Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CHARACTERISTICS OF A MISSIONAL LIFE! What Kind Of Life Does God Want Us To Live? Part 1


Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Who may live on your holy hill?  He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15 (NIV)


This passage starts off by asking two  very important questions:

  1. Who may live in God's sanctuary?
  2. Who may live on God's Holy hill?
In a very figurative way both of these questions are asking the same thing.  They are both asking what kind of person is fit to stand in the presence of an Almighty God? or What are the qualities God looks for in a person which would allow him the privilege of being in His presence?  

What follows eleven characteristics that God looks for in people.  However, men in and of themselves are totally incapable of living out all of these characteristics.  In our sinful nature it is impossible for anyone, other than Jesus, to reach those standards.  One of the great lessons learned from the Old Testament is that mankind is totally hopelessly enslaved to sin and totally unable to change their predicament.  The Apostle Paul teaches us that the lesson of the Old Testament is to prove to mankind that they are completely unable to live up to the standards that God has set forth and the purpose for learning that lesson is to prepare us for admitting we need a savior.  Read what Galatians 3:21-25 says, 
"Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.  Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."
 In the New Testament what we have learned is that through Christ, and in Christ, our old sinful nature has died with Christ on the cross and was buried with Christ through baptism and through participation in Christ's resurrection we were born again through the working of the Holy Spirit and God has now begun a process transforming our lives through the renewing of our minds into the likeness and image of Christ himself. (Romans chapter's 6 & 12).

While in our old sinful nature actualizing all eleven characteristics would be totally impossible but now in our new nature, through Christ, we can experience all eleven of the characteristics by God's transforming power!  It is my prayer that by studying these characteristics and meditating on their application to our own personal lives our minds will become renewed and our lives will be transformed more into the individual that God has always intended for us to be.

One last thought needs to be mentioned before we get into studying each of the characteristics.  There is a tendency that once a Christians learns what the characteristics are that God want in them to go out and make it happen in their own strength.  Please understand none of these qualities can become part of your normal daily life by you forcing it to happen. It is only through the power of Christ living His life through us that we will be able to see this transformation take place.  Paul again in Galatians says,
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 NIV
So in other words the way to experience this transformation of life is not through WILLPOWER but through  CHRIST'S POWER. We need to live a life where we consider ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ where Christ lives his life through us.  It's not us doing it but it's Christ in us, the hope of glory, doing it through us.  This is so very important because Christ is the perfect example of a life that exemplifies all eleven of these characteristics and as we learn to allow Christ not only to live in us but more importantly through us we too are then able to stand in the presence of the one and true living and breathing God.  That, by the way, is how the righteous live by faith.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ORDINARY CHRISTIANS SHARE THEIR TESTIMONIES

While I was the pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Salinas, Ca I had the honor of working with some wonderful people whom God's amazing grace was demonstrated upon.  These four Ordinary Christians share about how God took their lives and transformed it into something beautiful.  The truth is that:

GOD IS ABLE TO DO ANYTHING, THROUGH ANYBODY, INCLUDING YOU.

Before Christ these four people had been involved in drugs, alcohol, gangs, jail and a life headed to no where!  But then God is stepped in and changed everything.  Now some of these four people are a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, a drug rehab counselor, and a worker with troubled teens.

Watch and be inspired and allow God to work through you also.



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Monday, October 29, 2012

COMMUNITY PRAYER FAIRS

In North America we live in a time where people are desperate and need hope.  As Followers of Christ it is our place to lift up people in prayer to God and ask God to meet their needs and thus show himself as real.  In Tucson Fellowship Of The Cross sponsored a Community Prayer Fair where we invited the community to come out to a park and receive for whatever need they had.  There is power in prayer for our God is all powerful. I would encourage you to consider sponsoring a prayer fair in your own community.


Suggestions For Hosting A Prayer Fair:

  1. Conduct it in a public place like a city park surrounded by a neighborhood and not at your church facility.
  2. Have music playing either with a live band or piped in using your ipod.
  3. Have 2 to 3 people ready to give their personal testimony over the the speakers to share the power, presence and provision of Christ.
  4. Have prayer warriors trained and posted in different places around the park.
  5. Have a welcome table where you can pass out Bibles and to escort them to where different prayer warriors are at.
  6. Share the plan of salvation and how people can come to faith in Christ.


HOW NOT TO LIVE A MISSIONAL LIFE! By Guest Blogger Willis Loftin


A Friend of mine, here in Tucson, AZ, wrote this very thought provoking post that I think all Christians in general and particularly those Followers of Christ who intentionally are trying to live a missional life should read!  It give us a perfect example of 


WHAT NOT TO DO

in living a life on mission with Christ.  Read and be challenged or convicted which ever shoe fits!
"After a week of taking care of a sick and grumpy 2 year old, my dear wife told me to get out of the house for the weekend to relax and recharge.  Sunday morning I stopped in at a  popular local restaurant to have some food and a little quiet time to process what I've been learning over the weekend.  I popped out the ipad and keyboard and began to organize my thoughts by taking some notes.  


The restaurant had a hand full of people in the outdoor seating area where I was enjoying the morning breeze.  All of the wait staff were friendly with big smiles and even a little bubbly as they had a good time talking to patrons about sporting events and other happenings of the week.  The atmosphere was light and very enjoyable.  I got lost in my thoughts and a couple hours passed.  When I finally became aware of my surrounding again I found it interesting that all of the original patrons were still present, albeit a couple were getting ready to leave.  A couple more people had joined and were now eating their food.   

Then "it" happened.  A well dressed lady came waltzing in and was hurriedly looking for a waiter.  I was shocked at how she treated the wait staff like her personal servants.  Dictating how the tables should be arranged for her church group in a most obnoxious manner.  Then other families started arriving, some part of the "church" group and others not, but all were wearing the same type of attire.  I assume the churches had let out.  I started to leave to make room for more people in the restaurant but decided to stay for the experience.  What an experience it was...

I was surprised at how demanding this crowd was to the friendly  staff.  The families and group would order their food often with a unpleasant attitude, and then if the food did not arrive in perfect condition... wow I was embarrassed for these folks.   Another aspect I noticed is the apparent lack of interest in anyone else.  Sure they were all smiles and giggles toward one another as they shared the latest gossip, but the smiles would fade and the eyes dull when interacting with anyone else.  

