"Reclaiming the gospel!" is the blog of the Reverend Eric Hoey, director of the evangelism and church growth ministry area of the General Assembly Council.
This blog is a collection of thoughts and musing to give people with a passion for evangelism, a passion for church growth, and a passion to spread the gospel, to connect to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
About Eric Hoey
Eric Hoey is the Director of Evangelism and Church Growth for the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He hopes to build a culture of faith sharing among individuals in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who have a passion for church growth. This blog considers what the gospel asks of the church in the 21st century.
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
Jesus had followers. He had thousands of them. People with all kinds of reasons like: curiosity, the need for healing, the enjoyment of new authoritative teaching, or an invitation from a friend. Jesus definitely had his following, and he should have been very pleased. If things were going so good, why would Jesus ask for a higher commitment in this text? How come he was not pleased with merely numbers? Didn’t he know that the commitment to self-denial, risk of death, and obedience would be not as attractive? Was Jesus trying to thin out the crowd and send people home?
Jesus seems to be adding another layer of commitment from the people who follow Jesus. Rather than simply having followers who were curious about him, Jesus raised the bar of discipleship. From those who desired to go to the next level of “follower-ship,” he demanded a decision of life commitment that went far beyond curiosity and the hopeful fulfillment of personal need.
I believe Jesus is highlighting an essential aspect of discipleship. Following Jesus was not to be convenient, but an action of continual self-denial and unwavering obedience to Jesus. How we understand this idea is an essential component to the work in Evangelism and Church Growth. The call to discipleship was not about numbers, but about being humble, dedicated, and faithful in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Once discipleship is on a proper trajectory within the church, things like evangelism, church transformation, church growth and starting new initiatives can be brought into place with greater effectiveness.
'Lord, in light of all that is happening in our churches today, continue to sound the call for a radical commitment to discipleship so that we can be faithful Christ followers."
Luke 2:6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
As I reflect upon this text, I am struck by the lack of hospitality the innkeeper demonstrated toward a weary pregnant traveler. Granted the census was being taken, and there were travelers in every corner of the city. All the inns were probably booked solid.
Could it be possible that if the innkeeper knew that the Messiah was to be born on his property, he would have made room for them or let them stay in his own room? Can you imagine what future business could be like for the innkeeper if the Messiah was born on his property?
The greatest opportunities are often missed because we are too busy doing our own “important” activities rather than partnering with God to accomplish God’s ministry and God’s redemptive agenda to the world. The Christmas season is filled with many opportunities to intentionally look where we can participate with God in welcoming a stranger. Everybody entertains, goes to Christmas parties, and takes time to shop. What would it look like if every Presbyterian seized the festivities of the season with the intent to share hospitality with someone who does not normally go to church?
When Jesus sent out the seventy-two in Luke 10, they were instructed that their ministry of peace was to be pursued only if they had received hospitality from the home where they had visited. Whenever hospitality is present, we can see where God is already at work and our opportunity to bring the message of peace. But if we are too busy pursuing hospitality for our own financial and political gain, we will miss opportunities to see where God could be at work and how God could use us in a specific way.
Hospitality is an essential step to evangelism. In terms of outreach, the most effective evangelism occurs within the context of relationships. Presbyterians typically spend too much time at church and do not make the effort to connect in deep and meaningful ways with those on the outside of our church. Through meaningful relationships, we earn the trust of people before we are able to share with them our story of God’s transforming love.
What would our denomination look like if Presbyterians became more aggressive hospitality seekers during the Christmas season? In cities all over America, we could host Christmas gatherings in our homes where Christians and people outside the church were together for a meal, a Christmas sing-a-long, or a warm drink? What if the church decided to not offer the annual Christmas Eve service at church and hold Christmas Eve services in neighbor’s homes, convalescent centers, or town halls? What would it look like if the church did not expect others to come to our doors at Christmas, and we intentionally went out into the community to demonstrate the love of Christ by volunteering at a homeless shelter, nursing home, hospital, retirement community, or at a shopping mall? If loneliness is prevalent during the Christmas season, why couldn’t we provide some kind of way to befriend people who are lonely? When was the last time we invited an international student to our Christmas dinner?
I have heard hospitality stories of Christian couples who invited non-Christian friends to a local movie theater. They watched a movie that had thought-provoking themes. Afterwards they gathered over coffee and talked into the night about Christian perspectives on life and faith. The key is the availability to be used by God in a hospitality setting. Seasonal hospitality opportunities are perfect ways we can tangibly be the hands, feet, and good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope this Christmas season is filled with numerous opportunities to demonstrate and proclaim the love of Christ.
