Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walking in Repentance

When I was in college my roommates and I developed the not-so-great habit of "your-fault/my bad". If there was a misunderstanding between us or if I'd done something that seriously annoyed you, I was quick to insert a "your fault" and then proceed to the next topic (followed by your uncomfortable laughter). In a similar manner, if something was undeniably my/my roommates fault (e.g. the time I locked us all out of the house again, my roommate put a hole in the dorm room wall, my roommate put a hole in the apartment wall, my roommate put a hole in... you get the picture) we would quickly insert a "my bad" as if that resolved the issue. Once the words were spoken, I was no longer responsible.  The only thing less sincere is the "thank you's" that follow the unwrapping of Christmas Sweaters (you know the one with the giant reindeer...? Because everyone wants a sweater with giant reindeer...).

As I've grown in Christ I've noticed that sin always prevents me from embracing the mission of God. But recently, I've felt extremely burdened not only by my sins but also the sins of my family, my friends, my community, and my nation.

As followers of Christ we've been called to live Lives of Repentance. The word for repentance literally means to turn in the other direction. We turn from the things we've worshipped and we turn back to God. What do we repent for? We repent for the sins of omission (allowing things to happen) and commission (doing wrong things). If a family member or friend is living in sin and I say nothing, what am I communicating? Christians have both the privilege and responsibility of representing the Christ on earth. And people are who they worship.  If I turn a blind eye to sin in my life or in the lives of others, I'm really saying that "the God I worship doesn't care about sin" and nothing could be further from the truth.

Now I'm not advocating an angry and aggressive condemnation. If it doesn't look like Christ, don't do it. But then again, don't forget that Christ lovingly called people out on their sin so that they would repent and turn to God. What sins are keeping you from embracing God's mission? Perhaps it might be as simple as the idolization of your mission over His. Perhaps you fear man more than God or are just generally apathetic to the existence of sin. Maybe you've grown attached to comforts and have become numb to the starving, desperate souls around you. Whatever it is, the Bible urges us to deal with our sin (kill it) or reap the consequences (Romans 8:13/Hebrews 12:6).

The confession and repentance of sin(s) should be a consistent rhythm throughout our lives. It should be something that we walk in. And it's not just confessing sin to God, but the bible also tells us to "confess our sins to one another" (James 5:16). We have to expose the darkness in our lives. We have to address the idols of our community. And we do this all for the glory of our king. The gospel changes lives and by the grace of God we can have new lives and experience the freedom of exposing sin to light.

Lastly, heartfelt repentance stems from seeing and knowing the glory of Christ. When Isaiah saw God's glory he fell on his knees and cried out "woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips and I live amongst a people of unclean lips." He was burdened not just by his sins but also the sins of his people. And in this repentance, God picked him up, dusted him off, cleaned him up, and sent him out on mission (Isaiah 6:1-13). Mission is always rooted in a lifestyle of repentance.

Here's a quick video on the difference between remorse and repentance by Mark Driscoll.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Evangelism 101

Sharing the gospel with the kids of San Soucci, SA
A few weeks ago, we started a series on evangelism entitled: ENGAGE. The series is basically oriented around becoming a more missional church and being a people that is on mission with God. To quote Brad House, a pastor at Mars Hill Church: "God's story frames our story, if the Trinity is on mission (seeking the lost), then you cannot be in God's story without being on mission with him".

Throughout the Bible, God is always seeking lost people and he is seeking them with the aspiration of . In the Old Testament, Jerusalem stood out as a holy city (or was supposed to... they seriously "Chicago Cub'd" it ) and was supposed to live in such stark contrast to the surrounding areas that men would come to them. But in the New Testament, this has kind of been flipped. The church has been commissioned to go out and make disciples, not to wait for disciples to come and find them.

So that's all well and good from a theoretical standpoint, but what does that mean practically? Well first it means that we need to be seeking to build relationships with lost people (people who have not trusted in Christ). But it also means that we need to be abe to communicate the gospel when the time comes.

Here are a list of the Main Evangelism Strategies:

Proclamational Evangelism: you see this strategy quite a bit in the New Testament but not as much today. It involves preaching the gospel from a pulpit, soapbox, street corner, stage... wherever lots of people can hear you.
    • Pros: Many, many people can trust in Christ.
    • Cons: There's very little room for follow up and the "confession of faith" may be unclear.

Relational Evangelism: involves building a relationship with someone and overtime giving showing them the effects of the gospel, the love of Christ, and gradually addressing their questions and concerns. All relational strategies have to become aggressive at some point or the person will ultimately remain lost.
    • Pros: A strong relationship is developed and built which could feed directly into discipleship. There is plenty of room for follow up and potential pitfalls can be addressed.
    • Cons: It takes quite a bit of time to develop the relationship and it does not reach large groups of people. It can also communicate a lack of urgency.

