Category Archives: Discipleship

Why I am hardcore about listing salvtions

For years I’ve struggled with churches who list salvations and “celebrate,” their victories.  As a pastor, I know that I already seem awful for writing this sentence.  Yet, it really isn’t my intention to take away joy.  My purpose is to question whether or not we, as pastors, are capturing the truth of the Bible.

Consider repentance.  Most agree that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  There are two different types of repentance in the Bible.  One type of repentance is worldly.  This repentance is illustrated by someone who is sorrowful about his or her situation.  This is much like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.  He was sorry because he had betrayed an innocent man.  So to escape his situation he was sorry enough to hang himself.  We may assume that he likely did not receive salvation since he did not adequately repent; and since Jesus said it was going to be bad for the person who betrayed him.

In the Bible, the repentance that leads to eternal life is known by many to be Godly repentance.  This repentance occurs when someone is sorry for his or her sin.  In fact, they are sorry enough to change his or her life from living a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  This is foundational for salvation.  Paul, also known as Saul before his conversion, is a great example of this type of repentance since his life was completely changed on the Damascus Road.

Many pastors and theologians are now questioning “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  The concern is that many are simply hanging their hats on simply believing in Jesus and that phrase itself as if there is nothing left to do.  While I continue to use this phrase, since it helps me to explain to someone what salvation looks like, I also realize that many pray this prayer and do not really commit to the Lord.  Herein lies the problem for listing, or counting, salvations for everyone to see.  If these people never bear fruit and have nothing more to do with church, then they cannot be counted.  They are still in their old lives and not new life in Christ.

Let’s look at confession now.  Yes, I said confession.  It is biblical and not solely Catholic (Roman), but it is catholic (universal).  In fact, in the Bible we are told to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).  But, in today’s modern church, we simply ask people to raise their hands if they want to receive Christ as their Savior.  I see reports on Facebook sometimes where members of a church talk about people receiving Christ in services and use numbers anywhere from 10-3000!  This is great news!  Yet, when you investigate what this might have looked like, these salvations were seen by a show of hands.  What about confession?

Consider John the Baptist for a moment.  When he called on Israel to repent, he did not ask for a show of hands.  He asked them to come forward to be baptized.  What of confession?  Who did those who “received” Christ confess their sins too?  I guess we could say to Jesus, but what of “to each other?”  Who will hold them accountable so that it can be measurable, really, whether or not they were actually saved?

Consider the idea of believing.  Belief is a multi-use word in our society.  For example, I believe The Statue of Liberty exists; though I have not experienced it.  I have not shaped my life after it; but I do give it patriotic praise during wartime.  Again, I believe in air which has impacted my life because I can’t stay underwater long if I should choose and I know that I am sustained by it.  Yet, while on dry land I think nothing of it.  However, believing in Jesus goes beyond that of the demons since He does have my respect.  I now use the term believe to reveal that I have staked my entire being on Him and His ability to save me physically and spiritually.  When I use that term in that way it dwarfs when I use the word believe in the context of The Statue of Liberty.  Same word, but two different intentions and outcomes.

Do those who are counted as salvations really understand what it means to believe, and how it impacts your whole life with a simple hand-raise?  We haven’t talked about Vacation Bible School yet.

What about receiving?  Reception seems to look like transformation as the result of receiving.  I am amazed on a regular basis that fruit never seems to be measurable from those who raise their hands to be saved; except in attendance at church on Sundays.  Transformation often does not take place in such a way that fruit can be measured outside of a church setting.  I likely sound judgmental.  Yet, Paul and Jesus seemed to believe that we could see the results of someone’s salvation easily.

I write this so that we can get a discussion going about what real salvation looks like.  In fact, if my concerns are valid, then people need to reexamine whether or not they received Christ.  Further, this could mean that The Church in America is worse off than we realize since numbers may be skewed.  Again, I will say that if everyone, who we like to claim is really saved is really saved, then the impact of The Church in America would not have to resort to politics to change the country, but the country would be changed by transformed lives.

I feel more comfortable to say that my church had a certain amount of salvations when people are conquering evil in their lives.  I feel comfortable when these people are active in church, and out of church.  Often churches will record many salvations, yet their attendance numbers do not change.  My fear is that we are creating manipulative excitement in order to make our churches look wonderful.  And that we are competing church with church through these possibly skewed numbers.  This is why I’m hardcore about salvations listing.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Discipleship, Salvation, Small Church

Is it okay to make accusations against The Church?

