Evangelism Through Invitation

Evangelism Through Invitation

By Travis Sinks

Sometimes we think that inviting people to a church service isn’t “true” evangelism. As the pendulum has swung from one end to the other, we’re in a place where many people think they have to personally share the Gospel and see someone saved to do any good in someone’s life, and that’s simply not true.

We don’t want to neglect our call to personally tell others about Jesus and His love for them, but it’s also just as important to be inviting others to Sunday services and community groups. Here’s 3 reasons.

1. Our witness together is greater than ours separately.

One of the things Jesus said about our community together as believers was that non-christians will know that we are followers and disciples of Him by our “love for one another” (John 13:35). This teaches us that not only are we supposed to be together frequently to display that love (which is one of the many reasons being a part of a local church is so important), but it also tells us that we should be inviting people to be a part of our gatherings – how else will they see this love between us?

Sometimes we think that our witness is merely regarding our individual life, but our witness together as a body of believers sacrificially loving each other is a greater than any of us could achieve on our own.

2. It allows a non-believer to experience Jesus’ people

Although you are a part of the church, you are not the whole church. If you were a basketball player but your friends never came to one of your games, they wouldn’t have the full experience of the basketball team, or even what a basketball game is like if they’ve never been to one before.

When you invite someone to church or a community group, you are inviting them to experience Jesus working through all of the members of His local church in a much fuller way. Although you have good words to share and know them well, Jesus may choose to use someone else in the church to reach out to that person in a way they will respond. By bringing them to church and community group, you are asking others to participate in reaching out to your friend or family member rather than trying to do it all yourself.

3. Coming to a service gives them uninterrupted time with Jesus

One of the reasons we try to plan our services with as little interruptions and distractions as possible is to give people uninterrupted time with Jesus.

The reality is that people are busy.
They are tired.
They are bombarded with information.
Ideas.
Thoughts.
Marketing.
Noise.

We try to have our services be a place away from all of those things. By bringing a friend, family member, or even a stranger to church, you are providing uninterrupted time for them to reflect on the most important questions we have to answer: Who is God? Why am I here? What is truth? Who is Jesus?

You will have, and should continue to, utilize opportunities to share the Gospel one-on-one, and we know that Jesus can save a person in the blink of an eye, but by bringing the person you’re praying for to church you are offering them an opportunity to step out in faith to seek God and have Jesus reveal Himself to them. They may not accept Him the first time, second, third, fourth, or even ever. But we are called to persevere, pray, reach out, and seek the lost for Jesus regardless of their response. We should be taking every opportunity God gives us to love people, share Jesus with others, and invite them to come see what He is all about.

We have seen Jesus change so many lives through being invited by a friend to church. We’ve seen people saved on Sundays, in community groups, and even throughout the week because of new relationships they’ve made. This is an opportunity we don’t want anyone to miss.

So, who will you invite to church this Sunday?

This post is shared from the Redemption Church Blog.

Four Reasons to Love God and Your Neighbor

Four Reasons to Love God and Your Neighbor

By PB

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

People are generally likely to appreciate the connection between loving God and loving their neighbors [Matt. 22:37-40]. Yet, most of us would have to agree that we tend to focus on one element to the neglect of the other. Those who appreciate the importance of social justice are likely to emphasize the “love your neighbor” aspect. Those who recognize the importance of sound doctrine tend to lean towards the “love God” command. In Jesus’ words, everything God had said up to this point (the Prophets) and every command God had ever given (the Law) hung on these two things: love God and love your neighbor.

Here are four reasons why we are to love God and love our neighbor:

