Ardent Cries

Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

Gospel

May 4, 2011

Do we Do the Gospel?

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(By: Nick Kennicott)

Do we do or live the gospel, or do we do or live out the implications of the gospel?

Christian Living,Ecclesiology

June 30, 2010

The Benefits of Small Groups

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(By David Giarrizzo)

[Disclaimer: The following post is not intended to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject of small group studies. I acknowledge that many churches practice small groups and many others do not; there are varying opinions about small groups in every church. Therefore, I do not intend to directly build a case for or against small groups; nor do I intend to propose a specific methodology. Instead, my intention is to outline some of the potential benefits that small groups can have on an individual and a congregation when done correctly. My description of small groups and their benefits is based simply upon my personal observations of and experiences with small groups at Grace Covenant Church and elsewhere.]


C.J. Mahaney wrote in Why Small Groups: Together Toward Maturity (1996), “Since the mid-1970s, the church in America has been fascinated with small groups.” It’s true—small groups have thrived across the landscape of American Evangelicalism for years. I remember when I used to work in a Christian bookstore, there was an entire room devoted to small group curriculum and study guides. Every day it was a popular part of the store. The material found on the shelves there ranged from study guides for every book of the Bible to material we might hear Dr. Phil discussing on his show. While some of the small group helps out there that are doctrinally sound, there are plenty more books that lack the same theological accuracy. (More on that another time!) The reality is, however, that small groups are a vital part of the ministry of many American churches.

In my mind, the concept of small groups is simple. I think of a small group as is an identifiable, regular, and deliberate gathering of people (usually 12 or less?) from within the larger congregation who meet together to study God’s Word, pray, practice their spiritual gifts, and fellowship for the purpose of spiritual growth. Small groups come in different shapes and sizes. Some might refer to their small group as a “Care Group;” others simply call it a “Wednesday Night Bible Study.” Some small groups are organized by geographic proximity; others are designed to be age-specific or geared towards a specific stage of life (college & career, young married’s, new parents, etc.). But regardless of the names of the small groups or the way they are comprised, in most churches, the basic components of small groups are the same: Time in the Word, a time in prayer, and a time of discussion and fellowship. When done correctly, I think the ministry of small groups offers a variety of important benefits for the individual believer and the local church.

Below I have outlined what I believe to be some of the primary benefits of small groups.

Bible Study—One of the most important and beneficial aspects of small groups are when they are used to confront us with the powerful Word of God. Small groups become less and less useful the further away they stray from the Bible. Conversely, only when the small group curriculum or study material or subject matter is founded firmly upon God’s Word can we derive the best and most practical applications for living godly lives (Matthew 7:24).

Conviction & Encouragement—When a small group is rooted in Scripture, God will work through the means of the lessons and study times to convict and encourage by His Word. Additionally, small groups can provide a setting for mutual accountability and discipleship; a place where we can “spur one another on” in our sanctification (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Prayer—Martin Luther is attributed with saying, “As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” Prayer isn’t reserved for Sunday morning worship or Sunday evening prayer meetings or meal-time thanks. As believers, we should gather to pray as often as possible; the more opportunities we have for corporate intercession the better. Small groups offer the benefit of mid-week prayer opportunities—to share our requests, rejoice in each other’s praises, and join our hearts in prayer to God.

Spiritual Gifts—The local church is the place where Christians are able to practice their spiritual gifts to the glory of God and the good of their brethren. Small groups offer wonderful opportunities for the exercising of the spiritual gifts of teaching, hospitality, and encouragement, just to name a few (Romans 12). For example, small groups provide the setting for a believer who has the gift of teaching to use that gift to edify others who sit in the living room of someone who is exercising their gift of hospitality. Additionally, as the members of the church use their gifts to bless one another through small groups, some may find other avenues for using their spiritual gifts.

Evangelism—Because of their less-formal structure and setting, small groups offer a wonderful occasion for reaching out to unsaved friends and neighbors. All too often this opportunity to serve and communicate Gospel truths to our unbelieving friends is overlooked. Small groups provide more of a conversational atmosphere than most church services and thus provide opportunities for the unconverted to listen to God’s Word being taught and interact with it in a personal way. Those of us in present and future small groups should take note of this important opportunity to reach the lost with the love of Christ.

