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Draw a Little Circle August 19, 2016

Posted by stevekerp in Christian living, Discipleship, spiritual wealth, Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

One of the wiles I believe the devil and his buddies in the religion business have used very effectively is to induce Christians to get so focused on the “big picture” and the huge and desperate needs of the world that they miss the small needs that may be right in front of them. “I can’t help you now; I’m on a mission to save the world.” “I’d really like to help you pay your electric bill, but I gave all my money to the foreign missions ministry at church.”

Stuff like that.

We see, sometimes in retrospect, the silliness of, “if I’d stayed to help my neighbor, I would have been late for the prayer meeting.” “And what was the prayer meeting about?” “Oh, we’re praying for boldness in reaching our neighborhoods for Christ.”

There’s a simple solution, but it requires a little discipline. Are you really a “disciple” of Christ? If so, read on.

Jesus has placed us where we are for a reason. His command to go into “all the world” is not a missionary call, or a command to get a passport, pack a suitcase, and travel to a foreign country. You are obviously “in the world” when you are at home, in your neighborhood, at your job, or on your campus. You have been SENT as an ambassador of Christ to where-ever you are.

This is liberating. You are not required to reach people with whom you have no contact. Rather, you are commanded and empowered to represent Christ to people with whom you DO have contact. How neat is that??

But that’s still a pretty big playing field, and unmanageable unless all your relationships are extremely superficial. How do you clearly delineate YOUR assignment?

First, you should bear in mind that the population you are part of is probably about 3% Christian. Were I to come to your little corner of the world and round up 100 people at random – with you among them – there would probably be two other Christians in the posse. That means 32 unbelievers for each Christian. Viewed this way, you see that Jesus has not given us a huge or overwhelming task at all. In fact, in order to meet the objective, we need only be faithful on a daily basis for about a month. ANYBODY could share the gospel with one person a day for a month. It’s not an 8-hour a day deal, either. No expenses, no extra equipment, no special training, no passport.

Of course, true ministry is larger than that. Some folks really need more exposure, more encouragement … and maybe a LOT more prayer. So I’m not going to suggest that you do this “witnessing thing” for a few weeks and then retire. What I am suggesting, rather, is that you map out your ministry so you can be focused and effective in the part of the global village where you have been sent. Your part is your “circle.”

Anyone can draw one. It need not be large, and it need not be all that round. Within it go the names of 30 people who are close to you, most of whom are probably not saved. They may be geographically close, such as your next-door neighbor or friends at work, or they can be close in the sense of family or friends. But it should be real people who you really know. “Facebook friends” don’t count.

These are people that you vow to God you will be “there” for. These are people you will “pastor” to the extent they desire it. You will pray specifically for these folks regularly. You will contact them, love them, serve them, be available for them. You will be open to them. These specific people are your ministry. This is your circle – a little “spiritual garden.” For everyone else, you should be “open for business.” If anyone in the neighborhood, in the family or on the job comes to you, you should serve if possible, just because that’s what Christians do. But for others you can be more reactive. For those in the circle, you must be pro-active. You reach out to them; don’t wait for them to call you. You ask them how they are doing; don’t wait for them to volunteer their problems. And you pray for them aggressively.

Now, suddenly, your ministry is right-sized, right-side-up, and SPECIFIC. The nameless, faceless, lost masses in some country you might not even be able to find on a map – and emotional appeals to support a missionary who can “reach them for Christ” and “obey the Great Commission” – can be seen in a more realistic context. At least, you understand that helping someone else obey Christ is not an acceptable substitute for YOU obeying Him, in the location where He has placed you.

This does NOT mean you project some “spiritual aura” or assume some “pastoral mantle” or anything like that. Nor does it mean you should invite these 30 people over to your house, set up a pulpit, and start preaching. All this means is targeted, pro-active and authentic Christianity. You should be ready with an answer if anyone asks you the reason for the hope that is in you. But they have to ask. For many, “going spiritual” is a greased slide to the exit.

HOMEWORK:

1. Start a list of your 30 (or so) people. You really should not have a problem listing people who are close to you, either consanguinally or geographically.

2. Write down the specific ways that you will serve these people, as appropriate and when possible. For instance, if you have someone who needs money, that does not necessarily mean you pony up. It may mean he/she needs budget guidance, spending control, or help with a yard sale. Being a servant does not mean being stupid, being a doormat, or being an always-on-call problem solver. You serve in wisdom and on your terms. Expect to be led by the Holy Spirit.

3. Write down some specific, pro-active ways that you can cultivate and deepen your relationships with these people. Invite to dinner, get birthdays and anniversary dates and send cards, help in a job hunt, etc.

