Category Archives: Seek and Save the Lost

Reaching out to Bees and Moths

Bee attracted to sweet nectar

Sweet nectar attracts bees, and people too!

Bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light. People are attracted to other people who love them, who are kind to them, who truly accept them for who they are. People who shine the grace filled the light of Christ into their lives.

It is sad to me that I still see an exclusive, sectarian, judgmental, even superior attitude in many Christians and churches. Why is this? Do we as Followers of Christ have it all together? Are we above reproach at all times? I know I’m not, and it seems to me that if we choose to believe that of ourselves, and let others believe that about us, then we are no better than the “Pharisees and Teachers of the Law” of Jesus’ day.

Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t say get it all together, dress a certain way, clean up your language, be a teetotaler, etc., and then come to me. He said come to me and let my love heal you, restore you. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

This whole train of thought came about when I recently read the below article by Jud Wilhite.

Neither Do I Condemn You
By Jud Wilhite

I talked to a guy recently who was really lamenting that fact that more pastors aren’t preaching hellfire, brimstone and condemnation. He felt like the problem with Christianity is that everybody just believes God loves you.
Really? As I talk with people in Las Vegas who are not Christians, as well as many who are, I find lots of people who already believe God hates them or at best tolerates them. Like the guy with the tattoo that said, “God hates us all.” To me this isn’t news, it is assumed.
The good news is that God loved us so much he sent his son to die in our place and take the punishment for sin. This is the greatest picture of love and it implies that yes… God loves us!
It’s like one of my favorite stories in John 8 where we read about a woman whose encounter with Jesus teaches us about guilt, grace, and forgiveness. She was dragged before Jesus by religious leaders who angrily throw her in front of him. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
Stone faces and stones in their hands. The woman must have been so terrified and embarrassed. In moments, she was exposed and hurled onto death row. From secret delight to public humiliation. The accusation – guilty of adultery – punishable by death.
This whole scene is fishy to begin with, though. How does one happen to catch someone in the act of adultery? And it takes two to tango – so where is this man? He is equally guilty. Maybe he was paid off to set her up or he could have been friends with these religious leaders. One thing is for sure – the religious leaders were using this question as a trap so they could have a basis for accusing Jesus (John 8:6). Rather than offering the woman help, they set her up. She had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and her guilt was real.
At first, Jesus did not respond to the religious leaders’ accusations. He bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. This is the only record of Jesus writing. People have speculated that he wrote the sins of the religious leaders gathered around. Some say he wrote Scripture. Maybe he just doodled!
As he knelt, the leaders kept questioning him; they planned to snare Jesus in a catch-22. If he sentenced the woman to death, the Roman government would intervene. They alone determined an execution. If Jesus condoned a stoning, he might lose popularity. The crowd had followed him and had been attracted to his compassion. But if he told the leaders to let her go, they would accuse him of violating an Old Testament law.
They thought they had him cornered. But Jesus rose and spoke one of the most profound statements of Scripture: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Then he knelt down and continued writing.
What followed? Silence. A few awkward moments of anger turning to introspection. The rocks fell to the ground one at a time. By moving the focus off of the woman, Jesus had forced them to see their own guilt. He wasn’t concerned about the woman’s innocence, but rather that she was treated fairly. If she was to be judged, the witnesses were to come forth and be just and impartial (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). And the religious leaders were neither of those things. Jesus was not trying to throw out the process of law and legal procedure, but rather exposing the trial as a sham!
Once everyone had left and Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies with, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus declared… “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:10-11).
Beautiful words from the lips of a Savior. He came not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). He showed her pure, unmerited, undeserved grace. We are quick to judge, but what accusations could be leveled at us? This story gives us caution. Too often Christians, and churches, shoot their wounded. When people fail, they need to be restored with a heart of compassion. It’s too easy to judge people who don’t have our particular sin struggle.
It’s time to show grace. The same grace Christ offers us, despite all of our short-comings. The grace he offers everyone.

Looking at the idea of Grace verses Judgement from a church growth point of view, if bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light, is your church, are you, projecting sweetness and light in a way that says, “ I’m still on this journey too; lets walk together”? Because remember, Church growth is not about numbers, but it’s about seeking and saving the lost.

