Monday, August 22, 2011
Jesus was quite the famous One among the cities, villages, and countrysides. Check it out:
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
So Jesus heals all the sicknesses and diseases in this whole area. Definitely the healthiest place on earth! But it wasn't the physical illnesses that moved Him to break emotionally.
His disciples saw it. I can imagine Peter turning to Andrew, "Hey, Andy, look at the Messiah! He is sobbing!" Jesus is bent over weeping over the emotional and spiritual condition of the multitudes.
Multitudes. Not a few hundred, or a few thousand. But multitudes. Too many to count.
Then Jesus tells His disciples to pray for more disciples to bring His love to the lost. This must've been quite an event. There were only 13 of them (including Jesus), and there were multitudes of the hurting. Just a few laborers among countless lost people with countless needs to be met. Jesus allowed His disciples to witness His great compassion for people--His passion for glorifying His Father by loving people. And loving people is not just being nice. It's meeting their whole needs.
Then Jesus gives them supernatural powers. Here's 10:1--
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
Jesus could've just given them power, but He wanted them to see the purpose for the power. He gave them purpose by showing them His passion. So Passion gives Purpose to Power. Without His passion within us, we are purposeless and powerless.
It literally frightens me to know that there are many purposeless and powerless churches in America today. It's because there are purposeless and powerless Christians in America.
Would you grasp and embrace His passion: to glorify our Father by loving people? And we love people by seeking to meet their whole needs. That's the love of Christ in action. That's sharing the whole gospel: in word and deed!
(My heart's desire is to inspire believers to evangelize. Check out my website at www.JChadBarrett.com for more information!)
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Christ set out to aggressively meet the many needs of people—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. When He left this earth, He gave this mission to His disciples.
Today, we might call this ministering, and so we hire professional ministers to do the work. I am convinced this is why churches seem so uninterested in evangelism. Many churches expect their pastors to do the work of ministry. I've been told that as a pastor.
The great question, here, is “Why are we not obedient to the Great Commission?” Before you feel that I am placing all the blame on the senior pastor and his seminary, allow me to shed some clarity on where I am going with this. I have often wondered if we have professionalized the role of the pastor to the point where we expect far too much of him.
Take a drive through a large town, like Houston, and you’ll see billboards advertising local churches. Whose picture might you see? If you guessed “the senior pastor,” you’re correct. The senior pastor is the face of the local church. Everything is based on him. Nothing can get done without him. Churches come to a screeching halt when a pastor leaves until the search committee hires a new one.
If you conducted a survey in your church to find what people desired most out of their senior pastor, I’m willing to bet the results would show your church would like to hire Jesus, the Messiah. This makes much sense to me because there are people in your church. There are those who hurt emotionally and need a counselor. Those who suffer need someone to offer peace. Those who are confused need an instructor, and those who are down need encouragement.
Then, there are sick people who need to be visited in the hospital. There are singles who get married, marriages to be saved, and the dead need to be buried. Then there are the sermons. The people need deep, practical, persuasive, powerful, calm, meaningful, emotional, and convicting sermons…every Sunday. They need someone who can lead with grace, energy, and victory.
In other words, the people in the local church need a professional teacher, preacher, trainer, counselor, comforter, administrator, leader, and so on. And we tend to look to one man to offer all the above. Perhaps we have forgotten who Christ gave to the Church “to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.”
And then we come to evangelism. Just another item to add to his list of professions?
Here is what Paul stated in Ephesians 4:11-13,
“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 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Basically, the apostles and prophets were used as the foundational builders of the Church (as seen in Acts), and then there are pastors, teachers, and evangelists. We see many pastors and teachers in churches today, but where are the evangelists Christ gave? Has our Head ceased in supplying evangelists in churches to continue to edify the body to reach the maturity of which Paul spoke?
I do not believe Christ has ceased in giving His Church evangelists. I believe they are all over the place, and many of them are working. However, they are not popular. They don’t have pictures on billboards, or business cards to hand out to people. They may not have master’s degrees or doctorates. They probably don’t have offices inside buildings. But the evangelists are out there. They are in your church. I wonder how many there are in your church, but who have not become evident because evangelism is not the desired answer to the ever popular question: What will it take to pack out our building on Sunday morning?