  1. The Great Commandment: We are to love God supremely, because this is the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” [Matt. 22:37-38, Deut. 6:4]. The critical work that reflects love for God is faith in Christ, “This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He sent” [Jn. 6:29]. We are frequently reminded in the church that our faith in Christ is manifest by an attitude of dependence upon Him, and actions of obedience to Him. Similarly, we are focused on certain behaviors and spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, prayer, worship, serving, tithing, sharing your faith, and being involved in a small group. In essence, the implied message is, “Do these things and you demonstrate that you love God.” While these are undoubtedly good attitudes and behaviors, they may unintentionally neglect what Jesus pointed to – love your neighbor. Nevertheless, you will not do what He has called you to do unless you love God.
  1. God inspires love: The idea of loving God solely out of duty (commandment) doesn’t seem to inspire. Similarly, God’s divine attributes should inspire worship, reverence, and awe. We marvel that God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, and able to create from nothing. But worship, reverence, and awe are distinct from love. I would suggest that God’s attributes alone do not inspire love. I believe (apparently along with the Apostle John) that our love for Him is inspired by His love for us, We love Him because He first loved us [1Jn. 4:19]. His love is certainly demonstrated in a host of ways, but the most compelling is the cross [Jn. 3:16, Rom. 5:8]. This is the pinnacle of love. Never before, and never since has such love been displayed. God gave His only Son to experience His wrath on our behalf, even while we were in rebellion to Him, so that we could be reconciled to Him. This completely sacrificial, unconditional, and incomprehensible display sets the bar so amazingly high. It not only assures me that God is worthy of my love, but provides the only true litmus test to measure what I might describe as love. If I want to know whether an attitude or behavior is “love” then the standard to measure against is revealed by God. Because God is worthy of my love, and has inspired love, I’m compelled to contemplate, “God how can I love you better today?”
  1. Loving my neighbor proves my love for God: Jesus revealed the second greatest commandment, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matt. 22:39, Lev.19:18]. The lawyer asked Jesus, which was the greatest commandment (i.e. singular). Yet, Jesus volunteers the second. Jesus reveals that these two commandments are so united that they cannot be separated. Furthermore, we are to demonstrate agape love to God and to our neighbor. It is my love for my neighbor and others that proves that I am His disciple [Jn. 13:35]. The connection between loving Godand my neighbor is so clear and simple that it is humbling to honestly consider the implications. I confess that I am often too busy to befriend and build relationships where I live, work (or go to school), and play. I’m alarmed by the thought that a life filled with activity that is actually seeking to advance God’s kingdom can demonstrate love for God in the absence of love for my neighbors. How humbling it is to consider that we can be so busy doing our religious activity that we have no time to love neighbors. Because my neighbor is worthy of my love, and loving my neighbor proves my love for God, I’m compelled to contemplate, “How can I love my neighbor better today?”
  1. Loving my neighbor reveals God’s love to others: We should consider loving our neighbors where we live, work (or go to school) or play. Many of us who declare our devotion to Christ would humbly confess how poorly we love our neighbors. We may not even know their names. We are unlikely to know much if anything about their life, marriage, or family. We probably haven’t discovered their challenges or rejoicings. A neighbor is not a project. Certainly we want to see all come to faith in Christ, but when we make that the objective then our neighbor feels exploited by our overtures. They are likely to feel like a cog in our program. Loving your neighbor is not a program, but an attempt to reveal God’s unprecedented love. The display of God’s love through human instruments is often a bridge to revealing Jesus and His gospel. But that work, as inspired by His Spirit, will likely hinge more and more in a post-Christian culture upon loving our neighbors.

Here are some simple ideas to help us love our neighbors better:

  1. Simplify church life and life generally to create margin to spend time with neighbors where you live, work (or go to school), and play.
  2. Befriend and build relationships with neighbors by asking, “How are you doing?”
  3. When your neighbor is struggling ask, “Can I pray with (for) you?”
  4. Ask, “How can I help?” If the request is reasonable and you are able then seek to help.

What ways have you discovered to love your neighbors?

Five Reasons Why We Should Gather In the Temple and House to House

Five Reasons Why We Should Gather In the Temple and House to House

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page

Some of us like the intimacy of a small community group gathering. Others like the experience and dynamic of a larger gathering associated with weekend worship. Most of us have a preference. If we had to choose the small group experience, or the large group experience, we have an idea which one we would choose. Furthermore, week after week, month after month, and year after year people make preferences known by participating generally in one or the other.

What if God wanted us to experience the benefits of both the larger gathering and the small group? The early church met in the temple and house to house [Ac. 2:46]. This may be more than a mere description of their activity, but may be prescriptive for us. Here are five reasons why we should gather in the temple and house to house:

