Truth Decay

“Have you brushed your teeth?”

You’ve heard that question since you were young.

Sometimes the answer was, “Yes,” other times, “No.” But the truth would be somewhere in the middle. As kids we’d have lots more important things to do. Ten strokes back and forth on the front teeth and most kids think they’re good to go. Others figure that brushing every other day works fine for them. And still others believe the weekdays are enough. Weekends were made for halitosis.

Our parents, and TV commercials, drilled into our minds that we didn’t want the dreaded tooth decay! Instead, our parents longed to hear, “Look, Mom, no cavities!” (And then they rewarded us with candy!)

Tooth decay is painful. When the dentist says, “You’ll only feel a slight pinch” – they lie! They also know it’s expensive.

I read about a guy who received a bill three times the amount he typically paid for visit to his dentist. When he inquired about the charges, the dentist replied, “You yelled so loud you scared away two other patients!”

Today our society suffers from “truth decay.” Our courts require us to place our hands on a Bible and “Promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God,” and yet the truth eludes us.

“You can’t handle the truth!” is an often-quoted line in a popular movie from the 1990’s but today, the truth is we don’t want to hear the truth. Educators and scholars lecture that there’s no such thing as “absolute truth.” “You can’t handle the truth” has been replaced with “I don’t want to hear the truth” as we place our hands over our ears (and our hearts) and in effect saying, “I’m not listening!”

During his mock trial, Pilot asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

According to an ad I saw in a major national newspaper/trade publication, the writer/designer said in part:

The truth can’t be glossed over.

The truth has no agenda.

The truth can’t be manufactured.

The truth doesn’t take sides.

But there’s another even more astounding truth about truth: It will set you free! (John 8:32)

Paul warned Timothy, “… there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear.2 Timothy 4:3 (TLB)

That time has arrived.

Truth decay wreaks havoc in our culture, in our relationships and even in our churches. It’s piped into our homes and devices through the internet, through television and through social media.

How do we combat “truth decay”?

The only remedy for “truth decay” is to return to the One who said I am the way, the truth and the life. The implication of Jesus’ declaration confounds the culture. It remains the only hope for the world. This is the unaltered, unfiltered, unapologetic truth. Jesus declared God’s words are truth (John 17:17). It needs to be applied generously and frequently. Truth should be presented creatively and consistently using current communication platforms. Most importantly, the truth must be delivered with love (Eph 4:15). That’s the sole purpose of Here For You.

Here for You is a multi-media evangelism effort designed to scatter the truth of God’s word inside every heart and every home almost every day. Since it’s launch in 2014, more than 325,000 people have seen these “truth spots,” if you will, in three test markets. During the most recent Super Bowl, an estimated 849,000 people across Louisiana saw the Here for You spot two or more times and an additional 300,000 people were engaged via social media.

Pray for these seeds of truth to find good soil in the hearts of those who’ve seen the spots. Ask God to protect and nourish those seeds and continue the process of drawing people to Himself.

The people in Louisiana, and our entire country, desperately need a “truth infusion.” No legislation coming out of Baton Rouge or any parish office can stop the cultural decay. Only God’s truth can change a heart and correct the course of a culture.

You can be a part of this “truth infusion.” Go to HereForYou.org and share these spots on social media platforms for yourself and your church. Every time you share, you’re helping seed God’s truth in the hearts of those who view your posts.

Let’s pray together, let’s work together and let’s give together to take God’s truth into the highways and hedges of people’s hearts and homes.

God Doesn’t Need You, but He Wants You

Several years back, I was living in a small village in the Zambian bush called Chongwe. In this remote village dwelled a man of great importance to the community named Makukula. This Mr. Makukula was – and currently still is – the headman of the village. A strong man among strong men, Makukula was judge, jury, executioner, police commissioner, public works director, and property owner. Upon my initial arrival into the village, I met with Mr. Makukula to request his permission for my planned activity in the village. He gleefully smiled back with the two teeth he had left in his mouth and extended a gracious welcome into his village.

As I was walking to what would become my home in the village for the foreseeable future, I made note of Mr. Makukula’s gracious hospitality to my pastor friend who was with me. To my surprise, a rumor was spreading through the village. According to the local scuttlebutt, Makukula was linked to the death of an entire family the week prior to my arrival. Two indisputable facts formed the foundation for the gossip while wild imagination and spiritual fear provided the framework, roofing, sheetrock, wallpaper and furnishings. Fact number one: someone cut the fencing around Makukula’s property and stole some of his cattle. Fact number two: a week later (and only a week before I spoke with Makukula), a family of five was found dead in their home. As news spread of their deaths, the connection was drawn almost instantaneously. These were the cattle thieves, and Makukula killed them with a death prayer.

My initial reaction was skepticism. “Did they miss the bullet holes in their heads?” I asked, incredulous of the theories swirling around the mysterious figure known as Makukula. With every person I talked to, the story got more convoluted with additional imagination supplied to the narrative. According to their animistic beliefs, everything that happens in the physical realm has a spiritual cause. In the absence of a physical connection between Makukula and the deceased family, a spiritual connection was drawn. Even so, Makukula did little to quell the rumors, as it helped establish his reputation and governance. The beautiful, lush, Zambian countryside had a gloomy shadow darkening everything.

After the initial meeting, I did not see Makukula for quite some time. Days, weeks, months passed. The sun rose and set again. Bonds were formed, relationships grew, and love, joy, peace, and the Gospel were shared; however, I could not help but desire to see Mr. Makukula again. I knew I needed to get a Nyanja language Bible into his hands.
On my last day in Chongwe, I made the long walk up the hill to Mr. Makukula’s house. With the help of a local pastor acting as translator, I thanked Makukula for his hospitality and presented the Bible to him as a gift. Before I could begin to explain the Gospel, Makukula spoke up. I still remember his response vividly.

“For years I have prayed to God, asking Him what I must do, but I have never heard anything from Him. Now He is coming to me through you, and I am ready to receive Him.”

His response left me speechless. God had been at work in his life for years, and I was merely the tool through which He would speak the Gospel to Makukula. After receiving the Bible, Makukula swore to read it at least three times a day and share the good news with everyone he met. The time of fellowship together was sweet, but had to come to an end. I would not see him for another two years when I made a return visit. After being greeted by his warm, friendly smile – although now missing one of his two teeth – I learned that not only was he faithful in the Word and his relationship with the Lord, he was actively teaching it to others in his village. The man who at one time allowed rumors of murder to circulate is now actively teaching the way to eternal life. Through Makukula’s story God revealed two great truths to me.

  1. On my own, I am not necessary.

This is perhaps one of the toughest pills to swallow, not just for a young minister in his formative years, but for most people in general. We begin with wild-eyed aspirations of changing the world. Our youthful ambitions often spill over into our ministries. When I first answered the call into full-time international ministry, I knew that I was going to be the voice that would speak to entire nations. I was going to be the agent of change. It would take some time before I would realize that all I had done was take my personal ambitions and merely slap a Christian name on them. However, over a series of events and a number of years, the Lord began to show me just how small a part I play in the grand scheme of His redemptive plan. He has been at work for countless eons, millennia after millennia, calling people to Himself. Only a lucky few live to see a century. I am but a minute cog in the vastly larger machine.

Throughout Scripture, we see that the true agent of change, the true voice speaking to the nations is Christ Jesus and His Spirit working in the lives of men and women around the world. Paul says in his speech to the Athenians, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25). Sure we all know this to be true, but do we believe it as true? Far too often we can find ourselves striving in ministry as though God’s plans depend solely on us. We live as if the future of the Gospel rests on our shoulders and find ourselves burdened by the weight we were never meant to carry.

The story of Makukula illustrates this point. I spent very little time with Makukula – only a couple hours over the span of a few years. I only requested that the local pastor answer any questions Makukula might have and help direct his steps – the very thing he was eager to do. Lives and communities, however, are being changed, not because of what we might bring, but because the Lord works in the hearts of men and women.

  1. Even though I offer nothing of value to God, I am wanted.

Peter says in his first letter, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). Peter makes it clear here, as well as in other parts of his letter, that we are chosen by God as His own so that we might proclaim the Gospel of salvation and the goodness of Christ. Likewise, Paul also states in Ephesians that we are God’s workmanship, created for good works. All we can do is walk in them.

