Let Your Light Shine

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“Let your light so shine before others so that, seeing your good actions, they will praise your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (paraphrase)

I am studying the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. In my studying, I came across a commentary by Scott McKnight. In it, he says, “…reading or teaching or preaching the Sermon on the Mount is evangelism.”[1]

This struck me as an interesting topic, one that keeps coming up in my studies on evangelism.

When we think of evangelism we usually think about preaching the cross, how Christ died to save us from our sins, and those that believe in him will not see the judgment of God but will receive eternal life. This is a very different message than the Sermon on the Mount. What we see in this sermon of Jesus are commands and exhortations about how to live life. But, could living the life we find in Jesus sermon help us to shine our light on the world and draw people to Jesus Christ?

Scott McKnight illustrates a story about a Hindu student of his that warmed up to Christianity in his class. He said, “This Hindu student of mine was attracted to Jesus because of the Story of Jesus she read in the Gospels.”

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the same idea. He says, “I suggest to you [the Sermon on the Mount] is the best means of evangelism…The world today is looking for, and desperately needs, true Christians…If only all of us were living the Sermon on the Mount, men would know that there is a dynamic in the Christian gospel…” [2]

What these two authors, published in different two centuries are saying, is, if the Church of Jesus Christ started to act like it followed Jesus Christ, the world would see and believe, and they two will follow Christ.

[1] Scott McKnight, The Story of God Bible Commentary: Sermon on the Mount, (Zondervan, 2013) Kindle Location: 841
[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1960) pg. 18-20

A Solemn Assembly is Needed…

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Recently, a pastor friend of mine gave me a document called, “A Solemn Assembly is Needed…”. It was a list of conditions, or symptoms, of a local church that when observed, a solemn assembly of repentance and renewal needs to be called.

Inspired by such a list I’ve adapted my own for the local Christian community. These symptoms point to the need for a community-wide solemn assembly. Read this list and see if you can relate to some of this symptoms. I know I do.

A Community Solemn Assembly is Needed…

  • When we find ourselves walking by sight instead of walking by faith
  • When prayer is the last resort instead of the foundation of our community
  • When events for evangelism are preferred over one-on-one evangelism
  • When our passion to build the biggest church overshadows our passion and pursuit of God’s kingdom in the community
  • When the ministry of God in our community does not include the poor, the widows, and the fatherless
  • When there is a greater emphasis on pleasing people, looking good in the community, and having the greatest influence, than pleasing God
  • When we find ourselves being more excited about building our own church than the health of our community
  • When the pastors of our churches do all the evangelism and discipleship in our community while our people spectate from their chairs
  • When we seem to be producing “converts” instead of “disciples” in our community
  • When growing our attendance is more important than the spiritual health of the community, and the spiritual health of other churches
  • When most growth in churches today is transfer growth
  • When there is disunity among the churches or ministries in the community
  • When there is no community vision, and no cooperation to see that vision through
  • When we see the other churches as competition, instead of partners in the kingdom of God
  • When each church exists as an isolated island unto itself, and we work within the community as if we are the only church

Which symptoms resonated with you? What would you add to the list?

Why Have A Solemn Assembly

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Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord.
Joel 1:14

The term “solemn assembly” comes from the verse in Joel 1:14. A calamity had befallen Israel—an invasion of locusts. Locusts are a grasshopper-like insect that can be devastating to a region. Swarms can contain millions of locusts. They eat every form of vegetation, including all the crops that people are meant to feed on. Locusts leave behind a barren land: famine, hunger, and devastation. In Joel, God is calling upon Israel to repent. But if they continued in their idolatry, another invasion will come into Israel: a great army. In its wake will be complete devastation.

Therefore, God asked Joel to call a “solemn assembly” in order to gather together in unity, to turn from their wicked ways, and return to God.
In our area, there is another type of calamity: having a plentiful harvest but with a famine of laborers.

Many in my region are unaffiliated with any religion. In the 2010 census, 69% of the people in Lapeer County are unaffiliated with any religion. We have a harvest. The Lord said, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

With so many churches in our area, I wonder, are we truly being effective in our ministry?

The call for a solemn assembly is not a “so we can judge each other” on the lack of action in our county. But it is a call to the Church, and individuals, to pray, repent, and re-consecrate ourselves to the Great Commission Christ has called us to.

It will also be a time of encouragement. When we see each other, multiple churches come together, we will see that we are not alone in our work for the kingdom of God. We will be like-minded, partnered together, striving side-by-side for the gospel. Together, we can impact our communities in ways we could not do it alone. We can work together, to put a dent in that 69% in our county.

I pray you will be there on March 11!

You can find the Facebook event page by going here: www.onechurchlapeer.org

You can download a flyer to print for your church here: Flyer

Solemn Assembly

Towards the end of last year, I was burdened for the community of Lapeer. Looking at the demographics of our city and county, I discovered that many in the population do not attend church. A staggering 69% of the people marked they had no religious affiliation.