Fellowship—Finally, small groups offer just another opportunity to relate to our spiritual siblings. Small groups should support the idea of the church as a large family. Small groups encourage peace and love and encouragement and growth. Fellowship is an action that is facilitated within the small group setting through verbal discussion and corporate prayer. I like what J.I. Packer wrote about the topic of fellowship:

“We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament: it denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health, and central to the church’s true life…The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship.” (God’s Words, Baker Academic, 1998, p.193)

By way of summary, may we be reminded of what our confession states in chapter 26:

Each church and all its members are obligated to pray constantly for the good and prosperity of all Christ’s churches everywhere, and to help forward everyone who comes into their district or calling, by the exercise of their gifts and graces. It clearly follows that when churches are planted by the goodness of God they ought also to hold fellowship among themselves to promote peace, increasing love and mutual edification as and when they enjoy an opportunity to do so to their advantage.” -LBCF (1689)

Here we see the description of a unified, loving, and serving family of believers who are engaged in active and mutual encouragement, be it through Bible studies, small groups, discipleship meetings, or just regular times of fellowship. May we seek to emulate this kind of Christian living in our local churches.

(There are surely other benefits of small groups that I have not listed here. Please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below. I hope to soon follow up on this post with another to discuss the potential dangers that small groups can pose to believers. Stay tuned!)

ARBCA

April 25, 2010

David Vaughn on “A Church Consumed with God’s Great Commission”

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(By: John Miller)

Thursday night, April 22nd, the 2010 ARBCA General Assembly ended with a wonderful crescendo as David Vaughn, an ARBCA church planting missionary in France, spoke to us about seven elements that are necessary for a church to be consumed with God’s Great Commission. At the beginning of the General Assembly we were not even sure if David Vaughn would be able to be with us, due to the grounding of air travel in Europe. But the Lord answered our prayers in bringing him safely to Greenville, South Carolina by Wednesday so that he could exhort us on Thursday night. The following is a summary of his exhortations: Our churches must have…

1. Clear Vision

We must have a clear vision of the message and call of God in the Scriptures, and through our study of the Old Testament and the New Testament, we find that there is a “double-center.” In Luke 24:45-47, we read how Jesus taught his disciples from the Old Testament Scriptures, saying, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” We see that not only is message of the Old Testament that Jesus is the Messiah, but also that Jesus is sending his disciples into all the world to proclaim his glorious gospel of grace. As David Vaughn said, “The Old Testament is not only Messianic, it is missional.” Missions is not just one of the activities of the church. All activities of the church are attached to mission, because we are a sent people. In redemptive history, the church is in the day of proclaiming the glory of God in Jesus Christ to the nations!

2. Real Dependence

In Mark 1:17, we read of Jesus calling his disciples, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” How will we become fruitful in evangelism and zealous for the souls of men? It will only happen by the supernatural power of God on high! We must struggle with God, coming before God and evaluating ourselves concerning our evangelism. How often do we pray for the Lord to give us boldness in witness by the Spirit’s power? We need to repent of our sinful silence and ask God to open our mouths!

3. Vital Spirituality

In 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9, we read that the church in Thessalonica was a model of a missionary working church, with their faith in Christ sounding forth from them to all the world around them. What was their missionary zeal rooted in? It was rooted in a vital spirituality, as evidenced by Paul’s commendation in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3. Paul thanked the Lord for the Thessalonians, specifically their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” All missionary work flows out of faith, hope, and love.

