GOSPEL HOARDERS

This morning as I was guzzling coffee and trying to recover from a tough weekend of ministry travels, I was reminded of a Television program that I used to watch. It was sometimes funny, sometimes bazaar but almost always sad at some point. The show was called HOARDERS and it featured people whose lives and homes were overrun with things they had accumulated over the years. Sometimes it was valuables, often times trinkets or toys and maybe just garbage and completely worthless.

As I thought about my weekend with my beautiful Wife and some of our closest ministry friends, I thought about how these events are showing more of a shift in the ratio between target audience and ministry personnel there to reach the lost.

I can remember a time when you’d see 70 or 80 percent  of the church coming out for a day of street ministry or community event. Now you see a handful of folks going out. Why is that?

Like the TV Show, we’ve become HOARDERS OF THE GOSPEL. Think about it. God richly blesses our lives. We have his love, mercy, grace & compassion in abundance yet we refuse to give any of it away to our fellow suffering neighbors. We just hoard it up and relish in it for ourselves. So there it is, just piling up all around us. We know we’re lazy. We know our hoarding is a problem but we still head straight out of the church to the buffet and right back home to sit in our heaps of glory without even a thought of sharing what we’ve been given with another. What’s sad about this truth is that all this costs us nothing. God freely gives this through Jesus Christ alone. He gives to us so we can share the gift with those around us. Whatever we give, he will restore but we continue to hoard.

In the TV show, there are others who come in and intervene in the situation. It is always difficult for the hoarder to let go of their treasure but it is necessary.

Once the clutter is out of the way, the hoarder almost always feels a relief and freedom that they didn’t realize they needed. You can feel that way about your spiritual life! Right now your spiritual life might be limited to church attendance. Although that is great, church attendance is meant for you to be equipped for a greater purpose outside the confines of the church. What you’re essentially doing is going into the storehouse once or twice a week, loading up for distribution but bringing it home and dropping it off. It’s piling up. All that was meant to share is getting stale and moldy and turning into spiritual baggage for you. RELEASE IT! Take that and turn it out on your community then see what happens.

Now I’m almost 100% certain that last thought was met with more than a few gasps from the church folk. If you don’t think what we receive at church can get stagnant or stale, I want to introduce you to a new dynamic of ministry that you may not have discovered yet (speaking to you gaspers). I like to think of what my church equips me with as “almost done”. You might say it’s a cake ready to bake. All the ingredients have been mixed and there they sit in the pan but until you bake that cake, it’s just a pool of gooey batter. The oven is out in the streets where it’s hot. As you take that pan out there and start loving God’s people where they’re at, you notice the batter start to change into something a whole lot better than what you left church with. Inside it was edification, instruction, education. Outside it become application and confirmation. You start seeing yourself as an effective part of the body of Christ rather than a wart or skin-tag (you’re there-we can see you there, but not really serving any purpose in the Kingdom). 

We have accepted a dwindling vision of what God has planned for our lives. We’ve lost focus and have begun to think this is about us. It was never about us! It has always been about Jesus reconciling us to God; redeeming us. He does that. We don’t do that. He also expects us to share that with those who don’t know yet. If we don’t at least do that much, we’re just wasting our lives navigating a pile of spiritual baggage we were never meant to posses. It’s time we started giving it away so what we receive and carry is always fresh and fragrant for us as well as those we share it with. What if you always had a nice fresh slice of cake ready for a hungry soul instead of that hunk of dried up, cracked, leathery cake batter you’ve been piling up on your kitchen counter for years? There’s us something to think about.

God bless you all to grow and be closer today than you were yesterday to looking more like Jesus to the world around you.

John & Nicole

Soft Targets

I don’t know why it is, but when you see religious fights and disputes out in the open, they are usually between fellow believers; our own Brothers & Sisters in Christ.

Being an Evangelist called to the streets, I see a lot of things out there. One thing I don’t see enough of is the church getting outside their walls to impact this world for Jesus. We sit in our comfortable pews hidden behind our stained glass windows and listen to moving sermons about how this evil world is attacking Christianity and robbing the church of a generation of youth coming up.

After sitting in those plush pews nodding our heads for an hour, maybe even shouting a hearty AMEN every now and then we get right up and race out the door to fill our guts with fried chicken and biscuits without giving a second thought to how to counter the attacks on Christianity we just heard about at church. An so we go about another week having paid our penance by gracing the church with our presence through another 2 hour sacrifice.

