Why “praying the prayer” is not enough

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I was struck recently by the experience of one of our teams on outreach in Manchester (above) They were out offering prayer and sharing the 3Circles gospel outline.

A young man turned and believed on the street and prayed to receive Christ. When he was asked, “when can we catch up again?”, he made it clear he wanted no more contact.

Do we count that as a “conversion”?

Recently I’ve heard reports 1,200 people praying to receive Christ on the streets of Reading, UK. Christians are heading out to pray for people and read out a gospel presentation. 

Even if some have fallen away, there must be hundreds who we can identify as new disciples. How many have moved from conversion into baptism and discipleship?

Over the last two years around 4,500 people have come to faith through Healing on the Streets in Northern Ireland. Causeway Vineyard estimates less than one in seven are now in a local church. Good on them for keeping track!

The great thing about the folks in Manchester, Reading and Northern Ireland is they are out there connecting, praying, sharing. As DL Moody said, I prefer my imperfect method of sharing the gospel to your method of not sharing the gospel. 

But what can we do to bridge the conversion-discipleship gap?

I think we’ve been measuring the wrong things. Praying a prayer to receive Christ is only one element of conversion. NT conversion is one experience that has five elements: repentance, faith, confession, the gift of the Holy Spirit and immersion.

That’s why I’m beginning to think that instead of counting prayers of commitment we should be counting baptised disciples meeting in groups. 

Meanwhile in Manchester the follow-up of contacts continues. It’s hard work. Some have fallen away. Others have stuck and are learning to follow Jesus and take the gospel into their world. 

Isn’t that what Jesus trained his disciples to do?

118-Reaching every segment of society: Ron Surgeon

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Steve talks to Ron Surgeon of Memphis about reaching every segment of society in a NoPlaceLeft strategy.

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Why study Acts? Eckhardt Schnabel

Eckhardt Schnabel explains why practitioners should study the book of Acts.

Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census

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A scholarly investigation and article that estimates the number of Muslim background believers who are followers of Jesus.

According to the abstract:

Since the 1960s, there has been a substantial increase in the number of known conversions from Islam to Christianity. Most of these conversions have been to forms of evangelical or Pentecostal Christianity, but there have also been conversions to Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, and still other converts claim to remain in some way both Muslims and followers of Jesus. This article explains how we obtained estimates of the number of converts, the complexities involved in this task, and an annotated list of countries by continent with the estimated number of believers in Christ from a Muslim background. The article includes charts with maximal, minimal, and medium estimates of this population from 1960 to the present.

117-What we’re learning about NoPlaceLeft: Jeff Sundell

Jeff Sundell & Troy Cooper 2016

Steve talks to Jeff Sundell (right) on what it takes to get to NoPlaceLeft.

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What Every Christian Should Know About the Qur’an

On sale on Amazon Kindle….

“What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an” (James R. White)

Churches mobilizing millenials for movements

Launching A Missionary Training School | Pastor John Lo from CoopersOnAMission

John Lo talks to Troy Cooper about how Epicentre Church launched their missionary training school for movement pioneers.

The vision is to mobilise one in ten of their congregation to the nations. Great insights on forming character in leaders.

Joining the call are pastors and catalytic leaders from across North America. 

A change of strategy — from failing institution to committed minority

Greg sheridan 

Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor of the Australian newspaper, and a Catholic, has some advice for Christian churches.

Face reality — you are now in the minority. 

In Western Europe, on the east and west coasts of the US, and in Australia, the new religion of aggressive secularism is on the rise, more self-confident and fundamentalist than ever.

Widespread, prolonged affluence has been more effective than oppression ever was in killing religious belief and practice.

You’ve been fighting a losing battle for 120 years.

Across the past 120 years, the Christian churches in Europe and Australia have lost every significant, long-term battle about social norms and legal measures to underpin them.

In these 120 years no victory was ever more than a temporary slowdown in secularism. While there seemed to be many tactical wins, the war was lost. In each case, the church misunderstood the extent and nature of its support and the long-term threat it faced.

The battles were lost because of a losing strategy.

They remind me of South Vietnam’s government in 1974. It over-estimated its strength and tried to hang on to all of its territory, including the long narrow neck of its north. It did not retreat to its formidable heartland in the south, which would have been vastly more defensible. Had it done so, it might have survived. Instead, the next year, the armoured divisions of North Vietnam invaded and Saigon lost everything.

Historic churches are most in danger.