It appears in Scripture that the office of the evangelist was just as important as the office of the pastor and teacher. I am not suggesting churches ought to spend extra money and put mug shots of evangelists next to the senior pastor. And I'm certainly suggesting popularity. In fact, I am not suggesting anything, save the one principle that to Christ, evangelism was equally as important as the preaching of the Scriptures.
Yet, we tend to bank everything in the local church on one human being—the senior pastor. We recognize that office, but neglect the office of the evangelist in the local church. More often than not, the senior pastor is not gifted in evangelism, and rightly so. He is gifted in teaching, or leading, or something else that the majority of the people sought for when they hired him. He is gifted by the Holy Spirit to properly teach God’s Word, or lead with enthusiasm, or administer with grace.
I’m convinced our churches do not evangelize because the evangelists are not evident. And the evangelists can lead others to effectively bring the holistic gospel to the nations. This is being obedient to our Head who gave the evangelist to His Body.
Monday, August 8, 2011
To put it simply and bluntly, the problem seems to start in the seminary. Professors are not the blame for the lack of missional churches in America, but it does seem to have quite an effect. Seminary professors usually train pastors to be great exegetical technicians, church growth experts, homiletically apt, and skilled counselors. If this were not so, our churches would not have the opportunity to know the Word of God as we do. I am very fortunate and thankful to my professors in seminary who have taught me these things. And I am exceedingly glad for the great training my pastor has received so I can gain greater understanding of what God wants from me.
However, many seminaries fail to teach and exemplify evangelism. Many Bible colleges and seminaries have very few classes on this subject. Therefore, there are professors who fail to train pastors to evangelize effectively. Thus, there are pastors who fail to train their churches to evangelize effectively. And, sadly, there are 95% of Christians in America today who have never had the privilege of leading another to Christ because they have never been trained to do so.
This is a terrible chain reaction! If you are a professor or pastor, I plead with you to make the necessary changes to break this reaction. The sad truth exists; most churches are simply not reaching the lost. We are not obeying. We must have pastors who are passionate for and properly trained to lead churches to effectively bring the holistic gospel to the lost! It’s hard to be obedient when we are not sure of what to do.
The Consumer-driven Church
In his book, Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, Dr. Dennis Okholm states, "…in our desire to maximize our return on investments in reaching people for Christ, we...are often captives of the consumer-driven, efficiency-minded, results-oriented culture in which we grow our churches. But [Saint] Benedict and his contemporaries remind us that Christians mature more like trees than like fast-spreading computer viruses....We have become consumers of religion rather than cultivators of a spiritual life."
The spiritual life that Okholm speaks of involves making disciples. To make a disciple, one must enter into the life of another, show the love of Christ in deed, share the good news of Christ in word, and continue on developing maturity in Christ. It truly hurts me to say that we seem more interested in cultivating empires with steeples than we do in making disciples.
So many churches in America are like the Super Wal-Mart, offering a little of everything in order to get the buy-in of the consumer. We, Christians, shop for a church where the pastor preaches our kind of sermon and wears our kind of clothes on stage, the band plays our kind of music (or the choir sings our kind of songs), the youth group fits our teens, the children’s ministry gets our approval, and the nursery has walls decorated with Noah’s Ark. We make our list of “grocery items” and choose the church that has the most items checked off. We also choose our country club with the same basic principles.
Let’s face it. Many of us may choose to attend a church based on what we want, and not what God may want. We may pray for God’s direction, but when we pray, we ask for God to lead us to a church that fits our preferences, fills our lifestyles with pleasure and goodness, and feeds our souls with what we hunger for the most: entertainment, satisfaction, comfort, and well-being.
What would it take for a Christian to desire a particular church as a place where he can be discipled in the truths of God’s Word so he can utilize his spiritual gifts to edify the body and reach the lost? How many Christians would join a particular church for the purpose of seeking to make it better used for the Kingdom? Tell me: have you ever heard a Christian say, “I want to join this church because I feel I can best be used here.”
Perhaps this is the mentality Christ wants us to have—to be passionate to give, rather than to receive. Perhaps Christ wants us to be passionate to sacrifice to spread His gospel, rather than expect others in a church to sacrifice to fit our preferences of ministry. Perhaps Christ wants us to come to the point where we are willing to risk it all to bring the gospel to the nations, and perhaps that starts with you in your church.