  1. The larger assembly of people can magnify and manifest the Presence of God. The larger assembly (temple experience) can magnify and manifest the Presence of God in a way that is distinct from the smaller group. In both a small and large group, believers assemble and God’s presence is manifest. But in a larger assembly the experience and dynamics may be different because of the critical mass. I love the experience of gathering with hundreds and thousands and praising God together. The early church continued with one accord in the temple [Ac. 2:46]. The Greek term homothymadon refers to being of one mind, with one passion. The word is used only twelve times in the Bible and ten of them occur in the Book of Acts. The word is a compound of two words meaning to “rush along” and “in unison”. The image of a larger community of faith displaying common passion for God and one another is beautiful to behold.
  1. The larger assembly provides a setting for all to share their talents, and amazing gifts to be leveraged. Again, the larger assembly provides a setting for all to share their talents, and gifts to be leveraged that is distinct from the smaller group. One aspect relates to the diversity of people and gifts, and the generally much greater opportunity to use them. Another difference relates to the opportunity to receive form very gifted leaders. The people who have special gifts of hospitality, intercession in prayer, ministering to young children, serving youth, teaching the Bible, and leading worship, are available for us to receive from. Together we can be blessed in a united experience that glorifies God as the giver of these gifts.
  1. The small group helps to develop encouragement to love God and live His word. The New Testament contains more than twenty-five distinct exhortations to “one another.” We are to love, serve, and pray for one another to name a few. The small group (house to house experience) provides an ideal setting to grow in biblical knowledge and develop biblical character – they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [Ac. 2:42]. It is an ideal setting to grow in our love for God. In a small group we can test our love for God by how we treat and relate with one another. Small groups can be messy, because they should compel us to grow by revealing that others are messed up, and we are all messed up, and need to grow in Christ. When I think poorly of another person in my smaller community I am often convicted that my attitudes are wrong, my judgment is inappropriate, and that they are a gift from God who is highly valued by Jesus. These experiences help me to discover where I need to submit to Christ and grow in order to actually live His word.
  1. The small group helps to develop community and accountability. The house experience is likely the best place to create intimate community (koinonia or fellowship). The sharing of Christ, meals, prayers, praise, doctrine, resources, and life builds bonds of unity [Ac. 2:42-47]. More than twenty-five years ago I was in a home Bible study where I learned to love God and live His word, and where I experienced biblical community. Despite the passage of a quarter century, and moving to a new area over twenty years ago, many of those people are still dear friends. Their love and community, and the accountability to show up and grow up, helped me to mature as a follower of Jesus. Smaller groups tend to create better accountability because they promote relationships where we know one another. In a larger assembly (temple) people may not realize whether you are there or not. But in smaller community (house to house) people know if you are there or not. That accountability can help us to grow.
  1. The small group provides a platform to saturate a geographic area with the gospel and to more effectively love neighbors. The temple can draw a larger group but the temple has a limited geographic focal point. In essence, People have to come to the temple. On the other hand, the house approach of smaller groups creates a platform to saturate a community. Instead of saying, “Come and see” we can “Go therefore and make disciples.” We can love our neighbors as we have been commanded. We can love where we live, work or go to school, and play. If we join with others in geographic proximity to us, and discover God’s love, then we should love God, one another, and our neighbors. That love is radically attractive and helps people to desire Christ and respond to His gospel.

When we gather in the temple and house to house we are likely to discover the added benefit, And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved [Ac. 2:47].

What other benefits of gathering both in the temple and house to house have you discovered?

Teaching Like A Pharisee or Like Jesus

Teaching Like A Pharisee or Like Jesus

By Trip Kimball

When Jesus walked the earth during His time of public ministry, people sought Him out. They were amazed at His teaching, and likewise, by the miracles.

No placards or banners were set up to announce His coming, in fact the opposite was true. People would go out to wherever He was, whether in a town, a seashore, or a remote field—even when Jesus tried to be alone. No one persuaded them to come. They were attracted to Him.

Today, much is made of the distinction between attractional and missional ministry. Jesus was on a mission, but He also attracted people. So, what’s different today?

Real authority

People marveled at the way Jesus taught, because He taught with real authority, not like their religious leaders (Matt 7:28-29). What made the difference?

They drew from the same Scriptures, which would be our Old Testament, so it couldn’t be a Bible version issue.

What caused the crowd to see a difference between the professional teachers of their day and how Jesus taught? Was is it the miracles? Perhaps to some degree, but it was more the way He taught them.

What caused the crowd to see a difference between the professional teachers of their day and how Jesus taught?

What about us?

Yes, of course, Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, but He said we (His followers) were to teach as He did—with His authority (Matt 28:18-20). But are we?

Do people throng to mega-churches because of the authoritative style of the pastor? Certainly, many fine teachers can be found. They write books, speak at conferences, and offer podcasts.

But do we see the same passion in their followers as seen with the followers of Jesus in His time?

Are believers so stirred by the truth that their lives are radically transformed? This is what we see in the Book of Acts with the first followers of Jesus and those they discipled.

Are believers so stirred by the truth that their lives are radically transformed?

Resources galore!