The table closest to me was occupied by three older Christians.  They made their religious convictions clear by the load prayer with bowed heads.  They were actually some of the more pleasant ones in their interactions with others but I was intrigued by their conversation.   I'd like to get  some opinions about some of their comments:

"Missionaries came to my Sunday school class today... it was heart breaking to hear about all the AIDS, HIV and malaria that they have to deal with in their work.  It is obvious that these people have a big heart to even raise their three children in a place like that but I think the real problem is the evil at the top of all these nations, the governments just don't do anything for the people!  " 

Later on the conversation came back to the missionaries and my ears perked up again:
  
"If only the missionaries could impress the Christian ideal into the culture. The people just do not get it.  I know its  hard for the missionaries to change these cultures..." 

What do you think about these comments? 

On with my story though:  as the church crowd settled down into their meals I watched the staff.  I know they had been busy but they seemed more than just physically tired.  They took care of their guest with diligence but they didn't seem to enjoy themselves and the twinkle was gone from their eyes.  I hurt for them.  I wondered if they were feeling drained like taking care of a sick and grumpy two year old... ; - )  

As I was finally leaving I decided to pay a compliment to one guy that seemed to have taken the biggest swing in mood.  When I arrived he was all smiles and welcomed me with warmth.   Then for the last thirty minutes of my visit he had shuffled around with his eyes on the floor as he delivered food.  He was collecting the garbage when I walked over to him and said "Man I really appreciated your smile today! "  He stopped and looked at me - cracked a smile with the twinkle back in his eyes and said " What's up brother, its good to be seen!  Yes sir, its good to be seen!"  I have to admit I wasn't prepared for that response.  I probably looked like a deer in the headlights as I processed what he said.  After an awkward moment I finally said, "Look forward to seeing you next time"  and we parted ways. 

This experience, while not surprising to me anymore  is disheartening.  I understand John 13:34-35 states that we are to love one another;  that the world will know that we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another, but is this what Jesus was talking about?"  Willis Loftin

(This blog post was reposted by permission author)


If you are an Ordinary Christian with a passion to live an obedient misisonal life to Christ and need encouragement in that pursuit then I invite you to follow THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN on Facebook and become a fan.  By doing so you will receive regular posts of encouragement and places to go for training.  You can find us at:

Friday, October 26, 2012

EMPOWERED TO DO CHRIST'S MISSION: Part 2: Representing The One Who Has Authority


In giving us the mission to go make disciples Jesus wanted us to know that he has the authority to issue it.  Notice how The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 starts off. Jesus speaking says,


"All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth ... "

How much authority does Jesus say he has?  Does he have only some authority or does he have most of the authority?  



No, Jesus said he had 
"ALL AUTHORITY" 

And where exactly does he have this authority?  Is it just in heaven? Is it just on earth? 


Again, it's a 
"No"  

Jesus not only has all authority but he has all authority in both heaven and on earth.  It would be one thing if Jesus' authority was only in heaven where the angels had to obey but not on earth.  I mean there are people from other countries where they have a tremendous amount of authority in that country but now live here in the United States and just because they have lots of authority back home in their home country doesn't mean they have any authority here in United States.  Just because the Prime Minister of England, while visiting here in America, tells me to do something doesn't mean I have to do it.  Why because his authority does not extend over the citizens of the United States.  So if Jesus' authority was exclusive to heaven that would not mean he had the right or authority to tell us to do anything here on earth.  

But notice the Great Commission does say that Jesus' authority does extend to both heaven and earth.  All things are under his authority and his control.   I love the way the Apostle Paul states it in Colossians 1:16-18,
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (NIV)
All thing were created by Jesus, for Jesus, and are held together by Jesus.  And why?  So that Jesus would have supremacy over all things.  In other words what Jesus is saying is that we should listen up because what he is about to command us to do he has the right and authority to command it.  It is as if he is saying to all of us who follow him that what he's about to say is not an option, it's not a suggestion but it's a command that most be obeyed! 

It Is Jesus' Authority
That Empowers Us!


Because Jesus who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords has given us this mission we are thereby empowered to do that mission.  No one has the authority to tell us to stop doing it because the one with all authority has already commanded us to do it.
  • We need not ask person permission from any person if we can share Christ because the one who has all the authority has already commanded us to do it.  
  • We need not pray and ask God if we should witness or make him disciples for he has already, with his last recorded words, said to go make him more disciples.  
  • Because Christ has all authority and commanded us to go make him more disciples we can pray with confidence that he would lead us to those whom the Father has been preparing to believe.
Our empowerment to do this work comes straight from the one who has all authority and who has commanded us to do it.  

So when people begin to question you on who gives you the right to share your faith about Jesus you can take confidence and say boldly that your right comes from the one who has all authority and he commanded you to do it!



SO BE EMPOWERED AND GO MAKE JESUS MORE DISCIPLES
YOU GO WITH THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST BACKING YOU!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EMPOWERMENT TO DO CHRIST'S MISSION Part 1: Knowing What's Most Important To Christ


In the summer of 1990 my wife, four children and I went to go visit my parents.  We lived down in North San Diego Country in a city called Oceanside and my parents lived in Marina California.  It was about a 6 to 7 hour drive from Oceanside to Marina and I was pastoring a small church so we didn't get a chance to visit them more than once, twice or if we were lucky three times a year.  This visit, however, was a special visit and one that I will never forget.  My father was dying of cancer and it had reach a point where it was progressing quickly and my wife and I knew that this would probably  be our one and only chance to visit with my father before he passed away.  We were able to spend four days with them and it was absolutely wonderful.  We didn't go anywhere special. We just stayed around the house enjoying every minute of each others company.  On the last night we were there the family decided to watch a movie however it was kind of late when we put the movie on so all of the family except me and my dad went to bed before it was finished.  My dad and I stay up and finished watching that movie together.  The movie was FIELD OF DREAMS. I had never seen it before nor heard anything about it and I had no idea how it was going to end.  At the end of the movie the star of show was told was once again, "If you build it, he will come." This phrase had been told to him over and over again throughout the show and he still had no idea what it meant until right then at that moment.  At that moment he saw the baseball catcher take off his mask and he realized it was his father, as a young man, who had passed away many years earlier, now standing beside him wanting to play catch.  With that realization and with hearts filled with unspeakable emotion the two of them began to throw the baseball back and forth to each other.

