#4 Consecration – The Master Plan of Evangelism

Have you ever met someone who just became a Christian and they were so excited and you began to see so many parts of their life begin to change.  Perhaps you were or are that Christian.

I remember when I first realized I am a sinner and the helplessness I felt to try to change my life.  I remember when I first began to realize the hopelessness I felt and how directionless I was as nothing in life satisfied.

I also remember the day when I realized the grace of God was being offered to me and that if I humbled myself and received God’s mercy by faith that everything would be okay, that I didn’t have to worry about my future, and that I was guaranteed the inheritance of eternal life.  So I received God’s gift of grace by faith and my whole life changed.

I felt raw, but cleansed.

I felt broken, but I was being re-built.

I felt tender-hearted toward all people and the situation they were in, and I felt a compassion and love for all people.

And then six months later my heart began to harden a little.  I realized the pain of this world continues and that the freshness of the Lord’s favor was beginning to feel distant.

This partially may have been due to the fact that I saw many freshman college students begin to fall away from faith by January 1995.  This may have partially been due to the fact I saw much pain in my friends and their friends, which they tried to fix through self-medicating with alcohol, marijuana, or sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  This may have had to do with the increased pain I saw in those who formerly declared to be a follower of Christ who then began to drink and sleep around and who then became jaded and started to point the finger at me saying I was being judgmental.

I really wrestled with this. 

I don’t like being judgmental or feeling like others thought I was being judgmental.  At the same time when I would see crushed people trying to fix their problems with things that made it worse I had two reactions during my college days: (1) I would point out that what they were doing was wrong and that it was inflicting more pain; and (2) I would feel bad for pointing this out because people didn’t like to hear me say this and it often resulted in distance between us.

And then there would be my third reaction – “Well if I can’t change them, then should I join them?” I didn’t get into the drinking thing or drugs, but my girlfriend became my fix.  We didn’t sleep together until our wedding night, but I did depend on her more than God for a few years before we got married.  I also flirted with putting my bible on my shelf because movies or video games and poker were more fun.

I would go back and forth about what God wanted me to do and what I wanted to do.  I go back and forth less now, but I still struggle with living a perfectly consecrated life.

What does consecration mean?

It is an ongoing recognition that all you are and continue to be is a disciple growing in Christ in faith.

As Christians we are called to do two basic things: (1) be a disciple of Jesus; and (2) help others become disciples of Jesus.

How do we do this?

First, we are to teach obedience to Jesus and stress confession of sin.  Confession simply means agreeing with God of what sin is, and when you sin agree with God that you have sinned.  And then if the sin was against another person, go to that person and confess you sinned against them  This sure helps you sleep better because you go to bed at night free from condemnation.

Second, being a disciple of Jesus involves the outworking of faith.  We are called to have faith and then to live by faith.  This is the fruit of the tree so to speak, the proof in the pudding, and the expression of God’s love working through the Christian.

Third, disciples of Jesus are called to accept the discipline of devotion and ministry.  Every Christian should be involved in making disciples and you can’t do this unless you are a part of a church working with other people with various giftings working together to help produce well rounded disciples of Christ.  Our elders, when we meet with new membership candidates, we ask if they have read our membership covenant and agree with our doctrine and if they agree to get involved in ministry.  We explain that we expect each member to be discipled and be involved in ministry within their spheres of influence and programs at Grace.

Fourth, disciples of Jesus are called to follow the way of the cross.  This simply means we are to serve like Jesus served and endure hardships for the sake of living the Christian life.  In some countries this results in martyrdom.  In our country there is a social pressure to remain quiet about faith, especially about the Christian faith, and if you bring it up people just distance themselves from you.  And so in this country we walk a fine line of living like Jesus and thus serving people and talking about Christ at the risk of hurting relationships.

And finally, make love your aim.  Obedience gives expression to love.  But love comes first, which causes the Christian disciple of Jesus to want to obey out of love for God.  You can’t say you love Him and then live in disobedience.  Disobedience to Christ is an expression of rebellion against Christ, which results in distance and separation from God.

I am not fully consecrated, but I desire to be.  I desire for those in my church to desire to be consecrated.  May we desire this together, walk by love and with grace inspire one another to live for Jesus.  This is harder than it sounds, but so worth pursuing together.

GODSPEED

Top Ten Ways to Guarantee that Your Class Meeting will Fail

All Home Community leaders at Grace Church Seattle should read this.