The purpose of this article is to find out whether or not it is okay to speak against The Church.  In fact, is it okay to speak against a local church of which is a smaller part of the whole Body of Christ?  Often criticism against the Church is popular among secularists and Christians alike.  In fact, some pastors would seemingly speak in such a way to attract people to their church particular part of the whole Body.  Usually this type of attraction is levied in such a way to try to get Christians to leave their church, or to reach those who say they are Christians who have rejected church.  That might be another blog someday.  While those on the other side, meaning, those outside of The Church universal would criticize The whole Body in general.  Many of these are those who want nothing to do with Christ because they have rejected Him by determining to live their lives on their own without Him.  In other words, they do not want to live lives influenced by Jesus Christ.  In fact, this is God’s gift to them anyway because He allows them to choose freely to live without Christ.  On the other hand, there are those who want the gift of life which only is available through Jesus Christ.  Yet, these sometimes only want eternal life and, therefore, follow Christ in the way that they see fit.  Sounds very similar to those who reject outright, but only God knows the heart; yet, Jesus does tell us that we will know them by their love, while Paul says by their Fruit.  In other words, these do not allow Jesus to be their Lord, but will allow Him to be their Savior if such a distinction is possible.

When trying to put our minds around the idea of Church, the Bride of Christ, it is helpful to remember that The Church is both Human and Divine at the same time.  It is important to understand this concept in order to properly address the question at hand.  As a result, this simply means that churches can make mistakes and need correction from the Word of God as prompted by The Holy Spirit; hence, Human and Divine at the same time.  This is usually needed when the church has gone outside of the boundaries of what is written in the Bible.  In fact, when correction is needed, it is not necessarily from an individual who is not associated with The Church.  Therefore,  denominationally, there is usually supervision that comes from those whom God has placed in leadership and their charge is to hold a local Body accountable to operate within the boundaries of what is written in The Bible.  These leaders are overseers that we trust that God has placed in these roles.  If not, God will remove them.  In fact, when governing  a Body, leadership will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, The Bible, and historically from the early Church fathers.  This should be a comfort for those who tend to be suspicious of churches.

It seems that many Christians in America, in particular, have not been discipled properly.  In other words, it seems that many fall into the group of people who want to be saved by Christ, but they do not want to follow and obey Him.  This may be the result of praying a simple prayer to receive Jesus as Savior and then believing that the finish line has been reached.  This is far from the truth.  In fact, receiving Christ is the starting point.  Yet, most churches, unfortunately, do not disciple young believers (not young by physical age, but still new in their belief) into a healthy relationship with Jesus as their Teacher for life.  Jesus is supposed to teach all believers not only how to live Holy lives, but also how to love and protect The Church while existing in a hostile world.  After all, He gave His life for everyone to be incorporated into The Church (God’s Kingdom; the New Israel).  In fact, Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24-25).  Further, in this same passage, some accused the work that Christ did as being the work of Satan.  This is blasphemy against The Holy Spirit.  Jesus warned them about this type of accusation.  Therefore, it only makes sense that Christians are not quick to make accusations against Christ’s Church and churches.  After all, if God is doing something unusual through The Church or churches, it is better safe than sorry.

The Apostle Paul addressed the importance of The Church in the world, by dealing with the Corinthian Church which was part of the whole Body, in 1 Corinthians.  In fact, contrary to popular belief, churches exist to hold members accountable according to this book.  In this church, Paul said that there were those who were not Spirit-filled and seemed to build the church from the foundation of everything but the Cross.  They did so because they operated under the influence of the world’s wisdom and not under the Spirit’s wisdom which is not of this world.  Therefore, when listening to those who would criticize The Church, one needs to decide whether or not someone is has a unifying spirit or not.  God desires that His Kingdom be united here on earth.  If not, then it is usually because the person may not be filled with the Spirit. This means The Church should not listen to someone who fits this mold.  In fact, if someone is not filled with The Spirit, The Bible seems to classify this person as someone who is part of the Kingdom of this world.

In answering the question of whether or not it is okay to make accusations against The Church, or part of the whole Body, one needs to see what The Bible said about it.  In fact, Paul talked about the dangers of someone who believes he or she is wise.  The issue he dealt with was that unity had been challenged by those who followed certain leaders and their particular teachings.  Division was brought about because worldly wisdom seemed to help shape the Corinthian Church.  Paul believed that those who created division and operated under the influence of worldly wisdom were actually destroying The Church.  Here is his reply, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple  is sacred and you together are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17, NIV).  This is usually a passage that some like to use to discourage Christians from drinking and smoking.  But, in the context that it is found, and the plural “you” that is used, it is obvious that God has a major problem with those who are destroying His Church whether knowingly, or unknowingly.

Therefore, creating division and making accusations seems to be dangerous.  It is true that people can have an opinions.  Yet, those opinions must submit to the authority of God’s Word.  At least if these who say they are Christians would desire to please the Lord.  According to The Bible, Satan is one who accuses the Saints, those who belong to The Church, and with that knowledge it is a very serious thing to bring accusations against The Bride of Christ.  Moreover, it seems that these Scriptures, along with others not listed, seem to exist to cause one to consider carefully what he or she says.  In my opinion, it is best not to bring an accusation unless the accuser has had a Burning Bush experience.  Yet, even then, signs and wonders would accompany such an individual.

 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Church bashing??, Discipleship, Ecclesiology, Unity?

Rethinking the Christian fight for America

I often wonder what types of things that I would think about and do if I wasn’t a Christian.  In particular, I wonder about those situations that occur in my life that I didn’t create.  In other words, would I handle certain situations different as a person who doesn’t care about what God thinks?  I think the obvious answer is yes.

