True faith is seen in action

Change takes more than updating your Facebook status

Serving a meal together.

The bumper sticker on the car in front of me, the car that I watched come up behind me weaving in and out of highway traffic at about 90 miles an hour, read, “Be the change you want to see.”

“Well, isn’t that nice,” I thought, watching him cut off the third lane and go on his way while brake lights flashed and horns honked. I’m not sure what change he wants to see unless he’s saying that the world needs more self-absorbed jerks. Maybe it’s just me, but I think we already have too many.

“Be the change you want to see.”

Over the last couple weeks, that bumper message flashed in my mind quite a few times. I saw it while watching clips of unhappy voters marching, shouting, waving signs and even breaking windows to protest the outcome of the national election. I could not help but wonder what the impact would be if all those thousands of angry marchers were actively involved in their communities either in government, working with immigrants or meeting needs around them.

Maybe many of them are involved but it seems like much of activism today has been reduced to people wearing bracelets, writing on their arms and changing Facebook profile pictures to show how much we care.

Bundles of Love

The ancient book I like to read puts it this way:

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2

Thankfully, I see a lot of people around me doing more than yelling, “Somebody should do something!” I get to see people seeing needs and taking action.

Operation Christmas Child

Saturday morning I spent time with a family packing up Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that get sent to children all over the world who have little to look forward to at Christmas. Their faith community gathered 74 boxes to add to more than a million others from all across the country.

Saturday night, I watched a group of close to 30 people serve a free turkey dinner spread to almost 200 people. Many of the guests were elderly people excited to have a great dinner and night out. Some of the guests had special needs. Others were people enjoying a chance to connect with others in their community.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the same faith community pull together boots, coats, hats and other warm clothing to meet the needs of an immigrant family unprepared for the approaching Maine winter.

In just a couple of weeks I will return to Guatemala to work with AMG International. I’ll be doing photography work to help communicate how AMG is helping more than 8000 children there. It was just 7 months ago when I made my first trip to Guatemala and experienced overwhelming poverty and thought, “somebody needs to do something!” The good news is that I met a lot of people who are doing plenty to help. It wasn’t too long before I knew I had to join them in their efforts.  My friends, neighbors, church & family are sending me with more than $2000 to purchase Bundles of Love to meet the greatest needs of more than 100 children. (contribute here – BUNDLES TEAM)

Most of us get paralyzed when we’re faced with something that is so much bigger than us. What can I do? I can’t end poverty. I can’t end racism. I can’t stop misogyny, injustice, homelessness or any of a myriad of other problems. That’s true but we are not powerless.

You are not powerless.

Each year our church family puts together gift baskets to thank all the people who serve the public.

What if each of us did for one what we wish could be done for all? If a million individuals choose to sponsor just one child trapped in third world poverty, a million children would eat and be educated.  If 100 families in each of our communities welcomed just one immigrant family, imagine the impact. What would happen if just one person in each neighborhood went door to door collecting unused winter clothing out of jam-packed closets to donate to the community center, homeless shelter or veterans services?

One person cannot change the world for everyone but one person can change the world for one other person.

Maybe it’s time we put down our signs, stop writing on our arms and come out from behind our Facebook pages to actually love.

Real solutions require more than social media “awareness.”

You are not powerless to affect change.

Don’t just stand there. Do something!

A few ideas:

  • thinkSponsor a child in poverty. AMG is one option.  Compassion International is another.
  • See an immigrant? Smile and say hello.
  • In 2017, commit to THINK before speaking, posting or sharing. True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?
  • Volunteer to help a teacher, a youth league, a rec program, a church youth program.
  • Bring your toddler and visit someone who has no one.
  • Lend a hand at your community center.
  • Buy an extra canned good to donate each time you grocery shop.
  • Teach your sons to respect, honor and value women.
  • Run for office.
  • Send a Bundle of Love to Guatemala with me Dec. 3.
  • Host a neighborhood gathering.
  • Give some time to Habitat for Humanity
  • Set another place at your table for someone who is alone.
  • Drop off a thank you card at the police or fire station.
  • Help your church help others by giving of your time, treasure and talent.
  • Forgive a grudge you’ve been holding onto.
  • Give blood. Register to be an organ donor.

