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Posted on March 23, 2018 9:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
Evangelicals began using altar calls and invitations in the 1830s. From Charles Finney’s invitations to pulpits today, the same urgency drives a need for every person to respond in faith to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Half-baked and incomplete invitations can inoculate the lost to thinking that they have heard all they ever need to hear.
What response does your sermon generate? When Peter preached, the Holy Spirit convicted people to action.

•    At Pentecost: “…they came under deep conviction and said… ‘Brothers, what must we do?” (Acts 2:37 HCSB) And 3,000 were baptized.
•    In the Temple: “But many who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to 5,000” (Acts 4:4 HCSB).
•    In Caesarea: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all who heard the message” (Acts 10:47 HCSB). And Cornelius’ entire household was saved and baptized.

Peter’s sermons were delivered with boldness attributed to being filled with the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would come upon Peter and all the disciples (Acts 1:8). Peter fully believed that delivering a message was conveying truth and would save hearers from the imminent coming judgment of God through forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:42-43).

The late Roy Fish served for years as the distinguished professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex. In the book, Preaching Evangelistically: Proclaiming the Saving Message of Jesus by Al Fasol and others, Dr. Fish wrote:
 
Real expectation and confidence in God will seldom be disappointed. Even the very words used in the invitation should express confidence and expectancy. For that reason, it is not honoring to the Lord to say Sunday after Sunday, “Isn’t there one person here today who will respond to the claims of Christ and come?” That question should be asked like this: Not “Isn’t there one?” but “How many of you here today will receive Christ as your Savior?” Rather than “Won’t you come?” make it, “As you come, I will be here to greet you.” … Words something like this should be expressed: “This morning, if you are willing to turn from your sins and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, I invite you to slip out from where you’re standing and come forward. I will be here at the front of the auditorium to meet you as you come.”  Excerpted from: www.lifeway.com, cited 12/14/12.

When delivering a gospel invitation, it is important to deliver it clearly, expecting a response. In Romans 10:17, Paul said that faith comes by “hearing,” which meant receiving a report in order to take action. There is a need for hearers to encounter Jesus in such a way that it brings spiritual transformation. Hearing does not mean words just come flying by our ears, but communicating so that next steps are understood. And this often means allowing for the adequate time needed to invite them to salvation.

God used the messages of Peter to draw listeners to Himself. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He can use your invitations, too.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on March 15, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Disciple-making
My Sunday School teacher called early on a Saturday morning. “Mark, my store was broken into and completely vandalized. It’ll take days to repair. If you don’t teach tomorrow, then we won’t have Sunday School. How ‘bout it?” I agreed, but only out of pity. Prior to that moment, I had only taught a third grade Sunday School class with my wife. I actually got her to drive to church while I scanned the lesson plan. And I knew I was bad. Because of that experience I skewed spiritual gift tests every time to show what I had no gift of teaching. So, within the hour I had a lesson plan in hand and I was to be teaching not just any adults, but my peers at our new church plant.
I went to war on the lesson plan. I don’t remember the passage, but I remember the preparation. I spent most of that day and was up early on Sunday ready to stand and deliver God’s Word.

And so I taught the lesson. And I became the sub for teachers who had to miss. Then I was asked to teach my own class. After we moved to another church, I taught college & career classes, middle schoolers, and an adult Sunday School class. I was a teaching machine. Boy, howdy, did I know how to follow a lesson plan and teach that lesson.

But did I make disciples? I can’t answer that. I know what I taught, but I don’t know if it was caught. A few couples divorced. Teens went wayward. But I taught the lesson.

Small group leaders must have an unwavering commitment to making disciples in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul told Timothy the essential part of his role in Ephesus was being able to raise up those who could pass it along to others; disciple-making.
 
