jump to navigation

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.”

Decision? … or Commitment?? November 2, 2014

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

Kyle Idleman is an author and also the teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  In Not A Fan, he asks the question:  “Have you ‘made a decision’ for Jesus?  or have you committed  to Jesus?”

There is a difference.  There shouldn’t be.  But there is a difference.  Many have made a decision to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Jesus.  The gospel allows for no such distinction.  Biblical belief is more than mental assent or verbal acknowledgment.  Many fans have repeated a prayer or raised their hand or walked forward at the end of a sermon and made a decision to believe, but there was never a commitment to follow.  Jesus never offered such an option.  He is looking for more than words of belief; he’s looking to see how those words are lived out in your life.  When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become nothing more than fans.

Biblical belief is more than just an intellectual acceptance or a heartfelt acknowledgment; it is a commitment to follow.  Following by definition requires more than mental assent, it calls for movement.  One of the reasons our churches can become fan factories is that we have separated the message of “believe” from the message “follow.”  After separating the two messages, they get out of balance.

I’m not saying that following is more important than believing.  What I am saying is that the two are firmly connected.  They are the heart and lungs of faith.  One can’t live without the other.  Following is part of believing.  To truly believe is to follow.”

Not surprisingly, Kyle has come under fire for teaching the “heretical doctrine of Lordship salvation.”  I did not come away from his book with the idea that he believes we earn our salvation by doing works or any other such thing.  I don’t believe, and I don’t read that Kyle believes, that we are saved because we decide to be saved, or that we either get saved or stay saved by our own efforts or merits. 

Jesus asks the question in Luke 6:46 –

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

How does one answer that question? “Well, I didn’t really want to obey you.  I just didn’t want to go to hell.”  I suppose the real question is, “Do you love Jesus enough to obey Him?”  Because, if one does not love Jesus Christ, nothing else really matters (see 1 Corinthians 16:22).

Kyle did not have to make the case for obedience.  In fact, he’s not coming up with anything new; he’s just reminding us of what James says about the uselessness of a purported “faith” that produces no works (See James 2:17-22).

But a passage sometimes overlooked in the discussion is in Hebrews 11:6 –

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

The word translated “rewarder” (μισθαποδότης – misthapodotēs) only appears here in the New Testament.  It isn’t in the context of getting saved or “staying saved” (a problematic concept, to be sure).  Let’s face it, no matter how tepid one’s faith, there is no doubt some work that has proceeded from it.  So if one argues that saving faith always produces a change in one’s life, it’s really hard to find disagreement.  I argue (and I believe Kyle is arguing) that to live a life that pleases God, one must live a life of obedient pursuit of Christ; vigorous, consistent and joyful submission to His discipline.  I would add that Jesus DESERVES to be loved, and DESERVES to be obeyed.

That’s where the joy is, and THAT’S WHERE THE REWARDS ARE!  I suspect that many of us are given a taste of earthly poverty so we will know what it feels like, and we will be motivated to lay up treasure in heaven.  If you don’t like being poor here, you sure won’t enjoy it for eternity.

This is not a salvation issue.  If anything, it’s a maturity issue.  The lie (remember: these are the days of deception) is that Jesus did it ALL – that all He expects of us is to crank back in our Lay-Z-Boy recliners, trust Him to take care of us, and wait for the rapture – and that perhaps doing good works is legalism against which Paul preached, and which is at its core an affront to the grace of God.  The truth is that Jesus did for us only those things that we could not and cannot do for ourselves … and He will even help us with the rest.

“Obedience” is not a spiritual gift, my dear friends.  Satan’s effort is to give Jesus an eternal daycare center full of immature, bottle-sucking Christianettes.  Jesus calls us to maturity: to GROW UP in all things in Christ (Ephesians 4:13-15).  THAT, I believe, is the core of Not A Fan and that is the core of the podcast going forward.  I want to be outrageously wealthy when I get to Heaven, and I want you to join me.

The Anakypto Forum.

%d bloggers like this: