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It's Time To Spread The Good News

Spread The Good News

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 23, the final installment of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 22, "Stay Focused: Avoid Theological Debates".

WHEN do we evangelize?

1. Anytime, all the time, anywhere, and everywhere.

2. Start today!

For the past few months, we have answered the questions of why do we evangelize, why don’t we evangelize?, and how do we evangelize? I pray that this blog series has shed some light on the Dos , Don'ts, and How’s of evangelism in light of the scriptures. If you need a review of this complete blog series, you can access all 22 of the previous installments of this Evangelism series.

We will now address the final question of when do we evangelize? The answer is Anytime, All the time, Anywhere, and Everywhere! The scripture is clear that now is the day of salvation and there are people who need Christ all over the earth. No matter how we feel or where we are, we must be sensitive to what the Lord wants to do. He is full of compassion and desires that every lost soul comes to a saving knowledge of Him.

Proverbs 19:21(NIV) -“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Evangelize anytime & all the time!

Hebrews 3:15(NLT) – “Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart as Israel did when they rebelled.”

Matthew 9:35-38(NLT) - "Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And He healed every kind of disease and illness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to His disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.”

In obedience to the request of Jesus, we are to pray to God to send out more laborers into the field to bring in the harvest. At the same time, YOU and I are the answer to this prayer. Do not ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit to share the Good News and labor in the field.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT) - “For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.”

Isaiah 55:6 (NLT) – “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while He is near.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) - “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

The world is full of distractions that keep us preoccupied with empty pursuits. The human race is so busy fulfilling his lust of the eyes, flesh, and pride of life (1 John 2:16) No one knows what tomorrow holds. People are dying every day without coming to a saving knowledge of the love of Christ. We must make every effort to spread The Gospel and fulfill The Great Commission. Another day on earth isn’t guaranteed to anyone. All we have is this moment... the here and now.

Case Study 1 - Parable of the Rich Fool

Luke 12:16-19(NLT) – “Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry! “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Proverbs 27:1 (NASB) – “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

James 4:13-15(NLT) – “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

Evangelize anywhere & everywhere!

Case Study 2 – Paul’s Ministry Journey

Acts 16:25-31(NKJV) – “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 27:20-25 (NKJV) – “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.”

2 Corinthians 11:23-30 (NKJV) – “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.”

Paul’s life provides an array of examples of ministering the gospel anywhere and everywhere. Throughout his life, He chose to evangelize in every place he went, often under horrendous circumstances. He never allowed his environment to deter him from spreading The Gospel. He chose to always boast in Christ! Paul and Silas praised God even while in prison and as a result, the jailer and his family accepted Christ.

The Lord has called us ALL to fulfill The Great Commission! Jesus is coming soon for His bride and we all need to be ready. Let’s be faithful laborers and evangelize all the time and everywhere.

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Share YOUR Testimony!

Share YOUR Testimony!

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 21 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 20, "How Do We Evangelize? - Be Relevant: Connect With People Where They Are".

The sixth practical key to evangelism is; "Be personal: Share YOUR testimony."

Revelation 12:11(KJV): “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Your personal testimony of what the Lord has done is more powerful than engaging in a theological debate. No one can argue with you about the lifestyle change and heart transformation you experienced when Jesus encountered you. Who can argue about what your eyes saw, your ears heard, or your heart felt when you met Jesus? No one can argue with the word of your testimony concerning His blood and what His blood has done in your life! Sharing YOUR testimony is one of the most powerful tools you have when evangelizing to the lost.

Let’s look at six biblical accounts when individuals shared personal testimonies about Jesus Christ.

1)Paul’s Testimony: Paul shared his personal testimony of life before and after encountering Christ.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 (AMP) – “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has granted me [the needed] strength and made me able for this, because He considered me faithful and trustworthy, putting me into service [for this ministry], even though I was formerly a blasphemer [of our Lord] and a persecutor [of His church] and a shameful and outrageous and violent aggressor [toward believers]. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. The grace of our Lord [His amazing, unmerited favor and blessing] flowed out in superabundance [for me, together] with the faith and love which are [realized] in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful and trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance and approval, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example or pattern for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King of the ages [eternal], immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

2)The Samaritan Woman’s Testimony: Jesus’ knowledge of her life story caused her to evangelize. Her encounter with Jesus compelled her to run into town, testify of Christ and lead many to Him.

John 4:28-30(NIV) – “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”

John 4:38 (NIV) – “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

3)The Blind Man’s Testimony: His testimony was undeniably supported by his healing. No one could argue with his testimony of receiving sight after his personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

John 9:6-7 (NLT) – “…Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!” But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

John 9:10-11 (NLT) – “They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!” “Where is he now?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he replied .Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

John 9:24 -25 (NLT) – “So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.” “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

4)John The Baptist’s Testimony: John was a "forerunner voice" preparing the way for the coming Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and resting on Jesus. His testimony about the Lamb of God caused many to follow Jesus including two of his very own disciples. Concerning John, Jesus declared "I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist..." (Matt. 11:11) What a powerful endorsement from the Lord! 🙂

John 1:23 (NLT) - "John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, Clear the way for the LORD's coming!"
John 1:29-37 (NLT) - “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel .”Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God. ”The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.”

5)Andrew’s Testimony: Andrew went and testified to his brother Simon about the Messiah. His testimony resulted in Simon meeting Jesus and being named Apostle Peter.

John 1:40-42 (NLT) – “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”. Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter).”

6)Men Walking To Emmaus Testimony: The men testified about their hearts burning within them as Jesus spoke to them and explained the scriptures to them after His resurrection.

Luke 24:28-34 (NLT) - “By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if He were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So He went home with them. As they sat down to eat, He took the bread and blessed it. Then He broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And at that moment He disappeared!” They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

Remember, no one can argue with you about what the Lord has personally done in your life. Only you know the whole story of what Jesus has done in your life! So, be personal and share YOUR testimony. The enemy would like to keep you silent because he knows that your testimony could effectively lead others to Christ. Don’t keep silent! Start testifying about how the Blood of Jesus has changed YOUR life!

