Category Archives: Eagle Heights
What is going on in the life of the church (the body of people in Christ) I pastor?
This past Sunday the Elders and I met and we ended our meeting discussing what we were encouraged about, as well as, what areas we would like to see more fruit. We hope to see more of us sharing the gospel where the Lord has placed us. We hope to see more families come and stay with us to labor in a small city, university context that is very transient. I would like to see us excel in prayer more and more since it is an expression of our faith in God. Do we trust God and depend on Him? How much do we trust Him? The biblical quality and frequency of our praying tells the story. We will never arrive on this side of heaven, but we always seek to press forward and grow in the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11). There is more work to do.
On the other hand, one of the themes of encouragement that came from our meeting was what God is doing in mobilizing and sending people to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation. Several examples were mentioned and one the opportunities we are really excited about is the possibility of doing more with international students right here in Stillwater. That was on Sunday.
On Monday my family and I gathered with the Roger’s Core Group to hear Ryan Johnson talk about what God is doing through his family and team with Syrian Refugees. The Roger’s CG has developed a relationship with the Johnsons and they support them by prayer and financial giving. I was highly encouraged and challenged to see the depth of the work, but was also encouraged to see the biblical simplicity of it. I didn’t get to hear about all they were doing because I was watching my kiddos and we had to leave early, but one portion was particularly interesting to me when he described how they are discipling people to disciple others.
Once someone comes to Christ, this is their process:
- They read or listen to the Bible together.
- They ask what the text means and what it teaches them about Jesus.
- They then ask how those listening to identify how they should trust and obey Jesus based on what they have heard. What would Jesus have them do to trust and obey Him?
- Once they grasp the meaning of God’s word, they ask who they can share this with.
- Finally, to the best of my memory, they ask those in the group how they can serve in their community.
They begin with God’s word and challenge their listeners to hear and obey Jesus so they can help others do the same.
This isn’t all they do to serve and share Christ with people, but it struck me how simple this process is and how easy it is to replicate for multiplication. They are living and serving in a very different context than that of our local church, but since Jesus walked on earth, this is really how those who follow Jesus have been doing gospel ministry. This is exactly what Eagle Heights is trying to do as well: Glorifying God together by trusting Jesus and obeying all He commands – and teaching others to do the same.
You all know that we are not a perfect local church, but we have much to be thankful to God for as He continues to work among us to make disciples of all the nations, beginning here in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I hope and pray that we will excel still more and more.
During the month of January we preached, taught, discussed and listened to five sermons on how a local church can love each other even when it is hard. And it is hard to love one another because we live in a broken world of broken people – people who are prone to wander away from God into sin.
Here are summaries for the five sermons:
- Sermon 1: Jesus commanded (Matthew chapters 5-7) and did hard things (the cross). If we truly love Jesus, we will obey all He commands (John 14:15 and Matthew 28:19-20), because we understand that He is trying to protect us and do good to us (Matthew 7:24-27). Love is wanting and doing what is best for others according to God’s word, and Jesus did hard love the best. If we love Him, then hard love we will do.
- Sermon 2: Hard love is not just the job of the Elders and Deacons, but is the privilege and responsibility of every member of a local church (Philippians 1:1 and 4:1-3).
- Sermon 3: Hard love is first and foremost an encouraging arm around the neck, not a just a pointing finger. The culture of our local church should be one of ongoing, informal, loving discipline so that we can be honest about the sin in our lives without excusing it (Galatians 6:1-3).
- Sermon 4: There may come a time when one brother or sister has to start a formal process of church discipline if another brother or sister refuses to repent of their sin. After several steps of intervention, the so-called brother or sister may have to be treated as an unbeliever by the entire local church (Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). This is hard, but it is better to sternly rebuke a straying sheep than to let them be self-deceived (1 Corinthians 5:5). If they repent, we should restore them gently (Galatians 6:1-2).
- Sermon 5: For hard love to work, we have to discipline ourselves to be in close relationship with other Christians so they can encourage us day after day. If we are not willing to be relationally vulnerable then how will others know how to speak truth-filled encouragement into our lives (Hebrew 3:12-14; 10:23-25)?
