Last week my son, who is six years old, responded to an invitation given at a vacation Bible school he attended at another church in our community. From what I understand, there were many who responded, and he left there expressing confidence that he was now saved because he had prayed a prayer. My boy is asking some very good questions concerning the gospel, and I believe that he is moving toward the point of having saving faith, but I don’t think he has an adequate understanding of his own personal guilt, the punishment it deserves, and Christ’s work in bearing that punishment in his place. By God’s grace, he will get there. He’s headed in the right direction.
But this episode has caused me to think about the practice of VBS invitations, and I believe there is much more caution needed than there is caution exercised in our churches when it comes to this issue. Read more
While targeted to student evangelism, this video may be part of a comprehensive solution to the problem of declining baptisms:
But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.
- Acts 9:40 (ESV)
I wonder if there are people in our lives, perhaps people we see every day, who are spiritually dead, and for whom God would have us to get alone and pray. I wonder if He would be pleased by us pleading to Him on their behalf. I wonder if, were we to spend enough time, alone, pleading, He might reveal to us that it is His will that they live. That as we invest our lives in them that He might then lead us to speak to them the words of life, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that it would be used by God to open their eyes, to give them the gift of faith, to bring them to eternal life.
I’m sure that there are, for me at least. How about for you?
It’s amazing what people can do with a watermelon. The pictures above are real, including those odd-looking square melons. They’re grown in Japan by farmers who place the growing melons into a tempered glass container, causing them to assume that square shape as they grow. It is done for a very practical reason: space. The square melons don’t take up as much room in the refrigerator. I’m not sure, however, if it is an ultimately practical solution, as they cost around $82 (USD) each. An average watermelon in Japan costs $15-$17 (USD). I hope they’re good.
Our community hosts a watermelon festival each year, and it’s coming up this weekend. Tonight, we begin preparations for our church’s booth. We’re making hand-fans to give away, and we’re also holding a free drawing for a new digital camera. We’re still working on some ideas for what else we can do at our booth.
According to the Valliant Chamber of Commerce, more than 5,000 people will attend the two-day event, no small feat for a community with a population of around 700. It is an opportunity for our church to make contact with more people in 36 hours than we might otherwise in a whole year. Please pray that God will give us opportunities to connect with people and to share the gospel with those who need to hear it.
During the reports today of two entities, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the International Mission Board, I asked questions during the time allotted of the presidents of those entities. While I’m happy that I was able to provide a hearty laugh to certain of my fellow bloggers, I thought I would share the reasons I felt compelled to ask what I did.
My question to Dr. Patterson was motivated by my desire to allow him to address in a serious and meaningful way a program at SWBTS which has been maligned and made fun of on blogs in an attempt to disparage and discredit the institution and its leadership. The way that the homemaking emphasis has been treated in the blogosphere has been more appropriate to the treatment of a rumor rather than that of a needed program for those who have committed their lives to being the helpers God designed them to be for their pastor husbands.
Thus, I began my question by referring to rumors in order to provide the very contrast some found so entertaining. As I said, I’m glad to have been able to provide a laugh, but I am sorry for what that laughter reveals about those who found it so funny.
My question to Dr. Rankin of the IMB grew out of a concern that I first heard expressed in May of 2006 when I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the plenary sessions of the IMB meeting there. It was there that I first heard expressed the great need for Southern Baptist missionaries who would respond to God’s call to the difficult harvest fields of West Africa. In my kitchen at home is a prayer calendar that was part of the IMB’s West Africa emphasis, and it has reminded almost daily to pray for the spread of the Gospel in this region. I had not heard any updates of the progress of recruiting personnel to this region, so I took advantage of the opportunity to give Dr. Rankin a chance to update not just me, but the entire convention.
Marty Duren, in part 2 of his ongoing series on Re:Imagineering the SBC, talked about the local association. While many concerns were expressed in the comments, some shared about good things happening in their associations, and I want to do that here.
Tonight at First Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist Church, both in Idabel, Oklahoma, Frisco Baptist Association hosts its annual Evangelism Conference. This is perhaps one of the best things our association does. Frisco Baptist Association consists of just over fifty churches in three counties in the southeast corner of the state. These counties cover 4,023 square miles, and have a combined population of just over 61,000 people. Last year’s Evangelism Conference was attended by just over 1,500 people, and we’re hoping to top 2,000 this year.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma hosts an Evangelism Conference each January, and it is usually pretty good. But where we live, it takes quite an effort to get to that conference; it’s more than a three-hour drive to Oklahoma City. I’m grateful that our association is able to put together an event like this. We bring in the best speakers we can find, and it gives our people an opportunity they would otherwise not have, always providing a challenge to more effective evangelism where we live.
