7 Reasons America Has Not Been Reached for Christ By Greg Stier , Christian Post Guest Columnist

There are over 300,000 Protestant churches in America. Virtually  every city in the United States has an abundance of Bible-believing faith  communities. Millions upon millions of Christians attend these churches and,  yet, this country is not reached for Christ yet. Why? Here are seven  reasons:

1. We have outsourced the work of evangelism.

We have delegated, relegated and abdicated our outreach efforts to those who  have the “gift” of evangelism. We wait for the next festival or outreach to come  to town before we even think about this God-given duty. After all evangelism is  the domain of the greats like Graham, Palau and Laurie, not common people like  Larry, Curly and Joe Schmo. Right? Wrong!

Instead of “leaving it to the professionals” we need to take THE Cause of  Christ personally. Let’s stop waiting for the big wigs of evangelism to roll  into town and start going ourselves to make disciples of our own next door  neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.

2. We have lost our sense of urgency.

Take hell out of the equation and evangelism seems like a nice, but not  necessary, activity. Put hell back in and suddenly everything changes. Suddenly  souls are at stake and time is a wastin’. We start to reach out like there is no  tomorrow…because there may not be for those who don’t know Jesus.

And simmer down my dear Reformed friends. It was the great reformer himself  (aka “The Apostle Paul“) who asked “how will they hear without a preacher?”  right in the middle of his longest explanation of the doctrine of election  (Romans 9-11.) It is possible to believe in election and to be motivated to  “snatch others from the fire and save them” (Jude 23.) It happens when we stop  trying to connect dots that were never meant to be connected. It happens when we  stop trying to reconcile God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. It happens  when we choose to live in the tension and share the gospel like lost souls  depend on it.

3. We are ashamed of the gospel.

I believe that many Christians are secretly ashamed of this catalytic “narrow  minded” message. To tell someone that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that  faith is the only means to Jesus is to say in effect that all other paths lead  to hell. We live in an inclusive culture that values every path so when we proclaim  Jesus to be the only path it can lead to mockery, marginalization and mayhem.  And nobody likes being mocked…so most keep their mouths shut when it comes to  evangelism.

But Jesus himself reminds his disciples in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you  when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against  you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,  for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Instead of being ashamed we need to boldly proclaim the gospel with  gentleness and respect. Let us embrace every sarcastic response to our  evangelistic efforts as a hug from Jesus Himself.

4. Many Christians can’t explain the gospel.

Put a microphone up to the face of most church-going Christians and you’ll  discover that most can’t clearly explain the gospel message in a simple way.  It’s hard to share a message that you can’t explain clearly yourself. Napoleon  had three instructions for his war time messengers, “1. Be clear! 2. Be clear!  3. Be clear!” We need to heed his advice by mastering the message of the gospel  (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) and then clearly articulating it to those we encounter  (Colossians 4:4.)

For a simple way to share the good news go to  http://www.dare2share.org/gospeljourney. Like chords on a guitar, master the basics of  the message and then play the beautiful music  of the gospel with your own style and personality.

5. Church leaders are not leading the way.

Most church leaders I have encountered are not actively leading the way for  evangelism in their faith communities. They may pull off an outreach every now  and again. They may bring in some professionals to exercise their gift of  evangelism in their church services once or twice a year. But most are not  actively leading in evangelism on a personal or public level. Ask your pastor, youth leader or even outreach  pastor to tell you the people they are currently engaged in an evangelistic  conversation with and you may be surprised…and disappointed.

As the old statement goes, “When there is a mist in the pulpit there’s a fog  in the pew.” This is true of both bad exegesis and non-existent evangelism. If  the spiritual teachers in the church aren’t sharing their faith personally then  why would we be shocked if their students are failing at Evangelism 101. As  Jesus said in Matthew 10:24, “No student is above his teacher.”

6. We have forgotten how to pray.

For years I relegated intercessory prayer to little old ladies and crazy  people. Why? Because the intercessors I knew were over eighty years old or  seemed like they needed Ritalin. But God slapped my hand and shut my mouth when  he brought me to my knees four years ago.

The Great Recession taught me how to pray. At first it was for financial  provision for our ministry which had been hit hard by a loss of major donors  after the Stock Market crashed. But then, as God provided financially, He turned  my prayers toward the Mecca of ministry. I started interceding, not just on  behalf of Dare2Share(the ministry I lead), but on behalf of my unreached  neighbors and friends.

When church services spend more time in announcements than intercessory  prayer then you know something is broken. If we want to reach every person in  this nation with the good news of Jesus we need God to act on our behalf. We  need Him to soften harden hearts and open closed doors. We need to pray like we  mean it.

