Blog
Posted on October 15, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
     How people learn is important. How they progress toward belief and action is more important. 

     A white-haired man was introduced to me after preaching. He was starting a church in the next town over, but his comment startled me. “Mark, I appreciated what you said about new believers knowing more lost people. In all my years of ministry, I never thought about training up a new believer to share their faith. And I wanted you to know I’ll be going out with them to share Jesus with their family and friends. I’m headed out right now to start that in my ministry.” You could see the determination in his eyes. It wasn’t too late for him to learn and act.

     There’s a social phenomenon that God instilled in each of us. We respond to innovations that bring change at different rates. When I was studying marketing, I was fascinated by the work of Everett M. Rogers, an Iowa farmer’s kid-turned-scholar. His father was reluctant to use a hybrid corn until a drought proved its worth.

     Rogers identified segments of society that would adopt new ideas and tools. Innovators (2.5%), Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%), and Laggards (16%). If you plot this on a graph, it makes a nice bell curve. Those in authority tend to be Laggards while those with the most education and income tend to be Innovators. But Innovators can be fickle although they’ll try practically anything new.

     James F. Engel picked up on this and while teaching at Wheaton College and proposed a numerical scale from -8 (lost) to 0 (conversion) to +3 (discipleship). The Engel Scale provides a way of tracking evangelism-discipleship spiritual progress.

    Jesus was way ahead of Rogers and Engel when He taught in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) that people are like different soils. Each of us interacts with the seeds of the gospel in different ways. The same is true with evangelistic disciple-making. In that parable, Jesus stressed the importance of being like the good soil, receiving the Word, and bearing fruit for the kingdom.

     Southwestern Ohio is saturated in a sensual world that is 3D. It moves and engages them. It provides community experiences, even if it’s avatars interacting online. Most churches in CABA provide evangelism and discipleship that relies totally on “sit and get” methodology. Come to the class. Come hear the preacher. Watch this performance. Are we relegating believers to be spectators? Kyle Idleman was spot-on with his book, Not a Fan. The book is a call to get out of the stands and onto the playing field.

     Different people take more or less time to believe in Christ and eventually act to make a decision. When we share Christ and our faith with those who are lost, they may be closer to a decision than we may expect. Bill Fey who developed Share Jesus Without Fear likes to say that it takes about seven exposures to the gospel message before a person will surrender their heart to Jesus.

     And the same goes for us who are believers. Are we growing in our faith? Are we willing to make significant changes to the glory of God? It’s easy to say, “I’m sticking with what got me here. If I change it’ll destroy my credibility. Those in my church will think I was wrong all this time and I’ll lose my job.”

     Living out the faith is important for others who are watching our lives and how it benefits them. It can’t be done inside church walls and cocooning in our homes. Bringing the lost into our lives requires lifelong learning leading to a verbalization of our faith. As we interact, we watch them grow in their faith until Jesus is Lord. And then seamlessly, we walk with them into newness of life, encouraging them to bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God.

     One of the key aspects of the No Place Left training is smoothly moving from evangelism to studying the Bible. I'd love to see you Nov. 2-3 at the NPL event at New Hope, Loveland, Ohio. It's free for everyone in your church. Here's more details and info on how to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/no-place-left-cincinnati-touch-3-tickets-49916692170

--Mark Snowden is CABA's director of missional leadership.

Posted on September 19, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
When I led a Sunday School class for our church’s college students, I was astounded one Sunday when one long-time Christian and faithful attender blurted out, “Just tell us what to believe.”
 
My Baby Boomer generation grew up doubting the Establishment with its political corruption, humiliated tele-evangelists, rampant inflation, and unethical business practices. The Baby Boomer mantra was lifted straight from Karl Marx, “Question everything.”
 
This was unique to me. I belonged to a youth group at church, but went to public schools, participated in the student council, and played sports. I started looking at these college kids more closely. Over time I realized that it is possible for young adult followers of Jesus to live in a parallel universe that does not intersect with the larger society. Many Millennials that profess Christ were raised, schooled, dated, got jobs, married, and began the cycle all over again raising kids within a Christian bubble.
 