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV)
 
 The “entrusting” part required that “reliable men” be equipped so that they could pass it along. And how can we continue to be satisfied making converts when the command of Jesus goes further into disciple-making?
There is a horrible phrase I picked up recently. It makes my skin crawl and might wake you up in the middle of the night with cold sweats: institutional discipleship. Ouch. Are we just leading people to Christ so that they can keep a church going? The command of Christ is to become change agents in a lost world! Nobody gets a bye. Everyone is in the game who is a follower of Jesus. The small group leader’s role then is about raising up and sending out disciples.

When I was beginning to be a small group leader, I never asked God if what I was doing was His plan. I just wanted to survive the hour! I did ask the Holy Spirit to speak through me. But again, I never asked the Lord to show me a method that could make disciples that would multiply. I just put my head down and delivered.
Prioritize making disciples over just teaching the lesson.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on March 1, 2018 8:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Missions
This is to put out a call for people across Cincinnati who will begin addressing lostness in new ways:
1.    Willing to throw parties.
2.    Regularly invite people into your home.
3.    Make the most of spontaneous encounters.
4.    Become the life of your neighborhood or where your relationships are being forged. When life happens, you become the go-to people.

Those four things are what two guys named Hugh and Matt decided to do. They had jobs and families. But for a year, they worked hard at engaging people and made friends with fifty people. Fifty. When their neighbors noticed several cars outside Hugh’s home, he told them, “We like to have some time together where we intentionally talk about life and God.” When a neighbor asked, “Is that something that is open for us to come to?” They said, “Sure, whenever you want. We’ll let you know when we’re getting together next.” And that’s how a new church was birthed.
 
Now, that happened in Denver to two serious church planters named Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, recounted in their book: And, the Gathered and Scattered Church (Exponential Series, 2010). They continue to be bi-vocational – working and planting.
 
Pastors, in your church, who’s up for making friends and also telling them how to align their life story with the story of Jesus? And who is up for helping start new small groups of your friends and have their gatherings take on characteristics of a church?
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association (CABA).
Posted on February 19, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership
Standing around with pastors during a break at a pastor’s conference, one pastor lamented that his church had stopped growing. When I asked why, he said that his building could only hold so many people. When I asked him why a little thing like drywall would prohibit growth, it was like scales fell off his eyes.
“Reaching people for Jesus doesn’t depend on our building size!” he almost shouted.
 
An IMB missionary once challenged me to add up all the available worship seating in our town. Taking that number I was to double it for churches that might do two services. Were there enough seats for everyone that was not born again?
 
In the cities that I have visited and lived, I have yet to know of a single place that could seat all the lost people in their community.
 
According to CABA Churches’ ACP (Annual Church Profile) report for 2016, our churches could handle these numbers:
17,344  Total Church Membership                                     
  8,508  Worship Attendance                       
 
There are about 300,000 followers of Jesus claimed by evangelical churches in our nine counties. Yet, there are 1.5 million who are not born-again. One million people in our association’s counties are not claimed by any religious organization!
 
Here’s why I hate that building material we call drywall: Churches erect really well-designed and beautifully ornate structures that can actually become barriers to growth. When we “max” out Sunday worship everyone gets so incredibly excited! (Most pastors can quote Easter attendance numbers…just ask.)
 
Call it the Drywall Effect. It is closing in on Cincinnati Area Baptists. The CABA ACP also shows Average Weekly Sunday School Attendance at 5,400 people. At least 49% of those attending worship and a whopping 12,000 (69%) of our total church membership are not in regular Bible study. Thom Rainer, LifeWay’s president, says buildings feel full when they’re 80% full. Praise the Lord and pass on the drywall.
 
Don’t think I’m against high attendance drives, buildings, and building programs. I’m just against thinking that it is enough to seriously bring spiritual transformation to millions of our Cincinnati Area neighbors headed for hell. Drywall hammered into meeting cubes should not define us as believers.
 
When the Apostle Paul was writing the church at Corinth, he told them to not compare their spiritual growth with others: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12 NKJV). The same can be said of churches that become content just filling their meeting rooms while millions continue to be ignored outside of the drywall.

Why not encourage small group leaders to take disciples into their own homes and meet there so that they could grow numerically and spiritually? And why not start some new churches while you’re at it? Some of that 80% seating you’ll need to feel full may be in a gym, a school, a rented office space, a dance studio, a grocery store, a truck stop, a show barn, a machine shop, or your own home.
 
Reaching people for Jesus shouldn’t be hindered by drywall.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on February 18, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Evangelism
Last week I met a neighbor across the street. I tried witnessing to him and he tried witnessing to me. It turned out that he was a retired Methodist pastor. And he was born-again. In our next encounter, I plan to discuss what he’s doing as a disciple-maker.
 
A believer’s life perspective changes when he prioritizes making disciples. He listens to know if the person he meets is lost or saved. If he’s lost, is he in transit or living nearby? If he’s saved, then is he making disciples?
Most person-to-person evangelism plans end with an invitation for the seeker to pray what has been called a “sinner’s prayer.” Share the good news about Jesus, but consider ending it a little differently.

This is a crossroads of sorts in your testimony. A new question to ask is:
 
Are there others that you would like to invite to know more about Jesus?
 
I’m asking you to think groups, not individuals.
 
If the answer is “no,” then continue with the gospel presentation and ask for a decision as the Holy Spirit prompts you to do so.

If the answer is “yes,” arrange a time when you and your witnessing partner can meet with both the seeker and those he invites. Missionary friends have told me that when a group of ten or so meet, then usually six or seven accept Christ. This can form a small group! This is particularly important among families from a religion to Christianity who might want to ostracize an individual. However, when groups make the decision simultaneously, they often avoid individualized persecution.
 
When Tom Wolf was teaching at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, he wrote a short paper called “Oikos Evangelism.” He wrote, “An oikos was the fundamental and natural unit of society, and consisted of one’s sphere of influence–his family, friends, and associates. And equally important, the early church spread through oikoses–circles of influence and association.” You can pick up additional insights by downloading Dr. Wolf’s paper here.
Meeting someone new may introduce you to the next Apostle Paul of our day. It can form groups like Cornelius’ entire household, too, that can start a new church, a new small group, or possibly disband to assimilate into other existing groups.
 
Go ahead! Add a new question to your encounter with a lost person. “Are there others that you would like to invite to know more about Jesus?” And see what God wants to do in their circle of influence.
 
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership (DOM) for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association.
Posted on February 15, 2018 9:00 AM by Josh Carter
Categories: Leadership
 
As Pastors, how we engage culture matters. If we are honest, one of the critical ways we engage culture today is through the use of social media. Yet in a culture where anyone can say anything at anytime, when political polarization is an understatement and passions burn like wildfires, weighing the pros and cons of our social media presence can be a really difficult task. Let me ask you this question, have you ever written a post or comment only to delete what you wrote before you hit “send”? Why? 

For me, knowing what to post or when to comment can sometimes be a difficult challenge. I’ll give you a few examples. As I scrolled through Facebook recently (it could have just as easily been Twitter or another platform), here are some of the articles I came across:

•    Baker can refuse to make same-sex wedding cakes, judge rules
•    Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics
•    What Does It Mean to Be ‘Pro-Life’?
•    5 things husbands should do to become romantic

Honestly, there were probably several others that caught my eye too. Let’s be honest though, as pastors, we don’t have the bandwidth to like, share, repost, retweet, comment, or respond to comments on everything that catches our eye. I need some guidelines, some filters, in my life to help me think about when to post and comment.  Below are a few filters that I try to think through when deciding what I should share and when I need to just keep scrolling.
 
1) Is what I’m sharing a gospel issue? Don’t get me wrong, I post about my family, friends, and fun activities. I share jokes, commentary on sports events, vacations, and conferences. However, when it comes to sharing posts where I question “Will this stir controversy or get a lot of comments that I may ‘need’ to respond to,” the following filters are helpful. The first filter is always, is this a gospel issue. If the answer is yes, then I can proceed to the next filter.
 
2) Does this post (or article) help the people of my church and community better understand the gospel for themselves? Not every post or article, even if it is a gospel issue, helps to advance the gospel in the lives of the people I pastor or in the community I serve. Sometimes it’s because I’ve beaten a dead horse, meaning I’ve said and shared the issue so much that those who paid attention already get it and those who disagree are ignoring me altogether. Other times it’s as simple as the post or article is muddled in communicating the gospel. Finally, other times, the article is just so long that no one is going to read it all the way through. If I am struggling to read the whole article myself, it’s probably not one I want to pass along to burden others with too. Note, you actually have to read the article yourself to know these answers!
 
3) Am I passionate about what is being addressed? There is rarely sense in sharing a post or article that I myself don’t feel a certain level of passion about what is being addressed. My passion will lead to compassionate responses. If I am dispassionate about the topic, I’m usually quick to look for a way out, a shut-down comment to end the discussion. That leads to my last filter.
 
4) Do I have the time for follow-up comments and conversation? Honestly, this is a big one for me personally. Sharing the gospel and addressing gospel issues always takes time. As much as I would love to think that my wit and intellect are so amazing that people are just going to see how simple I have made an issue and agree with me, this is rarely the case. One-liners don’t shut down arguments, they shut down conversations, meaning I have lost the right or ability to speak truth into someone’s life. If I don’t have time to thoughtfully engage in a meaningful way, I often don’t share in the first place.
 
So this is just some of my process when discussing and sharing “hot-topics” on social media. Do you use these? What would you add to the list?
 
Posted on February 1, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Leadership, Missions
When I was in my 20s, I nearly died and was healed only by the Lord. During that rough time, a thought hit me: Is what I'm doing making a difference? Does it matter?

While I was attending a Purpose Driven Church workshop in 2005, I heard Rick Warren tell attendees to place greeters at their church doors that represented the kind of person that they wanted their church to attract. If that’s 90 year-old men, then that’s okay.

Who does your church attract? To whom does you ministry matter to the glory of God?

Two studies released in 2011 really got my attention. As a leader in the Orality Movement, I couldn't help but notice. One study was by the University of Nebraska and the other was by the American Sociological Association. They showed that whites in America with high school educations declined in their frequency of church attendance, while those with college degrees were the most frequent attenders today.

Churches have increasingly developed a literate culture. After all, we're "people of the Bible." Look at your own church. Does it have a literate worldview preference? is it attracting literates? Almost everything that most church leaders typically are taught to do supports a literate worldview. Projected scripture, reading verses from all over the Bible, using fill-in-the-blank handouts, summarizing biblical narratives, conducting word studies, and exegeting texts. Unfortunately, these things create a non-reproducible environment by church members. There is a disconnect from the general population by literate worldview believers who rarely attract people other than those who are like themselves.

Roughly half of everyone in America struggles with literacy at the level used in the Bible. That statistic is from the U.S. Dept. of Education who conducted adult literacy studies in 1993 and again in 2003.

Training that relies on the literate approach produces believers that cannot easily pass along what they have learned. They often become irrelevant; they don’t matter. Meanwhile, I have heard complaints from the most highly educated pastors as I have traveled the globe that church members are just not witnessing as they should. If making disciples is important, shouldn't we be reproducible among all people, even oral learners? If we just keep doing the same thing, then rank and file church members will just continue to put in a good word for Jesus or invite people to church to hear the pastor, experience the music, or have a Bible study explained to them. No wonder so many churches have turned worship services into what some are calling a show!

So the ways of learning, thinking, and communicating that are second nature to most homiletics professors are dependent on high levels of literacy. We have had literacy skills so long that we forget what it was like before we acquired them. So we seldom recognize the literateness of our homiletical methods. We expect our students to use these skills in preparing and presenting sermons, perhaps unwittingly to the detriment of their listeners. – Grant Lovejoy, “‘But I Did Such Good Exposition’: Literate Preachers Confront Orality.” Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 1 (December 2001): 22-32.

