Tag Archives: Christianity

The results are in – people prefer short sermons followed by discussion.

To me this is ideal! What do you think?

Posted on January 18, 2014 at Church in a Circle

This week, I conducted some research on Twitter. I asked which people would prefer; short sermons with the opportunity for discussion, or long sermons without. The results of my poll were resoundingly conclusive – 100% of respondents would like to have short sermons or even long ones followed by the chance to respond and explore the topic together.

Now, I’m not going to pretend these are statistically significant results. This was a small sample group, and a very biased one. But I still think this is a simple and easy-to-implement strategy most pastors and churches can take on board, with the potential to equip and empower God’s people.

Next time you are preparing a sermon, think about stripping it back to the essential points, then letting people break into groups of 4 or so to discuss what they have learned. They could answer questions such as;

What stands out to you?

What did you learn about God?

About people?

Any life-lessons to apply?

How do you plan to apply them?

How can we pray for one another?

The advantages to this approach are huge. You are training God’s people to have spiritual conversations. You can give them the tools they need to think for themselves, and to communicate their knowledge to others. You are sending the message that the church is an equal laity under the headship of Christ, not artificially divided into “professionals” and “consumers”. You are giving them a chance to respond to God’s Word and message, and to teach one another.

However – please take note – this suggestion comes with the following warnings;

WARNING 1: Once people get used to participating and having a voice, they’re not going back. They will find it difficult to sit passively through lengthy monologues, once they realise they can be actively involved.

WARNING 2: Some people won’t like this. They think the current format for church is the way it has always been. They don’t realise the early church meetings were interactive, multi-voiced and participatory.

WARNING 3: Dialogue is an open floor, not a pop-quiz. People are allowed to give any answer at all. Pastors may have to go through a period of “unlearning” – instead of having all the answers, they have to learn to shut up and listen. Get used to a whole new way of thinking as you move away from performance towards facilitation and empowerment.

Don’t rely on the results of my not-very-reliable research – conduct a poll of your own. Ask your congregation whether they would prefer a 40 minute lecture next Sunday, or a 10-15 minute presentation followed by a chance to explore and discuss it together. Your ego may take a bruising if they tell you to shorten your sermons – but it could be the start of a new journey for you and your church community.

Read more great articles via Church in a Circle.


Why I’m Not Always Positive and Encouraging

Another great essay from Chip Brogden over at ‘The School of Christ‘. When I read the article it resonated with me. Why? Simply because Chip has put into print what I have thought through the recent years. I hope you take a few moments to read the entire piece and be challenged in your spirit too.

Will a steady diet of positive and encouraging words cause me to see myself as I am, or will it seduce me into thinking I’m better than I really am? Do I wish to be entertained into spiritual dullness or challenged into spiritual maturity?

At first blush there would appear to be nothing wrong with something labeled “positive and encouraging.” Three Christian radio stations service my area, and all three of them make the same claim: that they offer positive and encouraging programming for the whole family. The appeal is obvious: no one wants to spend a lot of time dwelling on things that are negative and discouraging.

But I have discovered a flaw in this positive and encouraging, family-friendly environment that should be addressed. This desire to provide people with a positive and encouraging experience whether it is by radio or by television or by church service or by website creates an unrealistic expectation in the hearts and minds of the audience and congregation who have come to rely on “the ministry” to keep them properly fed. Content is judged not according to Truth, but according to how I feel about it. Do I feel good, positive, encouraged, uplifted, and happy afterwards? If so then all is well. Or is it?

We must seriously question things that pass themselves off as “ministry”. It is clear that the practice of “ministry” – whether it comes in the form of a sermon or a song – is becoming synonymous with “Christian Entertainment.” It is not so much what they say as what they fail to say. The most glaring omission in this positive and encouraging Christian sub-culture is meaningful reference and teaching along the lines of taking up the cross and denying self, and I would suggest this one thing sums up most of what is lacking in Churchianity today.

Finish reading via Why I’m Not Always Positive and Encouraging.

House Churches

I first posted this article on my blog in November 2011. As I perused some other stuff today on Facebook I was reminded of this and thought it would be good to re-post.

I found this on an email that was sent to me and I intend to buy the book. I challenge you to read the entire piece and then share your thoughts.

Chapter four of a book by David S. Kirkwood titled The Disciple-Making Minister

Here is great question to ask ourselves: How did the early church succeed so well at making disciples without any church buildings, professionally-trained clergy, Bible schools and seminaries, hymnals and overhead projectors, wireless microphones and tape duplicators, Sunday school curriculums and youth ministries, worship teams and choirs, computers and copy machines, Christian radio and TV stations, hundreds of thousands of Christian book titles and even personally-owned Bibles? They didn’t need any of those things to make disciples, and neither did Jesus. And because none of those things were essential then, none are essential now.

When people first hear of house churches, they often mistakenly imagine that the only difference between house churches and institutional churches is their size and their relative abilities to provide “ministry.” People sometimes conclude that the house church cannot offer the quality of ministry provided by churches with buildings. But if one defines “ministry” as that which contributes to the making of disciples, helping them become like Christ and equipping them for service, then institutional churches have no advantage, and as I pointed out in the previous chapter, they may well be disadvantaged. Certainly house churches cannot provide the quantity of multi-faceted activities of institutional churches, but they can excel at providing true ministry…….read more


I read this last year and meant to re-blog but for some reason it never happened. 😛 Anyway, perhaps it was intended for now instead. Jon Zens does a fantastic job here reminding us to let Jesus live in & through us then in so doing we will fulfill the great commission naturally. I encourage everyone, who follows Christ, to take a few minutes and read the entire article, along with the comments, then apply it to their lives.

