A Church With A ♥able Reputation

Demographers report that there are upwards of 70 million people in America that are unchurched. In my own experience, I have found that the unchurched people I have met are really dechurched people. At one time they were a part of a church community, but finding nothing of value there, they left. 

The way the first-century community responded to the Church—the historian Luke says “everyone was filled with awe and enjoying the favor of all the people”—is how people will still respond today to the extent that we resemble that first Church. 

If people are going to say “I That Church!” we have to be a able church!

Here are four qualities that I see in the first Church that gave it such a able reputation— 

  1. Internal unity

Luke uses the word fellowship (Greek: koinonia) which means an intimate, personal involvement in each other’s lives. The historical account lists phrases like devoted, breaking of bread and prayer, together, together with glad and sincere hearts, and one in heart and mind. 

  1. Sincere piety

Church for these first Christians wasn’t a place they went to on a certain day of the week; it wasn’t a set of religious rules they rigorously followed. They didn’t do church because they had to, but because they loved to! Luke says all the believers were together, and every day they continued to meet…with glad and sincere hearts.

  1. Supernatural results

Luke says wonders and miracles, signs, and great power accompanied the Church’s activity. Interestingly, the order is fellowship → awe → miracles, NOT what I would have expected, which is fellowship → miracles → awe. The awe came from the Church’s unified, sincere fellowship, and then the miracles simply confirmed God was there (cf. Mark 16:20). 

  1. Practical helps

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” The first Christians saw people in need and they helped: they gave to anyone as he had need and they shared everything they had so that there were no needy persons among them. This is exactly what Jesus told us to do (see Matthew 25:34-40). 

People will the Church when they see real among church people! 

If we want to see dechurched people become rechurched people, we need to return to our Christian roots—we need to make sure we are lovingly unified in heart and mind, allowing God to perform the miraculous among us, and then practically meeting the needs of everyone around us. 

Join me this Sunday as we learn more lessons from this first-century Church. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live.

Links & Quotes

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“Most Christians never associate joy with repentance. But repentance is actually the mother of all joy in Jesus. Without it, there can be no joy. Yet, any believer who walks in repentance will be flooded with the joy of the Lord.” —David Wilkerson

“Another way the Scriptures show us that ideas have consequences is by using the word ‘therefore’ (1,039 times in the NASB).” —John Piper

“I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.” —Victor Frankl

“Every sinner must be quickened by the same life, made obedient to the same gospel, washed in the same blood, clothed in the same righteousness, filled with the same divine energy, and eventually taken up to the same heaven, and yet in the conversion of no two sinners will you find matters precisely the same.” —Charles Spurgeon

“While there may not be spiritual oppression involved in your battle [against lust], there’ll always be opposition. The enemy is constantly near your ear. He doesn’t want you to win this fight, and he knows the lies that so often break a man’s confidence and his will to win. Expect to hear lies and plenty of them. satan’s lie: ‘You’re the only one dealing with this problem. If anyone ever finds out, you’ll be the laughingstock of the church!’ The truth: Most men deal with this problem, so no one will laugh.” —Steve Arterburn

The dangers and chaos that comes from boys being raised without a Dad.

Great article: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Give Up On Church.

[VIDEO] Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy does a masterful job in appealing to the House of Representatives to pass the bill which would outlaw abortions after the date that the pre-born baby can feel pain. The House did pass this bill! Sadly, President Obama has stated that he will veto this bill, if it ends up passing the Senate as well. Check this out…

Links & Quotes

link quote

These are links to articles and quotes I found interesting today.

[VIDEO] Greg Koukl explains Why Should I Defend My Faith?

“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” —C.S. Lewis

Abortionists want to be applauded today, but instead we need to pray for them. It’s National Abortionist Prayer Day.

When Millennials are under-employed, unmarried, and unchurched at record levels, National Review Online asks What Could Go Wrong?