7. Churches don’t mobilize their young people to share the  gospel.

The vast majority of those who come to Christ do so by the age of 18. So why  aren’t more churches inspiring, equipping and unleashing their young people to  engage evangelistically with their peers?

If I were selling a certain product and I knew that a certain demographic was  most likely to buy my product then I would put the majority of my marketing  dollars to get in front of that particular demographic. This is only common  sense.

While we, as Christians, aren’t selling anything (we’re actually giving it  away!) we know that the demographic most likely to believe our message is young  people. But, instead of focusing on training and unleashing Christian teenagers  (who are searching for a cause) to reach non-Christian teenagers (who are more  open to the gospel), we spend the vast majority of our money on buildings,  budgets and Bible studies to minister to adults. This doesn’t make common or  kingdom sense.

At Dare 2 Share we equip teenagers to share the good news. We do it through  large-scale training events, cutting-edge resources and powerful evangelistic  tools. If you’ve never checked us out, check us out. Join us in our quest to  reach every teenager for Christ through a teenager they know. Pray for us.  Support us. Join us.

It’s time we drop our lame excuses and reach this nation for Jesus Christ.  Who’s with me?


Two Faces of the Lottery By Rev. Mark H. Creech , Christian Post Guest Columnist

It was once an activity that was outlawed for decades. Today,  however, it’s officially sanctioned, easily accessible, popular, and has gained  a strong foothold in American culture. Just this past week, a half billion dollar  Powerball jackpot has been the stuff of everyday conversation, with people  talking about what they would do with the money if they won.

The Associated Press reports that the holders of two tickets, which were sold  at a convenience store in a suburb of Phoenix and a gas station in a small  northwestern Missouri town, have won the enormous prize.

Amazing! It all seems to be such a bright, happy, and appealing picture. It’s  like a big beautiful rainbow with a huge lucky pot of gold at the end. But  gambling in any form has two faces and it’s the more sinister side that is  rarely seen.

Lotteries falsely sell people the hope of riches, when the odds against  winning are phenomenally large. In fact, the chances that one will be struck by  lightning are 1 in 700,000. The probabilities someone will die from being mauled  by a mountain lion are 1 in 32,000,000. The odds for winning a mega-million  dollar lottery jackpot, however, are worse – 1 in 135,145,920. [1]

To think that government partners with the gambling enterprise to fleece its  citizens in such a manner is nothing less than unconscionable. It’s especially  reprehensible when one considers that most of the people who purchase lottery  tickets are those who can least afford it.

North Carolina has had a state-operated lottery since 2005 and according to a  recent North Carolina Policy Watch investigation, the lottery has been doing the  best when it comes to per capita sales, where poverty rates are the highest in  the state. In poor counties like Lenoir, enough scratch off and lottery tickets  were sold to account for $423.92 worth for every adult in the county during the  2009-10 fiscal year. Statewide, the report noted that the per capita sales  number was $200.11 for every adult in the state. The analysis revealed that  elevated per capita sales were concentrated in eastern North Carolina and  climbed in counties with high populations living in conditions of poverty,  defined as a family of four making less than $22,000 a year. “Out of the 24 most  impoverished North Carolina counties, all but two have per capita sales that  exceed the $200.11 statewide figure,” the report said. Is it not true that a  culture will be judged by how it treats its weakest members? [2]

Lotteries have morally degraded this nation. Several years ago columnist  Russell Baker gave an apt description of their baneful influence:

“Once you could send your innocent babes, hope of  the future, off to the candy store to buy some chewing wax, a Baby Ruth, the new  Batman comic book and a kazoo, and be sure in the knowledge that good Mrs.  Chesley behind the counter would bust their little knuckles if they tried to buy  a copy of The Racing Forum.

Not anymore. Now good Mrs. Chelsey has turned her  shop into a gambling hell where she greets the traffic with a leer that says,  “Hello sucker,” and has to keep kicking the kids out of her way so the lottery  players can get their bets down.” [3]

God help us.

Still, since the ascent and acceptance of state-operated lotteries, the  simultaneous decline in societal understanding of right and wrong and its  imminent dangers are greater than most realize. Every American should be deeply  concerned about the negative impact lottery gambling diminishes the dignity of  the state, even undermining precious democracy. Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize  winning historian on the Civil Rights movement and biographer of Martin Luther  King, rightly argued:

“State sponsored predatory gambling is  essentially a corruption of democracy because it violates the most basic  premises that make democracy unique: that you can be self-governing, you can be  honest and open about your disagreements as well as your agreements, and that  you trust other people that you are in this together. That’s what a compact of  citizens is. And the first step away from it is to play each other for suckers.  We’re going to trick them into thinking they are going to be rich but they are  really going to be paying my taxes.” [4]

How terrible this nation has sunk.