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Special Bulletin: Making Sense of This Crazy Global Economy

Making Sense of This Crazy Global Economy

Proverbs 23:4-5(NLT) - Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.

1.5 Billion dollars! That's the latest lottery jackpot for The Powerball. If someone has the winning ticket that person's life would change forever. All of that person's money problems would be over. The person might pick up some new problems but that's a different issue. We found out that three people from Chino Hills, California; Munford, Tennessee; and Melbourne Beach, Florida had the winning numbers. It would not surprise me if there were a few Christians in the long lines outside of convenience stores and gas stations waiting to buy tickets. Some were believing God to guide them to the right numbers. Come on Jesus! All we do is win! Won't He do it? He did it once, He'll do it again! Maybe that was God's plan to reward some lucky tithe payers somewhere. Maybe not.

30 dollars! That's how low the oil price has fallen. That's a 70% drop in 18 months! As the oil price sunk lower and lower so did the hearts of people in countries with oil dependent economies. Some economists think it will only go lower. Perhaps as low as $10? It's tough times all around. One silver lining would be the low gas prices which we love. SUVs and big cars are selling again because with record low oil prices come record low gas prices.

Sell everything! 2016 will be a cataclysmic year so cash out while you can. That was the advice given to investors by Andrew Roberts, head of European economics, rates and Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and African research at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). China's economic growth is slowing. The stock market is down. The oil price is down. All the signs point to a catastrophic collapse. One of my investment holdings reported horrendous earnings a few nights ago and the value plunged overnight. I guess it's time to jump off a building right? Of course not!

All of this craziness is happening with the world's economy all at once. What exactly are we supposed to do?

Luke 16:8(NLT) - “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.

Well, I can tell you what's not the answer. Doing nothing. When the world's falling apart around you pretending not to notice it and thinking it won't affect you at some point is not an option. Everywhere we look, people are responding to the global financial upheaval. The Trinidad Government is cutting back. Nigeria, Venezuela and seven other OPEC members are pushing with all of their might against their OPEC counterparts Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar and the UAE to lower oil production. OPEC has the power to lower production and raise the oil price but won't do it. Unfortunately, the latter four (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar and the UAE) hold all the cards and will not back down on production until they push the US shale oil producers as well as other non-OPEC producers like Russia out of business.

The world is doing something. There's no guarantee that their plans will work but at least they have a plan. As Jesus stated in Luke 16:8, the children of this world are crafty and cunning when it comes to handling worldly affairs. Sadly, the same can't always be said of the children of God. That's understandable because we are not of this world so we find no pleasure in being experts at the things of this world. Nonetheless, what's happening around us is affecting us so we might want to pay attention where we can and do something to hedge against the disaster that's already here.

Important Biblical Principles To Keep You Sane In The Middle of Financial Insanity

1) Fast Money Is Not God's Answer To Lasting Financial Stability

Proverbs 13:11(NET) - Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers it little by little will become rich.

Sorry you didn't win the $1.5 billion jackpot. Maybe next time God will tell you the correct numbers in a dream. Constantly, we hear horror stories of people who get money quickly and lose it just as quickly. Why is that so common? It's a Biblical principle. That's why God will not give you the numbers for the lotto jackpot. He will give you a business idea, an assignment, a gift, favor and an opportunity. Steward them well and you can turn into a money making machine. However, if you think talking in tongues while lining up at the gas station for a lotto ticket is God's answer to your financial problems, think again. Am I saying it's impossible for a Christian to ever win the lotto? Nope. I'm saying that it's not a Biblical financial principle for wealth building and never will be. It can't work for everyone so it can't be a principle.

2) Your Money Will Match Your Mindset

Proverbs 14:24(NLT) - Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.

It's easier to make money than to manage money but the latter determines your long term financial status. Your long-term financial state has more to do with your mindset and money management skills than your talents or luck. Talent and luck may open the door for you to get money but your mindset and money management skills are how you will keep it. This explains why many professional athletes and entertainers who don't understand how money works turn into poor former professional athletes and entertainers. Once the checks stop flowing they have to do something they never mastered and that's manage money. In the same way, many lottery winners blow through their fortunes because they have no idea of what to do with money of that magnitude. Your money will either rise or fall to meet your mindset. If you know what you are doing you can start small and steadily increase your net worth. If you don't know what you are doing you can start big and steadily decrease your net worth. In the end, the wise will rise above the foolish.

3) God Puts Money In The Hands Of People Who Know What To Do With It

Matthew 25:14-29(NLT) - “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.

In this Parable of The Kingdom, Jesus explained that God gives people money in proportion to their abilities. That's His way of holding people accountable. If you want God to put more money in your hands then you have to do two things; increase your financial management ability and demonstrate it by successfully managing what you already have. That's how God works. He doesn't spread wealth evenly. Those who do well with what they've been given are rewarded and those who don't do well lose what they have. God's plan for your long term financial success is not giving you wealth you have not demonstrated the ability to handle. Stop waiting for your lucky break or a million dollars to fall out of the sky. That's not established Biblical wisdom so you can't plan your financial future around it.

4) Don't Spend All You Earn

Proverbs 21:20(NLT) - The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

This might be the simplest financial principle ever but unfortunately, it still needs to be said. The world's economy is not in good shape so don't spend your entire paycheck. The Bible describes that as foolish. Live below your means and save as much as you can because you have no idea what could happen next. Even if you don't have a reliable income stream for any period of time your savings buy you time to figure things out. Essentially, your financial state is a measurement of what you have left after your financial commitments. You can improve your state by either increasing your income or decreasing your expenditure. When the latter is below the former you can build your savings.