Millennials are an age grouping that includes the oldest members born in the early 1980s, now in their mid-30s, and it goes down in ages to those born 17 or 18 years ago. But when I look around churches where I teach and preach, I don’t see significant numbers of Millennials beyond those in the most vibrant youth groups. Just look at the 2010 census counts to see the majority of Millennials are unengaged.
 
And I’m convinced it’s not always the crowd that “loves Jesus, but hates the church” described in Steven Crainie’s book. Tom Gilson, in a review of the book unchristian by David Kinnaman, points fingers at our churches, “This book robbed me of sleep, revealing, as it does, how badly the church is disconnected from younger Americans, and how negatively we are viewed. The source of the disconnect, I’m convinced, is that our discipleship has been weak, sloganistic, not very thoughtful, not loving enough, shallow. Though 29% of Americans say they are highly committed to Jesus Christ, only 3% espouse a Biblical worldview, defined for research purposes as adhering to eight basic doctrines of Christian religion.”
 
Leaders of Bible studies using Bible Storying methods likely have the best chance of effective disciple-making among Millennials. However, I believe two groups of Millennials may have to be evangelized and discipled as if they were two different people groups. Those with a strong evangelical background may need to be challenged more to be evangelistic than those who are from the “lost” ranks. Those with a nominal Christian background are biblically illiterate. An active witness cannot assume those Millennials that they encounter with the gospel know any Bible stories, not to mention basic Christian doctrine. Bible verses used in tracts will be from an unknown context and use words unfamiliar with the lost. Millennials raised in the Christian bubble will have just as difficult time and will likely need cross-cultural training to gain significant relevance among their own peers. Believers need reproducible methods and tools that Storying provides.
 
Bible stories and Storying methodology provide vital tools for advancing the gospel among those in the next generation to the glory of God. Using Bible stories or proverbs as illustrative points in a conversation can flow naturally and planting seeds for future conversations. Being a friend that cares is one thing. Being involved in an important community project that they’re invited to be alongside you is probably even more important. Sharing life together provides a witness when it is verbalized in a relevant but moving story from God’s Word.
 
If an oral approach is ignored, I’m afraid that Millennials will keep considering Christ is no different than considering, well, Karl Marx.
 
Mark Snowden is Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on September 5, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Missions
When Jim Breeden, director, St. Louis Metro Assoc., gave me a copy of the newly reprinted book Indonesian Revival, by the late Avery Willis, I wasn’t expecting much. But Jim hand me a real gift.
 
Indonesian Revival documented a people movement that occurred in 1966-68 in which two million Javanese came to faith in Christ. It’s not only a good read, but Avery based it on his doctoral dissertation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The trigger for the revival was that the government of Indonesia passed a law requiring every citizen to declare their religion. In a matter of two years, two million people aligned with Christians. They learned about Christ, often seeking out churches to understand the Bible, salvation, and basics of the faith.

Out of five evangelical denominations that had tremendous growth, the Baptists among whom Avery worked as a missionary had the least growth. That’s right. The work that Southern Baptists were engaged in had the fewest converts, baptisms, and numeric church growth. They also required believers to dress and act like Christians in the southern United States.

Avery’s bias toward literate worldview is on display in the book. Avery mentioned that 93% of the Javanese were illiterate at the time of Dutch independence in 1942, but never again addressed their inability to handle the literacy required to read God's Word. And he frequently stressed the importance of reading Scripture in disciple-making efforts while lamenting the lack of seminary-trained leaders. Yet, it was not until 2000 that Avery started to get a handle on what could have been done to use orality to win more to faith in Christ. It makes you wonder if he thought so many others could have come to faith in Christ during that movement of the Lord.

Avery’s remarkable shift to using orality is documented in Truth That Sticks. He helped found the International Orality Network and was its first executive director. My intent is not to provide an analysis of Avery’s work from 1977, but through my orality lens, it is now startling to contrast how a literate worldview bias influenced the bedrock strategy of evangelicals and particularly Baptist missionaries at that time. One unidentified leader said that the pre-Baptism classes lasted three months to a year. He said that "probably twice as many people were refused baptism for failing to meet the requirements as were baptized" (147). It does not say the "catechism" used a literate approach, but the reader is given that assumption.

