Friday, January 29, 2016


Why I Stopped Teaching the Five Steps of Salvation a Long Time Ago

The "Five Steps of Salvation" is a term that members of the Church of Christ and some Christian Churches will recognize.  This was a common evangelism approach.  It is one I grew up on and one I stopped using in college.  So if you did not grow up in this heritage, you may not find this post interesting.

And I am not going to bash those who use this approach.  I am really negative about this approach but that is not the same as being negative about the people who use it.

I am writing this because there has been quite a bit of discussion about this floating around in various forums lately so since I talk about this in some of my seminars, I thought I would weigh in.

If you do not talk to lost people about Jesus, I really do not care about your opinion.  If you aren't doing it, don't criticize the way others do what you will not do.  If you are not talking to non-believers about Jesus, you have much bigger issues than what approach to take.

I do believe their is a better way to share Jesus.  My preference is to share stories.

But here are my concerns about the five steps and why I quit using that approach over 40 years ago.

It is really easy to skip past talking about Jesus and put the focus on how to become his follower.  Very easy to end up with misplaced priorities.  Very easy to end up with baptized non-believers.  Getting the cart before the horse.

In practical ways, it was "here are the first four and now let's focus on the important step -- #5."  So you end up with a lot of baptized people who never really understand discipleship.  I get how that becomes a natural reaction to those who minimize the importance of baptism.  But anytime we teach something in reaction to to others, you can end up losing the main focus.  And by the way, I am of the opinion that reducing baptism to a step devalues it.  Being crucified with Jesus just seems way bigger than a step.  Hard to talk about being crucified with Jesus without talking about Jesus.

But here is the thing that bothered me the most.  We would tell someone that we were a people of the book and that we would only teach from the Bible.  You would not find any denominational doctrine among us.  Other groups would put forth their doctrine and try to support it with proof texts.  but we would only use the Bible.

Then we put out what sure looked like Church of Christ doctrine backed up by our proof texts.

Hear, believe, confess, repent, and be baptized.  And here are the proof texts.

That may not be how it was intended and I am not even arguing whether it was right or wrong.  But I am saying that is exactly what it looked like to those we studied with.  And then you end up with members of the Church of Christ instead of disciples committed to being the church of Christ.  We ended up putting the emphasis on the wrong C-word.

So being a lot more interested in actually reaching people for Jesus instead or arguing over how to become a Christian...

I decided to try a more effective way.  Jesus taught by using stories.  So that is what I started doing.  Sharing Jesus stories with people. Sharing stories of those first Christians in Acts.

Made a lot more disciples.  More time on what Jesus did. And when they bought into that, what to do was never again much of an issue.

Passion to reach the lost, sharing the story of Jesus, seeing them become disciples.

Feel free to use any approach you want in talking to your friends about Jesus.  I am just sharing why I changed my approach.  But above all, talk about Jesus.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


How Christians end up adding to God's Word ...

It is easier than you think to add to what God says.  Here is how Christians can end up claiming God said things that he did not say.

Good Bible students apply principles and make applications from Scripture to form an opinion.

That opinion becomes practice and over time we forget how we decided it originally.

If not careful, our opinion becomes the right way to do something.

Then it become the only right way.

Then it becomes entrenched doctrine.

So anyone who believes different is wrong.

And if they are wrong, then of course their differing opinion is sin.

So they are not a Bible believing, New Testament church.

And having failed to remember how we came to certain conclusions, we then preach against those that do not agree with our conclusion.

And draw lines of fellowship about it.

Getting defensive when anyone asks us why we believe what we do.

So we claim God said it.

Even when he didn't.

And that is how you go from a reasonable opinion/decision based on interpretation and application to a rigid defense of what God never said.

Adding to Scripture.

And that is what is dangerous.

And that is the real sin.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Salvation Issues

I often hear conversations about Scripture that refer to salvation issues.  I certainly want to be right about salvation.  I do not want to tell someone something is crucial to their salvation if God did not say it was.  Nor do I want to tell someone they are lost over something God did not say they were lost over.

There are those who seem to believe that every belief, decision, and conviction about spiritual things is a matter of salvation.  In other words, there is a right answer for every issue and every issue, doctrine, or practice is of equal importance to God.  You will be lost if you get anything wrong.  Jesus saves but only if you get everything about Jesus right.

