Thoughts from District Conference

I’m about to share with our local church some thoughts from this past week’s district conference. As I sat there, a strong theme developed. I don’t know if it was intentional or not; but the theme of evangelism became strong and clear. What is the purpose of the church? The purpose is to build the kingdom. One of the ways we build the kingdom is to evangelize the lost. Do we really believe people are lost and going to hell and eternal separation from God? Even if hell is only a place of separation from God, it will be an awful place. Look at this world that God created and still has his hand in. Sometimes we think of this as hell, but God is still present. If that is the case, can you imagine what hell will be like? It is our job to build the kingdom and evangelize the lost. As Dr. Don Bray spoke during the mission rally on Sunday afternoon, we understood his heart for missions and the incredible job that Global Partners is doing around the world. In the last ten years we have nearly doubled our presence in countries around the world. This is a major praise. Several missions countries are now their own self supporting districts. The gospel is being spread throughout the world. Evangelism is happening. The theme was clear as Dr. “Bud” Bence spoke in the evening Power rally and then is Dr. Wilson’s State of the Church address, through Dr. Gunsalus’ annual report and in Dr. Bence’s Monday evening message.
One of the big pushes for this year in the Shenandoah District is evangelism. This is the year of the big “E.” What will be our part in it? Let me share from Dr. Wilson’s state of the church address.

In John’s book of Revelation we are given a look at seven churches of Asia. John repeats “Let him who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

  • Ephesus – Repent
  • Laodicea – Warm your heart with Christ’s love
  • Pergamos – continue to stand against power politics and pagan ideologies
  • Thyatira – hold fast to what you have
  • Sardis – Beware of nominal (you have a name only) Christianity
  • Philadelphia – Evangelize

William Temple (an Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Church) said, “The church exists primarily for those who come nowhere near it.”

The Wesleyan Church is making resources available to pastors and churches called the Wesleyan Strategy for Spiritual Transformation:

  • Visionary Leadership
  • Pastors Plus Conference – Orlando – Jan 2007
  • New Pastors Orientation – Indianapolis
  • DS Institutes
  • Worldwide Church Health and Multiplication
  • Transformational Ministries
  • Resources in order to fulfill this command to evangelize the lost. Out task is enormous and as you will hear in a few weeks, “The church must be the church.”

I was sharing with the Wednesday evening group that 2006 has been designated as the Year of the Bible. Every person who attends a Wesleyan Church is being encouraged to read through the Bible in 2006. This initiative will be encouraged by giving every teen who attends the LOGOS5 conference around the country during Christmas break will receive a One-Year Bible. We were also introduced to the new Department of Spiritual Formation. This department has combined Sunday School and Discipleship, Children’s Ministries and Youth Department into a cohesive whole. This department is putting in place a catechism starting in preschool so that we can teach throughout the elementary years what the Wesleyan Church believes. These will be great resources that will be available to us.

That brings me to Sunday night’s rally and Bud Bence. He spoke from the Gospel of John.

“The Word became flesh and walked among us.”

17So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
27She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.”

32Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

37And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

38Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

What does this have to do with evangelism? Imagine you are the disciples. You have come with Jesus (you think) to help mourn with your friends. They are standing under the tree, when Jesus says, “move away the stone.” “What?” “Move away the stone.” Let me share a secret. “Half of evangelism is figuring out the stone that is keeping a person in a state of spiritual death.” What are the stones in your friends and families lives that are keeping them in a state of spiritual death? This is a great question.

Secondly, remember the statement that follows? He’s been in there four days and he must stink. The second point is that when we start removing the stones that are keeping people in a spiritually dead state it might get messy. We need to not be afraid of the messes that come from removing spiritual stones. The third point is we need to be careful and discrete about removing the grave clothes. (The point of small accountability groups.)

So if we do all that, what is the secret to effective evangelism? That secret is found in Colossians 3:15-17. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

If we look at these three verses, the common word that appears in all the verses is Jesus Christ. It all starts with the hub. Jesus is the center. I want you to begin picturing a wheel (a three spoke wagon wheel.) In the center is Jesus Christ. Let me give you three phrases

§ Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Referee)
§ Let the word of Christ dwell (Doctrine – Music)
§ The name of Christ. (The name you wear)

For me to live is Christ – and the believers were called CHRISTians.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus

Held together by thanksgiving to God – It’s all about grace.

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