A responsible government, nor a moral people, plays its most vulnerable  citizens for fools, or renders large segments of its population as exploitable  or expendable. Only a nation with a character deficit would highlight a rigged  bet over the very foundations of honesty, self-discipline, sacrifice, saving,  hard-work, and brotherly love which support it.

Maybe America should see the Powerball for what it really is – a  Powerfall.

Perhaps this nation should recognize that there is much more to the face of a  state lottery than happy winners who claim their fortunes. There is a nefarious  side, where evil hides in the light.


The Power Of Patience

“The fruit of the Spirit is . . . longsuffering.” Galatians 5:22

We’ve all heard the prayer: “Lord, make me more patient—and do it now!”

Why is it that patience evaporates when we are late for a critical engagement and are caught in a traffic jam? Or we rush to the “10 items or less” line at the store, only to find someone in front of us with 16 items!

Being forced to wait ratchets up the stress and shortens our fuse. When that happens, we not only fail to be patient but we undercut the Spirit’s work in our lives.

Patience is not just a virtue, it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)—which means that demonstrations of impatience reveal the sour fruit of our fallen hearts rather than the sweetness of Jesus in our lives. Since God is a patient God, when we abandon patience we miss the opportunity to show our world the glory of God through our lives.

Bursts of impatience only demonstrate that we are more concerned with our own agendas than the needs and struggles of others. So let’s all take a deep breath and turn our focus away from ourselves by patiently loving others instead of ourselves in the midst of stress.

Patience gives us the privilege of sharing the refreshing fruit of God with others.

Our wrath uncurbed will not fulfill God’s perfect plan for us; We must be patient and refuse To fret, to fume, to fuss. —Sper

Be patient. Show your world what God is really like.


The Law of Opposition

To him who overcomes . . . —Revelation 2:7

Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life.

Health is the balance between the physical parts of my body and all the things and forces surrounding me. To maintain good health I must have sufficient internal strength to fight off the things that are external. Everything outside my physical life is designed to cause my death. The very elements that sustain me while I am alive work to decay and disintegrate my body once it is dead. If I have enough inner strength to fight, I help to produce the balance needed for health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a strong and active mental life, I have to fight. This struggle produces the mental balance called thought.

Morally it is the same. Anything that does not strengthen me morally is the enemy of virtue within me. Whether I overcome, thereby producing virtue, depends on the level of moral excellence in my life. But we must fight to be moral. Morality does not happen by accident; moral virtue is acquired.

And spiritually it is also the same. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation . . .” (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, “. . . but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.

Holiness is the balance between my nature and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.


All is Well

So he said to him, ‘Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.’ Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.”—Genesis 37:14

The Torah portion for this week, Vayeshev, is from Genesis 37:1—40:23 and Amos 2:6–3:8.

By the time the relationship between Joseph and his brothers had all but deteriorated completely, Jacob was desperate to preserve his family. He sent Joseph on a peace mission to his brothers, just to check on them and make sure all was well. “Go and see if all is well with your brothers . . .”

The Sages teach that there was a piece of advice in Jacob’s directive as well. They present an alternative reading of the verse: “Go and see what is well with your brothers . . .” In other words, enough with seeing what is wrong with them – go find out what is right with them! Find their good points and focus on them, instead of pointing out all of the places where they need improvement.

In the 16th century, Michelangelo created one of the most spectacular pieces of art that the world has ever seen. Michelangelo’s David is a 17-foot, intricately carved statue of the famous king of Israel. But what’s really interesting about that monumental piece of art is the fact it was made from a slab of marble all other artists of the time had rejected. Many abnormalities in the piece of stone persuaded many talented sculptors that beauty could not be created from such an imperfect piece of marble.

But Michelangelo inspected it and saw the true potential within that stone. Michelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Michelangelo wasn’t just great at creating art – he was also a master of finding it. He knew how to see the good and the beauty in everything.

And that’s just what Jacob wanted his precious child Joseph to learn. He wanted him to find the beauty in his brothers. To see good in them. To discover God in them. Even if they had some imperfections. Unfortunately, this parental lesson came a little too late for Joseph. The damage was already done, and the brothers had already sealed his fate. But it’s not too late for us. We can take Jacob’s advice and salvage many relationships on shaky ground.

What do we see when we look at other people? Do we see their imperfections? Do we see them like Michelangelo’s colleagues saw that flawed, pitiful marble slab? Or can we look at people through the eyes of a master artist and see what is beautiful about them. While others may see an imperfect and rough human being, we can choose to be the ones who discover the beauty hidden within. And once we see the beauty and goodness hidden in the people around us, they just might see it, too.