Thinking Out Loud

March 31, 2019

The Kingdom of God Bearing Fruit; Regardless of Who is In Charge

This weekend wraps up the ninth year of Thinking Out Loud’s sister blog, Christianity 201. Tomorrow (Monday) marks the beginning of year ten. My goal with C201, God willing, is to do what I did here: Ten years of daily content without missing a day,

I wanted to bring readers here a taste of what happens there. These articles (yesterday and today) are being cross-posted with what’s running there.

Col 1 : 10( NIV) …live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

Balanced Christian LifeA tree might look healthy because it is leafy green, but if its purpose is to bear fruit, all that greenery counts for nothing.

As true as that principle is, it’s also possible for one person to be the planter, or the pruner; while someone else entirely reaps the harvest or collects the fruit.

One of the frustrations of online ministry is you don’t always get a lot of feedback; neither do you see the people who are being influenced by what is posted each day. Statistics report that several hundred people land at Christianity 201 each day, but I have no idea if the readings are helpful; if they like the videos; if they enjoyed checking out a particular writer’s website.

It’s also possible that many readers find a website which especially resonates with them and end up making that their daily habit instead of this. Of course, that result was built into the design of C201. There is so much Christian writing available; some of it relates more to intellectuals than those less educated; some to women more than men; some to people of certain denominational persuasions more than others.

I was reminded today of this passage in I Corinthians 3:

…4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it…

(continue reading full chapter in the NLT)

Matthew Henry writes:

…Both [people, i.e. Paul and Apollos] were useful, one for one purpose, the other for another. Note, God makes use of variety of instruments, and fits them to their several uses and intentions. Paul was fitted for planting work, and Apollos for watering work, but God gave the increase. Note, The success of the ministry must be derived from the divine blessing: Neither he that plants is any thing, nor he that waters, but God who gives the increase, 1 Cor. 3:7. Even apostolic ministers are nothing of themselves, can do nothing with efficacy and success unless God give the increase. Note, The best qualified and most faithful ministers have a just sense of their own insufficiency, and are very desirous that God should have all the glory of their success. Paul and Apollos are nothing at all in their own account, but God is all in all…

We know a lot about Paul, but when we connect the dots of scripture, we actually know a lot about Apollos as well.ChristianAnswers.net tells us:

This is the name of a Jew “born at Alexandria,” a man well versed in the Scriptures and eloquent (Acts 18:24). He came to Ephesus (about A.D. 49), where he spoke “boldly” in the synagogue (18:26), although he did not know as yet that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Aquila and Priscilla instructed in “the way of God”, i.e., in the knowledge of Christ. He then proceeded to Corinth, where he met Paul (Acts 18:27; 19:1). He was very useful there in watering the good seed Paul had sown (1 Cor. 1:12), and bringing many to Christ. His disciples were very attached to him (1 Cor. 3:4-7, 22). He was with Paul at Ephesus when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians; and Paul makes kind reference to him in his letter to Titus (3:13). (Scripture reference links are KJV.)

One of our former pastors would constantly say, “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” In today’s world, it also takes all types of websites, blogs and forums to reach out to an internet-wired world. But as I write this, it’s true that I often long to hear reports of the fruit of this ministry in the lives of readers.

I believe strongly that while we all may be instrumental in the discipleship process of people in our sphere of influence, we should also be know the joys of being reapers of the fruit of ministry. We should all experience Paul-Timothy mentoring relationships. We should all know what it means to reproduce ourselves in the lives of others and even the next generation.

Furthermore, we see Jesus’ attitude toward fruit-bearing ministry in Matthew 21’s story of the fig tree:

18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. (NLT)

Ask yourself: Are my efforts for the Kingdom of God bearing fruit, or just putting out leaves?

~PW

 

October 23, 2012

Ministry You’d Want to Be a Part Of

Friday night we attended a fundraising banquet for our local Youth for Christ worker and his ministry. In our little corner of the world, YFC has four staff workers, an administrator and three field workers serving a county so large that, even under the old system used by the phone company, it included three different area codes.

We’ve known Jeff for twenty years now. He was a youth pastor in a local church who was being laid off, and found a way to continue to serve students in the same town. Switching from a church-based ministry model to a parachurch model was a challenge during the first year, but the end result was that he fused together the best of both ministry paradigms.

