Tag Archives: Gospel

Little Gospel Moments

live micIn all the articles that appeared after the death of Billy Graham, this story from A. Larry Ross, Graham’s director of public relations, jumped out at me: “At a TV studio sound check, many interviewees will count to 10 or describe what they had for breakfast. Graham always quoted John 3:16, so that if he didn’t get a chance to present the gospel in the interview, at least the sound man heard it” (Christianity Today, April 2018, 112).

Graham recognized a time when he could insert the gospel in a small, nonthreatening way into a rather mundane activity. I am amazed by those like Graham who can do that so easily and without much fanfare. I think of several people I know who were able to share their faith in small ways with nurses and other medical staff while they were sick in the hospital. I also know of people who write Gospel messages on envelopes sent in the mail for all those who handle them to see the Good News.

Our lives are filled with the potential for so many little Gospel moments. When you see a chance to plant the Gospel in some small way, take it. A simple “Jesus loves you!” may be all it takes to strike the heart of faith in someone. I have gotten into the habit of closing each email I write with the words “In Christ’s active service.” That way all who receive my messages, no matter what the email may be about, know that the message of Christ is the most important message to me. And it is the greatest message for them to know.

So much of life is mundane routine, but if we find ways to interject the Gospel into them, our approach and our attitude can be much more energetic and enthusiastic. If we are called to be bearers of the Gospel, then lets bear that out in every big and little way that we can!

 

 

A Bible for Everyone

BibleOne of the books highlighted in World Magazine’ s Best Children’s Books of the Year issue was a Bible for toddlers called Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible. In it are 52 stories equally divided between Old and New Testaments, conveying the most important parts of the Bible in language that age group can understand, accompanied by kid-friendly artwork.

One of the biggest trends in Christian publishing today is specially designed Bibles for almost every type of person or demographic you can think of. A quick internet search brought up the following:

The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible (for artists)

The Action Bible (for tweens)

Guys Life Application Bible (for teen boys)

She Reads Truth Bible (for women)

Leadership Bible (for church leaders)

These Bible include such things as artwork, questions to ponder, reflections and discussion starters aimed at a very specific audience. These types of niche market Bibles are important to help people see the Bible not as some stuffy book that is only meant for pastors, but a book that is meant for them.

What I find interesting in The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible is that the word Gospel is front and center in the title. That’s a good thing, and something to remember when we start to cater the Bible to meet the needs of so many different groups.

In all the flashy pictures, cute covers and innovative font treatments, we as Christian publishers should never lose sight of the Gospel, the good news that God sent Jesus to this lost and broken world to save us through his death and resurrection. No marketing strategy can ever replace that.

I encourage you to be on the lookout for a unique type of Bible that appeals to you, but in the process it is my hope that the Gospel message comes through loud and clear within its creatively designed pages.

 

House of Mercy

house of mercyAn article in winter 2018 Lutherans Engage magazine highlighted the work of Rev. Eddie Hosch in Lima, Peru. Part of this ministry there includes a Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy), a safe place where children can come after school or at other times to be with other children and learn more about Jesus.

Hosch says, “I love the kids. The opportunities here are huge to share the Gospel in a simple way: a lunch, a hug, friendship. All allowing us to teach the children the Word of God.”

This house of mercy works with the prayer that the Word of God will produce faith in these children and their parents and will help them to see Christ’s mercy at work in their lives.

This Casa de Misericordia is a wonderful model for us to follow in our own lives. How can each of our homes be houses of mercy to show others the mercy of Christ? How can we establish our churches as being houses of mercy for those who are in need in our community/

Many programs already exist along these lines with food pantries and clothing drives in many parishes. But what I think is important to foster is the sense that our homes and our churches are safe and loving places to come for help. God in his mercy did not turn people away from his love in Jesus, and we should convey our willingness to be of service to those around us who are truly in need.

I like Hosch’s idea of sharing mercy in simple ways. Maybe it is a wave at your neighbor or an invitation to chat on your front porch. Maybe it is just putting your arm around someone you know is struggling at church. Perhaps it is just saying “You are safe here” to someone who is living in fear.

Several years ago Pope Francis declared a year of mercy, and my recommendation to you this week is to declare this a week of mercy in your own home and see what happens.

Use this as your theme verse:

God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. —Ephesians 2:4-5

Be alive with Christ’s mercy this week!

 

Sermon Trends

sermon trendsTrends in sermons are changing fast. The traditional approach of preaching on a biblical text in a lecture format through deductive reasoning is being replaced more and more by what is being called in seminary circles as “the new homiletics.”

New homiletics, broadly speaking, looks at the preaching of a sermon more as an event or an experience. Those in the pews often become part of the conversation through question-and-answer formats or personal stories that are shared.

Much of what is behind this shift in homiletics has to do with the rise of social media and our increased comfort level as a society in engaging in a dialog about any number of topics.