If you want to spend more and still save then you have to figure out ways to generate more income. One way to do that is give yourself a raise by finding a higher paying job. Another is to pick up a second job. Even if it doesn't pay that much it provides additional income. You can also figure out innovative ways to get money. I have a couple that I won't share in this forum but believe me, they exist. Another is to develop your gifts and talents. What do you do extremely well that people would be willing to pay you for? I've been working hard on mine all my life. I hope you have been too. In times like these you may need to pull on them. Regardless, it doesn't matter how much you earn, don't spend all of it. That's not wise.

5) Be Excellent In Your Work Because It Will Affect Your Money

Proverbs 22:29(NKJV) - Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.

Luke 12:42-44(NLT) - And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.

Everyone loves excellence. We may not all be willing to pay the price to operate in excellence in our own lives but we usually prefer those who deal with us to do so with excellence. God's established wisdom is that people who excel and demonstrate faithfulness are rewarded. If we accept that wisdom we position ourselves for promotion in the midst of mass layoffs or faithful clients when everyone else has to scale back. The time of reckoning comes for everyone so it's wise to prepare for it now. Be excellent in all that you do. If you own your business, God will reward you with clients of a higher echelon. If you work for someone, God will reward you with promotion. Excellence never goes unnoticed. Even when you think nobody else sees, God does and He rewards what He sees.

6) Don't Stop Sowing Financially Into God's Kingdom

Matthew 6:33(NLT) - Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Proverbs 11:24-25(NLT) - Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

In tough economic times the one advantage we do have as Christians is access to God's economic system. So it would behoove us to continue to participate in it. Keep tithing. Keep sowing. Keep investing in the work of The Lord. You can't get out of God's system what you do not put into it. This is not the time to skip out on your tithes. If you generate income, be sure to give The Lord His 10%. That's established Biblical wisdom. Don't give into the temptation to remove yourself from God's covering on your finances in an effort to save a very small portion of your total income. It's better to have money coming in and pay your tithes than to get your flow of money cut off as a result of circumventing Biblical wisdom.

7) Don't Panic, Pray and Experience God's Peace

Philippians 4:6-7(NLT) - Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I prayed in tongues this morning. When's the last time you've done that? Hopefully, you just did because when things start looking crazy, prayer is your only answer. The world's economy is shaking all around us but we can have peace. It's a peace that exceeds understanding. That's what we need. Worrying will get us nowhere. Common sense says that we're supposed to panic. As we watch the stock market plunge and our investments suddenly lose value what are we supposed to do? Cry? Nope! We pray and enjoy the peace of God. Let the world panic and go crazy. Yes, the global economy is going crazy right now but that doesn't mean we have to.

In sum, let's get real about a few things. The rich are still getting richer and the poor are still getting poorer while the middle class are being stretching thin. That's not changing soon. The oil price is going to have to go back up eventually. It's a rigged system and it's rigged to make money for the people who are rigging it. If dropping the price helps them to make money they will drop it. When it causes them to start losing money they will raise it. They are losing money by the billions so before they run out of savings they will have no choice but to manipulate production and raise the price again.

Nothing is for certain in this world so put all of your trust in The Lord. Many people are in a state of complete fear concerning their financial future and that's understandable. We can't participate in that. The Lord is on our side and He won't abandon us at a time like this. He is speaking and it's our job to listen to what He has to say. There's so much more to be said but I've said enough for now. Think about what you already know and do something with that. Nonetheless, if you want to dig even deeper, watch this video. It will help.

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Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!

Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, But For Someone Else!

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the eighth point; "8) Some people will think your ministry is awesome, but for someone else.

For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor"

Proverbs 28:23(NLT) - In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.

It's really hard to just tell someone the truth when we know it might hurt the person's feelings. As a result, we've found innovative ways to work our way around it. Out of the goodness of our hearts we try to let people down as easy as possible. Instead of a boss telling a poor performing employee the real reason why he's being fired, the boss might say, "We value all of our employees but our company has had to make some difficult decisions due to the slowdown in the economy. You have been a great asset but we now have no choice but to let you go." Instead of a girlfriend who is totally bored of her boyfriend telling him the real reason why he's being dumped she might say, "Sweetheart, it's not you, it's me. You're a great man and I just don't deserve you. You need someone better than me. I'm just not ready for this level of commitment."

Keeping it real is an especially difficult thing to do for the average Christian and that's understandable. We want to be nice and always have something good to say to others. So to help us communicate our true feelings without actually saying them, we've developed unique codes that get the message across with some success. For instance, when people tell us how great our church is for someone else without ever mentioning their own attendance that's really code for saying it's not good enough for them. After hearing them enough times and seeing the results, we're gradually learning how to proficiently decode those messages.

"My cousin could really do with a church like this... My aunt would love this place... My friend from college needs to be here... This church is exactly what my brother-in-law is looking for..." Each of those statements sound like compliments but the truth is that neither their cousin, aunt, college friend or brother-in-law is even aware of our existence and they have no intention of letting them know. They just don't want to hurt our feelings by telling us that they are not interested and we won't be seeing them again. It's very easy to project positive feedback on someone who is not there because at no point do they need to verify what they're saying and they also know that we won't hold them accountable either.

Proverbs 24:26(MSG) - An honest answer is like a warm hug.

Warm hugs are priceless; so are honest answers. On the other hand, answers that are less than honest only delay offense. They never eliminate it. Someone might be able to spare your feelings today by flattering you with nice words but one of these days you will discover the truth. At that point your feelings won't be spared. After considering that reality, don't you see the value of honesty? It might be a hard pill to swallow upfront sometimes but it eliminates the time-release offensive nature of flattery.

Ultimately, pastors value commitments more than compliments so if someone's intention is not to commit to the ministry, the compliments carry much less weight. Of course, that's unless the person is physically incapable of joining the church due to distance or is already fully committed and plugged into another ministry. In that case, we appreciate the compliments for what they are since they are more likely to be genuine. Otherwise, telling us of potential interest in the ministry from other people while showing no personal interest does little for us. We know what that means. We've heard it enough times to decode it. For what it's worth, thanks for being nice. 🙂

1 Corinthians 12:12,18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ... But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

All in all, we understand that God puts people where He wants them. So if The Lord speaks to a person about joining our church the door is wide open. However, if He does not, we have no problem with that. We are just amused by the myriad statements we hear from people who don't know how to say that The Lord didn't call them to be with us. Telling us how much they love the ministry for someone else is just one of them. We know that God didn't call them to be with us so it's our prayer that they find the place where God did call them.