I was completely caught off guard by the ending of the movie and was totally unprepared for the emotional response that came rushing out of me at that moment.  My eyes welled up with tears and I just laid my head in my fathers lap crying uncontrollable, like a baby, as the realization of that moment hit me.  I realized this would be the last night I spend with my father on this earth and the next morning when I would hug and kiss him goodbye that would be our last hug and kiss until we meet again on the Day of Resurrection.  Together, into the wee hours of the night, we spent talking.  Do you have any idea of what kind of things we talked about?  I can assure you that we didn't talk about the weather, we didn't gossip about the neighbors nor did we even talk about politics.  No, the things we talked about in those last few hours were the things most important to us.  My father shared with me THE MOST IMPORTANT things that he felt I needed to know. They were things like how he loved me, my wife and my kids; how to be a good man that God would be well pleased with; and to truly trust God at his word that he would meet all of my needs.  This was not a time for chit chat or just shooting the breeze.  This was a time for both me and my father to make sure that the most important things that needed to be said, got said.  The next morning I packed up the car, loaded up the kids and then I gave my father the last hug and kiss that I would ever give me in this world and I drove away.  


ALL THAT NEEDED TO BE SAID HAD BEEN SAID 
ALL THAT NEEDED TO BE DONE HAD BEEN DONE.

This is the same kind of scene that we find here in Matthew 28:18-20.  These are literally the very last words of Jesus to his disciples before he ascends into heave to be seated at the right hand of God the Father and await for his return.  These are his LAST WORDS that he said to communicate to them what were his priorities.  It wasn't chit chat! It wasn't shooting the breeze! No, he was sharing with them the most important things on his heart and the things they needed to be doing while he is away.  Listen to what Jesus says, 



"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples 
of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the 
Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that 
I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even 
to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)





So what's the most important thing on Jesus' heart, mind, and soul?  It was for them, while he was away, to:

TO GO MAKE HIM MORE DISCIPLES

That's what he wanted his disciples to do while he ways away!  Just to go make him more disciples.  They had watch and learned how to do it for the past 3 1/2 years and now Christ wanted them to go out and do it while he was away.  

And Jesus is very specific from where he wants these disciples to come from. He said to make him disciples from all the nations.  Most of the time when people hear the word nations they think of geographical boundaries but that is not what this word, NATIONS, means.  The best English word we could use is ethnic. Quite literally what Jesus is saying is to, "Go make me disciples of people from every ethnic group, every people group and every language group.  What Jesus desires is to have representatives from every kind of group there is from the face of the world to be his disciples.  This was the most important thing that Jesus wanted his disciple to know before he left and what he wanted them to be doing until his return.  He wanted them to be intentional and deliberate about helping others become Fully Devoted Followers of Christ.  Making sure that his disciples was about disciple making is what was on the Christ's heart the most right before he left to go back into heaven and that's what should be the most important goal and objective that we should have on our hearts as well.

Having a thorough understanding of what is most important to Christ and what he is most passionate about is what empowers us!  

KNOWING CHRIST'S HEART AND PASSION IS WHAT EMPOWERS US!

When a person receives a vague set of directions the possibility of mistakes and making wrong choices can occur.  However, when a leader is specific and clear about what he wantS to be accomplished then the planning and execution can happen more effectively.  Jesus did not give us some fussy or unclear instruction.  His words could not have been any more clearer.  He kept it short and to the point:


GO MAKE DISCIPLES

With that clear instruction those of us who are Followers of Christ are now empowered to say "Yes" to those things that help accomplish that mission and "No" to those things that don't accomplish it.  

HAVING CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS EMPOWERS US TO SAY "YES" TO SOME THINGS & "NO" TO OTHER THINGS!

While there may be many good things a Christian could get involved in that doesn't mean they should get involved in them.  A Christian could fill up their entire calendar with really good things to do but still never accomplish what they've been commanded to do.  The real question that needs to be ask is whether it is the "BEST" thing we need to get involved in and whether it accomplish the mission that Christ left us here to do.  Does it help make disciples for Christ.

Making Disciples For Christ Is The Best Thing
And Knowing That Empowers Us!

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Monday, October 22, 2012

OUR GOOD INTENTIONS USED AS A STUMBLING BLOCK TO FULFILLING CHRIST'S MISSION?

Yesterday during my house church meeting we were reading the story of Jesus when he was telling his disciples plainly that he would be arrested, beaten, killed but on the third day would rise from the dead.  We had an interesting discussion about how Jesus' disciples responded to this very clear and frank revelation that Jesus was making about what was to happen to him.  Here's what the verse says,
"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law,and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!'  Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Matthew 16:16-23 (NIV)
It is quite obvious that Peter didn't like what Jesus was saying.  I mean Jesus wasn't trying to be obscure about the meaning of what he was saying at all.  He wasn't sharing this spiritual truth in some parable that required you to sit down and contemplate the meaning behind it. No, Jesus was talking quite plainly and sharing with his disciple exactly what was to happen and Peter made it very clear he didn't like it at all.  

Picture the scene.  Jesus has just finished sharing about his death, burial and resurrection and Peter doesn't like what he heard, so he asks Jesus to speak with him off to the side and, according to the Bible, begins to REBUKE Jesus.  REALLY?  What audacity for Peter to think that he could pull aside and rebuke the Son of the Living God!  Is he for real?  Who does Peter think he is?  

Now I know some of you are wanting to come to Peter's defense by thinking that maybe he really didn't know exactly that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the Living God!  I mean if Peter didn't understand Jesus' true identity that would be a reasonable excuse for his disrespectful behavior, right?  But wait a moment!  Is that accurate?  Did Peter not know who Jesus was and that he was the Son of Living God ?  The truth is that Peter knew exactly who he was talking to and what Jesus' true identity was!  Let take a look at the verse right before the ones we just read:
"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'  They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'   'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'   Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'  Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.' Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah." Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV).
There it is right there in front of our faces!  After Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" It was Peter who said, "Your are the Messiah (Christ) the Son of the living God."  It hadn't been more than ten minutes between Peter great confession and Peter's great stupidity.  Peter knew exactly who Jesus was.  It was God the Father, himself, who had revealed that spiritual truth to him.  Now, we see Peter feeling as though has the right to pull Jesus, the Son of the living God, aside and REBUKE him and all because he didn't  like what he's hearing!

Now I don't think that Peter's intentions were bad!  I think that Peter loved Jesus with all his heart, mind, soul and strength.  I think Peter was only looking out for Jesus' best interests and actually thought he was doing the right thing!  But with all of Peter's  best intentions Peter was still being a stumbling block to Jesus.  