We divide into three groups, with the youth at Trinity Baptist Church, and the children and adults at First Baptist, with different speakers for each age group. Speaking to the youth this year is James Lankford, BGCO Student Ministry and Evangelism Specialist. Speaking to the adults will be Dr. Anthony Jordan, BGCO Executive Director/Treasurer. And with the children will be Gene “Bubba” Wright, Children’s Pastor at Houston’s Metropolitan Baptist Church.
I’m looking forward to tonight, and I’m grateful for an association that has the vision to put together an event like this one.
I had been looking forward to hearing from these guys today and tomorrow at the State Evangelism Conference sponsored by the BGCO. But I had to do some budget-driven planning, and I’ve determined that attending the conference with the men pictured below will ultimately benefit me more. Plus, I understand some other folks will be in Jackson, as well. If you’re going to be there and would like to get together for a meal at some point, let me know.
At the risk of drawing the ire of Steve McCoy, who has been unforgiving of the misuse or misunderstanding of this word, I think I’m ready to take a stab at it.
Art Rogers has written some excellent posts (1 and 2) on “programming evangelism.” He suggests that the time-honored approach of confrontational evangelism, the church going out into the neighborhood and knocking on doors to share the gospel, may have seen it’s best days. I couldn’t agree more.
In an American culture where the church was recognized as having an important and respected place in the community, and where the authority of the Bible was at least recognized, if not always applied, this approach was an effective one. Unfortunately, that American culture no longer exists.
In the 1950′s, vacuum-cleaner companies largely sold their products through door-to-door salesman. This approach was effective, as people were too polite to ignore the knock or otherwise be rude to a man who was working hard to make his living. It was an effective way to sell vacuums. But the culture has changed. People are busier than ever, and most would think nothing of slamming the door in the face of someone who arrives unannounced to sell them something they don’t think they need. Just ask your friendly neighborhood Mormon missionaries.
Our association regularly sponsors “FAITH Blitzes.” We ask people to meet at a particular church on a Saturday morning, where we divide into teams of two or three and head out with a stack of FAITH questionnaires and a map. I understand the motivation for this, but a couple of things about it concern me.
First, the purpose of these events is to share the gospel, and I’m certainly not opposed to that. But using the FAITH questionnaire, you begin the conversation by announcing that you are “surveying the neighborhood,” when it is really just an excuse to share the gospel. I don’t know that any information is collected or used, except to get to the transition question about what the respondent understands it takes to get to heaven. Perhaps there is more use made of “survey data,” but the whole approach seems disingenuous to me.
Often it is reported at the end of one of these campaigns that one or two people prayed to receive Christ. I’m truly grateful for any genuine conversions that take place, but I can’t help wondering how many doors are forever closed to the gospel because “those people from the church” kept knocking while someone was trying to sleep in, catch up on housework, or whatever the Saturday activity was that might have been interrupted.
This past Sunday night, I finished a series of three sermons, preaching through Paul’s letter to Philemon. Before Paul comes to his point of not “ordering” Philemon to do the right thing regarding Onesimus, he shares with Philemon what his prayer has been for him:
and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
- Philemon 6 (ESV)
This verse stood out to me in a way it never had before. It seems to me that the essence of being missional is sharing our faith in such a way that people see “every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” This cannot happen when we confront someone at their door, while their dinner is cooling on the table, their baby is crying, and their phone is ringing. It happens when we share our lives with people.
As I told my church, we must be intentional about developing friendships with people who need Jesus. And those friendships must be genuine friendships, where our interest is truly in that person, and not about manipulating that person into a decision. People can spot a phony quickly, and we must not be that phony. We must invest ourselves in their lives in such a way that, when they face difficult circumstances, we can be the one to stand beside them and point them to the Answer.
We can bemoan the fact that our time-tested approaches are no longer effective, or we can embrace the call to live authentic, missional lives, engaging the lost in relationships that will allow them to see the good Christ has done in us. Door-to-door salesman are simply not effective these days. Hoover and Kirby have learned this lesson and adapted their approach. Will the church?