There were 13 Church Growth Coordinates (228) that Avery identified. These coordinates were responsible for how believers were introduced to Christ. Some methods were rapid. Others were slow. Avery made comparisons such as nurture (slow) vs. evangelism (rapid), clergy (slow) vs. laity (rapid), and classes (slow) vs. masses (rapid). I wonder if Avery could revisit this analysis today if literacy methods would be slow and addressing those with orality preferences would be fast?

After studying this revival, I wonder what evangelistic efforts across the Cincinnati Area could be still just as biblical, but rapid, especially among adults. Is it possible to accelerate response to the Gospel by giving the Holy Spirit more opportunities to work?

Consider making these changes based on ideas generated by Indonesian Revival:
1.    Know the lost. Transform communities from their worldview toward biblical alignment. Listen carefully, catching nuances. Learn from cultural informants. Adapt without compromising the gospel.
2.    Learn and use oral methods. In Missouri, 90% struggle with reading comprehension on the level the Bible requires. Thousands in the Cincinnati Area struggle with the literacy required just for a job application.
3.    Emphasize disciple-making. The early church in Acts baptized quickly and sought to disciple because they lived life together. Disciples who can make disciples is the best indicator that you’re doing it in obedience to Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on August 29, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: General, Leadership
Journalists are notoriously a tough crowd. Some go to prison rather than divulge a source. A few are imprisoned or even shot for being mistaken as spies. They take the heat from important people for holding them accountable. And Christian journalists have no fewer pressures as they work hard to accurately explain how God is at work.
You may not be a journalist, but do you have a message of salvation from God? And how will you share it with those who need to hear it? Personal meet-up? Hand them a tract? Facebook them? Tweet it?
 
“The Lord sent Nathan” is how 2 Samuel 12:1 begins. The prophet, Nathan, told David a story and emotionally involved the King. David was upset that a rich man would take a poor man’s only lamb to feed his guest. Nathan stood and delivered one of the most famous judgments in the Bible, “Thou art the man.” David had caused Bathsheba’s pregnancy and her husband, Uriah’s death. Christian journalists and other thought-leaders have a “prophet” ministry not unlike Nathan’s.
 
When Nathan spoke, David repented and the Lord spared his life. When Christian communicators share their stories, they should expect change.
 
Print-only journalism is dwindling in readership across America. From 2003 to 2011, the Newspaper Association of America reported that advertising for newspapers in print and online dropped by half. Some studies say that print journalism will not stop, but it will rather find its niche like radio has done.
 
Newspapers will never again dominate the secular news industry. The hardened write-or-die reporters constantly face the reality that they need to look beyond the literate word to fully communicate. Journalists – print, electronic, social media – must see readers or viewers as audiences.
 
The Millennial age group (ages 19 to 36) have a far more oral learning preference than any other U.S. age segment. They are a communications force that is personally engaged in embracing what is genuine and foregoing the slick, the formatted, and the scheduled delivery. They thrive on “real.”
 
Christian communicators, especially journalists, can learn a lot from those with an oral worldview. Like Nathan standing before King David, they will tell stories out of their calling from God to their ministry. Will those reporting mojo stories let people who interact with their content (visual or story) draw out biblical truth? Users of smartphone and web-based media want to stay informed. They’re clearly blurring the lines of information and entertainment seeking a brave new world of entertainment.
 
The stuff we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste are gateways to our minds—and ultimately to our hearts.  The more senses that are engaged, the more effective the communicator will become. Brain theorists have noted that “emotions etch memories.” Experiential learning means more than “sitting and getting” whether it be by staring at ink on paper, text on screen, or via some other channel. As many pastors are starting to say, “Don’t turn off your smartphones, but text out to your followers and friends the truths that the Holy Spirit teaches you today!”
 