 

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Are We Making It Hard(er) for People to Meet Jesus?

After our series on the Foyer, Living Room and Kitchen atmosphere, this blog post on the Exponential Blog struck a chord with me. – Scott

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By Arron Chambers

Some things in life are more complicated than they need to be.

Like turning on the television. Remember when you could turn on the TV by just urning a single knob? Now, you need a degree from MIT to navigate the remote control. Or like ordering coffee–an infinite number of coffee options, but most of those options change with each coffee shop. I love white chocolate-flavored coffee in a medium-sized cup or mug, which at my favorite coffee shop, is a 16-ounce (not medium) white chocolate mocha. But when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, the closest thing I can find to that same drink is called a medium (not 16-ounce) Dunkaccino, which is always difficult for me to order because I have to pay for it with my man card.

Or becoming a Christian. Remember when becoming a Christian was as simple as hearing and responding to the gospel? Now, too many Christians and churches have made it so complicated to find Jesus. Put yourself in the Toms, Skechers, Vans, Doc Martens, or Birkenstocks of a lost person with me for a moment and realize what they have to be willing to walk through to actually hear the gospel.

They have to walk through the stereotypes that Hollywood and the media project of Christians as not being very nice or normal. I spoke for an event in Tennessee where I heard a heartbreaking story. A local church youth group ate at a local steakhouse, made a huge mess and left a note instead of a tip. The note to their server: “Repent or you’re going to hell.” The server burst out crying and left work. That story so enraged me that my wife and I made plans to eat at that steakhouse the next night with my in-laws. We asked for that server and left her a huge tip. My in-laws resolved to do everything within their power to build a friendship with that young woman with the hopes that she’ll meet Jesus along the way.

They have to walk through the well-documented hypocrisy of some of our biggest celebrity preachers who have sinned publicly and scattered their golden house fixtures, jewels and fur coats as they fell back to the earth.

They have to walk through our denominational division and find the “right” church with the “right” version of the gospel.

They have to walk through our undocumented and unspoken yet highly unbending dress codes, which clearly prohibit tattered jeans, skinny jeans or saggy jeans and T-shirts advertising beer, pot, the Oakland Raiders, Obama, or ‘80s big-haired rock bands.

And then, if lost people can clamber over, around and through those obstacles, they have to walk through our doors … where the fun really begins.

None of this is a surprise to Jesus. Remember what He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).

Yes, the way is hard, so why would we make it even harder? I’m convinced and convicted that it’s time we simplify evangelism, focusing on three key areas:

1. Relationships

Let me put it simply: Relationships are the key to reaching lost people.

I define evangelism as “an intentional relationship through which someone is introduced to Jesus Christ.” Healthy relationships are essential if we want to have the kind of life God intended for all of us. And they are also essential if we want to reach lost people like Jesus did. A few years ago, the Institute for American Church Growth (today known as Church Growth, Inc.) asked more than 10,000 people, “What was most responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” Seventy-nine percent responded, “A friend or relative invited me.”

Which is why a man who was at one time the leading abortionist in the country came to Christ. I’ll call him Richard.

One day a preacher (I’ll call him David) met Richard and started a conversation with him. The two men quickly struck up a friendship, both unaware of the other’s profession until after a relationship had already come to life.

Richard, a recently retired abortion doctor—at one time performing more abortions than any other abortion doctor in the United States. David, a presently employed preacher—at no time thinking he’d become friends with an abortionist.

Over countless breakfasts and cups of coffee, they forged a strong friendship. On paper it shouldn’t have worked, but in real life it did. David told me that Richard used to hate Christians, especially the ones who yelled at and picketed him and his office. He said that their anger only made him more resolved to keep doing abortions.

Interesting.

Well, David didn’t yell at Richard. Instead, he ate with him, loved him and rejoiced with him when Richard gave his life to Christ, repented of his sins and was baptized. You see, it’s really not that complicated.