Incredible resources are available today—in print form, online, mobile apps, and more. There’s no shortage of Bible knowledge these days, not in America. But are all these resources, and all the teaching that takes place in churches, conferences, books, DVD’s, and podcasts, transforming people?

trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: ©Time Inc.

Are we penetrating and transforming the culture, or are we just trying to keep our heads above the cultural tide of the world around us? It doesn’t seem like we’re making a lot of progress at present.

Are we penetrating and transforming the culture, or just keeping our heads above the cultural tide around us?

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Yeah, I’m old. I remember how much impact the movement had on the culture of that era. It was enough to make the cover of Time magazine. It was a phenomenal time.

But that was then, and this is now. Something is missing, even with all that we have.

What’s missing?

I have my own thoughts on what is missing, but how about you? I’d like to hear from you on this subject.

I’d like to ask some questions to get the discussion going, are you game for that? If so, I’ll do it the way I’d ask my students in class.

First of all, I want you to answer in your own words (IYOW), not Christianese. Second, don’t just quote Bible verses or give pat answers, do your own thinking and reflection on these questions. And third, give answers based on your own life experience, this will make it less theoretical and more practical.

Questions

Why do you think people saw Jesus had greater authority than the Jewish leaders in His teaching?

When has your heart been stirred by the truth? What were the circumstances?

If someone was teaching, what do you remember about how they presented their message?

What do you think is important for effective and authoritative teaching?

Remember… no Christianese and no pat answers!

 

Next week I’ll do a follow-up post with observations I’ve made of how Jesus taught. Hope to hear from you!


 

trip_0Trip disciples and mentors in several small groups in Jacksonville and beyond. He travels within the US and overseas to teach and train leaders whenever possible.Trip has written a book, training materials, and Bible studies for leaders and missions. He posts 3 times a week– an article, short devo, and simple Bible study at Word-Strong.com

Explaining Baptism to Children

Explaining Baptism to Children

By David Ramirez

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

There are many times when working with kids I am faced with the ever- present question “Why?” It is truly their favorite question to ask. If they see something unfamiliar to them they do not hesitate to ask. And lets be honest, even after an amazing thought out explanation they still ask, “Why?” It is during these moments that we get to participate in and benefit from their wonder and curiosity.

One of the most recent questions we were asked, within our kids ministry was, “Why do people get baptized?” We had spent a whole lesson talking about Jesus’ baptism, which led into our main service having baptisms the following Sunday. So their interest was peaked and they wanted to know more.

It is not uncommon for children to witness something like a baptism celebration service and wonder what it means. By its very nature, baptism needs to be explained, because of its symbolic qualities. The challenge may come when your child is asking questions, and you have the opportunity to explain its meaning in such a way that they can understand. And yet you may feel inadequate to answer their questions. Here is my brief explanation of baptism biblically and practically. Hope this helps you when responding to your child.

Biblically

  • It is imperative that your child understands that baptism does not save. It is only faith in Jesus that saves (Eph. 2:8)
  • Baptism is a picture of what has already happened in someone’s heart through believing in Jesus (An outward expression of an inward change) (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 9:18)
  • Baptism tells us of how Jesus rescued us from our sin through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3,4)

It is important that after explaining it through a biblical lens, that you move to what actually happens on a Sunday morning or the practical part of what they are seeing.

Practically

  • Before someone is baptized they get a chance to share a brief testimony (story) of God’s saving work in their lives, so that the rest of the family of God may rejoice in God’s grace.
  • Before someone is baptized and they are standing in the water, that represents their life before trusting in Jesus. Sin being their master.
  • When they are dunked into the water, that represents that they are dead to sin when they became a believer. They now follow Jesus and not sin.
  • When that person comes out of the water that represents the newness of life because of Jesus. They have been washed clean, and forgiven not because of the water, but because of the cross of Jesus and the forgiveness that is found there.

The thing that we must remember when we are explaining something like baptism, is that we are explaining it to children. We must use illustrations that meet them where they are at. To bring the proverbial cookie jar down to where they can reach, grasp and understand. One of my favorite illustrations to use is a batman analogy. We have all seen the batman symbol shinning in the sky at night when Gotham city needs Batman’s help. But we all know when we see that figure in the sky that it is not really Batman. Its a symbol. What it does is it points to the actual person Batman. In the same way baptism is not the actual saving work of Jesus, but it points to what has already happened in the life of the believer. The symbol of baptism points to the person of Jesus, His death and resurrection.

