Keep moving down the road in evangelism while avoiding the ditches

When it comes to the things of God, our enemies (flesh and the demonic) often attempt to highlight extreme errors of practice in our mind to keep us from moving forward.   We often move away from one extreme in order to stay out of that ditch of error.  In doing so, we can gravitate to the other side of the road and fall into the opposite ditch of error.  I think this is especially true in evangelism.  Here are a couple of humorous video clips that show both extreme ditches of error.  One clip highlights the extreme confrontational approach that minimizes an important component of relational interaction and love.  The other highlights an extreme “friendship evangelism” approach that ignores the importance of the gospel.  Let’s stay out of both ditches and move forward on the roadway in evangelism.


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Church membership, facebook friend or family

One of our elders, Scott Parish, gave a very clear teaching recently about the importance of the church being a family.  Because of the social media generation (facebook, etc.) we use terms such as “friend” and our experience often morphs the definition based on current culture.

I recently listened to a family member ask another family member if they should add someone to their facebook friends status who was making a request.  They thought the other family member knew them because they were listed as their friend.  It was interesting listening to their dialogue.  Neither person knew them very well but only knew of them.  What little they did know about this “friend” wasn’t very positive in terms of a potential friend.

I thought to myself, what if a Christian from the early church, that lived the experience of the book of Acts, “where of one heart and soul” and they “had all things in common” listened to that dialogue about friends.  The members of the early church were not facebook friends but were family.

There is a great difference between a “facebook friend” approach to the house of God and the family approach of which the Bible speaks.   Really the design for God’s house is family.  The family metaphor is the most often used description for the church.  Here is a short clip that hits at the heart of what it means to move from a facebook friend approach to church life to an authentic family approach.  Even if you don’t like the messenger, please listen to the message, it is really good.

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Changing the default setting in the church

We all battle over default settings in our lives.  When we wake up and begin our day it is like a computer program booting up to conscious operation.  This is when we have the face the issue of the default settings. Default settings are settings automatically assigned to a software application, computer program, or device.  They are preset.  Unless a user intervenes to change them, the program will revert to that setting.

Right now I am battling a default setting problem with a Bible software program I have.  Something has happened (I think it is in my macro settings, “please forgive me all you computer geniuses”) in the program settings.  When I access verses from a word document to paste them in a document I am writing, they are the wrong size and font. Every time I write, I have to actively change the format of the setting to make it fit my document.

In all Christian’s lives there are two operating systems that try to establish default settings, “flesh and Spirit Gal 5:17.”  We are born with a sin nature that sets a flesh default.  Rom 5:12…and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.  Psa 51:5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. When we are born again, God begins to lead us towards His default setting of Spirit.

Like a computer operator, we must intervene on a daily basis to change any attempt of our flesh to revert to its default settings.  It is intentional!  As we walk with God and listen for the Spirit, we hear His instruction, recognize where the flesh has attempted to change our default setting, and “by the Spirit” we change it.  Rom 8:13  for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The simplest way to describe the flesh’s default setting is choosing self centeredness with little regard for God’s way and consideration of others.  The essence of sin is choosing “your own way.”  Isa 53:6  All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

When the flesh default setting is in place, Christians will twist the will of God into their own self centered image of it.  It is just like when the children ofIsraelmade the golden calf and labeled it with God’s name. Exo 32:4…it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from thelandofEgypt.”

Default setting of flesh in the church

God has a great design that Jesus is actively working to bring to pass through each local church.  It is a great call to fill the earth with His glory (presence, nature, goodness etc.).  Eph 5:25-27…,(26)  so that Christ  might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  (27)  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Eph 1:22-23 MSG  He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  (23)  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

A flesh default setting in the church will pull us towards “me and my desire” rather than God and His desire.  It is very deceptive because it will cause people to twist good teachings about God’s design and make it about self centered interest.   They won’t even realize they are doing it.

An example is that everyone knows the church is to be a place where God’s goodness is seen through the serving actions of His people.  It is a place where the lonely find a home and God’s people care for one another.  When the flesh default setting is in place, people’s first thought is about how others are fulfilling these things towards them, rather than how are they are doing these things towards others.  Thoughts like “I am struggling with insecurity” leads to “I guess people in the church aren’t obeying Jesus to love and care for me, because if they were I wouldn’t be feeling this way.”  Or, “I have this need that isn’t met, probably because other’s aren’t ‘being the church’ like they are suppose to.”

Jesus’ unchanging principle of life revealed in every gospel is, “if you try to get life first in a self centered manner you will never find it, but if you first lay down you life for My sake and the gospel, then you will find the life you are looking for.”   When we are motivated by our flesh/self default setting it will become a black hole that will never be filled with His life.

There was a recent book released by researchers Scott Thumma and Warrant Bird that highlighted the essence of this default setting.  The book, titled “The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants.” The book reveals what most polls have discovered and people have known for years, approximately 80% of people who consider themselves part of a local church (on membership rolls) act like spectators that are minimally involved.  They both attend infrequently or not at all, and are rarely what God would consider an active church member.

The authors are making a point that the majority of church members inAmerica, 80%, live with a flesh default setting.   They want the church to be there if they “need it.” but if not they don’t want to be bothered.  Instead of their first thought being God’s design, “how can I get involved in laying down my life to see the will of God done, it is a self orientated approach to church.  May God move stir His people to “intervene” to change the flesh default settings where they exist in order to reveal “His glory through the church and Christ Jesus Eph 3:20-21.”

 

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