PETER'S BEST INTENTIONS BECAME A STUMBLING BLOCK TO JESUS

"What?" You might be thinking. Peter becam a stumbling block to Jesus?  Please understand those aren't my words, that's what Jesus said.  Jesus said that Peter's best intentions was used to be a stumbling block to him.  Jesus actually called Peter Satan.  "Get behind me Satan."  Right there at that particular moment Peter, who loved Jesus, was being an instrument that Satan was using to try and tempt Jesus not to go to the cross. Even though Peter had the best intentions he was not only a stumbling block to Jesus but also an instrument of Satan!


NOT ONLY WAS PETER A STUMBLING BLICK TO JESUS
HIS BEST INTENTIONS USED USED AS AN INSTRUMENT OF SATAN!

Why?  Why was Peter a stumbling block and why was he able to be used by Satan?  Because even though Peter's intentions were meant to be good they were based from man's concerns and not God's concerns.  Peter's concern were to protect and keep Jesus safe but God's concern was the salvation of the world.  Jesus was not sent to be protected, he doesn't need human protection, but he was sent to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  In order for God to actualize his concern Jesus had to die and Peter actions based from his concern became a stumbling block.  The lesson that Peter was learning was that it's not about our will but all about God's will being done.


IT'S NOT ABOUT OUR WILL BUT ALL ABOUT GOD'S WILL BEING DONE!

How many times have we been Peter?  How many times have we tried to rebuke God for what he was doing?  How many times have we had all the best intentions to do the right thing but lacked the spiritual understanding and faith to accept God's wil?  How many times have our actions became a stumbling block to Christ's mission being accomplished?  

For me the number is to hight to count.  As I look back over my life and ministry I realized that so much of what I tried to do was based from my own concerns and interests and not God's at all.  It's strange to think about but how many times have I prayed for God to do something because that's what I really wanted to happen but never took into account what God was trying to do?  It has been a humbling lesson to learn that even my  prayers can become a stumbling block for Christ's mission to move forward!

So what do we need to do? I believe it all starts with two things:  Faith and Revelation.  

First, we need to make sure we have the faith to surrender our will over to Gods will.  We need to get to a place in our spiritual walk where we have no will of our own except to do the will of God.  Faith is the emptying of ourselves from our own personal desires so that we can wholeheartedly believe and accept God's desires.  

And then second, we need God to reveal to us His will to us!  God's will is never discovered as though it is some hidden treasure.  No, God's will is always revealed by God to us his people.  We need pray that God will give us eyes to see and ears to hear when God is telling us what he's about to do.  This is where Peter failed.  Peter was receiving a clear revelation of what was to happen to Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection but Peter didn't have the faith to surrender his personal desires over to God and die to them so that He would be able to accept what God's will really was.  

Let us all pray that we don't act upon our BEST INTENTIONS but that we always have the FAITH that we need to act upon GOD'S INTENTIONS as he reveals them to us.



Friday, October 19, 2012

THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN'S FACEBOOK PAGE




Hi, I'm Pastor Jay Moore and the founder of The Ordinary Christian.  I am absolutely convinced that God loves to use ordinary people to do his extraordinary work!  The Bible is filled with such examples.  Two of Jesus' own disciples are described exactly that way. Peter and John were referred to as ORDINARY MEN WITH NO SPECIAL RELIGIOUS TRAINING.  

WHY?

Why would God chose to use ordinary people to accomplish his greatest work?  Why wouldn't he choose to use the more talented and extraordinary people?  Wouldn't he accomplish more if he did?  The reason why God loves to use ordinary people is found in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

"Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

THAT'S WHY!

God wants to humble the proud and show the whole world that He can do anything, through anybody, including ordinary Christians.  That way God receives all the glory.  

The Mission of THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN is to: 

Empower  Encourage  and  Equip

ordinary Christians to intentionally live the missional life for Christ.  I invite you to be a part of what God is doing by "Liking" The Ordinary Christian Facebook Page!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

WHAT CAN A LOST LAMB TEACH US ABOUT LIVING THE MISSIONAL LIFE?

"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.' Luke 15:1-2 (NIV)

You can almost hear the disgust in the voices of the teachers and Pharisees. They couldn't fathom how Jesus could possibly associate with such people! They were spiritually unclean! THEY WERE SINNERS! Why in the world would Jesus ever want to be connected to these kinds of people. And it wasn't that he just associated with them. No, Jesus actually enjoyed their company.

Why would Jesus do something that was so offense to the upstanding members of the community? Didn't he realize that the religious people would be greatly offended by these associations? And if he did know - didn't he care about their thoughts and feelings? The answers to all these questions lie within the very reason why Jesus came to this world. It lies within the objective of the mission that Jesus was sent here to pursue and the mission that he has given us to pursue as well. We find the answer in a story that Jesus tells about the lost sheep. In it we find out why Jesus' approach was so radically different from that of all the other religious leaders of his day. I would even go so far as to say it is radically different from the approach that most churches in North America use today. I wonder? If Jesus was here in the flesh in our day would we be the Pharisees? Here are the lesson we learn about Christ's mission from the story of a lost sheep:

  • GOD'S MISSION IS ALWAYS OUTSIDE OUR RELIGIOUS BUBBLES!
"Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until 
he finds it?" (v. 3,4 NIV)

Notice that there is a leaving that is taking place! The man has to leave the flock in order to go find the sheep that was lost. He didn't remain satisfied with a 99% success rate. This shepherd was compeled to leave the others to search for that one sheep that was missing. He didn't stay with the flock and try a bunch of methods that would entice and attract the lost sheep back into the fold.

Churches that only have "HOLY HUDDLES" and never get their people to leave and engage the community will never be able to accomplish Christ's mission. Lost people if they are going to learn and accept Jesus are going to do so because some brave followers of Christ have decided that being on mission happens outside a church building, outside their religious gatherings, and in the community where the lost people are at.

This leaving the RELIGIOUS BUBBLE is an intentional act. It is deliberate and planned act. It is intentional, deliberate and planned because the aim is to reach others who are not part of our holy huddle or any other holy huddle for that matter.

People don't just fall into doing missions, they chose to do missions.

  • GOD'S TREATMENT OF SINNERS IS ONE OF TENDER LOVING CARE
"And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders ..." (vs. 5a)

Isn't that a beautiful picture! The shepherd finds his lost sheep and when he does he probably find it scared, hungry, thirsty and maybe physically beaten.  And because of the shepherds compassion he tenderly and carefully picks up and lamb and places him on his shoulder to carry him back to the fold.  The one thing you don't see is the shepherd yelling or screaming at the sheep!  You don't hear the shepherd tearing down the sheep by saying, "You stupid sheep. Look how dumb you've been!" You don't see him hitting the sheep with his rod and forcing him to go walk back home! Instead you see a tenderness and a loving care for the sheep.