The bottom line is that church leaders must help believers become truth-tellers who craft their own stories of faith. Will churches empower communication in the hands of those who dare to communicate as God sends them?
What is God calling you to say? And how will you say it?
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on August 15, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism, Missions
Nobody met me at the Mexico City airport. And from what I could tell, nobody was speaking English. I had to reach deep for every syllable I had learned in a Spanish class just to navigate across town. When I later paid the taxi driver in pesos and walked toward my destination the sense of accomplishment was incredible. God had kindly immersed me – sink or swim – in an alien culture. And for a 21 year-old at the time, that was a really big deal.
 
What I remember most about my arrival as a summer volunteer in Mexico was the chatter of unintelligible voices. I love the sound of people speaking other languages and particularly Español. The language has a melodic rhythm that I love to hear. Unlike my Spanish learning labs, nobody was speaking each word dis-tinct-ly and s-l-o-w-l-y. It was several weeks later until I could pick out words and begin to make sense of the river of sound gushing from Mexicans that I really wanted to understand. I once caught a pastor label me “El Mudo,” meaning “The Mute.” When he realized I understood what he said, I then heard him say in Spanish something like “be careful what you say, he understands more than he speaks.”
 
Genesis 11 describes people that had one language that started to build a great city and a tower that would reach to the heavens. God was cut out of their plans. So, God confused their language and the act scattered people across the earth. The building project stopped, but was forever labeled, “Babel.”
 
The primary sin of the people of Babel was leaving God out. Rather than having an opportunity to work with God, their apathy and self-reliance blocked them from joining God’s mission in a God-denying world. Sound familiar?
More than 2,000 years later, Acts 2 tells of 120 followers of Jesus who were praying during the Pentecost festival.
 
When the Holy Spirit came upon them, they spilled out into the streets of Jerusalem telling everyone the mighty works of God. And they did it in the languages of those they encountered.
 
When contrasting Babel with Pentecost, it’s easy to see what happens when believers pray expectantly. God equips them to be His effective witnesses, even when testifying to His greatness among those with a different language or culture.
 
God wants an opportunity to work through us, not despite of us. At Babel, the people chose to work together in the most aggressive building project known to mankind….but without God. They missed the opportunity and it brought disunity. At Pentecost, when empowered by God, the believers’ community was transformed as 3,000 repented, believed on Jesus, were baptized, and became disciple-makers.
 
Yes, it is hard to cross-cultures to take the Gospel, but the Holy Spirit provides and empowers. There are few higher honors given than to learn a lost person’s language.
 
Years ago, I received a call from a woman who was upset about illegal immigrants working in her community. But the reason she called was to ask, “Am I supposed to witness even to illegal immigrants?” I shared with her that legal or not, when any person returns to their homeland as a born-again Christian, they could share the good news of Jesus as they went. She was quiet a long time. Then she actually sighed and said, “Okay, I’ll witness to them.”
 
Pray for God to send workers into His harvest field to adopt one of the Cincinnati Area’s some 40+ immigrant people groups. Some have churches planted among them, but some have just been discovered and are not likely to be born again.
 
A missionary was waiting for me at the airport, but waiting at the wrong airline. Mistakes happen. However, I believe that when we align our lives with God’s mission, He provides a way – even if it’s just to get a guy like me – or you – across town and onto the Lord’s harvest field.
 
 
Mark Snowden serves as the Director for Missional Leadership of the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on August 6, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
The pastor across the table from me saw no need for equipping evangelism team members in his church. He was only concerned that they get out among the lost.
 
“We just let our people learn about missions while they’re doing missions. They grow spiritually when they do missionary work. I don’t mind them meeting to prepare for the trip, but that’s the extent of our training efforts. We really don’t have a need for anything else like that in our church.”
 
“Aren’t you concerned about bringing harm to the people you mean to help?” I asked.
 
 “What kind of harm could my people possibly cause? We’re just talking about working across town in a poverty-stricken area.”

“Just by showing up, volunteers can take on a position of superiority. Experts call this a ‘God complex.’ Yes, your church members try to help, but they make the people with whom they are working feel even more terrible about their situation. If those in need didn’t already have a scarred identity, they often develop one.”
 
