Many churches today are very concerned about the kind of atmosphere people will encounter when visiting one of their services. They invest a tremendous amount of time, manpower, and money trying to create an environment they hope will be attractive to those who attend. It’s certainly a good thing to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere; but endeavoring to make church appealing can be very misguided and even counterproductive to what God actually wants to accomplish when the church gathers.
Say the word “church” and many people will think you are referring to a building, others will think you are referring to an event that takes place on Sunday morning. The Bible, however, never talks about church in either of these contexts. When the Bible uses the word church, it’s always talking about people; people who have come to faith in Christ and follow him. While there is great joy in our relationship with the Lord, it is also very challenging to be a follower of Christ as defined by the scriptures. We are called to sacrifice, surrender, overcome, and endure; to lay down our lives, take up our cross, and renew our minds. This is very imposing stuff and we all need lots of help. So God has devised an amazing way for every believer to receive an abundance of the help we so desperately need. The Bible refers to this ingenious source of ministry as the body of Christ. Continue reading “God’s Ingenious Plan For Ministry”
How should a church measure success? Many churches will give lip service to the idea of discipleship and seeing people become more like Jesus, but if you examine where they spend the majority of their time and effort it becomes clear that these are not priorities. For many churches the primary gauge of success is the number of people attending their Sunday services. They want an exact head count of each and every being on the premises and are quite perturbed if they think the ushers didn’t do their math right and came up a few people short. If attendance is increasing everyone feels quite confident that things are going well, but a sharp downturn in attendance will trigger serious doubts about what is wrong. Continue reading “How God Measures Success”
Jesus said he came to “seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10). He finished one parable with the statement “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” (Luke 14:23). These statements communicate the passion and commitment Jesus has to see people restored to right relationship with God. However, if we read objectively through the gospels and observe Jesus in action, it becomes clear that his desire to see people saved never led him to compromise what he required of them. Instead, he routinely challenged people to come to him through surrender and obedience.
There are several passages in the Bible that talk about important truths being “hidden” from some people while being “revealed” to others. Seeing, understanding, and walking in truth is foundational to a right relationship with the Lord, so it is rather disturbing to read in the scriptures that some people have important truths that are kept from them. This is not a case of truth that is too complicated or too difficult to understand. It is a case of people being denied the opportunity to see and understand truth that is actually right in front of them. This does not happen indiscriminately. God does not draw straws to determine who gets it and who doesn’t. There are principles at work that determine whether truths are hidden from us or revealed to us and ultimately it is the condition of our heart that sets us up to see or leaves us blind. Continue reading “Hidden or Revealed?”
The Bible refers to believers as sheep. Over the years I’ve heard preachers take this analogy to an extreme and come to some very unflattering conclusions about how dumb and helpless sheep are. Rather than coming to negative conclusions based on our perception of what natural sheep are like, we should actually look closely at how Jesus describes the relationship between himself and his sheep. Jesus makes some very positive and encouraging statements about the shepherd/sheep relationship. Continue reading “His Sheep Listen To His Voice”