Monday, February 24, 2020

Evangelism in Action


Acts 8:1,4 NAS - " . . . And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem,a nd they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore. Those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”

        Previously I shared that while it would appear that Christianity is in decline in the United States, it is flourishing elsewhere in the world. What does this mean for us? It means one of the greatest mission fields in the world is right in our backyard. It means Christians in America have much Gospel work to do. We need to march forth with boldness and confidence declaring the Gospel of Christ and admonishing all men to forsake their sins and embrace the King. 

I often receive some great questions in response to my teaching. After reading my previous post one of you asked, “But how do we (our congregation, our church) do more in our local mission field?” As we can see in the Acts 8 passage (above), the work of evangelism is primarily the duty of the laity, the person in the pew. It was the lay people who went about sharing the Gospel. We must not see evangelism  as confined to the pastors or to the church, in the sense that evangelism is only done as a group activity. I often say, evangelism isn't an event, it is a lifestyle. There are several things to consider in answer to the question.

1. As individuals we must continue living with Christ as the focus of everything. This will result in us speaking about Him to others—we tend to talk about those things that we are most passionate about. With Christ as our focus we will be sharing the Gospel, inviting the lost to our church services, etc.
2. The church should provide the “tools” for evangelism. This includes solid teaching to provide a good foundation for the work of evangelism. The church should equip the membership with other tools. For example, our church prints thousands of tracts for the use of our members in their evangelistic efforts. We also provide congregational outreach opportunities such as tract distribution in large gatherings in our community.
3. The church also stands ready to assist members who become engaged in particular Gospel opportunities. It may be providing literature, Bibles, or other support to encourage them in their labors. They might find an open door into a nursing home, a local school, a prison,  or a Bible study in their home or at work. There are endless opportunities and the church stands ready to assist our members and provide whatever resources they might need. 
4. We must keep evangelism as a priority, and we must not forget the importance of prayer. The Gospel goes forth as God’s people pray for its success (2 Thes. 3:1).

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Church Triumphant


"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18 ESV). 
 
      In my last post I spoke of the troubling statistic that for the first time in the history of our nation the majority of Americans do not profess Christianity. The past 20 years have seen a 20% decline in church attendance. The declining interest in Christianity has resulted in many negative consequences, particularly among our young. World Magazine (Dec. 28, 2019) quotes psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, “As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.” 

      This decline of interest in Christianity in our nation is indeed troubling. But not so fast! We must not pretend that the US is the only nation on the earth. Americans are often accused of an arrogant sense of self-importance. While the statistics of a decline in Christianity in the US must not be dismissed, Christianity in other parts of the world is flourishing. Before 1949 there were approximately four million Christians in China. Today there are over 31 million officially recognized, but many believe there are tens of millions more, with a 7% annual increase. In 1900 there were 8.7 million Christians in Africa. In 2010 there were 390 million. Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Iran, increasing at an annual rate of 5.2%. This is in a Islamic nation where Christians are persecuted. In 1950 Christianity in South Korea stood at 3% compared with almost 20% today. 

      What does this mean? It means Christians in America have much Gospel work to do. While we must not neglect the foreign mission field, we must not turn our eyes away from the tremendous mission field here at home. The Great Commission begins in our own backyard. We must also never forget the promise of our Lord regarding His Church, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” We must not see the decline of Christianity in one particular region as indicative of the health of our Lord’s kingdom. 

      We also must not misunderstand our Lord’s words. “Gates” were used defensively to protect a city. Hell’s gates are under siege by the church, and they will not prevail. The church marches forth as a mighty unstoppable force bombarding Satan’s kingdom through the power of the Gospel, and its gates are continuing to crumble. We need to march forth with confidence and steadfast courage as we carry the Gospel to the lost of our generation. Pray that God will have mercy upon our land and  bring a great awakening.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Statistics


We hear a lot about percentages and statistics. For many they are of great importance. People keep a close eye on their portfolio and rate of return. Sports fans are interested in the statistics of the game. When we hear of the chance of dying from a particular disease our interest is elevated. During election season we keep a close eye on the percentage points of potential votes for the various candidates. I could go on and on describing our interest in statistics. 
I recently read a statistic that seems alarming in some ways. Among Millennials the percentage of those claiming to be Christians now stands at 49%. This is the first time in the history of our nation that the majority has not professed Christianity. This is truly disturbing. We’ve known for a while that we are a thoroughly secular nation, but to see it in black and white is grievous to consider. It is far worse when you consider that among those who profess Christianity, only a fraction are truly regenerate. This means the number of Christians in our nation is quite small.
What does this statistic mean to us a Christians? How are we to interpret it? On one hand it means living in this world as Christians is continuing to be difficult. It is hard to live in a world where most hate Christ. But, there is nothing new about this. This is the condition every generation of Christians has faced.
What about the impact upon evangelism? Doesn’t this make our work much more difficult? With so many people denying the claims of Christ should we be smitten with fear? Actually, this statistic offers greater opportunities for the Gospel. How is this true? What if 90% of Americans claimed to be Christians? We know that our nation is thoroughly pagan so it would mean that we would spend much of our work in evangelism describing the nature of genuine Christianity and laboring to explain to many that they do not actually know Christ. A person has to be lost before he can be saved. But if less than half profess Christ it gives us a clean slate. Our great work is to tell lost sinners the good news of the Gospel of Christ.
The truth is, statistics mean nothing in our Gospel work. The command of Christ is still, “Go make disciples.”                              

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Celebration of Christmas


Luke 2:9-10 - "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;"

December has arrived and the Christmas Season is upon us. The celebration of the birth of Christ is all around us, even in the midst of our secular observance of the holiday. The question is, what is the proper response to the birth of Christ? Some choose to ignore His birth. They have no place for Him in the world they have fashioned around themselves. For others, there is much greater hostility. They cannot tolerate Him because He is too threatening. There were many of these during the brief life of Jesus upon the earth. There was king Herod who saw Jesus as a threat to his reign. He sought to destroy King Jesus in order to maintain his own position. The Pharisees also wanted to destroy Him because they too were threatened by His authority. Then there was the mixed multitude who could only shout, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!”

But what is the proper response to the birth of Christ? Jesus was born in a manger, in a most meager condition. His birth was first announced to the shepherds, who were in the field watching over their flock. When the angels appeared to them they were terrified, frightened to the core.

The angel comforted them and encouraged them not to be afraid. Immediately the shepherds made haste and came to Bethlehem to see the Christ child. What did they see? Was it merely a baby laying in a feed trough? What they saw was the eternal Son of God. They believed the words of the angel. They saw far more than a human baby. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). They saw the Savior of God’s people.

What we read next is the proper response to the birth of Christ— "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). They knew they had witnessed the extraordinary. They had seen the Savior. Their response was the only proper response. They returned believing, and rejoicing, praising, and glorifying God for the wonder of His excellent gift. And then they went sharing the good news with others.

May God fill our hearts with wonder and awe as we celebrate this wondrous season. God has shed His love upon us in sending forth His Son that we might be reconciled and adopted as His own children