The established churches are gentle institutions in a long, gentle decline. The Anglican Church in England shows the way. It has hung on to its status as the established church. Its bishops still sit in the House of Lords. It owns some of the most splendid buildings in Europe and is associated with the most prestigious institutions of its nation. It would say that it is involved in a respectful dialogue with contemporary society. Yet barely 700,000 English Anglicans, a trace over 1 per cent of the population, go to church on Sundays. It is dying

Christian churches must become a self-confident committed minorities.

The Christian churches now need to reconceive of themselves as representing a distinct and not all that big minority (of practising Christians). They should conduct themselves as a self-confident minority, seeking to win conversion through example and persuasion and not to defend endlessly legal protections and enforcements that are increasingly untenable or meaningless.

Here’s an example. . .

Recently Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner was willing to hear a complaint against the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart for circulating a pamphlet which upheld the view that marriage is between a man and a woman. The complaint was eventually dropped. But what should the Catholic church do if the complaint had gone ahead?

If the churches saw themselves as a strong minority with clear values under attack they might respond differently.

A robust archbishop leading a self-confident community that believed in its future might respond to the attack on Don’t Mess with Marriage by finding the most public square available in Hobart and reading the document out in full, then instructing all the priests in his diocese to read it from the pulpit on Sunday.

Would the commission prosecute them all?

We can no longer regard ourselves as a powerful institution of society. We must rediscover who we are as a confident, committed minority. That’s what movements do.

Give me the Jesus who did and said not the Jesus who would

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I believe Jesus would [approve gay marriage]. I don’t have any verse in Scripture. . . . I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.

Former President Jimmy Carter

Our modern-postmodern generation prefers WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) to WDJD (What Did Jesus Do), every time.

With WWJD,

What purports to be moral guidance might be nothing more than subjective thought, opinion, or sheer imagination, taken as divine wisdom.

There’s a difference. With WDJD, Jesus revealed in Scripture is our guide rather than the Jesus of our imagination.

Here’s an example, when we train how to do Discovery Bible Study we often use the story of the woman who wept at Jesus feet (Luke 7:36-50). One of the discovery questions is, “What do we learn about Jesus in the story?”

Most people respond, he unconditionally accepts the sinful woman. That’s all.

But that’s not the whole story. Jesus announces to a room of Pharisees, who are sitting in judgment on her, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.” No one ever points out that Jesus saw this woman as a sinner in need of salvation.

We’re uncomfortable with the reality of human sinfulness and the holy love of God which must judge and punish sin. Even in the life of this poor woman. Here’s the point, we have no right to sit in judgment of who God is. We have no right to shrink Jesus down to fit our preferences. He is Lord.

Once we’ve removed the holiness of God from the picture, the next thing we can do is remove the necessity of the Cross for our salvation.

To quote Robert Hart again,

…. the love of God is associated most closely with the cross of Christ (Rom. 5:8). The sight of Christ crucified was very terrible—indeed, it was so ugly that, in the words of the prophet, “We hid as it were our faces from him” (Is. 53:3). It was a violent, bloody sight, where the Man of sorrows was poured out like water, and all his bones were out of joint (Ps. 22:14). At once it was God’s judgment on sin and the manifestation of his love, where he paid our debt in full (“Teleo,” John 19:30).

Jesus came to save the world, to seek and to save the lost, to pour out his soul unto death as the “propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). He came for that, not to usher in an era in which lust and carnality, and “the releasing of our desires,” take the place of repentance and of taking up one’s cross to follow the Son of Man. Give me the real Lord Jesus, who paid my debt, who commanded me to repent, and who forgave my sin.

Give me the Jesus who did and who said, not the other Jesus, the one who would.

Standing on the right side of history

Tightrope 

Right now, if you’re someone who is faithful to the teaching of Scripture, and you’re living in the enlightened West (UK, US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada), I hope you feel like you’re standing on the wrong side of history.

The illusion is over, you can’t be faithful to the historic Christian faith and your culture any more.

But why are we surprised? This is what Jesus promised would happen. When it comes to the world expect trouble rather than transformation.

Here’s some wisdom from a Catholic Cardinal:

I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history . . . .

God sustains the world, in good times and in bad. [We] believe that only one person has overcome and rescued history: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, saviour of the world and head of his body, the church.

Those who gather at his cross and by his empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history. Those who lie about him and persecute or harass his followers in any age might imagine they are bringing something new to history, but they inevitably end up ringing the changes on the old human story of sin and oppression. There is nothing “progressive” about sin, even when it is promoted as “enlightened.”

The world divorced from the God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters.