boyradd

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As American as Apple Pie, Baseball, and….Mormonism?!?!

Mark 16:15 – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

A few days ago, my girlfriend got us tickets to go see the Minnesota Twins play the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. She and her boys are big baseball fans so we headed out for a night on the town. Now I am not a baseball fan. I like futbol and football, in that order. Columbus Crew in the USA and Argentina internationally for soccer and the Pittsburgh Steelers for football are my faves. If they are on, especially if the Crew is playing DC United or the Steelers are playing the Ravens, you better believe I will be enjoying the game somehow. But this was neither soccer nor football. It was baseball, much longer than either of those other two sports. Strangely enough, it was on the 98th anniversary of the fastest baseball game ever played. And the Twins even played in that game, the Winston-Salem Twins. That game was 31 minutes long for 9 innings. Ah whatever happened to the good ole days.

But I digress.

As we were walking into the stadium there was a single man on the street corner giving a fire and brimstone sermon. Clearly Christian, this man was yelling Bible verses AT people. Everyone, including myself, gave a second glance thinking this guy was crazy. I felt bad for thinking that and went on into the stadium to watch the game.

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

Part of the way through the game we saw a couple young men, no older than say 25, walking up one of the aisles wearing black dress pants, a white shirt, and a name tag. My first inclination was, “There are some Mormons at the baseball game!” I never expected to see a couple Mormons in uniform at a baseball game, but I figured, “Heck, they need to get out and have fun just like the rest of us, right?”

They were clearly enjoying the game, but I don’t think that is why they were there.

Later, as we were leaving we saw a LOT more.   It seemed as if they had enough Mormon men there to place teams of 2 in a majority of the bleacher sections. As we walked through the stadium to the exit, there were groups of people taking pictures with the Mormons and speaking with them.

Then at a red light near the stadium, they were talking to people in general conversation. I overheard very little of it, but what I did hear was talking about Mormonism.

One man even walked a family to their car! He shook hands with the family and I saw them talking about something for a little while before we drove off.

Now, Christian, I am first going to say that Mormonism is a cult. I posted about that here. But quickly, here are a lot of things where Mormonism runs counter to Christianity:

  • God used to be a man on another planet (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321)
  • God resides at a star called Kolob (Mormon Doctrine, p. 428)
  • After you become a good Mormon, you have the potential to become a god (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345-347)
  • There is a Mother God (Articles of Faith, p. 443)
  • God is married to his goddess wife and has spirit children (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516)
  • The Trinity is composed of three separate gods (Articles of Faith, p. 35)

Those are just a few of the ways Mormonism differs from Christianity.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

But one thing is very similar in both: Evangelism is the key to spreading the message.

So which do you think is more effective?

Standing on the street corner blasting through a very loud P.A. system that Jesus is the only way to save you from hell….

or…

Spending time getting to know the people at the stadium, walk with them to their cars, and help them as they spend time with their families at the baseball game.

One of the rare times that we saw Jesus lose His temper was directed only to the religious elite. Every time He spent time with the sinners, He was filled with grace and compassion.

And that is precisely what the Mormons were doing at the baseball game. They were showing grace, compassion, and genuine love for their fellow humans.

James 2:26 – For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

I hate to say it, Christians, but Mormons got us beat in the evangelism arena. We have a lot of catching up to do. It is as if we know we have the right answer (which we do) and yet we lord it over people rather than love them into the community.

I’ve heard it said before (on a DC Talk album) that the “greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who proclaim Him with their lips and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Christians, it is time for us to evangelize. Yes, we need to use words. But even more so, we need to use actions. Faith without works is dead. When the people see the man on the street corner yelling the Bible at them, they do not see the man who would potentially walk beside them in the tough times. They just know this guy is yelling at them.

When they see the Mormons talk about their faith as they are walking a family late at night to their car, then they gain instant credibility because they are acting out that faith.

We need to act out the faith we proclaim. We need to break down the defenses of the world around peoples’ hearts before they will listen to the words we speak to them. If we simply go AT them with the Bible instead of going TO them and walking with them as they struggle, they will shut us out.

So let’s take a lesson from the Mormons. No, I don’t mean listening to any of the heresy they proclaim. But I do mean evangelizing like a Mormon. It will add credibility to your message that you are trying to preach.

James 2:18 – But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

The Church has Left the Building

Acts 1:8 –  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

A few days ago, I was driving in MD when I saw this van.

20130908_132045

THAT IS WHAT THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO BE!

I got so excited.  I looked at my son and said, “take a picture.”  When God eventually allows me to plant a church, THAT is what I want the church to be about!

How many churches are focused on making bigger or better interiors which are more comfortable for people to come to while the world is still a cold, uncomfortable place for the Christian?  It is our job as the leadership in a church to equip our members to go out and bring more people “in.”  I put quotes around the word “in” because while we want these new converts to come to our church, we should just want them to go to any Bible-believing church.  It isn’t about our numbers.  It is about heaven’s numbers.

Acts 2:47 – Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

It is no secret that a church needs to make its numbers.  It needs to bring in tithes in order to support the paid members of the staff.  This is precisely why it is imperative for Christians to support your local church.  God expects us to give our 10% to the local church.  The expectation of God is to support our local ministry.  It is up to the local ministry to manage that tithe to support the local community.

In return the local ministry provides much more than a weekly pep talk on Sundays.  Your tithe goes to missions work.  That missions work can be international or local.  For example, my church supports ministries in India, Dubai, Peru, Brazil, Honduras, and many other countries.  Beyond that, we support local organizations such as a local elementary school, a food pantry, and multiple outreach missions.

Your tithe goes to support those organizations.

Malachi 3:10 – Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

But then your tithe goes to supporting discipleship training.  When I tell someone on the street that I am a disciple, they get this look on their face that makes me think I have a snot ball hanging from my nose.  Discipleship training is simply teaching someone how to live a life like Jesus.  Yes, we will never be perfect at it.  But there is no arguing that Jesus led a life that no one can claim was corrupted.  If we strive to live like Him, then we will find that we, too, will live a life that is moral.

Your tithe also goes to supporting programs that will improve the church so that the next generation can be served.  My parents loved the church I grew up in.  They would take me and go every week.  I thought it was THE most boring place on earth.  They didn’t allow the kind of music I liked (of course, I don’t know of too many churches that play “Rock All Night” by KISS).  I thought the pastor was focused only on the old people with the style of preaching he did.

Our churches are no different.  Our kids want to go to a kids program that is relevant.  Don’t roll out a kids program unless it is age specific.  First graders should not be combined with fifth graders.  Yes, they are both elementary students, but both learn very differently.  Our middle schoolers and high schoolers should begin having their own Bible studies.  But those studies should be targeted to what THEY are going through.  Sending an 8th grader to a book study on Song of Solomon is not quite what an 8th grader needs.  Perhaps something more on an 8th grader’s life, such as peer pressure, lying to your parents, or working hard need to be the focus of the study.  Young adults need a different way to learn as well.  Those young professionals enjoy going out in large groups, maybe to a sporting event.  Their discipleship needs to happen while life is being experienced.  It is how they learn.  Crusty, old guys like me enjoy one on one discipleship.  We like to remember our past and share it with others.  Us old folk like to relive our past, while the young adults like to experience the future.

So your tithe goes to supporting various programs to multiple different demo- and psycho-graphics.

Other than 7-11, how many companies that we spend much more than 10% of our income on are targeting every type of person out there?  Shouldn’t we be supporting a church that is working to not just give Jesus to people (that itself is enough to want to support a church) but also striving to improve the lives of every person who sets foot in the building.

To do that, the church needs to have the equipment necessary to reach every person.  To do that, the church needs to be able to seat all the people, create opportunities of fellowship for the people, and create some amenities for enjoyment for the attenders.

It is difficult to support ancillary programs in a church.  The programs may seem like luxuries.  But without some of those items that we may consider luxuries, the next generation will be stuck in a building that will become a burden for them to visit.  The next generation will have no desire to go outside the building and bring others into the building.  The church will die.

Ephesians 4:11-12 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

If you truly want your church to leave the building, then you need to get it ready to equip them before they leave and make it a place that they want others to come.

Reaching the City for Christ

I’ve been reading the books for my upcoming classes in seminary next year.   I’ll be taking a class on world missions and a class on strategies for church growth.  I started reading the books for the church growth class and am learning SO much.  I feel like the spiritual equivalent of a kid in a candy store when I read some of this stuff because there are so many amazing ideas that people have put into place, so many awesome movements that have resulted in not just church growth, but in souls being won for Christ, and so many people from which I can learn.

In a few of my books throughout my seminary career, I have had the opportunity to read about city-reaching churches.  These are single or multiple churches whose goal and mission to make sure that every person in a given city hears the gospel of Christ.  There is one story that has seriously impacted me and given me a fire to coordinate a similar program in Annapolis, MD.

I read the story of Ed Silvoso.  Born in Argentina, he worked to soften the ground and make the way ready for some of the larger evangelists of our age such as Billy Graham.  Eventually, illness took its toll on his professional Christian media career, but that didn’t stop him.  After a short time battling spiritual warfare, God gave him the vision of a 4-star general, the urgency of a drill sergeant, and the spiritual attack strength of a battalion of soldiers.

When he was asked to help set up a visit from a Korean pastor, he went into the town of Resistencia.  With a population of 400,000, this town is on the border of northern Argentina.  Silvoso created his “Plan Resistencia” to take back that entire city in the name of Christ.

Silvoso began his journey by sharing with all of the pastors in the area his plan to create 500 neighborhood prayer cells to go into every neighborhood in the city and intercede for the Christian church universal.  He approached all pastors to gain unity among the Christians who had been losing ground to Satan while they battled themselves for the same churchgoers.  The pastors began praying regularly for this dream to take hold and for all Christians to come together in unity to take back the streets.  It ended with pastors preaching in each other’s churches, sharing the sacraments and ordinances together, and sharing their offerings among the most-needy churches in the region.

