Peruse Bible teachings and church happenings
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evangelism / outreach
Next week, we’ll begin a four-day guest speaker series with Kenny Chumbley. Brother Chumbley has a special balance to his preaching that few others achieve: the ability to speak deep, thoughtful truth with clear, understandable simplicity.
There’s an inherent blessing in being able to hear the Gospel spoken by different personalities. In the same way that the different Bible writers’ methods strike chords for different readers, a guest speaker can strike different chords and bestow evergreen insights into the word upon us.
There are a handful of different approaches that people take toward guest speaker events at a church. Here they are, brought out into daylight, for us to consider which is our usual and which is the best approach for us to take to next week’s series:
- We wonder if the speaker “will be any good.” We think that the event’s purpose is to be impressed with a speaker’s ability, and so if he’s great, we consider the event a success. And if not, then we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- We expect that a single event will revive our personal feelings of excitement that we have experienced at special moments of spirituality in the past. And so if that doesn’t happen—if the very next Sunday feels like most other Sundays—then we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- We expect to learn something new that we’ve never heard before. If we do, then it we consider it a success. But if we cover familiar territory and receive well-timed, needed reminders about faithfully living for Christ… we are tempted to think that our time was wasted.
- If the speaker does his work with excellence and we do feel a sense of revival, we start to develop feelings of envy and a desire for more than what we believe our local church can offer us. This sense of comparison steals joy from the event and from the long-term relationships with our local church family.
- But at the end of the day, if the lessons declare the truth, speak it with clarity and reverence for God, help us live more faithfully for God, and speak with sincere love for God and his revealed word… then we’ll know that God is glorified and that our time is well spent.
Events like these should in no way be treated like an exhibition or opportunity for comparison. We should come to this like any occasion where the word of God is preached: with our hearts open wide to receive the truth as revealed by one of God’s servants.
I can’t wait to share these times of learning and worship with you!
- Dan Lankford, minister
On Wednesday night, we heard a lesson by the title you see above. It was the plain and powerful reminder that while our lives are limited to time, our choices can affect eternity both for us and for others. So, if we want to have an eternal impact, there are four things that we must do:
Believe courageously. Paul said that the most important thing that we can attain to is the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:7-17), and so we must forget what lies behind and strain forward toward that eternal goal, believing all along the way in the one person who has already been resurrected and perfected—Jesus, our Lord.
Love impartially. In James’ letter, believers are given a straightforward warning against showing partiality to others (Jas. 2:1-9). We must love all people in the same way that Christ would love them—seeing that they are a soul with the same greatest need as ourselves: to attain to the resurrection of the dead.
Pray fervently. Several New Testament passages could be referenced to teach us that the power to convert hearts and change the world does not come from within ourselves, and so we should pray to God seriously and frequently for his power to continue to work in his good world.
Speak consistently. Making an eternal impact means continually sharing the gospel with others, because their eternity depends on their having authentic, obedient faith in Christ.
The activities of our workaday lives matter a great deal, but let’s not let the immediate overshadow the importance of the eternal.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Eph. 4:11-13)
In the church, who is supposed to do the work of teaching children, caring for older saints, counseling young married couples, praying with sick people, evangelizing our community, showing hospitality, giving to the poor, helping new saints arrive & get settled and feel welcome among us, taking food to those who are grieving, and many other related activities? Is it the preacher? The preacher’s wife? The elders? Their wives? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to be doing the work of ministry?
The passage quoted above makes it clear that all Christians are meant to do these works of ministering to others. Obviously, that includes preachers and their wives, elders and their wives… but it includes them simply because they are Christians and ministry is all Christians’ work.
A capable and passionate group of church leaders can accomplish a lot. But a passionate church can accomplish so much more together, and that’s what the Spirit would have us to be. We should all be doing the work of ministry—caring for each other, guiding others to closer fellowship with Christ, and reaching out. Ministry isn’t just what happens in the church building or in our assemblies, so look for opportunities where you can serve as a Christian this week.