This is both a source of confidence and reason to remain humble. God desires to use us for His purposes and plan. Even though we have nothing to offer Him but a willing spirit, He can move powerfully in our lives and use us to do the same in others. Even the most influential of public ministries can only be carried out and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice then that God uses the weak and foolish to shame the strong! Those who bring nothing to the table are the very ones God desires to use. Just as the Lord was able to work through a twenty-one-year-old fresh out of college with no idea of what he was getting himself into and a village elder who had spent decades practicing witchcraft to advance the Gospel into a remote corner of the earth, so too is He able to use all who approach Him humbly.

This article was initially published on the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary blog, Geaux Therefore.

Faith, Righteousness, and Relationship

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Romans 3:21-22

In the book of Romans, Paul weaves some of the most deep, impactful, beautiful writings on the themes of sin, faith, and righteousness. But what does it mean for God’s righteousness to be manifested and why “apart from the Law?” If we look just before the passage quoted above, it will answer one of our questions. Paul writes that no one will be made righteous by works of the Law, since the Law brings knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). The Law will never be able to accomplish what God’s righteousness can. This is why it is necessary for righteousness to be apart from the Law. However, this seems to contradict a statement he makes later on in Philippians.

When listing his credentials prior to his faith in Christ, Paul claims that he was blameless in regard to righteousness based on the Law (Philippians 3:6). In his zeal for the Law, he had committed himself to moral purity and “lived without fault.” However, this righteousness from the Law is insufficient. Rather, true righteousness comes from knowing Christ and sharing in his suffering and resurrection. (Philippians 3:7-11).

Two Types of Righteousness

We are now faced with two types of righteousness: righteousness that comes from works of the Law and righteousness that comes from God. How could one be superior to the other? And why is righteousness based on the Law ultimately worthless? The reason is this: the righteousness of God encompasses more than just moral purity. Just as a husband may be morally pure but completely fail in his relationship with his wife, so too may a man live an upright and faultless life and yet fail in being righteous. This is because God’s righteousness is relational.

It is based in His actions and faithfulness toward His covenant people (Judges 5:11). It is His trustworthiness and ability to fulfill all His promises (Isaiah 51:8). God’s righteousness is paired with His kindness (Psalm 145:17) and exercised in His deep, intimate, covenantal love and faithfulness (Jeremiah 9:24). Righteousness from the Law builds self-conceited moral superiority while God’s righteousness builds relationship. The Law creates religious zealots (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:4-6). God’s righteousness transforms us into His children. (Galatians 3:26; Romans 8:14; 1 John 3:1).

We see this clearly in Romans 1:16-17. In that famous statement, Paul says that he is unashamed of the Gospel, since it is the power of God to save all who believe. God’s righteousness is revealed beginning and ending in faith. In saying that “the righteousness of God is revealed,” Paul asserts that God is shown to be trustworthy and dependable to fulfill His promise. He acts in complete and total faithfulness to His covenant. To further illustrate this point, Paul ends his assertion with a promise: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4). Much more can be said about this single verse. It is rich in truth, encouragement, and hope. One could write more than 50 pages on this single sentence (trust me). However, I’ll end on this:

We know that God’s righteousness is relational as it is only accessible by means of another relational quality: Faith. Biblical faith is not a blind or reasonless faith. The word itself is derived from the word for “rock” or “stone,” and is therefore a belief in something solid, firm, and unmovable. Faith is also reciprocal, as those who have it will themselves be strengthened and made firm. (Isaiah 7:9). For us, faith is an unwavering trust in the unalterable promise of our unfailing God. This brings us back to our second question: what does it mean for God’s righteousness to be manifested? The word itself means to become clear, known, and plainly seen. There is no greater picture of God’s faithfulness to His promise than what is plainly seen in Christ, his death, and resurrection. He has shown us how rich His love and deep His commitment are. Let us therefore press on in the righteousness of knowing God.

Checklist for Easter Sunday

1. Make sure your service time is pinned to the top of your social media pages and websites.
Don’t make it difficult for people to find out vital information like your service times. People who aren’t in the habit of attending church need this information.

