Monthly Archives: June 2013

Teach Us To Pray

Wade Potts,  Associate Pastor of Youth and Outreach, New Life Baptist Church, Greencastle

Wade Potts, Associate Pastor of Youth and Outreach, New Life Baptist Church, Greencastle

By Wade Potts

In my last blog entry I said that the primary method of discipleship is teaching.  This is the way John the Baptist, Jesus, and even Paul discipled new Christians.  Teaching does not necessarily mean that we fill individuals with facts and doctrines but it also means that we disciple new believers and other Christians practically by showing them how to live out the faith.

I recently read an article by Ray Deck III entitled 3 Creative Ideas for Family Prayer.  In this article he gives some examples for parents to teach their children to pray.  However, and I think he would agree with this, these ideas could be used when discipling all believers.  David Platt says this same thing in the Follow Me Bible Study.  He encourages us to teach people through example how to pray, how to study the Bible, how to evangelize, and so on.  Just about all new believers are uncomfortable about praying in public; yet, when we only tell them how to pray, these fears typically remain.  When we show someone how we pray this can calm their fears because they can see what prayer looks like.  It gives them a model to compare their personal prayers to.  It is one thing to give instructions to individuals on how to pray, to provide principles for praying well, or even to take someone through the Survival Kit for New Christians and flesh out what it has to say about prayer.  However, there is something very personal and very effective when one believer shows another believer how to pray.  I understand that none of us pray perfectly, but neither did John the Baptist, and yet he taught his disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1).

In fact, Luke 11:1 gives us a beautiful picture of this type of discipleship.  Jesus was praying in front of his disciples and this prompted the disciples to ask of him a very important request, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples” (HCSB).  Not only did Jesus disciple through teaching but we see that John the Baptist did as well. If you consider the Lord’s Prayer itself, it provides the perfect model for the Christian’s prayer.

  • We begin with the statement of God as our Father. Believers have been adopted into a new family – the family of God with God as our Father and Christ as our brother.
  • Jesus then teaches believers they must transition from addressing God as Father into declaring praise or reverence of His name. God’s name perfectly reflects His character – which is holy.
  • Then believers are taught to pray for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  We must be constantly about the business of praying for God’s church to grow so that our outreach is fueled by prayer.
  • We are taught to pray for the completion of God’s will.  Believers struggle with knowing God’s will for their lives, so Christ teaches us to pray for that will to be done.
  • Christ teaches believers to express their dependence on God by praying that He will be gracious enough to meet their daily needs.
  • Christ then instructs believers to ask for forgiveness.  However, there is a catch.  When we ask God for forgiveness we must do so only after we have forgiven those who have “wronged” us.
  • Finally, we are instructed to pray for deliverance from temptation.  For believers to win the war against sin they must first win the battle of temptation.  This begins with prayer.

Jesus’ model prayer contains all of the elements a new believer ought to include in his or her prayer life.  So I encourage you to go beyond giving simple instructions for prayer by showing those whom you disciple how to pray, and Jesus’ prayer makes the perfect model.


Why Evangelism Doesn’t Happen

Roger Bear

Campus Minister at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Indiana State

By Roger Bear

I think I’ve figured out why evangelism doesn’t happen, or I might say, doesn’t work, much of the time.  Since few people want to read long blog posts, here you go.

First, I think we are hesitant to tell others about a message or belief of which we ourselves are not adequately convinced. Think about something you’re convinced of:  the best way to drive to Indy; the name and description of the neighborhood or hometown you grew up in; your favorite style of music (blue grass, country, southern gospel, etc.); that Chicago or Branson or Holiday World (or wherever) is the most wonderful place to visit in the summer.  Being convinced of something makes it easy to tell to others, even if they’re skeptical, even if they remain unconvinced. If or when we are confident that God in the Person of His Son has invaded this planet and has given Himself as the only adequate and perfect sacrifice for the disease of humanity’s and my sin, then sharing the gospel (evangelism) should flow as least as winsomely as  telling someone how the latest diet has changed my life! How about you? Are you so convinced of John 3:16 that when you talk about it you’re convincing?