Reflections on the Hard Love Sermon Series:
- We are striving to be a high-commitment church. I don’t mean this in a boastful way, or to be demeaning to other churches. But through the process of membership, we call people to be committed to Christ by being committed to His people in accountable relationships under the authority of God’s Spirit-inspired word. We do this because Jesus demands it for our own good (Colossians 3:15-16 and Hebrews 3:12-14). Jesus declares, without apology, that if any person wants to come after Him and have Jesus save their life, they must be willing to surrender their whole life to the One who gave His life for them (Mark 8:33-38). The way to gain your life is to deny yourself and be willing to give it all to Christ, and when you give your life to Christ, you become a part of His body through One Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-6). How can a person be be committed to Christ if they are neglecting the very body they are a part of? I think you know the answer. It is right and loving that we call people to be committed to Christ by being committed to a visible local church. I don’t know how you obey all that Jesus commanded without calling people to a formal commitment (See Matthew 18:15-17).
- Our faith family embraced these hard love truths. Now the truth is, we will find out how much we trust and love Jesus when we have to actually do what we have He has commanded (John 14:15 and James 1:22). But the affirmation we have received from so many has been truly encouraging. There are many reasons this is such a hard pill for many professing Christians to swallow. For example, maybe some have been in church all their lives and never seen it done. Maybe others have seen it done really poorly. By the way, it could be done well and still not go well. Sin complicates things. Additionally, this whole idea of calling people to repent goes against the deeply entrenched belief that no one has the right to judge anyone else. Of course, if someone claims this, they haven’t thought much about their conclusion, because they have just made a very real judgment about how it is wrong to judge. We can’t live without making judgments, but we can strive to judge righteously (Matthew 7:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 5:11-13).
- It took us eight years to explicitly teach on this, but maybe that is for the best. I say eight years because that is how long I have been a pastor of Eagle Heights. I have been convicted for a long time that we need to involve the church if we were going to fully obey Jesus – provided it had to come to the final step of church involvement of putting someone out (Matthew 18:17). But as one of my seminary teachers used to tell us: “You need to teach before you reform.” Having said that, on several occasions the Elders have done most of Matthew 18:15-17, and as I told the church in sermon four, we once almost brought a guy to the church, but praise God, he repented. That instance and a few others made the Elders realize that we had to involve the church and explain that we must be willing to obey all Jesus commanded. It took us a while to get to this point, but now it has been explained and we need the whole church to be willing to pursue straying church members – if that is what it must be done.
- I don’t ever want it to come to Matthew 18:17, but I trust Jesus’ words more than I trust the words of anyone else. None of our Elders enjoy wading into the entanglement of confronting a stray sheep and unrepentant brother or sister, but we have seen that there is sanctification in it and we have seen the joy of seeing a professing Christian repent.
- I hope and pray more local churches will begin to pursue obedience to Jesus by practicing informal and formal church discipline. All that we do must be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14), but we cannot love God and wink at the very sin that sent Jesus to the cross. It is not loving to let people run headlong toward the destruction of sin. Yes, we must be careful not breed a culture of self-righteousness that nit-picks at every faith-fail and misstep, but we must call the church to the unrelenting pursuit gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered holiness. The church must be in the world, but not of the world. The church must be distinct in our love for the things that God loves, if we are to be attractive witnesses to the world. I remember distinctly an instance when a woman was telling another Elder and I the story of how her husband abandoned her and how she begged the leaders of their church to do church discipline on her straying husband so that he might bear fruit in keeping with repentance. I remember how she wept over the fact that they did not act and pursue him. That has stuck with me. I can’t shake that conversation. We may botch the Matthew 18:15-17 commands of Jesus, but it is better to have tried to obey Jesus and failed than to have failed by never trusting enough to try. We can’t live in paralysis because of the fear that something might go wrong. If someone is sinning unrepentantly, then something is already going wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We must trust and obey our perfect God and King who died for His imperfect body.
