Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Treasures from Scripture

Here are a few more powerful verses I encourage you to commit to memory.

  • "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

  • "Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you." Genesis 21:23

  • "On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do." Exodus 12:16

Friday, December 18, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 5 of 5

The Book of Acts is a record of the missionary work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works through men such as:

  • Peter
  • Mark
  • Philip
  • Luke
  • Paul
  • Silas
  • Stephen
  • Barnabas
Each of these men served as a missionary, men who were sent by God. These men were sent for a purpose, a purpose of helping others find salvation in the Messiah! Whenever a denomination, church, or person loses their passion for God’s purpose paralysis can set in, which is followed closely by death. Jesus came that mankind might have life, not spiritual death.

It is the belief of this author that the churches which remain strong, healthy and vital in a community are the churches that give themselves away. A church gives herself away through:
  • Replication church plants
  • Humanitarian aid - food, clothes, Christmas, benevolence, adoptions, school outreaches
  • Prayer
  • Financial support of missions
Jesus taught, “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.” He truly gave Himself away!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 4 of 5

Maybe the reason so many churches are dying is that at some point they have lost the desire to accomplish God’s goal. After all, even a small church can support a missionary, help send a student to Bible College, or help the homeless. Once the wagons are circled, death is imminent. Death is certain unless a church is willing to open up and love those for whom Jesus died.

The New Testament is replete with “one another” passages. The truth is these passages can never be fulfilled without a zeal for missions. A partial list is given below.

  • Love One Another, John 15:17
  • Confess Sins to One Another, James 5:16
  • Pray for One Another, James 5:16
  • Forgive One Another, Ephesians 4:32
  • Bear One Another’s Burdens, Galatians 6:2
  • Teach & Admonish One Another, Colossians 3:16
  • Be Subject to One Another, Ephesians 5:21
  • Encourage One Another, 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • Serve One Another, Galatians 5:13
  • Rejoice with Each Other, 1 Corinthians 12:26
  • Weep with One Another, Romans 12:15
  • Care for One Another, 1 Corinthians 12:25
  • Depend on One Another, Romans 12:5
  • Be of the Same Mind Toward one Another, Romans 12:16
  • Show Hospitality to One Another, 1 Peter 4:9
  • Fellowship with One Another, 1 John 1:7
The only possible reason for Jesus leaving His church here on earth is for the church to help others find salvation in Jesus. Therefore if that is the church’s objective, is it any wonder why God blesses churches that are focused on people getting to know our Savior?

“Churches grow best if they find a model God is blessing.” –Carl George

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 3 of 5

Being focused on missions is obviously one of the keys to the growth of the local church. Churches that keep all of their resources for themselves will end up having few. Failing churches, like failing believers, make statements like “Charity begins at home.” The Biblical response to that statement is “No, responsibility begins at home, charity begins next door!”

It was no surprise to me that every strong, growing church whose leaders I have interviewed had a power commitment to missions both domestically and globally.
“A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” -Thomas Carlyle

The same can be said of churches, but the purpose must be God’s. The only purpose of the church of Jesus should be to see more souls saved. This theme is developed in unending ways.

  • Church planting – local/ U.S./among nations
  • Supporting missionaries – Prayer/finances
  • Sending missionaries from the local church
  • Inner city work
  • Feeding the homeless
  • Christmas to the poor
  • Pregnancy crisis centers
  • Short term missions teams
  • Aids outreach
  • Orphan and widow ministry
  • Emergency hurricane/tornado, flood relief
  • Building homes
While each of the churches surveyed supported missions differently, each gave at least 10% while one gave 33% of the total income of the church. Some churches gave a percentage of their general fund, some also tithed on their building funds and, some utilized “Faith Promise”, and almost all took up special offerings to give away. When we give to God’s heart, God gives back to His people.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”–Malachi 3:10

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33

It is one thing to read those truths, while it is another to obey the text and live the message individually and as a church.

“Someone has said that the church does not exist FOR missions, but rather BY mission. If you peek inside the fastest-growing churches in the world, you will discover that, without exception, these churches are missions-minded, and have caught a vision of “world-conquest.” Our own church really became alive when missions was placed on the front burner and became a top priority, visible for all to see and hear.” –Bob Moorehead

The local church grows as she gives herself away. God’s way is the opposite of the world’s way. The principle will not make sense, but God’s way always works.

“The preacher, the governing body, and the other key leaders must start the process. Missions isn’t optional. It’s what the church is all about. What we call the Great Commission has too often been the Great Omission. Yet, Jesus declared that missions is why the church exists. That’s why the Great Commission appears five times in the New Testament. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8.) What oxygen is to fire, missions is to the church. As fire exists by burning, so the church exists by missions. No missions, no church. I once read where an artist was asked to paint a picture of a dead church. Masterfully, he worked day and night, and finally the portrait was finished. When it was unveiled, it showed a box on a table in the church foyer. On the box was printed the word MISSIONS. There was a slit in the top of the box for the offerings, and across the slit was a spider web. It could never have been said more eloquently! Until the leadership of the church acknowledges the centrality of missions, then provides the members to become personally involved in the support of missions, that church will not grow beyond just a few hundred people.” –Bob Moorehead
Part four tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 2 of 5

Often the pastoral staff at Tomoka Christian Church, where I am privileged to serve, is asked this question, “What do you do for evangelism?” We pondered this question the first time we were asked, but now have a standard response of “Everything!”