2. Take a fresh look at your church’s interior and exterior appearance.
Invite someone who doesn’t attend your church to take a look on Saturday. He or she might see things you don’t see because you’re so used to it.

3. Double-check signage and the welcome center.
Remember, visitors don’t know how things work or where things are. Make sure you make it obvious.

4. Make sure greeters are assigned to entrances.
This is where the extroverts come in handy! Train your greeters to be the kind of people you’d want to meet if you were visiting. It’s not rocket science. You know the people-persons!

5. Create a communication card.
This is your opportunity to learn who these people are and what decisions they have made.

6. Avoid insider speak.
Stay away from language that is coded in the culture of your church. Put your practical, down-to-earth words in the ears of those that don’t usually attend.

7. Gifts are always a good thing. Make them connect to the theme.
Everyone loves gifts, but they are extra-effective if they fit some aspect of your message.

8. Don’t make Easter Sunday so unusual that people have “worship lash” next time they come back.
Easter is special but stay in your lane. In other words, don’t use elements you aren’t using on a monthly basis. The Easter service shouldn’t be a false impression of what you usually do. Make it excellent but not outlandish.

9. Tease them this Sunday.
This is a great opportunity to share ONE thing you’ll do in April.  A sermon series is a great promotional place to start.

10. Don’t forget the main thing.
Don’t forget the main thing – the tomb is empty! Everything you do in an Easter service should revolve around that one revolutionary fact.

11. Follow up!
Use the information you get about those who visit. If you don’t follow up, chances are, you won’t see them until maybe … Christmas.

12. But don’t be creepy.
While you are following up, make sure you aren’t breeching personal space. Give them some room to reflect and find ways to do follow-up that aren’t offensive.

13. Give members tools to promote.
Promoting your church is inexpensive these days! Give your members tools to let people know about your church including art, memes and electronic content they can post and email.

14. Don’t jump Snake River Canyon.
In other words, don’t over-prepare with lots of tricky technical effects that are hard for your people to pull off. For instance, don’t give a guy a five-minute monologue if he has never acted before.

15. Create a thread (in other words, be intentional).
Plan your worship thematically. Weave your worship around the theme of the message. Don’t be afraid to be multi-sensory in your worship.

16. Pray over your space.
Open your worship area on Saturday so that prayer warriors can intercede for everything that will happen on Sunday.

17. Invite change.
Pastors and worship leaders, ask yourself, “What are we challenging the people to change about their lives?” Look at the red letters in your Bible, Jesus is all about change.

18. No one-up-ing allowed.
After Sunday is done, don’t brag on yourself, your church or your attendance. Brag on God. It really is all about Jesus.

Enjoy this free ebook! You might find some things you can use year-round.

Give Your Sunday School a Boost

Does your Sunday School seem flat? Does it seem like nothing exciting or new is happening in your Sunday School class? I know, every once in awhile your class will have a guest but is it growing? When was the last time you had a new member? How many have you lost because they moved, stopped coming or died?

Sunday School is not broke. Don’t blame the program because you stopped doing the things you know you should be doing. When we ignore problems or simply stop doing the things we know we should do; the result is a flat, declining, low energy class. Sunday School is about people, focused on studying God’s Word together and focused on making a difference in our everyday world that we live in. When we stop doing any of those three things, our class can go flat.

Here are three things you can do that will get your class moving again.

Enroll Someone New – Invite people to come to your class or small group. Offer to enroll them as a member of your group. Don’t just enroll them. Commit to weekly stay in touch with them, care for them and meet their needs. Not everyone you invite will come but I am certain that people will not come unless you invite them. For more help, click here.

Start a New Group or Class – Sometimes existing groups cannot or will not change. When that happens, you have to start fresh with a new group of people. Find 3 or 4 people and create a list of “potential” members of the new class and go after them. Oh, and by the way, it will not be easy. It will take a lot of work. It is exciting to start a new group. It produces a lot of energy and momentum for your class and your church. For more help, click here.