Until next Time:

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 – 30

Easter, Word of Mouth and the Invite Card

Invite at Easter

At Easter - Word of Mouth is Still the Best Invite Tool

I came across this article by Executive Pastors Online, and it truly could have been written by someone here at South Hills

The #1 Cause Of Church Growth

Over our almost 12 year history, we’ve had the following measure in place: How Did You Find Out About CCV?

You would think our website, visibility from the major highway running through our target area, or direct mail advertising would be The #1 Cause Of Church Growth. Nope. Not even close.

Are you familiar with the use of Pareto Analysis as part of any continuous improvement process? I know, it sounds technical! It’s pretty basic, though. It’s a bar graph, arranged from highest bar to lowest bar. The purpose of the analysis is to determine and illustrate the “highest contributing cause” of something. In this case the graph shows the highest contributing cause of church growth.

By far and away it’s “Invited By A Friend Or Family Member.” Surprised? Sometimes I think we underestimate the significance of “a person with skin on them” personally inviting their friend or family member to church.

OK. So now what? What do we do with this knowledge? The first step is understanding that the people who are attending our churches are our best tool for growing our church. Now, we must do a number of things to equip them and help them succeed.

First, we must put a service together that our people wouldn’t be embarrassed about asking someone to attend. In addition, we must create a warm and welcoming environment. The list is long and requires us to re-think everything about our churches. And, in most cases the stuff we must do is difficult and takes a significant amount of time to get in place.

But there’s one thing we can do that’s pretty easy. The Invite Card. Yes, it’s a simple business card sized tool that we can print for our people that equips them to simply hand someone a card that provides the needed information. Here’s an example:

CCV Easter Invite Card Front The #1 Cause Of Church Growth
CCV Easter Invite Card Back The #1 Cause Of Church Growth
We print a whole bunch of these cards and hand them out at church services for several weeks leading up to Easter. It’s that simple.

The Invite Card we have at South Hills for Easter looks like this…

Easter invite cardEaster invite
We also have coordinating invites for Good Friday and  our community Easter Egg Hunt. We create invite cards or flyers for nearly every new sermon series and special event. It is just a simple way for people to invite friend, family, or the person they just met to come to church. It is also helpful that they have all of the details such as service times right there on the card.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

80% of people surveyed said they would attend church if invited. – Barna Research

People Versus Numbers

counting

It's not just about the numbers

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in numbers.  If we are not careful, we can get so caught up in the attendance count that we forget about the people. Is it truly about the loving care of a flock, or is it simply about “Church Growth?”  Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for church growth. But is that growth a result of truly meeting needs, or simply because you have the best worship team in town? (Which we do!)

If you are in a larger church it is unrealistic that the lead pastor will truly know each person in your congregation. However, it is the lead  pastor’s responsibility that every effort is being made on the part of other pastoral staff and/or lay leadership to know and meet the needs of the individuals in your church.

I recently came across this article that draws a clear picture of what only focusing on head count can look like…

Numbers

An item by Sally Cunnech in Leadership magazine illustrates the importance of giving attention to needs, not just to numbers. She wrote, “During World War II, economist E.F. Schumacher, then a young statistician, worked on a farm. Each day he would count the 32 head of cattle, then turn his attention elsewhere. One day an old farmer told him that if all he did was count the cattle, they wouldn’t flourish. Sure enough, one day he counted 31; one was dead in the bushes. Now Schumacher understood the farmer: you must watch the quality of each animal. ‘Look him in the eye; study the sheen of his coat. You may not know how many cattle you have, but you might save the life of one that is sick.'”

Great advice whether it’s for the Sunday school teacher or the pastor. A full class or a crowded church isn’t necessarily a healthy class or a spiritual church. To find out people’s spiritual condition, you must “look them in the eye.” Then you can minister to their needs.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
-Anthony J. D’Angelo

Risking to outreach

community outreach

South Hills Church 2nd Annual Food Drive

This past Saturday we hosted our second annual food drive/day of outreach. Don’t let the name fool you. Community outreach is something we feel very passionately about here at South Hills. This is just one special day where we stretch ourselves to further reach out to our community.

On that one day the South Hills family fed 409 families that represented 2,300 people.  On that day we also provided clothing, haircuts and connected people to free job skills classes from Smooth Transition. Many families said “thank you so much, we have no food in our home.”  And “Thank you so much, this is a months’ worth of food for our family.”

