What the Church Needs

Initiative seems to be one of the greatest needs in American church.

I believe this is a product of the instant gratification and entitlement society that we have been able to create. You want a movie? Stream it instantly. Need to get a hold of someone? Text/Call/Facebook/Tweet directly to them and receive a reply almost immediately. Don’t want to work? Sit around and have everything provided to you. But if something needs to be done, few want to hop in. We’ve actually even gotten away from people being skeptical and asking questions about an idea. Rather, like a Facebook Newsfeed, they can either “Like” something or keep on going without any required interaction. Initiative would have us act upon the needs that we are looking for and discover.

Entropy is an interesting concept. It means that without having energy applied to something, it will deteriorate over time. The concept easily seen in a house that is left vacant. The wood rots, dust gathers, insects move in, and things generally fall apart. Our modern society is like this house because the church has become happy to maintain our buildings, but not our families. In 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul gives a testimony of his time with this church. In verses 8-9 he says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

You see, Paul spent much of his time moving around and he didn’t live off of fundraisers or require there to be provisions given to him. He even talks about in this chapter how he could have expected such things, but he didn’t. Instead Paul worked a job to provide for himself SO THAT he could continue sharing the Gospel with the Thessalonians. He didn’t just share the Gospel once and then leave because he only raised enough money to stay for two weeks. No. Paul worked at it and genuinely cared about these people. He saw a need and worked hard to make the Gospel available to those people.

Maybe that is the true problem. “Christians” are not loving people the way they ought to.

When Jesus called us to love others, it wasn’t in a culture that said, “Hey, how are you this morning?” when they saw someone at church. It was in an engaging culture. He expected us to love people in a sacrificial manner that we aren’t comfortable with doing and we are really awful at doing. As a follower of Christ, our burden is no longer sin but love toward others. Phillip knew this when he engaged the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-39.

Phillip was sent by the Holy Spirit to Gaza and on the way he was told to join a chariot. From here, Phillip notices that this man is reading from Isaiah and he engages the man with questions. He creates an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with this man and by the end of the chapter, the man is baptized and goes on rejoicing. Phillip was observant of what was going on around him and cared to teach someone from a totally different culture about what was most important to us.

We need to be looking for these opportunities. Following Christ in a wedding like Paul wrote about in Ephesians means that we learn what He cares about and we care about those things. We seek out ways to make him happy and to love others as if it was the Lord we are loving… because it is the Lord in the end.

The Church needs to love people like the early Church did.

How To Go From Tourism to Missions

Recently, I’ve been writing about the trend of short-term mission bashing that has gone around on the internet. It may seem wise to take funds from a mission trip’s expenses and send them directly to local believers to carry out the work of the church. There is a trend of Christians going overseas and doing great humanitarian work, but they leave out the Gospel. Here are 3 things to keep yourself from being a religious humanitarian group:

1. Do Not Be Content To Just Be Known As The Christian Group
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for someone to be called a “Christian”? Real ones, fake ones, heretics,  and cults often claim to be Christians but how do we discern who the genuine disciples are? How does the world discern who the real disciples of Jesus are?

As missionaries, we must be intentionally sharing the Gospel that lifts up Christ over our local church, mission agency, or denomination. The whole reason we are there is not to recruit members into our social club, but to be the mouthpiece for the Gospel that transforms lives.


2. Give The Explicit Gospel
People need to hear the basics of the Gospel. They don’t have to understand what supralapsarianism is and neither do you, but you be sharing the following information with people:

  • There is one holy God who created everything in the universe, including people
  • That men rebelled against God and created a barrier called sin which keeps us from knowing God
  • Sin earns death and death means eternal separation from God in a place that the Bible calls Hell.
  • Because God loves us so much, He sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life on Earth, die a terrible death on a cross (which paid for our earned death), and then Jesus raised from the dead three days later to show His power over sin and death. After this, He showed himself to his disciples and then rose into Heaven to prepare an eternal home for us.
  • Jesus offers us a new life of sacrificing our old selves and surrendering to God’s desires for our life. This means that our rebellious nature has to die. Those who accept this offer are His disciples, known as The Church. The Church’s mission is to share this good news with the whole world!
  • In this new life, we live to love God and love other people by following Jesus’ example.
  • One day, Jesus will return to bring those who are still alive to be with Him in Heaven and all of His disciples who have died will already be there with Him without suffering in Hell

3. Be Intentional in Connecting Your Good Works To The Grace Of God

It’s important for people to hear that the things we are doing there are an outpouring of God’s love for them because He has loved us. Often, we assume that people will figure it out on there own, but we need to make this very clear to them. We are not saved by doing these things, but we do these things because we have been saved and shown the love of God


4. Do Not Be Content to Stay Within The Christian Group
In order to spread the Gospel, we need to spend time and interactions with people who are not saved and transform those conversations into eternally focused ones. We tend to want to perform tasks on trips without sharing the Gospel. Even among locals, there can be people groups that they do not like associating with or are more difficult or dangerous to be around. These are the very people that need the Gospel.