4. Ongoing Evangelistic Preaching by the Pastors

In Acts 20:20, we read that Paul preached to gospel both “in public and from house to house.” Paul had a zeal to preach the gospel in both formal and informal situations, and we should follow his example. David Vaughn encouraged pastors not to forget our spiritual forefathers who made it a practice to preach specially focused evangelistic messages. Concerning informal situations, Dr. Cornelius Van Til was known to frequently conduct open air preaching. When it comes to formal situations, it was the practice of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to have one purely evangelistic service every week. Not only did he usually have an evangelistic message on Sunday evenings, but he would preach evangelistic sermons two to three times during the week as well. To paraphrase what Lloyd-Jones’ wife said about him, she said: “If you want to understand my husband, you must understand that first of all, he was a man of prayer. And secondly, he was an evangelist!” Let us, as pastors, have such an evangelistic heart and practice.

5. Congregational Contact with the World

The whole congregation is to be involved in living as a witness for Jesus Christ. And the is to be done in all of life. One of the most effective means that God uses to draw people to the truth and to the church is through informal social contact. Our people must be in the world! After all, Jesus was the friend of sinners. How often do you have non-Christians friends around your dinner table?

6. Worldwide Outlook and Orientation

Jesus authoritatively sends out his church to ALL NATIONS! Therefore, our local churches must have a vision for the nations. What does having a worldwide outlook mean? Well, one thing it means is that visitors to your church will be struck by that fact that the church is talking about different peoples, groups, and nations – concerned to pray for them and reach them with the gospel. Do you have a prayer meeting regularly for missions? Pastors, do you pray for the unreached peoples in the world in your pastoral prayers? Do you have a missions conference in your church? Do you teach your children the importance of learning a foreign language, that they may take the gospel to other lands? Or is your vision and outlook to small? May God grant to us and our churches a worldwide outlook!

7. Self-Denial

Missionary work advances through self-denial. As Paul said to the Ephesian elders, “And now behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:22-24). Paul was willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel, so that he wrote the Corinthians, saying, “So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). We need to cultivate a strong culture of self-denial in our churches. C. T. Studd, one of the St. Andrews Seven who was a missionary to China, India, and Africa, had a body that was racked with pain and disease. As he was heading to Africa, he responded to someone who was discouraging him from going by saying, “If I die, may my tombstone be a stepping stone to other younger men to go farther!” He was a man who was not afraid to deny himself, for he was confident in his Savior who had died for him. As Studd states, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” May we be faithful, true, and bold soldiers of the cross!

Evangelism,Recommendation,Websites

January 20, 2010

Haiti and Man’s Most Important Need

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For updated information from the front lines of Gospel-driven relief efforts, please visit http://gbcpapillion.org/haiti/. Also, please consider making a donation to this cause via this link.

(REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)


(By David Giarrizzo)

As I watch the video footage streaming in from disaster-stricken Haiti and read about the terrible plight of its people, my heart breaks for them. As I write these words, morbid thoughts of dead and dying people flood my mind: men and women, infants and aged trapped beneath piles of rubble, striving to breathe, unable to move, completely helpless; many dead, many dying, and we pray still for many to be saved. I am reminded of the words of Job in Job 30:24-25

Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand,
and in his disaster cry for help?
Did not I weep for him whose day was hard?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?”


A Planet in Peril

A simple web search of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, using Google Maps shows a world of devastation: cracks in the earth, buildings broken and crumbled, shipment containers in the bay—all visible signs of a powerful quake beneath an unstable island. As a society we have come up with terms for these kinds of events: “natural disasters” or “Mother Nature’s fury” or even, “the effects of Global Warming.” But as believers, we have a different understanding of events like the earthquake in Haiti.

We have all heard the news media call Earth, “a planet in peril.” Sadly, this is a true statement; however not in a geological sense, but a spiritual one. Earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis: these are the effects of the Fall. Disasters are not natural because death is not natural. Death came with the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. We know from Romans 5:12 that death came as a consequence of sin. Therefore, the death of men—in any quantity, small or large—should remind us as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are all sinners in need of salvation, dead men in need of eternal life (Romans 3:23). The Bible clearly teaches that natural men who are dead in their trespasses and sin are under the holy condemnation of the Almighty God and are merely vessels of His wrath (Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8, 9; 9:22). Thus, this world is indeed a planet in peril!

Enter the Gospel of Christ.