Let’s just love people, intentionally.

2. Resources

I don’t know how Peter did it.

How did he convince about 3,000 people to give their lives to Christ without handing out even one fake $1 million bill with the steps to receiving the “free” gift of eternal life detailed on the back?

Where did we get the idea that gimmicks, pamphlets and direct mail campaigns were the best way to lead people to Christ?

What if we set aside the gimmicky resources and simply just told people the true story of what Jesus has done to transform our lives?

What if we removed the gospel from all of the impenetrable packaging so that lost people didn’t have to work so hard to receive and enjoy truth, grace, forgiveness and life? What if we embraced every opportunity to develop intentional relationships with lost people through which we can introduce them to Jesus telling them true stories of transformation?

Seeing this through the paradigm of The Golden Rule, I’d much rather you give me a true story than a fake $1 million bill.

3. Responding

At Journey Christian Church where I pastor, we’re big on taking away people’s excuses for not coming to church. So we’re intentional about creating an environment where truth can be proclaimed in a relevant way, where it’s okay to not be okay, and where grace always wins.

We want to take away their excuses for not being the church in the community, so we’re intentional about creating regular opportunities to serve our community in significant ways.

We want to take away their excuses for not responding to the gospel, so we’re intentional with how we present the gospel and how they can respond to the gospel each week. I’m surprised by how many churches are no longer publicly calling people to make decisions for Christ, and instead are leaving the presentation of the gospel for a more appropriate time, such as the quarterly New Members’ Class. We’ve intentionally designed our weekly services to include a lengthy time of commitment during which someone can take communion, pray in one of our prayer rooms, be prayed over by a church leader, give his or her life to Christ, and be baptized.

And when it comes to baptism, we’ve gone to even greater lengths to take away their excuses. We baptize people in their street clothes (I do the same, so I need three sets of clothing ready to go). We have large black T-shirts they can put on over their clothes, plenty of towels and plastic trash bags to protect their car seats on the ride home. And our worship center seats are plastic and thus waterproof. In the past 12 months, we’ve baptized 205 people. We see people submit to baptism almost every single week.

It’s amazing how such a simple act can have such a significant impact on a congregation and how a congregation who witnesses transformation on a weekly basis can have such a significant impact on a community.

Yes, the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. Let’s resolve to not make it any harder than it already is.

Questions to consider:

What is one thing you can do this week to help your children or grandchildren to either find life in Christ or grow in their relationship with Christ?

What is one thing you can do this week to help someone who is “far off” find the narrow way?
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This article was excerpted and adapted from the new eBook Narrow-Minded Evangelism: ReThinking Evangelism … & The Golden Rule by pastor and author Arron Chambers. 

About Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers, author of six books, including Eats With Sinners and Devoted: Isn’t it time to fall more in love with Christ? (NavPress October 2014), is also the pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colo., an inspirational speaker, a marriage coach, husband of a lovely wife, and the father of four beautiful kids. For more information, visit his website.

Time to make the donuts?

By Scott Linscott

Imagine that you work in a donut shop. You arrive with the staff at 4:00 AM for your first day on the job. You are expecting to be elbow deep in flower but the owner gathers everyone around a dvd player and monitor and hits play. For the next two hours you sit and learn about the history of donut making. After a “discussion” which is actually mostly just filling in blanks in a workbook, you stand with your coworkers for a quick summary and then head home. No donuts are made.

The next day you come ready to bake but end up in the donut classroom again. On day two the focus is on ingredients. No donuts again. Day three is about donut making equipment. Day four is variety, day five oils and day 6 discusses the purpose of donut making. No donuts still.

By day ten you stop bringing your apron. The theory and practice of donut making is fascinating to study. On day 21 you get a different workbook and see that you will be talking about famous donut makers around the world. You even drop a few bucks into the collection for bringing donuts to new areas. Then there’s the discussions about the future and what will come, talk of serving donuts to the donutless and even discussions about what to study next.

