The kinds of people you meet in the kingdom of heaven

Visitors to our church here in Rome often comment on the diversity of nationalities and skin colours present on a Sunday morning. It shall be even more staggering to witness the great multitude before the throne of heaven (Revelation 7:9), among whom shall be:

People from the jungles of Indonesia…

…and from the mountains of Albania…

Tough guys like Jim the Marine…

…and urbanites like Chrissie the New Yorker

Oh, and don’t forget all the other believers throughout all the ages—all united by the saving power of Jesus Christ!

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” –Acts 16:31

When to stop serving in church

I’ve griped before on serving in church. Those who don’t haven’t quite grasped the nature of being an imitator of Christ, who came to serve and not to be served. Sadly,  those who do contribute to their local congregation don’t always have the purest of motives.

I’m not wise enough nor have I had enough life experience to exhaust all the possible wrong motives we may have for doing what we do. I’ve come up with 3 situations in which it would be opportune for a Christian to quit doing what they’re doing. It need not be permanent—a break long enough to examine one’s own heart and repent should suffice.

When you’re not in it for the Father’s pleasure

Remember when you were a kid and you presented your parents with artistic masterpieces? You were completely unself-conscious about the disproportionate human limbs and incongruous colour of the family pet. It was simply a pleasure, not a means to an end.

Are you disappointed that no one notices all the work you put in? Do you feel you can’t stand the people you’re serving or serving with? Or do you pat yourself on the back, thinking it was awfully nice of you to have done such an unpleasant task? Then stop.  Stop if you can’t go up to your heavenly Father and unabashedly say, “Look what I did today!”

When you can’t see yourself doing something else

So you’re thrilled by what you’re doing, but what if you’re asked to do something else? Maybe your area of ministry is being discontinued, or more hands are needed elsewhere. If that prospect seems unthinkable, then stop. You’ve made an idol out of your service. The God you’re serving is greater than the task you’re accomplishing. He is pleased by your faithfulness in the work, and not by the work itself.

When you can’t see someone else in your place

This is related to the previous point, which assumed that your place would remain vacant. But what if someone is called to replace you or work alongside you?

I struggled with this particular issue. For over 3 years, I was the sole person in charge of our church website. A while back, two other volunteers joined me and I found it oh-so-hard to give up exclusive control (I eventually did, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this). The sky didn’t fall on our heads and it was great to have less to think about, even though I had to tweak things every now and then.

Conclusion

I hope reading this post hasn’t left you feeling guilty. God has an infinite willingness to forgive His wayward children and to welcome into His family those that aren’t part of it. Repent, and trust in His Holy Spirit to work in you.

Raising spiritually successful children

What are the common characteristics of children who grow up to become spiritually mature adults? The folks at LifeWay Research set to find out, surveying 500 parents of 1005 children ages 20-35. The findings can be summarised in the following statistically significant factors, which I hope to recall if I ever become a parent:

The spiritually mature adult children while they were young children: Continue reading

Transformational small churches (1 of 3)

the transformational loop

What are the common characteristics of churches that transform their members and their communities? The folks at LifeWay Research set to find out, and published their findings in a book, Transformational Churches. Last September, they held an all-day webinar specifically aimed at small churches. Being part of a small church, I tuned in. Though much was aimed at pastors, there was something in there for folks in the pew like me, and here are my (sometimes disjointed) notes.

Continue reading

10 gospel tweets

I’m trying out a brand-new (less than 24hrs old!) WordPress feature that embeds tweets. Too bad the tweets’ colour scheme and mine clash 🙂

Continue reading

From generation to generation

As a teen, Jared Mellinger would sit on the front row at church—and sleep. Now in his late twenties, he’s a pastor and in this sermon has the following to say about reaching young people who were like him:

    • Be concerned beyond your generation (Psalm 78:5-6).
    • Dazzle the next generation with God (Psalm 78:4).
      • Don’t stress behaviour modification, but the message of God’s word.
      • Don’t tell them to do stuff, tell them what God has done.
      • Set their hope in God (Psalm 78:7), teaching them not to forget what He’s done and to keep His commands.
      • Admit that you won’t always be a perfect example.
    • Make faithfulness your passion (Psalm 78:8)

    Listen to the entire sermon (length–47:44).

    Offensive kindness

    Julian the Apostate was a 4th century Roman emperor and a convert from Christianity to paganism (hence the epithet ‘apostate’). To put it  nicely, he didn’t like Christians, and made many efforts to undermine the Christian faith. For example, he  “always calls the Christians Galilaeans because he wishes to emphasise that this was a local creed, ‘the creed of fishermen,’ and perhaps to remind his readers that ‘out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.’”  [Source]

    What he couldn’t get around, though, was the love Jesus’ followers had for each other and for those outside the Christian community. In a letter aimed at reviving paganism, he writes:

    The religion of the Greeks does not yet prosper as I would wish, on account of those who profess it. […] Why then do we … not observe how the kindness of Christians to strangers, their care for the burial of their dead, and the sobriety of their lifestyle has done the most to advance their cause?

    Each of these things, I think, ought really to be practiced by us. It is not sufficient for you alone to practice them, but so must all the priests in Galatia without exception. […]

    Erect many hostels, one in each city, in order that strangers may enjoy my kindness, not only those of our own faith but also of others whosoever is in want of money. […] For it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar and the impious Galileans support our poor in addition to their own; everyone is able to see that our coreligionists are in want of aid from us. Teach also those who profess the Greek religion to contribute to such services, and the villages of the Greek religion to offer the first-fruits to the gods. Accustom those of the Greek religion to such benevolence, teaching them that this has been our work from ancient times. […] Do not therefore let others outdo us in good deeds while we ourselves are disgraced by laziness; rather, let us not quite abandon our piety toward the gods…

    [Source]

    Looks like the believers in Julian’s day took seriously the apostle Peter’s exhortation to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). Their love and kindness were undeniable, even to their critics.

    What about us today?

    HT: One of Tim Keller’s sermons.

    Worship: Reverence vs Relevance

    The following video isn’t so much a debate as friendly banter between two people passionate about the church (in the sense of the people). Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship and Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research sit down and answer only 5 of 600 questions they’d received on the topic of worship in the church.

    I took some notes, giving up toward the end as both Stetzer and Harland speak very fast. Here’s what I wrote down: Continue reading