We like to be up-to-date, keeping an ear open to the Holy Spirit for his leadings and an eye on what is going on in church life and with different Christians. This comes from having a heart to obey God, being aware of the times (church and world) and encouraging Christians to enjoy the gift of life and serve their God.
Three March eye-opening matters caught our eye …
1. Reaching the ‘nones’
LifeWay Research’s Ed Stetzer (www.edstetzer.com/) penned an insightful article – 5 Things the Church Will Face in the Next 10 Years.
Dr Stetzer highlights matters essential to expanding the church in this age of self-centredness. But his number four focus – Evangelism in the Age of the Nones (No religion/church affiliation) – really got our attention.
It reads: ‘We are now increasingly facing what I have called a post-seeker context. This does not mean that seekers no longer exist. The Spirit is always at work in the hearts of people. But churches that once focused their energies and efforts toward targeting seekers are finding it more difficult to appeal to a constituency with little to no religious memory.’
He goes on: ‘Churches will have to find new ways to lead their people to reach out to their neighbours – not just attractional evangelism, but incarnational evangelism, as well – being, doing and telling good news where we live and work.’
2. Face-to-face evangelism
The immediate success of My Hope America with Billy Graham, a crusade with a difference. At least 10.2 million people saved to date!
This isn’t one ‘final-tour’ America-wide crusade by the 94-year-old evangelist. Its success is due to fresh thinking (actually first church thinking!) and a passion for souls. It’s been noted that ‘one-on-one conversationsare the root of this relationship evangelism outreach.’
Franklin Graham commented, ‘My father is as burdened today about the souls of men and women as he has been at any time in his life.’ Dr Graham said: ‘I think it is going to be a tremendous time of evangelism. That the Lord is going to use it mightily. I’ve been praying that we might have a spiritual awakening.’
Coincidently we attended a particular church’s beautiful new building launch this month.
It was encouraging to hear the observations of the visionary visiting minister, still highly respected in his senior years. ‘This church has every reason to rejoice and celebrate the Lord’s honouring of your faithfulness and commitment in enabling the reality of this great building,’ he pointed out.
But, he added, the building in itself isn’t the church, that the real church is ‘out there’ and that church people must share with and lead the unsaved to Christ, and then get them into the building.
This is the challenge to every Christian. Yes, it’s great to have a building, but such will become empty if there isn’t more one-on-one, face-to-face sharing of the gospel of Christ ‘out there.’
3. Evin prison
‘Our nightmare isn’t over!’ recounts how American citizen Saeed Abedini willingly returned to his native Iran nine months ago to continue work on building an orphanage. Revolutionary guards took the pastor to the notorious Evin prison. This is where inmates are routinely tortured, and hanging executions are swift and sudden.
Naghmeh, his distressed wife, writes: ‘Saeed was [later] given his eight-year sentence because of his Christian faith. I know deep in my heart that unless we speak out and fight for him, Saeed might not survive the eight years in that horrific prison, especially because he continues to face continued abuse and death threats.’ (See #SaveSaeed– http://savesaeed.org/ )
We have the privilege of ministering to middle-easterners now committed Christians. They tell how God’s grace enabled them to leave their homelands, settle here and enjoy our religious freedom. Some tell of the perils Christian relatives back home face, that they are willing to go back to share Jesus and encouragements.
In view of what they’ve told us and what we pick up from ASSIST reports, we find it amazing that Pastor Saeed was so brave, so bold, to trust his Lord and return to help little children!
Sentenced to death, miraculously freed is the incredible report of Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, two young ladies who also willingly returned to their homeland. Their God-given mission was to covertly distribute Farsi New Testaments and start two secret house churches.
They too were caught, imprisoned at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and sentenced to death for spreading Christianity. Amazingly, instead of succumbing to fear and the interrogation threats, these young Christians, committed to Christ, chose to take the dangerous step of sharing their faith inside that very gaol. Evin prison became their church!
Through God’s grace and intercessory prayers of Christians worldwide, charges were dropped; they were released in 2009 and migrated to Atlanta.
What gripped us here too is this: These two young people were so committed to Jesus’ great commission to share his good news with their own people, at the risk of their own lives, they dared to move into danger – to where promoting Christianity is a capital crime and official charges ‘of apostasy, anti-government activity, and blasphemy’ means sentence of execution by hanging.
Australia – the lucky country
Rereading these two stories, the willingness and commitment of young Christians to endanger themselves in sharing the gospel,we couldn’t help but recall an old truth: So many Christians in this land of (currently!) religious freedom just haven’t got a clue what it is to be persecuted for Jesus!
So many moan and groan when pastors call for commitment to growth projects, to connecting with the unsaved and unchurched. Worse, we rarely consider praying for ‘our Christian family’ in restricted nations such as the Middle East and Asia. Yet for decades these brethren have prayed for us!
Regarding the outstanding Billy Graham outreach, how many realise that face-to-face, one-on-one witnessing is the secret to connecting with non-Christians, preparing the way so the Spirit can lead them to Christ.
As for the ‘Nones’… we need to be Jesus in our locales, marketplaces, schools and such. Active Christians not afraid to move in the Spirit’s supernatural …and as Dr Stetzer put it – ‘being, doing and telling good news where we live and work.’