Five ways to win the next generation to Christ

David Platt says the family has responsibility for children in the home, but church is responsible for the Great Commission. And the Great Commission teaches us to make disciples. Here are five ways you can increase your opportunity to make disciples of the next generation:

Pray. Pray for your child, with your child and over your child. Pray for Christian friends. Pray for God to remove bad influences. Pray blessings over your child. Contend for the children in your life in prayer. Cry out for them. And make sure your child hears you pray. It doesn’t have to just be your child you pray for. Pray for other kids, too, all the kids in your life who desperately need the prayers of the righteous poured over them.

Side note: Any theology that doesn’t acknowledge the spiritual battle is dangerous, because the enemy doesn’t do his best work when we fear him or even when we entertain him. He does his best work when we ignore him. He’d like nothing more than for us to believe he is not there, or that he is no threat. We know better. The evidence is all around us. Paul said to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:12). He said our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And how do you fight battles with spiritual forces? With spiritual weapons like prayer.

Don’t argue. Witness. Tell your story to a young person. Actually, it is the only thing of real worth you have to give. This is a treasure we have … this encounter with faith in God. So tell someone what your life was like before Jesus, what happened to change that and what your life is like now. Talk about Jesus at home like he’s real. I’ve discovered that people get turned off by evangelistic formulas but they really love to talk to other people who have had genuine encounters with Jesus. And kids are looking for answers to the same questions we wrestle with — things like why bad things happen to good people and why Jesus is the only way to God. I’m reading a non-Christian book right now with a young person just so we can talk about what happens when the world ends. Be courageous with your faith, be creative with your approach, and be prepared with an answer.

Show respect. Demonstrate love. No one likes a lecture. Respect someone enough to sit down and have a real conversation with them, one that honors their questions, rewards their curiosity, and loves them well enough to speak destiny into them. Remember: the only person who can save another person from hell is Jesus. You can’t save your child or any other kid, but you can point them toward truth and redemption and you can make them hungry for Heaven. You can also respect their journey, recognizing that most people are on one. There are many more processes  in the work of sanctification than there are events.

Know your Bible. The real power is in the Story. It is in the glorious news that Christ has died; Christ is risen; and Christ will come again. Get a habit of reading your Bible every day. You don’t have to drag out a lot of commentaries or learn Greek. Just read your Bible. Read it every day, even if you never talk to a kid. Read it, and let the Holy Spirit make it live in you. Few things are more attractive to a young person than an adult who actually knows and lives the Bible.

Here’s what is probably the best wisdom I know to give: Don’t hold them back. This is what I hear Paul saying to Timothy and this is such great wisdom. Encourage kids to go after it. Flat-out say to a young person, “Go hard after Jesus. Don’t let up. Don’t slack off. Go hard after Him because Jesus wants your heart, and Jesus is where the real adventure is.” Say that to your kid and to other kids. Say that often. Don’t hold them back by neglecting to call them out to the radical edge.

And don’t hold back the gospel. That stuff we’ve tried, when we said we didn’t want to be “pushy” with our faith? That didn’t work. Statistics teach me that each successive generation in the U.S. is becoming less spiritually aware. I place at least some blame on the Church that has dumbed down the gospel for the sake of being more culturally comfortable. Go hard after your own faith, then share it. The next generation deserves a fair account of the gospel.

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Sow extravagantly.

I’m thinking about the very familiar story in Luke, chapter eight, of the sower who goes out and sows his seed. He tosses it everywhere — on rock-infested ground, into weedy nooks, onto fertile soil, onto a well-worn path. The farmer just keeps tossing. I like picturing him as a happyMDG : Seed : Plowing a field and sowing seeds in Ethiopia man, tossing away, humming something happy, watching the clouds as he tosses without the first concern for the seeds that fall in unproductive places. He doesn’t weigh the seed or test the soil. He doesn’t prognosticate about the probabilities. He just tosses seed and smiles.

Make no mistake: this guy is a farmer, not some crazy man who has no idea what he’s doing. He knows the condition of a piece of ground when he sees it. He knows when the ground is hard. He knows the chances of something rooting in most of that soil are slim to none. But still, he just keeps tossing.

Hearing Jesus tell this story, I’m reminded of the time a woman crashed a dinner when Jesus was eating at the home of a leper (yet another thing to love about him). This woman who’d experienced great healing walked right into this person’s house and began to pour very expensive oil over Jesus’ head. This was once-in-a-lifetime oil. Precious and expensive. Far beyond her capacity to afford.

Someone said, “She ought not be wasting that expensive perfume like this. We could be feeding poor people with that money,” to which Jesus replied, “The poor are not going anywhere. If we cash in this oil and use the money to feed poor people today, they will be hungry again tomorrow. Some things just are. The trick here is in understanding the moment. What this woman is doing right now — in this moment — is beautiful. It points toward Heaven. Meals last hours; this kind of adoration is eternal. From here out wherever the gospel is preached, what she has done will be talked about in memory of her.”

He was right, of course. We’re remembering her even now.

Her story and the farmer’s both point to the same truth: resources are rarely the issue. In fact, our problem may be that we are not generous enough with our resources. In our quest for efficiency, we become stingy. We over-emphasize efficiency. We want the most bang for our buck, but it turns out that the Kingdom is not about efficiency. It is about effectiveness.

Extravagance.

Let me say that again: The Kingdom is more concerned with effectiveness than efficiency.

I suspect that far too often in this work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, resources are not the critical issue limiting our effectiveness. Faithfulness is the issue. What confines and confounds us is the limit of our own imagination. We don’t tend to honor extravagance, even when it is a holy extravagance.

