Thursday, May 28, 2009

Agape Now on Facebook

Agape launched a page last week and already, over 50 people have joined, most of which do not attend our church! This can be a great outreach tool to a new generation who communicate mostly online, not to mention, a way to promote Agape events to thousands of people for FREE!Please consider visiting, creating a Facebook profile, and joining the Agape Assembly Church Facebook Group.

Please rest assured that is a free and secure site and you completely control who may access your profile. You do not have to post pictures or personal information about yourself if you prefer not to. Let's be proactive in using tools such as this to reach our generation and grow our Church.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thoughts on Church Membership & Discipleship Pt II

Discipleship is a lot like parenting. It involves teaching, showing example, correcting, and encouraging individuals from a state of near complete dependency to guided independence. I don't see a difference between the growing perception that parents have abandoned their responsibilities to raise their own children and the belief that the Church has drifted from the proven model of Biblical discipleship. Even the reasons are eerily similar: the caretakers are not properly trained, they were never cared for as a "babe" themselves and were raised to fend for themselves, or they just may be unwilling to invest the time.

I believe an overarching issue in this discussion is the concept of Personal Salvation or having a "personal relationship with Christ". In our modern self-focused society, many in the Church have perverted the very valid scriptural teaching that each individual must take account for their own salvation to deny the very clear and concise teaching of a common community of believers bound together, who continuously engage, support, and walk beside one another in the Faith. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone express how they don't have time for another believer's issues and struggles because they "have to work our their own soul salvation" in either a blatant misappropriation of scripture or as a poor excuse for their lack of concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Fact is, scripture very clearly states that we are accountable AND responsible for one another. This especially applies to mature saints who are tasked with the development and growth of the newly converted and those weak in the faith.

Romans 15:1 (NIV)

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

elder todd

Thoughts on Church Membership & Discipleship

Biblically speaking, salvation is both prerequisite and synonymous with Church membership. When one became a believer in the days of the Apostles, there was no such thing as joining a particular congregation, or searching for a "church home". The person would enter into fellowship with those who either led him into salvation or received him after his announcement of conversion. This was almost always tied to geographic location given the limited travel options. So first and foremost, the acceptance of an individual into full church fellowship as a brother or sister in Christ without any confirmation of salvation is completely contrary to scripture.

Unfortunately, the current opposing method is not much better. Without question, the leading of souls to Christ and making of disciples is the core mission of the Church. But I must question the well intentioned but misguided practice of directing the newly converted to seek direction (from a God they just met) on where they should worship regularly, learn, and grow as a Christian.

For all the "baby" terminology used by the modern church to describe converts, I don't see how this discipleship method makes any sense. These individuals are immature in the faith, vulnerable to discouragement and confusion, and at the beginning stages of spiritual understanding. They need to be spoon fed baby food (basic Christian doctrine), clothed (covered in prayer & encouragement), and admonished to do the simplest things that would spur their growth (continue in fellowship, study the Bible and pray at home). I wouldn't expect them to find their own church home any more than I would expect my newborn daughter to find her own home upon discharge from the hospital. There's a word for that, it's called abandonment. But of course, no responsible caretaker does that with a baby and neither should the church do so with new believers.

elder todd

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why We Need Persecution

If there is one Biblical concept that we simply cannot identify with, it is persecution. We have virtually no experience with any violent or even hostile reaction to our faith. So we just don't understand what would cause devoted a follower like Simon Peter to deny even knowing Jesus or how the disciples could remain in hiding, even after learning first hand of Christ's resurrection. The repeated warnings of persecution from Paul, Peter, and Christ Himself simply do not resonate with us. Why?

Face it, we Christians in the U.S. have it easy. Too easy. While believers in other parts of the world must worship in secret for fear of violent persecution at the hands of governments, sectarian, and tribal groups hostile to the Christian faith, we live in a nation where we can worship our God, anytime, and almost any way we see fit. Even further, we live under the supposed legacy of God-fearing founders and the myth of a Christian nation. It is no surprise then that a relatively effortless pursuit of our religion of choice would result in a rather weak, compromised, and unfocused life of faith in the majority of present day believers.

As Christians we live in our houses rather than hide in them, we can walk the streets and openly share the Gospel (though most of us don't), we're even granted preferential treatment in constructing ornate buildings for the sole purpose of worship. Even then, most professing Christians can't make it out of their comfortable homes, into their luxury cars, and into a climate controlled building with padded seats once a week without thinking they deserve a pat on the back for their "faithfulness".

So what is religious persecution? It is persistent, often systematic, harassment and oppression because of one's beliefs. It may result in personal violence, being ostracized from society, and/or denied basic rights.

It is NOT failing to get along with other people, not getting what you want or think you deserve, or experiencing negative consequences for your own actions.

So why do we need persecution?
  • It builds our faith. (Acts 14:12-22)
  • It binds believers together. (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35) This wasn't just Christian love at work, but also necessary for their survival.
  • It connects us with Christ. (John 15:18-20)
  • It assures us a greater reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-12)
  • It affirms Christ's love for us. (Romans 8:35-39)
One thing is sure. This "easy ride" will not last forever, but the Bible brings assurance that God will use us, even in hardship to bring glory and honor to His Name.

elder todd