Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 9)

In keeping with my promise last post, I will continue in this article explaining what it means to be a missional church. Remember,  Rod MacIlvaine defines a missional church as “a unified body of believers, intent on being God’s missionary presence to the indigenous community that surrounds them, recognizing that God is already at work.” The identifying slogan for a missional church is simply “every member a missionary.”

     At this point it will be of greatest help to identify the elements of a missional church. This will put some specifics in place that will aid in formulating a mental picture. These elements come from the pen of Timothy Keller, a church-planter and pastor in Manhattan, New York. He is a leading author and speaker in the area of gospel-centered ministry and missional thinking. In an article titled Missional Church, Keller outlines the following five elements or characteristics that a missional congregation embodies:

     1. Discourse in the vernacular of the unchurched community and culture. This means that a missional church avoids using language that an unbeliever living around them would not understand. They do not use “pompous, spiritual, sentimental talk” that distance themselves from their unchurched community. It means they avoid ever talking as if non-believers are not present.

     2. Enter and re-tell the culture’s stories with the gospel. This means that preaching, speaking and communicating is always done with the assumption that skeptical people are present. They want to engage these kinds of people and figure out how to explain the gospel in a way that will be meaningful to them, not simply talk about the “good old days.” To “enter” means to show sympathy toward the local communities art, literature, music, and theatre. To “re-tell” means to show how only Christ can give freedom to be authentic.

     3. Theologically train lay people for public life and vocation. This means we must train our laity in more than prayer, Bible study, etc… These are private skills—yes, that are necessary—but we must also train people in public skills—thinking Christianly in all areas of life. What does the culture practice that is not a sin for us to embrace? What does the culture practice that is sinful and must be rejected? What practices of the culture can be revised and adapted? Finally, under this point, it means to demonstrate real, biblical love and tolerance toward those with whom we differ greatly.

     4. Create Christian community which is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. This means the Christian community shows to the world how radically different we are in regard to things such as sex, money, and power. In sex, we avoid the idolization of it that secular society has created but we also exhibit love rather than hostility or fear toward those with different sexual lifestyles. In money, we promote generosity instead of greed. In power, we share it and build relationships instead of trampling over one another to get to the top.

     5. Practice Christian unity as much as possible on the local level. This means that churches and Christians focus their attention on the points they agree on much, much more than the points at which they disagree. That means we avoid phrases like: “we are not like that church over there, or those Christians over there.” We must not define ourselves over against the values of one church or another. Rather, we must clearly define ourselves against the values of the world. Lack of unity in individual churches, denominations, and Christianity in general has been a real “defeater” of the gospel in the past century. This must stop.

       -Pastor Matt

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 8)

     Here is an article I would like to share with you about overcoming fear in evangelism from It is simple yet very helpful.
     “Fear does more to hinder our witness than any other single item. How does one overcome such a devastating problem? In order to begin to overcome fear, two things must be kept in mind. 
     First, fear in evangelism is normal. It assures you that you are a normal human being. After all, Paul the apostle was afraid to evangelize. How does he admit to entering Corinth? He determined to be true to the message of Christ and the cross, but he admits to being with them “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). In a city filled with such godlessness, impurity, and vice, such fear is certainly understandable. 
     Paul is not alone. Peter and John had equal reason to be afraid. In Acts 4, we have the first recorded persecution experienced by the early church. Commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (v. 18), what do Peter and John do—hover in a corner, pray for the rapture, or plead with God to “send Joe”? Not for a minute! Instead, we are taught that they laid their fears before God. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29). 
    If people with that kind of commitment to the Savior are afraid, why would we not be? After all, fear in evangelism has nothing to do with the presence or lack of spirituality. It has everything to do with being human. We dare not assume that because we are afraid, there is something wrong with our walk with the Lord. How we deal with our fear may be affected by our walk with the Lord, but the presence of fear itself is never attributed in Scripture to a lack of spiritual depth. 
     With that in mind, a second thing to remember is that the issue is overcoming fear, not removing fear. This side of heaven one will always have times of fear. Paul the apostle requested prayer that “utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). When Paul wrote these words he was writing them as a prisoner in Rome. When he was in prison he had time to think back on his evangelistic experiences. Paul had spent three years in Ephesus and God used him mightily. Not only had he established a strong Christian church in Ephesus, he also sent out messengers through whom the whole province of Asia was evangelized. Churches were established in each of its major population centers. 
     Do you mean Paul the apostle is actually requesting prayer for boldness in evangelism after his extensive experience? Most certainly. He knew full well that once fear raises its ugly head and is dealt with, it is not gone forever—never having to be dealt with again. Instead of thinking in terms of never being afraid, Paul had to think in terms of overcoming fear each time it became a major obstacle to sharing the Gospel. 
     Moments of fear will always be there. Anyone who says they are never afraid to share Christ is most likely not being honest with you. Fear in evangelism is normal and natural. This side of heaven it will occur and reoccur. To say, “I don’t witness because I’m afraid” is an explanation. It dare not become an excuse. The issue is what we do with our fear.”
        -Pastor Matt


