Monday, March 25, 2013

Get yourself one

A mountain man walked into a mining camp dragging a large grizzly bear behind him. The citizens, a tough bunch, were awed by the spectacle and asked how he had killed the fearsome creature.
"I wrestled him till he died," was the incredible response.
One of the smaller citizens whined, "Well, it was easy for you, you're big. I couldn't do anything like that because I'm just little." To which the bear killer replied, "There are plenty of small bears where this one came from. Go get you one little buddy."
I wonder if we feel the same way as that smaller miner when it comes to evangelism. We see a Joe Laubie lead five people to the church and then through baptism and say, "Well, that is his gift, I could never do that." Or a person like Dominic brings his friend to church who even before baptism has already invited one of his friends to come to church. We respond, "Well, he probably has lots of friends who are not going to church, I don't."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bury it All

I started preaching when I was eleven but I did not start pastoring until I was eighteen. I think, because I had found sermon preparation and delivery to be relatively straight forward I assumed pastoring would be just as straight forward. Big mistake.
In my first pastorate (back in Kentucky I was called "The Preacher" with Boy tacked on by most of the older believers in the church) I served a small church in the rural area. Most everyone in the community knew everyone and that meant they knew which ones went to church and which ones were destined for an alternate eternity. Those "facts" were never expected to change. So when George came to church one Revival evening with his wife everyone assumed he was just keeping the peace at home. 
George was over 6'6", earned his living as a horse trader, and, was known to be more than a bit rowdy on the weekends. As his hand engulfed mine that first night and his wife said, "George wants to talk to you. He needs savin'" I realized how far out of my depth I really was. For the next six months I spent several hours most weeks riding with George on his rounds. He spent a good deal of the conversations ending his sentences with, "Pardon my French, Preacher" and I spent the time praying God would call someone else to witness to this man whose life was the polar opposite of mine. 
I remember the day, after a particularly powerful message on salvation (well adequate anyway) when George came to me and asked, "Well?"
"Well what?" I asked, searching my mind for anything I might have done to make this giant of a man upset with me.
"When can I?"
"When can you what?" 
"When can I get saved? Ain't you supposed to tell me when its time?"
I stopped all the people who were still in the parking lot and told them we were headed to the Primitive Baptist Church which was one of two churches in the county with a baptistry and winter is not a good time to baptize in the creek. I learned that the hard way, another story at another time.
When I came out of the changing room in my rob I noticed George was not changed. "Did you change your mind, George? If you don't change you are going to have to go home wet."
"Can't Preacher, these clothes is God's now, so is my time, my money, and, my boots." So I buried it all in the waters of baptism and when that bear of man came up out of the grave he came up in all new clothes, with only God's time on his wrist, God's money in His wallet, and God's shoes for carrying the Gospel of Peace. 
I almost burst into tears as I hugged him and prayed silently, "Oh, Lord, make me like George."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Acts 2:47 Re-visited

Does your mind wander when you are in a meeting? Not just a boring meeting - any meeting. Maybe I have a defective "meeting gene" but it seems that one minute I am paying rapt attention to the discussion and the next off goes the old concentration to a separate area of my brain. For the most part I am still present in the body, though absent in thought.
I had such an experience in the sixth of six meetings this past month. All of them were critical to the future of the church I pastor. All of them were addressing their part in the future of the church. My absence in thought went to the question, "Why are we going to this much time and trouble when we are all very busy and most the people present were donating that very valuable asset of time?"
A passage from Acts 2:47 which concludes the chapter detailing the beginning of the church universal. That chapter is one of the most compact in the Bible. It details the effort of the first band of believers to organize themselves by selecting a replacement for Judas and then having reached the end of what they thought they could do spending rest of the time before Pentecost in prayer. I assume that last from the fact that they were in the temple for prayer the next day when the Spirit got the party started. The miracle of tongues, Peter's sermon, the incredible response by the people present is my usual focus when I read this verse, but, the last section is very instructive for any church.
From verse forty two to the end I see the Spirit's direction in the organization of the church universal. First He directs them to get the process right by being together in purpose (fellowship), truth (Apostle's teaching), commitment to Christ (breaking of bread), and, connecting continually with God (prayer). This process impresses the people who come in contact with them which encourages them to give the credit to God (praising), but, and it is a big but, the end result was God adding to the church daily the ones to be saved. 
I have three take a ways from this epiphany given in my "absent in thought" moment. First, we can organize but it is God who will direct our organization. Second, we will know he is organizing when we see people who have not called Him savior bend their knee to Him. Third, God will add daily when we are daily in fellowship, teaching, commitment, prayer, and praising Him. So here is my question for church leaders.
How do we prepare our specific environment to allow God to add to your church "daily" those who need to be saved?