- Dan Lankford, minister
I sincerely hope that you enjoyed our time this past weekend with Dennis & Benita Allan. I enjoyed it, and I was greatly encourage by them. Here are just a few of my reflections on the event:
- First, I was encouraged by your interest in the presentation about Brazil on Saturday. It did my heart good to know that so many among us are concerned with the state of the church in other parts of the world. That’s a characteristic of Christians that we share with our earliest brothers and sisters in the faith — the saints from Jerusalem, Corinth, Galatia, and Antioch who sent care and aid to their brothers and sisters at various times all throughout the New Testament. Let’s keep praying for the Allans and for our Brazilian brothers and sisters.
- Second, I was actually encouraged by thinking about how long it can take for God’s kingdom to grow. Hearing our brother describe the wonderful numbers of people who’ve become Bible-believing Christians, and then in the next breath hearing him say that those represent such a tiny fraction of all the contacts that they make, and then hearing the general sense throughout his talk that there is every intention of persevering in the work of discipling the Brazilian people… It all reminded me that we have every reason to be evangelistic—to keep teaching others, even if it seems like we are getting few conversions or little interest. Because the word of God does work to change people’s hearts, and so we—Christ’s faithful ones—will continue to serve him faithfully by sharing the good news over and over and over again. Because it can take a long time for God’s kingdom to grow in this world, but it will grow.
- “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:14-16)
- Third, I was tremendously encouraged by the sermons that our brother presented. He pointed us to the word and then humbly stepped aside so that we could see its truth clearly. And more than that, he subtly reminded us of the importance of the whole of God’s word by bringing us lessons from Old Testament passages which we otherwise might rarely contemplate. There are rich lessons to be learned from the moments when someone tears the clothes in the Bible, from the ending(s) of Judges, and from something as simple as the number of ox carts that God assigned to a group. And I’m glad that we had someone to shine the light on those for us.
Now that we’ve all got a little bit more personal connection with the Allans, I hope that you will feel an increased interest in the work that they do and that you will include them regularly in your prayers. If you’d like to share his lessons with others, you can find them on our website. Thanks to our elders for putting together this opportunity for all of us to hear and grow.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In the decades just before and after the turn of the twentieth century, Western believers of all types felt a strong urge to teach the gospel all over the world. Mission organizations sprang up, congregations commissioned members to go overseas and plant churches, and religious colleges poured vast amounts of energy and funding into training missionaries.
And throughout that era, many hymns were written give voice to Christians’ passion for turning the world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6). Many of these hymns are still sung among Churches of Christ. A few examples: The Gospel Is For All (1921), Bringing In The Sheaves (1874), If Jesus Goes With Me (1908), and Send the Light (1890). The last one in that list has a meaningful connection to the apostle Paul’s calling to bring the gospel to Macedonia (cf. Acts 16:6-10). Coupling the account from Acts with the lyrics of the hymn reminds us that the world needs help. ALL people—both near and far—need the gospel because we need God to save us from our sins.
This weekend, we’re going to hear our brother Dennis tell how our Christian family members in Brazil are living out their mission to share the truth of the Word in their country. As we listen to presentations like these, we would do well to think about more than just the cultural differences that we will inevitably notice between our lives and theirs. We sometimes tend toward thinking that our fellow saints live lesser lives if they live in poverty or if their cultural norms are different than ours. But we need to remember that the richness of faith in Christ is not determined by any level of wealth, education, comfort, or modernization. The Gospel didn’t come first among American culture, and there are plenty of people who are living it out richly (in many cases, more richly than we are) in their own varied cultures around the world today. We need to remember that the higher realities of salvation, fellowship, and holiness are true beyond the scope of time and place and culture. On Saturday, we’ll be hearing about people who are our brothers & sisters—people who share our faith. And we will do well to be grateful for [and often to learn from] their example of love for our Lord and faithfulness to him.
Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in other countries that they will continue to grow and thrive in their faith. Let’s pray the same things for us. And let’s be sure to think with the higher ideals of Christians as we do that. We’re looking forward to hearing about the Christian mission to share the Gospel of Christ in Brazil, and it’s my prayer that we are aware of how powerfully God works when his people send the light.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt. 10:16)
When Jesus sent out his apostles to teach the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he gave the admonition quoted above, and it’s a very provocative way to make the point. Snakes have a fierceness about them that manifests in their ability to get into tight spots and exploit the weaknesses of their prey. More than just ruthless hunters, they’re very clever. But on the other side of the coin you have doves, who do no harm to anything or anyone. It’s a wonderful ideal for Jesus’ apostles: a group of men, delivering a message that would reshape the world, and doing it with both the unassailability of truth and the sincerity of truly caring for the eternal condition of others.