Plan a Fellowship, Bible Study or Ministry Project – Sometimes we need to get together and just have fun together. Some folks like to do a bible study on a specific topic and just visit with each other. Others would rather plan a time to do a special project and meet a specific need in the community. It doesn’t happen unless you plan it. It doesn’t happen unless you put it on your calendar and invite others to join you. Who knows, it might just be the spark your class needs to get back to a healthy group that cares about people, God’s Word and making a difference in our world.

Don’t just sit there; Do Something. Somebody has to start it.

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Sean has free resources available at www.louisianabaptists.org/churchgrowth and www.revseankeith.com. Follow me on twitter @revseankeith.

Did Jesus Really Have to Die?

With the arrival of Easter season comes a renewed public interest in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. While many pastors are faithful in preaching the crucifixion of Christ – at least in part – each week, most will put sermon series on hold to craft a sermon dedicated entirely to his death and resurrection. However, one thing pastors would do well to remember in their sermon prep is not just that he died, but why he died.

A Question in Need of an Answer

In our culture, there is a prevailing ignorance of sin, its power, and justice. One question I hear frequently goes something like this: “If God is so merciful and forgiving, why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t He just forgive our sins without the need for His Son to die?” The question is not as far-fetched as it may seem to our modern Christian sensibilities. If asked honestly, it deserves a thoughtful and thorough response – more thorough than a single blog post can offer.

There exist examples in the Gospels of sins being forgiven without someone dying. At one point early in his ministry, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic before healing him (Mt 9:1-8; Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26). In Luke 7, Jesus forgives a sinful woman then offers a parable of two debtors who have been forgiven their debt (Lk 7:36-50). Jesus also commands his disciples to forgive the sins of their brothers (Mk 11:25; Luke 17:4). In each of these settings, which are but a few examples, we get the sense that sins were forgiven at that moment, not at some future date.

Before we run to the Old Testament sacrificial system, we should note that not every sacrifice required the death of an animal. Even an offering of grain could be given as a sin offering if one was too poor to own any animal (Lv 5:11). On the Day of Atonement, one of the two great festivals the death of Jesus is often associated with (the other being Passover) one goat is sacrificed on the altar while another carries the sins of the nation into the wilderness and not put to death (Lv 16). How do we reconcile this with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians? “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3).

One early influential Christian* argued that since sin brings us under the power of death (Gn 2:17; Rm 7:9; Jm 1:15) repentance and forgiveness is not enough to reverse the process of death at work in our bodies and undo the curse. Something more must be accomplished. A final death by one who lived outside the curse – and only by the one who is the author of life Himself – would be enough to sum up the deaths of all people and break the power of the curse. (Gal 3:13) In doing so, He would restore mankind to its rightful position as image bearers who fellowship with and worship God.

We who believe in Christ share in His death and resurrection. Paul says in Romans 6:

Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Made Alive for a Purpose

The cross of Christ is about more than just being pardoned for our everyday foibles and follies then sent on our merry way. Rather, it is the startling image of God joining Himself with humanity in our plight. We are not merely onlookers to the crucifixion, but partakers in it. And “if we died with Him, we will also live with Him” (2 Tm 2:11). By joining with Jesus in faith, we share in his life, death, and resurrection. We have forsaken the glory and calling of God, submitted ourselves to other powers, and brought the curse of death upon ourselves. (Gn 2:17; Rm 1:21-22) But on the cross, the penalty of death was paid, and the powers we were once beholden to were put to open shame (Col 2:13-15).

With his victory on the cross, Christ began the work of reconciling the world to himself again (Col 1:20), a process which will not be completed until he returns again. Revelation 22 perfectly mirrors Genesis 1. Creation is made new again, the Garden of Eden is restored, and all who are joined with Christ are to have dominion over the earth, just as we were created to do. (Gn 1:28; Rev 22:5).

The death of Christ gives us the restoration of purpose – bearers of God’s image who fill the world with the knowledge and worship of God.

*Athanasius was a 4th Century leader and church father. His life long battle in defense of the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and Scripture resulted in several exiles from Roman emperors. Today, he is regarded as one of the most important figures in early church history. If you want to learn more, his work, On the Incarnation, is a short, easy to read book on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. 

