Preacher's Blog

Preacher's Blog

About the Author: I am Joshuah Ellis and I have been working, full time, with the Hub City church of Christ since June 1, 2016. I have never considered myself much of a writer. Perhaps that is why I like the blog format so much. For me, it feels like there is less pressure to be perfect with a blog as opposed to a more formal article In this blog, you will find personal stories, anecdotes, humor and maybe a bit of sarcasm, but the aim of each post will be the same: to encourage, inspire, and challenge the readers to dig deeper and work harder in their service to God. If you would like to offer feedback, leave a comment or contact me here.

 

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Joshuah Ellis

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5 Easy Ways to Evangelize Today

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

For some reason, it seems that talking to other people about the Gospel is one of the hardest things for Christians to do. Why is that? We all know that it is important. We all know that we should be spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We even understand that it is a vital part of our own obedience to God. Then, why does it seem so stinking hard? Is it because we lack confidence? It is because we lack knowledge? Is it because we feel our personality type is not conducive to evangelism? I think if we are honest, we’ll admit that it is probably a combination of all of those things. So today, I want us to think small. Here are 5 things you can do today to evangelize.

1. Read your Bible in public. You can read, right? I sure hope so because if not, this post you clicked on is going to be a real downer. Have you ever thought of taking your Bible to work and doing your daily reading during your lunch break? It really is that simple. I do need to say, though, that attitude is very important here. This is not something that is to be done for accolades from other people like the hypocrites Jesus spoke of (Matthew 6:5). It is, however, a great way to let your light shine and begin to establish influence with other people (Matthew 5:16).

2. Talk about worship. Sounds easy enough. That’s because it is. When you get to work or school on Monday, bring up something you learned from Bible class or the sermon. You don’t have to re-preach anything. Just make mention of something. “Yesterday our preacher talked about the power of prayer and it really reminded me about how my prayer life should be.” That’s it. This is another great way to establish influence among your peers.

3. Hand someone a card. It could be a business card for the church, preacher, or yourself. It really doesn’t even have to be a card. Just hand out something with the church’s information on it. You can do this as you leave the store. You can leave it with your tip at a restaurant. The great thing about this is that you don’t even have to say anything if you don’t want to. Just hand someone the card, wish him/her well, and be on your merry way.

4. Invite someone to services. Ok for this one, you will need to say something. But, it’s not much. All you have to do is extend and invitation. “Hey our preacher is going to be talking about ________________ this Sunday. You should come check it out.” They may or may not agree to come, and that’s ok. The main thing is that you are getting in the habit of inviting people. A little tip here: Don’t ask a question that someone can say “no” to.  Instead of “Do you want to come…?” say “Why don’t you come…?”

5. Make a plan. Sometimes we forget things that we don’t schedule. Evangelism tends to take the back burner to life sometimes because our lives are so busy. However, if you make a plan, then you have a better shot at a solid follow-through. You can start small if you want. Resolve to perform one of the 4 previously mentioned tasks at least once/day for a week. Then, just see how it goes. You might surprise yourself with the number of opportunities to evangelize that you didn’t previously notice.

These might seem a bit overly simple, but that’s the point. Of course, this blog is intended to provide a starting point for evangelism. Hopefully, by using these simple tips, our skills can become more refined so that we feel more comfortable getting even more involved with sharing the Gospel.

Maybe you like to do something that I did not mention. Leave me a comment and let me know what works best for you in the area of personal evangelism.

How to Deal with the Less Spiritually Minded

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

I think every Christian has probably seen this. That person who claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t really act like it. They miss services all the time, and when they come they don’t look like they take worship very seriously. They’re always late. They never speak up during Bible class. They never volunteer to do anything at the church building. They look like they're just giving the bare minimum. Man, how frustrating!!! Here I am, over in my corner of the world, and I read my Bible every day. I teach Bible class. I attend every service. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all that I possess. I sure am glad I am not like this one over here who is clearly less spiritually minded than I.