22 Quotes From “The Ragamuffin Gospel”

Ragamuffin GospelThe Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning really resonated with me. You can read my full book review by clicking here, but below are some of the quotes I especially appreciated.

“The institutional church has become a wounder of the healer rather than a healer of the wounded.” 

“Personal responsibility has replaced personal response. We talk about acquiring virtue as if it were a skill that can be attained, like good handwriting or a well-grooved golf swing. In the penitential seasons we focus on overcoming our weaknesses, getting rid of our hang-ups, and reaching Christian maturity. We sweat through various spiritual exercises as if they were designed to produce a Christian Charles Atlas. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal disciplines and self-denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather on what God is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time.”

“God has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do.” 

“Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.”

“The Word we study has to be the Word we pray.”

“We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.”

“Whatever past achievements might bring us honor, whatever past disgraces might make us blush, all have been crucified with Christ and exist no more except in the deep recess of eternity.” 

“It is unimaginable to picture a wooden-faced, stoic, joyless, and judgmental Jesus as He reclined with ragamuffins.”

“We miss Jesus’ point entirely when we use His words as weapons against others. They are to be taken personally by each of us.” 

“The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace.”

“Maybe this is the heart of our hang-up, the root of our dilemma. We fluctuate between castigating ourselves and congratulating ourselves because we are deluded into thinking we save ourselves. We develop a false sense of security from our good works and scrupulous observance of the law. Our halo gets too tight and a carefully disguised attitude of moral superiority results. Or we are appalled by our inconsistency, devastated that we haven’t lived up to our lofty expectations of ourselves. The roller coaster ride of elation and depression continues. Why? Because we never lay hold of our nothingness before God, and consequently, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with Him. But when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.” 

“Honesty is such a precious commodity that it is seldom found in the world or the church. Honesty requires the truthfulness to admit the attachment and addictions that control our attention, dominate our consciousness, and function as false gods. I can be addicted to vodka or to being nice, to marijuana or being loved, to cocaine or being right, to gambling or relationships, to golf or gossiping. Perhaps my addiction is food, performance, money, popularity, power, revenge, reading, television, tobacco, weight, or winning. When we give anything more priority than we give to God, we commit idolatry. Thus we all commit idolatry countless times every day.”

“To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are. … Getting honest with ourselves does not make us unacceptable to God. It does not distance us from God, but draws us to Him—as nothing else can—and opens us anew to the flow of grace.” 

“When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past, we are disdaining God’s gift of grace. Preoccupation with self is always a major component of unhealthy guilt and recrimination. … Yes, we feel guilt over sins, but healthy guilt is one which acknowledges the wrong done and feels remorse, but then is free to embrace the forgiveness that has been offered.”

“The evil one is the great illusionist. He varnishes the truth and encourages dishonesty. ‘If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth has no place in us’ (1 John 1:8). satan prompts us to give importance to what has no importance. He clothes trivia with glitter and seduces us away from what is real. He causes us to live in a world of delusion, unreality, and shadows.” 

“At Sunday worship, as in every dimension of our existence, many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently, all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss.”

“The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith. How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.” 

“A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad in prayer.”

“The call asks, Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don’t believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the Cross.” 

“There are some real problems with projecting the perfect image. First of all, it’s simply not true—we are not always happy, optimistic, in command. Second, projecting the flawless image keeps us from reaching people who feel we just wouldn’t understand them. And third, even if we could live a life with no conflict, suffering, or mistakes, it would be a shallow existence. The Christian with depth is the person who has failed and who has learned to live with it.”

“We project into the Lord our own measured standard of acceptance. Our whole understanding of Him is based in a quid pro quo of bartered love. He will love us if we are good, moral, and diligent. But we have turned the tables; we try to live so that He will love us, rather than living because He has already loved us.” 

“No greater sinners exist than those so-called Christians who disfigure the face of God, mutilate the gospel of grace, and intimidate others through fear. They corrupt the essential nature of Christianity.”