How sad is it when someone who has been so beaten down by the world and made horrible choices finally decide to take a chance and go to church with the hope that maybe God will have mercy on them and then they find hypocritical Christian looking down their long and judgmental noise at them.
Once we find sinners who are tired, beaten and ready to repent how we treat them is of utmost importance. Should we yell at them, criticize them or belittle them? Or should be tenderly and compassionately care for them.
  • GOD'S GOAL IS TO BRING THEM HOME
" ... and goes home..." (vs. 5b)

The shepherd's intention was to bring him home and back into the fold where he can be nurtured and cared for. What do we want to do with sinners when we reach them? Are we ready and willing to have them to be part of our church fellowship? A lesson that I have been learning is that the people that God assigns for us to reach out to are non-negotiable. We don't get to pick and chose who we will reach. We reach those whom God has assigned us to reach. And our assignment is not just to reach them but also to love and accept them as a full member of the family. God expects us to extend to them the same grace that he extended to us.


  • WHEN THIS HAPPENS ALL HEAVEN REJOICES.
"Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one 
sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." 
(v. 6,7 NIV)

The normal result of a successful completion of a mission is celebration.  I don't care what it is!  It could be the winning of a state football championship, successfully completing and graduating from high school or fishing a mission trip to another country, the natural and normal expression of completing something is to CELEBRATE!  When we successfully reach someone to faith in Jesus there needs to be sincere and heart felt excitement and gratitude - there needs to be a PARTY!  I can promise you that at the completion of God's plan for this world and judgement Day is over the next event will be a party.  There is will be a banquet with Christ all of his disciples. There will be singing, shouts of joy and I wouldn't even be surprised if I saw even a couple of "high five's" as God's children run around the thrown room slapping each others hands.

So here's what we need to do:
  1. Get out of our religious bubbles and back out into the dark world where our lights can shine the brightest and be the most use.
  2. Truly and compassionately love the sinner and not with just words but with your actions.  Serve them, minister to them and be willing to get dirty with them.
  3. Make those sinners as they repent to God fully functioning members of the God's family. Don't treat them as if they were some second class citizen or a red headed step child.
  4. And as each new person comes to faith in Christ have a PARTY and rejoice.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

ESSENTIALS FOR LIVING AN EFFECTIVE MISSIONAL LIFE: Part 1 - Eliminating The 3 Causes For Why Christian Don't Live A Missional Life

I am writing this blog because it is my hearts passion to empower, encourage and equip ordinary Christians to intentionally live a life on mission with Christ!  Wanting o see God's people eager and passionate about fulfilling the mission that Christ gave us is what I live for.  But when I look at those who claim to be Followers of Christ in North America but failing miserably in advancing the cause of Christ I have to ask myself, "Why?"  Why are Christians in North America not successful in making disciples of Christ as other Christians are in other parts of the world?  I am sure that an entire dissertation could be written about that particular subject and indeed there have been such research and discussion but that's not the intent for this blog series.  I am not a theorist but more of a practioner.  What I am wanting doing is to quickly address some basic causes that have kept North American Christians from being effective in living a missional life and suggest some basic skills that every Follower of Christ need to master.  In this blog we will deal with the 3 basic causes that have kept Christians from living a life on mission and suggest three cures.  Most likely these are not the only causes and they are not the only cures but they are a starting point in order to live a more obedient life to Christ and developing a missional lifestyle that would be pleasing to our Lord Jesus.

THE 3 CAUSES

These are not only the causes that keep people from living a missional life for Christ but also the basic causes that keep people from doing anything that need or want to do.  They can be applied to just about any area of your life.  Whether it be going back to school to increase your education or starting a new business or even just learning how to dance the reason why people won't do them will fall usually into one of three categories.  Find a cure for these basic causes and a person has a better than average chance to succeed and learn those new skills or accomplish that new goal.  So what exactly are those 3 basic causes that keep people from doing new things?  They are a:

LACK COMPETENCE:  This means that people just don't know what to do.  They are told that they are to be the Light of the world but then they ask, "But how do you do that?" They have heard sermons, Bible Studies, devotionals and even Christian friends tell them over and over again all the things they should being doing in order to live a missional life for Christ but very little if any training has been provided to teach them how to do it.  So much of the preaching and teaching in the N. American church is what I call "The Ought To Sermon".  The "Ought To" sermon says, "You ought to do this or you ought to do that."  More specifically it could say, "You ought to tithe" or "you ought pray" or even "you ought to witness or make disciples" and then the Christian is left scratching his head wondering, "But how do I do that?"  We have given a lot of "To Do's" with very little, "How Do's!  This has left the Christians in N. America frustrated and feeling incompetent to live a pleasing life on mission for Christ.  They know what they should be doing but they just don't know how to do it.  The disciple of Christ got to that place of frustration in their life when they asked Jesus if he would teach them "HOW" to pray just like the John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray.  There comes a teachable moment in every Christians life when they have heard all they can handle of "What To Do" and have come to realization that they now need instruction on how to do what they've been told to do!

I believe the Christians in N. America are at that teachable moment where they heard over and over again that they need to be the LIGHT OF THE WORLD, that they need to be a WITNESS FOR CHRIST, that they need to be MAKING DISCIPLES FOR JESUS but now in frustration they are crying out, '"BUT HOW?"  The lack of N. American Christians living a life on mission with Christ is  not because they don't know what  to be do, it's because they don't know how to do it.

LACK CONFIDENCE:  Now there are some Christians that don't lack competence. Many Christians  have been trained on how to witness, how to let their light shine and how to make disciples.  It's not that they don't know how to do it, its just that they don't feel confident in doing it. Living a missional life feel awkward and unnatural.  Bringing up a spiritual conversation with people  feels forced and if they do bring it up there is a sense of worry in the Christian that maybe they will do or say something that is wrong.

This is not only true for just living a missional life but its also true for any new skill that a person is attempting to learn.  Whether it be learning to type, to ride a bike or swim in a pool there is a period of time where the new skill that has been learned is done by force and not done naturally.  I remember when I was learning to play the guitar and had just been taught my first three chords.  I knew those chords, I knew where my fingers were to be placed on the fret of the neck and I could put them there but I had to think about it and it didn't feel natural and it took time.  But now 40 years later I can play those same chords and others but mind doesn't have to concentrate on doing it, it just seems to do it almost without thinking.  The goal of training people in living a missional life is to get them to a point where these knew missional skills are done with confidence and done naturally without feeling forced.

