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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Indispensable Outreach Plan

Evangelicals are devising many novel ways to bridge the gap between church and community. As a result, many believers are devoting enormous time, energy, money, and work to feed or clothe or entertain or educate their church’s targeted mission field or “market.” If your church has launched what can be described as a creative outreach program, you may be wondering whether it is worthwhile–even biblical.

One thing is certain, though. Even the most creative and worthwhile outreach program cannot—and must not—substitute for God’s plan for the church. When a congregation gathers for worship and edification, it should revere God’s Word and anticipate its proclamation. Paul told Timothy, a young pastor, to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). My Greek professor Kenneth Wuest said this command obligates each pastor to proclaim God’s Word with such authority that those who hear it feel compelled to obey it.

Any 21st century congregation that has the good fortune to sit under clear, authoritative, life-related, Biblical preaching will feel compelled and privileged to share the Good News with unbelievers. And when unbelievers respond by trusting in Christ as their Savior, the messengers should urge them to attend church so they can learn, grow, and repeat the cycle of evangelism.

Does this plan resemble New Testament practice? It does. The New Testament church performed charitable deeds, but it did not substitute benevolence for biblical preaching and teaching. Nor did it bait the unregenerate culture with entertainment. It seems to me that we can’t improve on New Testament methodology, but some churches need to get in on it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Deep in Debt

The other day, President Obama said, “America pays its bills.” I’m sure China was glad for that assurance, but I want to ask who piled up the bills America owes and who will pay them. I think we all know the answers.

The United States has dug a financial hole deep enough to reach China, and Congress is scrambling for a way to dig the country out of it. I’m sure the shovel will be passed down from one generation to the next for much, much longer than we can foresee.

Christians face a different kind of debt. It isn’t a financial debt; it’s a spiritual debt that we can never fully repay. We owe an eternal debt of gratitude to our Savior for the sacrifice He paid for our sins on the cross. He purchased our redemption—something we could never do. As a matter of fact, we could contribute absolutely nothing to it, because our sin had bankrupted us.

We are also indebted to share the gospel with the world. The apostle Paul confessed that he was a debtor to both the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, so he was ready to proclaim the gospel (Romans 1:14, 15).

Today our nation’s financial crisis may seem hopeless, but America is still the land of the free. We can all be thankful for that, and believers can embrace an ironclad eternal hope because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let’s offer heartfelt thanks to the Lord today and every day, and let’s share God’s love with others.