His ministry extends far beyond anything in the Youth for Christ staff handbook, I’m sure. Hosting a 3-hour radio show on two stations. Working with the town ministerial association on special events. Doing pulpit supply for a variety of local churches. Writing faith-centered articles for the local newspaper.  Volunteering at the local high school and middle school. Studying for an MDiv degree nearly completed.  That’s in addition to YFC events such as a drop-in center, special events and lots and lots of one-on-one counseling.

All those activities, and other things that I don’t know about. I would never accuse Jeff of playing his cards close to his chest, though he doesn’t seek recognition. Rather, I think his left hand truly doesn’t know what his right hand is doing. Bottom line: We think his supporters truly get a lot of bang for their donation buck, and while we originally said we were going to skip the banquet this year, we turned out to show our support.

At the end of the night Jeff — ever frugal — passed out copies of his quarterly newsletter that would normally be mailed. He told us ahead of time that he’d broken the rules of newsletters by including ten stories of kids he’s worked with — present, recent past, and distant past — sharing their personal testimony of what Jeff and the ministry of YFC in general has meant to them and what God is doing in their lives.

Wow! I just finished reading the stories. A vibrant student ministry in our small town is changing lives that are ultimately changing the world. This ministry is bearing fruit. People are finding Jesus.

And as I folded the newsletter back into the envelope so my wife could read it when she got home, I thought, “How can anyone read this and not want to reach for their checkbook or credit card?”  That, and “How can anyone not want to pray, to volunteer or otherwise ‘come alongside’ what the Holy Spirit is doing through dedicated, vocational leadership like this?”

I’m so glad we didn’t opt to skip the banquet this year. It would pain me to get the newsletter by mail a week later, read the stories, and feel that I missed an opportunity to be a very tiny part of all this.

Right now, where you live, there are people making a difference who can’t do it without your active support. Pray about your involvement through serving, giving, praying or all three!


For contact information on Northumberland Youth For Christ, click here.

August 15, 2012

13 Measures of a Healthy Church

Found this at the blog of Paul Clark, Vision Meets Reality. While this may seem basic to some of you, IMHO you can never emphasize these essentials enough.  The temptation is to read this too quickly. Slow down and ask yourself how your church ranks according to these criteria.  For those who want to read at source, click this link.

Along with sound theology, we also believe that there are other elements that make up a healthy church: At Fairhaven Church, where I’ve served for 10 years, we have identified 13 measures that we believe define a healthy church. We’ve created a dashboard report around these measures which our leadership and Board review each month.

  1. People are coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. Our missions program is expanding locally, nationally and globally.
  3. People are making public professions of faith through baptism.
  4. Attendance in worship services is increasing.
  5. The worship experience is vibrant, enthusiastic and intergenerational.
  6. There is broad participation in serving throughout the ministries.
  7. New ministries are beginning as God imparts vision.
  8. Guests are being connected to church life.
  9. Covenant membership is increasing.
  10. Our budgetary needs are being met.
  11. Leaders are being developed and placed in ministry roles.
  12. Scripture is central to our message.
  13. Staff relationships are healthy.

Wednesday Link List returns next week.

April 28, 2012

Blog Posts Won’t Change The World; Actions Can

I originally wrote this on Wednesday at Christianity 201, but decided it needs to be seen here as well…

Many times at Thinking Out Loud, I pick up on news stories that are making the rounds and try to offer some fresh exposure or a fresh take on what is happening. I enjoy playing journalist, and I think it is significant that here at WordPress, when you’ve finished writing something, you click a button that says “publish.” It certainly gives me a sense of self-importance.

But I really haven’t come that far from when, 30 years ago, I was writing for CCM, a Christian music magazine based at the time south of Los Angeles. My final column gave my reason for quitting, “While it’s one thing to write the news, it’s a far better thing to make the news.”

Today, I would have qualified that sentence a little better!

The Christian internet is full of people with ideas to share, but I’m reminded of this verse in James:

NLT James 1:22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

The context is sin and obedience and the transformative power of God’s Word, but the application is still valid: We’re to be evaluated not on the basis of intention, doctrinal conviction or knowledge, but on what we actually do.

I just bought my wife an old Dilbert book titled, This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value. Sometimes in my blogs I tell readers I want comments where they are truly adding value to the discussion, not just saying, “Thanks, I really enjoyed that.” (Though some days I really need that encouragement, too.)

