Posts Tagged ‘pastors’

The title may seem counterproductive and even in opposition to what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19-20. In Mark 16:15 Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation. The Greek word used for “preach” is kēryssō, and means to publish or proclaim openly something which has been done. And in Matthew 28 the Greek word used for “make disciples” is mathēteuō, and means to teach. (Notice Jesus did not say to make converts, but disciples)

And yet in all cases where the apostles “preached” the gospel or made “disciples” there is not one instance of any of them inviting an unbeliever into the Temple or a “Home Church” in order to hear the gospel preached by others so they could be saved.

We are commanded to—openly proclaim something which has been done for us; AND to make disciples—teach others about the Jesus we know and who saved us. WE—not the preacher or minister at our church—WE are to go.

I have heard many say that they invite unbelievers to church services so that they can hear the gospel. I say that they need to repent of their laziness and proclaim the gospel themselves.

The role of the pastor is to to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12)  And also to give instruction in sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9) Nowhere does the Bible teach or even allude to the pastor having the responsibility of preaching the gospel to unbelievers—-that’s our job. The pastor’s job is to equip US; so that WE can go into the world and proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

In Haggai 2: 12-14 we read, ’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:12-14)

Let me put it this way: If you were recently showered and smelled fresh and clean, and attempted to hug a skunk—would the skunk smell fresh because of you, or would you begin to stink from the skunk? And if you were healthy and went to visit someone who had a contagious disease—would your healthiness make the sick person well, or would you become sick from the disease?

Christians today have this idea that if they invite an unbelieving friend to a church service and at the end of the service, their friend walks down in front of the congregation and parrots some prayer, that they have done their part. But the actions of some can sometimes be deceiving.

In Acts 8:13-24 Simon Magus professed to believe, and was baptized, yet he was declared to be in the bonds of iniquity. In Matthew 7:21 we read, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Many complain about how weak the Church has become. The reason is simple. First we invited unbelievers to worship with us a God that they don’t believe in; Then we wanted to make them feel more like part of us and accepted, so we invited them to join the choir, or teach Sunday school, or work in the nursery; And before we knew it, they were preaching doctrines of demons from our own pulpits!

In 1Corinthians 15:33 we read, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” And that is exactly what has happened in many congregations after inviting unbelievers into their church services.

I don’t know of any parent who would allow someone they don’t know anything about to care for their child—and yet, many people drop off their children to the church nursery or Sunday school class without knowing anything about the person watching over their children, or what they’re teaching them.

By now I know that there are many reading this who are shouting at their computer screen about the many people who were saved because they invited them to a church service.

I do believe that God can draw unbelievers into a church service by His spirit and get them saved right then and there. But I also believe that God’s spirit is not limited to only reaching people in a church service. I know of people who were saved at rock concerts—one at a Led Zeppelin concert, the other at a Black Sabbath concert! Many more have been saved from talking to Christians on the street, at work and at homeless shelters.

I am not suggesting that we post guards at the doors of our churches to test people for salvation. For even the apostle Paul was sensitive to the unbeliever who may be in the midst of the believing congregation:

“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” – 1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Paul assumes that there exists a possibility of unbelievers in the midst of our church services, but nowhere does he advocate believers inviting them.

So how should we behave toward unbelievers? 

Should we like them? Hate them? Tolerate them? Do we act like them when we aren’t in Christian company? Or do we snub them if we don’t agree with their lifestyle?

Some Christians think that being kind to unbelievers is like throwing pearls before swine and declare how sinful unbelievers are. Others just don’t care one way or another…But shouldn’t we still be concerned about their salvation?

The Bible is very specific about how we as Christians, are to conduct ourselves toward the unbeliever: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

God wants us to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward unbelievers. First and foremost, we need to keep focus on the cross of Christ. Because the sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, forgiven us our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us. As we were once against God in our unbelief, God was gracious and kind to us. Because of that, we are able to be kind to others who don’t yet know Him.

It seems to me that the apostle Paul was more concerned about the sinfulness inside the Church than he was about unbelievers:

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Yes, we want to reach out to the world. Yes, we want to touch the world. Yes, we want to lead them to Christ. But we have to stop short of a full acceptance of their lifestyle which could lead to a spiritual disaster—for them and for us.