Aggressive Evangelism: taking someone down the "Roman Road" or some other form of gospel presentation with the intention of offering an invitation for them to trust in Christ.
    • Pros: It communicates a sense of urgency and the need to repent and believe is evident. If a lost person has questions they can ask at any point.
    • Cons: There is not as much room for follow up. Many people find this mode intimidating especially if they don't know you.

Written Evangelism: Giving someone a tract, letter, brochure, or personal testimony that walks them through the gospel with the intention of bringing them to trust in Christ.
    • Pros: Ensures that the gospel is communicated clearly. Allow the lost person to go back and reexamine the information that they've been given.
    • Cons: Is pretty impersonal and many times a lost person may not read the information and simply throw it away.

Remember, the point of a "strategy" is to lead them to Christ. That means that you shouldn't "have" a specific strategy, you should use whichever one works best for that person. The purpose isn't to win some intellectual argument or even to answer all of their questions. The purpose is to lead them to the cross and to the feet of the Savior. Evangelism isn't about us and our preferences, it's about God.

Lastly, I encourage you to get to know people. Find out where they are on their spiritual journey by simply asking: "where are you on your spiritual journey". Use the Bible (God always says it better than we can), keep Christ central, and trust Him with the results. And remember to speak graciously and to pray continuously. It is the Spirit alone who gives life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Curing Consumerism

Just one more dot and I'll be satisfied...
We're consumers by nature. We stand in long lines to buy fancy shiny trinkets only to replace them in a few months. The iPad gets replaced with the iPad2.468768 and Faltscreens get replaced with 4D Surround Sound Home Theaters. And I'm not knocking anyone with technology. Technology is a good thing. Prezi (as soon as I can figure out how to use it) makes life so much easier and without the blue dot on Google Maps I would forever be lost. But, when searching the heart, why are we so eager to sacrifice the mission of God for our own comforts?

If you're reading this and it sounds eerily similar to a post I made a few months back, you're right. For some reason it really upsets me that we've turned church into another thing that we consume. Church becomes a means to our ends. We say that if you need community, if you feel down, if you need inspiration, if you want to hear some live cover's of Christ Tomlin and Hillsong... come to church. But that's not why the church exists.

The cure to consumerism is being missionally minded. The church, if it is to serve as a reflection of God, must be about the mission of God because it exists to glorify God. And if it isn't, then we're just attending a Christian Country Club (btw I hate country clubs). We have to be missional. But what does that mean? What does that look like?

A missional church is:
  • Concerned with the Lost- it asks the question, how does _______ (music, service time, etc) reach out to lost people?
  • Pursuing the Lost- the preaching, members, and regular attenders are all looking to share Jesus because they love Jesus.
  • Worshiping Christ's Glory- it understands that Christ's glory is both the end and the means. It seeks to fill the earth with the image of Christ.
  • Seeking to Be Transformed by the Gospel- it seeks to kill sin, tear down idols, address issues, and become more like Christ.
  • Proclaiming the Glory of Christ and His Gospel- it teaches about Jesus, seeks to learn more about Jesus, and be more like Jesus.
Let's be about our Father's buisnessl!
Notice that nowhere in the list is our preferences or comforts. It doesn't say anything about a type of music or style of preaching. As Christians, we can sacrifice our comforts so that the lost can find Christ. We don't have to be enslaved to our own desires anymore!

The gospel frees us to live radically different lives. This doesn't just mean that the Christian stops sleeping around, looking at R-rated movies, and gambling. It means that our entire worldview crumbles and is replaced by one that is Christ centered. I see the first two aspects of a mission church (which involve the lost) getting sacrificed incredibly quickly as churches and Christians sell themselves back to the slavery of their comforts.

You were called and saved for so much more than this! You don't have to chase the wind, you don't have to waste your time on pleasures that don't last... stop drinking from the broken cistern.

In my own life, I'm hoping for a mindset shift. I hope to start thinking and praying with a mindset that is prepared for God to move through his church to reach the lost. I hope to always see empty seats in a church because, if they ever get filled, it's time to find a way to empty them so they can be filled all over again. I hope to be prepared to see a people that is willing to risk friendships, relationships, jobs, finances... everything for the sake of seeing Yahweh's gospel advance through their city, state, and world. I hope to see a church and a people that refuses to worship at the feet of the idol of "comfort" and chooses the glory of God instead.