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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It is a sad reality that the Lord’s Church is facing these days. So many congregations who were, at one time, strong and thriving are essentially dying out. One day, the last song will be sung in these buildings and the doors will close forever. It has been common practice among Christians to blame the disintegration of these churches on the world. We complain about society’s increased wickedness and the demoralization of the human race and say, “that’s the reason we’re not growing!”
I’m not even going to get into everything that’s wrong with that statement, but I am going to suggest that our efforts would be better spent looking inward at the struggling congregation than outward on whatever circumstances may be present. So, here is some insight from the Bible as to why your congregation is dying.
1. Laziness. Yeah, you heard me. Laziness. Too often it falls upon the shoulders of a few people to make sure that everything gets done. The preaching, song leading, teaching, building upkeep, evangelism, EVERYTHING? Why is this? Because the rest of the membership identifies themselves with an “I’m not” statement. “I’m not a song leader.” “I’m not a public speaker.” “I’m not good at talking to people.” Maybe not, BUT YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! And, Christians should be working (Romans 12:11). Everyone has jobs, families, and life stuff to deal with, but sometimes Christians need to step up, not because they possess a particular gift, but because the work needs to be done.
2. Ignorance. Unfortunately, there are many congregations suffering because they just don’t know their Bible well enough. When you are ignorant about God’s Word, your faith will always suffer (Romans 10:17). As a result, the congregation suffers as a whole (1 Corinthians 10:26). Numerical growth, even if it does happen, will not yield godly results in the absence of spiritual growth. Reading your Bible on Sunday and Wednesday is just not enough. You have to know the word of God in order to ensure the strength of the body of which you are a member.
3. Animosity. It’s sad but true. When congregations are so overcome by their own drama that they can’t even be kind to one another, failure is inevitable. But why? After all, sometimes people just don’t get along right? Sure. However, Christians’ love for one another is how our discipleship is identified (John 13:35). So, when Christians are unkind to one another, their discipleship is compromised. How can we expect to convert sinners in the world and ask them to come and be a part of our misery?! It’s ridiculous. Granted, conflicts are natural, but if they are not dealt with in a godly way, that congregation is doomed.
4. Fear. This baffles me, honestly. Here we are: Christians; the children of the Living God, heirs of Salvation, and we are too often hiding in dark corners because we are too scared to make a stand for what is right. Why? Because, we don’t want people to laugh at us. We don’t want to be made fun of. We would rather drown in the sin, which surrounds us than rise up and take a stand. Sure, we live in a big scary world, but we serve the God who spoke it into existence and He gave us not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
5. Complaining. Boy, does this happen a lot! For some reason we just forget how blessed we are and just start complaining. Everyone has bad days, but when this becomes a default setting it is devastating to a congregation. “We’re too small.” “We don’t have elders.” This guy can’t sing.” “That guy can’t preach.” “That church isn’t sound.” “The world is sinful.” “Nobody cares.” When we think in problems and not solutions, nothing gets done. Paul told us that how we speak matters, especially pertaining to this (Ephesians 4:29). A congregation has little hope when griping takes the place of gratitude and action.
All this being said, there is still the adversary who is out there trying to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). The scary thing is that sometimes it’s the Christians who are making his job VERY easy. While these may have not contributed to every single dying church, it is safe to say that many congregations would not be facing the difficulties they are if they would simply work on these 5 areas. As the Lord’s church, we should be growing and thriving, not vanishing into obscurity and each of us has role to play.
Warning: This blog contains a fair amount of sarcasm. Reader discernment is advised.
It’s 2017 and people are still the same. You can’t really count on many people. Maybe there are one or two folks in your life whom you trust but that’s about it. I am sure that you, like so many, have been burned or taken advantage of in some way, let down by someone you thought was your friend; and there is no way that you are going to let that happen again.
In addition, you love the Lord and you want to serve Him as a faithful Christian. The solution to this conundrum? Become a self-sufficient Christian. After all, why shouldn’t you be able to get to heaven on your own? The following is a list of things you must do in order to become a fully self-sufficient Christian:
1. Shut out other Christians. You’ll still be willing to help them out when they need it, but the self-sufficient Christian cannot be so vulnerable as to rely on others when he is struggling. This really isn’t consistent with Paul’s admonition for Christians to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but at least you can “half-way” fulfill the law of Christ.
2. Get comfortable with weakness. Since you don’t want to have to rely on anyone, you are going to want to start acclimating yourself to a lot of struggles. This is simply the opportunity cost of self-sufficiency. Just because the wisest man to ever live wrote, by the inspiration of God, that we are weaker alone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), it doesn’t mean that it is not the right choice for you.