THEY LACK ACCOUNTABILITY:  Now there are a few Christians who know what to do and also have the confidence to do it but they still don't do it!  Why?  The answer is because they are not held accountable to anyone on whether they doing it or not.  The reality is that most people do things when they know someone is going to check up on them about it and ask them if they actually did do it.  That's one of the reasons why teachers give tests to their students.  Yes, I know that one of the major reasons for testing is to measure how much the student has learned! I get that but I also know it's to help ensure that the student will actually do the work.  When students know that they are going to be tested on certain material they are more likely to make sure they have studied it.  At work if you know that your boss is going to come to you to check up on your work you are more apt to make sure the work is done.

Accountability is a very Biblical concept.  The parable Jesus told of the master who went away on a very long trip and gave 3 of his servants different amonts of talents. To one he gave 5, to another he gave 2 and to the last he gave 1 each according their own ability.  They were to use these talents while the master was away and in a way that the master wanted.  The servants each knew that there was coming a day of accountability when the master  would come back and see what they had done with his talents.  I just think it would be a whole lot better for all of us if we didn't wait until the Lords return for ultimate accountability but between now and then we lovingly hold each other accountable so that when the Lord Jesus does return we will hear him say, "Well done good and faithful servant."

THE 3 CURES

PROVIDE TRAINING EVENTS:  The best way to correct the lack of competence is for the church to provide training in the essential skills needed for living a missional life.  If people don't know what to do its the leadership of the churches job to provide training in those areas.  This training should not be complicated but easy to follow, understand and most of all it should be reproducible!  That means that whatever training a church provides the member who finishes that training should be able to use it to train someone else without any difficulty.  Can that training be passed on, can it be duplicated and taught by an ordinary Christian who completed the training or is it difficult teach that the average Christian couldn't use it?

If a training course is to complicated for one of its participants to use to train another Christian it SHOULD NOT BE USED!  We are not here to only train people to do certain missional skills but we are here to train people who can then train people, who then can train people.  Our goal should always be to see the rapid reproduction of disciple makers.  That means we not only train Christians to live a missional life but we train Christians train others to live a missional life, who will be able to train others.

The only real test of any program, training course or process to decide if its reproducible is whether or not it actually reproduces.  CAN THE PEOPLE WHO'VE GONE THROUGH THE TRAINING TAKE WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN TAUGHT AND TEACH OTHERS TO DO THE SAME? Now that the real question.  Paul writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 said,

"And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses these intrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."  
Here we see reproducibility at its very best and all the way to a fourth generation.  Paul was confident that Timothy could take the information that Paul used to train people all over the world in the Christian faith and use it himself to train others because Paul made sure it was taught in a reproducible manner.

The way the training curriculum is designed and organized, the method of presenting the material, the process of how the training class is conducted all need to lend itself to being reproducible.  The training material needs to be designed so that it's quickly remembered and the process to teach that material needs to be done in a way that anyone can do it even if they're not skilled in classical teaching.

PROVIDE PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES:  The goal of our training should never be just for information!  The training objectives for missional living should always be for daily application!  It should be the goal of every church, pastor, missionary, evangelist to train the people of God to have a missional lifestyle that is naturally lived out daily.  People need to know not only how do live out a missional lifestyle skill but they need to actually do it.  That means they need to become confident in performing the new skill.

Confidence only comes with:

 PRACTICE 

How many of us when we first learn how to ride a bike was actually confident in riding that bike?  Not many of us!  After I received some basic instructions on how to ride a bike my father put me on the seat of the bike,  placed my feet on the peddles and then took my hands and told me to firmly gripped on the handlebars and then with one firm push he sent me sailing down the sidewalk.  I was scared and nervous. My hands were shaking making the bike wabble back and forth.  My feet kept slipping off the peddles and I just knew I was going to crash.  But then I noticed something! The whole time I was riding my bike my father was running right alongside of me, holding the back of my seat so it wouldn't fall and staying with me until I gained the confidence to ride without him.

WHAT MY FATHER WAS DOING WAS GIVING ME A SAFE PLACE TO PRACTICE UNTIL I GAINED THE CONFIDENCE TO RIDE ALONE!

Now that's the kind of training we need for living the missional living.  As part of the process of training we need to give opportunities for people to practice what they've learned and we need to allow them to practice it week after week after week.

But that's not what happens in most church training events. Today most trainings are usually a day or two in length and the people are sitting around tables with a work book to fill in the blanks as the instructor tells them how they should do a particular missional skill.  There may be some video's that are shown as an example of how the skill could possibly be put int practice.  There might be some time given for participants to pair off to give a half hearted attempt to do what they've just been told to do.  Then as the training is ending the participants are given a pep talk about how they can now go out and do it.  But the reality is that most of the participants, while knowing what to do and how it might look, still don't feel confident in doing it.  Why?

Not enough time to practice in a safe place.

Confidence comes with lots of practice over time.  That's why I really appreciated James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion Witnessing Training.  Or at least I should say the practicing element that was incorporated into the training.  I do feel that for the most part the training material was very difficult to reproduce but I do like the way they give a trainee weekly opportunities to go out with a skilled person in  witnessing and then allowed them an opportunity to practice the different parts to a gospel presentation.

PAIR CHRISTIANS INTO TEAMS:  The third cause for failing to live a missional lifestyle is that there is no accountability.  If a person knows that no one is going to check up on them to see if they are doing what they should be doing there is a much greater chance the person will never make it a lifestyle and possibly stop doing it all together.  So the cure is to design accountability into the training process that is not legalistic and none judgmental.  I think that we really do need to make sure that we have those two qualifiers: Not Legalistic and None Judgmental.  The reason is because our purpose is to encourage and not condemn.  We are not hear to look down a long and judgmental nose and tell people, "YOU'VE FAILED".  No our goal is to loving engage people in living a life on mission with Christ.

We're Here To Encourage - Not Condemn

 So how do you do that? How do you have accountability that doesn't measure if a person is PASSING or FAILING? I suggest pairing participants into teams of at least two people.  These teams are to do the mission activity together and thereby hold each other accountable.  These teams are to think of themselves as soldiers who are in battle together, who are watching each others back and trusting one another.  They are Comrads in Arms.  They have a profound sense of responsibility to perform at their highest level because their partner depends on them and they depend on their partner.  I think this is one of the reason why Jesus sent out the 72 in teams of two to very town and village he was about to go.  Jesus knew that along the way their would be discouragements and if they weren't in a team they could very easily quit and go home but because he had them in a team they would be there for one another to encourage each other.

