The Bait & Switch Church?

It is called the bait and switch. That’s when one thing is advertised, usually at a great price, with the intention of substituting either something more costly or of less value. This tactic has been used for everything from automobiles to grocery store bargains. The goal is to get people in the door who otherwise would not be interested.

No one likes to be the subject of a bait and switch ruse. You may be asking what bait and switch has to do with the church. Plenty.

This quarter we have been looking at the Role of the Church in the Community. The emphasis, rightly so, has been the mission of the church. The church was organized for service. Serving our fellow man, both spiritually and physically is a major part of why we are banded together in church fellowship.

The integrity of our motives is called into question if our service and interest in non-members ends once they become members. Do we maintain the same care and concern in the formerly naked once they are clothed and in the formerly hungry once they are fed? Are we as concerned with meeting the real needs of our members as we are for those we are seeking to save? That answer should be always yes.

Service, meeting the needs of others, especially the less fortunate, is not meant to bait people into our fellowship. It is to be who we are — not what we use.

The early church of Acts still stands as the standard bearer for how a successful, growing church operates. One of its attributes was how members were cared for.

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Acts 2:44-45

The early church was but a reflection of their Master. Their care for each other was without limits. No one lived unto themselves. No one felt the temporal blessings they enjoyed was for them alone. They were all a part of one body. That is consistent with how the Apostle Paul describes the church body.

“But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-26

When Jesus bade others to follow Him, His love and concern for them did not diminish. Jesus assured those who had left all to follow Him that they had made the right decision.

“So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30

Jesus’ goal was not to add disciples for the sake of numbers. Neither can that be the goal of the church. Our goal of engaging in acts of kindness and service must be more than a mechanism to increase our membership rolls. We love and care for others, especially those who are in the household of faith, because He first loved us and He has set the example for us to follow.

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Gal. 6:10

Jesus Won Their Confidence

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

Usually when I think about that quote it is in the context of how to influence non-Christians for Christ; meet their needs, gain their trust and see them become disciples. All of that is applicable, but today I realized for the first time that for many in the church, myself foremost, this is the strategy Christ is using on us.For many years I’ve read this quote that has been the focus of our recent lessons. It serves as a blueprint for the evangelistic outreach of the church. So simple yet so encompassing that no one can deny the effectiveness of the strategy. However, I have been applying it to the wrong people. Continue reading

Jesus Showed Compassion

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” That was the opening line in the television series Mission: Impossible. The show was based around a group of secret government agents who would be given, via a tape recording, secret tasks of grave danger. After delineating what the mission entailed, the recording would go on to say that if they were caught or killed, the Secretary would disavow any knowledge of their actions.

The memory text for this week is but a small part of a larger story. As usual large crowds flocked to Jesus. As he looked out on the vast throng of needy people the Bible describes His feelings.A core of willing and capable individuals, working as a team to do a seemingly impossible job, was the premise of the show. Those qualities come to mind in this week’s lesson on Jesus Showed Sympathy.

“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14

Continue reading

Jesus Desired Their Good

I suspect there is nothing in this lesson that we don’t already know. That’s not a bad thing. It is good to be reminded of truths we hold dear. It’s good to reexamine the stories of the Bible that illustrate the love and compassion of Christ. What is troubling is that we often have difficulty putting what we know into practical use.

As a church family, we may need to have more honest conversations about what we are trying to accomplish, and if we are reaching those goals. If not, it is healthy to have a discussion on how we can do things better.

The church of 2016 is vastly different than the church a decade ago. The urban sprawl that has changed the landscape of our communities has also affected how we operate as a church. In many of our churches, especially in our larger cities, the demographics of the attendees is often strikingly different from those who live in the community.

Members like myself commute weekly into the church. Our missionary outreach efforts are mostly confined to the organized church initiatives that are placed on our church calendars. That fact alone makes it very challenging to build a consistent influence in our communities. How this adversely affects what we do as a church in our communities cannot be overstated. If we are serious as a church in fulfilling our gospel commission this issue must be addressed. Continue reading

Jesus Mingled With People

He saw something no one else saw. In those despised by society, He saw royalty – Sons and daughters of God. Though far away from Him, they were loved, cherished and not forgotten. He heard something that no one else heard. He heard the heart cries of publicans and sinners when no one cared enough to listen. He heard their cries for a better life. He heard their cries for deliverance from the chains that bound them to lives not in harmony with their purpose.

“This man receiveth sinners” Luke 15:2

His approach to ministry was strikingly different than those who were the pillars of society. There was no pretentiousness in His dealings with those He met. The Bible simply says, “and the common people heard him gladly.” Mark 12:37 His love and compassion broke down barriers of suspicion and mistrust. His kindness disarmed the skeptical. His words of truth penetrated minds who were the objects of scorn and derision by the religious rulers. He came to give life, and life more abundantly, even to the least of these.

It’s that same love and compassion that has brought us into the family of God. His methods, when adopted by His servants, still have power to change lives for eternity. This week we have an opportunity to reexamine the methods of Jesus. Not only how He did what He did, but why. Continue reading

Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1

As an American, I find the timing of this week’s lesson on Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1 providential. Our nation, not unlike nations around the world, is grappling with social unrest that includes the question of Justice and Mercy. How justice is meted out and how mercy is applied leaves a lot to be desired.

As the church of today wrestles with the controversial and many times explosive issues of our generation, we know one thing – we should be different. The church should be the salt that seasons with love, kindness, forbearance and tolerance all who come within the sphere of its influence. Unfortunately, in too many cases what we should be is not what we actually are.The church, made up of individuals of our communities, finds itself hard-pressed to offer any meaningful solutions to the questions of the day. Do we the church serve as the light out of the darkness around us or have we become silent observers?

I’m convinced that the answers for the church and society at large are found in the written Word of God. We all have our opinions and although well meaning, we often take up ways of thinking that are contrary to God’s will for our lives. We need divine guidance for our journey through this life.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 Continue reading

Restoring Dominion

We live in a world obsessed with a quest for dominion. Brutal crimes are perpetrated, schemes of deception are levied against the helpless and the strong take from the weak. Innocent lives are wiped out en masse with little recourse to justice in large part due to a quest for dominion.

Man was given dominion over all earthly life when he stood innocent in the Garden of Eden. His rule of care and direction was a characteristic of his God-given power. It was an element of his perfection.Church politics, once an aberration, is now considered the norm. Jockeying for influence, power and control in the church has resulted in the development of institutions of religion that are far from righteous.

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”Genesis 1:31

Continue reading