We just rather people be honest instead of telling us things they don't mean. If the church really is that good for the person they know, then they should just invite the person instead of telling us about it. If that's not the case then we appreciate the visit and may God richly bless them. The simple takeaway from this point is the following: We always prefer the truth. Yet, we have nothing against well-meaning people who say what they don't mean because they just want to encourage us to keep going. Thanks for the encouragement and if truly believe that your co-worker's uncle's friend's neighor's son should really check us out at The Body Church feel free to forward an invitation.

🙂
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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the fifth point; "5) When people act "over the top" eager about your church when they first show up, don't assume they'll stay long or even show up again." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 4 - You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor."

Enthusiastic Visitor: Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I absolutely love your church! I've been looking for a place like this for so long. This is what I've been praying for. You guys are so awesome. I can feel the love in the air. Hallelujah! (Sobbing) I.... I... am... finally... home. I... have... found my church. My search is over. I just love this place. Pastor, whatever you need I will do it. I have the heart of a servant and don't believe in just sitting in a church. I am ready to work. You have a soldier on your side. When I say I'm with someone I mean it. Let's do this!

Pastor: Well, Praise The Lord! (Overjoyed) He has answered our prayer. We have the person we've been praying for. Hallelujah! What a mighty God we serve. We can start putting things in place. After we do some planning this week let's talk some more about it when we see you at church next week.

One week later.... Enthusiastic visitor does not show up at church.

Two weeks later.... No sign of enthusiastic visitor.

Three.. four... five.. weeks... months... years. No sign of enthusiastic visitor. 🙁

Matthew 5:37(NKJV) - But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Jesus could not be more direct. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't lie to people even if you think it will make them feel better. Don't swear to God. Don't promise. Don't do anything extra. Don't pretend. Just express your true intentions or say nothing at all. That's the example God set for us. If He says something He means it. Actually, that's the foundation of our faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by The Word of God. (Romans 10:17) If we can't trust that God will follow up on His Word, we're done.

Isaiah 55:10-11(NKJV) - “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

As you can clearly see, God's Word is guaranteed. Sadly, it took us much too long to realize that very few people even try to live up to this standard. People have come to our church, looked us in our eyes and say they are with us but then completely disappear off the face of the earth. We have heard it all and initially we believed every one of them. We were gullible because we trusted the sincerity in their eyes. If everyone who said they would be back actually showed up we would need to have multiple services. We would have absolutely no room to hold them all.

It's unfortunate but true that many people, including those in The Church, don't give high value to their words. They can say something and not follow through without feeling an overwhelming sense of conviction. I don't know how they do it. If I tell you I'll do something I feel horrible if I don't. My words have been given power by God so I don't make declarations that I don't believe or promises I can't fulfill. I rather just tell you the truth even if it offends you, say nothing or delay my decision until I am sure. Those are my three options. Lying is not one of them. I won't say I'm with you if I know I'm not. Fortunately, Jesus shared in our experiences.

Luke 9:57-62(NLT) - As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

"Jesus, we love you so much. We'll follow you anywhere you go. If you can use any thing Lord you can use me." Does that sound familiar? That's what people told Jesus when He walked the earth and that's what many of us tell Him now. However, even though that's what we say, what we mean might be slightly different. That explains why Jesus never got carried away with people's enthusiasm about following Him. He made it clear that the path He walked was not the convenient path and there was a high price for anyone who chose to walk it with Him.

John 2:23-25(NLT) - Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.

Jesus had the distinct advantage of knowing people's hearts. As a result, nobody flattered Him. He knew why people wanted to follow Him and why the numbers swelled after He performed great miracles. That's why He didn't trust them. He knew human nature. Many of those people wanted to be entertained by the show He was putting on while others just wanted to see what He would do for them. So if Jesus had a problem finding committed people who wanted to be with Him just for who He was and not for what He could do, why would it be any different for us?

We're in a new generation with new ideals, mindsets and standards. However, they're not really new. They existed in the time of Jesus. It's just that we see it so much more now. Many people are free spirits. They consider themselves to be free agents that can be part of The Church as a global body without committing to a local church family. They can show up anywhere on any given Sunday, support any ministry and do anything, anytime in any way. It feels like bondage to be tied down. They don't want to commit. They don't want to settle. Even if they commit, they don't want to give their all to grow their local church community.

Honestly, there's a bigger problem than merely a lack of true commitment to church membership. Many people struggle with commitment as a whole. It's hard to commit to marriage, family, career, working out, eating right or anything else that's good. It doesn't matter what it is. Commitment is a challenge and being enthusiastic for a short time doesn't compensate for a lack of commitment. Think about the upcoming new year. How many of us are going to make promises to ourselves that we won't keep? This year I'm going to.... Yeah, right. Did you keep your promise last year?

With all that being said, what makes someone truly committed to a local church community? We're not talking about what makes someone like a church or enjoy being at a church. That's not commitment because as soon as you don't like it anymore or you don't enjoy it, you're no longer committed. We're also not talking about what The Church needs to do to get someone to be committed. Commitment is a personal decision. I can't make you be committed and you can't make me be committed. If what we do causes you to commit, your commitment is temporary because if we ever stop doing it, you'll be gone. For The Bible's position on why you should be committed to a local church, read the following blog, "Ask Donnell: If we're the church must we still go to church?"

What does it take for a Christian to be committed to The Body of Christ through the local church? Thankfully, we can find a very comprehensive answer to that question in the scriptures.

What Empowers A Christian To Be Truly Committed To A Local Church Community?

