Tag Archives: Gospel

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.

Continue reading →

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).

Continue reading →

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).

Continue reading →

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).

Continue reading →

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)

Continue reading →

Evangelism 101

Jesus centerIn the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Prof. Glenn K. Fluegge focuses on the role of evangelism in the article, “The Dual Nature of Evangelism in the Early Church.” He explains that the two goals of evangelism then and now are: spreading the gospel and preserving the gospel.

That second goal of preserving the gospel struck me as something that we don’t often associate with evangelism, but is so vital in our world today.

In today’s world, in our effort to please and placate everyone, the gospel can become so watered down that it can often lose its core concept: Christ crucified for us.

Continue reading →

Media Reformation

smartphoneAs we are fast approaching the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in October 2017, it is time for us to look at where we are as a Church today. To many theologians, we are in the midst of a media reformation as the Church uses all sorts of new technology to spread the message of the Gospel far and wide in the same vein as Martin Luther and his use of the printing press to get his writings out to the masses.

Billy Graham once said, “It is time for the church to use technology to make a statement that in the midst of chaos, emptiness, and despair, there is hope in the person of Jesus Christ” (Christianity Today, October 2016, 42). It is, in fact, hard to be heard in the clutter of messages being spewed out in social media channels, but it is our task to make the effort and be the voice of promise to a people searching for true meaning in life.

Continue reading →

The Influencers

fish60 Minutes recently ran a story about The Influencers, those young millennials who are making videos on the internet and are hired by major corporations to influence the buying habits of millions of people all over the world. One commentator noted that a single video posted by an Influencer had more power and reach than any TV commercial, newspaper ad and magazine spread combined could ever garner.

The story reminded me of what Malcolm Gladwell explained in his book The Tipping Point about “connectors,” who are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. These relatively few “connectors,” Gladwell said, serve as “agents of change” across a wide swath of economic, social and cultural arenas. These connectors led to the rise of the rise and popularity of Hush Puppy shoes in the mid-1990s, for instance.

Continue reading →