So let us go beyond the church walls, go out quickly to the streets of the city—to the “poor and crippled and blind and lame”, and  proclaim to them the gospel. THEN invite them to your church so that they can be discipled. Do this, and you will fulfill the great commission of our Lord.

There have been few things more damaging to the church’s witness than how it has handled moral failure among its leaders. Not simply that there has been moral failure – that is damaging enough – but how it is then handled by the church. Too many times it has simply added to the pain and disdain. Whether pedophiles, serial adulterers, or those who misuse church authority and discipline, headlines and blogs are filled with outrage and indignation over not simply the acts, but the church’s response. So why do so many churches bungle moral failure among leaders?

Many churches today are experiencing numbers that are declining and conflict within itself because its leaders exercise a level of authority over the members that Jesus himself urged not to be so. This has resulted in members becoming frustrated and apathetic about their role in the body of Christ.

A wise man once said, “If you’re a leader and no one is following, you’re just out for a walk.” Success rises and falls with leadership. A church leader must be involved with his or her people. If involvement does not take place, the Church will not grow. I have seen too many instances where leaders have become more concerned with authority, power and control than how they can be a servant and true shepherd to the people who are a part of their flock. Members become frustrated; they don’t really feel that their opinions really matter because they have no say in what happens.

The most dangerous leader in churches is the person, who by reason of insecurity or lack of leadership skills, demands a particular level of authority and control over the church that was never intended. In fact, Jesus prohibited the use of this kind of authority. Anytime you hear people talk about “not speaking against God’s anointed,” watch out! Just because a person is a church leader does not qualify them as God’s anointed! If you have used those words, please consider what it might mean. God may very well call a man to a special office and give him a special anointing to carry out that office. But the role of the pastor is to be a shepherd who leads, and not one who drags the flock, or pushes them. Yes, they may need to spiritually prod according to God’s Word, but never are they instructed to Lord over the flock. (I Peter 5:3)

Who’s voice are you listening to?

True leadership is about influence, not authority. As Jesus said, “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-5)

When sheep hear a shepherd’s voice they know it will lead them to cool waters, green pastures and his protection at night. They know their shepherd “goes on ahead of them.” He doesn’t drive them like cattle. It’s interesting that right after Jesus said those words in John 10 about shepherding, John commented on the fact that “Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.” (v6) Sadly, too many leaders today don’t understand it either. If you’re a pastor and wondering why you seem to be embroiled in constant conflict and your members don’t seem to be following you, Jesus gives the answer: “They don’t know your voice!”

We need to know Him

There are two Greek words for “know”. The word “ginosko” speaks of a surface knowledge, a simple understanding. But the other word “horad” speaks of a deep, intimate knowledge. I have many friends and neighbors who “know” (ginosko) me, but my wife really “knows” (horad) me. She has a deep, intimate knowledge of me that very few other people have.

The first century Church had this deep, intimate knowledge of God and grew at breakneck speed. Yet at the same time, the level of personal care and love for their fellow believers grew also. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. ” (Acts 4:32-35)

Can the same be said of the Church today? Are we growing, both spiritually and numerically, as the early Church did? Sadly, in most cases, no. So back to my original question, “What has happened to the Church today?”

The problem is that too many people have only two ideologies about the Church today. If your ideology is worldly, you’ll have a set of core values that are probably pretty warped, and focused on the pleasures you can receive in life, reflected in your beliefs, actions and experiences.

The other option is having an ideology of the Church as an institution. For too many people their ideology of the Church has changed from the Church as the body of Christ, to the Church as an institution. If your ideology is the Church as an institution, the core values that you develop will eventually lead to overpowering controlling leaders, negative atmospheres, declining numbers, maintaining the status quo and uninvolved members who are content to sit through stiff and lifeless worship services. You’ve seen it. You might even be experiencing it right now.

So what’s the answer? We need to get our focus, our ideology, back to Jesus, our Messiah. When we do, our core values will change. We will begin to value serving others, living to please God, and understanding that we have been uniquely gifted for ministry. We will begin to see the Church as one body, and not as just belonging to our own particular denomination. Our worship will take on a whole new meaning, our involvement will become a natural expression of our desire to please God, and our leadership will become focused on shepherding a body of believers rather than managing them.

Once our focus comes back in line where it needs to be, our churches will no longer be a diverse group of denominations, but we will truly be on our way to true revival and becoming the Church that God intended!