Tag Archives: Church Inside Out

Church Inside Out seminars

I believe that the material in Church Inside Out is important for our churches. I have no illusions of getting rich off selling books. I do have dreams of the contents helping some churches become more effective in reaching out to their communities.

It was gratifying to hear that 21st Century Christian has already had to do a second run on the workbooks. I guess some churches are buying the book for their teachers and the workbooks for the class members. That works.

I’ll be presenting this material in four large events this year: the Pepperdine Lectures in May, the Red River Family Encampment in June, the Lipscomb Summer Celebration in June, and the Harding Lectureship in September. I also have several seminars planned at churches in the U.S., plus a request from the Dominican Republic!

I’d love to present this material at your congregation. The Church Inside Out seminar is a practical workshop for the congregation that wants to increase its impact on the community around it. The four sessions of the seminar are:

  • Session 1: The Church Inside
    Christians face new challenges when trying to reach today’s changing society: hostility toward religion, skepticism toward the Bible, apathy toward church membership. Yet the biggest hurdles we face are often inside our own congregations.
    In this first session, we will look at attitudes in our churches that distance us from the communities around us. We will also examine the role of Christians as ambassadors of the Kingdom.
  • Session 2: The World Outside
    In this session, we will look at how to analyze the make-up of our community and how to purposefully serve that community. We will also discuss the need to develop relationships with non-Christians to be able to share Christ with them.
  • Session 3: The Church Goes Out
    Conversion is a process, and church members need to know how to actively participate in every stage of that process. The third session will look at how to treat people who are at different points in their spiritual journey towards God. We’ll learn how to recognize when people are ready to hear the good news and how to share it with them.
  • Session 4: Outsiders No More
    When foreigners come to a new country, they go through something called acculturation. This is the process of learning the appropriate ways of doing things in their new culture. When new Christians begin meeting with the church, they go through a similar process. The final session deals with how to help new Christians become active members of the church.

Our seminars page on the Hope For Life website explains the costs:

The only cost to the hosting congregation is transportation, hotel, meals, and an opportunity to tell the Hope For Life story to the congregation, elders, or Mission Committee. Contact Bill Brant, bbrant@heraldoftruth.org or call 1-800-234-7995, for more information.

I hope to see you soon at a Church Inside Out seminar

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?

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.

Does your leadership prioritize reaching the lost?

seekingI’m reaching that age where I’m transitioning from criticizing what the church has been to criticizing what the church is becoming. Actually, I’m right at that sweet spot where I can criticize both!

Seriously, one thing that worries me about today’s church and tomorrow’s leadership is a de-emphasis of the concept of salvation. It may just be a pendulum swing that will eventually correct itself, but I know many church leaders who aren’t really concerned about helping people hear about Jesus. Let’s clothe them, feed them, provide housing, and send them on their way. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if we look closely, we have to admit that many church leaders are uncomfortable with the idea that non-believers need salvation.

Don’t believe me? Many people are talking about a research project that is being published in next month’s Review of Religious Research. The study shows that more conservative churches are growing more than their more liberal counterparts; in today’s Links To Go I refer to an article about that.

But that’s not what caught my attention. Here’s the survey question that caught my eye:

“It is very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”

In churches that report their numbers to be dwindling, only 50% of respondents agreed with this statement. None of them marked “Strongly Agree”! In growing churches, 99% of the leaders surveyed agree, with 77% strongly agreeing.

Here’s another:

“Only those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ will receive eternal life”

In declining churches, none of the leaders marked “Strongly Agree” with this statement. 6% agreed. In growing churches, 77% of leaders agreed or strongly agreed. I would admittedly nuance my agreement and mark “Moderately Agree,” for I believe that a sovereign God can still save anyone he chooses. Yet the Bible is pretty clear in saying that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

Folks, if your leadership doesn’t believe that non-believers need to be taught about Jesus, your church is doomed. No need to pull punches on that one. Your church is doomed.