See where this is going?

So what are we supposed to do about this? How do we deal with those in the church we feel are just marking time while some of us are breaking our backs for the Lord?

1. Remember that what you see might not be an accurate portrayal of what is true. I know I know…Jesus said, “by their fruits, you will know them,” right? The thing is, though, you might not be aware of the fruit that person is producing. It is possible that what you see in this person is not all that’s there. A preacher once told me about a family in his congregation who had their kids involved in sports, which took they away from services quite often. He thought, “What kind of family would put extra-curricular activities before God?” Then he realized that this family single handedly supported a preacher who was working abroad in furthering the Gospel. What kind of people are they? The kind that do more than most in supporting the teaching of the Gospel. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying one cancels out the other. My point is simply that maybe we don’t know the whole story.

2. Remember that just because they don’t imitate you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t imitate Christ. We have trouble sometimes with people who don’t serve God the way we do. If I read my Bible when I wake up because I feel it is important to begin the day in the Word, it is hard for me to consider that some prefer to start their day with a cup of coffee and their social media. Does this really say anything about the quality of their service though? Maybe they read their Bible in the afternoon. Think about the apostles of Jesus and their differences. Paul was tough, Peter was emotional, and John was softhearted. Can we really say that one was more faithful than the other because they did things differently? I don’t think so. We should be very careful about trying to get people to be like us rather than like Christ.

3. Remember to meet people where they are? Let’s say that you are more spiritually minded than this other person. How should you treat that person? I am reminded of Paul at the Areopagus in Acts 17. The people in Athens were heathens! They had even built an altar to “the unknown god,” and if Paul had wanted to, he could have obliterated them with what he knew. What did he say though? Do you remember? He told them that he could see that they were very religions (Acts 17:22). He then proceeded to teach them the truth about God (Acts 17:24-28). If you’re knowledge is greater than another person regarding the Bible, it doesn’t make you better, it just means that you have the responsibility to be a loving teacher (Ephesians 4:15).

I know that it can be frustrating and discouraging when we perceive that some people don’t take their relationship with the Lord as seriously as we do. Still, we need to be very careful about drawing conclusions from our very limited information lest our behavior become less like Jesus than those toward whom we tend to be critical. I know it is unlikely that we would identify with the Pharisee in Luke 18, but we might be closer to that example than we realize. Just remember to stay humble, be a teacher, and remember that Christ is the standard for all of us.

Why Can't I Stop Sinning?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

When my oldest, who is now 8, was a bit younger, he had this awful pair of flip-flops that he loved to wear. The problem with them was that the strappy things on top were a bit too loose. So, when he would walk, the soles would get caught on the ground, he would trip, and then he would hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. We tried to get him to wear other shoes. We explained to him that he wouldn’t trip so often if he would only pick up his feet a bit more, but nothing helped. Finally one day he had enough. He tripped, yet again, but this time, my boy (who is usually very mild tempered) picked himself up, and in a moment of total exasperation screamed, “WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS?”

The spiritual parallel isn’t hard to see, is it? Don’t we, all too often, find ourselves stumbling in sin? Aren’t we, all too often, frustrated with ourselves for our mistakes? Haven’t we, all too often, been given the instruction and guidance necessary to keep us from our mistakes? Think about it. How many times have you caught yourself asking forgiveness from God for the same sin over and over, sometimes even in the same day? What is it that makes overcoming sin so hard? Why do we keep doing this? Why can’t we stop sinning? The following are a few reasons that might help:

1. I can’t stop sinning because I try to do it without God. Have you ever felt like your efforts to avoid sin are something you do for God instead of with God? I sure have. I have felt that avoiding sin is my job and mine alone. The problem with this is that God wants to help us get out of sin, not watch us get out of sin. Frankly, we're nuts if we think we can stop sinning on our own and then stand before God in our perfection. God is essential for our victory over sin (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). So what’s the take-away? Pray, study, and serve God through your struggles, not after you have overcome them.

