Years ago I ran across this parable, and it had an enormous impact on my ministry.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once
a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and
there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant
watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went
out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.
Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station so that it
became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in
the surrounding areas, wanted to get associated with the station
and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its
work. New boats were bought, and new crews were trained. The little
lifesaving station grew.
Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that
the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a
more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of
those saved from the sea.
They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture
in an enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular
gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully
and furnished it as a sort of club.
Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on
lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work.
The mission of lifesaving was still given lip-service, but most were
too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the
lifesaving activities personally.
About, this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the
hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet and half-drowned
They were dirty and sick; some had skin of a different color, some
spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a
shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could
be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most
of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as
being unpleasant and a hindrance to the regular pattern of the organization.
But some members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose
and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station.
But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to
save the life of all various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in
those waters, they could begin their lifesaving station down the
coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes
that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club, and yet
another lifesaving station was founded.
If you visit the seacoast today, you will find some exclusive
clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those
waters, but now most of the people drown! — Taken from Personal Evangelism 101, by Brent Hunter
This illustration identifies a troubling trend in far too many congregations. Congregations find themselves often lost and searching for the answers to become relevant again. The decline is slow. At first, people don’t seem to notice that the mission focus has changed. The members just ease into a ministry pattern of complacency. In the beginning, there was high energy and motivation. Members came to gatherings full of fresh ideas to reach their community. No idea seemed implausible or impossible. After years of struggling to find a permanent home this new fledgling community settles in on the place, you will call home. You start the building project with a groundbreaking ceremony, and you are off and running.
You start the building project with a groundbreaking ceremony, and you are off and running. After about a year and cost overruns the building is in place. Now due to the mortgage, the ministry is saddled with, the focus changes to maintaining the building that once brought so a sense of achievement. You have accomplished your goal but at what cost? Did the mission get left behind?
As you look at other churches who are growing in attendance, and you wonder if they have somehow watered down the message. Does it have to be an either/or? Can’t the church, guard its doctrine and practice while at the same time keeping its eyes focused on those who are outside of God’s grace? Continue to reach out to those who may speak a different language, have a different skin color? An important fact about mission work is that it gets messy. The people who come to our churches outside of God’s grace are messy. Their lives are messy. Their past baggage and past experiences are messy.
Someone once told me the church should be a hospital for sick souls. We should consider reorganizing our church meetings. What if we devoted as much time to planning and caring for those outside of God’s grace, you know those messy ones as we care for the sheep that pay the bills. It is a delicate balance. But that is the great command of Jesus along with the great charge. The great command is: “Go and Make Disciples.” The great charge is “Feed my sheep.” It is not an either/or but a both/and.
In the Modern Revival of Christian Faith, Georgia Harkness said, “The cross is God’s way of uniting suffering and love.”
In your monthly leadership meetings try to discern where God is working in your community and how you can keep messy hurting people in the monthly agenda of your church meetings. Below are some questions to get holy brainstorming going on the opportunities God has placed at your doorstep.
What do they value?
Where do they find community? Where is their lifesaving station?
What gives them joy?
What challenges do they face?
What do they fear?
Where are, they hurt?
What can we do as a body of believers to address their pain and show them mercy?
What ministries do have budgeted already that could be a place to invite those not a part of our tribe too? And once they are there how to we remain connected to them?
It is important to remember all people are valuable to God, “However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead because of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!” Ephesians 2:4-5
For all those who have been waiting for my Bible Study on One Nation Under God: Healing Race In America. It is coming out March 4, 2017. Here is the link to the promotional site. Sign up for updates on the release date.
In this funny and blunt talk, Larry Smith pulls no punches when he calls out the absurd excuses people invent when they fail to pursue their passions.
Meet and greet are opportunities for you to give people a chance to know more about you. It also gives you the opportunity to promote your blog. To make this more fun. Tell us what country you are posting from, what is your favorite meal growing up and one surprising thing about you people would not suspect. The other rules of engagement are listed below. Remember to copy this link on either your blog or social media outlet. I hope you get new people to see your heart and passion for blogging.