TEAMS ARE A GREAT ACCOUNTABILITY PRACTICE

But even after the teams were done Jesus had them come back and share what had happen.  This was both a praise report time and an accountability time.  Churches would do well to have a time where missional teams come back together to have a debriefing and praise sharing on what God was able to do.  

In the next three blogs we're going to cover three of the essential skills needed for living a missional life and ways for you and your team member to practice these skills.  By doing this we will effectively deal with the lack of competence, the lack of confidence and the lack of accountability and allow you the ordinary christian to live productive missional life.


I'M PRAYING THAT GOD WILL RAISE UP, TRAIN UP & UNLEASHING ORDINARY CHRISTIANS TO LIVE A LIFE ON MISSION WITH CHRIST WHERE PEOPLE ARE MADE INTO RAPIDLY REPRODUCING DISCIPLE MAKERS.  GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU GO AND LIVE FOR HIM!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN'S GUIDE TO CHURCH PLANTING: It's Time To Throw A Party, Step 6

We are now at step six in this blog series and this is where the rubber hits the road and where you will quickly move toward the starting of a church!  So what exactly do you do?  Up until now you have been planning and preparing.  It's been all about you and making sure you are ready to launch a new church.  Now the emphasis changes from being about you to being about others.  Now is time to start gathering people together for a common purpose that will eventually form into being a church.  Now its time to plant the seeds (people) that will take root, grow and become the church you have been praying for.  

So what do you do? How do you begin the process of gathering people that will become a new, vibrant and reproducing church?  


YOU ARE GOING TO THROW A PARTY!  

Yes, that's right I said: Throw A Party!  You may be wondering how in the world does throwing a party help launch a new church?  You may have been thinking that you needed to start with an in depth Bible Study or host some intensive Spirit filled prayer meeting.  And by the way those are good things, but when it comes to starting a church that intentionally reaches the unsaved or backslidden Christians the place to start is by throwing a party!

As one does a survey of the New Testament Gospel and the life and ministry of Jesus a very common theme keeps reoccuring.  It seems to be a very common practice of  Jesus that when he enter a new town or village due to His growing popularity that someone in that town would invite him over for a dinner party.  The truth of matter is that Jesus was very popular and was invited to lots of parties, weddings,  banquets, and receptions.  He was definitely the Who's Who among the young and upcoming Rabinical teachers and as such people felt it was good for their social standing to have Jesus as an honored guest in their home.

We need to remember that during Jesus' time and in the villages he visited there was not a whole lot of entertainment going on for the people.  For the most part the daily life of people during that time never really changed.  They would get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go bust their butts at whatever job they had, come home, eat dinner, go to bed and wake up again the next morning.  They didn't have movie theaters, theme parks, fine dinning or anything else that most of in the 21st Century use for entertainment.  So when a person of growing popularity would enter a village that was a very special treat for that community and most everyone would get involved.  Let's take a look at a particular time when Jesus invited man to come follow him and how this man responded.  It's found in Luke 5:27-32:


"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (NIV)

This is the story of Jesus calling Matthew the tax collector, also known as Levi, to come and follow him as one of his disciples.  From this story we can learn a couple of really important things:

First, we see that when Jesus invited Matthew to join him he immediately responded and left everything to follow Christ.  God had so prepared Matthew's heart that when the opportunity to join Christ presented itself there was no hesitation on Matthews part. He immediately responded and left everything to join Christ.  This was no small sacrifice.  Matthew was a tax collector and as such was part of the higher income group of the community.  Because of his profession he was not very popular among the rest of the community. He was a Jew but worked for the Romans and as was the common practice among the tax collectors robbed the people by taking more taxes from them than they owed and pocked. In other words they sole from the people.  But now Jesus was giving Matthew a chance to change his entire life.  Matthew is now invited to become one of the disciples of one of the most popular new rabi's.  And he left everything to join Jesus!

Second, we see that after Matthew agreed to joined Jesus he immediately threw a party in honor of Christ and invited all of his friends to be guests.  Now we need to understand that Matthew's guest list was not all of the well respected people in the community because Matthew had no friends that were well respected. His relationship with the well respected people in the community consisted of gathering their taxes and probably over charging them.  Even if he had invited them they probably wouldn't have accepted out of fear of becoming a social outcast.  So who were Jesus' friends?  They were other tax collectors and those that would associate with tax collectors, sinners. His guest list consisted of the social and religious outcasts, the people that no one else would want to associate with.  Now here's the great part! 

JESUS ACCEPTED THE INVITATION TO COME TO A 
PARTY FILLED WITH SINNERS!

Jesus didn't only accept the invitation he wholeheartedly embraced it.  Jesus wasn't a reluctant attender but he was thrilled to have such a wonderful opportunity to hangout with these people.  Why?  Why would Jesus be so excited to rub elbows and party with a bunch of sinners?  Well that's the same question that some of the Pharisees asked and complained about to Jesus's disciples.  I love the response Jesus gives them and its something that we should all consistently remind ourselves as we come to start a new church.  Jesus said: 

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Why did Jesus enthusiascially accept Matthew invitation to be the honored guest at a part filled with sinners?  

BECAUSE THEY WERE JESUS'S TARGET GROUP

They were the reason why he came!  They were the central objective for his mission on earth.  Jesus explained it a little differently when he went to the home of another tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. He told him  that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost.  


Jesus' mission was to come for people who knew they were sinners and desperately wanted to be freed from that life.  

Matthew was such a person and many of Matthews friends were those kinds of people.  Unfortuantly the Pharisee that came to check out Matthew's party wasn't one who recognized his own sin and thereby wasn't desperate for forgiveness. 

Now I think it's important to note that Jesus' mission wasn't  just to hangout and party with a bunch of sinners.  Please don't make that the lesson you learn from this.  Jesus said he had come to call sinners to repentance.  There was a redemptive purpose behind Jesus' intent for attending that party.  He came to call Matthew's friends to repentance and thereby be saved from their sin!  

I also believe that was Matthew's intent as well!  Matthew had just experience Christ himself, his call to follow and Christ's forgiveness. So now Matthew is wanting to introduce his friends to this same Jesus so they can receive what he got also.