Why I Raise My Hands in Worship

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I have seen and really enjoy the picture of all the different hand raises and their funny nicknames. “Big Screen TV”, “Field Goal”, “Bigger Screen TV”, etc. My point here is not to tell you which formation is my favorite, the most Biblical, or anything like that. It is solely to give reasons for why I raise my hands during worship and why I invite you to do the same. First off, let me give you some background.

I grew up in the South with parents who raised me in the Southern Baptist Church. Yes, all of the stereotypes are based on realities. Fried chicken was a typical Wednesday night meal at church, complete with the Italian cut green beans and the sweet tea that only comes out of church kitchens. I watched Veggie Tales and Psalty and around Christmas, I was always involved in the Christmas production. The thing that I probably disliked about church the most was the music IN my grandparents’ church.

Now, one set of my grandparents were members of the same church family that my parents and I were a part of. Our church had the traditional service early on Sunday with a contemporary service afterwards. My other grandparents were members of another church. My dad had grown up there and even knew many of the people whenever we visited. It was pretty traditional with lots of organ, orchestra, and hymns.

Now, before I go any further, I do not hate hymns. I believe hymns are very useful for praising God, for teaching doctrine, and for unifying the body of believers.baptisthymnal

What I did not like about hymns is how bored everyone seemed to be when we sang them. Everyone, except the music pastor who was conducting the congregation, was holding the pew in front of them as they sang. Many people’s expressions were about the same as you see at a TSA screening station where the people do the same thing all day. Zero excitement, enthusiasm, etc.

As I grew up, I came to realize that people in the Bible were not this way. They were pretty amped on who God is and that He loves us. David ran around the cities like he won the world cup because of his joy! I also learned that worship is not just singing songs of praise. Romans 12:1 is almost overly used in student ministries, but it taught me what true worship is. It says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul continues this same teaching, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

So worship is living life in a manner that is pleasing to God and sacrificing your own selfishness in exchange for Him.

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Here’s where arm raising comes in. I began noticing in youth groups and camps that people would raise their arms up during the music. The first time I saw it, I think I was looking for the police to see who was getting arrested. Because that’s about the only time that you see people do this. Raising your hands up is a universal sign of surrender. So we can raise our hands as an expression to God, “God, I surrender to you.”

This is not the only reason I raise my hands.

I actually have a few reasons. The first reason is this previous one, a symbol of surrender. This is the most popular reason I have heard taught, but I also have other reasons.

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In my family, I have a little brother who is now five years old. Yes, all the girls go “Awwww”. I know. When he was younger, he would run over to me or my dad and reach his arms up in order to say, “Pick me up.” This is the second reason that I will raise my hands to God. Sometimes I just go to the Lord with an expression of “Father, pick me up. I need you to hold me.” Jesus, talking about His flock (The Church), said in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Between these two hands, I know that we are secure, but sometimes I just need Him to remind me through The Comforter aka the Holy Spirit.

People-Man-holding-Bible-sun565My third reason is summer. Summer is my favorite time of the year because it is hot. I love hot weather and despise all of this winter we’ve had. In the summer, I will go outside and just soak up the Sun. People do this because they love basking in the radiance of the Sun. Similarly, I love to spread my arms just to bask in how good God is, His love toward us and expose as much of myself as I can. This is a physical symbol for an inward expression.

My fourth reason is easily seen in the popular show The Walking Dead. Zombies are always hungry and looking for where they can get together and eat. Sounds almost like Southern Baptists (BAZINGA!). The Walking Dead recently had a promotion they did where they set up a special grate in the sidewalks of New York City and had  people dress up as zombies. When someone would walk over the grate, they would reach up and grasp at the person and make their zombie noises. Of course, this makes for a really funny video that you can watch below. It’s not that these zombies want a hug, but rather they are reaching for what they desire. Zombies desire to eat flesh, but as a Christian my desire is for the Lord. When I focus on that during worship music, sometimes I reach out toward God because He is my desire and I long for Him. A zombie is absolutely fixated on one thing, eating. Therefore it reaches for the object of its affection as if to take hold of it. Sometimes I feel a similar desire to reach out and grab a hold of the Lord as I am truly desperate for Him to fill me. 

My final reason is that sometimes I desire to literally lift Him up. Since I cannot literally do this, I raise my hands as if I were holding Him up. I know there is nothing I can do that would exalt Him higher than what the Bible says that God did (Acts 2:32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”), but I do want to be making His name known in my life and I try to express this desire in my praise.

These reasons are not usually simultaneous for me, but I’m sure there are other reasons that other believers raise their hands. I don’t think that raising your hands is necessary to praise God as we sing, but I hope that our heart is as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:8, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling”. Therefore, let us examine our hearts before worship and repent of all sin so that we may raise holy hands to our God as we sing our prayers to Him.

Why do you/don’t you raise your hands?