“We don’t mean to do harm on a physical needs level, but we do a world of good on the spiritual level,” said the pastor.
 
“Yes, I understand,” I said. “The people may identify with believers in some way, but they often put up a false front for others to see. A lot of them remain as they were, but also claim belief in Jesus. That’s why some people who go to church on Sunday will visit a fortune teller on Monday. We call that syncretism.”
 
“But the lost in our town get to hear about Jesus; some for the first time.”
 
“If your church members are going to evangelize without any follow-up plans in place, then they could actually ‘inoculate’ the lost from ever hearing the gospel clearly again. They think they’ve heard it all.”
This was obviously making the pastor think. He was quiet for a moment, so I asked him a tough love kind of question.
 
“Would your church members be willing to change their focus from what they get out of it to changing what they discover is wrong instead?”
 
The pastor was thinking hard now, so I asked another one—the hard one.
 
“Would they be willing to strip away who they are? Would they literally ‘deny themselves’ and cross into the culture of needy people who are without Christ?”
 
“Then we’d need some training,” the pastor observed quietly.
 
Servant evangelism is often carried out among people who are among the have-nots. Despite contrasts in scale, godly responses to problems tend to be the same for servant evangelism in the Cincinnati Area as international missions.

When we step in with a heart for servant evangelism among people with ongoing needs, we often want to provide labor, materials, and money whether or not that is what the people in need actually want. Bryant L. Myers in Walking with the Poor (WorldVision) exhorts believers to begin working by celebrating all that is already being done correctly, no matter how insignificant.

The warning to do no harm should not discourage Cincinnati Baptists to engage in activities that help those in need. However, it should require each of us to seek out training that is done right. There are no Mulligans as there are in golf, no make-up tests, or “do-overs.” Yes, some believers may go on and do their own top-down thing. However, church leaders who know better must lovingly guide those with missions zeal to the point that they can deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Jesus to walk among people in need.
Posted on August 6, 2018 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
“If you are content to live without revival, you will.” 
 
The quote above is from Byron Paulus, the president of Life Action Ministries and it has been difficult to get it out of my mind.  “Revival,” in the dictionary, has several meanings.  One of my favorites is, “restoring to usefulness.”  I’ve always admired how a person can take an old car out of the junkyard and restore it to its original beauty.  As we experience revival in our own lives, we are restored spiritually to a place of closeness with God and usefulness in His kingdom’s work.
 
When the topic of revival comes up in a church, we have a tendency to think of revival meetings of days gone by.  We would invite a guest speaker to spend a week or two preaching to us each night.  We might have special, outside musicians come in as well; and maybe, we’d throw in some special meals along the way and a free pizza a dinner for youth night!  The goal was to get the lost and the backslidden to come to church as we would pray for real revival in our own hearts and theirs.  We knew that we could not manufacture real revival, but our hope was that God would respond to our sincere prayers and He would bless with salvations and restoration in the lives of the people we invited.
 
Such revival meetings don’t seem to attract the people they once did.  With more and more school activities and the busy schedules of the average American family, such meetings seem almost impossible.  I wonder, however, if the lack of revival isn’t deeper than just living in a fast-paced world.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, “corporate revival always follows personal revival.”  In other words, the church can’t experience revival until individual Christians in the church experience revival for themselves.  Only God can bring revival to a person or a church or a nation, but we also have a responsibility to seek it.  How do we do that, though?
 
It begins of course with our relationship with God.  The closeness of that relationship depends on our regular communion with God.  Bill Elliff, in his book, The Presence Centered Church says it like this, “Your personal experience of God must be your highest priority.  Nothing must get in the way.  Everything must be built around this passion” (pg. 35).  The spiritual discipline of meeting with God and growing deeper in relationship with Him trumps all the other disciplines of the Christians life.  Our personal devotion time with God is essential for personal renewal.
 