So again I say that the next step in starting a rapidly reproducing church is to throw a party - A MATTHEW PARTY - and invite all your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who are either unsaved or very backslidden Christian so they can experience Jesus and repent.  In step five you started to put a list of  people together and you have started praying for them, now its time to invite them over for a party where they can begin to meet Jesus.

Some of you might be thinking that it was easier for Matthew to throw this kind of party because he had Jesus there for the people to meet.  Here's my response to that:

SO DO YOU!

Jesus said  that where two or three are gathered in his name there he would be in the midst of them.  When you and your church planting partner throw this party with the intent to introduce your prospects to Jesus, Jesus himself is there through the enacting work of the Holy Spirit.  As a matter of fact it is Jesus who is doing the work, it is Jesus who is introducing himself to your friends and Jesus who is creating within your friends a prepared heart.

So what do you do at one of these parties?  Well, that depends on you!  How would you normally throw a party? What kind of things would you do at a party? Would there normally be music? What style of music? Would you serve food? Would you play games?  I can't tell you how to throw a party for your friends!  You know what kind things you would normally do at one of your parties.  That's for you to decide based upon your culture and likes. I am quite sure that Matthew's party included all of the things that he would have normally done when he threw a party.  There was probably music, dancing, food and talking and in this case listening to Jesus as he talked and taught.  So you need to throw a party that would be culturally acceptable and normal for you and your friends.

However, I can give you some basic guidelines that will help you in the planning process:
  1. Make sure it includes the things that would be culturally acceptable for you and your friends.
  2. Make sure there's nothing illegal, immoral, unethical or sinful.  (No strip dancers, no illegal drugs etc..)
  3. Make sure that you introduce Jesus at the party and give your guest an invitation to join you and your partner in a study to learn more about Him.
Let me talk a little bit more about this third point.  Your primary objective in throwing this party is not to just have fun but to introduce Jesus to your guests and to invite them to join you in a 7 week study on Jesus. The introduction of Jesus to your guests is the objective for your party.  So how to communicate that to your guests needs to be a well thought out part of your party.  Their are three parts of your party you need to consider when planning it:

 THE INVITATION STAGE:   We are not trying to pull a fast one on our friends by inviting them to a party and then blindside them with talking about Jesus.  I am very sure that Matthew made it very clear when he threw the party that his invitation was for his guest to come and meet Jesus.  Matthew's guests knew when they came what they were getting into and could decide based upon accurate information whether they wanted to attend or not.  We need to do the same for our friends also.  So as you are designing your invitation to send out to your potential guests you need to think through how to clearly and accurately invite people to come and hear about Jesus in a way that is intriguing.

THE PARTY ITSELF:  So now you're at the party and all your friends have shown up how do you share Jesus at this party that is natural, compelling and intriguing?  Along with the music, food and games you might be doing at the party you also need to make the sharing of Jesus a major part of the party.  How do you do that?  Let me give a few suggestions to help you think through it.  Three parts to consider:
  • AS PEOPLE ARE ARRIVING: Plan out what you are going to be doing while people are arriving.  Making sure the earliest guests are not just standing around getting bord.  Are you going to be playing games or offering snacks for people to munch on while others are still arriving?  Your aim here is to keep people engaged from the moment they attend.  To introduce Jesus in this part of the party you can play a game where you have people fill out a survey on how much they actually know of Jesus' life and then offer a gift for the one who gets the most right. Make sure you know the answers to the questions and where its found in the Bible.
  • DURING THE PARTY ITSELF:  Along with the games, eating and dancing that you maybe doing there needs to be a well thought out time to talk about Jesus to your guests.  Where that falls into your party depends on you but you need to clearly plan how you are going to introduce Jesus to them.  This should not be left up to chance or trying to do it by flying by the seat of your pants.  Here three suggestion:
    1. Show A Movie:  You could easily invite your friends over to see a movie about Jesus like The Jesus Film or The Passion Of The Christ.  Other movies might work well also like Courageous or Facing The Giants.  Movies are a great way to engage our North American Society and get discussion started.
    2. Give Your Testimony:  You can use this opportunity to share with you guest about what your life was like before you give your heart over to Jesus, who you met Jesus and what your life has been like since Jesus forgave you of your sins.
    3. Share A Gospel Presentation:  A Gospel Presentation is a clear and easy explanation how a person came come and experiences Christ's forgiveness of sin personally.  There are lots of good Gospel Presentations available. A couple  for you to consider are: The Bridge Presentation or The Roman Road Presentation.
  • CLOSING THE PARTY:  At the close of the party you need to offer a compelling invitation for your guest to join you for a 7 week study on Christ himself as told from the Bible.  Your guests need to know that they don't need any prior Bible knowledge or religious education and that its just an opportunity for them to find out who Jesus really is according to the Bible.  Let them know when the study is going to start along with the time and location. I feel the best time to start the study is within a week and no longer than two weeks of your party.  Personally I feel 1 week should be your goal otherwise we give Satan time to distract them.  Let them know before they leave your party that you will be calling them within a day or two to see if they would like to be part of the study.
"INVITE YOUR GUEST TO JOIN YOU IN THE 7 WEEK STUDY OF CHRIST"

Following up with phone calls is absolutely essential.  Within two days call guest and answer any questions they might have and try to secure their commitment to attend.  Now here is what's going to happen. Some of the guests  will definitely say no to participating in the study of Jesus, others will say they might but may need to take care of others things first and then a few will say, "YES" and they will be ready to learn and eventually receive Jesus.  Don't worry about the one's who say, "NO". Let them walk.  The people are wishy washy about being part of the study consider them as a "NO" also and let them walk.  Put all your time, attention and effort to the few who say "YES" and are eager to know more about Jesus.  It is these people from which the fruit will grow and from which more disciples will come.  They are the good soil that will reap a harvest of 40, 60 and 100 fold.

What if by some chance you throw your party and no one decides to be part of your study of Jesus?  Do what Jesus taught the 72 to do in Luke 10.  Shake the dust off your feet and move on to other family and friends who need to hear about Jesus and throw another Matthew Party and you keep doing this until you find those people who are ready to get to know Jesus.

Home Work:

  1. Set a date, time and location for you PARTY.
  2. Design and mail out your party invitations in a way that will let you guests know that you will be sharing Jesus with them.
  3. Plan what you will be doing at your party and specifically how you are going to introduce Jesus to them.
  4. Pray for the party and those who might attend.
  5. THROW THE PARTY!  Do It!!

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