I thank God through Jesus that our church was teachable and willing to receive this. May we always be willing to hear the word of God and trust Him, no matter what hard thing He calls us to do.
5 Groups are gender-specific groups of four to six people that meet weekly for the purpose of accountability and sharing honestly. These groups read through a book of the Bible as their curriculum and they meet for a defined period of time in order to multiply and replicate what has been modeled for them. (5 Groups – Questions and Answers)
I have led four generations of these 5 Groups and in doing so, through trial and error, I have been able to settle on some practices and habits that better facilitate our meetings. Here are several practices that have been helpful to the groups I have been a part of:
- At a minimum, I have the group read the assigned passage at least twice before meeting.
- I Send a weekly group text with a reminder about the text you are going to read. Sometimes I include a question of the week like: “How are you sharing the gospel with others?”
- We always read the passage out loud together before we discuss it.
- I make it known from the beginning that I will ask everyone to share an insight, a question and an application regarding the weekly assigned text. This provides accountability for reading the text prior to the meaning and it helps people to prepare.
- I press for application, asking pointedly: “What does Jesus want you to do in light of the insight and questions you have about God’s Spirit-inspired word. This isn’t just about a great discussion or learning, it must also be about following Jesus.
- I always make room for prayer. If our discussion has gone long when we meet, we still take the time to share prayer requests, and then we assign those requests to each person in the group, asking them to text the person they are praying for when they have prayed for the request.
- I remind the group every few weeks why you are meeting with them. I will say to my groups that the reason we have designed these groups the way they are is so that they can do the same thing with someone else. I will sometimes say: “The reason I am doing this with you is so that you can do it with others.” I want to press the need for reproducing multiplication and I want them to be thinking who they might invite to join them when the next round of groups is started.
One of the things I like about 5 Groups is that they are simply this simple by design. All you need is a few faithful people, a plan to read a book of the Bible, some leader vulnerability for the sake of honesty and a consistent plan for a defined time.
What practices have worked best for you?
Motivation matters. It is the fuel that drives a person to initially take action, and it is often the single greatest factor for sustaining an action. Some people never begin to serve, and many don’t continue to contribute, because they have never thought about why they do what they do.
Children’s ministry can be very rewarding, but it is not always easy and fun. It’s hard to work to love the little children that Jesus loves so deeply – especially when they are not your own. (And sometimes it is hard to love and serve your own.) Our local church has many volunteers who love and serve children every week, and here’s what our volunteers said when they were asked:”WHY DO YOU SERVE IN CHILDREN’S MINISTRY?” Read and be motivated.
- Seeing kids smile and laugh is a joy and sharing Jesus with them is a blessing.
- I love serving in Children’s Ministry because I get to teach and reach children that are not in my “friend” group. It keeps me young and I love their openness and honesty when talking about Jesus.
- I love serving in children’s ministry because they are the future. They exemplify child-like faith more than anyone I know. Children provide examples of trust, love and eagerness for the gospel. I want to have an impact on children because they are the future hands and feet of Christ.
- From working in the nursery, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow workers and learn baby tips and tricks from them. I also like loving on the babies and giving their parents a little break.
- I serve in Children’s Ministry because I didn’t hear the gospel until I was 17 and I want to make sure kids hear it before then and know the love of Jesus.
- I love babies so I serve in the nursery the 2nd Sunday of every month. God has given me the opportunity to serve. It’s a privilege and honor to serve God in this way. I am thankful and grateful.
- I serve in our children’s ministry because I’ve been blessed by my own kids involvement and I want to give back! (Plus, kids are fun!)
- God called me to work with His children and I love it.
- It is important! It is effective! I get great joy from working with these kids!
- I love to see the kids grow up and then they start to serve in children’s ministry.
- I love children and I believe God lets me take care of these little ones. I enjoy meeting the parents. Without this option, I would just be another member.
- I started as a sub for Ronnie & Stephanie. Now that I am permanently Ronnie’s helper, I enjoy it. I have always loved working with children (former teacher). The Lord has given me a love for them. I look at the K-2nd grade class as “my kids.” I love building relationship with them so I can share Jesus.