1) Personally Commit To The Lord First Then To The Ministry

2 Corinthians 8:1-5(NKJV) - Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

The Macedonian Church had such an unusual commitment to the ministry of Apostle Paul that he highlighted it in 2 Corinthians 8. They were poor but in spite of their poverty they gave more than every other church in the area. So what was their secret? They first gave themselves to The Lord, then to the ministry by The Will of God. Pay close attention to that statement because it's loaded. They carried out God's Will by giving their all to God first. It was that initial commitment which enabled them to then be committed to supporting the ministry led by Apostle Paul.

When you give yourself over to The Lord, you will do His Will and it is His Will that you commit to a local church. It doesn't have to be our local church but you have to commit somewhere. As a result, "church hopping" for an extended period of time without any intention or desire to commit is direct evidence that an individual has not given themselves wholly over to The Lord. You can't say I'm committed to Christ but you are not committed to The Body of Christ. You also can't say you're committed to The Body of Christ and you are not positioned where God has placed you in His Body. This leads us to the next point.

2) Understand and Accept How God Builds and Structures The Church

1 Corinthians 12:12-18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

Just like the human body, God puts each part where He wants it. He has a very specific plan for The Body of Christ and very meticulously places people where they need to be to carry out His Will. If you are not where God has placed you, you are not in God's Will. The people who have shown the highest level of commitment are those who were directed by God to be with us. It's alright if God sends you somewhere else because that's where you're supposed to be. However, it's easy to jump from ministry to ministry when you're not sure where God has put you. Just like it's strange for a part of your body to be attached to the wrong place, it's strange for a Christian to be out of place in The Body of Christ.

When you understand this very simple principle of Church structure you will understand why every person must commit to a local church community. In fact, that's one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. It's one you don't want to get wrong because not only does it affect you but it affects the entire body. If your heart was growing out of your foot, your entire body will have a problem. Hopefully, you get the point with that one which leads us to the next point.

3) Count The Cost Before You Commit

Luke 14:25-33(NKJV) - Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Jesus made sure that everyone knew the price they had to pay to follow Him even if that meant He would lose followers as a result. When we commit to Jesus we commit for eternity so it's not a decision we take lightly. He doesn't want temporary followers. He wants those who will be with Him all the way to the end. Therefore, He doesn't expect us to make a snap decision concerning Him. He wants us to think it through, prepare our hearts to pay the price then broadcast our decision.

We have a beautiful family of five at our church who have been with us since the beginning. The father is a deacon, the mother is an elder and the oldest son is an usher. In addition to their leadership roles in the church, each parent is a successful business owner. They are blessed in every way and God continues to increase them mightily. They are an example of commitment and dedication to both The Lord and the ministry.

What's important to note is that they took their time before making the decision to join The Body Church. They were not over the top at the beginning. They were sober, patient and thoughtful. They understood their family's needs and the available resources at what was their current church home at the time. They also understood that as a new ministry, at that point, we could not offer the programs and ancillary ministries other established churches could offer. They took their time and sought The Lord. They counted the cost of their decision then one day, they made the decision to commit to our local church community. The rest is now history in the making.

What's the difference between that family and the scores of others who showed up to church with eagerness and excitement? They counted the cost before they made the commitment. People who show up and in one day act like they could dedicate the rest of their lives to you have not counted the cost of their decision. The same way you don't get married at first sight, you don't commit to a church in an instant. You think about your decision, you weigh the options, you hear from God then you commit. That way, you won't change your mind after a few days, weeks, months or even years.

Luke 22:31-34(NKJV) - And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Don't be so quick to say you're ready to go to the ends of the earth with someone. Peter did it and Jesus didn't trust Him with good reason. As we saw earlier in John 2:23-25 Jesus didn't trust anybody on the earth because He understood human nature. When people are emotionally charged they say more than they need to say. Peter was excited about Jesus but at that point he didn't understand the cost of following Him. His heart was in the right place but he just wasn't ready yet.

Biblical Examples of True Commitment

1) Elisha and Elijah

2 Kings 2:1-15(NKJV) - And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” So he answered, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.

If you want to see commitment modeled in The Bible look no further than this example. Elisha would not leave Elijah even though Elijah tried to get rid of him. Elisha understood that God had assigned him to Elijah and if he left Elijah, he would leave The Will of God for his life. That's how important it is for people to know not just where they have been called to but also who they have been called to. It's because of Elisha's commitment to Elijah that he was able to receive a double portion of The Anointing.

Consider this. What if The Anointing God has for you is connected to the ministry or person God has called you to? Many people do understand that so they flock to ministries where they see the greatest display of The Anointing. That's great but attending a church does not automatically turn into a transfer of The Anointing. As a result, even if you choose to go somewhere that has the power of God on display that doesn't mean you'll walk in that power. Elisha was committed to Elijah. He served Elijah. He cared for Elijah. He didn't just watch Elijah do the work of The Lord, he helped Elijah do it. Then, when the time was right, he received twice Elijah's anointing.

2) Ruth and Naomi

Ruth 1:6-18(NLT) - Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

Do you want to know why there is no Book of Orpah in The Bible? She left Naomi. When Naomi had nothing left to offer and sent Ruth and Orpah away, only Orpah left. Now, Ruth is a part of church history forever as one who is in the lineage of Jesus while Orpah is only mentioned as part of Ruth's story. That is how God operates. It's totally contrary to what we see around us. People make emotional decisions to join and leave churches every week while God expects us to think about our decision, then stick with it.

Even when Naomi had nothing to offer, Ruth stuck with her. It was Ruth's commitment to her broke, depressed, frustrated mother-in-law that led to her meeting Boaz and her name becoming synonymous with God's restorative power. How many of us can commit to a ministry even in the tough times? What if you don't like everything that's going on? What if all of your needs aren't being met the way you want them to be met for a season at your church? Are you willing to ride through the challenging times at your church until God manifests His blessing to you the way He did for Ruth?