How do we engage the world like with that same balanced approach? How can we “tear down strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4) and also become “all things to all men” so that we might save them (1 Cor. 9:22)?
It starts with speaking the truth. In the modern world, this is where most believers go wrong. We are often gentle as doves, but not wise enough to tell people the hard truths they need to hear. We must be willing to say, “That’s not right. You shouldn’t do that. You can’t be saved or find true joy in anything other than Jesus.” And then, once we’ve learned to speak the truth, we can start mastering the art of dove-like gentleness. And if we do that, then people will hear and they will turn toward Christ, just as when they heard his apostles teach.
When we can put those two ideals together, we’ll not only convict the world of their sin—we’ll turn their hearts toward the God who will save them.
- Dan Lankford, minister
All of the company’s senior executives were at the board room table, and they were discussing how they could outpace the growth of a competitor. The competitor had surged into their industry and was expanding rapidly, opening multiple new locations every month and on trend to vastly out-sell them. And so the board members were intent on growing bigger before their competitor could. Until the CEO spoke up. Having sat quietly at the far end of the room for awhile, he started banging his fist on the table until he had everyone’s attention, and then he said simply, “I don’t want to hear about how to make this company bigger. I want us to talk about how to make it better. If we get better, customers will demand we get bigger.”
The wisdom in that simple statement is profound, and it applies in some way to every human enterprise, whether we have customers or not. And it’s true of a church too. If we continually try to make it better, it will bet bigger. If our Bible classes offer rich insights into the Word and relevant guidance for life, people will see the value in that and come to hear it. If our group worship leads them to open their hearts individually to powerfully perceive God’s glory, they will see the value in that and come to experience it. If our preaching enlivens people’s minds and invigorates their hearts to want to serve God better, they will understand the value of that and come to hear it. If our fellowship demonstrates the power and joy of relationships, outreach, generosity, and brotherly love; they will perceive the value of that and engage with it too.
That’s why church growth is always primarily about spiritual growth. It’s about us continually getting better at what we do to serve God, and a group that does that will inevitably grow. It worked that way in the first century, and I believe that it still will today.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
- Dan Lankford, minister
My reflections on Christianity in Mozambique, based on Sunday's presentation by one of our elders.
Whenever I hear about missions work—the efforts of devoted men & women who give their time and effort to taking the gospel into places where knowledge of it is scarce, I'm encouraged.
- I’m encouraged by remembering that salvation by faith in Christ is for everyone, whether they live in wealth or poverty.
- I’m encouraged to see every person as a soul whose greatest need is salvation in Jesus. I’m encouraged to remember that every person is precious because they are made in God’s image and are his child.
- I’m encouraged that people see the value of teaching the truth about God, and they will do so even when only one person has a Bible.
- I'm encouraged that God is making a way for people to learn his word in spite of corruption and evil in human polities and governments.
- I’m encouraged—thanks to the pictures shown Sunday—to have seen the faces of some of our brothers and sisters in our faith. They are people with whom we may share little by way of customs or birthplace or language or economic station… but with whom we share the most important thing: our faith in the God of Heaven & Earth.
The Gospel is for all people, and it's a great blessing when we who know it can find ways to go and share it in places where it has been unknown. Rod's Sunday comments about the lack of Bibles remind us how fortunate we are to have it and to live in a place where universal literacy means that all who care to can read the words of God in our own language. We're reminded how fortunate we are to have people near to us who can teach the word well. We're reminded how fortunate we are to be so economically blessed. And we're reminded how important it is that all people are given the opportunity to learn the good news of our lord and savior Jesus Christ.
So, here are two pieces of practical advice as we think about all of that. 1) Pray for our brothers and sisters in Mozambique to remain faithful and to grow in wisdom and understanding of God's word as they serve him. And 2) think through your life and what you have that could be a blessing to others. Can you set aside time to evangelize in our community? Can you donate money to a mission or faithful charity that you believe in? Can you write a letter to encourage a missionary in another part of the country or the world? Can you make a visit to another place in the country or the world to work alongside those who labor to convert outsiders and to build up the church of Jesus Christ? Think about it, pray about it, and decide how you will help the word of God continue to increase and prevail mightily (Acts 19:20).
