Love, Listening and Encouraging

by: Larry Davies | Sep 16, 2012

When was the last time you talked to someone who was struggling with their faith or was not a Christian and listened? For many, it has been a long time.

 

Trish is recently divorced and a single parent. She’s to busy holding down a job and raising two children to think about God. Trish was hoping to receive help and encouragement from her church but after the separation, she stopped attending. No one even called to find out how she was doing?

 

Richard has experienced severaljobchanges over the past few years. The job he has now doesn’t pay very well. Richard used to go to church but when his job problems began, he stopped attending because he couldn’t pay his tithe.

 

Philand Judy have two young children. They’ve talked about attending a local church but haven’t found time. Their neighbors drive off every Sunday morning dressed up to go to church. But they’ve never invited Phil and Judy to join them.

 

My passion is about helping people strengthen their relationship with Christ, whether members who have been Christians for 50 years or brand new folks learning about Christianity for the first time. But over the years having faith conversations with people outside of the church has gotten harder. People are more skeptical and simply do not trust the church.

 

Pollster George Barna warns the church: “Our goal cannot simply be a timid, powerless survival; it must be the role that Christ called the church to play, that of a loving, authoritative, healing and compelling influence upon the world.”

 

John Burke, author of “No Perfect People Allowed” wrote: “The 1960’s began a three decade long binge on self and now our country is vomiting up the consequences uncontrollably.”

 

Our world communicates so differently today. We seek information through Google and Wikipedia. We can buy almost anything from Amazon. We watch our movies at home through Netflix. We make friends on Facebook. We make announcements on Twitter.

 

How can we be the church in the midst of such a radically different and constantly changing world?

 

According to Barna research, the adult population in the US has increased by 15%. During the same period the number of adults who do not attend church has nearly doubled.

 

  • InBritainand the rest ofEurope, Christianity has largely been abandoned.
  • InCanada, only 20% of adults say they attend church regularly.
  • In theUSit has decreased steadily. Some statistics say as low as 20 to 30%.

 

What worked before is not working now.

 

Is there hope? Of course there is but we need to be willing to make changes. Most of all we need a new generation of leaders. Leaders who passionately love other people and are willing to use their gifts and talents for the glory of God.

 

Gil Rendle, author of “Journey in the Wilderness: Life for Mainline Churches” confessed: “As a pastor, I was taught how to make and train members of a local church. Instead, I should have been leading disciples for Jesus Christ. Members exist to serve an institution. Disciples exist to change the world.”

 

A member struggling to become a disciple asks of Jesus: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

 

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40)

 

How can we better learn to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind?

 

What would it mean for the church to truly love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves?

 

Remember Trish, our divorced and single parent? She was recently approached by a coworker who invited her to a divorce recovery group meeting at a nearby church. Meals and child care was provided by the church so Trish decided to give it a try. She would later say that she never felt more secure and loved. Several weeks later, on a Sunday morning, she and her children attended worship at the same nearby church. Now, Trish is a leader within the divorce recovery ministry of that same church.

 

Richard who experienced financial difficulties in the midst of severaljobchanges renewed his friendship with an old high school buddy on Facebook. With his friend’s encouragement, Richard visited a men’s breakfast group meeting at his old church. Expecting to be shunned and judged for being away, he was pleasantly surprised to be warmly welcomed. Over the next few weeks, Richard continued to attend the breakfast and discovered that many of the men in the group had experienced similar struggles and disappointments. Now, Richard is one of the cooks at the men’s group and took part in starting a group that regularly offers classes to help those who have lost their jobs.

 

Philand Judy have two young children. Judy received a tweet that mentioned the possibility of attending a local MOPS group. Curious, she found MOPS on Google and discovered the term stood for Mothers of Pre Schoolers, a faith based group offering support for mothers and their children. Days later, she attended one of their gatherings and found lots of practical advice and an atmosphere of encouragement. While there she was invited to attend a nearby church and check out their pre-school. Now, Phil and Judy volunteer with the children’s ministry at that same church.

 

Taking this Message Farther

 

  1. What can you do to help yourself become more of a disciple of Jesus?
  2. Do you know anyone who struggles with issues of trust and faith?
  3. How can your church create a culture of encouragement and listening?
  4. How can we be more authentic with each other in sharing our faith?

How are you sharing your faith at work, on Facebook or in your Tweets?


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