3. Weaken the Body of Christ. Self-sufficiency comes at a price, but so do a lot of valuable things. Since you are determined to be self-sufficient to the detriment of your own strength, you should be ok with the effect that has on the rest of the Body (Romans 12:5). After all, I’m sure someone else can pick up your slack.
4. Disregard God’s Wisdom. God created woman because he saw that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). He commands us to assemble on the first day of the week so that we can admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). He teaches us that the church becomes stronger when we work together (Ephesians 4:16). Being a self-sufficient Christian means acknowledging that God’s design just doesn’t work for you.
Obviously, this blog is a testament to the fact that one cannot be a self-sufficient Christian and succeed spiritually, and no amount of “one man on a desert island” hypothetical arguments can change that. We have been designed to work together. This means that at times we offer help, and at times we accept help. It might not be the easiest thing to do; relying on other people, that is. However, those other people are who God himself has surrounded you with. So, one could reason that to refuse the help of another person is to refuse the help of God.
Remember, the devil wants you alone because then you are easier to pick off (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t make it that easy.
It might be a knee-jerk reaction that would take place if you were to ask a Christian if he is devoted to seeing the will of God carried out in his life. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know who professes to follow after Jesus who might answer, “no” to that question. However, I wonder if we are as committed to God’s will as we think we are. It’s not my intention to be critical here, or even to suggest that most Christians have it wrong. I do think, however, that maybe we sometimes misunderstand God’s will for our lives and as a result, make the honest, but dangerous, mistake of disregarding it.
The following are a few things we need to know about the will of God for our lives if we are to be true followers of it.
1. God’s will for our lives is not a secret. So often, I here people talking about life decisions as if God has yet to reveal to them what He wants them to do. In all reality though, God, through His Word, has given us complete and perfect revelation with which we are able to make any decision (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There will be no special revelation, no tingling sensation, no ethereal moment during which we will just “know” what God wants from us and for us. There is only His Word.
2. God’s will for our lives is not situational. What the Lord requires of us does not vary from situation to situation. He doesn’t want us to focus on Him in one instant and then focus on ourselves in another. God is the same, always (James 1:17). Solomon wrote the whole duty of man was the fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus said to seek first God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33), to love God and your fellow man (Mark 12:30-31), and Paul compared our lives to a race that is to be run straight to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). There are other examples, but the sentiment is the same. Our chief responsibility is to serve and please God regardless of the situation.
3. God’s will for your life might not be what you are currently doing. I know how this sounds, believe me. You are a good person, right. You have a good life and nobody is getting hurt. That, however, is not the standard for living. Maybe you don’t have dead bodies buried in your back yard, but you might not be fulfilling your God-given responsibilities either. Don’t let your comfort level be the determining factor in how you live your life. You might have a good job, healthy family, and financial security. However, if your job and even your family keep you from serving God in any way you are not following His will for your life.
4. God’s will may make us uncomfortable. I can’t imagine Abram was super comfortable when he was commanded by God to leave his homeland (Genesis 12:1). I would imagine his discomfort level went through the proverbial roof when God commanded him to kill his son (Genesis 22:2). Wouldn’t it be foolish of us, then, to think that serving God can only be done within the confines of our comfort zones? Are you willing to move your family, forsake a loved one, deny yourself, take a pay cut, give up what is dear to you, or anything else in order to serve God. If not, you might not be as dedicated to the Lord’s will as you think you are.
5. God’s will always leads you to heaven. It may be hard to follow at times and applying God’s will to your specific circumstances can be confusing. However, if you succeed, and truly submit to the will of the Lord, your reward is secure (Hebrews 10:36).
I hope this helps you as you seek to identify and adhere to God’s will for your life and I pray that you are successful in your perseverance and submission.
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I think that most people will agree that being a Christian means more than just attending a worship service a few times a week and saying a prayer before meals and before bed. The problem, sometimes, is though we know we ought to be out in the world, preaching the gospel to anyone who will hear it (Matthew 28:19), loving our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and even our enemies (Luke 6:35), we don’t always see opportunities to carry these commands out. What about a lazy Saturday at home with the family? There might not be that many evangelical opportunities on a day like this, so are we to take it as a day off from our God-given responsibilities? Absolutely not.
I have found that sometimes Christians spend more time waiting for an opportunity to serve God than actually serving God. So, a few years back I devised a checklist of 5 things that Christians can do each day to stay active in the service of the Lord. These 5 items are by no means all we can do. However, if you find yourself struggling to figure out how you can serve God today, they can certainly serve as a place to start.