Secondly, we instinctively know that when/if we share our relationship, our saving friendship in Jesus Christ, with another person, we are also sharing our own lives, our selves, even our time and stuff!  I will admit (will you?) that I have held back in sharing the message of reconciliation in Christ (are you ready for this?) because I didn’t have the time for any more people to be a part of my life! (I hate admitting this.) If someone trusts the Lord Jesus as their Savior, Lord, and Friend, then I have to be willing to be their friend as well! (And what if it’s a homeless person, or someone from, you know, that neighborhood you can’t stand?) I think this has to be called selfishness—of the worst kind!

And this actually leads to a third reason I think evangelism fails so often.  I may very well talk to and lead someone into becoming a follower of Jesus. Then, this new believer will need the fellowship of many followers, many friends, a family of faith – a church!  But, what if I don’t really like my church? What if I think, “I need to get this new Christian involved somewhere, but, oh, my church is too (fill in the blank), or my church doesn’t (fill in the blank)?”  At times in my life, I have felt this way. In other words, I have been hesitant to talk to others about eternal life because my own church family wasn’t very cool! Is this the case with you?  What can be done?

I could be wrong here. (I do reserve the right to be.) But this much is certain: all around us are people needing everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us and offers us. We must look within and among ourselves and come to terms with why the faith we profess isn’t flowing from us more easily and readily.

Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13)

Six Principles for Church Revitalization

Pastor of Sugar Creek Baptist Church, West Terre Haute.

There is a lot of talk and emphasis these days on church planting.  While I believe church planting is a vital part of Kingdom work and must not be neglected, there is another part of Kingdom work that is as equally vital—the work of church revitalization.  By revitalization, I mean taking something that is dead, dying, or in decay and restoring to it life and health.  Church revitalization, then, is about taking a church that is dead, dying, or in decay and bringing it back to life and health.

The work of church revitalization is the kind of Kingdom work the majority of pastors in North America are engaged in.  Research indicates that 80% of churches in North America have either plateaued or are in a state of decline.[i]  What this means is that 3 out of 4 churches in North America are in need of revitalization.  The issue for the pastors of these churches is how to go about restoring life and health to the local congregation God has called them shepherd?

Many things could be said in answer to this question and I cannot possibly touch every facet of the work that is involved in church revitalization.  However, there are truths I have learned from God’s Word that have helped me think biblically about what is in involved in this kind of pastoral work.  Not surprisingly, I have found these truths in the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  These two Old Testament books record for us an approximately one hundred year period of ancient Israelite history that is pregnant with contemporary significance as it relates to the work of church revitalization.

Here are a number of principles I have learned from Ezra-Nehemiah about the work of church revitalization:

1.      God is in control of all things, including the revitalization process.

This is the first and most important truth to come to grips with.  God is sovereign and we are not.  He leads the revitalization process through stirring up the hearts of His people to engage in the work of revitalization and we are called to participate with Him in the work that He is doing.

2.      The work takes time so we need to be patient.

In our fast paced culture that prizes instant results, the dreaded “p” word is hard to hear, but pastors much learn to be patient because change takes time.  The work of revitalization that is recorded for us in Ezra-Nehemiah did not happen overnight, but over an approximately 100 year period.  In other words, be patient.

3.      We need expect loss of people as well as opposition and difficulties.

It is just a matter of fact that when God stirs up the hearts of His people to do the work of revitalization people will leave.  There are various levels of commitment that are represented within a local church and those that are the least committed will usually disappear.  Others will not be in alignment with the direction things are headed and jump ship as well.  Still others will seek to thwart the effect by directly opposing the work that is going on.  When this happens, we must remember that when God began the work of revitalization in Ezra-Nehemiah the number of people who returned to the Promised Land to do the work was fewer than the number who went into exile and that opposition and difficulty was a common experience for the people.

4.      God’s people must unite around God’s mission in order for the work to take hold.

This is absolutely critical in the revitalization process.  The mission the church must pursue is God’s mission not their own.  Unfortunately, in our day we have experience a lot of “mission creep,” where the mission of God has been replaced by the mission of man.  However, for lasting revitalization to take place God’s people must be united around God’s mission and nothing else.

5.      Pastors must prioritize the teaching of God’s Word.

The Bible is the fountain head of the church’s life and health.  Just as the word of God created life when there was no life in the beginning of creation, so to the Word of God (i.e. the Bible) spoken through the mouths of His servants brings new life to spiritually dead people.  If there is to be any revitalization in our churches, the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word must be prioritized.