A pastor’s ability to explain the Bible to others is highly valued in training schools. However, is telling every detail of a passage the equivalent of a lawn sprinkler hoping some drops wet the random blade of grass? Are people staying with you or tuning you out? If you go deep, do they go with you?

Small groups that don’t lecture, but ask powerful open-ended questions do a great job at getting people to think. They interact with the text and can reproduce it orally in the workplace. Exegesis is not wrong, but it depends on who says it. If believers do the exegesis as the Holy Spirit leads them, then the church leader can do a better job of making disciples like Jesus did. And that matters.

Our association of churches is immersed in a community with one million unchurched and hundreds of thousands who are not born again. May we matter to them as we seek to be increasingly relevant. You may not be near death, but it never hurts to ask, "Is what I'm doing making a difference? Does it matter?"
Posted on January 30, 2018 5:50 PM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
If the devil can’t make us bad, he makes us busy.  It seems that in our culture today, the devil is quite successful.  We use the justification of busyness to excuse ourselves from many things of spiritual significance.  That’s true on a personal level and on a corporate church level as well.  As a church family, we can become so busy with meaningful activities that we can let the mission of the church become secondary.  So how do we keep the main thing, the main thing?
First, the leaders of the church must set the example in evangelism.  It begins with the pastor, the staff, the deacons, ministry directors and the Sunday School teachers.  The church looks to her leaders for evangelistic vision.  The leaders see it as their job to create an evangelistic climate in the church, and their love for the lost influences the culture of the church.  In a Sunday School class, the teacher’s burden for the lost permeates each lesson.  The outreach leader of the class works the prospect file so new people can be reached.  Even the class’s prayer time can have an evangelistic focus.  I know some teachers even offer an invitation in their classroom, at least once a quarter.  In an evangelistic church, the burden for the lost is evident in the hearts and lives of the church leaders.
Second, in evangelistic churches, the people gather with a motivation to reach people.  It is said that visitors decide whether they are coming back to a church within the first seven or eight minutes!  That’s long before the preacher preaches, or the worship service gets started.  Guests come into a new church needing to be warmly greeted by friendly members who can help them find the nursery, children’s department, etc.  Members who are mindful of lost people will seek out ways to help guests feel at home in the worship gathering.  Evangelistic church members realize that Sunday morning is for more than just worship.  Each year has 52 special evangelistic opportunities as the gospel is presented in the music, the message and the meaningful touches of a congregation that has a desire to see people saved.  Sunday School leaders with an evangelistic drive will be on the lookout for new prospects who can be led to Christ through the ministry of their small group.
Third, evangelistic churches live on mission after the worship gathering is over.  The congregation doesn’t just attend church, it is the church outside the building, touching lives in Jesus’ name.  In the workplace, evangelistic members see themselves as missionaries to a lost culture.  They look for opportunities to serve others and meet needs that they see.  As the opportunity arises, they know how to share their faith and lead others to make a decision for Christ.  Such a congregation of evangelistically-minded people will see themselves as missionaries to their neighborhoods and schools.  They recognize that the Great Commission is done primarily outside the church building.  A Sunday School class can engage lost people using various class projects.  I know of one Sunday School class that set up a day to give out cookies at the local supermarket, with a gospel tract included.  Another class went door to door in a retirement community, giving out chocolate bars with a homemade, evangelistic valentine’s day card included.  A class with a little creative effort can come up with many ways to serve and minister to people who desperately need the Lord.
The church is a family of friends on mission with God.  We must be cautious not to be so busy being a family of friends that we miss the fact that we are also on mission with God.  That’s the mindset of an evangelistic church.  Evangelism must never be sacrificed on the altar of busyness.
Posted on January 22, 2018 4:00 AM by David Frasure
Categories: Disciple-making
It has come to my attention lately that I have more years of life behind me than I do in front of me—at least physically speaking.  I have raised my children and now enjoy spoiling my grandchildren.  I’m so grateful that each of our six children are actively involved in good churches and they are helping their children to know and follow Jesus.  Nothing could make me happier. 
 