2.  I can’t stop sinning because I’m trying to stop sinning. I know how this sounds, but stay with me here. The idea that sin is to be avoided is absolutely biblical (1 Thessalonians 5:22). However, what if our attitude about this is counterproductive? What if we, instead of allowing our sin and struggles to consume us every day, decide to place our focus on Jesus Christ? The Hebrew writer talks about laying aside our sin and looking unto Jesus, right (Hebrews 12:1-2)? When we choose to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) and think on the things God tells us to (Philippians 4:8), then there will be no room in our hearts and minds for any sin. It is hard for sin to find its way into someone who is sufficiently filled with Jesus Christ.

3.  I can’t stop sinning because is am too involved with the world. Again, I know how it sounds. After all, how can we not be involved in the world? We live here, right? But just because we live here, it doesn’t mean we make this our home. We are not designed to sin. We are designed to be reconciled to God! He has made every provision to ensure this (John 3:15, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13). However, in the same way that my son did not want to throw out those disastrous flip-flops, sometimes we don’t want to loosen our grip on this world. Following God is easy (Matthew 11:30). We make it hard because we want to live both for God and for ourselves, which is impossible (Matthew 6:24). Let go of the world and run, full speed, to your Heavenly Father. You might be amazed at what happens in your life.

You will be happy to know that my boy eventually got rid of the offending footwear and has been walking erect ever since. It was a simple solution to a harmful problem. I hope that as you read this, you are being reminded that God has given us the solution to our problem in the wisdom of His Word (2 Timothy 3:16) through the blood of His son (Hebrews 9:28).

Please Help Me! From a Christian Parent to the Congregation

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In 2011, when my wife and I went from 1 kid to 3 within a timespan of 10 days, there were times when I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it. As a preacher, I was obviously no help during worship because I wasn’t even sitting in our pew to help my wife wrangle the rugrats during worship. It didn’t take long before various members of the congregation swooped in and grabbed a kid so that they were all taken care of and also so that my wife could have a chance to worship.

I have never been with a congregation who didn’t love the kiddos. As a parent, that is amazing. As a preacher and a parent, it is a blessing. However, there are days that I leave worship so frustrated I can’t even think. My kids act up from time to time, but that’s not the cause of the frustration. After all, they’re kids. My frustration comes from a place of guilt and shame because I feel that your worship has been compromised because of my kids’ behavior. On those days I am sad because I feel like you have been cheated out of your opportunity to focus on our Heavenly Father and worship Him. I know you love my kids, and I am so grateful that you do. I know you think they’re adorable and funny. I do too. So please know that the following requests are not because you have done something wrong. I ask them of you because I love you, because I don’t want to rob you of your worship, and because I am trying to teach my little critters to love and serve the Lord. All I am asking is that you please help me.

Please help me by ignoring their questions. I know it sounds harsh, but it is the best way to teach them not to be disruptive. I feel that they need to see that during worship, God get’s all of our attention. If they whisper a question to me during a prayer, I do not answer. My communication with God is more important than the piece of gum they are requesting.  If they talk during the sermon, I try to ignore it because that is my opportunity to grow and I hope that by modeling proper respect during the assembly, they will see its importance and imitate it. There are always exceptions, I know, but this is the standard we are trying to establish.

Please help me by not laughing at them. I know, believe me, this is hard. When a 3-year-old is imitating the song leader or sticking a finger in the nose of his parents, it’s funny. When my 4-year-old waited for the quietest point of the service to shout, “I have to pee!” it’s funny. However, when they hear laughter, it reinforces that behavior. If they learn that acting out during worship elicits a positive response from people they love, they will never stop acting out. Remember, my first priority is to follow’s God’s guidance in raising my kids (Ephesians 6:4).

