January Bible Study Preview Recap

The message delivered by Peter has great relevance for today, as more pressure is being exerted on believers around the world. This January Bible Study will be a source of encouragement to believers facing this increasing pressure, reminding them that they are foreigners in a distant land and that one day they will gain the privileges of their heavenly citizenship.  In under 40 minutes Charles Ray will prepare you as you teach 1st Peter.

Dr. Charles Ray PHD is our master teacher as we prepare for January Bible Study. He  is Associate Dean of Research Doctoral Program and Professor of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He spent 7 years at the Korean Baptist Seminary teaching.

Free Resources from Charles Ray:

1 Peter Bibliography
1 Peter Text
1 Peter PowerPoint

A Matter of the Heart

We’re constantly reminded that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. While men generally tend to be affected more than women, the increase of heart disease among women is startling.

However, I wonder how significant heart disease is among those of us who are followers of Christ? Physically, we probably fall within the norms of the general population – but spiritually, I believe it’s much more prevalent.

Jesus reminds us “your heart will always be where your treasure is.” Matthew 6:21, CEV.

Researchers tell us that the average American donates 2.3% of their disposable income to charitable causes. Friends this is not a God-honoring statistic and a major indicator of heart disease.

I wonder if one of the reasons the church in America has lost much of its influence to today is because its members are sick? The heart of the those who claim to know Christ is elsewhere and therefore the church, the body of Christ, is functioning with blocked spiritual arteries, if you will. The body still functions, but it does not thrive.

Understand, this is not about giving money to your church or to missions. It’s about the condition of your heart. You will never experience the peace and purpose God created you to experience when you’re suffering with spiritual heart disease.

The cure is to put God to the test – and He invites you to do so. Malachi, speaking for God, to His people, extended the challenge, “Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.’” (Mal. 3:10, HCSB)

So, I encourage you to “examine yourself” as Paul challenged the believers in Corinth. When you get your heart right in this area, you’ll experience a renewed passion for the Lord and His church and you may ask yourself “why didn’t I do this sooner!”

It’s all a matter of the heart.

We have created FREE bulletin inserts dealing with tithing/giving. Go to LouisianaBaptists.org/giving and order them for your church.

Accounting Notification for Churches

Starting in 2018, the accounting office will no longer hold the books open for receipts. The rule is, on the first business day of a new month, we will  include any receipts postmarked in the prior month as received in the prior month. Any receipts received after that day will be included in the new month even if postmarked in the prior month.

It is very important for churches to understand that your 2017 December receipts may not be included in the 2017 reporting year (Which is currently happening now for many churches). It will depend on when the last Sunday in December falls, how soon the church sends their December receipts to LBC and how soon the post office delivers your mail.

We understand this may cause an anomaly with your 2017 receipts comparison to our receipt reporting, however this is a better accounting procedure and we appreciate your patience.

– Accounting Department

5 Things All Louisiana Residents Simply Must Do

We don’t like to think about the fact that a hurricane might be on the radar in the next couple of months. The majority of the storms we experience in Louisiana have landed in August and September. Thus, we need to understand that the heart of the storm season is before us so we must act now  to be prepared. Here are some suggestions:

1. Put together an emergency supply kit that includes items like water and non-perishable foods, flashlights with batteries and first-aid supplies. Usually figure one gallon of water per person per day. Up to three days supply is a rule of thumb to figure the amount of supplies needed.

2. Secure any outdoor objects that could blow away during a storm. Secure your windows and doors. Storm Shutters are a great idea. Also consider trimming your trees and inspecting your roof.

3. Protect your computers, TVs and other electronic equipment with surge protectors. It’s also a good choice to back all of your valueable computer data on a cloud service such as Dropbox, I-Cloud, Google Drive or OneDrive

4. Preplan a safe place to go if evacuation is required.  Be sure to notify your family so they know where you will be.

5. And finally… Let’s pray before a hurricane or a flood is immanent. Pray for Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief workers to be available to serve. Pray for protection and opportunities. God works in times of disaster. Let’s pray that even in the midst of disaster, people will come to know Jesus as their Savior. By the way, maybe God is calling you to serve by attending a training event in your area. Pray for our first responders as well.

Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief will respond when needed.  We work with other agencies to provide assistance.

3 Things You Need if You Want to Start a NEW GROUP

The right vision – Before starting a new group the most important question to answer is WHY? Just announcing the new class, finding a new teacher and assigning a room is important to starting new groups, but the real success comes from the why question. Why are you starting the new group? Who are you trying to reach through the new group? How will this help you to reach more people, disciple more people and develop more leaders?

The answer to the why question will be the clarion call to those willing to support the new group and those who will be interested in being a part of the new group. Remember, relationships are fundamental to the small group process but the objective is to make disciples who make disciples. To ignore one or the other is a recipe for disaster.

The right plan – Know your context. The right plan must understand the culture of the group you are trying to reach. I can honestly tell you that every group that I have helped to start was unique. There are principles that apply to every new group you start but the methods are many.

The right plan takes time to develop. Pray through it. Talk about it. Ask questions of existing groups. Discover those not attending a small group or class and probe their thoughts on starting a new class. Take the time to recruit the right leader. Develop the best curriculum plan and discover the best space possible to start the new group.

Great vision without a great plan is the definition of a disaster.

The right person – If God is leading you to start a new group, then He also has the right point person to be a catalyst to the beginning and continuation of the new group. (Hint: when I was on church staff, I kept a list of potential leaders on a sheet of paper that I kept in my Bible). Pray for God to show you the right person. Ask the person to pray for God to show him/her His desire for them and this new group. Spend time with them in prayer, planning and encouragement.

I can’t tell you the best way for you to start a new group but I know the one who does. God can and will lead you to make the best decisions in starting a new group. New groups are a must if you desire for, your church to be healthy and vibrant in your community. However, if you don’t start at least one new group every year, I can tell you that you are headed on a path to decline.

Pray right now and decide to be a catalyst in starting a new group.

Creating a Culture of Invitation in Your Small Group

Is your class or small group OPEN to new members? Is your class or small group EXPECTING new people to attend/join?

The answer to these two questions helps you determine whether or not your class or small group exhibits a “Culture of Invitation.” At the core of why your class or group exists is about making disciples. Our context is a small group of people, gathered around God’s Word and determined to accomplish His purpose. It’s about people. Our focus is on God and fulfilling His purpose, but our target is people. Use these suggestions to help your class or small group create a “Culture of Invitation.”

It starts before a guest or prospect arrives.

  • Assign someone to be primarily responsible for greeting and befriending any new guests.
  • Weekly remind members to invite friends, peers, co-workers and family to join them in Bible study.
  • Prepare the room for guests. Make sure the chairs are arranged so the guest will be comfortable and feel welcome.
  • Make sure you have enrollment cards, pens and name tags available. Additional Bible study books should be on hand to provide to guests.

When guests arrive…

  • Invite guests to sit in the best seats and surround them with people who are interested in them.
  • Collect accurate information for the purpose of follow up.
  • Invite them to join the class. You can enroll someone as a member just as easily as you can collect guest information.
  • Everybody wears a name tag. Use one color for guests and another for members.
  • Focus on getting to know the person, not just on completing tasks.
  • Invite guests to join you in worship. Ask them to sit with you and your family.
  • Invite guests to join you for lunch.
  • Be sure and introduce your guests to the Senior Pastor and other appropriate staff.
  • Assists with collecting children if they have preschoolers.

Follow up after a guests visit.

  • Make a phone call within 24 hours thanking them for their participation.
  • If they choose to join you, help them know what their next step would be.
  • Ask if you can add them to your mailing lists, email lists, blog, facebook or text group. If they requests to be removed, please honor their wishes.
  • Continue to make contact until they join and become active or they request to not be contacted anymore.

Tips for Apologetic Conversations

Having a conversation with someone who strongly disagrees with you is difficult. I have been privileged to do mission work on five continents, yet some of the most difficult conversations have been right here at home in America. Over the years I have learned some biblical guidelines that have helped me speak with skeptics about Christian faith. I have rolled together ten of those tips in the included video, but I want to offer a few additional details through this blog post on the first five points.