Also the staff and volunteers had blast!  Here is what one volunteer said:

“My time spent serving the community was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.  Several times throughout the day I felt the Lords presence and Him overwhelming me with total joy.  I caught myself having to stop several times so that I could gather my emotions.  God is awesome!”

It was a fantastic day!

So why did we do this?  Because we have made a commitment to “Raise Your Risk for the Disadvantaged” We want to be the flesh of Christ to literally touch people with His love.

Why am I telling you this? To toot our own horn? Well maybe a little. I am very proud of all of our staff, volunteers, and contributors who made this day happen. They worked well and gave big. But equal to that, I want to encourage you to reach out to those in your community who need a loving hand up.

I want to encourage you to be a church that demonstrates a gigantic, God-sized faith. Jesus said, if you love me, you’ll do what I ask. So what did he ask us to do? Seek & save the lost. Serve “the least of these.” Go and make disciples, baptize them. Go farther than your church, farther than your own town, help the church in the next county or another state or even on the other side of the world. These are the radical ideas of our RISK Project.

We raise our risk level when we’re willing to get our hands dirty to meet the needs of the needy. We raise our risk level when we decide to cross the line to have a conversation with a friend to bring them to Christ. We raise our risk level when we say I’ll sacrifice to give more dollars to help other churches grow, to leverage our resources for maximum impact. When you demonstrate a radical risk of faith, incredible things will happen.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Wiling is not enough, we must do.”
– TJohann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”     – 1 Peter 4: 10-11

Loving and Leading the youth of the “Next Generation”

happy teens

Reach out to the youth in your community and encourage them to Thrive


On the Weekend of July 3rd and 4th South Hills Church vibrated with a new energy, an energy and vitality that comes from youth who are on fire and passionately following Christ. For it was on that weekend that “Remnant Youth” took over all of South Hills services. Beginning in our Saturday night service and carrying through all of our Sunday mourning services, the youth and youth staff took over or assisted in every aspect our services.  From ushering, to leading worship, to announcements they were there, and not just physically but in a very real, connected, vibrant way. Finally, our fabulous Youth Pastor Chris Harrell (affectionately known as PCH) gave the message. It was an amazing weekend!

So now you may be asking, why? Why would we trust our weekend services to a bunch of kids and a youth pastor? There are several reasons.  First of all we take reaching out to the youth in our church and our community very seriously, and the reason for this is…

  • Research from Barna states “That young adults between 17 and 35 make up approximately 35% of our population nationally, but within our churches, most are lucky if they average 10%.

Secondly, teens and young adults are passionate and want to share that passion. Under the right leadership that passion can be directed to do amazing things. Here at South Hills we have made having the right leadership a very high priority and now have an amazing team of staff and volunteers to love on and guide these kids. Their passion in our services is contagious, with their uninhibited praise of the God they love. Also, most often youth thrive when given responsibility. When they are trusted with something big and given the right tools and guidance to complete the task, I have seen truly great things happen.  This 4th of July weekend was no exception.

I asked Pastor Chris Harrell to sum up the why and how of Remnant Youth, and the following is what he had to say…

Remnant: A group that remains after the majority no longer exists.

At South Hills, our youth or Next Generation ministry (this includes Jr. High through the 20 something crowd) is called Remnant. We, as Remnant, desire to be what is left from what Jesus originally asked of His followers. Most of what is thought of Christianity or ‘church people’ isn’t really biblically accurate. We want to redefine what our culture believes about Jesus and His Church… and by church, we do not mean the building, but the people who enter the doors. At Remnant we call our ‘services’, gatherings, because it’s a ‘church’ that is gathering rather than a ‘service’ they are getting. At South Hills, our leadership believes in raising up the Next Generation and actually gave us COMPLETE freedom over an entire set of weekend services. I can NOT bold, underline or italicize how much of an impact this had on our young people. They KNOW they are believed in, supported and encouraged to be all God has them to be.

It is our goal at Remnant that we will be known for our love above all else and we will celebrate everyone because everyone matters!