The Ragamuffin Gospel (book review)

Ragamuffin GospelThe Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning was originally published 15 years ago, but its message to us is just as needed—maybe even more needed—today! The subtitle nails the essence of this book: Good news for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out. Indeed it is.

Without realizing it, Manning’s ragamuffin message has impacted much of my thinking for the past decade. Ever since I started working in a church, I have been more acutely aware of how many people feel like their beat-up, burnt-out status somehow disqualifies them for God’s grace. The message they’ve heard is, “Get your act together, and then get yourself to God for help.” As a result our societies are filled with the de-churched, and our churches are only left with those who think they have their acts together.

Manning’s message is such a refreshing wake-up call! He speaks to those bedraggled de-churched people to assure them Jesus wants them just as they are. He came to meet with the messed-up and burnt-out, to show them Abba God’s love. Manning also confronts the pharisaical view of far too many Christians who truly think God only helps those who help themselves, and who want people to make themselves worthy of God’s grace.

This book was like a breath of fresh air. It clarified my frustrations with churchy people, and it renewed my passion for all the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out to know the amazing, unconditional, unmerited, awe-inspiring grace of a All-Loving God!

I am a Random House book reviewer.

Can We Truly Call Ourselves “Christian”?

These are eye-opening statistics from noted church researcher Thom Rainer:

  • 82% of unchurched people are likely to attend church if someone invites them.
  • 7-out-of-10 unchurched people have never been invited in their entire lifetime!
  • That’s because only 2% of church members invite someone to come.

Friends, this ought not be!

I’m looking myself squarely in the mirror when I ask this:

Why am I not inviting more people?!

Check out what J.C. Ryle wrote:

“We ought to feel compassion when we think of the wretched state of unconverted souls, and the misery of all men and women who live and die without Christ. No poverty like this poverty! No disease like this disease! No slavery like this slavery! No death like this…. I lay it down boldly, as a great principle, that the Christianity which does not make a person feel for the state of unconverted people is not the Christianity which came down from heaven hundreds of years ago, and is [displayed] in the New Testament. It is a mere empty name.”

I don’t want to be a Christian in name only. I want my life to embody the love and life of Christ. He loved all of humanity so much that He came to die as payment for our sins. He paid the price so we could live.

Why am I not telling more people about this incredible, life-changing news?!

I want to make a HUGE dent in these statistics!

Every Sunday Is Easter

At most churches, Easter Sunday is the most well-attended service of the year. Perhaps this is appropriate, since the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone event of the Christian faith. Without Christ’s resurrection, what hope would we have?!

The first Christians were so convinced of the life-changing power of this singular event that they began to gather for worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), in honor of the resurrection. For them, every Sunday was resurrection Sunday.

What if we treated every Sunday like Easter?

Would we invite more people to church? I’m sure we would!

Of all the days of the week we could pick to gather together, why Sunday? Because Sunday reminds us of what happened 2000 years ago at a garden tomb in Jerusalem. Jesus arose from the dead!

When I look at the first followers of Jesus (see John 1:35-51), I see something amazingly simple in the lives of Andrew and Philip. It’s as simple as 1-2-3…

  1. They encountered Jesus.
  2. They immediately went to find a friend to tell them about this encounter.
  3. They invited their friend to “Come and see” Jesus for themselves.

Has Jesus changed your life? Then find a friend and say, “Come and see!” Don’t wait for Easter Sunday to invite someone to meet Jesus. Invite them to come this Sunday! (If you don’t have a church home, and you live in West Michigan, I invite you to come join me at Calvary Assembly of God.)

Boring Christianity?

I read a lot of reports, books, and surveys that talk about the number of unchurched people in America. Sadly, my experience is that most of these are actually dechurched people. In other words, they are folks who were involved in a church at one point in their lives, but then felt like church wasn’t doing it for them any longer.