What an analogy we are presented with, aren’t we?—Helpless people trapped in dire situations while rescuers seek to help them out of their present conditions with God all the while directing the rescuers’ efforts. This sounds like Gospel missions!

There is only one hope for dead sinners; it is Jesus Christ. Just as Lazarus would have never walked out of his tomb but for the divine power of God calling him out (John 11), so sinful man will never know life eternal without the power of God effectually drawing him out of his sinful condition, giving him a new heart, and breathing new life into him. Because Christ is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), spiritually dead men have hope.


Our Part

As believers, we have a responsibility to take the Good News to all people (Mark 16:15). If Christ is the answer to the most basic problem of man (sin), then those of us who have been bought by Christ’s blood have an obligation tell others about our Savior. This is the best thing any of us can do when earthquakes and hurricanes come. Let us point people to the cross of Christ for their salvation.

We pray for the people in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti, for God to comfort the mourning and call sinners to repentance. We pray for the Lord to send teams of rescuers to find and save those who still survive. We pray for their safety as they travel to Haiti to sift through the rubble, as they seek the living, heal the hurting, and bury the dead. We pray that the Lord will give them strength and stamina and great success in their mission. And most importantly, we pray for the Gospel to go forth in Haiti and throughout the rest of the world through Haiti’s calamity. May we as disciples of the one-and-only Messiah be faithful to preach the truth with hearts full of loving concern for sinners destined for Hell.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
(Romans 10:17)

While the unbelieving world observes a disaster such as this and asks “What?” and “How?” and “Why?”, let us boldly acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the midst of a saddened and confused society (Amos 3:6). Let us acknowledge all of the attributes of God as we seek to provide answers for the wondering, searching masses of people looking for answers to the world’s problems. As Christians we have the answers through Jesus Christ and the written Word (2 Timothy 3:16). May we humbly and diligently share the love of God and the mercy of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to the lost and dying world.


For related thoughts on the earthquake in Haiti, see these recent posts.


Follow this link to donate to a Gospel-driven relief effort based in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor.


If you have serious questions about God and His role in the earthquake in Haiti, please take a moment to read this helpful article by Rev. Albert Mohler.


Additionally, let us join together as the universal Body of Christ and seek the Lord in prayer on behalf of the people of this hurting country. May many come to know Christ through this catastrophe.


Christian Living,apologetics

January 14, 2010

Think About It!

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(By David Giarrizzo)

Unfortunately the saying is true: “Common sense is not so common.” We see this all over the place—on the news, on the drive to work, even within our own households at times. The infamous Darwin Awards are chock-full of stories about people who were seriously hurt or killed due to a lack of common sense. Sadly, common sense, or practical judgment, just simply isn’t employed as often as it needs to be. I’m sure we could attribute a lack of sound judgment to a variety of causes depending on the situation—hastiness, peer pressure, ignorance, etc. At the end of the day, however, I think we just don’t think enough, thus we get ourselves into all sorts of trouble.

Wisdom; discernment; carefulness; vigilance; thoughtfulness; reason—these are words that describe a biblical use of the mind. The person who possesses these attributes is saved from a vast number of failures and pains that come to the person who does not seek these traits.

Since common sense is not inherent to humanity, we must strive all the more to be Christians who are aware, Christians who are thinking individuals. We know from the warnings in scripture that falsehood and deceitfulness can creep into the church and lay hold of unsuspecting Christians. In fact, it takes more than common sense to discern these kinds of dangers. This is why the Bible commands us multiple times to be on guard—

“Be on guard!
Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come.”
(Mark 13:33)

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
(1 Peter 5:8)

“Be on guard
for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
(Acts 20:28, NASB)


As believers who have been brought from darkness into light, we are to be awake, alert, aware, for there are wolves dressed as sheep and a lion who seeks to devour. Paul warns the young elder Timothy of such a person in 2 Timothy 4:14-15. Likewise, Paul writes in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

With these things in mind, it would be easy for someone to become cold, cynical, and untrusting. But we don’t need to be callous; we need to be careful. We don’t need to be defensive; we need to be discerning. We don’t need to be passive; we need to be proactive. And how do Christians live careful, discerning, proactive lives? By loving the Lord with all of the mind. And where do we receive our guidance? From God Himself! Job’s friend Elihu acknowledges this truth in Job 35:10-11 when he remarks that it is God Who “teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens.” It is God Who speaks to us through His Word, that Word which is a lamp to our paths and a light to our feet.

