Why do churches have so many members who give little or no evidence of Christian commitment or even conversion? Why do many churches find it difficult to motivate members to give, serve, pray, and share their faith?
You don’t have to hang around my friend Mac Lake very long to see it happen. He’ll hear someone share an insight, hit his forehead with the palm of his hand, and say, “Wow! That’s great! Did you all hear that? Would you say that again? I’m going to write this down. You guys should too!”
‘Whatever opposes prayer opposes the whole work of ministry.’ (John Piper)
This has been my experience. When I’m busy doing ‘good things’ I can forget the ‘best thing’ – prayer. It’s not long before those ‘good things’ are getting in the way of God’s work.
When I was in training to be a pastor, I was taught to create a sense of urgency to reach people for Jesus.
I was taught wrong.
I grew up in the Mint City. That may mean nothing to you, but for my small hometown of St. Johns, Michigan, it was a point of pride. At the right time of year, if you drove down the gravel roads with your windows down, you could smell the mint wafting in from the fields. Our town hosted an event called the Mint Festival each summer, complete with a mint-themed parade, gallons upon gallons of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, and (of course) the inauguration of the Mint Queen.
As much as you may enjoy your minty fresh toothpaste or favorite spearmint gum, you probably don’t care one bit about my back-woodsy, rural, hometown and their annual festival.
As an evangelist, people occasionally ask me which Bible verses they should memorize and use when sharing their faith. While there are many great ones to choose from, here’s where I suggest that they start:
Every faithful Christian will endure some level of hardship for the sake of Christ’s name (2 Tim. 3:12; Phil. 1:27; Acts 5:41). In the midst of difficulties, we need motivation to endure. The same is true for church planting. Whether you’re part of a core team hoping to start a new church, a leader of an early church-planting project, or a faithful member of a newly established congregation, you need soul-sustaining hope and inspiration.
You also need realistic expectations. Otherwise, you’ll quickly lose heart.
There has been a lot of talk in recent days about “evangelical” and whether that’s a political or cultural label, a theological label, or inescapably both.
I don’t presume to have the perfectly objective perspective. But let me lay out what I see from my corner, and then tell you the three things I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and fight for.
“You build the altar—God has to bring the fire.”
Listen to Tim Keller and Don Carson discuss times when they have seen revival firsthand and what brought it about. They also consider how revivals spread and why they don’t last forever.
Today I’m off to Ft Worth to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I earned the MDiv and the PhD many years ago. I’m meeting with a task force appointed by Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines on the subject of evangelism. This conversations makes me think of the shift we need today to learn to talk about Jesus in everyday conversations. The gospel alone is the power of God to save and never changes. But we must constantly be growing in our understanding of how to proclaim this gospel in effective ways in our ever-changing world.