Others seem to feel that nothing is really a salvation issue.  It is as if the Bible is simply of book of suggestions.  Most things are open to interpretation and all interpretations carry equal weight -- even with God.  As if you cannot really be lost over anything.  Jesus saves so you don't have to worry about anything else.

So I have been thinking about what things really do matter.  When I read Scripture, are there things that are more important than others?  Are there things I must get right or I endanger my soul?  Are there things I can be wrong on and still go to heaven.

So here are a few of the ways I am deciding what really matters in Scripture.

When a passage includes words like "saved", "salvation", "condemned", "lost", etc. then I conclude that God might intend for it to be a salvation issue.  Words like important, greatest, first seem to indicate that the subject being talked about is ... well, more important than others.

I believe that talking about how you make followers of Jesus is a salvation issue.  Lost people become saved.  I do not want to be wrong about that.  So things that have to do with becoming a Christian would seem to be salvation issues.

But truth about becoming a Christian does not seem to have the same eternal consequences as how you worship as a Christian.  How to become a member of the family of God would seem to me more a salvation issue than how the family of God operates.

Even when talking about how Christians live, I listen for definitive words.  And there are passages that say "do", or "do not".. That seems clear.

So I think baptism is on a different level than how we worship.  One is a salvation issue.  One is not.

But that is what I think.  You may disagree. That's OK.

But that is where I draw my lines of fellowship.  

And if I misread Scripture and am drawing lines too tightly, the good news is that I am not the final judge.  God is.

And if I draw them too loosely, I beg forgiveness and pray God will have mercy on me and on the ones I misled.

So let's all be very careful about what is and is not a salvation issue.

After all, none of us want to be silent where God spoke.  And none of us want to speak where God was silent.  Especially about salvation.  

Well, that's what I am thinking about today.  Salvation issues.  It matters to the lost I talk to and it matters as I decide how to live -- or not live -- in fellowship with my brothers and sisters here.


Friday, January 15, 2016


What are these seminars I do about sharing Jesus

I work for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry.

It is a great job because what I do all day is talk about -- or write about -- Jesus.

One of the major things I do is go to churches and do seminars (usually on a Saturday and Sunday mornings) about how to share you faith using stories.  These seminars are designed to motivate, equip, and inspire Christians to engage with friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and neighbors in order to share Jesus.

Many of you have seen me post on FaceBook about going to churches and doing this.  And this is the same approach I use in my life with my friends.

The seminar is called Sharing Our Story and it is done is four sessions.

One:  why stories work.  We talk about why stories are natural and fit our culture.  And everyone can tell stories. We talk about how to use stories.

Session Two is about using stories to get hearts ready to hear the Jesus story.  How to answer questions about why if God is so good, then why is the world so bad.  Or, I just want to help people, but I don't want your rules and religion.  Or, if you really knew me -- or knew my past -- you would not be inviting me into your church.

Session Three is about sharing the real Jesus using stories from his life to show a Jesus who knows us and cares about us.  A Jesus who wants us to know him.  Stories about how that Jesus is still changing lives today.

Session Four: Stories that water and cultivate Jesus seeds planted in hearts.  Stories about people who decided to follow Jesus.  Stories about how it changed their lives.  In the first century and in this century.

We use stories from Scripture, from our community of faith, and from our own lives.  We show videos of people sharing their story.

I am not always sure what happens after I do these.  That is up to the people who were there.  But I do know they will leave the seminar wanting to share Jesus with others.  And they will believe they can.

And many of them do.  They do tell stories.  People do decide to follow Jesus.  Churches grow.  Just like God intended.

So if you are interested in knowing more, contact me.

I do have a great job.

Thanks God for letting me spend my life helping people know you and your son.  You get the glory.  So I am asking that you let me do this until the day you take me home.  And I am asking for opportunities for all us so that there will lots more with us living together with you forever. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Fussing and fighting over the Bible.

Women's role in the church.  Congregational worship.  Church leadership models and practice.  How and when to share the Lord's Supper.

These are areas of discussion and concern -- or areas for fighting and dividing -- among many churches.

I wish we could discuss, agree to disagree, bless and support each other --  in spite of differing interpretations and conclusions.

In some ways I believe we fight so intently because we are so driven by Scripture.  And of course in churches of Christ, we have not governing body to settle these questions.  Each congregation decides what they will do.  And they all appeal to Scripture.

But I wish we would stop doing two things with Scripture that are very confusing.