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 7)

     In continuing our series Shaking Salt & Shining Light, remember Jesus said to His followers in Matthew 5:16, “Let your lights shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” He also said in Acts 1:8 for His followers to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Clearly Jesus wants us to live our lives in such a way that they are displays of the gospel but He also wants us to verbally share the message.
     Earlier this week I was talking to a man who was doing some work at my house—actually he was pumping out my septic tank. I am trying really hard here not to use some sarcastic humor! Anyway, nothing better to do than have a good conversation about faith in Jesus while standing over top of a pit full of foul smelling sewage. So I asked him several questions about his life, family, job, etc… We talked about the struggle he and his wife had to be able and have kids. Finally they were blessed to have a girl seventeen years ago. At some point in the conversation I asked him if he was a Christian. His reply caught me a little off guard. He said, “Uh, yeah I’m a Christian, but I don’t think you have to go around telling everyone. I think you just live your life like your supposed to and people will know.”
     The truth is: if you live your life like your supposed to people will know  there’s something different about you; but they wont know you are a Christian unless you tell them. Christianity didn't spread across the known world like wildfire during the first and second centuries because Christians lived good lives—although they did. It spread into the global movement it has become because Christians went everywhere they could, telling everyone they knew about Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and Savior of their sins. It is knowledge of who Christ is and what He did that saves a person. Romans explains that the unbelieving world cannot  believe on Jesus when they have not heard of Him and they cannot hear of Him unless someone speaks to them about Jesus.
     It is so critical that we remember our business is to tell people about Jesus. That’s why I’ve been spending a few weeks specifically teaching on Sunday nights about how to talk to someone about Jesus. A few weeks ago I explained a method known as the “Bad News/Good News” method. This outline of the gospel basically breaks it down into two points of bad news backed up by Scripture and illustrated; then, two points of good news explained in the same manner. You can find more information on this approach at I hope you’ll join us as we try to become wiser in our dealings with unbelievers by learning how to speak to them about Christ. At the very least, make it a top priority for you this week to engage at least one person in a conversation that will allow you to share the gospel.
                       -Pastor Matt

Monday, February 24, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 6)

     When it comes to sharing our faith in Christ with others, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, know the gospel like the back of your  hand. You cannot tell others how they can be changed by the life-saving power of Jesus Christ if you are not clear on it yourself. There really is not a lot to remember if we just keep in mind 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, which tells us the gospel by which we are saved is: Christ died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures. Many different methods are helpful in outlining the gospel so it can be explained to an unbeliever in way that helps them see their need for Jesus. I am currently teaching some of these methods during the services on Sunday nights. One thing that can help you with this more than anything though is simply talking about the gospel as much as you can, even if it is with your Christian friends. When you talk about something with another person it forces you to  be clear and  organize your thoughts.
     A second thing to keep in mind is to have gospel conversations with unbelievers instead of giving gospel presentations to them. You might be thinking this sounds like semantics. And it is; but it makes a big difference in the way you talk to people about your faith. If you view the gospel as a list of facts that you must present to someone you will approach them as a teacher does a student. This immediately puts up people’s defenses and causes you extra stress/fear as you think about what you are about to do. Instead, think about having a conversation with someone—you talk and they talk, they listen and you listen. This is why I think remembering a conversation progression helps us as we share the gospel. A conversation progression should look something like this: you see another person and you strike up a conversation with them, you actively listen to them by asking them what is going on in their life, you transition to talking about spiritual things, you share the gospel,  and you ask them if anything is keeping them from trusting Christ right now. All throughout though you are asking them to discuss these things with you. So, don’t think, “how can I present the gospel with someone today?” Think, “how can I converse with someone today about the gospel?”
     A third, simple thing to keep in mind is: be natural. My heart’s desire is that God will help me to make talking with another person about the gospel as natural as it is to talk to them about the weather. I hope God will do the same for you too. Besides praying for this, it can also be helpful to understand your style of evangelism. There are at least six different styles of evangelism found in the New Testament and because everyone is different, you will find that one or two are much more natural for you than the others. I will be teaching these in a couple weeks on Sunday nights and giving out a questionnaire that will help you figure out the style with which you would be most comfortable.
     May God gives us all wisdom and courage to share Christ!           -Pastor Matt

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 5)