As I mentioned repeatedly in my short series on Christians and culture, as we engage ourselves in the culture of the time (which is inevitable for us to do), we need to think. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. So in order to think right, we need to learn right. With what are we filling our minds? Are we concerned with the things above, or are we focused only on the things below? Do we seek after truth like an expensive jewel, or wisdom like a precious stone? Proverbs 4 illustrates the direct connection between thinking straight and waking straight; being wise and living wise. When we think biblically, it is reflected in our words and actions. Then we are equipped to engage the world that is hostile to God and suppresses His truth in unrighteousness.

Therefore, we need to be both on guard and ready to engage: on guard against falsehood and able to engage those who speak it. Our weapon is the truth of God presented to us through His written Word. As the Apostle Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures,” let us do likewise and think biblically as we reason boldly for the cause of Christ.

“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
yet do it with gentleness and respect…”
1 Peter 3:15

Theology

January 6, 2010

A New Year’s Reflection on God

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(By David Giarrizzo)

Man: A mist, a vapor, a withering weed; dust. We are temporary mortals, little lives bound by the constraints of time on earth. Here today, gone tomorrow.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time: It flies; it rolls; it ticks; it slips. Time acts as the governor of human events, a universal rule by which all must abide until death.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

God: Infinite; outside of time; from everlasting to everlasting. Unlike fragile, finite man, God is, was, and always will be; the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.


…The passing of one year to the next often prompts such important thoughts as these above. The most important thought to dwell on, however, is of course our help and our hope, God Himself.

I thank the Lord for another year. Most of all, though, I praise the Lord for His powerful grace that softened my heart and peeled back the scales on my eyes to behold and acknowledge the wonderful reality of Him. Without His divine, mysterious mercy upon my soul, I would not know God as I do in this personal, sanctifying way. Apart from that predestining, all-compelling, life-changing love of the Father, I would yet be confined to my sin nature and under His ever-present wrath. Such is the state of millions of people today who live in willful rebellion against God. Their rebellion is played out both actively and passively, visibly and in secret. One of the most observable manifestations of man’s rebellion and Truth-suppression is seen through false religions with made-up deities. Simply put, this is blatant idolatry.

Brit Hume was right when he recently alluded that Christianity is a better religion than Buddhism. In fact, Brit may already know what he and Tiger Woods will one day see—that Christianity is better than any religion. But Christianity isn’t the best religion because of its teachings on compassion or forgiveness or love. Christianity is not just “a safer bet” because of its doctrines on heaven and hell. And Christianity certainly isn’t the best religion because of any of the people who call themselves Christians. No, Christianity is better than Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Neopaganism, Mormonism, Scientology, Islam, or any other man-made belief system simply because the God of Christianity is the only true God.

I am reminded of the events of 1 Kings 18. Here we read that the prophet Elijah confronted 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. We read Elijah’s challenge to the 450 flesh-cutting prophets in verse 24: And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” Of course we all know the conclusion of the matter: God won. And those who saw the dramatic events of the day observed first-hand the power of the one, true, living God and the impotence of the imagined Baal. The moral of the story is plain: FEAR THE GOD WHO LIVES! (Hebrews 10:31).

Therefore, let us proclaim much like the people there that day near Mt. Carmel, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”

“…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:10-11)


May it be our mission—not just for 2010, but for life—to bring the reality of the one, true God to bear upon the hearts and minds of all who suppress His existence in their unbelief. Let us pray that the fear of the holy God of the Bible will be seen in our own lives as we take the message of salvation through Christ alone to all the world.

I’ve heard my dad preach on various occasions these simple but memorable lines:

Life is short.
Death is certain.
Hell is real.
But Jesus saves!

…Words to remember as we enter another year of our short-lived lives. Happy New Year!