We believe Jesus meant it when he said to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “They will know you are my disciples when you love one another” (John 13:35)

For too long the message of love and grace has not been found amongst Christians, but instead the opposite was to be expected… hate and condemnation. We have made this our priority; to love without judging, no strings attached. Our generation (teens, tweens and 20s) is seeking truth, seeking transparency, seeking that which is genuine. And so we are transparent, we offer truth, and strive to be genuine.

We have found that when you offer unconditional belonging to a generation who is used to circumstantial love, that walls will fall, voices will be heard and hearts will be opened. This is where the church must invite people, including the youth, to come to and then be ready to journey with those who come.

I’d love to tell you all the stories. I’d tell you about girls who were Atheist and now believe in Christ, and are learning how to walk their mom through her fight with breast cancer. I’d tell you of the cutters who have given us erasers and blades as a surrender to the healing power of Christ. All would say they thought church was so outdated, irrelevant, or just not for them. But love is for everybody. So at Remnant, they realize that the church is for them, and they are for the church. Countless students who wanted nothing to do with God or church, have again found themselves surrounded by a love they could not explain… and months later have discovered what it means to be a part of a family. Students have walked away from addictions, girls have found their identity as daughters of God, relationships have been healed, and young men have learned who they are in Christ instead of how cool or popular they are at school. It’s not a perfect group of people…quite the opposite. That’s how we know that it’s healthy….alive…moving….and changing lives.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12


“Make a Difference in the Next Generation!”

children's ministry

Making children a priority is vital to every church

What comes to your mind when you think of growing your church? When you are visualizing reaching your community for Christ, who are you picturing? I think it would be probable to say that no matter what your vision of church growth may be, the people most of you are picturing reaching out to,the people you are envisioning filling the seats of your church are adults.

I recently read this article by Greg Baird (one of our new Celera Kidmin coaches) who was a guest writer for the Pastor’s Coach. In his article, Greg shows us the importance of a strong, impactful children’s ministry both for those who already attend your church and for those you are reaching out to in your community.  I challenge you to read the article, and then take a good, honest look at your children’s ministry.

“Make a Difference in the Next Generation!”


“What do you want to do when you get out of college?” is the question I was often asked. “I want to be in full-time ministry” was my standard response. Of course, that always led to the next question, “What area of ministry?” And my usual response? “I’m not sure, I just know it won’t be with kids!” God has a sense of humor.

I grew up immersed in ministry. My parents led Junior High groups and discipled college students in Japan (Dad was in the Navy). Then, after he retired and graduated with Bible and Counseling degrees, they moved our family to the mission field to plant a church. I saw many aspects of ministry, and decided early on it was for me – I just wasn’t sure in what area. But I knew I wanted to be a leader who made a difference. Just knew I wasn’t interested in working with kids. As a 16 year old I taught a first and second-grade Sunday School class on the field in Australia. Nope, didn’t want anything to do with kids after that!

After college, things changed. A friend invited me to work at a kids’ camp. That’s where I found my calling. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but over the few months I was there God’s voice was clear: “I want you to reach my children, and I want you to do it by equipping others.” That was it. That was how I was going to make a difference in people’s lives.

What God impressed on me during my time at that kids’ camp is the value of children in His eyes. Jesus tangibly modeled this with the familiar story found in Mark 10:13-16. He rebuked the disciples for their lack of value of children and then tells them that the faith of a child is exactly the kind of faith we need to have! With that, Jesus does more than He was asked to do – He not only touches them to bless them, but He takes them up in His arms and fervently prays over them. They were of great value to Him, and He greatly loved them.

Children are no different today. Innocent and vulnerable, yet fully capable of a very real faith, they represent the single greatest mission field in the world. Children are, by far, the most responsive to evangelistic efforts. Some studies indicate that as many as 85% of those who accept Christ as their Savior will do so between the ages of 4 and 14.

Since that time at the kids’ camp, as I have pursued my calling and sought to equip others to reach kids, I have discovered much more about the world of children in the church. Children’s Ministry is a complex and challenging ministry, encompassing the greatest developmental range of any ministry age group. It represents the area of highest risk – be it for physical injury or unlawful conduct by adults. It presents the greatest communication challenges — as adults try to communicate the love of Jesus and Biblical truth in age appropriate and engaging ways. And children’s ministry represents the rewarding but never-ending challenge of recruiting, training, and retaining large numbers of volunteers!