Once the unity started, Silvoso created “lighthouses,” 635 neighborhood prayer cell that involved at least 2 people apiece who were responsible for a section of the city.  Those 635 cells were then tasked for prayer-walking around their assigned blocks every day for 3 months.  After 3 months, the walkers went up to every door in their neighborhood, knocked, and asked each and every person, “how may we pray for you?”  Writing down in their notebooks the requests of the inhabitants, every single prayer request was prayed over fervently by the cell.  The only request that the cell had for the inhabitants? “When God answers your prayer, make sure you come and tell us at the church so that we may rejoice together.”

This follows a true Christian model of evangelizing!  In the past, an evangelist would go into a city and preach about sin, making everyone feel guilty of their sin, in hopes that they will repent.  Silvoso followed Romans 2:4 in blessing the unsaved so “that they would know the reason God is good to them is because He wants them to turn to Him.”

After 6 months, the churches in the city had seen a 201% INCREASE!!!  Silvoso likens city-reaching to a military campaign and provides a 6-step plan.

1)       Look for and find people with whom you can create a “faithful remnant” of believers and make sure they understand that they are God’s representatives in Satan’s dominion.

2)      Secure the perimeter of the city.  Recognize that Satan has infiltrated the city and sin has established anxiety throughout it.  Christians are to begin praying to “destroy arguments and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God.” (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5)  Churches need to practice unity.

3)      Expand God’s perimeters in the city.  Christians prayer-walk around their neighborhoods, praying for every home and launching a spiritual attack on the forces of darkness in the city.

4)      Infiltrate Satan’s perimeter by going “behind enemy lines” through a massive “air assault” of specific prayer requests and secure a strong base of operations.  Establish hundreds of prayer cells acorss the city in order to weaken Satan’s control.

5)      Attack and destroy Satan’s perimeters.  The church begins to “take over the city by confronting, binding, and casting down spiritual powers that rule the region.”  Proclaim the message of the Gospel to every person in the city and believers get discipled through their prayer cell “lighthouses.”

6)      Establish God’s new perimeter where Satan once existed.  Silvoso calls this “looting the enemy’s camp,” I call this “plunder hell and populate heaven.”  Christians completely take away Satan’s claim on the souls of people.  Silvoso said, “unless spiritual warfare results in solid, tangible conversions which are incorporated into a growing number of churches, nothing consequential has happened.” (Silvoso 1977)

We can do this, church!  It is our calling in the Great Commission to go out and make disciples!  I’ve said this before. We are not called to make church attenders.  We are not called to make friends.  We are called to make disciples.

Reaching the city for Christ is not a new idea.  It was started in the earliest of evangelism missions of the Christian church.  Look at Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  The Lord is emphasizing cities.  He first commanded them to go to Jerusalem, their city.  (Towns, Stetzer and Bird 2007)

Paul started churches in major cities in each region.  The city church could influence the region for Christ.  Once established, then that church would influence the more rural areas.

And how does the Bible end?  IN A CITY!  Revelation 21:2, “I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.”

So, church, I will ask you.  Have you reached your city for Christ?  Are you doing everything you possibly can to get outside your four walls, impact your community, praying and interceding for those who won’t come to you?  Or are you waiting for them to come?

About 4 years ago, I was teaching a Bible study at a small church.  During the seventh week of the study, we had “bring a friend to church” week.  When Sunday came, I looked around at the congregation and only one person brought a friend to church.  I called an emergency meeting of my group of 20 in the study for right after church.  Once we were assembled, I asked the simple question, “Where are your friends?”  The pastor of the church, a member of the group I was running, looked me straight in the eye and said, “They know where we are.  If they need us, they will find us.”

Church, are we so prideful and arrogant that we think that we hold the greatest gift but are unwilling to give it to others?  Are we so blind that we think that our church is made up of perfect Christians and if we add any sinner that the balance will be thrown off?  Are we so cold to love that we don’t know how to be on fire for Christ?  What has happened to Romans 1:16?  What has happened to Matthew 28:19?  Are those just verses in the Bible that only hold meaning for some?

Church, wake up! Your cities are dying!  And your communities are blaming Christ because Christians are standing around watching it die!  Let’s get on fire, church!  Let’s go outside and meet new people!  Let’s bring EVERYONE into our church so that NO ONE will perish!

I would love to hear from you.  Tell me what your churches are doing to reach the communities that they are in.  Are there any organizations in your area that are already city-reaching?  If so, reach out and ask them what their plan for reaching the city is.

And prayerfully consider reaching your city for Christ.

Bibliography

Silvoso, Ed. That None Should Perish. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1977.

Towns, Elmer, Ed Stetzer, and Warren Bird. 11 Innovations in the Local Church. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007.

 

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