Here are the rules of engagement-
Leave a link to a post from a blog other than your own
Leave a link to a post to your blog
SHARE this post (social media or reblog)
The best way to increase readership is to engage with other bloggers! Comment on their posts. Invest time in what others are doing. It will help you grow as a blogger, writer and it is a heck of a lot of fun. This blogging community can be one the most rewarding social opportunities around. You will find that most people are encouraging. So get some conversations going, you never know what connection can be made!
Prayer is a tough subject for most people. As I was thinking about how to approach this topic, it dawned on me that prayer is like eating healthy. 1) We know prayer is important, 2) it is beneficial for us. 2) We have a strong desire to do it, yet 3) We often struggle to have a consistent, vibrant prayer life.
Like eating healthy, we are challenged with many of the same issues. Many aren’t sure what to do. We are not satisfied nor confident about how to do it. Nor do we have a grasp on what to pray for so at the risk of doing it wrong and somehow offending God, we just choose not to engage in the spiritual discipline.
To unpack some of the fear and sense of inadequacy attached to prayer, I will focus the next few Wednesdays on the topic. For the purpose of full disclosure, I am by no means a prayer warrior. So will figure this out together.
Some Keys For A Vibrant Prayer Life From The Apostle Paul And Jesus:
1 Praying Without Ceasing. “17 pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
This verse has been the source of misunderstanding and confusion. The complexity is found in the translation of “Pray Constantly” The Greek word translated “constantly” really means, “without ceasing;” this is not to be understood, with a continual, like Paul prayed day and night event. Paul is not saying we should be praying 24/7. If you have tried this, you have discovered just how difficult that endeavor is, so the result of that epic failure is to question your spirituality and dedication or love for God. In comparison, prayer becomes like that failed eating healthy attempt broccoli vs. chocolate cake. Since I neglected to make the right choices I just give into temptation, “Bring on the cake.”
Paul in Thessalonians was encouraging his churches to make prayer a part of their personal spiritual discipline (see also, Phil 4:6). He and his coworkers prayed together regularly (2 Thess 1:11; Rom 1:10) and valued the prayers of the church on their behalf.
12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Romans 12:12 (CEV)
9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Lk 11:9-10
The Apostle Luke shares with the world what Jesus taught them about praying with a bold persistence. Jesus uses an illustration of a man coming to a friend for help. At first, the friend says it is late, and the children are in bed. In other words, this is an awful time. Come back at a more acceptable time. Because to go and unbolt the door would awaken the children. However, the friend was bold in his persistence. He would keep asking, keep knocking and keep seeking. The lesson on prayer from our Lord revolves around these three different approaches to prayer.
The concept of “Ask” is commonly used for prayer. To best understand this it must explain that in the Greek it is not imperative of command (“You must ask to receive”) but as an imperative of condition (“If you ask, you will indeed receive). The force of this Scripture is not a command of Jesus to pray, but instead and an invitation to prayer.
So God then is not viewed as a genie sitting high on His Throne demanding that you pray to Him to get your every wish granted. Since prayer is an invitation, it does not mean that everything we prayed for will be answered. In that same section of Scripture, Jesus explains, about receiving gifts from the Father. In verse 11-13, “11 “If your child asks you, his father, for a fish, would you give him a snake instead? 12 Or if your child asks you for an egg, would you give him a scorpion? 13 Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Therefore, our Heavenly Father proves to us that he is our Father, and we are, indeed, his precious children by giving to us those things that are beneficial to us.
“Searching” is frequently used to describe seeking after/for God
29 You will seek the Lord your God from there, and you will find him[a] if you seek him with all your heart and with all your being. -Deut 4:29
“Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Isa 55:6
I like to describe it this way God places a God-size hole in the human soul. That can only be satisfied and filled with the presence of the Almighty. For us to seek God is to desire that spiritual connection with God’s face through prayer.
I have heard this described this way “knocked at the gates of mercy and finding that they were open to us.”