     Recently I’ve been emphasizing the need for Christians to be salt and light in the world around them. This involves many factors such as, but not limited to, coming into contact with the unbelieving world, living a lifestyle that is fundamentally different from the world, and proclaiming the core message of the gospel verbally. The power in a Christian’s witness comes as they manifest all three of these. What we need today are Christians who can speak the truth of the gospel clearly but who also can back up the truth of the gospel by their lifestyle.      In other words, we need Christians who can not just talk the talk but who also can walk the walk. When you proclaim the message of the gospel and then live out the teachings of the gospel, others see your walk backing up your talk; this validates the message. The apostle Paul encouraged the Colossian believers to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.” That phrase, “redeeming the time” literally means “buying up every opportunity.” The point is our time with unbelievers is limited and almost already spent. We must be wise to make the most of every minute we have. Every moment of your life should be looked upon as an opportunity to bring others closer to faith in Jesus, not farther from it.
     People around you ought to hear you talk about Christ so they know how to be saved but they ought to see you live like Christ so they want to be saved! Others should see your life and say, “If that’s what Christianity is, then I want it.” Dr. Larry Moyer, in a little devotional book titled 31 Days with the Master Fisherman tells the story of a man who was antagonistic toward Christ for years but later came to faith in Him and attributed his conversion to a timid neighbor. When the neighbor found out about this he was shocked and a bit confused saying, “I never spoke to you about Christ the way I should have.” The man answered, “No, you didn’t. But you lived me to death. I could refute others’ arguments and upset their logic, but I could not refute the way you lived.”
     Your unsaved network of friends or neighbors may be able to refute some of the things you say to them but they cannot refute the things you do for them. What good things have you done for your co-workers, family, or neighbors? Keep it up. What have you done lately to hinder your witness? Confess it to God, and if necessary ask forgiveness of someone if you wronged them. Then move on and ask God to help you live better than that in days ahead so you can point others to Him more effectively. Ask Him to use your life to make Jesus more attractive to those around you—validating the message you’ve been voicing.
      -Pastor Matt

Monday, February 3, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 4)

Some of the greatest words ever put to music come from the pen of Robert Lowry and were published in 1876. You may have sung them before when you sang the song Nothing But the Blood. The song, based on Hebrews  9:22, that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin,” goes like this:
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! Precious is the flow That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus
For my pardon, this I see, Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Nothing can for sin atone, Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace, Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
This is all my righteousness, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Now by this I’ll overcome Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
     These words so eloquently remind us of exactly what the good news of Jesus Christ is—that He died on the cross and took our sin punishment upon Himself, and now we can have hope, peace, righteousness, and eternal life through trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone. This is without a doubt the greatest exchange of all time—Jesus got our punishment and we get His righteousness.
     As I continue Shaking Salt & Shining Light: A Series on Personal Evangelism, I want to take a closer and clearer look at the gospel. As salt and light, Jesus has commissioned us as His followers to have influence in the world. The biggest part of our influence on the world comes when we proclaim the gospel and invite people to respond to it. But what exactly do we need to proclaim? What is the gospel precisely? I will answer these as we look at a few passages of Scripture together, along with explaining what the non-Christian needs to know to be saved. John 3:36 tells us that there are only two kinds of people in the world—those who believe in Jesus and those who do not, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever believes not in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” That’s it! You either believe in Jesus or you don’t. If you do, you have eternal life; if you don’t, you do not have eternal life—you have God’s wrath on you still. What must be explained to a non-believer so they can go from not believing in Jesus to believing in Him and thereby receive eternal life? The answer to this provides for us the most basic, yet powerful message of the gospel. We must be clear on this message and we must share it with the world!
      -Pastor Matt

Monday, January 27, 2014

Shaking Salt & Shining Light (Part 3)

     What does it mean to be salt and light? Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
     Jesus says that His followers are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. Both salt and light were very precious and useful commodities in the ancient world. In fact, Pliny, a first century Roman writer, stated, “Nothing is as useful as salt and sunshine.” Followers of Christ are useful in the world for the welfare of the world. What specifically did Jesus have in mind?
     In the first century salt was used for several different reasons. It was used to season food—we are most accustomed to this use today. It was also used in small doses as fertilizer. On other occasions it was used to bathe newborn children in for medicinal reasons. But living in a land of such heat and without refrigeration, it was most commonly used as a preservative. Meat such as fish and poultry would easily rot and decay if it were not for a little salt added to it. Salt then, would slow the process of decay. That is partly what Jesus means for His followers to be the salt of the earth. With moral decay and corruption all around us, we are to be a preserving influence in the world—slowing this down by our actions. John MacArthur says that Christians “are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it is.” A big part of the reason the world will become so wicked after the rapture of the church is because our preserving influence will be removed instantly.
     Light has more of a positive connotation and work than does salt. Light dispels the darkness. Christians who are light give the truth needed to show someone the way to God, which is through Christ. Light works out in the open; it illumines by being seen. As light-bearers we must go into our places of work and neighborhoods and stand for what is right and good. We must tell others the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. We must point others to Him.
     It is my hope that you will grow in your knowledge and practice of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with non-Christians through this series—Salt & Light: A Series on Personal Evangelism.
 -Pastor Matt