Acts 15:36-41(NLT) - After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.

When John Mark abandoned Apostle Paul in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) it hurt him deeply because they had built a history of ministry together. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas started their ministry together and they took John Mark along with them as an assistant on their first trip. From that point on, John Mark continued travelling from town to town with them. Hence, when John Mark suddenly left in the middle of their journeys Paul was effectively done with him.

The next time Barnabas brought up John Mark's name as a potential ministry partner Paul was having none of it. In fact, Paul would not back down and was willing to move on without Barnabas because he insisted on including John Mark. Barnabas left Paul that day to team up with John Mark and that was the last we heard of both Barnabas and John Mark. Paul, on the other hand simply changed partners and continued to make history with Silas.

Apostle Paul would not partner with John Mark because of his lack of commitment to the ministry and that's an example for all of us. Initial excitement doesn't matter. Short term enthusiasm doesn't matter. Emotional declarations of love don't matter. Just show up and keep showing up. Let's start there. Once you're consistently showing up make the decision to stay for the long haul. Once you make the decision, commit to it. The Church of Jesus Christ can't be built with people who are here today and gone tomorrow. It is built with committed people.

We hope this blog series is enlightening and informative. Next time we'll discuss Point 6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry.

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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 3 - You Can't Technically "Start" A Megachurch

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: You Can't Technically "Start" A Megachurch

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we are highlighting the third point; "3) If you're starting from the ground up and your only example of church is a mega-church you will get your feelings hurt.". For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Did God Really Say Leave The Church?"

My church is huuuuge (with Donald Trump's voice). It's huuuuge. We take up an entire block. We don't have a church building we have a church campus. We're so big that there are people I go to church with each week that I have never even seen. We're so big that when we turn the pages of our Bibles together it sounds like waves in the ocean. In fact, our church choir is the size of a small congregation and our children's ministry building is bigger than the entire church up the street. We have 50,000 people on 50 campuses in 50 states. We're huuuuge.

In the USA, there is an obsession with size. Bigger is assumed to be better. We want bigger houses, bigger trucks, bigger corporations, bigger portions of food. We don't want a large #5 at the fast food joint, we want it super-sized. So it logically follows that the same attitude has entered the church. Swelling with pride, we say, "my church is bigger than yours" with the unspoken message being, "hence, my church is better than yours". Whether or not bigger is better doesn't really matter right now because that's not what this discussion is about. Regardless, that mindset is everywhere.

Acts 2:40-47(NLT) - Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Wow! I can see this in my dreams. The Holy Ghost falls on us in a room, we talk in tongues, then I stand and deliver the message of my life. In response, 3000 people get saved on the spot. From that point on, our church continues to grow as a community with frequent signs and wonders while God keeps adding people to the community daily. I would love to say that's the story of The Body Church but it's not. That's the story of the early church led by Apostle Peter. Perhaps, it's the story of Billy Graham, Benny Hinn or Reinhard Bonnke but definitely not our own. Anyway, back to earth now.

Today, we are talking about being young, naive and starting a church with unrealistic expectations. Welcome to reality. I sat in an Atlanta megachurch for about twelve years and completely lost touch with the real world. There were times when I sat transfixed by what looked like complete perfection in motion before my eyes; thousands of people in attendance, a perfect choir, a perfect worship team, perfect band, a perfect sermon, perfect media presentations, perfect drama team, intercessory team, men's ministry, women's ministry, youth ministry, security, parking attendants and the list goes on and on.

There were moments when I lost my mind and thought that when I started a church it would be just like that. That's about as unrealistic as expecting parents thinking that when their son is born he would be a 6 ft tall, 200 lb professional athlete. Impossible. The only way you can start a church with all the pieces together is if those pieces come directly out of someone else's church. Hence, you're not really starting a church, you're taking a piece of another church and transplanting it elsewhere under a different name.

That's a church transplant and only a few people get that opportunity. Believe me, if you get the opportunity to start like that, take it because you don't want the stress of starting from scratch if you don't have to. If we could have inherited a team of mature, faithful, consistent, dedicated Christians from someone else's church we would have gladly taken them. Nonetheless, let's now focus on what we've experienced stepping out on our own and what's a much more likely scenario for the average young pastor in a similar situation.

Zechariah 4:10a(NLT) - Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin...

You're probably going to start small like we did. Perhaps, not as small but definitely small in comparison to the mature churches you've seen or modeled yourself after. However, don't despise your small beginnings because God rejoices to see the work begin. With small beginnings come big responsibility. I've had to sing, play the keyboard, beat drums, clean, set up, break down, run the projector, run the video camera, etc, etc and oh yeah, preach a little here and there. Until someone was willing to take my place, I had to do it.

Unfortunately, the toughest part of the whole thing is not being able to execute church on the level that you desire which comes from not being very good at certain things and having no choice but to do it. Nobody feels worse about something in a church service not being at the highest level of excellence than we do.

After watching such excellence at the megachurch I attended for so many years, my dream was to operate on the same level. Yet, here we are, two years in and we're not there yet and that's sometimes very hard to deal with. We have had to prioritize and ask ourselves the question, "What must a church have?" Once we found the answer we had to focus only on that. The rest will come later.

People want perfect churches and I get that because megachurches have it all. They want flawless worship bands, top of the line children's ministry, high profile guest speakers and gospel artistes, smiling greeters, excellent ushers, dance ministry, pantomime ministry, single mother's ministry, legal ministry, jail ministry, free ministry, street ministry and the list goes on. Well, we want the same thing too. We're just not there yet. In fact, we're not even close. If we knew the formula for growing the church quickly we would have used it. Yet, the truth about growth is contained in the following passage.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8(NKJV) - Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

After trying everything we knew and failing miserably, we've finally settled in our hearts that we cannot make the church grow. We can sow The Word, love people, advertise, invite people, pray, make confessions, connect on a personal level, prophesy, do personal ministry and participate in outreach. We can water with encouragement, Godly counsel, follow up, support and accountability.