I am not at all a fan of the prosperity gospel, but I do believe that we in the West don’t trust enough in God’s provision. God seems to have the ability to shift resources into the path of Kingdom work when people who are following Jesus step out in faith.

If you’ve been called to be a sower, you need to be tossing seed everywhere. Don’t hold back.

Sow extravagantly.

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Cast out demons and cure disease (or, what it means to be the Church)

We are the tabernacle of God.

The Bible tells me that when I take Christ into my life, I have the same resources available to me that the Israelites had and the Acts community had. Like them, I have the power of God. I don’t do this on my own steam. When I am filled with the Holy Spirit I receive power (Acts 1:8) —  the same power the Israelites had who fought with enemies twice their size and won, who found food enough to feed hundreds of thousands of people, who received miracle after miracle of God’s provision.

I have those same resources.

We who follow Jesus have the same resources as the followers of Jesus in Luke and Acts, who healed sick people and cured diseases and cast out demons and preached good news to the poor.

So why don’t we act like it? Why don’t I?

When the disciples came back from their first mission trip — having been sent out by Jesus to cure disease, cast out demons and proclaim the Kingdom — they complained to Jesus about a guy they’d seen who was also casting out demons. They wanted Jesus to tell this guy to stop; after all, he wasn’t one of them. You can feel the sense of competition in their comments. They also complained about some religious leaders and had the audacity to suggest that Jesus rain fire down on a few heads.

That’s when Jesus decided maybe it was time to recast the vision.

We find it in a line that isn’t actually there. Or at least it isn’t part of the earliest manuscripts. Somewhere along the way, some scribe felt the need to add a line between Luke 9:55 and Luke 9:56. Scholars give it about an average chance of being an actual word from Jesus and since it doesn’t show up in the earliest manuscripts, you won’t find it in most Bibles, but if your Bible has study notes, they probably mention this line.

As I said, it comes at a point in the story when the disciples are being sort of arrogant about the people who are not in their circle. Most Bibles say, “Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.”

That’s the official version.

But some manuscripts insert another sentence so that the passage reads, “But Jesus turned and rebuked them and he said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.’ Then he and his disciples went to another village.”

What a powerful commentary! Even if Jesus didn’t say it here, he said it often, that we don’t follow Jesus not because we don’t know who to follow but because we don’t know who we are. As believers, we do not know what we’re made of. We’ve bought some lie that the spirit of Jesus is a spirit of rules and condemnation and guilt, so maybe that’s why we don’t embrace the Spirit. But it turns out — and this is good news! — the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them.

This is great news! The spirit of Jesus is a spirit of redemption!

This means that if you have received that glorious release from shame and guilt, then it becomes yours to give to the next person. You have that spirit. If you’ve been healed, then you are healed to become a healer. If you’ve been set free by knowing the truth, then you are free to share it. If that place inside of you that’s been dead for years is being brought to life again or if that relationship that was left for dead is being restored then you have received this as a gift. And the Word says, what we have freely received, we freely give.

We don’t even have a clue what kind of spirit we have, what kind of power we have to go out and change the culture, change the community, change people, change the world — to give what we’ve been given so that by the authority of Christ and under the power of the Holy Spirit the very spirit of Christ overflows from us.

We have forgotten that this good news is not ours.

This is ours to share.

 

(The image used at the head of this blog is the artwork of He Qi)

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The Truth About John Wesley’s Famous Line

John Wesley, the driver behind the Methodist movement, was raised in the Church of England. His father was an Anglican priest. His brother was, too. Wesley was surrounded by churchmen.

He became a priest himself but early on, experienced a restlessness with “church as usual,” finding himself frustrated with what he saw as lifeless religious rites that lacked power to transform lives.

To Wesley’s mind, the Church of England was stuck. It had somehow lost touch with the Holy Spirit. Wesley was a popular preacher, so he began to preach about what he was seeing as he traveled throughout England from church to church. Preaching against dead religion and in favor of the Holy Spirit got him kicked out of every church in his country.

Literally kicked out. Banned.

Once he ran out of buildings to preach in, Wesley began preaching in open fields to thousands of people. He saw mass conversions, living out Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

Even preaching in open fields garnered the ire of other pastors. The Church of England was divided into parishes, after all, and those fields in which Wesley preached were in someone’s parish. Pastors would write to him, demanding that he stay out of their parish. Wesley returned fire on one such pastor, writing a letter in response in which he said (in effect), “I have an option. I can obey church law, or I can obey God’s law. Since I have no parish, then the world is my parish.”

It has become one of Wesley’s most famous lines. The world is my parish. It graces seminary walls and serves as a byline for mission organizations. We want to claim that line over our call to be on mission to all the world, in the spirit of Acts 1:8.

The world is our parish! Let’s take the gospel to the ends of the earth! No rest until every ear has heard, every heart has received, every knee has bowed.

All great aspirations, only that’s not what Wesley meant. In the context of his circumstances and that letter, Wesley’s sentiment was not primarily a statement about missions. This was his stand against dead religion. He refused to be jerked around by lifeless forms that keep people stuck in their spiritual numbness. He refused to let rigid structures and hard hearts determine for him to whom he would preach this gospel. Like Paul, Wesley had decided he would become all things to all people so that by all means he might win some.

True, our mission field is the world. In fact, we ought to insist on a global gospel. But Wesley’s point when he penned that line is that our mission is not to cater to dead forms of religion.

We simply don’t have time for that.

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