But ultimately, we don’t add value to God’s kingdom by just blogging, or just preaching, or just getting doctoral degrees in theology or divinity. We contribute more with our hands and our feet than with our mouths or our computer keyboards.

Here in North America, we face an economic crisis because nobody makes anything anymore. We ship out our raw resources, but our consumer and industrial products tend to come from somewhere else, often involving other countries shipping those same resources back to us. Our gross domestic product consists of trading and exporting knowledge and technological expertise, when the greatest needs in the world continue to be food, clothing and shelter. (And medicine, transportation and security.)

I have to ask myself,

  • What am I adding to God’s Kingdom? Am I producing fruit?

Note: They were a decidedly non-industrial community when the Bible was written, so fruit may not the metaphor of choice today, but the problem is I can’t think of a better one.

Another thing that occurs to me reading the Christian blogosphere for the past five or six years is that there isn’t a lot of the love of God evident. There are breakthrough days to be sure, like the day Jon Acuff’s blog, Stuff Christian Like raised $60,000 in 24-hours to build two kindergarten classrooms inVietnam. Why is what Jon did so rare?

Also, there are times an interaction in the comments section really touches your heart. But mostly there just a lot of opinion flying back and forth, some of it quite heated. If our key pastors and leaders were to be evaluated on the basis of their blogs by people outside the faith, what type of character could they infer from our discussions?

MSG I Cor 13:1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

I’m not saying that Christian writers and bloggers aren’t loving people. I just don’t see a lot of context online to demonstrate the love of God and the outworking of grace. Our web-surfing should take us to places where what we read brings tears as we read it. The stories should stir us. The information should mobilize us.

I have to ask myself:

  • Do people see in my writing a reflection of the God’s grace and love?

Finally, all this writing online has produced some superstars, though some are just known for writing. We all like to read our stats, and there’s even a Top 200 list that’s crammed full of more stats than you knew were being tabulated. There’s a human cry to be recognized, to be known, to be honored; and though we try to deny it, we all want just a tiny bit more attention than we’re currently getting.

CEB: Phil. 2:3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.

I’ve quoted this before: “There is no limit on what can be done for God as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

I have to ask myself:

  • When someone says they want my help with some ministry project, do I envision myself serving at the front of the room or at the back of the room?

Summary conclusions:

  • Less talk, more genuine actions
  • Fewer opinions, more love
  • Reduced self-promotion, more humility

Read more on this topic at Chasing After Words

NLT = New Living, MSG = The Message, CEB = Common English Bible

March 22, 2012

Three Conversations and a Wedding

Today’s post is written by Carlo Raponi who is Evangelism Outreach Director for Kawartha Youth Unlimited based in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, Canada; with a population of 80,000 or 115,000 depending on your sources.

This fall I attended a wedding as a +1 to a friend of mine. Weddings are always a great time. Even when it’s the wedding of someone you don’t know. Technically, its like crashing the wedding only there’s no threat of getting kicked out. You get to dress up, eat, drink and cut a little rug on the dance floor! I personally think that there should be open wedding-like parties you can attend on a weekly basis. I think the world would be a cheerier place for it.

At this particular wedding I was expecting to be the mystery guest. I didn’t know the bride or groom, I didn’t grow up in the area nor do I have relatives that live here. This was going to be my night to sit back, relax, eat some hors d’oeuvres and be, for the most part, anonymous. However that wasn’t the case.

Upon arriving at the reception a young man came up to me with an excited and surprised look on his face. “Carlo, wow, do you remember me?!” he asked as he cornered me at the coat check. In scenarios such as these your mind does one of three things. Either it searches it’s database for every possible instance where you might know this person, or it looks and listens for clues that could give insight into who this person is, or it looks for the best, and most vague, manner of saying hi that gives the air that you recognize the individual while seeming both genuine and credible. While I began with number three, suddenly number one kicked in and in a flash I recognized the now grown up individual that stood before me.

He called his friends over to introduce me. “Hey, this is Carlo. We used to skate together all the time at the skate park…man, you’ve helped me out with so many things!…” He went on to tell of how we would skateboard around and then just talk. While I remembered it all, I stood bewildered that those times we spent meant that much to him.

Later that evening the brother of the groom approached me. “Hi, do you remember me?” he asked. Ok, this time I really had to call upon brain function number three. He filled in the gaps for me telling me that he and I had a conversation one day that changed the course of his youth; that the words I spoke to him while we hung out in the streets of Peterborough significantly impacted his life and that he wanted to thank me.