Throughout our week we are confronted at work, at the market, at the gas station, the abortion mill, and everywhere else we go with worldly offenses and we look away and do NOTHING. We don’t reach out to sinners. We don’t offer to help them find their way out. We ignore their suffering and self-destructive practices because “that’s their business” or “they know where the church is at”. Metaphorically, we just pat the lost on the back, take their hand and walk them right into hell without so much as a warning or guiding conversation. That would be like a Christian going to an abortion clinic and instead of pleading with an expectant Mother to not kill her baby but protest the people outside for their choice of sign or message. All you’ve done is attack someone for how they combat an evil practice while failing miserably to warn the ones there who needed you most. Sure you were a kind and loving Christian compared to the radical one outside who may not be a Christian at all, but the truth is a Mother had a baby killed while you offered no help or alternative. That’s no better than going to a bar and sitting with an alcoholic, listening to him cry in his whisky and never offering to tell him how you overcame addiction. We refuse to show the world the way out because we are more interested in making sure we are liked. We’d rather be given the thumbs up for being accepting today rather than wait for the gratitude that comes from the redeemed who reflect on the one who loved them enough in their darkness to show them the way out. Why? Because modern Christianity says we are just supposed to love them. They take it wrong when we offer them guidance and say we’re judging them. That’s a cop-out for lazy, timid Christians who aren’t really ready for the battle this world brings to us each and every day. We want the medal without running the race. I hate to burst your bubbles but biblical Christianity doesn’t give out participation trophies. You’re either in or you’re out. When you’re doing it right, you’ll more than likely be persecuted than beloved by sinners. Matthew 24:9-13 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  

The funny thing though is when we see a fellow believer doing something that doesn’t perfectly align with our beliefs or methods, we are very quick to dish out heaping piles of protest & correction as loudly and visibly as we possibly can. Never mind all that “it’s their business” nonsense. That only applies when you are confronted with someone who might offer resistance, engage you or maybe even attempt to silence you with force. These Christians are meek and will likely just back down so that gives you a great opportunity to show how active you are as a Christian and how much you adhere to religious justice. You’re such a committed Christian you’ll fight your family over it so we best watch out!

Pen Gillette is a pretty well known Atheist. He once made a simple cell-phone video telling about a man who was in the audience during one of his performances. He told about the man waiting until meet-n-greets after the show to kindly share the gospel with him and give him a bible that he accepted. Pen said something to the effect of, “You know, that guy didn’t convince me. I’m still a non-believer. But there was something genuine about that man that I can’t forget and although I didn’t agree with him, I admire and respect him for his effort in coming to my show and waiting until he had the opportunity to kindly share his faith. Not many will do that. If you believe what this guy shared with me, you should be out telling people. It is important that you do that”.

A few years back a group of us were set up in Downtown Asheville, NC doing ministry where many witches & homosexuals were attending an event. We were feeding them, loving on them, and telling them about Jesus’ grace and mercy. There was no mistaking who we were and what we were preaching but we were coming with the compassion & love of Jesus without compromising truth. The witches & homosexuals offered little to no resistance and many thanked us for reaching out the them in love. HOWEVER, there was a local church who bused their people in to march and wave signs protesting US for being there among the world and ministering to them. Their idea was that we should not be there. We should just let them burn and save ourselves. It was embarrassing to say the least but just goes to show how quickly the church will turn on its own and remain insulated from reality and the evils in this world. It’s no wonder society is in the condition it is in. That day we saw lots of tears from those we were there to lead to the cross. They were crying and hurt by the nasty side of the church. That church did much harm that day. They reinforced the wall of criticism & judgement that doesn’t convict but blocks sinners from coming to repentance. We know because that particular day, our ministry street team were also targets of their hatred. It was a sad day but love prevailed as we continued to serve and teach these folks of a better way through Jesus.

I think the message I want to convey in all this is one a lot of us need to hear. We hear a lot of talk from day to day about millennials, cry-babies, snowflakes, whiners, entitlement-generation, and so on. I believe that same issue is infecting churches in America. No one likes biblical teaching anymore. Churches all over are catering to the gospel of love & tolerance but cover up the gospel of salvation which includes repentance. We’re no longer being equipped and sent but now we’re just invited and recruited. We are adopting policies that fill seats rather than impacts the world for Christ. It is time we man-up to fight instead of debate. The world outside our church buildings are a war zone and we’re too busy critiquing ourselves to join the fight for souls.  We’re too focused on showing how cool we are as Christians that you can hardly tell us from the world. All the while sitting next to a sinner in desperate need of help but being too timid to show him the way. That is nothing to be proud of. If you sit among sinners in silence and walk away, you’ve squandered the opportunity God has blessed you with. What if their eternity depended on you doing the right thing instead of hitting soft targets trying to look good to the ones you’re called to rescue?