Baptism services are some of my favorites experiences, because we get to come together as a family and rejoice. It is one of those moments where we get to celebrate ones journey of how Jesus got a hold of their lives and did the miraculous work of salvation, redemption and reconciliation. Let us help our children see the amazing grace of what happens when Jesus transforms lives and that they too can participate if they choose to follow Jesus.

The Problem With Fast Growth – Part 2

The Problem With Fast Growth – Part 2

By Pastor Miles DeBenedictis

Growth, of Character, is Needed

The second problem with fast growth, and this is über important, fast church growth tends to hide the need of personal character growth for the one leading the fast growth.

I do believe that slower growth cultivates the pastor’s character as much as the church he’s planting. Quick growth, however, makes it more possible for the planting pastor, and those around him, to overlook or neglect the need for personal growth and development.

I’ve been somewhat disheartened, in meeting a number of high-profile, large church pastors who experienced fast growth in their ministries. Yes, correlation is not causation. But I do think that fast church growth can mask the need for steady pastoral growth. And that pastoral character development is never fast! Specifically, the deficiencies I’ve observed are in the areas of humility, grace and for lack of a better word, warmth.

Perhaps I’ve over-hammered the issue of humility already. Pride is almost never a virtue, hardly ever warranted and pretty much always sinful. Every one of us has the seeds of pride residing within. Fast growth is an amazing incubator for pride. Slow growth is the compost for humility. If lead pastors are to be representatives of Christ’s church, then they absolutely cannot lead from a position of pride; the first on the list of things that God hates.

In the last 10-years we’ve watched more than a few large church pastors publicly chastised for ungracious attitudes and methods of leadership. Honestly, I am ungracious too. We all are, in our base natures (i.e. flesh). When the church grows quickly I believe learning to work graciously with others on your team can be easily overlooked. Don’t misunderstand; small church pastors can certainly lack grace too. But churches that grow on a slow curve, tend to require that the pastor grow in grace.

A Proponent of Grace

Pastor Chuck Smith pastored a massive mega-church for decades, but was a huge proponent and picture of grace. This is likely because he had 17-years of small church experience before the precipitous growth of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Those 17-years were, I believe, essential to his growth as a pastor.

It is somewhat inevitable that as a church grows, the distance between the senior pastor and the larger church body increases. This isn’t entirely a good thing, but it is a thing, and it is a thing that is compounded when a church grows quickly. Which means that introverted pastors remain rather cold and standoffish toward the people they pastor throughout their entire tenure. Slower growth, however, requires that a pastor be forced out of the comfort of introversion. No, that doesn’t mean that he’ll become an extrovert, but he will have to learn to be more of a people-person than he may be naturally. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the most relationally warm pastors I know are former missionaries who served in a context that remained small and a culture that required relational interaction.

I get it. Lead pastors like church growth. But church growth at the expense of growth in Christ likeness is not acceptable. Please, don’t despise the day of small things. 


 

Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Church in North San Diego County, CA, the church he attended as a child and was discipled for ministry by. He can be followed @PastorMiles

“It’s Not What You Think”

It’s Not What You Think

By Pastor Miles DeBenedictis

Let me begin by saying that this post will be patronizing. I wanted to say “might be patronizing” but that’s too passive. This will be straight up patronizing.

Yes! So you want to be a pastor. Not just a pastor; a senior or lead (or whatever adjective you want to apply) pastor. I mean that’s the track you’re planning to be on as a church planter, right? Here’s the thing. It’s not what you think it is going to be, and until you are one, you cannot even begin to understand the weight of being one.

But wait” you’ll say, “I’ve been a youth pastor” or maybe “an assistant pastor.” “I’ve had a lot of experience as a pastor on a staff at a large church.” Trust me, you don’t have a clue.

I told you it would be patronizing. I don’t want to be condescending, but this is just the reality.

It’s like when you meet with a couple for pre-marital counseling. They think they know what marriage is like and they’re certain that they’re going to hit it out of the park as husband and wife. They’re never going to argue, and if they ever do, he’s always going to love her as Christ loves the church and she’s always going to respect, honor and even submit to him.

Or better yet: it’s the newlywed (childless) couple leaving your house after an evening with you, your spouse and your four kids. As they drive home they roll their eyes (come one, you remember doing it) and say to each other, “Did you see how out of control their kids are” “OMG, I mean really! When we have kids our kids will be so well behaved.

Trust me, I want you to plant a church. I want you to be successful as a church planter and lead pastor. But you need to reckon with this as soon as you possibly can. You don’t have a clue. You’ll understand this more fully five years after launch day. In fact, you’ll be able to write this article more articulately then too.