The one thing we cannot do is bring the increase. That's God's job. We have to let Him do what He does the way He chooses to. We pray for The Lord to send us the people we need. We ask the people we know to help. We advertise and put ourselves out there. Yet, all we're really doing is sowing and watering. God and God alone will bring the increase.

Job 8:7(KJV) - Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.

We receive that Word like it was directed to us. The end of our story will be bigger and better than the beginning. We don't expect it to be quick nor dramatic. We just expect it to be done right and the right way is God's way. If He makes it quick and dramatic then we'll take it. If He takes us through this process for a long time as He builds our character and establishes the church's structure so we can handle the increase we'll take that too.

Maybe you're in a similar situation where you started something and it's small right now. Don't let the lack of size frustrate you because beginnings are supposed to be small. Since God is no respecter of persons, follow His directions and expect Him to greatly increase it. I thank God for the time we spent at Christ United Church prior to starting The Body Church. They gave us a much more realistic perspective of starting a church and helped us to be better prepared for the small beginning. See you next time for; "Point 4) You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor."

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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor

James 3:1(NKJV) - My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

Aaahh church life. There's nothing like it. I turned 36 on Sunday, December 5th and can't help but reminisce on 36 years and 9 months of life in the church. That's right. I didn't just grow up in church. I was in there before I was even born. So over the years I've seen all kinds of interesting things within the hallowed halls of the church building.

However, none of those experiences could have prepared me for the experience I've received in the last two years since starting The Body Church in Atlanta with my wife, Angel. Thankfully, The Lord has been with us throughout the entire process and now you can too. In this new blog series we will share the valuable lessons we have been learning throughout this journey starting with the top twelve.

Top Twelve Lessons Learned From Starting A Church

1) Some people are with you until you correct or offend them.

2) Some people need to hear from The Lord to join your church but don't need to hear from The Lord to leave.

3) If you're starting from the ground up and your only example of church is a mega-church you will get your feelings hurt.

4) You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor.

5) When people act "over the top" eager about your church when they first show up, don't assume they'll stay long or even show up again.

6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry.

7) If you don't take personal responsibility for the success of your ministry, do not expect anyone else to do so.

8) Some people will think your ministry is awesome, just for someone else.

9) If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway.

10) The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful.

11) Be careful who you trust. You will be shocked at who might be smiling in your face and talking behind your back.

12) Many people choose a church for what they can get from the church instead of what they can give.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is just the beginning. We are going to address each of these top twelve in detail in the coming weeks and you are going to love it. Why? Because you know it's the truth and it's about time that someone said it. Let's start with Lesson 1 today.

1) Some people are with you until you correct or offend them.

John 6:60-69(NLT) - Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God. ”

When Jesus taught parables, worked miracles, kissed babies, showed mercy to sinners and challenged the religious elite, He was popular. People were excited to be His followers and they believed He was The Messiah. They loved to eat the bread and fish that He multiplied. They lined up to receive their healing. They sat at His feet and loved every Word He said. He was everything they dreamed of. That was, until He offended them. Then all but the twelve disciples left Him because they could not accept what He had to say.

How do we know they left Jesus because they were offended? That's what Jesus said. "Does this offend you?" He asked. As a young pastor, I learned this lesson early and often. Some people are with you until you say something that offends them and instead of seeking to understand what you said or why you said it, they just leave. What's unfortunate is that the disciples who left Jesus let offense rob them of words that were Spirit and Life. That was their loss.

When Jesus noticed that those other disciples were becoming offended He shared some words of wisdom that should inform all of us.

a) If those simple words offended them, they could expect to be offended even more in the future.

b) Those were not merely human words, those were the life giving, spirit-filled Words of God and some still would not believe.

c) The deserters were free to go because the only people who were meant to be with Jesus were the ones assigned to Him by The Father.

What does that mean for us?

a) If people are offended by something we say today, don't think this will be the only time those people would be offended. You will be like a dog chasing his tail if you try to avoid offending them in the future.

b) Even when you give people The Word of God that doesn't mean they will believe it.

c) When people leave as a result of offense let them go. The only people meant to be with you are the people God assigns to you anyway.

Now pay close attention to the response Jesus received from The Twelve Disciples when He asked if they too would desert Him. Peter stood up and said three things;

a) To whom shall we go.

b) You have the Words of Life.

c) We know that You are The One God sent.

What does that mean to us?

a) People who belong to your church know that they are supposed to be there and can't go anywhere else. They understand that God sent them there and they can't just walk away when they are offended by The Word of God that you deliver. On the other hand, those people who believe they have options should go now because they are not called by God to be with you and will probably eventually leave anyway.

b) People who are supposed to be with you know the value of what you're saying. They can tell it's The Word of God and accept it as it is. They understand that you won't say anything that God didn't put on your heart. People who don't belong to your church think your messages are your opinion and everyone's entitled to their own.

c) People who belong to your church know that you are sent by God. They can recognize the anointing on your life and won't miss out on what God has for them through that anointing. People who can easily walk away have no idea who you are so they should go.

What's the bottom line?

i) Always preach like God Himself is speaking. Leave personal opinions for politicians.

1 Peter 4:10-11(NLT) - God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

ii) Expect some people to get offended when you preach because some Christians want to pick and choose what they hear at church.

II Timothy 4:1-5(NKJV) - I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

iii) People who are really called by God to be with you will receive The Word of God from you like God Himself came into The Church and said it.

1 Thessalonians 2:13(NLT) - Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.

That's all for today. See you next time for Point 2.

2) Some people need to hear from The Lord to join your church but don't need to hear from The Lord to leave.

3

How Do We Evangelize? - Live Holy: Let your lifestyle testify of Jesus.

holy

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 15 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 14, "How Do We Evangelize? - Pray: Be led by The Holy Spirit".

The second practical key on how to evangelize is to Live Holy: Let your lifestyle testify of Jesus.