Vital Piety

This is the fourth post in a series on the contemporary relevance and practical application of the Methodist class meeting. In the first post, I gave a brief history of the origin and development of the class meeting in early Methodism. In the second post I discussed the potential contributions I believe the class meeting can make for 21st century Methodism and compared and contrasted the class meeting to Sunday school classes, small groups and accountability groups. In the third post I discussed the target audience for the 21st century class meeting. In this post I will give you the top ten ways to guarantee that your class meeting will fail.

Yep, you read that right. Is there a lot of pressure in your church, district, or annual conference to start a class meeting in your church? But you don’t really like the idea? Well, here is how you…

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Brain Health

In Scripture it says be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

The Apostle Paul was saying we need to love the Lord with our minds so that we can test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.

My daughter loves to read and just started writing a book about a cat.  My wife and I read the first paragraph and were blown away by her word choices, proper grammar, and use of words to draw the reader into the story and want to keep reading.  Did I mention my daughter just turned ten years old? And she is writing a story like what you might see from a late high school or early college student.

In our home we (me and my wife) have emphasized reading above media like television and movies.  We still watch movies but only a few (2-3) per week and we screen what our children watch.  When I was pursuing my Master’s degree I took a class called “Christ and Culture” in which we read books about the importance of reading above media influence (e.g., “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman) and we looked at brain scans of teenagers and adults with a high media exposure compared to a normal brain.  Below are images that speak louder than words.

Media brain scan

The above picture shows more brain activity in a person with low violent media exposure.  In other words high violent media exposure changes your brain and how you think.  Similarly, below is another image of a brain affected positively by reading.  This increases brain activity.

Reading brain scan

In short, as Christians we are called to be transformed and we do this through intellectual stimulation.  This is not just done by reading or taking classes or going to church and hearing a sermon or Sunday school, but also by feeding our minds with healthy, godly thoughts (like reading the Bible or books and news articles with a Christian worldview).

May we do this to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.

GODSPEED

Jesus’ Plan of Evangelism / Discipleship – #3 Association

In the last few weeks I have been summarizing from Robert Coleman’s book and lectures about Jesus’ “Master Plan of Evangelism.” 

The first week we covered the Incarnation.  Jesus has always been God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity.  When Jesus became a man He went from a glorious position to a humble position.  He did this to love and serve people and to point them to GOD and His ways.  Likewise, we as Christians should emulate the incarnation by becoming humble, loving and serving people, and pointing them to GOD and His ways. 

The second week we covered Selection – Jesus called people to Himself; He called people who gravitated toward Him, who wanted to follow Him, and then He trained these disciples to reproduce disciples.  Likewise, we as Christians should be disciples of Jesus, learning as much as we can, putting it into practice, and then looking for people who are eager to grow in Christ and walk with us doing ministry together.  If people push back, don’t try to force it; rather role with those who want to role with you.

This week we are covering a third topic, Association.  Jesus taught us by example that we are to minister to and serve those we already have an association with.  But we are to build a relationship with these people so that it becomes more than just an association.  If all we ever do is make people feel like a number or a notch in our belts, then people will be put off.  We need to build relationships with people in our church, in our neighborhoods, at work, school, sports teams, etc.  The goal is to build personal relationships with people.  Those who will ask you to disciple them, it will be because they like you and want to learn from you.  Those who want to learn about the gospel from you, it will be because you built a bridge and were there for them even if they never wanted to hear anything about Christ from you.  

One of the down sides of mass evangelistic crusades and revival meetings or outreach events is there is a lack of a personal touch, and thus people might respond to the message of Christ crucified for their sins, but they will not know what to do with their new found faith unless a personal relationship with a Christian is made with the intention of helping the person grow in faith and get involved in the mission of the gospel.  We need to have a personal touch when reaching out, and we need to call for a personal response.  The long term effect of accepting Christ without discipleship will be that the church to them will become a building or will be about what happens on Sunday mornings rather than about everyday church lived out in community on mission.

Large group discipleship classes are okay, small group discipleship groups are better, and one-on-one discipleship is best.  The smaller the group the better because the goal is not just to teach doctrine, but to show people how doctrine applies to everyday life. 

Some examples of everyday discipleship:

  • Bring disciples into the routine of daily life.  Those you know, minister to them or with them in everyday life.
  • Seek ways for casual fellowship (e.g., coffee, fishing, meals together, working out together, working with one another on projects, etc.)
  • Arrange times for prayer and study of the Bible.
  • Occasionally have extended periods of reflection with those your are discipling.

Our goal at Grace Church is not to emphasize a program or schemes to draw people in.  Our goal at Grace is to love each other in practical ways in community with one another and to extend that love beyond those who regularly attend Grace Church.  This is what it means to live on mission together, to live the Great Commission lifestyle.

GODSPEED