- I serve in the nursery to provide love to babies and a time mothers can go and listen to God’s word without concern.
- I serve with children because I know the outcome children’s ministries can bring from my own experience. Also, I just love kids!
- Children are precious and important. Coming to know Jesus at a young age is a gift. I want that for my kids and all kids we serve!
- I serve Eagle Heights children because I am a child-convert (at 6 years old). God saved me at a young age and I want children to know He can save them, too.
- I serve in the children’s ministry for a way to give back to Eagle Heights for all they’ve given me.
- The children always make me laugh and it reminds me of the joy we have in Jesus! J
- I started working in the 2-3 year old room because that’s where there was a need and I was here both services since my husband plays music in church. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know both the kids and their families. There is so much growth between the ages of two and four and I love seeing them grow.
- I love to see the kids learn. I love to see them grow one step closer to knowing Christ. I love to plant tiny seeds in their hearts. I love the kids and I want them to know Him!!
- I get fulfillment in watching and helping transform “rowdy”, unfocused, young minds into those that strive to memorize verses and begin to seek to know God and desire to learn His words.
- I enjoy caring for the kids while their parents learn and worship in the service.
- I love learning alongside the kids and being reminded of the richness of the simple gospel truths. I love being able to disciple them and teach them some of the life-changing things I have learned about following Jesus.
- I enjoy working with babies and serving the parents of small children.
- It is such a joy and honor to have conversations with children about Jesus and share the gospel with them.
- I love getting to love on the little ones that come to our church. I also feel like it is a good way to get to know other church members and to serve the body that I am part of.
- The love that has been poured out on my children in this children’s ministry has been monumental. I serve because I want to pour that love back out to other children. There is no greater joy than watching children come to know Christ. If I can be a small part in helping with that, I will count that a blessing!
We are thankful to all our volunteers who love and serve children.
Thanks to Jill Daugherty (Children’s Director) and Becca White (Sunday Morning Coordinator) for leading our children’s ministry and sharing this with us.
Below you will find a Communication Matters Agenda and some brief comments about what was discussed. Please share this information with others. As always, I want to plead with the members of Eagle Heights to always speak to each other directly with regards to questions and concerns. The Elders and staff are always willing to listen so we can better care for and love each other in order to glorify God together by trusting Jesus and obeying all He commands.
- Brent began the time by praying for it and briefly describing the format. He encouraged the members of Eagle Heights to join us for prayer on Sundays at 8:15 a.m. as we pray for Core Groups and our faith family. Also, he encouraged people to communicate to their Core Groups what was discussed at the meeting.
- Pastor Tyson briefly shared that the Elders were glad to have Brandon Gibson as our youth minister and that he is doing a good job. But he also shared that the Elders, in an effort to avoid a prolonged time without a youth minister, unintentionally forgot to ask for a vote of affirmation from the church. This does not change Brandon’s status in any way, but in light of what happened, the Elders have been working with the Personnel Team to make sure we honor the expectations of the church that are expressed in the scriptures and our governing documents. Tyson apologized on behalf of the Elders and expressed the desire of the Elders to always be willing to admit mistakes and honor the authority of the scriptures and the accountability we have with the membership of our faith family. We also expressed our gratitude to the Personnel Team for their oversight and help in the matter.
- Brent informed the church that the Finance Team and Personnel Team have done a great job of working with the staff to produce a budget that will be presented to the church in the near future for a vote of affirmation. Brent thanked the Personnel Team and Finance Team for their faithful service and love.
- Craig Exendine, our University Minister, shared briefly about the University ministry and how he is encouraged by the integration of university students with the rest of our church.
- Brandon Gibson informed us about youth ministry strategies and happenings. He reported that the attendance has been around 40 to 50 students, which is an encouraging sign of increased participation.
- Brent updated the church on 5Group Participation. We have 12 women’s groups and at least 7 men’s groups with hopes to multiply more in the spring. Brent also gave a rationale why we have 5Groups in addition to Core Groups.
- Pastor Russ gave a Building Up Construction and Budget update. The project is due to be complete by February 23rd and we have at least $77,000 left raise to complete the project. Since April, at the end of our capital campaign, we have raised over $83,000. Three or four questions were asked. For instance, someone asked how much parking was being lost and added. Another question was: “How much seating capacity will be added with the expansion?” Please feel free to talk to Pastor Russ if you have questions with regard to Building Up.
- Brent then briefly explained how we plan to raise the last bit of money to complete the project. We are asking people to pray about giving a sacrificial gift that is above and beyond their regular and missions giving. We are asking that this gift be given on November 22nd, which is the same day of our Harvest of Thanks Dinner. We are hoping to raise most, if not all, of the remaining funds from this Building Up giving push. You will be hearing more about this in the days to come.
- Brent led a time of Q&A for which there were not questions. But Brent once again pleaded with everyone to always come and express concerns and questions. The Elders and the staff want to know how to love and serve the people of Eagle Heights.
- The Elders ended with a time of specific prayer requests. We prayed for Jenae and Les Tilley and their family as they continue to fight serious health issues. We prayed for the victims and those who witnessed the OSU Homecoming Parade tragedy. We prayed for Nelda Newman and her healing from cancer. We prayed that God would give us boldness to share the gospel wherever we are going – at work, at home, at school, etc. Please join us in praying for these people and concerns. Pray also for our missionaries and UPGs.
Again, let us know if you have questions or see a need.
May we glorify God together by trusting Jesus and obeying all He commands by: Trusting God’s Word. Loving God’s People. Living God’s Mission.
I have said repeatedly over the last several weeks that God’s word is so powerfully necessary that without it we would cease to exist. To say it another way: God is constantly speaking us into being and without the sustaining word of God, we would be no more.
This week for our Q&A Podcast, we received several questions as to where this idea was found in the scriptures.
Hebrews 1:3 declares: “And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
The word “uphold” can also be translated “sustains” or “to cause to continue in a state or condition.” (BDAG: Bauer’s Greek and English Lexicon). Additionally, the grammar of the word is that of an ongoing action by the subject (Jesus). Jesus, the son of God, is constantly sustaining the creation by the speaking of His powerful, life-sustaining word.
The God of the Bible is not the god of the deist. God did not create the world, wind it up and remove Himself from it. He is intimately involved in its ongoing existence and preservation.
One other text is worthy of mentioning. Paul, inspired by the Spirit, proclaims in Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Jesus is holding all things together! How? By His sustaining voice (Heb. 1:3).
What would happen if Jesus quit speaking you, me and the rest of the world into being? Would anything exist? Would anyone know?
Yet another reason to praise the God of gods, through Jesus Christ.
This past Sunday we continued to discuss the application of our purpose and vision for Eagle Heights. We discussed the importance and priority of:
- The Large Group Gathering. This is the time that our local church gathers to proclaim the gracious truth of God’s word, and also to honor God’s word by hearing it explained and proclaimed for exhortation. We honor God by prioritizing gathering, singing, praying, fellowship, hearing God’s word preached and then going to the world to follow Christ in all of life. This glorifies God and we should not forsake this time (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Core Groups or Small Groups. These are smaller meetings in which people can know and be known; love and be loved. These groups allow people to care for others and be cared for. Yes, there will be content and accountability to God’s word and each other, but this is the place for people to build relationships to share life. So if someone has a spiritual or physical need, this is the gathering within the larger gathering that should know of it first.
- 5Groups. These groups are called 5Groups because they will be five to six people in size and have five essential components. First, we expect all of these groups to have Bible-reading discipleship. God’s Spirit uses God’s word to shape God’s people for God’s mission in all of life, and so the Bible must be central. We want groups to read through books or sections of the Bible. Second, we expect each group to be multi-generational. We need the life experience of others. Third, we expect that there will be honest gender-specific sharing. Men and women are both created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), but God also created men and women unique and with that uniqueness comes strengths and weaknesses. We want men and women to be able share honestly about their specific struggles so that we can help each other follow Christ. Fourth, we expect committed attendance for a defined time. It’s easier to commit to something when you know the length of the commitment. Fifth. These groups are designed to be simple and reproducible. This is also why we want each group to have a defined length of time for meeting. We want to multiply courageous, Bible-reading followers of Christ in all of life. We want to raise up disciple-makers. Each group will be asked to plant new groups at the end of their time.