Every ministry that Tomoka Christian Church is a part of is an evangelistic weapon. The church was given only one mission.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ” –Matthew 28:18-20

“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.” –Acts 1:8

Why do churches think they exclude evangelism and still please God or even be called the church of Jesus Christ? We have one target, one aim, one victory: SOULS SAVED! Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:19-26: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”

What an amazing statement of purpose. Paul says that whatever it takes we should win souls for Jesus! He also says we should become all things to all men so that some might be saved. This vision should drive the church of Jesus to work both locally and globally. Soul winning should be the goal of all ministries. If it is not, the ministry should be eliminated as dead weight from the body of Christ.

Therefore, a few of the evangelism ministries that Tomoka Christian Church is involved in are:

  • Nursery Ministry
  • Preschool ministry
  • Grade School ministry
  • Middle school ministry
  • High school ministry
  • College ministry
  • Amazing Grays (Senior citizens)
  • Daytona Outreach Center
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Worship & Creative Arts
  • Sandwich Ministry for homeless
  • Prayer Ministry
  • Church Camp
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Nursing Home ministry
  • Prison/jail ministry
  • Food Pantry
  • Hispanic Ministry
  • Home School Ministry
  • Jesus Clinic – free medical care
  • Sports Ministry
  • Angel Food Ministry
  • Biblical Counseling Ministry
  • Hospital Visitation Ministry
  • Life Groups
  • Holy Ground CafĂ© (benefits mission teams)
  • Sermons on CD Ministry
  • Thrift Store (proceeds benefit missions)
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Adoption Ministry
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Parking Ministry
  • Christian Motorcyclists
  • Fall Carnival to the community
  • Legal Counsel Ministry
  • Community Clean-up Ministry
  • Guest Relations
  • Military Ministry
  • Homeless Sandwich Ministry
  • Pro-Life Ministry
  • Radio Ministry
  • Transportation Ministry
  • Sermons online
  • Weekly Email Express
  • Ministry to shut-ins
  • Widows Ministry
  • Griefshare Ministry
Collectively, we get to be one big evangelistic weapon, namely individuals who love their Savior and their church.

Next we address the big issue of global evangelism. One of our goals at Tomoka Christian Church is to plant a church in every nation in the world and every state in the United States, in every major city in Florida, and in key cities in Volusia County. This is being carried out through our Missions Ministry.

More tomorrow!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 1 of 5

I recently completed coursework for a doctorate in theology. I worked for months on my thesis on church growth, researching thriving churches and interviewing their leaders on various topics. I thought I’d share a chapter, one portion of it each day this week.

During World War II, America was focused on one objective, simple enough, to “Win the War.” The goal was not to make politicians happy, build relationships with other countries, or to appease Americans. The goal to win the war was obvious, so all of America participated.

  • Men went to war.
  • Women went to work.
  • Everyone contributed goods for recycling for the war effort.
  • Families planted victory gardens.
  • Families bought war bonds to support the one aim – defeat our enemies.
Today, in the midst of a great battle against terrorism that is far more global in scope than our enemies in WWII, America cannot seem to find the target. One writer has stated: “America is not at war, our military is at war. America is at the mall or a Hollywood screening.”

With multiple objectives and no reason or passion for victory, even if victory could be defined by the politicians, victory is nearly impossible. The only way that war can be successful is with one target as the goal and that target being victory over our enemy.

I penned these thoughts for they are an exact replica of what has happened to leadership in many local churches in America today.
  • No consensus about what war to fight.
  • No consensus that there is a war.
  • No consensus on what victory is in the Kingdom.
  • No consensus as to how to invest resources to reach a victory.
  • No consensus as to a spiritual purpose or calling.
This is a tragedy of immense proportion when we remember that Jesus left the local church on earth to finish His work of building the Kingdom of God. One writer has said, “The local church is the hope of the world.” We are the “Body of Christ,” therefore:
  • We bring good news
  • Visit the sick
  • Feed the hungry
  • Build hospitals
  • Clothe the naked
  • Build orphanages
  • Plant churches
  • Train leaders
  • Disciple believers
  • Go into every nation, city, and house with the Good News of Jesus
Part two will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Secular Indulgences

In 16th century Europe, the Catholic Church came up with a great fund-raising scheme. The scheme dealt with what were called indulgences. Basically, the plan worked like this: You would give money to the church and it would release the souls of deceased family and friends from purgatory, a made-up place where sin is purged after death, or even from hell.

This horrible, sin-filled trick preyed upon the guilt of the peasants, many who were illiterate and none of whom owned a copy of the Bible that they could read.

