Avoid One and Done

I have discovered a proliferation of door to door sales people here in Washington as compared to rural Minnesota where I lived for 44 years. I’ve had people come by trying to sell me home security services, pest control and lawn services. I listen to their sales pitch but I tell them that I am not going to buy anything now but rather I want to do my own research. I want to get to know their company and what they are selling. I want to trust them before I make an investment. They usually don’t like this response as they want the sale now.

The same mentality is often seen among Christians. One presents the Gospel to someone and then wants to see the fruits of their efforts now. They want to make an instant “sale” and then move on; feeling good that their numbers are going up. This tactic, though, is rarely effective in the long term, especially for the one “buying the product”. One and done evangelism is often more damaging to the one being evangelized. It’s like selling someone a whatchamacallit without an owners manual.

Instead, we need to spend time with people and develop relationships with them.  We can’t have a “one and done” mentality. We need to invest in people, provide for any needs, be a guide and help them along the way as they grow in Christ. When you look at the early church in Acts, the apostles spent time in the towns in which they planted churches. They didn’t just preach and go. They weren’t one and done evangelists. They invested in people.

Door to door ministry can be effective, but only if a relationship eventually ensues. Leading people to Christ can be a time consuming thing but it is important work as we are called and commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples…”. Spend time with people and live out your faith. Show them Christ’s love through your words and deeds. Be a “little Jesus” to them. Walk with them and when the opportunity presents itself, tell them about Jesus. Basically, earn the right to be heard.

So all you door to door sales people, don’t expect me to buy what you’re selling until I get to know you. Make an investment in me and earn my trust. Not practical for you, I know, but for you, Christian, it is. It’s what Jesus and the apostles did. Follow him and walk AS Jesus did and don’t be a one and done evangelist.

The Pastor -|—

Making Disciples

As a church, what are you about?

A church strategy that focuses on getting people to come to you through flashy programs, big events, creative gimmicks or high energy worship technology misses the point of being the church. Jesus never said, “Go therefore and make members of all nations…“. Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make DISCIPLES of all nations…“.  The work of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus create Jesus-followers or better yet, those to walk/live/talk/act AS Jesus would. It is a command to live out loud in such a way that people see Jesus in you and thus give glory to God. The work of the church is “out there”, not in the safety of your four walls.

If, as a church, though, you are only focused on bringing in more people so you can cover your budget, you are nothing more than community-minded club. Following Jesus is not a club but a way of life. Following Jesus is messy. Following Jesus is joy in the midst of a messed up, sin-filled world.

As a church, ask yourself this question:
If we evangelize someone; sharing the Good News of Jesus with them, and they come to believe, will we still rejoice if they choose to worship elsewhere?

Think about that. If your answer is no then some soul searching needs to be done.
Why do you exist?
Who are you trying to glorify, yourself or God?
What’s more important, building your kingdom (building) or God’s Kingdom?

Sure, more than likely, if you help lead someone to Jesus, they will come and worship where you worship, but they may not. If they choose someplace else, then still praise God. Praise God they are part of the flock. Praise God they are worshiping him. Praise God that there is another disciple out there ready to do battle with the forces of evil. Praise God.

As I said, following Jesus is messy work but if you are unwilling to get messy, then you will miss the joy that is discipleship. Get out of your neat, safe and comfortable buildings. Hit the messy, dirt road; kicking up some dust along the way and getting dirty; knowing that you are already washed clean through the Holy Spirit.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
[Matthew 28:19-20]

Let’s get messy.

The Pastor -|—

Being a Christian

As a Christian there are three important implications of claiming Jesus as your Lord and Savior. These are implications that I am thinking about for the sermon tomorrow. If you want to hear more then you still have time to travel to Puyallup, WA to hear more or you can just listen to the sermon on the church’s website after the fact at:

www.livingwordlutheranchurch.com

In the mean time, here’s a little teaser for you…

(1) We are to identify with sinners; as the sinners we are. We need to identify with the hopeless, the lost, the hungry, the wayward, the misguided, idolaters, etc. It is only through this identification that we can proclaim the Gospel to them without judgment.