In response to the introduction of 5Groups this past Sunday, we received some questions and also realized there may have been some things we were not able to address. Here are some questions that were asked and some questions that may have been wondered but not expressed.
- Why do we need these groups? Aren’t we already doing these things? Yes, in some ways we are doing many of these things. However, the uniqueness of these groups is that they champion a multi-generational, gender specific approach to discipleship, which makes them different than our larger Core Groups. These groups are absorbing and streamlining much of what the men’s and women’s ministry have done in the past. Also, we think the smallness of the groups (5-6) will allow more men and women to participate because they can meet at times that are convenient for those who join a group. Additionally, we think this is the best way to multiply Bible-reading disciples who can help others do the same. Multiplication is something that is not natural and we hope the core components will facilitate growth in this area.
- Aren’t we just attempting to program discipleship? Isn’t this just another thing to do? Yes. But what is a program? Isn’t it just a plan to do something? Unfortunately many programs become the end instead of the means. Or the program becomes a distraction to what is important because the organization is focused on running and staffing the program instead of thinking about what its purpose is. So yes, this is a program, but it is a life-on-life effort to get people to read God’s word, hear God’s word and honor Jesus by obeying all He commands. It’s also important to remember that this wasn’t born out of meetings, but out of life experience and doing it with people. We have tested these groups for over a year and believe them to be ready for full implementation.
- What about all the other things we do? How do they fit? Everything we do should be done to make disciples for God’s glory. A disciples is someone who is surrendered to Christ in all of life and helps others to do the same. Whether it is Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, UPWARD, Celebrate Recovery, missions, community outreach or whatever we do; the goal is discipleship for God’s glory. This is how we love people because knowing and following Jesus is the only way to experience eternal fullness of joy. Ministries like Children’s Ministry and Celebrate Recovery are specialized ministries that help people to be disciples in unique seasons of life.
- What about evangelism? Where does it fit? We will continue to do occasional events like UPWARD, Trunk-or-Treat, Experience Easter, etc. But the ongoing evangelism ministry of the church is for people to gather and be shaped by the gospel and then go into the world, making disciples of all men. “Wait”, someone might say, “I asked about evangelism!” Yes, evangelism is a part of the discipleship path. You can’t be a true disciple without being a real Christian. So we want people to be bold for Jesus in their neighborhood, at work, at Wal-Mart, etc. As a matter of fact, you could use One-to-One Bible reading that is modeled in 5Groups to share the gospel. Pray for relationships to go and speak of Jesus, wherever you are.
- Can youth participate? We think it is great if youth want to participate in one of these groups, provided they are mature enough to have serious gender-specific conversations.
- How do I start or get in a group? There are Connection Point events coming up in the next few weeks that will help connect you to a group. The Ladies’ Fall Fellowship on Sept. 11th, the With the Church Conference for university students Sept. 18-19, and Relationship Sunday Sept. 20th. If you are unable to make it to one of those events where they will be discussing 5 Groups, come to the Connection Center or mark your Connection Card to indicate your interest. If you want to lead a group, we ask that you first participate in a group before you lead one. We want you to be in a group and see it before you lead one. We ask this because we want to make sure that every group understands and emphasizes the 5 essential components. Here’s the rub though: these are new so we don’t yet have a lot of these groups, and on the women’s side of things, they are having to start from the ground up.
- Please be patient. Because we are starting these from the group up, it will take time to have enough groups for everyone to participate. It may take years to get going full speed. But we are committed to a certain methodology to make sure the groups are fulfilling the purpose we created them for. So if you have to wait to get in a group, pray for patience and participate actively in the worship gathering and a Core Group and serve in the many other specialty ministries and occasional ministries we have going. Change and growth take time.