Keys to Effective Disaster Relief

Spring and Fall are times when weather patterns become unpredictable. Whether its Tornadoes in the plains, Fires in the west or flooding in the south, opportunities to lend a helping hand to your fellow man abound. When the day comes that images of wreckage and loss splash across the news and your heart is moved to help, don’t forget to pause, take a breath and look over these ten commandments of disaster relief.

Ten commandments of Disaster Relief

  1. Thou shalt contact your local church, student organization and/or charitable organization and offer your help. Ask your church to set up a collection area for bottled water, shovels, plastic gloves and breathing masks. You may also ask for a special account to collect financial donations.
  2. Thou shalt not become a lone wolf. Working in cooperation with other relief agencies is the best way to provide positive change and avoid a disaster of your own.
  3. Thou shalt not ignore the advice of experts. Disaster conditions change. If you’re not listening to regular reports then you may find yourself in a terrible spot and in need of rescue.
  4. Thou shalt not forget to have an escape plan. Sure, you can get in, but can you get out? Have you factored in that restaurants, gas stations, ATM’s are not working?
  5. Thou shalt not drink any water in a disaster zone. Even tap water can be contaminated. Carry your own water in and have enough so share.
  6. Thou shalt not walk or drive through flowing water. Most deaths in floods occur when people enter flowing water. It’s a bad idea, don’t do it.
  7. Thou shalt not donate clothes. Sounds counter intuitive but relief agencies get loaded down with unclaimed clothes and wind up throwing most of it away. Most groups post a needs list and your gift will be more useful if you stick to it.
  8. Thou shalt donate to legitimate charities. Every disaster has looters and scammers. You can look up legit charities with the Better Business Bureau, United Way, etc.
  9. Thou shalt continue to help long term. The need for recovery resources continue long after the media’s coverage has ended. Look for ways to continue to help others in need.
  10. Thou shalt pray for everyone. Pray for the victims, volunteers, extended family, government officials, and anyone else you can think of.

Things We Hate

“I don’t have time for this!”

“Come on people!”

“What is going on up there?!”

Do any of the above sound familiar?

To say Americans “hate to wait” is more than a bumper sticker slogan. We’ll do most anything to avoid long lines at checkout counters and sitting in traffic. Albeit, we don’t mind waiting in line to load up on some crawfish – at least in Louisiana!

What goes through your mind when you’re stuck in a line? Be careful, this is a family article!

Some cars are equipped with accident avoidance technology which, in theory, can recognize trouble ahead and stop your car – no hands or feet needed! Similarly, many people have “crowd avoidance” or “line avoidance” tendencies. When they’re grocery shopping and the checkout lines are too long, they’ll set down their groceries or abandon their cart rather than wait in line. When traffic is backed up, they’ll create their own lane on the shoulder, do a U-turn in the median, or cut in line – anything to avoid waiting.

If we’re honest, when we see a line, a crowd, we tend to think to ourselves, “I’ve got places to go, people to see, things to do. These people don’t realize how busy I am, how much pressure I’m under. My entire day, and possibly my entire life, could be ruined if you don’t get out of my way!”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the “gift of waiting.” I’ve dreamed of a James Bond-like car that converts into a helicopter and lifts me above crowds and enables me to get out of the traffic and on with my trip. This is still on my Christmas list by the way. Every year.

But compare our attitudes about crowds and Jesus’ attitude toward crowds. When He saw the crowds, He wasn’t frustrated. He didn’t look for an out or a quick escape. He felt compassion for them. He empathized with the weariness. He didn’t see a nameless mass of humanity. In the way only Jesus could see, He knew they were wandering like sheep without a shepherd (see Matt 9:36). On another occasion, when surrounded by a large crowd, He noticed their need. They’d been with Him for three days and had nothing to eat. “If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way.” (Mark 8:1-3, HCSB).

If we’re going to reach people, we must change the way we see people. They can’t be seen as just another obstacle in the way of what we want. Jesus constantly pressed his followers to look beyond…

their race,
their socio-economic status,
their religious background,
their sin,
their lifestyles,
their political views,
their past failures,
their shame,

Everything.

When we follow Jesus our hearts break for them, too. When we change the way we see people, we’ll change the way we pray for them and the way we treat them.

