, in that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Furthermore, Jesus prioritized all the law and prophets by insisting that we love God with all our being, and our neighbor as ourselves. He personally resisted the pull of His disciples agendas, and the press of a needy crowd to take the gospel to neighboring towns, adament that, “This is why I have come” (Mark 1:38). Oh, that God would sync our heartbeats with His, and enlarge our hearts to include all our neighbors near and far.

The third chronic ailment negatively impacting church planting is spiritual anemia. That may actually be too mild a term, but multitudes of churches are listless, and lack a robust spirituality. Unless they experience genuine spiritual renewal they will continue to exist in a kind of ecclesiatical fetal position. Years of inward focus and lack of regular spiritual exercise has left us weak. Recognizing our condition, repenting of our sin and selfishness, and aligning with God’s will are necessary first steps to spiritual health. Getting outside the walls of the church and into the fresh air of different neighborhoods and communities has a way of raising the fitness level of a church. Personal contact with others, building relationships, and gathering them to make disciples who will make disciples, can have a viral effect that results in a church planting epidemic–in other words, normalcy.

When Jesus scanned the five porches surrounding the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, He saw “a multitude of the sick–blind, lame, and paralyzed…” They were all waiting for a miraculous movement of God that would restore them to normal–a 98.6 life. He singled out an individual who had been sick for 38 years and asked him one critical question: Do you want to get well?” (John 5:3-5). How about you? What’s your church planting temperature? Do you want to get well…really?

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