4. Don’t meddle. Your commitment is to God. You will be available, prayerful, and proactive. If you become intrusive, they will probably resent it, and you will hopefully sense it. Tell them “I’m available but I won’t meddle.” Respect their boundaries and continue to pray.

5. Remember: No one can come to the Son unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). No doubt, lots of folks who consider themselves Christians spend time in prayer, but their prayers go nowhere because they are not in Christ. As a Christian, you have a rare opportunity to speak to God, knowing that He actually hears you! Re-read that last sentence: this is huge. You can actually go before the Creator of the Universe, the Father of Jesus Christ, and pray that He will draw your lost family, friends and neighbors to Christ. And you can bet that when He does – when He gives your circle-members faith to believe – that YOUR phone will ring and you will have the opportunity to provide content for their gift of faith.

ALTERNATIVE:

1. Having read the above, you are thinking, “that sounds manageable, and it certainly appears to be Biblical. I’ll think about it.” Or maybe, “I’ll ask my pastor about it.”

2. Then, having felt really good about what you just read, fully intending to take this for action when you get around to it, close your browser and do nothing.

I guess it’s a Luke 6:46 moment. Or maybe you have a BETTER plan (and you may) which you are already implementing. If so, good for you. Send me the details; I’m interested.

In the meantime, hope to see you “on the mezzanine.”

But … Do You Love Him? December 26, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Christian living.
3 comments

My first church exposure after being saved was in my wife’s home church in Racine, and they beat me up continually with their 5-step “plan of salvation.”

Back then, and probably still, the “candidate” (I don’t think that was the word they used) would come forward at the end of the service as the congregation sang the “announced invitation song” and then the minister would explain the 5-step plan (I understand some churches have added a sixth) and ask the candidate if he believed that Jesus died for him, etc.  The candidate would say “yes” (then, as now, the minister did almost all of the speaking), and that one-word response was accepted as a confession of faith (Matthew 16:16), and then the minister would announce, “that confession brought death to Him but will bring life to you when you complete your obedience in baptism” (or something very similar).

I’m no mind reader, but I’m inclined to think many of these candidates were thinking quid pro quo – that “for this ONE act of public humiliation, I won’t have my parents on my case any more and God will BE REQUIRED to keep me out of hell.”

Such a deal.

As I said, I’m no mind reader … but I saw and heard lots of resistance to baptism (and still do!) and I saw little evidence of renewed minds or transformed lives.

My thought is that the “formula” is flawed.  Paul boiled it down to one simple statement, which he gave in 1 Corinthians 16:22

If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. (I would guess that “remain accursed” would be an equally valid translation. -scc)

How basic can you get?  It’s right there:  the delineation between blessing and curse.  And yet I never heard any minister (or anyone else, for that matter) ask a baptismal candidate or new believer if he (or she) loved Christ and, if so, why.

I’m in no hurry to “do the deal” and get people to make “decisions for Christ.”  As you know, there is no such thing in the scriptures.  Men say (and especially at this time of the year) that “wise men still seek Him” but I doubt it.  We don’t seek Him; He has come seeking us (Matthew 18:22).  And according to Paul, “…not many wise…” (1 Cor. 1:26) are called.

His disciples LOVE Him.  Because they love Him, they keep His commandments.  His “fans” only want what Jesus can do for them (stay out of hell, acceptance in the Christian sub-culture, etc.); they don’t want Him.  This is a distinction easily lost in evangelistic fervor, as you are no doubt aware.

So the questions we should be asking are:  “Do you LOVE Christ?  If so, why?  If not, why not??

Trivializing Christ December 9, 2014

Posted by stevekerp in Christian living, Church, Harbingers.
1 comment so far

I challenge our paganized “Christmas” season every year. As you probably know, most of the symbols and traditions come from ancient Babylon, and even the Christmas story (including the date) that many Christians embrace is full of errors.

But the real problem I have – traditions aside – is what Christmas, in fact, IS today. If Christmas really were a Christ-exalting season and people really came face-to-face with Jesus, should we not expect that every December would be a season of spiritual revival? Why is it, rather, a season of depression, hostility, financial irresponsibility, and over-indulgence?

And while it’s as easy for unbelievers to ignore Christ during this season as it is at any other time, why is it that among the professing Christian community, the claims of Christ and the knowledge that God has come to us does not produce deep repentance, or revival, or grief over our sin, or a renewed commitment to Christ and holy living?

Obviously it does not. The passion and focus of the Christian community toward godliness seems no more intense in December and January than it does at any other time of the year. Maybe with all the trees and tinsel and gift-giving and carol-singing, we are simply relegating what’s really important to the “back burner.” And perhaps because we do, Christmas has really become a time when we trivialize what’s important and insult Christ instead of honoring Him.

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