Please help me by being on my side. When one of my kids has to be taken out because of repeated bad behavior, I need you to be on my side. When I get the “you’re a mean parent” stare or “that poor baby” frown, it feels like my efforts are being undermined. I am not the bad guy. I am the one who is trying to cultivate a love for God in tiny hearts. Sometimes, that means there are consequences for bad behavior. My consistency and resolve is preparing them to serve a God who will never tolerate sin, regardless of how cute the sinner may be.

My kids are a blessing to our congregation. I know that, and you know that. However, they are terrible at being God. Therefore, they do not deserve your attention during a time that has been set aside for the Lord beyond what is necessary to ensure their needs are being met. That time is for you and our Heavenly Father. I hope you know that I don’t write this in an attempt to tell you what to do, or to make you afraid to engage with my kids at the church building. I just wanted you to know what it’s like from my perspective. I know there are days when I don’t follow my own rules and all of these sentiments go up in flames. However my goal, always, is to do what I can to point those around me to Jesus, even if it means looking past my own children.

When Going to Church Stops Being Fun

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

You’ve felt it, haven’t you? You wake up on Sunday morning and realize that for the past several weeks (or even months) you are not excited to go to worship. Maybe the singing hasn’t been that great in your opinion. Maybe the sermons have seemed dull and uninspiring. Maybe you aren’t feeling very connected to the other members. Whatever the reason, it just feels like going to worship is work and you are tired of it.

Before we go on, it is important to see that there are two very important aspects to this scenario. First, there is the mental/emotional aspect, or the way that you are thinking or feeling about going to worship and engaging. Then, there is the behavioral aspect. This represents the actions you are taking, or what you are doing regardless of how you feel about it. A good way to understand these two elements is by thinking about a time when you went to work/school when you didn’t really want to. You behaved a certain way regardless of your feelings. The opposite situation would be one in which you really wanted a snack, but didn’t get up to get one because you were already sat down or in bed. The point here is that sometimes our feelings and actions don’t always match up and the goal here is to make them match up. However, it is often easier to change our behavior than it is to change our feelings. Sometimes, it is possible to change our behavior in such a way that begins to change our feelings. So, the following are a few behavior changes we can make that can help change the way you feel about worship.

1. Engage. This is behavioral, not mental. Engage means that when you show up to worship, you make the decision to be present. Sing to the best of your ability. Listen intently to the lesson. Shake hands after worship. Make conversation with the other members even if you’re not feeling it. Often, when we are feeling lethargic about worship, we show up and wait for something/someone to make us feel better, which doesn’t always happen. When we choose to take ownership of our involvement we begin to take the first steps beck toward that excitement we once had rather than putting it on something out of our control.

2. Study your Bible. I know it sounds basic and cliché, but it is really true. We know that the Word of God is powerful. However, the mental aspect here is significant as well. When we read for fun, work or school. That information is fresh on our minds. It influences our thinking patterns and even our conversation. I read something the other day for my Economic Psych class and within an hour I was chatting up my very patient wife about loss aversion and prospect theory. These are things I never cared about before but they were influencing my conversation. What we put into our minds alters our behavior. Put God’s Word in your mind, and it might change more than you realize.

3. Set yourself up to win. I wrote a blog a few weeks back about preparing for a smooth Sunday morning. Check that out here if you like. The reason for good preparation is that it can change how you behave and feel. For example, I have my exit exam for my Master’s program coming up and it’s a big one. I am horrible at studying and wasn’t making adequate time for it. Why? Because, it’s not fun. So I put my study guide book next to my bed. Just by making that small change and preparing differently, I am now studying more frequently. It’s still not fun, but it is getting easier. Simple behavioral changes like that can make a big difference in our behavior, which can in turn begin to change our feelings.

I am going to leave it there for today. Now, you have 3 small manageable changes that you can make if you are not feeling super excited about worship. Remember though, these items are not the solution; they are simply tools you can use to jump-start your way back to that conviction you once had. Remember, please, weakness does not make you bad. It just makes you human. Identify your weaknesses so that you can know what you need to work on.

If there is something that you do to get yourself back on track when you’re feeling unmotivated, leave it in the comments below.

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