But as it stands right now, pray for the humility to admit that you don’t know anything and reach out to coaches and mentors who can help you navigate the things you don’t even know that you don’t know.

Ministry at the top is far more difficult than you mentally grasp. Books don’t do it justice. Podcasts cannot adequately portray it. One-on-ones with senior leaders are great. But until you’ve had to be the one to see the nearly negative balance in the church account, with bills to pay, and your pay/salary at the bottom of the list, you don’t understand. Until you’ve had to deal with the worship leader who quits on Sunday morning, it’s all just theory. Until you’ve had to fire a friend, or make payroll…

Forgive my condescension. Until you’ve been one, you cannot grasp the weight of being a senior pastor.

Please, be humble enough to admit it.


 

Miles DeBenedictis is the Senior Pastor of Cross Connection Church in North San Diego County, CA, the church he attended as a child and was discipled for ministry by. He can be followed @PastorMiles

The Essential Key to Christ’s Kingdom

The Essential Key to Christ’s Kingdom

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

Recently, my wife and I were out of town celebrating a special occasion. We had a nice room, in a nice hotel, in a nice location, with a nice view. So I was anticipating a very nice time. Imagine my chagrin when I put the key card to the sensor and the red light kept coming on. The door wouldn’t open. I checked and had the right door, but there was a problem with the key. My thoughts weren’t too nice as I returned to the lobby to seek to discover the problem with the key. In an effort to save my fellow travelers frustration, desperation, or worse I’d like to offer some suggestions as a spiritual concierge.

Assuming that you desire to enter Jesus’ kingdom, you need to make sure that you have the right key.Preliminarily, this is a destination that you want to check into immediately and plan to stay there forever. Of all the destinations that I could recommend there is none that offers the amenities, the sense of pleasure and contentment, nor the glory of this location. Furthermore, although it is presently being remodeled the artist’s renderings on the eternal plan are majestic to say the least.

Jesus reveals the true and false keys in the conclusion to His kingdom manifesto, the Sermon on the Mount:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! [Matt. 7:21-23]

Some keys that won’t get you in:

Lifeless words: [21, 22] Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Calling Jesus “Lord” is not the same as making Jesus Lord. When Jesus is Lord of your life, you choose to submit to Him in every realm of life: personal, marriage, family, career, calling, and community. The term “Lord” speaks of the nature of the relationship of a submitted follower, not merely a title. Unfortunately, there are many who call Jesus “Lord” but their life seems to indicate the words are empty. Their declarations don’t align with their actions. That key simply doesn’t work to enter Christ’s kingdom.

Lifeless works: [22] Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?  Works to advance Christ’s kingdom can provide evidence of salvation, but in and of themselves they will not provide salvation. God can certainly do mighty works through someone even though his or her heart is not yielded to Him. As you consider Judas, the betrayer of Christ, the other disciples considered him to be exemplary. He was the treasurer for the group [Jn. 12:5-6]. Also, when Jesus revealed that one of the disciples would betray Him the other disciples did not apparently suspect that it was Judas. Suffice it to say that you can be very active in works to advance Christ’s kingdom, and still discover that key will not in and of itself give you access to the kingdom.

The Master’s key [the key that gets you into the kingdom]:

Life-giving relationship: [22] And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’The key to the kingdom is to know the Lord, and to do His will. This life-giving relationship is characterized by an attitude of dependence upon Christ and acts of obedience to Christ.

This life-giving relationship is characterized by an attitude of dependence upon Christ and acts of obedience to Christ.

Here are some practical actions to ensure that you have the right key:

Read the Bible: The best way to know Christ and His will is to read (learn) the Bible. As you learn the word of God you meet Christ, and by His Spirit can know Him. The word reveals God’s standard as well as revealing your obedience (or rebellion). A general hunger for the Bible is a good indicator that you have the right key, but only if there is a desire to obey.

Relate through prayer: Prayer is undoubtedly the most-challenging spiritual discipline, but it also tends to be the most purely spiritual activity that a follower of Jesus engages in. Spending time alone, or with others, cultivating intimacy with Christ is a great way to ensure that you have the right key, and of course to grow in Christ.

Reflect on experience: It has been said that, “We learn from experience.” Nevertheless, I believe it is more accurate to conclude that we learn from reflecting upon our experience(s). In our fast-paced and highly distracted culture it seems that people are finding it increasingly difficult to find time for reflection. Creating time to reflect upon Christ, and your life, and where you might be misaligned can be extremely valuable to ensure that you have the right key.