I hear the Lord saying to us, “Enough, already!!! How long will you waver between two opinions? If God is God, serve God if this is not pleasing to you, serve another. For those who choose Me, please stand with holy hands lifted. Your families are dying, your marriages are dying, your friends are dying, and your nation is dying. Live holy so that your lifestyle testifies of Jesus Christ. It’s time to evangelize and save the lost!” - Word From The Lord

As Christians, the world is watching our every move. If we truly want to evangelize to others, we have to be aware of this fact and monitor how we live. Our lives must be an example of Christ so that we do not blow our testimony. The last thing you want is to try to tell someone about Christ and then be exposed as a hypocrite like the Seven sons of Sceva!

Acts 19:13-17(NLT) - “A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.

Living a lifestyle that testifies of Jesus is vital to establishing credibility when evangelizing. As true Christians, we must live a life of holiness if we are seeking to win the lost to a Holy God.

Have you ever heard the foolish saying of “do as I say, and not as I do”? Perhaps you have even said it to someone. To some, this may sound like a wise manner to give direction and instructions. However, the truth is, people will do what you do, not what you say. It is difficult to obey someone whose verbal instructions contradict what they model.

A good teacher, trainer, or coach will demonstrate what is right to achieve the desired results as opposed to leaving it up to their follower’s interpretation. If leaders consistently model the desired standard, they will easily earn the respect and credibility of their followers. If they only talk about the desired standard, but model what is contrary to achieving the desired results, they lose all credibility. In the same way, our lifestyle must testify of Jesus Christ in order to maintain our credibility in evangelism.

What does the scripture have to say about holiness? Jesus instructed us to live holy; Apostle Paul exhorted us to live holy; Christians are told to model holiness to others; God requires us to live holy; and the Holy Spirit helps us to live holy.

1.) Jesus instructed us to live holy. Not only did He tell us to be holy, but he demonstrated holiness by His lifestyle. He is a Holy God and modeled holy living when He walked as a man on the earth.

1 Peter 13-17 (NKJV) – “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;”

2.) The Apostle Paul exhorted us to live holy. Paul exhorted believers to follow his example as he followed Christ. The fact is, Paul would not have the credibility to urge anyone to follow his example, if he did not live a life modeled after Christ. If you review his life, you will find that after his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul became known as someone whose life was fully “sold out” to Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

1 Corinthians 2:1 (NIV) – “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Additionally, the scriptures tell Christians to model holiness to others; God requires us to live holy; and the Holy Spirit helps us to live holy. We will explore each of these points next in this series.

Today, let's pray and thank God for speaking to all of us about holiness through His Word! Tomorrow, we will continue our discussion on this practical key to evangelism; "Live Holy: Let your lifestyle testify of Jesus."

We will continue from here tomorrow.
2

How Do We Evangelize? - Pray: Be led by The Holy Spirit

How Do We Evangelize? - Pray: Be led by The Holy Spirit

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 14 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 13, "How Do We Evangelize?".

Over the next few weeks we will spend time reviewing a few practical keys to effective evangelism. The first practical key is "Pray: Be led by the Holy Spirit." One of the first things we need to do is pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us when evangelizing. The Holy Spirit is always speaking and He is eager to help us. If we invite the Holy Spirit to direct us to whom to speak, what to say, and where to go, we will never be disappointed. He knows who is ready to receive The Gospel, where they are, and when is the proper time to present it to them.

John 6:44(NKJV) - No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

When we pray, the Holy Spirit will lead us to WHO we should share The Gospel with. Jesus is the one who draws people to Himself. Without Him drawing us, we would not have been willing to come to the cross on our own. He has promised that if He is lifted up from the earth, people would be drawn to Him. Every person may not be open to hearing The Gospel at exactly the same moment. Really?...so how can you know who to approach? 🙂

John 12:32 (NLT) – “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to led you to who He wants you to minister to. The Holy Spirit knows who Jesus is drawing to Himself at any given time. Therefore, it is important for us to pray and depend on the Holy Spirit to show us who to approach with the message of The Gospel or a prophetic word.

When we pray, the Holy Spirit will lead us in WHAT we should say when sharing The Gospel. As previously stated, the Holy Spirit is always speaking and is desiring to move in the earth. He loves people and longs for them to hear God's voice through prophecy. The prophetic is such a precious and vital gift to the Body of Christ because it has the ability to change the entire trajectory of a person's life.Therefore, praying and seeking to hear the Holy Spirit concerning what to say when sharing The Gospel with unbelievers is paramount to effective evangelism. Revelation 19:10 reminds us that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (NLT) – “But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.”
Revelation 19:10 (NASB) "Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

When we pray, the Holy Spirit will lead us to WHERE we should go to share The Gospel. The Holy Spirit knows all things, including where we should go to share the gospel. For one it may be a mission field across the Atlantic Ocean, for another it may a mission field on a mountain top, and yet another it may a mission field in their neighborhood or workplace. Wherever you are seeking to go to share The Gospel, pray first. Hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and go only at the sound of His voice.

The Holy Spirit knows where He desires to send you and what you will encounter along the way. Trust in His leading and depend on His divine direction. Paul and Silas depended on the Holy Spirit’s leading for where to go and share The Gospel. There were several times when they had intentions of ministering in one region, but were diverted to another place by the divine intervention of The Holy Spirit.

Acts 16:4-10 (NLT) – “Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia. Then coming, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia,but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there”.

Prayer is vital to the success of evangelism. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us through the entire process. He will direct our steps by showing us who to approach, what to say to them, and where to go when we ask. Today, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as you share The Gospel! You will not be disappointed if you obey the Spirit's voice.

Hebrews 3:15 (ESV) "As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

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The Story of The Body Church: Part Two

Date - Sunday, September 27th, 2015

The Body Church,

3015 Rainbow Dr,

Suite #142,

Building #3009,

Decatur, GA 30034

1 Corinthians 12:12(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Sundays

10:00 AM - Worship With Prayer

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