As Louisiana Baptists, we are saying to the people in our state “We’re Here for You.” We want them to know and understand they matter to God and they matter to us. This is one of the reasons we’re attempting to harness modern technology to deliver the truth of God’s word to every heart and every home almost every day.

This is a God-sized task. Our resources are limited and we are outnumbered. But as Paul reminded the early believers in Rome, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Visit HereForYou.org, watch the spots and share your favorites using your preferred social media platform. It’s a small way of letting people know there is a God who loves them and – there is no line!

Oh, and the next time you’re stuck in traffic or in a long checkout line at the store, instead of being frustrated, mad, impatient, or anxious, say a silent prayer and ask God to help you see those in front of you the way He does. Who knows, maybe waiting in line can help you work on your prayer life?!

For more videos, go to hereforyou.org

Why Not?! – Three reasons why you should be a part of a Sunday School class or Small Group.

Why should I be a part of a small group or Sunday School class? My answer is, why not? In a Sunday School class, you are afforded the opportunity to gather with a small group of people, centered around God’s Word to accomplish His mission. Here are three reasons why you should be a part of a small group or Sunday School class that meets regularly.

It’s About People – When you join a class or group, it provides you the opportunity to connect with other people. You can pray for, encourage, listen to, share with, minister to other people. As well, they can provide the same for you. When you hear the term, “do life together”; that is what it means. Sunday School and Small groups are about people like you and me.

It’s About God’s Word – Every class or group should be centered around and focused on a discussion about God’s Word. It is the source of the information we need to live the Christian life. Every time we gather together to study and discuss God’s Word; God can change lives. Transformed lives is the primary reason for Sunday School and/or Small Groups.

It’s About Accomplish God’s Purpose – A small group of people, meeting regularly and working together to accomplish God’s unique plan for them in their community and in their lives. A regular, consistent group of people gathered around God’s Word can be equipped, encouraged and engaged in making a difference in the lives of those they interact with every week in the world in which they live. Together we can make a difference.

There are so many more reasons why you should be a part of a Sunday School class or small group. Just know that you need a class or group that meets regularly for the purpose of caring for one another, centered around God’s Word, and engaged in making a difference in our world. Not only that, a lot of people you meet and see every day need something like that too. Why not invite them to join you and let’s do life together.

Join a class or group today.

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Sean has free resources available at www.louisianabaptists.org/churchgrowth and www.revseankeith.com. Follow me on twitter @revseankeith.

The Power of the Invitation

Recently, Dr. Thom Rainer did a video blog called the Rainer Report on the topic of the relationship between inviting and church health. A couple of his key points are:

  • Inviting unchurched friends to church takes intentionality.
  • When we are energized to do positive things, we have less time and energy to do negative things.
  • When church members are focused on reaching out and inviting, they’re less focused on having things their way.
  • In-person invites to church are the most effective invites. (www.thomrainer.com)

The “invite” can have a powerful and life changing effect on the Sunday School class. When we are excited about our class or small group, we invite people to come and join us. When we don’t invite others, we are either focused only on ourselves or we don’t believe they would enjoy what we do. The good news is that our view of our class or group can change. The bigger question is, do you want it to change.

The reverse is also true. If we don’t invite people our class can become comfortable and stale. If you haven’t invited someone to your class or group in a while, you need to ask yourself why. What are the reasons why you aren’t inviting people to join you? Then ask yourself, can I change that? If not, maybe you need to start another group with people who are willing to invest in and engage with people who are not connected to a small group or Sunday School class.

There are people out there who would love to experience what you do every week, but no one has invited them. How will they know they are welcome to join you unless you ask them? I also know that many that you invite will not come. Try again, maybe they will. Some will not at all. Pray that God will change their heart. If they don’t connect well with your group or class, introduce them to another one.

We all want to feel wanted. We all want to connect with someone. We all want someone to care about us. Why not make your class or group focused on caring for other people, engage them around God’s Word every week and involve them in making a difference for Christ in the everyday world they live in. Everyone should want to be a part of that.

Why don’t you invite someone today!

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Sean has free resources available at www.louisianabaptists.org/churchgrowth and www.revseankeith.com. Follow me on twitter @revseankeith.