Christian Apologetics comes from the classical usage of apologia and refers to Christian responses or defenses against external contention. One of the earliest Christian apologists was Justin Martyr. He is well known for his two Apologies and Dialogue with Trypho.

Tip #1 – Model the same demeanor as Jesus. Mark 10:21 

Almost instinctively, I have the tendency to look at people and overanalyze them. Even after many years of walking with the LORD, I still struggle in this area. This is rooted in the natural tendency to weigh everything the eyes see and can be traced all the way back to the garden temptation (Gen. 3:6). Only God can judge properly and He evaluates the heart rather than the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7).

In Mark 10, a rich man approached Jesus to learn of eternal life. Verse 21 specifically says that Jesus looked at him and felt love for him. Since God is all-knowing, he knew the rich man and how he would respond. The love Jesus felt for the man was despite the pending rejection. As Christians, we are called to model that same demeanor–seeing people and loving them without judgement and regardless of how they respond to the Christian message. Without this first and foundational tip, any defense for Christ is rendered inappropriate in representing him.

Tip #2 – Speak with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

Early on, I had always read 1 Peter 3:15 and emphasized the “always ready to respond” aspect of this Scripture directive. Through practice, I found that the real challenge for me resided in the second half of the command–“with gentleness and respect.” The first tip, seeing and loving people, is the foundation for being able to speak properly with gentleness and respect. The second tip succeeds when it is built upon the first.

Tip #3 – Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak. Luke 12:12

How does the Holy Spirit speak to you? When I am in a Gospel conversation, or sometimes even in conversations with Christians, the Spirit communicates to me through (don’t laugh at me) my stomach. I’ll be in a conversation and then all of a sudden, I’ll feel either full or empty. When a rush comes over me and I feel full, I know that God is encouraging me to open my mouth and speak boldly. At those times, the Scriptures flow from me. There are moments in other conversations when my stomach feels empty. That sensation alerts me to stay quiet and allow the other person to speak for a while. At those times I’ll try to ask some good questions and build up the relationship by being a good listener.

Tip #4 – Avoid foolish debates. Titus 3:9

When you are in conversation with someone, you can probably tell fairly quickly if you are actually communicating or if the other person simply wants to win an argument. If you remain in one of those conversations, they can be extremely disheartening. When I see a conversation going that way, I’m like a pilot pulling the ejection handle in a plummeting airplane.

Tip #5 – Know your audience. Acts 17:22

In Acts 17, Paul spoke to the men of Athens. He allowed his knowledge of the audience to influence his presentation of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel did not change, but his presentation style did. In the same way, when Jesus spoke to fishermen, he used fishing analogies. He taught them how to cast the net of the kingdom of heaven. To a seamstress, Jesus might say, “no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment” (Matt. 9:16).

Jesus stepped out of heaven and into a culture to communicate effectively to them. “And the Word became flesh” (Jn. 1:14). In the same way, be sure to step into the culture of your audience. The effective communicator, Jesus Christ, spoke to people through their culture. Charles Kraft would say, to be an effective communicator of God and His word, you must “love people for Christ by respecting the only way of life that makes sense to them” (Charles Kraft, Culture, Communication, and Christianity, 2). This does not mean that you endorse everything that a culture supports. But you have to have an understanding of culture to effectively communicate.

Boyd Guy
Assistant Director of Public Relations
Missions Coordinator for Providence Education Foundation
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Living Missional; 4 arenas for missional living

18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:18 (HCSB)

“Living Sent” – When we received the gift of Jesus Christ, eternal life, the forgiveness of sin, and so much more, we were adopted into the Family of God. We are heirs, God’s children—family. Our privilege and responsibility is to now invite as many people as possible to join God’s family. But, how can they hear unless someone tells them? How can they see unless someone shows them? How can they know unless someone leads them?