On the other hand, I wonder if there are some things that I would like to do differently as a wiser Christian.  What I mean is maybe there are some situations and issues that I found myself in as a young Christian that I would like to do over.  My guess is that anyone who thinks there isn’t anything they would like to do over is full of self and likely thinks, “I am right.” “Everyone else is wrong.”

Since I’ve been a Christian I have seen an evolution take place in my life; maybe I should say a type of transformation in my life.  When I came to Christ I joined the “fight.”  All I knew was that I wanted to “do” for Jesus.  I remember yelling at family members who did not want to get saved.  Some of them I talked to them daily about getting saved.  Needless to say, they avoided me after a while, and looking back I don’t blame them.

Some of the “fight” was to “re-take” America.  I remember boycotting Walt Disney, shopping malls because they allowed certain “bad” stores to do business in them, ABC, and the list goes on.  I assure you that my motives were not bad.  I just wanted people to live for Christ.  Politics and preaching were important to me if “we” were going to take back America.

What happened to me was that I realized that we Christians who want to take America back actually created an “us” and “them” scenario.  There was a wall built between “us” and “them” that created a disconnect from God and His children.  The children being those who He created in His Image.  This includes both “us” and “them.”  We Christians were in one camp, and many still are, while those who did not believe the exact way we did were in another camp.

In our camp, we knew that the other camp was going to get theirs one day for all of the bad they have done to America.  But, the funny thing is that we in our camp never realized that we might what we deserve for all of the bad we have done to the Kingdom of God.  After all, we are the “enlightened ones” who know the will of God and understand His mission.  We should realize that there will be accountability for us too.

Consider that there are two camps, at least according to our thinking and behavior.  This means that those who follow Jesus are not living among them like Jesus did; and still does through the Holy Spirit.  Our message to the world has been, “Think and act like we do or we are leaving your behind to suffer.”  We haven’t communicated that God loves them and wants good for them and us.  He wants to be the Father that many of us haven’t had and wants to care for us while teaching us to care about others.

As a result of this misguided motivation, we have caused those in the other camp who try to venture to ours, to think that they have to get themselves together.  In other words, they need to clean up their lifestyles and then come to church.  At least that is what they’ve heard from us, whether or not we meant to communicate that.  Wow, Jesus is still cleaning me up because I can’t do and would never be able to do it; that is why we needed saved by the Savior.  In fact, they don’t see this because we have avoided contact with those who do not believe the way we do.

Thankfully, God began to remake me and to work on my focus.  I learned some time ago that those political fights lead us no where.  In fact, seeking a political solution to certain issues instead of a spiritual solution has created disdain from Christians toward those who practice different lifestyles.  Further, it has created disdain from those who are secular toward Christians too.  After all, before I was a Christian I didn’t care what Christians thought of me.  What is more, I didn’t care what the Bible said, and only a little about what God thought.  In fact, I’m not sure that I was afraid to go to hell.  I heard you gasp.  Listen, I felt that my life had always been hell.  I was used to it.

Now we come to the fight that The Church should’ve been more vocal about rather than political issues.  We Christians must learn to put coercion aside and focus persuasiveness when it comes to sharing Christ with those who are not living for Him.  Notice I didn’t use the term “Those who do not know Him.”  Newsflash! There are many who are aware of who Jesus is, or at least a version of Jesus, but sadly, we established the wrong fights and communicated that some shouldn’t even try to be saved.

I propose that The American Church get up in arms over all the hurting people who have felt pain all of their lives.  What I mean, instead of fighting to get prayer back in school, we should fight to get it back into homes.  In fact, we should be teaching “Christians” how to love like Jesus does.  This eliminates disdain, since we can’t possibly lead anyone to Christ through disdain.  What if Christians started caring for the community that they find themselves in instead of fighting against it all of the time.  Can you imagine telling someone who has not known the love of a father and mother that Jesus loves them?  How about telling someone that God never meant for them to suffer like they have?  Of course, this would have to replace the famous, “Well, God has a reason.”

What if we focused on developing healthy relationships with those who have none?  I think sometimes we Christians have become so used to our camp that we have forgotten to set those in the other camp free by persuading them to receive Christ’s love and ours.  To do this, at least in my mind, we can’t just settle for a food drive event, or a clothing drive, and etc. Instead we have to be willing to develop a lifestyle, everyday way of living, that includes living among those who are not following Jesus.

This proposal eliminates the camps structure and leads to win others through love and compassion.  Plus it takes the hope out of politics and places it back on Jesus Christ with a demonstration of the peaceful life, that if trouble comes, has hope for this life now through Jesus our Lord.  This demonstration is not the type where we can put our Christian masks on for and event, but we have to be transformed because we are living among those who are learing about Christ and His love through watching us and trusting us enough to learn from Him through us.

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Filed under Discipleship, God, Living it, Missional Resources, Relationships, Sacrifice, Salvation