6.      Pastors must be prepared to always be engaged in revitalization work.

This may be the hardest truth to swallow—the work is never done.  The fact of the matter is that churches do not naturally drift toward greater degrees of faithfulness, obedience, and holiness.  Rather, we naturally drift in the opposite direction.  Therefore, pastors need to be mindful that as long as they are pastoring a local church they will be laboring to keep a church on track and headed in the right direction.  The end of the book of Nehemiah illustrated this point nicely.

These are six basic principles I learned from Ezra-Nehemiah concerning the work of church revitalization.  They are not anything new and innovative.  Rather, they are timeless truths gleaned from God’s Word.  I hope you find them helpful as you seek to turn the tide of decline and decay in the local congregation God has called you to pastor.

[i]Malphurs, Aubrey, A New Kind of Church: Understanding Models of Ministry for the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 18.

I’m in a Hurry and God Isn’t

By Larry Snyder

Larry Snyder Pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Clinton

Larry Snyder
Pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Clinton

Is patience difficult for you?  The story is told about a man in Los Angeles, California who was arrested for negligent discharge of a weapon after shooting his toilet bowl five times with a .38 caliber handgun.  He claims that he just got upset.  He couldn’t take it any longer.  His daughter had flushed a hairbrush down the toilet earlier in the day and clogged the pipes.  So he shot the offending toilet.  I have no word on the toilet’s condition, but the man’s patience was long gone.

Someone has said,

“Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman,
Never in a man.”

I recently read a statistic that says that in the average lifetime, a person will spend 2 years calling people who aren’t home, 3 years in meetings and 5 years waiting in line.  Five years waiting in lines!  No one likes to wait.  I don’t like missing a green light or an elevator.  Waiting for even one minute can be agonizing!

But even worse is waiting on God!  Have you ever had to do that?  It seems like I am always in a hurry . . . but God seldom is.

As James, the half-brother of our Lord, moves into a conclusion to this marvelous book named after him, remember he is writing to Christians who had been exiled by the Roman emperor Claudius, and they have been unable to return home.  He begins his letter to these believers telling them in James 1:3, “…the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

In the verses in James 5:7-11, he returns to this theme of endurance.  Actually, in these 5 verses, James tells his readers 4 times to be patient until His return.  The word James uses for patience and endurance in the original Greek implies for Christians “to stay put and stand fast when you would really like to run.”

James gives us 3 examples of patient endurance.  He begins with an example of the farmer in verses 7 thru 9.  If you are an impatient person you should not desire to be a farmer.  I have met several farmers but I have never met one without patience.  They must be patient.  They must endure pain and toil preparing the soil to sow the seed.  They must sow the seed, and after the soil is prepared and the seed sown, they must be patient with the season.  Why does the farmer willingly wait so long?  Verse 7 tells us it is because the fruit is “precious”.  You see, the farmer has his eyes on the end result.

Next James gives the illustration of the prophets in Verse 10.  These early believers who James is writing to would have been familiar with this example of Old Testament prophets.  When we read how these faithful servants suffered, it offers us encouragement.  Beloved, we can be encouraged because we can know that God is in control.  These prophets encourage us by showing that they were in the will of God, yet they suffered.  They were proclaiming their message in “the name of the Lord.”  Pain and suffering are sometimes due to your faithfulness to God.  Perhaps that is the reason for your trial.  As someone once said “the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

The third example that James gives us of patience and endurance in this passage of Scripture is Job.  James mentions him in verses 11 and 12.  Job is the classic example of a man that patiently endured suffering and was blessed by God for his persevering faith.  James reminds the believer that there are blessings for those who persevere.  But there often must be a trail of suffering to persevere through.  Job lost all he had except a nagging wife and friends who did not understand or support him.  He did not understand what the causes of his suffering were.  He did not know what was going on behind the scenes with God and Satan, yet Job endured.

James wants to encourage us to be patient in times of suffering.  He says:

  1. Like the farmer, keep working; keep waiting for that spiritual harvest.
  2. Like the prophet, keep witnessing; keep seeking opportunities to share the truth of God.
  3. Like Job keep trusting.

And we will have a clear vision of the Lord and come to know Him better for having been in the furnace of affliction.