Stop saying Scripture means what it does not say.  It is very confusing to find out that what it taught as Scripture may in fact not even be addressed in Scripture.  You may interpret or draw conclusions from Scripture but that is not the same as claiming God said something he did not.

And stop saying Scripture does not say what it does say.  Interpretation is one thing.  But do not say the Bible does not mean what it does say.  Drawing conclusions and interpretation is not the same as what Scripture says.

Because if we are not very careful, we will end up with members that no longer believe what we teach.  Or members who will decide that Bible study should only be left to the preacher.  Or to the professors.

Or our young people will grow up and search for a community of faith that is more honest about Scripture.

I do not want to be someone who adds to what God said to prove my position.  Dangerous.

Nor do I want to be someone who removes the Scriptures I do not agree with.  Scary.

Well, these are just things I have been thinking about.

But I do believe the biggest issue facing our churches may not be issues about worship and organization.

The biggest issue may be how we view Scripture.

God, I believe you communicate with us through your Word.  And I believe you know what matters.  You made us, love us, and have saved us.  Give us wisdom and patience.  Help us to love each other, and to respect each other.  Help us be one in you and in your body.

Friday, January 08, 2016


Happy Birthday Jake Gilbreth

So tomorrow is Jake's birthday.  He will be 10 year's old.  So here are some of the reasons I love Jake and am so proud of him.

Jake loves Jesus.  He enjoys worship, he can always be counted on to lead prayer, and he wants everyone to know Jesus.

He loves people.  Jake enjoys people.  He works the crowd at church.  He has lots of friends at church and school and they are a varied group.  He even has friends who are girls, and friends much older and some younger than he is.  He has friends that love sports and some that don't.  His friends are different sizes, different colors, and different personalities.

Jake loves sports, especially baseball and basketball.  He likes to read about sports and watch sports.  Loves to play ball. And he's good.

He loves his family.  Loves his Mimi, Mommy, and sister Avery especially.  Very protective of his Mom and sister.  Loves his cousins.

Loves dogs.  His dog Lincoln and our two, Lucky and Lulu.

Loves to be outdoors.  Playing, fishing, in the woods.

And this one is special to me.  He loves to go preaching with Pops.  Anytime I am preaching within driving distance, he wants to go.  We visit, talk about Jesus and my sermon, work the crowd together, eat out, and then he talks about the sermon on the way home.

So God... thanks for my buddy Jake.  He will let you use him to do great things in the Kingdom.   I look forward to seeing them.  Protect him and bless him.  Thanks for letting us share life with him.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


Thinking about 2016 Commitments

I have a great job with Hope for Life.  I spend most of my time either talking to non-believers about Jesus or motivating and equipping Christians to share their faith.  But it is important to me that I practice what I preach.  I believe that I am called by God to partner with him in sharing the message that God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself -- that he does not count men's sins against  them.  That is great news that I am compelled to share with those that do not know.  And then to beg them to believe that message.  And I believe that I must do that in my world just like I inspire others to do that in their world.

So Marsha and I are constantly seeking those with whom we can share Jesus.  I want to encourage you to do the same.

There are currently four people I am committed to bring to Jesus this year.

One is the husband of one of our active members.  He is a good man but he has not decided to follow Jesus.  We are developing a relationship and I am praying for opportunities to talk about deciding to follow Jesus.

Another is a man who visited our church looking for financial assistance.  One of our members has been bringing him to church.  I want to hear his story and invite him into the story of Jesus.

Another commitment is to a couple that has come frequently to our Wednesday meetings.  We have visited about sharing Jesus stories and they have agreed to talk.  But we have not yet made it happen.

And my fourth commitment is to a man that I just met the last Sunday of the year.  His wife and kids come regularly and he came for the first time.  Happened to hear me preach and went out of his way to meet me.  Planning of getting to know him so I have credibility to visit about Jesus.

God will put more people into my life.  Some of these four above will be my brothers in the future.  Some may never decide to follow Jesus.

But I am committed to do all I can to share the story and to see them become a disciple of the one who died for them.

Praying, planning, and sharing.  Living, serving, speaking.

Because I believe it is not enough to want to fish for men.  I have to get out on the water and cast the bait.

So who are you committed to reach this year?

And what are you doing about it?

God give us eyes to see opportunities to share the good news of your Son.  Give us the right words to say and the right stories to share.  Then give us the courage to speak.  

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