This is a work in progress and we will need to make adjustments, but we are committed to Glorifying God together by trusting Jesus and obeying all He commands. We will do this by: Trusting God’s Word. Loving God’s People. Living God’s Mission. Will you join us?
We have all heard the horror stories about mean people who make churches mean. Sometimes a few people make a lot of people look like mean hypocrites. Sometimes a visitor has a bad experience because of a singular person. Perhaps some of us have been the cause of the horror. Thank God for His sufficient grace!
I suspect that if we were able to track down every person who has gathered with our church over the years, we would find that some, and maybe quite a few, would have something bad to say about an Eagle Heights experience. I don’t like it, but how could I deny it?
Having made the effort to be honest and balanced, I want to now be unashamedly encouraging and grateful for the sake of the people who are a part of my local faith family.
This last Sunday I met a young lady who is going through a very difficult season of life. She came to our church intending to meet a particular person who might help her with some monetary needs. A few of us visited with her after the second worship gathering and we invited her to come back later that night to our annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
Later that evening she joined us for dinner, along with her two daughters (2 and 3 yrs. old with another on the way). Several of our members (Denise Talley, Dawn Schrock and Kim and Toby Angell) went out of their way to talk and listen to her, as well as corral, feed and care for her precious little girls who were quite literally, all over the place. (I apologize if I failed to identify others who loved on this woman and her children – God knows and that’s really all that should matter.)
The following morning I was able to visit with her again and listen to her tell the story of her difficult life and present challenges. I shared with her the gospel of Jesus Christ, asked her if she knew who Jesus was and is, and asked if she had ever been a part of a church. She said she knew of Jesus and had gathered with some churches, but had mostly bad experiences in which people were unfriendly to those who did not look and act a certain way – people like her. It was hard to hear.
Despite some bad experiences, she wanted me to know how overwhelmed she was by the kindness of those she had met in our faith family. She enjoyed the multi-generational demographic of our church and the kindness she was shown by every person she encountered. She was especially complementary of the kindness that was shown her daughters; the way people watched her little girls, fed them and held them. She said she wished there was an Eagle Heights where she was from so she could be a part of it. There may be and I hope she finds a gathering of people who love Christ and others. Pray for her. God knows who she is and what she needs.
I am glad and grateful to be a part of Eagle Heights. In Christ, I am proud of our church. I am thankful for a faith family that is welcoming, caring and loving toward those they know and those they don’t. I am glad we have people who love others where they are, not where they would want them to be. I hope we continue to grow in our love for others and pray that God will continue to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others (Ps. 67).
We plowed through Mark 4:1-20 yesterday and a whole lot more could have been explained and proclaimed. Therefore I wanted to give a brief synopsis of the sermon and provide a few extra comments from John MacArthur and Jonathan Edwards. I hope you will take five minutes and serious consider and digest what is being said.
A Mark 4:1-20 Synopsis
The big idea of the text is that Jesus is using a parable to compare the crowds with fruit-bearing disciples. The crowds are interested in the show – the signs and miracles – but they ultimately reject the teaching of Jesus and bear no fruit. They reject the truth that Jesus has already explained and proclaimed, and because they reject what has already been said to them, they will get no more (Mark 4:9-12, 25). They are hard of heart and are not true disciples.
There are three non-producing soils – the hard soil, the rocky and shallow soil and the weed-infested and crowded soil. They all look different but they all produce the same result: no harvest! The sower would have considered his time and effort a complete failure if the seed only landed in these soils, because they produce nothing of lasting value. There is only one soil that produces a harvest. It is fertile and supernatural. This is the kind of soil that produces a crop that is truly of the Kingdom. John MacArthur says, “There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian.” See Galatians 5:16-26.
