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What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
In its annual American Worldview Inventory report, the Cultural Research Center announced the results of a nationwide survey that revealed, among other things, that only six percent of American adults hold a biblical worldview—an all-time low. For some, this statistic might be just another number. But for others, this statistic is deeply discouraging because it is indicative of their friends and family leaving the Christian faith.Many Christians are taught how to share the gospel with non-Christians, but what’s often not taught is how to respond when those who were raised within the church, have heard the truth, and even perhaps once believed in the gospel walk away from the faith. Individuals may choose to leave Christianity for a variety of reasons, perhaps because of a painful experience (e.g., a church split or being a victim of abuse), doubts left unanswered (or feeling rejected when their doubts are voiced), or a sin they want to participate in. No matter the reason, Christians need to respond to our friends’ situations and choices with grace, humility, and compassion.Here are four steps you can take when responding to a friend who has announced they are leaving the faith.1. Listen and LearnListen to what your friend has to say. James wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). If your friend is willing to share their reasoning for leaving the faith, it is best to hear them out rather than berating them or getting defensive. Choosing to leave the Christian faith is no small decision, one your friend has most likely wrestled with in private. Your friend’s heart will likely grow harder towards Christianity if you respond to their decision with hostility and rebuke.Listening will also provide you with an opportunity to learn any areas in which your discipleship of them or fellowship with them as believers may have fallen short. Do not assume that you already know why your friend is making this choice. If they are willing to confide in you, be fully present and listen to their story.2. Ask QuestionsAfter your friend has confided in you, you can ask questions. Some of the best questions to start with are:What has led to this decision?What has been hard?What has been good?Tell me more about that.What do you need right now?By asking thoughtful questions, you can learn how your friend has been processing, thinking, and reasoning through this choice. Your job in these conversations is not to be right, win a debate, or convince your friend to change their mind. Instead, your job is to seek to understand how they came to their conclusions. Leaving the faith is a serious choice, and we must take our friends seriously and choose our words judiciously: “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Prov. 21:23).3. Offer EncouragementOffer encouragement to your friend. That is to say, do not encourage them to leave the faith. Instead, encourage them by letting them know that they are not alone in struggling with their faith.Being a Christian comes at a price. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). He also said that the world would hate and despise those who love and follow Him (John 18:15-25). Being a Christian also does not mean never struggling with sin or having doubts. In Romans 7, Paul describes the struggle with sin that Christians will continue to have.We should reassure those who are thinking of leaving the faith that it is okay to have doubts, falter, struggle with sin, or be weary or afraid. Be careful not to puff yourself up (1 Cor. 8:1). Instead, show your friend empathy, remembering that you are a human as well. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ask God for the words to say to encourage your friend.4. PrayFinally, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Only God can change your friend’s heart and mind. It is God who turns the heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26). Pray to have the self-control to listen, the wisdom to ask good questions and seek understanding, and the love and courage necessary to uplift your friend and speak life into their situation if invited. Do not give unsolicited advice but keep that door open and pray that the words of your mouth would be pleasing to God (Ps. 19:14). Pray for your friend’s healing and renewed trust. Pray that God would reveal Himself to your friend and that they would respond and not reject the truth. Also, invite other Christians to pray with you for those you know who are leaving the faith.Our hearts should break for those who are discouraged, scared, or disillusioned and are considering leaving the faith. We must continuously build one another up in Christ:Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:23-25)
Pastoral and discipleship guidance for navigating these complicated holidays.
Old-fashioned preaching and discipleship can confront the conspiracies that threaten how we know truth.
3 Aspects of the Normal Christian Life It's a question I have heard frequently—perhaps daily—for over ten months: “When is life going to get back to normal?”Sometimes it takes other forms: “Will things ever get back to normal?” “Is this going to be the new normal?”The civil unrest of earlier this year, the political angst of this election season, and the violence in DC last week have only made our hearts yearn more for “normal.”I strongly believe that, as far as Covid itself is concerned, we will get past it and that God will bring lasting good from it. But none of us can predict the future with certainty, which includes describing what “normal” will look like tomorrow or next year or twenty years from now.But I believe that one blessing of the past ten months—Covid and all—will be if Christians rediscover the normal Christian life.It's a sad reflection on our hunger for God that when Christians voice their desire for “normal” it is usually talking about the normal routines of being able to eat inside a restaurant or go through a checkout line without a mask.Could it be that we no longer long for what the first-century churches in Acts experienced as the normal Christian life?When you read Acts and understand some of the historical and political events that happened concurrently to the exploding growth of the early church, it's a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit through what should be the ordinary routines of the Christian life.The Christians in Acts faced cultural division, prejudice, religious hypocrisy, and outright persecution from their government. But they also experienced the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. I'm hungry to see that kind of normal.What were the “normal” factors of the early church?1. PrayerThere is hardly a page in the book of Acts without a reference to prayer. It seems the apostles and the early church Christians prayed in every situation. And God answered their prayers.These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.—Acts 1:14And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—Acts 2:42And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.—Acts 4:31Prayer should be as normal to the Christian life as breathing. And fervent, regular, importunate, intercessory prayer should be the norm—not the exception—among God's people.The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.—James 5:162. PraiseNo matter what was happening in the larger picture of culture, including how that influenced direct persecution of Christians, the early church praised God.Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.—Acts 2:47And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.—Acts 5:41And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.—Acts 16:25Do you think the average Christian today is known for their high view of God and constant praise of Him? Or do you think they are more known for their views on the pandemic, politics, personal disappointments…? God inhabits the praises of His people. May we be people of praise.Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;—Philippians 2:14–153. Proclaiming ChristThe early church just never stopped proclaiming the gospel. For too long now, American Christians have allowed others to drive the narrative in our country to one cause or another. It's time for God's people to drive the narrative back to Jesus Christ.The gospel spread in the first century because Christians shared it.And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.—Acts 5:42And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.—Acts 8:25Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. … Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.—Acts 8:4–5, 35And there they preached the gospel. … And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,—Acts 14:7, 21I find that statements about the importance of declaring the gospel are easy for Christians to agree with. But are you doing it? Have you told anyone this week how they can find forgiveness and salvation through Jesus? This month? Last year?Yes, the pandemic has made some of our normal methods of outreach less feasible. So let's find new ones. If you can't talk with people door-to-door in your community, can you canvass and leave gospel flyers? Can you visit new move ins? Can you visit your neighbors while wearing a mask? Can you post your testimony on social media?For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16These three activities—prayer, praise, and proclaiming Christ—aren't reserved for certain people or only practiced by the spiritually mature. They are baseline discipleship. They are the normal Christian life.Let's not give up on the essential aspects of our faith.Let's not allow current events to disrupt the basics of our love and loyalty to Christ.Let's get back to normal—the normal Christian life.
Amber Stewart is the Discipleship Support and First Impressions Director at New Hope Baptist
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