Yet as I work with churches across the country, I too often find that Children’s Ministry is viewed as childcare. The prevailing, yet often unspoken, sentiment is “keep the children busy while the real ministry (to adults) is happening.” The unrecognized attitude is nothing less than that of the disciples. I often wonder what Jesus would think of how churches approach ministry to children.

Recently I was consulting with a Senior Pastor and we engaged in a very candid discussion about the value of Children’s Ministry. He was wrestling with how his church ought to approach it, and shared how very few churches within their denomination, and even within their region, gave children the kind of value that I was urging him to consider. I told him that perhaps he ought to be the one to set the example for not only his own church, but other churches within the denomination and region. With some hesitancy in his eyes, he asked me what that might look like. I think he thought I was suggesting he take his turn teaching in the three year old class!

I assured this Pastor that I was not suggesting he teach the three year old class, nor was I suggesting that Children’s Ministry take over the church. Instead, I recommended three ways that he and the church could give appropriate value to children:

1. Cast vision to match the incredible potential of spiritual formation within Children’s Ministry.

The potential that resides in children as the most spiritually receptive members of the body, mandates reaching them for Christ as early as possible and equipping parents to disciple them at home.

  • Talk about the vision of reaching children for Christ at every opportunity
  • Train parents and volunteers to lead children to Christ
  • Offer training for parents on how to effectively disciple their children (on-going, in-house training, or seminars open to the whole community)
  • Provide materials for parents to use in discipling their children (take-home “talksheets” provided with curriculum, family devotionals, etc.)

2. Invest appropriate time and attention to match the vision.

Ensure the Children’s Ministry staff and volunteer leaders are adequately equipped and trained.

  • Assist core Children’s Ministry leaders (paid or unpaid) in creating and following a leadership development plan and facilitate their participation in leadership training (conferences, coaching, etc.)
  • Design a Children’s Ministry training schedule for volunteers

Provide time in adult venues to cast vision and share ministry opportunities.

  • Have an annual “Kid’s Day” in the main service to cast vision and recruit leaders
  • Create opportunities for kids to serve in the main service, or participate on a regular basis

Encourage volunteers, knowing that encouragement from senior leadership of the church is priceless to the heart of those serving.

  • Put a note of thanks in the bulletin, say something from the pulpit, or write 3 cards to volunteers each week
  • Walk through the children’s area once a month to say thanks to volunteers

3. Resource your Children’s Ministry for success.

By its very nature, Children’s Ministry requires greater resources than most other ministries.

  • A minimum annual budget of $75 per child (avg. weekly attendance) is an acceptable guideline

Understand staffing needs and hire/recruit appropriately.

  • One full-time (or equivalent part-time) paid staff per 150-175 children is a minimum acceptable guideline
  • Maximum adult/child ratios should be: infants = 1 to 3; preschool = 1 to 7; elementary = 1 to 12)

In short, resource Children’s Ministry with equal value to other ministries within the church.

Children did not dominate the ministry of Jesus – most of His time was spent with adults – yet He recognized their value and gave appropriate time and energy to them. How would you evaluate your children’s ministry in light of the thoughts in this article?

As church leaders we balance many priorities. Like Jesus, we have many demands for our time and attention. It’s easy to overlook areas that are not our strength or passion, and too often that area is Children’s Ministry. But like Jesus, a little interest can speak volumes.

I encourage you to value your Children’s Ministry for the spiritually ripe field that it is. Articulate vision, invest appropriate time and attention, and provide resources they need. A little interest will go a long way, and the impact on the lives of children, families, leaders and the church as a whole will be felt for generations to come.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black, (brown), white. All are precious in His sight. Jesus love the children of the world.

C.Herbert Woolston (1856-1927)

Neglected Church

Neglected church

A neglected church disappears

What happens when we stop actively pursuing the kingdom of God?  What happens when we put blinders on, so that we only see our own small life or only the lives of those already in our church? What happens when we no longer see the needs of the world around us? What happens when we no longer care enough about the billions of people who are waiting to hear about Jesus enough to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? We are the church. The people who attend our church building each week are only one small part of THE CHURCH! Recently, I came across an article by Craig Brian Larson from PreachingToday.com. It pointedly shows that what is neglected fades away.