In a review of “Against the Sale of Indulgences,” by Martin Luther, Jim Jones of West Chester University of Pennsylvania shares this candid assessment:

The sale of indulgences was a byproduct of the Crusades in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Crusaders were promised immediate salvation if they died while performing a good deed, such as fighting to "liberate" the Christian holy city at Jerusalem. The Church based this on the argument that good works earned salvation, so paying money to support good works could do the same. To justify the sale of indulgences, Church leaders argued that they had inherited an unlimited amount of good works from Jesus, and the credit for these good works could be sold to believers in the form of indulgences. In other words, indulgences were something like "confession insurance" against eternal damnation. If you purchased an indulgence, then you wouldn't go to hell if you died suddenly or forgot to confess something.

In later years, the sale of indulgences spread to include forgiveness for the sins of people who were already dead. Examine the message in this passage from a sermon by John Tetzel, the monk who sold indulgences in Germany and inspired Martin Luther's protest in 1517. "Don't you hear the voices of your dead parents and other relatives crying out, 'Have mercy on us, for we suffer great punishment and pain. From this, you could release us with a few alms . . . We have created you, fed you, cared for you and left you our temporal goods. Why do you treat us so cruelly and leave us to suffer in the flames, when it takes only a little to save us?' [ Die Reformation in Augenzeugen Berichten, edited by Helmar Junghaus (Dusseldorf: Karl Rauch Verlag, 1967), 44.]”
Luther, other reformers and eventually the Catholic Church realized this was erroneous and phony. Only the blood of Jesus can bring us salvation, as described in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

You may be asking why I am telling you all of this crazy German theology from the 16th century. I will tell you why. No one would be more critical or outspoken against the abusive behavior of selling indulgences than the secular culture that speaks so piously throughout our media. Yet they are the ones selling the modern indulgences, called “carbon credits.” They have the same motive — that you can be saved if you:

• Buy phony carbon credits
• Buy proper light bulbs
• Avoid plastic bags at Publix
• Drive electric cars

All of these play on “guilt” that the secular world wants to feel. Here is the truth: You will not be good, righteous, or a better person by loving or worshiping the earth. Paul warned in Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.”

We are to be good stewards of the earth, but we are to worship God!

Just a few thoughts to ponder.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Needs are Real!

Missy Creggar and team just got back from a mission trip to Egypt. It was anything but ordinary! They spent lots of time loving on children – including having a music- and balloon-filled festival. They sailed down the Nile River on a wooden boat. It was, overall, a wonderful time of personal growth and bonding as a team. Below is a day-by-day account of the trip by Missy.

Day 1: Sunday brought us lots of rest! We slept and ate most of the day. We practiced our lessons for the kids and rehearsed a puppet show. That evening we were sent to Safaa and Mona's church. It was all in Arabic, and the kids didn't fall asleep as it was an hour and half long! We went home and ate hot dogs for dinner. Everyone is doing very well!

Day 2: We all went to the first festival with over 500 Sudanese children! They sang songs for us! Renee and I did our Zacchaeus skit and Stephen held our tree! Needless to say with interpretation in between Stephen and I couldn't feel our arms after we were done. The kids loved it. We also did David and Goliath using a Sudanese boy as David and Stephen as Goliath and they all cheered when he was defeated. We ended with a big song with two sides competing as to who could be the loudest, singing “Praise Ye the Lord!” What a great day!

Day 3: Day of play! Got up and ready by 8, but did not leave until after 9. We toured the great Pyramids of Giza. Visited the Sphinx and everyone got pictures. The newbies road the camels and all said it was fun. We had lunch at Pizza Hut in front of the Sphinx! We ended our day in the famous Cairo museum. Tomorrow will begin five straight days of work beginning with another Sudanese church, then on to the boys’ orphanage. Can't wait for tomorrow!

Day 4: This very long day started at the Sudanese church with over 500 very loud kids! They sang for us, showed us tribal dancing and even a skit! We shared a dance led by Niki and a story by Stephen and Miranda. Madi and Missy led the music. After that, we came back to pack sandwiches for the boys’ orphanage, and then rode an hour and a half to see them. We found that many of them were not there due to the holiday, so the boys played soccer with the ones who were left. They were very excited to see us again! We are all very tired and have another very long day tomorrow. Debbie has lost her voice but feels okay. Everyone else is doing great. Eating the food, joining in clean up and helping out whenever needed.

Day 5: Happy thanksgiving from Egypt! We ate camel this morning in our eggs.
The rookies said it was a good experience. We proceeded to the first Egyptian church that had about 200 kids and they loved our stories and songs. They started to play musical chairs and Stephen felt the need to join in. He won, too! The second Egyptian church had about 300 kids and a program for us to watch. Afterward, we taught them a new song. Miranda led the team with singing and the story of Jericho. We are all doing very well!

Day 6: Today we are hitting a brick wall. We did not get up until 9 or so and did not leave for the Egyptian church until 1 pm. We arrived at the church and watched Safaa's praise team from his first church do the program. We did not understand anything. We even watched Veggie Tales in Arabic! We ended the day with Kentucky Fried Chicken (NOT as good as ours!). We are longing for the Sudanese, but it doesn't look like we'll see the kids from last year. Niki and Miranda led devotion and they were awesome! We are truly missing home!