Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Little Company

Anyone who has been involved with church planting on any level knows what a gargantuan task it is to plant and grow a young church. The handbooks for how to do it are as the sands of the sea, but the multiplicity of contexts for this missionary work makes them only marginally useful.
Likewise with church transformation. The task of taking a church from stagnation to genuine life is herculean at the least. A bit of simple and sound advice and encouragement according to Biblical patterns is welcome indeed.

I found such help in the timeworn and humble pages of Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary and it has helped clarify my vision. Here is what good Brother Henry said in his commentary on Acts Chapters 1:12-14:

"A little company united in love, exemplary in their conduct, fervent in prayer, and wisely zealous to promote the cause of Christ, are likely to increase rapidly."

Volumes spoken, few words employed

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tenured bigots in ivory towers

George Barna recently revealed that things are worse than we thought. Young people have a very low opinion of evangelical Christianity. Barnasurvey

Barna's revelations regarding evangelicals' abysmal reputation among the young is bolstered by the fact that a recent study found similar views are held by most college faculty members."In a recently released scientific survey of 1,269 faculty members across 712 different colleges and universities, 53 percent of respondents admitted to harboring unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals." This study was not funded by a group of right wing group of "nutjobs", but by a Jewish group looking for anti-semitism! The study found that faculty harbor ill feelings toward Jews only 3% of the time.see complete article at Thefire
Most of us have known that strong anti-Christian sentiment exists in the ivory towers of academia, but now there is proof. College campuses remain a chief battleground for the hearts and minds of our most precious commodity- the young.
Another example comes from my alma mater, Lehigh University in Bethlehem. This now secular campus was founded on Christian principles, but their most promoted project for 2008 is a week-long religious seminar taught personally by the Dalai Lama! In addition, all incoming freshmen were required to read the Dalai Lama's autobiography. Though alumni fight bravely to restore some vestige of her proud Christian heritage, hope grows ever more dim.
There are implications for our evangelistic efforts in the months and years ahead. We have yet to see any "method" for reaching the young rise to the top of the heap, but there is hope. Fervent prayer, coupled with strategic evangelistic efforts by persevering saints will win them one at a time. Commitment to a creative, humble and power-filled presentation of the Gospel is ground zero.

Monday, September 24, 2007

He should have stayed home?

Sometimes we go to church and it's just church, nothing remarkable happens, but it's still good. Then there are other times when the day at church impacts someone very deeply, sometimes it impacts all of us very deeply. The awesome part for me is that, as pastor, I get to be in the middle of it.

We had a missionary today. His name is Jeff Friedman and his calling is to the Jews of the world. He traveled almost three hours after sundown on Saturday night after observing Yom Kippur in Philadelphia to arrive here in our little coal town.

When he showed up early for Sunday school and started setting up I asked him how things were going. He said things were okay, as he struggled to piece together his display which had somehow come unglued.

Then it happened. He said that yesterday, Yom Kippur, his mother-in-law had died. I immediately thought to myself "what is this man doing here?" So I asked him why he did not call and cancel. He explained that his wife was already in Alabama where the funeral will be held, and that he would be going with his children tomorrow. His mother-in-law was a believer so there was a certain amount of peace, but you could see the weight upon him.

As the day unfolded it became more and more clear that, although it was counterintuitive, Jeff Friedman belonged with us today. We are in the middle of our missions emphasis and his message was very timely and something we needed to hear. But Jeff Friedman needed to be in our church because God wanted to bless us by allowing us to bless and comfort him. The blessings just kept coming.

Ours is not a wealthy church, but this is an old coal mining town and our people are known to respond to genuine urgent needs. We normally take a benevolence offering on the third Sunday of the month. Today the Lord led me to receive this offering for Jeff Friedman and his family as I sensed that the financial burden for six people to fly to Alabama and back would be very heavy. The people responded as I knew they would and we raised enough to pay for several plane tickets. But there was more.

As I spoke about the offering I watched as this dear brother put his head in his hands and wept. You see, he was fulfilling an obligation, maybe by rote, by coming to our church, but I think he was a little surprised that God showed up too. But there was more.

After service I spoke to the elders about the possibility of taking Jeff on for monthly support. I mentioned a monthly amount but they thought it was too low. So Jeff left with not only a cash gift, but healthy monthly support too. But there was more.

I was able to give him several gift items including a book from my library, and he also got a few "Pentecostal handshakes". But there was more.

At the Chinese buffet restaurant after service we filled him up real good and he was getting ready to leave. Just then our Sunday school superintendent walked in and called me to the side. She asked if it would be all right if the Sunday school gave an offering to Jeff Friedman. I said amen, but noticed that she gave him two checks not one.

During the Sunday school hour at the beginning of the day Jeff Friedman told our people that God blesses those who bless the Jewish people. It was so easy to bless this man today. The Lord has already blessed us back by knowing that we eased our brothers burden, and made his trial a bit easier.

Next time I'm thinking about staying home I hope I remember Jeff Friedman.