This verse is an example of the divine passive (“it will be given to you” means God will give it to you. In saying “it will be opened to you” means God will open it to you) and of Jesus’ use of exaggeration, make it very clear that not all prayers are answered. Prayers that are answered are those in line with God’s will and would include an implied reference to Jesus prays in the garden before His date with Calvary “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
When children first start to color, they have two problems. First, they might choose colors that are inappropriate. Secondly, once the colors are selected, they have a difficult time keeping the colors within the boundary lines. As they mature and keep on coloring, they learn to keep within the guidelines and to choose the appropriate colors, resulting in a satisfying picture.
As children of our Heavenly Father, our prayer life often resembles a child’s coloring. At first, we don’t know what to pray for nor do our prayers stay within the guidelines of His will. As we mature and continue praying, though, we pray for the right things and stay within His will, resulting in a satisfying prayer life. With consistency and bold persistence, we learn to develop a healthy vibrant prayer life.
Other blogs in this series on Prayer:
“Christian kingdom generosity gushes out of the heart and soul of the redeemed believer. It is cultivated and ripened through love for God and gratefulness for Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Generosity should never be forced nor guilt-driven, it should flow lovingly from the believer’s heart.” Keith Haney
One of the main challenges I faced serving congregations under 200 in worship services on Sunday were the monetary issues. We never seemed to have enough funds to carry out all the wild and crazy mission ideas the Senior Pastor, namely me, wanted to implement. This post will address the elephant in the room, money. Smaller churches, if they are not careful, can spend all their meeting time discussing and bemoaning just how little of the almighty dollar they have available to put into circulation for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Churches can easily slip into a mentality of letting the issue of money hinder their bold proclamation that Jesus came to rescue those far from God. I was taught early on the best way to take a problem of this size is one tiny bite at a time. Here we go, take these few small bites today.
Kingdom generosity starts with the leader.
You cannot ask or expect your people to go somewhere that you as a leader have not gone first. Take note of the following illustration.
The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. The Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?” Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Cooper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”- Unknown.
Leadership takes on many forms, but one quality is blazing the trail. In the small church that struggles with money issues, people are reluctant to give for fear they will not have enough to meet their daily needs. So, giving to missions suffers. Contributing to those in need suffers. Benevolence in general suffers. And the pastor leading a congregation in this mindset can quickly fall right in line with that way of thinking. Pastors are reluctant to preach sermons on generosity when they struggle with the issue themselves. The change to leading a philanthropic church begins with a charitable leader.
Kingdom Generosity needs to be taught.
The best way to shift an “us first” outlook to open-handed generosity is to teach the believer to trust in God’s promises and to celebrate how God moves in the life of the congregation. Biblical generosity is liberating, invigorating, and powerful. You are inviting followers to be content with what God has given and entrusted to them. Their money is to glorify God by funding the promotion of his gospel in the community they have been called to serve. But this generous spirit does not come. Naturally, it must be taught and developed. Our natural nature is to find ways to cut corners and cheat God.
In Nehemiah chapter 13, his task was to confront that concern. “I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. So, I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.” Neh. 13:10-12 (ESV)
Kingdom Generosity needs church leaders.
Nehemiah proves that a strong and courageous leader is often needed to restore order and bring revival. God’s people responded to the call to meet their financial obligations when godly leadership put things in order.
“Verse 13 shows how Nehemiah put persons who “were considered trustworthy” in responsible positions. Part of the work of continuing revival is that of putting men of integrity in leadership positions. Being a man of prayer, Nehemiah committed to God what he had “so faithfully done.” The key word is ḥesed, usually used for God’s “steadfast love” or “faithfulness.” Nehemiah is a good example of someone who personified ḥesed.”
The church is an ideal place where believers can be tutored that they are a vital clog in the mission of God in the world. Local churches are vibrant local mission outpost to the community where Christians learn to not only think God’s thoughts but also model Jesus’ heart for the lost. Our work in the community and globally transforms hearts and expands believers’ impact on carrying out the commission Jesus left his church in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Kingdom Generosity needs ministry partners.
The final key to fulfilling your ministry goals is to find ministry partners who share your religious values and shared vision. This could help the smaller church create avenues to connect with more volunteers and dollars that you cannot raise from your members alone. As you find people who share your mission and vision for the ministry you are attempting to accomplish for God, you will find new connections and opportunities that may not have existed before.