The challenge for pastors and other church workers is how to direct and control that conversation within the context of a sermon in order to achieve the spiritual goals they have in mind for their message and for their audience.

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Gospel Goodbyes

gospel goodbyesI must admit that I am not very good at goodbyes. After spending time with my family or friends at a holiday event or summer vacation far from home, it is hard for me to bid farewell to these people I love so much.

Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas talks about the difficulty of leaving colleagues at a church he ministered at to begin work at another parish. What has helped him get through it, he says, is remembering the what he calls the “gospel goodbyes” that happened in the Book of Acts {“Multiplied + Divided,” Christianity Today, December 2017, 49).

The way that Paul framed his goodbyes to the church members he loved so much was to connect them to the good news of the gospel, that we will be together in the end in heaven with our Lord, who died and was raised that we might have eternal life with him. So it is never “We will never see you again,” but “See you next time, either here on earth or in heaven.”

Consider this “gospel goodbye”:

Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (in Antioch). After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  —Acts 15:32-33

This gospel goodbye was characterized by a blessing of peace. The people of Antioch knew that Barsabbas and Silas had to move on from them to spread the word about Jesus. Barsabbas and Silas’ goodbye was made with encouraging words to those in Antioch to continue the faith there.

What a great example for us to follow to incorporate blessing, peace and encouragement in our goodbyes in the name of the Lord.

Now take a look at this “gospel goodbye”:

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. —Acts 18;27

Those Apollos was saying goodbye to helped him to get settled in his new place and made sure he would be welcome there. They did not stop him from carrying out his calling by asking him to stay with them. They made sure to support him in his new venture.

I think it is good for us in our own gospel goodbyes to realize that God’s plan for our loved ones is often beyond us and that our loved ones are doing their best work in the Lord in places that are not near us, but that that does not diminish our bond with them.

One of the most compelling goodbyes is this one between Paul and the elders of Ephesus as he leaves for his mission to Jerusalem:

When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. —Acts 20:36-38

You can feel the pain, but you can sense the overarching love among them. I like that the goodbye is accompanied with prayer. It is prayer that will continue to bind them together. And though they will not see Paul’s face again on this earth. They have the faith that they will see him again in the courts above, singing praises to the Lamb, who will wipe every tear of parting sorrow from their eyes.

I am reminded that even the word “goodbye” is a shortened version of “God be with you.” So each parting we experience in the end is a reminder that God is with us wherever we may be and he always will. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Simply Sow

sow the seedI recently attended the Best Practices in Ministry conference at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, in Columbus, IN. One of the breakout sessions was led by Lou Jander, a retired teacher and church leader. He and his wife Martha have a ministry called Sow the Word. Their mission is to give a booklet of the entire Gospel of John to as many people as they can.

In their travels, they have given the Gospel of John to waiters, bus drivers, store clerks, gas station attendants, whomever they meet along their way.

Lou talked about the fact that he and his wife serve simply as sowers of the seed, as in the parable of the sower. When you look closely at that parable, Jander said, you see that the sower simply sowed the seed with the expectation that not all the seeds would “take.” Some would fall on rocky, thorny or  dry soil and not take root. That was just part of the reality of “broadcast” farming in those days. But what seeds did take root would produce greatly, the parable says, “yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8).

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The Pitfalls of Privatization

public private signsPrivatization is a social position that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society today. It is the philosophy of being noncommittal or uninvolved in anything other than one’s own immediate interests or lifestyle.

One of the greatest impacts of privatization on the Church has been the prevailing attitude that “Whatever you believe, keep it to yourself.” The result is that “it guts the energy out of the Great Commission and efforts to share the Gospel,” which are, of course, the main tenets of the Church (Schmidt, J. David, Choosing to Live).

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Small Churches

small churchAccording to a study done by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), of the 3.6 million baptized members of that church body, half worship in congregations with an average attendance of 150 or less. And out of the ELCA’s 9.393 congregations, 82 percent have an average worship attendance of 150 or less (Lammi, Kurt, “Would They Notice?” Living Lutheran, p. 33). The conclusion? The denomination is mostly made up of small congregations (p. 33).

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Encouragement

BarnabasJoseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. —Acts 4:36-37

Throughout the Book of Acts, we read about a disciple of Christ named Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” His name indicates the kind of impact he had on those in the early church and those he witnessed to on his many missionary trips with the apostle Paul.

Here are some examples of what Barnabas said and did in his travels:

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. —Acts 11:22 

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. —Acts 11:25-26

This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. —Acts 11:30 Continue reading →

6 Guidelines for Loving Each Other

loving each otherWe are well aware that Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34), but that sometimes does not come as easily as it could or should even (and often especially) in the church. Because of this reality, Pastor and author John Piper gives us six guidelines for loving each other, which I find extremely helpful:

  1. Let’s avoid gossiping.
  2. Let’s identify evidence of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.
  3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.
  4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.
  5. Let’s think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.
  6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel. (from the Desiring God website: www.desiringgod.org, August 4, 2009)

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