Repent and obey: Reflection and the discovery of misalignment will ensure that you have the right key if it is joined with repentance and obedience. Repentance involves changing our thinking about God and our sin. Obedience involves aligning our behavior to be consistent with Christ.

When these four actions are taking place in your life, you are very likely to receive a green light when you seek to enter Christ’s eternal kingdom.

What do you think are some practical ways to ensure that you have the right key to enter Christ’s kingdom? Share your thoughts below.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].

Five Essentials for Effective Christian Parenting

Five Essentials for Effective Christian Parenting

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

I’m a parent of two young-adult children, and a pastor. I’ve gleaned some perspective on the process of parenting. Preliminary, I’m grateful to God for our sons, and my wife Karen who has been a terrific mom to our boys. There are no perfect kids, there are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect people. Nevertheless, we have a perfect Savior, and our primary job is to equip our children to know Him, submit their lives to Him, and to follow Him as mature adults.

Every family dynamic has special challenges that require God’s grace, wisdom, and resiliency.

Every family dynamic has special challenges that require God’s grace, wisdom, and resiliency. Our sons grew up as PK(s) [pastor’s kids] in a large church in a smaller city. I really can’t imagine the “fishbowl” experience from their perspective. Adults at the church interacted with our sons distinctly from other children. Arguably they were held to a higher expectation of behavior simply because their father was a pastor.

The moral: your kids have unique challenges that you can’t really appreciate, and you may never fully understand. Chances are it has been quite a while since you were their age. No matter how you imagine that you coped with the challenges that they are facing, you don’t feel their angst. Their peers have a different view of Christ’s followers than your peers did. That reality is dynamic, complex, and they are trying to navigate it with the coping skills they are developing in real time.

In an effort to help, here are five essentials for Christian parenting:

  1. Be sensitive to who God is making them:

As a general principle we are to raise our children in the Christian faith. We are encouraged that generally as adults they will continue to walk in the faith: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it [Prov. 22:6]. We appreciate that there may be adolescent experiences of testing the boundaries of authority and some rebellion. We are comforted that generally if we raise them in the faith they will walk in it as adults.

…recognize that God has cut your children from distinct cloth; and it may not be the pattern that you would have selected.

The Hebrew of Prov. 22:6 could be translated, train up a child in the way that he is going… Here, the nuance is to recognize that God has cut your children from distinct cloth; and it may not be the pattern that you would have selected. For example, you may be an artist or an athlete and want your child to follow in your footsteps, but God has called them to other interests. Resist the temptation to impose your calling on their life, and be sensitive to support God’s calling on their life.

  1. Be close:

My friend the farmer says, “The best thing for crops is the farmer’s shadow.” Proximity provides insight with children as it does with crops. Jesus appointed the twelve that they might be with Him … [Mk. 3:14]. When you are close you discover where there is stress and strain, and where there is health. In the debate between quality verse quantity time I’ve discovered the value of “both and” rather than “either or.” Find out what your kids enjoy, and share it with them even if it is not your thing.

Find out what your kids enjoy, and share it with them even if it is not your thing.

One son likes sports and I am blessed when we watch a game together or throw the ball. I raised him to be a Dodgers fan, and he became a Reds fan, but it is not the unpardonable sin. Our other son likes movies, and I cherish watching movies together. We are currently watching the American Film Institute’s [AFI] top 100 films together. Similarly, we draw close to one another by praying together, eating meals together, and family vacations together.

  1. Be consistent:

Consistency creates stability, and children tend to thrive in a stable environment.

Consistency creates stability, and children tend to thrive in a stable environment. Your child needs you to be an example of a consistent walk with Christ, not a perfect life. Let your child see you consistently read the Bible, pray, and worship with other believers. Try to minimize wild swings of the pendulum from generally no relationship with Christ to the uber- Christian, and then to the extreme of no relationship. As an ideal, be able to graph your own walk with Christ as a steady upward progression without too many rollercoaster-esque peaks and valleys. For example, sports and other recreational activities that cause the family to disengage from healthy Christian life for months at a time make it challenging for children to recognize Christ as the priority. Create boundaries that demonstrate consistency with Christ to help your child learn to love Jesus first and foremost [Phil. 3:17].