This opening illustration frames the attitude the Church should have regarding missions:
A missionary in Africa was once asked if he liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable, refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.” –Our Daily Bread.
I want to begin this by discussing the churches in the Book of Acts. The struggle I run into when talking about the Church’s mission based on what was happening in Acts is that we tend to see those churches through rose colored glasses. We see the explosive growth, we see the unity, but we fail to see the flaws. And to be honest, all churches have flaws. Here is what we know about those early churches.
· On that first Pentecost 3,000 souls were added to the church in Jerusalem.
· The church was founded on strong biblical teaching and sound doctrine.
· The believers (we call them laity) had a habit of gathering together daily for prayer and the breaking of bread (Holy Communion)
· The result of this growth in the faith led the people to a life of generosity.
· There was unity as the worshippers gathered daily in the temple.
· It was not all happiness and joy; there were still conflicts.
As we set out to model the missional churches of Acts we love to see only the positive. We need to be prepared for all the issues the churches in Acts faced. Whenever you attempt something great for God, Satan will do everything possible to mess that up. Today I will spend some time on those marks.
Strong Biblical Teaching.
“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” Acts 2:42
At the heart of any missional church is the gospel message of Jesus Christ death and resurrection. If we are preaching anything but Christ and him crucified then we are doing harm to those outside of God’s grace. The first mark of the missional church is the church founded on the apostle’s teaching.
Empowering Prayer Life.
The church seeks to know and to follow God’s will. A missional church is a praying church. They never lose sight of the fact that they are God’s people. Sustained by God’s power. And guided by God’s purpose and plan. They are committed not only to God’s will, but doing ministry God’s way.
Vibrant and Christ-centered Worship
The church is a place of dynamic, engaging Christ-centered worship. The styles may vary, but their worship stroked the heart and soul of the worshipper. The Word of God engages and involves people in the mystical union of God and His people. This vibrant worship happens as the Word of God is preached. Christ’s body and blood are shared in the breaking of bread. And the people are God engaged in prayer. Those who attend worship in these churches do not doubt that they have been in the presence of Almighty God.
Sending Discipleship Mindset
The church develops disciples who in turn produce other disciples. Missional churches recognize the crucial importance of developing leaders who are equipped for ministry in this age. These churches plan to send followers out. To equip new leaders for future ministry needs in the local church. They tireless work to expand the scope and number of their leaders, while we continue to develop existing leaders for more active service.
Service to the Community
Church members are intentionally evangelistic. The Great Commission compels missional churches to go the ends of the earth to find the lost through various methods. These churches don’t see evangelism as a program but as a relationship. They seek opportunities to share the gospel with others they encounter in everyday life.
Church members are kingdom focused managers of time, talents, and treasures. These churches foster a climate of generosity. They are not a concerned about what they will receive. Members look for opportunities to help others with all that God has entrusted to them.
“22 change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. 23 Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
Like the churches in Acts when we are driven by mission, we will also encounter conflict and disagreements. What separates missional churches from others is how they handle the conflict. Conflict is handled positively, and the end goal is reconciliation. To be realistic, no church can expect to avoid conflict. That would be nice, but the conflict is a part the human condition. But how we handle those differences speaks volumes to the world who is paying attention to the way Christians behave.
Imagine being a member of a church like this. Yes, it can be dynamic, but not without its flaws. If we can have just some of the results of the Acts churches would that be a sight to behold?
Other blogs in this series:
What do you want to be when you grow up? Have you struggled to find your purpose in life. This TED Talk may give you some insights
Thank you so much, https://followinghimbesidestillwaters.wordpress.com for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award! 🙂 I’m sorry it took me so long post it; I got stuck on working on other writing, projects and it took a while to come up with things say about myself. Some may find that shocking, but I don’t like to talk about myself. 😄
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Valuing quiet and solitude in academe.
...random musings from a random guy...
Book reviews and lessons
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!" -John. 14:12-14
Debra Pedrow: Christian Author and Blogger
Find Your Number
Because we are never alone
Annette Leeann Flores
Ideas of Light that Penetrate the Ideas of Darkness (To read this blog in context, readers should start at the earliest date of a series)
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