Can’t spread the Kingdom without the King

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

seeking

Kingdom values aren’t kingdom values without the King. Loving one another wasn’t new; loving as Jesus loved was new.

If we are going to proclaim the kingdom, we must proclaim the King. If we are going to “bring heaven to earth,” then we will necessarily bring the One whose very presence fills heaven.

So let me put it this way: if you’re feeding and building and digging and giving for the sake of the Kingdom, tell people about the King. Talk about Jesus, who he is, what he’s done for us, and the eternal life he wants to give to us.

Bonus: “Trying to have a Kingdom with no King is just -dom.” :-)

5 reasons why churches choose not to evangelize

seekingSo why are so many Christians today neglecting or denying the need to evangelize others? Here are some thoughts:

  1. There is a rejection of the “fire and brimstone” preaching of yesteryear. As I’ve said, this is a dangerous pendulum swing. Not unexpected, but dangerous. We don’t solve anything by going from one extreme to another. We’ve got to get back to a middle ground where our people (our leaders!) feel confident in sharing Jesus in a healthy way.
  2. An age of tolerance makes evangelism seem old-fashioned. Evangelism isn’t tolerant. It doesn’t say, “This is my idea, but yours is just as valid.” Evangelism makes claims of exclusivity. Evangelism calls for an embrace of one set of ideals and a rejection of all others. The spirit of tolerance and a zeal for evangelism don’t go together well.
  3. Evangelism creates conflict. It’s easy to hold forth kingdom values that society in general applauds. Few people openly advocate injustice. It’s rare that someone will argue against helping the needy. So many of the kingdom values that our church today wants to promote are values that society in general is in agreement with. It’s undeniably true that more churches began preaching gender justice when Western culture embraced women’s rights; many assume the same thing will happen with homosexuality.
    But evangelism is counter-cultural. If someone suggests that a Muslim needs Jesus, they’re criticized for their intolerance. If we tell our neighbor that they need to live a Christian lifestyle, we’re seen as judgmental. Evangelism creates conflict.
  4. Evangelistic results are hard to predict and hard to quantify. If it takes $100 to dig a water well, you know that $1000 will dig ten. Predictable. Quantifiable. Easy to fit into a budget. Easy to report on afterward.
    There are no formulas for predicting evangelistic success. Conversions can take years. We know that the more people we talk to, the more likely it will be that some will respond to Jesus. But for people who live by numbers and statistics, relief work is always going to be more attractive.
  5. Theological shifts have left church leaders without motivation to reach out. Here’s where we see a divide between many church leaders and your average church members. Many leaders no longer see the atonement as past generations did. Many choose an emphasis on “bringing heaven to earth” over “helping people get to heaven.” Others embrace a universalism that denies that any will be ultimately lost. These shifts and others have left many church leaders looking to spend their time, energy, and resources in other areas rather than evangelism.

We could name many more factors. Maybe you’ll help me. Why do you think so many church leaders today are hesitant to talk about evangelism and reaching out to the lost?

We were all dead in sin. Some still are.

seekingContinuing the train of thought from yesterday, I’d like to look at how the apostle Paul talked about sin. Think about what he told Titus:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:3-5)

We were lost. God saved us. Some are still lost. They need to be saved.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Some are disobedient. We were among them. We were dead. In sin. Now God has saved us. The disobedient still need to be saved! They are still dead. They are still in sin.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (Colossians 2:13)

Dead. Because of sin. Not just the Colossians. Not just the Gentiles. “He forgave us…”

We can’t lose this message. It’s too important. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. I was a sinner. Dead in sin. Lost. God saved me.

Some are still disobedient. They are dead in sin. They need to be saved. They need the good news of salvation, the hope of eternal life, the message that in Jesus God is offering salvation to the whole world, to all who will obey, to all who will come to him in faith.

Sinners in need of grace

seekingIt’s becoming popular these days to leave sin out of the presentation of the good news of Jesus. Let’s talk about Kingdom. Let’s talk about becoming a member of the people of God. Let’s talk about taking part in the restoration of all things.

But let’s don’t talk about sin. That seems to be the spirit of the day.

As I’ve said before, it’s one of the usual pendulum swings that we get regarding theology and Christian living. One generation emphasizes one thing, so a later generation feels the need to reject that one thing and go to the other extreme. That’s the very tendency we have to fight against.

Many car wrecks occur due to what is called oversteering. It’s an overreaction to a situation that calls for a correction in steering. The panicked driver turns the wheel sharply, worsening the situation rather than helping. Instead of running off onto the shoulder, they veer across the center lane into a headon collision. Instead of sliding on the ice, they throw their car into an out-of-control spin. Instead of hitting a road hazard, the driver throws their car sideways across several lanes of traffic.

Overcorrection in the church is no better. Removing judgment and sin from our vocabulary is not the way to respond to a perceived overemphasis of those themes. Let’s talk about the Kingdom and Kingdom values and restoring a fallen world, but let’s not forget that the Bible teaches that each of us needs the forgiveness of sin.

We will never reach a lost world if we don’t admit that world is lost. We will never reach a lost world if we don’t admit that we were lost until God’s grace reached us. We will never reach a lost world if we delete sin from our vocabulary.

Growing churches reach out purposefully

seekingYesterday I mentioned a survey which was reported on by The Guardian in an article titled “Literal interpretation of Bible ‘helps increase church attendance.'” I’m not impressed with whoever wrote the headline, for I think they missed some of the most important aspects of this study. The study was published online May 24, 2016, in a journal article titled “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy” in the Review of Religious Research. (I mistakenly said yesterday that it wasn’t coming out until next month.)

Since I have a degree in social sciences, I do need to note that this survey was carried out among mainline churches in the province of Ontario in Canada. It’s not as broad of a study as I initially thought. Still, I find the results enlightening.

I noted yesterday how telling a leadership’s view of evangelism was in determining whether or not a church will grow. The study also notes a real difference in a church’s mission and purpose. In the first place, the author’s noted, “growing church attendees were significantly more likely to agree” that their church has a clear mission and purpose. Secondly, the survey ended with an open-ended question which asked church members to state what their church’s purpose. In growing churches, almost thirty percent put evangelism at the top; in declining churches, this number was less than 10 percent.

The authors noted:

In terms of the purpose of the church, there was a wide range of responses among both growing and declining congregants, but growing church congregants were more likely to identify evangelism as the essential purpose of their church, a result which is again consistent with their greater theological conservatism, specifically their belief in Christian exclusivity (seen in their responses to belief questions about the importance of encouraging non- Christians to become Christians and the equivalence of world religions).

Since I noted above the limitations of this study, I should include this quote as well:

This finding that growing churches place more emphasis on evangelism is consistent with the work of other researchers who have identified evangelism as a statistically significant factor in church growth (Bibby and Brinkerhoff 1973, 1983, Bibby and Brinkerhoff 1994; Bouma 1979; Hadaway 1978; Nelson and Bromley 1988; Donahue and Benson 1993).

If a church wants to grow it needs to be reaching out to lost people. This outreach needs to be intentional and obvious. The church needs to see this as one of its major reasons for existing. If we believe that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the only way to the Father, then we have a responsibility to share that with others. We do so not only to see growth in the church, but to help those around us not only benefit from Kingdom values, but become members of the Kingdom.