MacArthur and Edwards Commentary
The quote/unquote Christian church is full of all kinds of people who believe in Jesus Christ. the devils believe, James 2:19, devil faith. But it’s about holy hatred of sin. It’s about brokenness. It about self-denial. It’s about repentance. Charles Spurgeon said, “There are people who come forward under an emotional appeal and then immediately go backward into their sin. They go into the inquiry room (walk an aisle) and get converted in five minutes and have nothing to do with godliness the rest of their lives.” It’s always the temptation of the church to cheapen evangelism and all it does is create superficiality. Look, false converts are going to happen any way, aiding and abetting them is not acceptable. Dr. John MacCarthur
“If someone’s confession of the Christ doesn’t come from a deep inner contrition, a broken and contrite heart, a desire to be delivered from sin and come under the holy Lordship of Jesus Christ in a life of self-denial and sacrifice and service and even suffering, the you have no root…you have no root…” John MacArthur
“A holy life of holy love is the chief sign of grace.” Jonathan Edwards
A little tension from a Jonathan Edwards quote: “The true saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, may be foiled by particular temptations, and fall into sin, yea great sins; but they never fall away so as to grow weary of religion and the service of God, and to habitually dislike and neglect it, either on its own account or on account of the difficulties that attend it.”
We are already a week removed from a six-week sermon series on speaking of Jesus (Evangelism), and overall I was very encouraged by the response and continue to be encouraged when I hear of people who are investing and wanting to invest in others to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that many people in our church want to know the joy of testifying about our Lord and Savior.
And while we will continue to hear about the life-changing gospel as we work our way through Mark for the next six months, there won’t be the singular, weekly emphasis on proclaiming the gospel. This is a cause of concern for me because I know that most good and Godly things in life don’t happen by accident. Rather they happen when we discipline ourselves for the purpose of Godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Evangelism, like many aspects of the Christian life, is a discipline and a discipline is something we determine to do, when we ordinarily would not do it. It is easy to sit on the couch and watch the Biggest Loser. It is quite another thing to regularly exercise. One is easy and the other is not easy and requires discipline. Evangelism is a joy-bringing discipline that we have to determine to do – or most of us simply won’t.
We were not meant to follow Christ and love others alone. We need the help of other brothers and sisters to spur us toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). One way we can encourage the discipline of evangelism is through consistent reminders when our Core Groups meet.
However, I want to offer a word of caution. Well-meaning efforts could frustrate, discourage and alienate those we are trying to help. If the same question is asked every week and the results are the same, we might discover we are hurting more than helping; we are frustrating more than inspiring. We must aim to inspire speaking of Jesus, but we must do it in a humble and varied ways.
Here are 7 ways to regularly inspire and stir others up to speak of Jesus.
- As a leader, determine to consistently bring up evangelism in your Core Group. Ask someone who shares leadership with you to hold you accountable to do it faithfully.
- Ask your group if any of them have attempted to share the gospel since you last met. I would not ask this question every week, especially if you are getting the same result from the same people. Start here but vary the approach.
- Ask someone in your group to briefly explain the gospel as though they were going to share it with someone they were investing in. This is a more subtle way to remind your group that they should be sharing the gospel with others.
- Ask someone in your group too briefly share the story of how the gospel changed their life. Again, this reminds people that they should want for others what they themselves have received.
- Ask your group members to share who it is they are trying to speak of Jesus with so that the group can pray for opportunity and boldness. Then pray for them and ask about them regularly.
- As a leader, model for the group the ability to admit failures in sharing the gospel. Be honest when you are not speaking of Jesus. Explain missed opportunities. Express desires to want to speak boldly of Jesus. Ask the group to pray for courage and clarity.
- Identify and joyfully celebrate successes. Obedience is success and there is joy in obedience (John 15:11). When someone works up the courage to invite someone to read the Bible. Celebrate it. Even when they are rejected, or the response is uncertain. Celebrate it. When someone shares the whole gospel with someone. Celebrate it. Good intentions are not obedience, but sometimes we need to encourage and celebrate right desires that lead to obedience.
A warning: Be careful that this does not turn into a time of self-righteousness or a brag-fest, but also keep in mind we have all heard that what gets celebrated gets done.
What are some others ways to encourage the discipline of evangelism in your small group? We won’t cultivate a ongoing culture of evangelism if our Core Group Leaders fail to prayerfully and carefully encourage the discipline of speaking of Jesus.