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a
centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing;
he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. (Acts 10:1-2)
today’s lectionary reading, Cornelius, an Italian centurion, is described as
“God-fearing.” There is much scholarly debate as to what it meant that
Cornelius was a “God-fearer.” But for some reason Cornelius was attracted to
the Jewish ethics, theology, and worship. He participated and lived his life as
a faithful Jew. As an “outsider,” he was labeled as a God fearer that included
practices of generosity and prayer. As a person of prayer, he was noted
to practice the regular traditional Jewish prayer times. (v. 30)
am struck at how Cornelius was labeled a person of prayer. What would it take
to raise the bar of my own prayer life? Time!!!! You have seen the statistics
that only 80% of pastors pray less than 15 minutes a day. I have tried to
practice the disciple of making my life a continual offering of prayer
throughout my day, but often my thoughts are centered around the issues at
hand. I wonder what it would look like if Presbyterians were known to be people
told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of
the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:2)
vibrant connection with God through prayer is essential to many aspects of healthy
vibrant ministry. In prayer, we are confirmed of God calling upon our lives. In
prayer, we pray for the lost. In prayer God delights in our petitions. In
prayer, we partner with God to see where God is already active in our
communities resulting in Holy Spirit guided discernment. Are we missing
something? Could we solve the decline of our denomination if we renewed our
commitment to God and spent more time in prayer? I believe we can move the mark.
When people look at you do they see a person who lives their life as a total
expression of prayer? Let’s be more like Cornelius. We have much to learn from
As the General Assembly Mission Council said farewell to Tom Taylor as the Deputy Executive Director for Mission, many of us in leadership felt concerned about who will be the next our next leader? Who will set the direction for the next few years? What vision will this new leader cast for us? Enter Roger Demody. Recently he was introduced at the GAMC meeting as the one who will join the staff in this vital senior leadership position. As he spoke to us, he said in his interview process, “I dream of seeing the PCUSA be known for being a turn-around denomination.” My attention was immediately caught by the simplicity and hope of his declarative and visionary statement. The more I though about being a “turn-around” denomination, I was inspired! I thought I could give the next 3-5 years of my life to see that dream come true.
The power of a compelling vision is simply stated, thoughtfully accepted, and passionately pursued. Can you imagine with me over the next few years seeing a movement of church vitality that calls churches to discipleship, evangelism, and contextual ministry? Can you see hundreds of churches being formed every year by churches who are willing to own them, pray for them, and see its success? Will you do your part to see the PC(USA) be a turn-around denomination? It begins today. It begins in our local churches. The vision has been cast. Will you do everything in your power to accomplish the vision? Will you give your life for the vision? Count me in, I want to be first in line.
I was there at the conference. The synergies in the room
were beginning to explode when Pastor Pete James of Vienna Presbyterian Church challenged the
listeners that the best evangelistic strategy for renewal in the 21st
century is to plant new churches. He
told the gathering of large pastors, “If you count the cost before you start,
it is dead in the water.” Another pastor leaned over to be and said, “It’s like
having a baby!”
My new synthesized quote from the conference:
“Starting new churches is like having a baby, if you count
the cost before it starts, it is dead in the water.”
If I counted the costs of having four children before I had
them, I would have never given it a second thought. One new church pastor told
me, “If I counted the cost of having children before we had ours, I wouldn’t
let my wife touch me.” I believe that birthing new things has a certain amount excitement, passion,
and a simple trust that this is what God wants.
The Louisville Ironman is coming to town for the third year
in a row. A local paper states that
3000 people from all over the world will line the streets of the route. However
some of the locals in Oldham County are not happy, including one pastor. He
says that he is concerned about “the safety of the drivers and bike riders.” Half
of their usual attendees show up for Sunday service because the church is
along the route of the Ironman.
I am embarrassed that the paper used the pastor and church
attendance as an argument for not having the Ironman. Is church attendance
really a safety issue like he originally states? Or is the pastor upset because
his service is disrupted? I wonder what would happen if the church heard that
God was calling them to be the “hands and feet of Christ” during the Ironman!!!
I don’t even know his name. He is a 39 year old male who is dying from acute myelogenous leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. What will save his life is a bone marrow transplant from a donor. Recently I discovered that I am a perfect match for this patient. After reading, listening, signing, and offering blood samples, (I began to feel like a soda fountain!)I will offer my life saving marrow for this patient on Sept. 3rd.
Bone marrow transplants are not what people perceive. Today, to be placed in the registry, it only takes a simple cotton swab to get your tissue sample. My offering to the patient is to take a medicine by injection for 5 days (doctors have been using this on leukemia patients for over 20 years) to boost the stem cells in my blood. On the day of collection, I will be hooked up to a machine that will separate my blood, they harvest the stem cells, and the rest goes back into me.
How do I feel about being able to take precious time and blood to save a person’s life? I am elated!And yet there is seriousness to it.Once I begin my injections, the patient is undergoing chemo therapy to destroy every cancerous cell in his body. If he does not receive my stem cells, he will die. There is no backing out once the process has begun.
What if evangelism is like this?People around us, people we don’t even know are dying spiritually, every day. We have this opportunity to participate in giving life by sharing our faith with others.If we refuse, everybody loses.Spiritual death occurs.
My prayer for the church is that more people will offer the life transforming news of Christ to others.Let’s getting going, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Ever wondered if there was more to evangelism than being offensive and confrontational? Check out my review of a new book called, Got Style? Personality Based Evangelism. This book is a must have for anyone who is afraid of evangelism. You will determine your own specific evangelistic style, learn the biblical support, the pros and cons, and how it is used in the Body of Christ. This book is an excellent resource for the church.
Sounds crazy right? Is it possible to explain the Christian faith in three minutes? Check out James Choung's attempt at presenting a new approach to the tradional models of evangelism. The Big Story is one of my favorite resources because it is a new fresh approach to the old traditional models of evangelism.
Check out the video below and let me know what you think.