I spent the rest of the night in amazing conversations with these two young men; and when I got home I was quick to share this story with a friend of mine who also volunteers at The Bridge Youth Center. After telling him about how stunned I was at the words of these two boys and how incredible it was that my words had has such impact, my friend commented saying, “…wow, I wish my night was that great. Instead I all I did was hang out with a bunch of rowdy kids at the youth center…” It was here that I turned to correct him. He missed the point. All that time I put in skateboarding or hanging out downtown was time setting the stage for those poignant conversations. All that time spent was time relationship building, time leading up to the moment at which something clicked inside of them.
 
People are not machines, they take time to change and grow. The work we do at The Bridge Youth Center is not just about playing pool or hanging out at the canteen. It’s time invested into actual lives that are actually transformed by Christ through the relationships established. That night was both an eye opener for this volunteer and a reaffirmation of the value in what Youth Unlimited does through it’s staff and volunteers. May these kinds of stories never cease.

Carlo Raponi

February 20, 2012

Mark Driscoll to UK Church: You Suck

His offensiveness knows no borders. I wrestled with the headline (post title) for this one, but there’s no polite way to encapsulate the partial transcript of this radio interview with Seattle’s Mark Driscoll and Surrey, England’s Justin Brierley host of the radio show Unbelievable, whose wife happens to pastor a local congregation across the pond…

This is just a sample, click the link at the end to continue reading –if you dare! — or just click over now. (The link in the first paragraph takes you directly to the full podcast.)  Commentary is by Chris Massey.

Justin Brierley, the unfailingly polite host of the British radio program, Unbelievable, recently podcast the entirety of his hour-long interview with Mark Driscoll.

Things did not go well.

There are many moments in this interview that could provide fodder for discussion. For example, Christians in the UK may be rather non-plussed by Driscoll impugning their entire country for not having, well, Mark Driscoll:

Driscoll: I go too far sometimes. Almost every other pastor I know doesn’t go far enough and that’s okay ’cause the church tends to be led by people who are timid and fearful of going too far. I mean, let’s just say this. … Right now, name for me the one young good Bible teacher that’s known across Great Britain.

Brierley: Hmm …

Driscoll: You don’t have one. That is a problem. There’s a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.

Brierley: So you think that the Bible teaches …

Driscoll: You don’t have one. You don’t have one young guy who can preach the Bible that anybody’s listening to on the whole earth.

I’ll leave it to the Brits to decide whether their churches suffer from a glut of cowards and a want of controversial celebrity preachers.

Much of the interview revolved around Driscoll’s views on women and their role in marriage and the church. When Brierley confessed that his own wife is, in fact, the pastor of his church, things got incredibly awkward:

Driscoll: I’m not shocked by the answer, by the questions you ask. I love you, but you’re annoying. ‘Cause you’re picking on all the same issues that those who are classically evangelical, kind of liberal, kind of feminist do.

Brierley: I think it’s because those are the issues here that people are thinking about. … [Brierley says he’s impressed by much of what Mars Hill Church is doing].

Driscoll: ‘Kay, let me ask you a few hard questions.

Brierley: Go ahead, go ahead.

Driscoll: So, in the church that your wife pastors, how many young men have come to Christ in the last year?

[It’s clear from the tone of Driscoll’s question that this is not a bona fide inquiry about the souls in Brierley’s church. It’s a veiled criticism. Driscoll is going to prove that women pastors can’t get the job done (i.e. attracting men to the church) and he’s going to belittle Brierley’s wife & church to do it.]

Brierley: Well we’re not a huge church, unlike yours, but I’d say there’s two or three probably in the last year who certainly, yah, I’d say have come to Christ in a pretty meaningful way.

Driscoll: Okay and in the church, what percentage is young men, single men?

Brierley: It’s difficult to say off the top of my head, but I’ll freely say it’s certainly not a big percentage, no.

Driscoll: Kay, and are you okay with that? Do you think that’s the best way to go?

Brierley: No, but can it be so easily put down to the fact that the church is being run by a woman? I mean, is that …

Driscoll: Yup. Yup. You look at your results, you look at my results, and you look at the variable that’s most obvious.

[Yes, he did just say that. His results are better than hers. And it’s because he’s a man and she’s a woman.]

continue reading Mark Driscoll’s efforts at international diplomacy

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.