How overwhelmed Peter must have felt looking into the faces of 3,000 new converts in Jerusalem. I’m sure he must have thought: They’ve chosen to follow Christ, but will they follow me into the mature faith necessary to carry our church forward? As Christian leaders, we know it takes effective leadership to move people from their salvation decision into mature discipleship. We also know maturity empowers blessing in their lives and enables them to bless others.
Recently my friend told me a comical story about his son’s youth football game. The score was tied 6-6 in the second half. As the opposing quarterback faded back to pass, the boys rushed in and tackled him. They immediately started celebrating, but they failed to realize that the ball had been fumbled. The other team ran it in for a touchdown and won the game. My friend said with a smile, “Our boys made half a great play.”
As a pastor I get pretty excited when people choose to accept Christ. Then I’m reminded that we’re only halfway there. I still have the formidable task of maturing them so they can fulfill their potential.
The gift of tongues is still very much in evidence today. It is not meant to replace normal Christian responsibilities or minimize the importance of the Bible, but it will enhance all the good things of God already in your life. Here are six great reasons for seeking and using this gift:
1. Personal evidence.The Holy Spirit uses tongues as a miraculous, abiding sign. Miracle languages confirm the inner presence of the Spirit by using the body member most dependent on volitional, human intelligence--the tongue (see Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 19:6; James 3:8).
2. Praise declaration. Tongues initiates a prophetic gush of inspired worship and causes the heart to soar in adoration and worship unattainable by human means, creating "the fruit of the lips" (see Is. 57:19; Heb. 13:15; John 4:23-24; Phil. 3:3).
People never get a second chance at a first impression. Neither do churches.
My family recently visited a church (no, it wasn’t your church), and we were able to get in and out undetected. Had it not been for our toddler’s need for childcare, we could have avoided human contact altogether. Needless to say, we didn’t feel very welcome.
Nearly everything about a Sunday morning worship service communicates something to first-time visitors. From the church bulletins to the parking lot layout, churches demonstrate how much—or how little—they care about people. Here are some things I learned from my last church visit.
This prayer from Billy Graham, written for "The Saturday Evening Post" in 2008, is just as relevant this year. Get in agreement with the beloved evangelist.
Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.
We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.
Why churches, not business or government, are best suited to help the needy
In today’s culture it’s easy to think that the only way to solve the overwhelming challenges we face is either through innovative business or big government. Yet the reality is that the church, despite its faults, is still God’s chosen instrument of blessing and has been for 2,000 years.
When senior pastor Rick Warren began rethinking Saddleback Church’s missions strategy, which led to the PEACE Plan, he realized the body of Christ has several advantages over the efforts of business and government to help those in need. He saw that:
1. The church provides the largest participation.More than 2 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. That’s one-third of the world’s population! In the U.S., about 100 million people went to church last weekend. That’s more than all who will attend sporting events this year in the U.S.
2. The church provides the widest distribution. The church is everywhere. You could visit villages all around the world that don’t have a school, clinic, hospital, fire department, post office or business. But they have a church. We are more widely spread—or distributed—than any business franchise in the world.
Consider this: The Red Cross noted that 90 percent of the meals it served to victims of Hurricane Katrina were cooked by Southern Baptist churches. Many churches were able to act faster than government agencies or the Red Cross.
3. The church provides the fastest expansion.Did you know that 60,000 new people a day come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? That means thousands of new churches will be started throughout the world today—and tomorrow and the next day.
Why is fast expansion important? One reason is, if a problem is growing rapidly, then a solution is needed that will grow even faster. For instance, HIV/AIDS is growing incredibly fast worldwide. Yet the church is outgrowing the disease, so more and more believers can help minister to the victims.
4. The church provides the highest motivation. Why do any of us do what we do in ministry? Not to make money or a name for ourselves. We do it out of love. Jesus stated it as the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, NKJV). We wouldn’t do the hard work required to tackle these global giants if it were for money or fame. It just wouldn’t be worth it. We’d quit before we finished.
5. The church provides the strongest authorization. God authorized us to take on global giants such as spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. So the outcome is guaranteed to be successful.
When you know God authorized you to do something, you don’t worry about failure because God doesn’t sponsor flops. If God says we’re going to do it, then it’s going to happen. In fact, God will give us His power to complete the task. This is God’s way: ordinary people empowered by His Spirit.
6. The church provides the simplest administration.The way the church is organized, it networks faster and with less bureaucracy than most governmental agencies or even well-meaning charities. The old wineskin of “command and control” won’t work well in the 21st century. The organization of the future is the “network.” And there’s no better worldwide network than the church, where every member is a minister empowered by God.
Consider it this way: Tens of millions of Christians in millions of small groups within churches around the world can take on the global giants with no other authority than Jesus Christ’s. We have God’s permission and God’s command to do it. There is no need to seek permission from anyone else.
It is a great privilege to be called, as we are, to lead our local churches. Like mine, your church is a vital part of the greatest force on earth—the church; God’s chosen instrument of blessing for every nation and people. God has given us an awesome responsibility, but He wouldn’t have placed us where we are if He didn’t believe we could handle the task.
Tom Holladay is associate senior pastor at Saddleback Church, where he has served for almost 21 years, and assists senior pastor Rick Warren in teaching Purpose Driven church conferences to Christian leaders worldwide. He is the author of The Relationship Principles of Jesus (Zondervan) and has a daily podcast, “Drivetime Devotions,” at drivetimedevotions.com.
While in prayer over the vision God gave Steve Hill about the “spiritual avalanche that could kill millions,” an alarming question nagged my soul: Could the great falling away already be underway? Could we be witnessing the first fruits of the great falling away even now? Are we at least seeing a shadow of the Great Apostasy?
There is much talk about Christ’s soon Second Coming. But we know that Jesus will not return for a church without spot or wrinkle unless the falling away comes first … (1 Thess. 2:3). Although it’s nothing entirely new, we are indeed witnessing a fast-progressing departure from sound doctrine and a holy life.
Even a quick comparison between what Scripture tells us about the last days and the manifest sin that has penetrated our generation should serve as a wake up call to every believer: Don’t ignore the signs of the times. In His discussions on the end of the age, Jesus warned us not to let anyone deceive us (Matt. 24). If it weren’t possible to get caught up in the Great Falling Away, Jesus wouldn’t have issued such a strong warning to His followers and left a record of it for you and me.