  1. Be able to correct:

As our sons became adults, my role shifted to more of a mentor or coach model. Yet, I have to resist the temptation to pursue a friend relationship at the expense of a parent relationship. At every stage of parenting, create healthy biblical boundaries. Seek to enforce the boundaries with love and correct with respect. Don’t treat a 13 year old like a 10 year old, or a 16 year old like they are 13. Recognize that each child responds to various forms of correction differently. Discover what works, and what doesn’t work. Correct your children the way that you would like God to correct you [Heb. 12:5-11]

  1. Be willing to give control to God:

Your children belong to God, and you are a steward to train them in His ways.

Your children belong to God, and you are a steward to train them in His ways. Resist the temptation to think that they belong to you. Avoid excessive control of your children that flows from a desire to fulfill your dreams as a parent. Don’t create an unhealthy yoke upon your children to compensate for your sense of identity in Christ. Pray for them constantly, pray for them regularly, model a healthy life in Christ and relinquish control to the true and living God who loves your kids more than you, because they are His kids.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].

The Purpose of Worship – Part 4

The Purpose of Worship – Part 4

By Bruce Zachary

This post is shared from the VELO Church Leaders Page 

Site

The woman at the well was curious about the location where God’s people were to worship:

John 4:20

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Jesus’ response shows that fruitful worship is not limited to a particular site. Jesus explains that the key is that we worship in spirit and in truth, not whether we are at Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim.

We can associate worship with a particular location. Perhaps we associate worship with being by a mountain, a lake, the ocean, or a stream running through the middle of the forest. Perhaps we associate worship with a particular church building. Perhaps we associate worship with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by a particular site to worship. The problem is when it is difficult to worship God when we are away from that site. Fruitful worship is not limited to a particular site, because God is everywhere.

We need to consider whether we are more focused on the God we worship or the place of worship. We need to be more impressed by the God we worship than the building we worship in. When our fellowship began we met in a shopping center. There were many people who struggled with the idea of church in a shopping center. They enjoyed the worship music, the teaching, and the children’s ministry, but they could not worship in a retail center. As we built our new building, people would come in and say, “I can’t wait for the new building so that I can come and worship with you.” They would not come and worship until there was “a proper” church building. Although I certainly understand their difficulty, it clearly is less than an ideal situation.

We can easily focus on the site of worship rather than whom we worship. I remember as a young pastor when I was experiencing a particularly difficult time that I would want to go back to worship at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and hear Pastor Chuck teach. Yet, I needed to learn to focus on God, and not my pastor or any place of worship. It is imperative that we learn to focus on God, and not the site of worship. Here, I want to consider whether I am more focused on God or the site.

Sin

Jesus also helped the woman to see that sin in her life was keeping her from becoming a fruitful worshipper.

John 4:16-18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have well said, “I have no husband,” for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.’”

Jesus gently exposed the fact that the woman was living with a man outside of the marriage relationship. When Jesus called the disciples, He met them exactly where they were at. As fisherman, He encouraged them that He would make them “fishers of men.” Jesus approached the Samaritan woman at the well about the “living water.” Apparently, this woman already knew how to be a fisher of men as she had been married five times and the man she was now living with was not her husband.

We can never truly worship God until we are ready to turn from our sin and receive God’s forgiveness. Jesus exposed her sin to encourage her to turn from her ways, and to turn to God’s ways.

For example, consider a couple that is living together outside of the marriage relationship. They come to church on Sundays, sing worship songs, and want God to bless their relationship. Nevertheless, we can’t truly worship God when we are living in rebellion to God’s express desire for our lives. God has made it abundantly clear that if we are not married then we can’t “play house.” Fruitful worship requires us to deal with the sin issue, and turn from our ways, and turn to His ways.

Here, we want to consider patterns of behavior or attitudes which reveal an element in our lifestyles that is contrary to God. We need to appreciate that it inhibits our ability to be a fruitful worshipper. Once we do that we need to come to Jesus and ask Him to help us to turn from those things and turn to Him.

In summary, we all have a thirst that can only be satisfied when we worship God. It is comforting to know that God isseeking us to worship Him. Our worship must be prompted by the Spirit, and must be sincere. Worship of God does not depend on a particular site, but merely focusing on Him. Finally, we must be willing to turn from sin, and turn to God. This is what is required in worship.


 

Pastor at Calvary Nexus, Camarillo, CA. Bruce has been an ordained pastor for over 20 years. Bruce planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. in 1996 and continues to serve as the lead pastor of a multi-site church. Bruce is the author of 12 books. He has previously been a trial attorney, and helps direct the Calvary Church Planting Network [CCPN].