It’s not insensitive, it’s simply the truth

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It’s not manipulative or insensitive to bring up the urgent nature of salvation. It’s simply the truth. The time of opportunity will end.

As Christians, we’ve come alive to the truth that history isn’t cyclical, always repeating in an endless rotation of events, spinning till any given part of it becomes meaningless. No! We know that God has created this world, and that he will bring it to a close at the judgment. We know that he gives us life, and he takes it away. The time that we have is limited; the amount is uncertain, but the use of it is up to us. So Paul tells us in Ephesians to “make the most of every opportunity (5:16).”

Like a collector buying up a collection, we should desire to capture each fleeting hour and to turn it into a trophy for God and his grace. As Paul said, “The time is short. From now on … those who use the things of the world [should use them] as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29, 31).

What are your circumstances right now? Trust the Lord to use you in them instead of seeking for new ones. Don’t let the passing permanence of your world or the lulling tedium of certain long hours and minutes make a fool of you. The days are “evil” (Eph. 5:16) in the sense that they are dangerous and fleeting, and we must redeem the time and make the most of every hour. So we say with Paul that, in view of a certain judgment, Christ’s love compels us to tell the good news to others (see 2 Cor. 5:10–15). We must be honest not only about the cost of repentance, but also about the expiration date of the offer. Such honesty compels us to urgency.

Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 58-59

(photo credit: snaps via photopin cc)

15 signs your church is growing in the right way

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Yesterday I commented on one of the big problems we have in church ministry—that we think growing numerically is entirely dependent upon the pastor’s preaching ability. But the problem, as I mentioned yesterday, is you can’t tell if a church is healthy simply by checking the attendance.

Instead, one of the surest signs of the health of a church is to look at the growth of its people. In his book, What Is a Healthy Church?, Mark Dever writes, “When you peer into the life of a church, the growth of its members can show up in all sorts of ways.” Here are fifteen examples Dever offers to show what “growth” means:1

  1. Growing numbers being called to missions—“I’ve enjoyed sharing the gospel with my neighbors from South America. I wonder if God is calling me to …”
  2. Older members getting a fresh sense of their responsibility in evangelism and in discipling younger members—“Why don’t you come over for dinner?”
  3. Younger members attending the funerals of older members out of love—“As a single man in my twenties, it was so good to be taken in by Mr. and Mrs.…”
  4. Increased praying in the church and more prayers centered on evangelism and ministry opportunities—“I’m starting an evangelistic Bible study at work and I’m a little nervous. Would the church pray that …”
  5. More members sharing the gospel with outsiders.
  6. Less reliance among members on the church’s programs and more spontaneous ministry activities arising from members—“Pastor, what would you think if Sally and I organized a Christmas tea for the ladies in the church as an evangelistic opportunity?”
  7. Informal gatherings among church members characterized by spiritual conversation, including an apparent willingness to confess sin while simultaneously pointing to the cross—“Hey brother, I’m really struggling with …”
  8. Increased and sacrificial giving—“Honey, how can we cut fifty dollars from our monthly budget in order to support…”
  9. Increased fruits of the Spirit.
  10. Members making career sacrifices so that they can serve the church—“Did you hear that Chris turned down a promotion three times so that he could continue devoting himself to being an elder?”
  11. Husbands leading their wives sacrificially—“Honey, what are several things I can do to make you feel more loved and understood?”
  12. Wives submitting to their husbands—“Sweetheart, what are some things I can do today that will make your life easier?”
  13. Parents discipling their children in the faith—“Tonight let’s pray for Christian workers in the country of …”
  14. A corporate willingness to discipline unrepentant and public sin.
  15. A corporate love for an unrepentant sinner shown in the pursuit of him or her before discipline is enacted—“Please! If you get this message, I would love to hear from you.”

These are only a few examples, obviously, and shouldn’t be seen as an exhaustive list. But do you get the picture? A church like this may well grow numerically—their witness to the gospel will be attractive—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it must.

Look again at the examples Dever provides. Notice these measures—all derived from Scripture—have a critical factor in common: they are qualitative, rather than quantitative.

I can make a nice graph showing attendance growth year over year, but I can’t do that for growth in godliness. It just doesn’t work that way. And honestly, I don’t think God would have it any other way.

Evangelism means being honest

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Let’s not believe that we are simply all engaged in some search for truth. The fall did not leave people neutral toward God but at enmity with him. Therefore we must not pretend that non-Christians are seekers by the simple virtue of their having been made in the image of God. The Bible teaches that people are by nature estranged from God, and we must be honest about that.

What is repentance? It is turning from the sins you love to the holy God you’re called to love. It is admitting that you’re not God. It is beginning to value Jesus more than your immediate pleasure. It is giving up those things the Bible calls sin and leaving them to follow Jesus.

When we tell the gospel to people, we need to do it with honesty. To hold back important and unpalatable parts of the truth is to begin to manipulate and to try to sell a false bill of goods to the person with whom we are sharing. So however we evangelize, we aren’t to hide problems, to ignore our own shortcomings, or to deny difficulties. And we are not to put forward only positives that we imagine our non-Christian friends presently value and present God as simply the means by which they can meet or achieve their own ends. We must be honest.

Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 56-57

Always Get to the Gospel: Dever, Driscoll and MacDonald on the Pastor and Personal Evangelism

In the above video, Pastors Mark Driscoll, Mark Dever and James MacDonald speak of the challenge of engaging in personal evangelism as pastors who spend a great deal of time with Christians. The dialogue is quite intriguing and well worth spending a few minutes watching.

After you’ve watched the video, consider the following questions:

  1. Does the gospel need to be shared in the every sermon? If so, why? If not, why not?
  2. Are you, whether you’re in vocational ministry or not, being proactive in seeking out non-Christians for the purpose of evangelism?

HT: Colin Hansen