I’m not sure that I have the answer that will cure this. Actually I’ve got a lot more questions:

  • Are pastors helping people grow in their faith?
  • Are churches engaging their community in ways that make people want to be involved?
  • Are Christians tackling the pressing needs in their society?
  • Do people in local communities even think of asking the church to help with issues in their hometown?

I think the answer might be “No” to all of these questions.

“I suspect that most Christians today are fairly satisfied with the state of their faith. They have a ‘good enough’ experience of Jesus and they’re not really thirsting for much more. But the job of pastors is to help people realize that splashing around in the mud puddle of faith is nothing compared with sailing on the ocean of God’s grace and power (as C.S. Lewis says). We must whet the appetites of our people for a greater experience of the Lord’s reviving power. When we do, they will begin to seek it more fervently.” —T.M. Moore

“We’ve given people just enough of Jesus to be bored, but not enough to be transformed.” —David Kinnaman

“The outer courts are filled with distraction. It’s hard to hear. The holy place is still. And when you get into the inner courts, all the other voices vying for our attention are silenced. I’m afraid that most of us live most of our lives in the outer courts. We’re too Christian to enjoy sin, but we’re too sinful to enjoy Christ. It’s time to press in. It’s time to press on.” —Mark Batterson

If we are truly living as disciples of Jesus Christ, Christianity should be the most exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling way to live! That’s how I want it to be for me and for my church! What about you?

Progressing From . To ? To !

There is a progression that I believe Christians should be aware of as they lead others toward Christ.

First: .

Those who have been de-churched, or who have had a negative experience with another Christian, or who have become disenchanted with the Church, make factual statements about Christians and Church.

“The Church is….

“Christians always….

But if are truly the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we can season and shine in a way that will cause them to question their own factual statements.

Next comes: ?

“The Christian Church exists to reveal God and to utter forth His praise, to make God known to men who know Him not, that in the presence of the revelation they may be filled with awe, and wonder, and amazement—to make God known, that God shall be attractive to humanity.” —G. Morgan Campbell

This is Church?

You’re a Christian?

Which leads to: !

Jesus stated that the greatest of all commandments—indeed the fulfillment of all the commandments—was loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and then loving others as we love ourselves. Once people see Christians as true representations of Christ … people so intent on loving God and loving others, they too will find what their hearts have been longing for.

“This is what I’ve been looking for!

“Now this is what I call a real Church!

Can I suggest an easy place to start? With your smile. Look at what Job said:

Men listened to me expectantly, waiting in silence for my counsel. After I had spoken, they spoke no more; my words fell gently on their ears. They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain. When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them. (Job 29:21-24)

Living in this way can move people from close-minded skeptics, to curious questioners, to enthusiastic followers of Jesus Christ. Let’s do this! 

Primal (book review)

It’s been quite a while since I have been this excited about a book. Mark Batterson has given us a winner with the release of this third book entitled Primal. I highly recommend that you add this to your 2010 reading list, as this would be a great way to start your new year.

One of the knocks I hear non-churched people level at Christians is, “You have too many rules to follow. It seems like being a Christian is too restrictive.” Unfortunately, far too many people who call themselves Christian live like this. Their definition of Christianity boils down to We can’t do that or We don’t do that or These are the rules.

In Primal, Batterson takes us back to the life Jesus intended for His followers to live. Jesus is asked what it takes to be a follower of God, and He answers with this primal phrase, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is primal Christianity.

Mark then leads us through a reawakening of what it really means to love God fully in these four areas:

  1. Passionate, God-directed, and others-focused love
  2. Wide-eyed, awe-struck, transcendent wonder
  3. A searching, engaged, holy curiosity
  4. Energetic, all-encompassing, servant-hearted work

It’s so simple. It’s so primal. And it’s so liberating to be reminded of the raw essence of living a Spirit-empowered life which is so God-glorifying and Christ-magnifying.

This book gets all five stars from me.

I am a Multnomah book review blogger.

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