Out of our communion with God comes the blessing of repentance.  Yes, I said, “blessing” of repentance.  It is a real blessing to have the Holy Spirit convict us of sin so that we can experience repentance.  God invites us, through this ministry of the Holy Spirit, to experience renewal.  We should welcome his close examination of our lives.  We should rejoice in it.  It is God loving us and longing for communion with us.  When He convicts, we must not excuse or blame.  We must be willing to follow through with restitution and clearing our conscience with others when that is needed.  Although repentance is a struggle, it is a wonderful blessing.  Without it, revival cannot occur.  With it, comes all the potential of a life on fire for Christ.
 
As we obey God in the prayer closet, we can obey Him outside of it.  Through surrendered obedience, we don’t just know God, we experience God.  As we experience God, revival becomes a reality in our hearts and has the potential of spilling over in the church.  May we never be content without it!
Posted on July 30, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
A science fiction story once described an astronaut-type volunteer who was able to step into an alternate universe. As a reminder of home, his wife at the last moment handed him their baby’s rattle. In this world, the sound it made was cute and harmless. However, when the rattle was shaken in that other world, the sound waves knocked people down, broke windows, and unleashed a number of other fantastic problems. The traveler with the toy escaped unharmed. He was heralded for his bravery before he even had an opportunity to make a report. Despite the joyous homecoming in his world, just by introducing the otherwise innocent baby rattle into that other dimension, the man shaking the toy had caused unintended catastrophes.

Churches should seek to do no harm among people in need. Like the man shaking the baby rattle, those working among people who are different from them can do things that seem so very innocent, but have serious consequences. Followers of Jesus would never intentionally do harm, of course, but we do need to be aware of the consequences of our actions. We hope our actions can be good, but we often work in ways that create problems, even chaos. And, while recipients put up brave faces as gracious hosts, harm done may never be known as we return to our churches rejoicing in all that was done in the name of Jesus Christ.  

Before medical doctors begin their practice, they are asked to take the Hippocratic Oath. Physicians seek to do no harm with their medical arts. It would be good for us to internalize a biblical equivalent Hippocratic Oath before we go out as “sent ones.”

Jesus put it this way: “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them (Luke 6:31 HCSB). For believers who follow Jesus, He has a special command that is essential to follow.  “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 HCSB). We must learn and apply all that we can to do no harm.

Planning for missions and evangelism among people in need takes planning. Teams can be formed. Needs must be assessed. Budgets will be challenged. And churches must turn outward to focus upon the lost. Transforming communities is possible!

Missions that "love loud" keeps people in need in our hearts.
 
When we came out of a restaurant, a man was sitting on the curb in front of where Mary Leigh, my wife, and I parked. We simply asked him if we could get him anything. I went back inside and brought him a meal – maybe his only one for the day. It was easy to witness to Bob when he saw that I cared.