(2) Creating disciples should be our primary focus. Not only does Jesus give us this command at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, but it should be a no-brainer. If you have been transformed by the power of the proclaimed Word then why not also proclaim that same proclaimed Word in Jesus Christ. And when you create a disciple, don’t just let them go like a wind-up toy. Follow up with them and encourage them, lest they go astray.

(3) Be Gospel people. Live the life of a follower of Jesus in deed AND word knowing that people WILL be offended; for the Gospel indeed offends. And when it offends someone (and it will) remember that the Gospel kills (and people generally hate that) but it also raise to New Life. So be persistent. They need you.

There you go. Pretty easy, right? No, but by the grace of God will people come to know God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. Be a Christian, not just act like one.

The Pastor -|—

The Cost

Father God,
You have overcome the world
through Jesus Christ
and have given us the hope of the resurrection through faith.
May we count the cost of following Jesus as being worthy;
for there are many who do not know You.
Holy God,
mighty Father,
hear us as we pray
and lead us in the Way.
We pray this through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever,
Amen.

The Pastor -|—

To Follow

Holy God,
through Jesus Christ You call us to action,
as You call us to follow.
But road is not easy
and the task is daunting.
We are tempted to give up
or take shortcuts so not to offend people.

May we never do so.
May we always be faithful.

Grant us Your Spirit
that we may fix our gaze upon Jesus,
so much so,
that his glory is reflected in the world
through our faithfulness.
May our actions shed light
in a dark world
and
may our words speak peace and hope.

You call us to follow,
may we do so now without hesitation.
All praise, glory and honor
be unto You,
Creator God,
through Christ Jesus our Lord,

Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Promises and Joy

I experienced a first this past Saturday…

…I got the privilege to perform an adult baptism.  She is a 20 year old woman (Samantha) who a member of my congregation has been mentoring for the past few months.  This member (Dave) lives at a local nursing home and the young woman is a nurse’s aid at that nursing home.  This woman knew of Dave’s strong faith and went to him with questions.  Through the course of their conversations she mentioned that she wanted to be baptized.  Since she wasn’t currently connected to a church Dave said “I think I can help you with that“, and contacted me.

I joyful agreed to baptize her.

I met with this young woman (and Dave) and we chatted for awhile, but left the bulk of the discipling up to Dave since he had already established a relationship with her.  From the time Dave first started talking with Samantha he would call me and tell me some of the questions she had and how he responded.  We would discuss those questions and I would encourage Dave.

He was doing a great job.

The day of the baptism finally arrived.  The service was performed in the family room at the nursing home.  Samantha invited her family, friends and residents of the nursing home.  As we began, Samantha had to step away to get a tissue.  She was starting to get emotional (and so was I).  I read from Romans 6 and talked about what GOD is doing in baptism.  We went through the confession of faith and when I eventually announced the promises of baptism to Samantha and poured the water over Samantha’s head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

…tears were flowing down her face (and down many other faces in that room).

I laid my hands on her head, prayed over her and made the sign of the cross on her forehead.  I also invited her sponsors to make the sign of the cross on her forehead.

Tears were still flowing.

Salem Lutheran Church (the congregation I serve) presented Samantha a quilt and a study Bible.

Tears were still flowing.

For me this whole experience was very powerful.  For my first time I got to experience a baptism where the person was aware of what was going on, what the promises being made to them meant and was showing pure joy as those promises were being announced.  Now don’t get me wrong…I still love performing baptisms for infants (baptisms are the favorite thing I get to do as a pastor), but to see the recipient express that joy was…well…awesome.

Praise be to God!

And here’s the other cool part of all of this…

…Dave is currently in conversations with another nursing home staff member about getting her three older children baptized.  Wow…God is awesome!

And I can hardly wait 🙂

edh -|—