All you need to do is remember to “SPEEK.”
1. Study. Your Bible, that is. Whether you are doing a chronological reading plan, a chapter a day or simply cracking your Bible open to a random place and reading there, you must be in the Word daily. How else can you expect to grow if you are not taking some time, every day, to learn more about God’s will for your life (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?
2. Pray. God speaks to us through His word and we speak to Him through prayer. This is the only way to keep the 2-way communication between God and us alive. I am not simply talking about the few seconds before we eat and the few minutes before we go to bed, though. Our prayer life needs to be a vital part of our day. Whether this is done in a more formal setting or a few words here and there as we’re driving in our cars or fixing a snack, the prayerful attitude and communication with God should be constant (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
3. Evangelize. You didn’t think it was going to be that easy did you? Of course, some real work needs to be done. It doesn’t have to be hard though. Evangelizing is more than asking a complete stranger if they want to talk about Jesus. It could be a simple as a quick invitation to worship. It could be as easy as leaving a business card with the church’s information on the counter at the grocery store. It could even be as painless posting something on social media. Of course, we should still make efforts to set up Bible studies and more in depth encounters, but a little something is better and a lot of nothing and what are we doing if not trying to introduce people to the gospel (Romans 1:16)?
4. Encourage. Again, this does not have to be a big ordeal. In fact, I think sometimes we paralyze ourselves by thinking that any act of service as a Christian is better left undone if it can’t be done big. Send someone a text and let him or her know you’re thinking of them or praying for them. Send a card. Stop in for a visit. Ask them if there is something you can be praying for. All you have to do is a little something to put a smile on their faces that lets them know that they are not alone. It is only as difficult as we make it.
5. Show kindness. This one is really simple. Just be nice to someone on purpose. You could hold a door, buy a cup of coffee, help a little old man load his Ensure into the back of his SUV at Costco (true story, by the way) or offer to help someone out in another way. Kindness is the most affordable blessing on the planet.
All of these things can be done each day. So, if you find yourself in a stagnant holding pattern where your service to the Lord is concerned, start here. “SPEEK” every day. If there are other ways you stay on track, leave them in the comments below. I would love to hear them.
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I’m definitely having one of those days. I have spent quite a bit of time today staring at a blinking curser on my computer screen and I have absolutely no idea what to blog about today. Normally, I have an idea several days in advance so when I sit down to write on Tuesday morning, I’m good to go. Not today. Today, I have a million things on my mind after a very busy week, last week, and it feels as if the well has gone dry.
So, I am just going to share some of the random thoughts that are bouncing around in my head this morning and hope that they are of some use to you today.
1. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes, I wonder if Christians are paralyzed by perfection. We feel that if we talk to someone about Jesus, we won’t have all the answers to the question that other person might have, so we keep silent. Maybe that’s why we don’t teach Bible classes, preach, lead singing/prayers as well. How many things do you shy away from in your life because you are afraid that it won’t be perfect? What a shame that is, especially when God has not created us to be afraid (2 Timothy 1:7). God doesn’t need you to be perfect. He just needs you to work. So, get to work.
2. When God creates something, it is awesome! Last week was a trying week for the congregation I work with. There were several things that happened that made it a tough week. However, what I saw in response to that was nothing short of amazing. I saw the body that Paul described (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). It reminded me that Christians will never be perfect, but when imperfect Christians follow God’s perfect plan, lives will change. God worked, through His design, in each of us last week in an amazing way. I encourage you, this week, to step into God’s plan and see what He can do through you.
3. We are weaker when we step away from God’s Word. I had a wonderful conversation with one of my brothers in Christ last week. Somehow, during that conversation we got to talking about daily Bible reading and I confessed how much more I feel I struggle when I get out of that habit, even if it is only for a day or two. There is a reason Moses taught the congregation of Israel to keep the word of the Lord in their minds (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). There is a reason that blessings follow the man who meditates on the Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2). God’s Word makes us stronger, smarter, and readies us for everything that this life could throw at us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
4. Failing to be present is a terrible waste. Part of my distraction is related to planning 2 of my sons’ birthday party. I have one turning 9 and one turning 6 this month. In addition to thinking about cupcakes and presents, I can’t help but think that watching your kids grow up is one of the cruelest and most amazing blessings one can experience. I am proud of who they are becoming and miss who they were all at the same time. Folks, our time truly is precious. It is a gift from God. It won’t last forever (James 4:14). Take some time today and truly appreciate the blessing of time that God has given you.
I know this blog is a bit disorganized, but so am I…at least today. I hope you find value in this though and I hope it helps you as you work to know God better and serve him more faithfully.
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