You ask the long-time employee next to you, “have you ever actually made donuts?” He hasn’t but he tells you about a day before his time when this place produced piles and piles.

You’ve already surmised that im not talking about donuts at all. Im talking about the church of Jesus. We sure do like to talk, debate and study. We major in the minors while no one makes any donuts.

Throughout my ministry career I’ve noticed that we Christians tend to spend a ton of time majoring in the minors rather than focus on that which is clear. Some want to take class after class about dragons and beasts and endtime prophecies  while others love to study angels. Some want to talk about heaven and where it is, what it is like and what we will do when we get there while others love studying a new earth, new bodies and the second coming. Jesus told us to bring Good News to people but we seem more concerned with where the ark is now and what happened to the dinosaurs.

The excellent thing is that today you can Google all these fringe issues to your heart’s delight. You can spend hour-upon-hour researching aliens and the wheel-in-the-middle of the wheel. Or, you can study the depth of moon dust and use it to support your dedication to young-earth perspectives.

Me? I prefer to focus on the things that are clear and direct in Scripture. I’m not a big mystery chaser and I’m not interested in spending my time searching for secrets between the lines. I’d much rather spend my time focusing on the clear teachings of Christ rather than spend my time chasing mysteries.

If I were a donut maker, I’d want to make donuts. As a disciple of Christ I want to be a disciple maker.

“It is a bad symptom of any man’s state of soul when he begins to put the second things of religion in the first place, and the first in the second, or the things ordained by man above the things ordained by God. There is something sadly wrong when it is more important to us whether others are of our denomination and ceremonies rather than whether they repent of sin, believe on Christ and live holy lives.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Follow the Leader?

fishBy Scott Linscott

“Follow the Leader” was one of my favorite games when I was a kid. It usually was not all that difficult … right turn, left turn, around the tree. Most of us had the same moves when it was our turn to lead. I think we all played it for the thrill of being the leader with everyone lined up behind us. That was power.

But every once in awhile we got the drill sergeant leader kid. He’d run, crawl under things on his belly and make us sweat. It cost to follow him.

Some kids would start whining and complaining that it was too tough. Kids dropped off one by one. Some would demand a new leader. But a few of us really got into it. We preferred the challenge instead of the same old predictable path.

Have you ever read the Bible looking at Jesus as a leader? He never downplayed the cost or difficulty of following Him. He made a clear call, spelled out the rewards and then forged a path inviting people to follow Him. It was an all or nothing proposition.

I think His challenge is so intriguing because most of us realize that the “all” we live for now actually amounts to “nothing” in terms of things that last. We have a sense that we’re missing something. We’re following the kid in front of us knowing we are not really headed anywhere meaningful.

In Matthew 4 Jesus says, “Come, follow me” to some fishermen. Their response is immediate. They drop everything and go. All they know is that He tells them He will make them “fishers of men.” But what does that mean?

I think it means He’s going to give them a new purpose. A fisher of men is a person who impacts others. I think it means He is going to replace what they thought was so important with what He knows is vital. He is going to make them mirror Him. They are going to become rescuers, people who bring hope and guys who have Good News of a new reality. They are going to bring people in to new life in Christ.

As a leader, that is Jesus’ path and what He is all about. He’s about taking the condemned and rebuilding them. He is about taking the lost and showing them the path. He is about giving hope to the hopeless and life to the lifeless. He is about paying their debt and bringing them into the relationship with God that they were created to live. He is forgiveness for the unforgivable. Jesus walked that path with resolute determination and invites us to follow.

I think we’ve lost sight of that path in the American church. We sit, we stand, we turn left, we turn right and we go through the motions. By sitting in class after class talking about reaching out, loving others and following Jesus with everything, we have convinced ourselves that we are actually walking the path. But in reality, we rarely toss a net beyond the church parking lot. Our lines hardly ever hit the water where the fish live.

I think it’s time for a good round of Follow the Leader. The path is a lot less comfortable than our padded pews but it is the path Jesus calls us to. It’s a tough path to follow but it is worth walking.