SHOULD THE TAIL WAG THE DOG? Posted on December 12, 2011 by Jon Zens

“If you indeed continue in the faith having been founded and steadfast and not being moved away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, of which I Paul became a servant” Colossians 1:23.

“In fact, Christ, Himself, spelled out the mission of the church in what we refer to as The Great Commission . . . . That commission from Christ is the sole reason why the church exists today.” – James Longstreet, http://www.christianpost.com

Is fulfilling the “Great Commission” the primary reason why the church is left on earth? You would think so from listening to many voices and reading a lot of articles in our day. It appears to me that this assumption needs to be closely scrutinized. For something that is said to be so central and vital, why is teaching and exhortation about it absent from the New Testament epistles and the letters to the seven churches in Revelation?

If one surveys the history of what called itself church, it would be discovered that there was virtually no thought or emphasis on “evangelism” or “missions” because church and state were joined together like Siamese twins from roughly AD 300 to AD 1700. When the age of exploration blossomed in the 1400’s, the religion of the nation was taken to the lands where her ships landed. For example, Christopher Columbus was sent forth by Spain as a representative of the state and church of that country. This was not evangelism, but rather empire-building.

What we call “missions” did not develop until 1792 when William Carey published his controversial book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, and then in 1793 he left with family members for India.

In America in the 19th Century, fueled by the likes of Charles Finney and D.L. Moody, the necessity of “fulfilling the Great Commission” began to emerge. Mission Societies multiplied in the States and England.

After WWII American evangelicalism was bombarded with exhortations to “fulfill the Great Commission” because, it was taught, Jesus could not return until the Gospel had been preached to every people group on earth.

So, it would appear that in the 2000’s evangelicalism is now consumed with a wide range of“discipleship” programs based on the assumption that we are responsible to “make disciples of all nations” in order to pave the way for Jesus’ return.

What I sense is that we have allowed evangelism-discipleship to become our obsession, and in the process Jesus Christ is pushed to the periphery. Jesus becomes a means for us to fulfill a pressing duty. Everything is about “making disciples,” “multiplication,” and programs designed to accomplish these ends.

Would we do well to perhaps re-focus on Christ? As we are consumed with following Jesus, how can we not share him with others and reach out to the needy? If you are pursuing Christ, getting to know Him in the depths, then He will ooze from your being. You won’t be able to help but talk about Him to the lost and broken people around you! If He is truly your sole passion, your life will change and your character will be sharpened naturally. People will see Him in you and begin asking questions like, “What makes you tick?” Paul said, “Do good to everyone, especially those in the Lord’s household.” But it is a grave error to run after “causes” and “movements” and “fulfilling the Great Commission” in a way that functionally makes Christ just a means to such ends – instead of exalting Christ as the center, the Alpha and Omega of everything.

Bob Emery drives home a point I think we all need to ponder……….read the complete article via SHOULD THE TAIL WAG THE DOG? |.

Except you be converted

Matthew 18:3

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

So what does this mean????

In order to understand this lets define ‘convert‘. Here is a list of examples.

  • Change from one system to another or to a new plan or policy
  • Change the nature, purpose, or function of something
  • Change religious beliefs, or adopt a religious belief
  • Exchange or replace with another, usually of the same kind or category
  • Cause to adopt a new or different faith
  • Make (someone) agree, understand, or realize the truth or validity of something

The word ‘converted‘ is defined as follows:

  • Spiritually reborn or having changed religion as in “a converted Christian”

If we look at this scripture and John 3:3 we see that being born again and being converted go hand in hand.

Many people question, “converted, why? From what?”

The answer is, if there is no conversion from the life of sin then there is eternal death.

To be converted or born again involves repentance; a turning back – reversal – to think differently. It means transformation, a change of heart, to change from habitual sin to holiness, from old life to new. Rom.6:4 / 2Cor.5:17

Turning away from all that is ungodly, turning to God, and producing fruits of righteousness.

We humans are selfish and self-serving, we need to learn to repent and turn to a better course, and that course is through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Being converted does not come naturally but it comes as we surrender every aspect of our lives to Christ.

A person does not have God, has not been converted, if he/she continues to do the things of the world. 1John 1:5-10

A person cannot enter the kingdom of heaven while remaining worldly and full of sin!

This change or conversion that is required by Christ begins with our becoming as little children humble, weak, dependent, and ready to be molded by God the Father into what He wants us to be.

We must humble ourselves; there can be no pride and no self.

There is no true conversion without humility and a person filled with self cannot turn to Christ. Jesus insisted upon conversion (verse3).

We must turn totally with the whole heart, mind, soul, and body.

Each of us, as individuals, must have an actual knowledge of that change, of that conversion from an inward experience. That inward experience/change will reflect to the outside, to those around us.

Jesus was telling the disciples, to turn from their earthly ambitions, jealousies, rivalries, and their bickering. He is saying also to us today, to turn from these and all sin, or else we cannot enter the kingdom.

With TRUE CONVERSION, changes WILL take place.

Conversion does NOT mean just a single act of sorrow or repentance, but a new attitude of life. It is part of genuine saving faith and a basic requirement for salvation.

With conversion comes fruit Matt.3:8Our relationships, pleasures, commitments, habits, and our whole outlook on life will change as the result of our new relation with God.

believe there are many, many people who have said a ‘sinners’ prayer, but have not had that conversion experience because they do not want to let go of sin and the world.

The Bible tells us in 1John2:15 that if we love the world then the love of the Father is not in us. Also in James 4:4 it says, if we are friends with the world then we are enemies of God.

Each one must turn from the world, sin, and self to God in order to have eternal life.