At this stage in life, I think it would be easy for me to kind of coast the rest of the way to the finish line and enjoy living in the joy of past success, but what a terrible waste that would be.  I attended a pastor’s conference last year and heard a speaker say that the most fruitful years for a pastor’s ministry are in his 60’s!  It seems appalling to me that I would even consider slowing down in one of the most productive times of life.  It would be like a football team that makes it to the red zone, 20 yards away from a touchdown, but always manages to fail in scoring.
 
All through the Bible we find passages that challenge us to invest in those who will come behind us—even if we are not related to those who will benefit from our investment!  This is a real legacy of love.  King David demonstrated his desire to invest in the next generation in 1 Chronicles 22.  He knew he would not be building a temple in Jerusalem.  That would be the task of his son, Solomon.  But David wanted to invest in the lives of those who would come behind him, so he began to set aside materials in his treasury that would later be used to construct one of the seven wonders of the ancient world—Solomon’s Temple.  In a sense, David was building a bridge that he would never cross.  He was planting a shade tree that he would never sit under.
 
Raising up champions for Christ requires that we have a great dream for the next generation to succeed.  As we envision their potential in the work of the kingdom, we are motivated to give of ourselves.  Self-centered living seems small and unworthy of our time, talents and treasures.  Such a dream, we know, honors the Lord God.  We never want to stop dreaming great things for God for we know His work will outlive us.  Our greatest epitaphs will be written upon the hearts of those who will carry on the work when we go on to heaven. 
 
Raising up spiritual champions requires a spirit of humility.  The Apostle Paul had such a spirit when he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”  A true servant is most blessed when the work flourishes after he is gone.  Such humility knows the need to partner with others with the same heart.  It is amazing what can be done if we don’t care who gets the credit.
 
Raising up future champions for Christ requires a new sense of priority.  It is always wise to stop from time to time to re-evaluate what or to whom we give ourselves.  Sure, we could focus on “seeing the world” or “retiring in comfort,” but how is that any different than the man who built more silos to house his bumper crop, so he could be at ease.  That’s not success.  The wonderful reality is that after we breathe our last, our influence really can live on in the lives of others.
 
On a personal level, as I consider how I want to invest my 60’s, I realize that there is no better way to devote my ministerial time than in raising up young champions for Christ.  I am so thankful for those who have invested in me.  I would not be where I am today without those faithful teachers, deacons and pastors who loved me and saw potential in me.  By their example and their ministry, they helped me to learn what it means to be a committed follower of Christ.  I find that I want to be that kind of pastor and I want to be a part of that kind of church.
Posted on January 19, 2018 10:00 AM by Mark Snowden
Categories: Missions
If this association was a Winter Olympic event, it would be bobsledding. The runners count to get in sync, run flat out, and jump in together. They cross a point in which an electronic eye starts a timer. Most of the other Olympic events start from a standstill. Like bobsledding athletes, our pastors enter the New Year on the move!

Two years ago, even in the interview process, I heard how this association needed to work through pastors to help them become sending and fully missional churches. And we are now beginning a new day of associational missions to fulfill that challenge.

The 2018 Winter Olympics are scheduled February 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. During January and February, world-class athletes will gather to practice and compete. And during January and February here in the Cincinnati Area, CABA is launching new ways to help pastors address lostness. In the last edition of Focus, we listed nearly 30 people that are active in serving CABA churches. What a joy to see the fruit of their godly labor begin to grow!

CABA’s bobsled is on the rails and we’re moving. Full-time, bivo, church planters alike. We’re not starting from a standstill, but entering the race against lostness at a good clip. The clock is ticking! Jesus promised to return and we don’t know the hour. The Lord has used the past to ready us for this day. This time.

And we’re off – helping our pastors address lostness through coaching, networking, and planting churches. Together.
 
Mark Snowden is the CABA Missions Catalyst and serves as Director of Missional Leadership (DOM).