- Dan Lankford, minister
When Paul had his opportunity to speak in Athens' great academic forum—the Areopagus—he displayed the quintessential balance of tact and conviction. And we would do well to learn both of those characteristics for our own dealings with the world.
His tact is demonstrated (as brother Truex pointed out in one of his lessons last Sunday) in the "common ground" approach that gave credit to the Athenians' evident religious bent. He didn't immediately castigate them for their idolatry; he acknowledged their pursuit of religious things and their enthusiasm for learning new things. Please do not misunderstand: Paul's approach did not involve watering down the gospel message or hiding its hard truths (see the next paragraph), but he approached his audience with the courtesy of understanding their starting point and guiding them toward Christ with gentleness. And we will have plenty of opportunities to do the same: to be gentle and patient as we share our faith with outsiders and lead them to a saving knowledge of Christ.
But tact, while it is a healthy manifestation of godly wisdom (remember: "Be cunning as serpents and gentle as doves." Mt. 10:16), can turn into cowardice when its goodness is over-extended. If we are too fearful of upsetting someone with the hard truths of the gospel, we'll only be preaching a half-strength gospel to them. But we dare not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because we know that it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (cf. Rom. 1:16). And we must not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God (cf. Acts 20:27), both to seasoned believers who know it well and to those who have never heard it. Paul spoke unapologetically about repentance and the resurrection, even if it turned away much of the crowd (Acts 17:30-31), and we must not compromise conviction or let an excessive devotion to social convention stop us from teaching about Christ, repentance from sin, and the judgment to come.
I assume (Perhaps wrongly. If so, please forgive me.) that many who read this will think themselves unable to balance these two ideas because we believe it to be an innate skill—something that some people have and others simply don't. But that's not so. It is a skill, like all others, for which some people are naturally gifted, but which anyone can learn and improve upon. All of us can learn to take this healthy track when sharing the gospel, and all of us should be working on the skill so that can become better and better at reaching others with the truth of the Gospel.
And finally, let us never forget why this balance of tact and conviction matters: because we want others to know the blessings and the joy of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. If we can grow our abilities to teach them, then they will be blessed and God will be glorified.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The devastation that hurricanes cause never fails to amaze the human race, and with good reason. These powerful storms remind us of our mortality, our fragility, and our diminutive nature in comparison with God's created world; not to mention how small we are in comparison to God himself. Hopefully, these times of large-scale destruction also cause us to ponder life's realities. They are like the "house of mourning" that Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 talks about: they show us lessons and compel us to take them to heart.
Stories always seem to emerge in the aftermath of hurricanes of people who heard the warnings and yet elected not to evacuate. Typically (although not always), they have been told multiple times that they are in the "cone of uncertainty," and they have been advised or even ordered to leave for their own safety. And yet, for whatever reasons, they remain. The possibility is present that they will face the storm, and yet, in spite of the possible bad outcomes and in spite of the warnings, they stay. And of course, there are always some stories of those who have made that choice and paid for it with their lives.
This writing is not meant to reflect on the morality of that choice; that is beyond the scope of Biblical instruction and this writer's ability. However, the varied responses to a storm do give us ample fodder to think about the varied responses to the Gospel message of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come (Acts 24:25).
Have we, the whole human race, been warned of the coming storm of judgment when life on Earth is over? Yes. God is clear that it is appointed for man to die once and then the judgment will come (Heb. 9:27). And in contrast to the predictions of storms, it's not a possibility that each of us will endure this storm: it's guaranteed. So how do humans respond? How will people respond when we—the people of God—repeatedly proclaim the warnings about the coming judgment? Some people will respond and will follow God's plan for redemption in Christ. But some will choose to remain in their sins despite what is coming for them. And while we fear for them and pray for them to make a better choice, in the final analysis, if we have faithfully proclaimed the warnings, then it is between each one and his God as to how he weathers the storm of judgment.
And so we continue to evangelize. And we continue to pray for the souls of men to be saved by Jesus. And we continue in the knowledge that the storm of judgment will come for each of us at the end of life on Earth. Are we ready? Are we helping to save others?
- Dan Lankford, minister