With 88,373 people in our county, that means almost 70,000 people are unreached. 6,000 unreached souls live within the Lapeer city limits alone. The harvest is huge; the harvest is white. We need to pray and get to work.

So, I met with local pastors and leaders to discuss how we can work together in order to reach the lost in our communities. We felt the need to call an assembly, a solemn assembly. One in which the churches and the people would come together for prayer, for repentance, and for consecration. Just as our Lord has said, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We will pray for God to send laborers. We will pray that He will prepare the hearts and minds of the lost to receive His gospel. We will repent of our inaction in evangelism. We will consecrate ourselves to being fishers of men as the Lord has called us to be.

There will be worship, prayer, and scripture reading throughout the service, all relating towards evangelism.

We are inviting every Christian in Lapeer County to this solemn assembly. It will take place on Sunday evening, March 11 at 6:30 pm. Hillside Discipleship Church has graciously offered their building for this assembly.

HILLSIDE Discipleship Church
4025 North Lapeer Rd.
Lapeer, Michigan 48446

You can find the Facebook event page by going here: www.onechurchlapeer.org

You can download a flyer to print for your church here: Flyer

Stronger Together

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“Two are better than one…though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12)

It is no secret to Christians that we have an enemy. Paul exhorts us that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Satan and his minions are out to steal, kill, and destroy the kingdom of God, and all who are called by His name. And Satan would love nothing more than to divide us.

Our Lord says, “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” But our history shows we have been a kingdom divided. And one does not need to be a student of history to know we are divided. You only have to look at local churches. Each is exclusively building their own kingdoms. Some even at the expense of other churches in the form of transfer growth. Others function as if they are the only church in town. In other areas, hostility towards one another over doctrines, liturgies, or practices is prevalent. This division only weakens us; incapacitates our mission, witness, and resolve.

Imagine what we could do together. How strong would our communities be if we did come together?

First, our mission could be fulfilled more efficiently. We would reach and affect more people in our communities.

Second, our witness would be illuminated. Our Lord says our discipleship is shown to the world when we love each other.

Thirdly, our resolve will grow. When we are together, we build our confidence. We encourage one another with our works in the community. We become a stabilizing force in our world.

Churches that partner together are stronger together.

Rejoicing & Mourning

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“Two are better than one… if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:9,11

In the last post, I said that troubles would come; it is part of life. If we go about life alone, we are sure never to find comfort when comfort is needed. If we go about life alone, we are certain never to find someone to rejoice with.

As humans, we find comfort when we are within relationships. We create family units: father, mother, and children. We create work units: boss, worker, co-worker, etc. We build spiritual units: elders, mentors, disciples, etc. All of these units highlights our inner need for relationships. This is why God Himself said concerning Adam, “It is not good that man should be alone.” God wanted us to form communal ties.

God wants us to be relational so that we can be there for each other. Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We are to love one another inasmuch we feel the joy that they feel, identify with their sorrow, and also rejoice and mourn with them. This is how God wants the saints to be towards one another. This is the way God wants the churches to relate with one another.

Do you know the people in other churches around you? Do you pray for one another’s needs? Do you know when a saint passes away? Do you know when babies are born, couples are married, or a saint beats cancer?
Do you rejoice when another local church grows? Do you mourn when another closes its doors?

As Christians, we are filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus calls Him the Comforter, the One who comes to help you. This same Spirit resides in us. Would not this same Spirit move us to go alongside our fellow churches in holy relationships to comfort, support, and strive side by side for the gospel?

Churches that partner together are able to rejoice with each other in blessings and mourn with one another in losses.

Helping Each Other

“Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Times of trouble will come. Our Lord says, “In the world, you will have many troubles” (John 16:33). Troubles are unavoidable, and many churches find themselves in it due to low attendance, city ordinances, dissension, building problems, lack of leadership, etc.

A church may have low attendance and are barely making the bills. What will such a church do if one of their own needs help?

A church may experience a fire incident that destroys their building. Where will they hold their services now? Can they rent AND pay their mortgage?

A church has a pastor, who left unexpectedly and accumulated several unpaid bills. Who would they seek assistance from to help them get back on their feet?

A new city ordinance has put pressure on a local church to bring their old building up to code, but they don’t have the finances to comply. How can they stay open if they can’t comply?

Some churches are part of a network of denominations that can help in these situations. But even if the church is part of a network, they still might not have the help needed. Many denominations now are struggling to keep other churches open and might not be able to assist during times of crisis. Also, these networks and denominations sometimes encourage a monochurch culture, seeing their assembly as the only viable and worthwhile church in a given city or area.

In each of the scenarios above, local churches can come to the aid of other local churches in order to keep the kingdom advancing. I am certain you are thinking of ways to help these churches now!

By keeping as many churches as possible open and viable, including ministering to the community, will help the locale in ways unseen by most. By allowing a church to fall, you may be closing the only soup kitchen in the area. Another may be the one ministering to and praying for schools. Others may specialize in helping single mothers get back on their feet. If these churches fall, will the other churches be able to pick up where they left off? Probably not. The community would be hugely affected.

Churches can help each other and their communities more efficiently when partnering together.



See The Kingdom Advance Further

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“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

Here begins a four-part series inspired by John Maxwell’s “Partnership Principles” he highlights in his book, The Power of Partnership in the Church. His focus was on individuals. My attention will be on churches partnering together; that is, to-be co-churches in their communities.

Two are better than one. We see this in the Scriptures played out over and over again:

God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. So He created Eve.

God sent Aaron to Moses to be his right-hand man.

David had Jonathan as a close friend.

Elijah had Elisha washing his hands.

Jesus sent out His disciples two-by-two.

There are many reasons one could guess why God partnered people together. Several are given in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Verse 9 speaks of a greater reward for work. Another translation says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (NLT). When two people come together, they can do twice the work and get the job done faster, or get more return for the extra work. Also, they can strive towards the same goal and help each other succeed in that goal.

Could churches not work the same way?

If two churches come together, their work is multiplied on a huge scale. They can get more done than if they were doing it alone. The one goal every church should have is the kingdom’s advancement. If the goal is the same, why work to build the kingdom only in your own church? Why not work to build the kingdom in both churches? Outreaches and evangelism are great avenues in which churches can partner together.

For example, think about a backpack giveaway to children before school. One church may be able to buy and fill ten backpacks. Another may be able to fill fifty, but the first church wants to be exclusive in their outreach. They will miss an opportunity to not only serve more people in their community but also show the love of Christ in a new way in unity. Isn’t this how Jesus said we would show that we are His disciples: when we love each other? By partnering together, you’ll have a more significant impact in your community—both in the physical and spiritual.

Churches that partner together will see the kingdom advanced further than going alone.

Seek Kingdom

Opera stars were a thing, believe it or not. John Maxwell told this story:

In recent years, opera superstars Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti have enjoyed singing together. They’ve done it frequently, but prior to their first performance the three world-class tenors had never sung together on one stage.
The November 1994 issue of Atlantic Monthly reported that prior to their performance in Los Angeles, a journalist tried to press the issue of competitiveness between the three men. But they quickly disarmed him. “You have to put all of your concentration into opening your heart to the music,” Domingo said. “You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music.”

What a powerful statement. What Domingo said was essentially, we are too busy working on music, the language of the music, the movement of the music, the beauty of the music, that they could not be rivals if they were to perform the best that music can be. Together, they can bring out the best music the world has seen.

Imagine what the Church could do if it had the same mentality. Imagine, if every church was so busy seeking the kingdom of God, living the kingdom of God, and building the kingdom of God, so much that rivalries are not even thought of. If all the churches were truly working for the kingdom of God, there would be no rivalries amongst local churches.

But alas, we are still fallen creatures. We still have pride issues, envy issues. We need to remember the work of Christ in our hearts to weed out these fruit of the flesh and to grow in our spirit fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is a daily sacrifice to live for Christ. It is a daily sacrifice to live in unity in Christ.

Let’s seek out the kingdom of God with such fervency that the lines that divide us blur with our love towards one another.

Have This Mind

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… Php 2:3–5

I believe the key to the Christian life is found within the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Only when the divine is one with man can man even to think to achieve the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

But, this is not a means to boast, being one with the divine. But, it is a means of humility.

Jesus himself, who is one with the Father, united in substance and holiness, did not count his greatness with God has something to keep. Rather, he humbled himself in obedience.

And Paul tells us to have this same mind.

Pastors teach from these verses exhorting their people not to seek their own glory, their own welfare, above anyone else. As Christians, we are too out not only for our own welfare but also the welfare of others.

It is good that pastors teach these Scriptures, they should be taught more often. However, how pastors usually preach (I am guilty of this myself) is to preach service to those in our immediate local fellowship right along with the world that is lost.

In other words, we preach as if we are the only church in our community – we preach as if we are a monochurch.

But our own fellowship is not the only church in our own community. There are other churches, co-churches for the kingdom of God.

We teach each person represents Christ in the world. The Bible also teaches that the church represents Christ in the world too. Just as multiple individuals represent Christ, so too can multiply churches represent Christ.

Each church is to have the mind of Christ! And what is that mind? Paul tells us here in Philippians.

Do nothing from a selfish ambition. What is the ambition of your church? Do you want the largest church in the city? Do you build it at the expense of other local churches through transfer growth?

Do nothing from conceit. Do you speak ill of other pastors, other churches? Do you live within the idea your church is the only church? The only church worth serving the community? Do you use other churches and community events as a means to build your own church? Your own kingdom?

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let each church look not only to their own interests, but also the interests of other churches. Some would say this is impossible. You are right. But with God, all things are possible.

In order for churches to live the divine, incarnation life that Jesus Christ has called us to be, we must look to each other, serve each other, in humility and respect.