People are watching. I’m not trying to freak you out, but people around us are observing what we say and do. They notice where we go and don’t go. They see how we live. Years ago I had a neighbor named Fred, (that really was his name). For months we talked over the fence about normal stuff. We laughed a lot and shared stories. One day, Fred asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a Baptist Minister. Things got real quiet. Then Fred said, “Sean, if I had known that months ago we would not have been friends”. Fred had had a bad history with some church folks in his past and it left a bitter taste. Fred got to know me by the way I lived before he knew what my titles were.

People need the chance to see the Jesus in you. They need to hear the hope that is within you. Our world is selfish and desperately needs to see someone who loves them—unconditionally. They are desperate to be a part of a family like the one we have: God’s family. Take these truths and apply them to these 4 arenas of your life.

Your family – The people that really know you the best are those that are with you the most. Be careful to live the kind of life every day that glorifies God.

Your church – If we can’t love those who are part of God’s family, what does that say to the world who is watching us. 34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (HCSB)

Your Work or School – For many of us, these are people we see almost every day. How we live our life indicates what we value most. People at work or school need to see that Jesus is the most important person in your life.

Your Community – Every smile you give to a cashier, every kind word you say to a waiter and every door you open for others shows your heart and love for people. Give generously. Volunteer your time, your gifts and your resources to help others. Be Jesus in your community everywhere you go, everything you say and everything you do.

Christianity is 24/7. #Live4God

Grow Spiritually, 3 things that maturing believers do!

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

Have you heard the quote, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? Actually You can. If you put a little salt in his oats, he will eventually head to the water tank. I’m not a theological genius but I believe you can encourage people to grow spiritually.

Participation in regular Bible study – In study after study, maturing believer’s credit regular attendance in a weekly bible study as one of the key factors for personal spiritual growth. This actually makes sense. Accountability is one of the key environments needed to keep people focused on God’s Word and His mission. Encourage those you lead to commit to attend more often. If they attend Bible study twice a month, encourage them to make it 3 times a month. You get the point. People need to know that just showing up every week helps. (NOTE: It helps even more if they attend Worship as well).

Accountability Group – This is one of the strongest indicators of maturing believers but also one of the least used methods in study after study. This requires a high degree of accountability and trust. Many people struggle to “go deep” because the cost of trusting someone else is so high. Vulnerability is a significant sign of maturity. A group of 3 to 4 people of the same sex meeting regularly for the purpose of bible study and accountability can significantly increase you spiritual attitude and aptitude. Choose wisely. Consider longer term friends instead of someone you just met.

Read Your Bible everyday – This was identified as the number one attribute of a growing believer in study after study. Nothing takes the place of the individual spending quality time alone with God and His word. Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour; this one thing alone over time equips you to face life’s trials and deepens your faith and trust in God. Read God’s word daily. Pray daily. Meditate on God’s word (read it slowly and over and over again for comprehension). Just take the time to BE with God.

Share the Gospel: Why most people don’t!

37 “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 (HCSB)

I prefer the statement, sharing the Gospel with the lost rather than soul winning. The former is an objective that can be measured. The latter assumes that I am the one who wins souls; only God can do that. In the simplest of terms, God has commanded me, as a believer, to make disciples. The starting point for all disciples is a relationship with Christ. But how can those who are lost know the Savior unless someone tells them?

Fear, apathy, selfishness, anger, bitterness, lack of confidence are some of the reasons people give as to why they don’t share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Research shows us that the majority of Christians have not shared the gospel with anyone. Of those precious few who have, thank God.

I have a simple answer to those who have not shared; Just do it. If you don’t know how, ask someone to show you how. If you lack confidence, ask someone to go with you. If you don’t know anyone, ask someone else who they know. Just go. Just share.

Sharing the gospel is hard work. It requires two things as indicated in Matthew 9:37-38; Pray and Go. It really isn’t complicated. I know, I know, you want to know what happens if you don’t do it right. I admit, there is some truth to that but remember that salvation is the work of God not us.

Commit to these 4 things. If it helps you to remember, this is the 3151 commitment.

  • Pray for at least 3 lost people every day, by name.
  • Learn at least 1 gospel presentation.
  • Invite at least 5 people to your Sunday School or Small Group.
  • Share the gospel with at least 1 person.

For more tools and resources for the 3151 commitment, go to www.louisianabaptists.org/connect1/.