Church Disappears One Brick at a Time

Orthodox Church officials in Russia discovered in 2008 that one of their church buildings had disappeared. Poof—gone! The 200-year-old building northeast of Moscow had gone unused for a decade, but the Orthodox Church, which was experiencing growth, was considering reopening the church building, and that’s when they discovered their building wasn’t there.

They had to get to the bottom of this. After investigating the matter, the church officials did not blame aliens from outer space for the missing structure. Rather, they said the perpetrators were villagers from a nearby town, whom they said had taken and sold bricks from the building to a businessman. For each brick, the thieves received one ruble (about 4 cents).

This two-story church facility did not go from being a building to not being a building in one bulldozing stroke. Rather, the bricks were apparently chiseled out one by one by lots of people. In the same way, some churches—built not of bricks but of “living stones,” that is of Christians—are not reduced in one fatal stroke but rather by Christians one by one choosing not to be involved. Each decision means one less living stone. In the end, the church, intended by God to be the display of Christ’s glory, is chiseled away. Conversely, each person who gets involved helps to build a holy temple in the Lord made up of living bricks, where Christ is glorified.

When we choose not to grow we decay. When we do not reach out we shrink in. Choose to care. Choose to grow. The church is not a building; the church is people. People need to hear how much God loves them, and in sharing God’s love God’s church will grow.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“So I rebuked the officials and asked them, ‘”Why is the house of God neglected?”‘ . – Nehemiah 13:11a

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” – Luke 11:42

Growing the Church for Christ by meeting Community Needs

Read the rest of this entry

To Seek and Save the Lost

Merlin

Embrace the "Merlins" God sends your way

God has called us to seek and save the lost. He did not tell us to seek and save those whom you connect with, those whom you are alike, those who are “normal”. He said “the lost”. Will the lost sometime be those whom you connect with, you are alike and are normal? Absolutely! But sometime the lost will be the racially different, the dirty, smelly homeless, the openly gay, or the just plain weird. We do not have the luxury of being selective. Evangelism cannot be selective. We need to open our arms and hearts wide. We need to cast out a bigger net. As fishers of men we need to embrace every soul that God places in our boat. Below is a compelling article by Pastor Clark Cothern that was originally published in Christianity Today. It really makes you stop and think, “who have I tuned off to the gospel because of my cold shoulder?”

Church Shows Love to New Age Visitor

Pastor Clark Cothern tells this story to illustrate how God speaks to us through his Word:
A self-appointed New Age guru glided into our church wearing an outfit that rivaled Merlin the Magician’s best duds. It was 10:55 a.m. and I was changing for a baptism, when a couple of deacons popped their heads in and said, “Pastor, I think we have a situation.”

After explaining who had just entered the sanctuary, they asked, “What do you want us to do?” Underneath their question was this subtext, “Do you want us to throw him out?”

Perfect love casts out fear. That was my first thought.

“Well,” I said while buttoning my robe, “we should demonstrate that we love him and that he’s welcome here.” The second thought that came to mind: For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

“Tell you what,” I said, grabbing a towel. “If he’s here seeking truth, let’s let him listen. God’s Word will be proclaimed, and God’s truth will be revealed. If he’s here to make trouble, we’ll know it soon enough. If that’s the case, I’ll warn him once not to disrupt the service, and I’ll politely ask him to stay afterward so we can get to know him better. If he persists in making trouble, then we’ll follow through on our promise to politely remove him. And if that happens, one of you should call the police—just in case.”

The moment I stepped into the baptistery, I looked out and saw that man and began a silent prayer for him to know that he was loved. God’s perfect love was casting out fear—in the messenger.

I found out after the service that one of our elderly members, a gentle fellow named Elmer, had seen the Merlin look-alike walking in and had whispered to his wife, “Oh, good! It looks like we’re going to have a skit today.” He and all the others in the church had smiled graciously and warmly welcomed our guest, Merlin costume and all. That morning our congregation loved that uniquely clad man. He stayed. He listened. He didn’t cause trouble. He heard the gospel. And he even stayed after to discuss the gospel with several of us for nearly an hour.

Those thoughts that rushed into the brain back in the changing room? That was God talking.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:9-13