God is sovereign, but His actions in our world should never be despite us. Our servant evangelism efforts in the Cincinnati Area should be to work in tandem with the Lord’s will and ways.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association
Posted on July 16, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
    Lawrence led a man on the street to Jesus as part of Crossover prior to the SBC in Indianapolis. The man immediately asked, “May I go tell my sister?” Lawrence agreed and soon watched as the man brought his sister out of an apartment building. After Lawrence led her to faith in Christ she admitted, “The second floor of that apartment is a brothel, but I’ll go tell them.” Lawrence pointed to the Baptist church, which was just across the street. The brother and sister said that they would go there to learn more about living for Christ.
    Would your church be ready to disciple these new believers?
Each year our churches see thousands of new believers who choose to surrender their lives to Christ in faith. Where are they now?
     In Truth That Sticks, Avery Willis and I pulled in a definition of discipleship that he had developed when writing On Mission with God with Henry Blackaby. He wrote:
     “Following Jesus is a lifelong, personal, relationship with Jesus in which He transforms our character into Christlikeness, our values into kingdom values, and in which God invites us to join Him in His mission in the home, the church, and the world.”
     Using “following Jesus” instead of “Christian” designates a person that is a disciple of no other philosophy, tradition, or religion. Unfortunately, “Christian” can often mean “not Muslim.” It is that “lifelong, personal, relationship with Jesus” that makes the difference. It may start as a decision that is made public by raising a hand, walking an aisle, or meeting with the pastor after an evangelistic worship service, but it reflects the change of the heart; that volition of the will.
     Jesus brings transformation in our lives – particularly to our character and values. I frequently rail against behaviors that align with a godly lifestyle but lack the transformed heart. Avery noted that behaviors follow the inward transformation. We respond to the initiative that God takes to involve us in His mission.
God’s mission starts in the home. According to George Barna in Think Like Jesus, only two percent of born-again teenagers live their lives in alignment with a biblical worldview. As hard as this is to say, God invites us not to focus solely on our homes, but to SIMULTANEOUSLY participate in His work in church and the world. It’s a full-court press. Jesus commanded us that as we are going to make disciples of all peoples everywhere (Matthew 28:18-19). In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised His Holy Spirit would empower His disciples to share their witness of a changed life wherever in the world they went. The saying is true that our Jerusalem is someone else’s ends of the earth.
     We are admonished to pray, “Maranatha! Come, our Lord!” (I Cor. 16:22) But when you evaluate the huge numbers of lost people in our land, a cry for mercy comes from our throats, “Oh, Lord, can’t you wait just a bit longer for one more soul to be saved?”
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on July 2, 2018 9:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making, General
I value vacations.  I would rather sit in a comforter than on a wooden bench.  I like the feel of pulsating steams of water massaging my tired back in a hot sauna.  Ah, yes, comfort can be a very good thing.  Yet, comfort can also be a very dangerous thing.  In the work of God, we can love our comfort a little too much if we are not careful.  The result is a neglect of the Great Commission.  A complacency about discipleship.  An apathy toward worship.
 
The dangers of being spiritually, too comfortable are many.  We can miss opportunities to experience God at work in and through our lives, if we get too comfortable.  We can choose the easy, softer choices of life and neglect God’s invitation to grow in our faith.  Being too comfortable can cause us to overlook the lost and disregard a brother or sister in need.  The 39-year-old man maybe comfortable living in his parent’s basement playing video games all day, but if he wants to live a meaningful life of purpose, he needs to leave that comfort to embrace the challenges of life.  In a similar way, we need to be challenged to leave the comfort of our current level of spiritual growth and usefulness, to begin pursuing the next.
 
Churches can also become too comfortable.  We can get accustomed to the comfort of being a certain size as a church and forget that God has placed us in the middle of a real mission field of people who need to be reached.  We would never put out a sign saying, “No New People Welcome Here,” but churches can still communicate that message in many subtle ways if they are too comfortable.  Even in a Sunday School class or small group, we can delight in the people we have, to the neglect of the people we need to reach.  After all, we have a nice comfortable feel to our class as it is.  Why work on reaching someone new?
 
To overcome comfortableness, we need to remember that spiritual growth flourishes in discomfort.  Discomfort caused Abraham to leave Ur and Moses to go back to Egypt.  Discomfort allowed Joshua to face the challenges of Ai and Joseph to become the leader he needed to become to “save many people alive.”  We need our discomfort to motivate us to strive for more.
 
We must remember that our purpose in life is to know and love God with all our being and to love people as Jesus loved people.  That challenges us to dive deeper into His Word and prayer.  That keeps us moving out of our comfort zone to touch lives we have never touched.  The potential of our lives and the impact we can make by God’s grace will be diminished if we remain in a state of continual spiritual ease.
 
We must be reminded of the brevity of life if we are to overcome our comfortableness.  All of us want to make a difference in this life.  We want to leave a positive, spiritual mark on our family, our friends and our neighbors.  No Christian wants to look back on their lives one day and see a series of wasted opportunities to influence others for Christ and grow closer to Him.  Psalm 90 reminds us “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Becoming too comfortable can be very unwise.
 
There is nothing wrong with having a lemonade under an umbrella on a beautiful beach.  We all need time to pause, reflect and meditate.  Times of rest are essential, but we also know that relaxation won’t pay the bills and advance us in life.  Likewise, in our walk with God, we need to enjoy our seasons of blessings, but remember that life is too short to be comfortable in our complacency.
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