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Look at Luke 5:38.

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

Read it again.

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

New wineskins do not change the wine.  New wineskins retain the wine, its fervency and its potency.  They do not burst like old wineskins when New wine is poured into them.

Ask God to show you your new wineskins.  He just may surprise you.  You may find yourself still in the same ministry but with a new and vibrant perspective on how to serve the poor, afflicted, oppressed and needy people in your community.

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Let brotherly love continue. – Hebrews 13:1 (KJV)

This walk of faith can seem lonely.  We can get to the point where it feels like no one is on our level.  We can feel as if we have grown into isolation.

That just should not be so.  Sadly, it is a real truth for many who believe in the Lord.  They are in church, but they feel very much alone.  They don’t feel the brotherly or sisterly love.  They feel on the outside.

Numerous churches have worked diligently on being missional and developing community.  They have worked tirelessly to create relevant ministries in their local communities.  In fact, some like Saddleback Church and Willow Creek have gone on to create resources such as study guides and e-books on ministry based upon what has worked for them.

Here I have listed some online communities of faith that may help others discover their ministry or a sense of Christian community:

Be sure to check out Christian Publications Available at Amazon

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“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Howard Thurman (Christian clergyman, author, and activist)

Analyze where the Christian church stands today.  Take an honest look at the standing of one of the most treasured institutions of society.  Make an earnest appraisal of the modern church.  See where the church stands today.

For far too long, in the eyes of many, the church has remained in isolation.  In the opinion of some, the church has appeared inactive, almost docile, dormant and dulled, if not deadened.  Others have said that the church has simply dwindled into a state of sheer ineffectiveness.

George Barna has studied and evaluated the church for years.  Henry Blackaby has shared some insights and findings as well.  John Maxwell has offered multiple volumes on Christian leadership.  Rick Warren weighed in with The Purpose Driven Church.  There is no shortage of Christian perspectives of what the church is not and where the church has fallen short.

Don’t disregard the Reformation or the Great Awakening.  Don’t toss aside the Progressives or the Abolitionists.  Do not forsake the social activism of Prohibition and the Salvation Army, YMCA, and YWCA.  Don’t forget how Christians fought Darwinism and the teaching of evolutionism in the U.S. school system.  Forget not Azusa Street and the likes of Oral Roberts or Billy Graham.  Do not frown upon the church’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war protests, and the pro-life debates.  Consider all of the church’s storied past.

Recall that the church has been called to be more than a building.  The church has a calling as the body of Christ.  Look at Luis Palau, Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship, and the countless missionaries and ministries that exist today.  See how many are fed, clothed, sheltered and ministered to through street ministries and storefronts alike.  See the church playing an active role in society.

Do not grapple with public opinion.  Do not spend hour upon hour debating with the church’s critics.  Stand proudly and boldly to be counted among the many who diligently serve the Lord by doing all that they can with what little they have for “the least of these.”



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Do the Work

 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.- James 1:22 (ESV)

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” – Hudson Taylor

 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.- 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV)

Simply put: we have work to do.  In fact, that really is an understatement.  We have plenty of work to do.  The Lord Jesus shared that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers (workers) are few.  We have plenty of work without a surplus of workers to match up with the work.

I am oftentimes saddened when I attend a meeting of people of faith and there is constant talk of what we do not have or who is not there.  It appears that the stated and printed agenda shifts somewhat to a mindset that literally undermine the work at hand.  We may only have so many people with so much work, but I have enough faith to trust God ho has all power. 

 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”- Matthew 9:38 (ESV)

Perhaps, we can take the words of Jesus literally and not see what the Lord did not say for us to do.  He said for us to pray.  He did not say for us to stop all of our work, pray for more workers, then sit around and do nothing until they arrive and are approved and appointed.  That is not what Jesus said for us to do.  He never said for us to stop our work because we have prayed for reinforcements.  He said pray, but He never said for us to stop working.

Like I said, we have some serious work ahead of us.  We have some work to do internally and externally.  We have some work to do inside of the church.  We have some work to do outside of the church.  We have enough work to do all the way up to the Day of the Lord.  Let’s not waste a whole bunch of time on matters that are totally out of our hands and out of our control.  Let’s busy with what is at hand and stay in prayer for what (or who) the Lord has yet to send our way as we continue to do our work.

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“I shape my own destiny.” – Laurie Beth Jones
Your special events are only as special as you make them.  Sadly, if your approach and attention to your special events resemble your regular routine, then you need to assess your readiness to make it a success.  You make special events a success by making them special.  You make them special by adjusting your approach to them.
  • Preparation: How you prepare will impact how you perform.  If you are lackluster in preparation, don’t expect to tap into some hidden gem of enthusiasm and energy that wasn’t present before it is time to perform.  Go full strength with your preparations.
  • Promotion: You have to talk it up and take it up a notch. You are to talk it up to get others talking about what’s coming.  If you don’t show any enthusiasm about what you are putting on, then you won’t see many people rushing to get there.  Talk it up and take it up.  Introduce something new.  Innovate it.  Put a new spin on an old idea. Let it wow your audience.
  • Presentation: Small budgets don’t have make your events small-scale ventures. Get others to partner and support your efforts.  Look at your vendors for discounts.  Do you always use the same caterers or order from the same local restaurants? Ask for a discount and offer premiere signage.  See where you can cut costs without cutting corners.  Keep your presentation flawless and fantastic.
Remember: You shape your own destiny.

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      “There’s no better book with which to defend the Bible than the Bible itself.

– D.L. Moody

Let the Bible be your guidebook when it comes to evangelism.  We don’t need gaudy gimmicks or slick slogans.  We need the Bible, the inerrant Word of God, as our guide.  We need to evangelize by the Book.

We spend too much time, money, energy, and other resources purchasing the latest evangelism programs that promise to swell our sanctuaries and fill the ranks of our flocks.  Programs should not serve as the core of our evangelism efforts.  Such programs serve a purpose, but they should never be our sole source for evangelizing the lost towards salvation. 

We are to evangelize according to the Bible, not according to the directions or instructions in the box.  We need to acquire biblical knowledge and apply biblical knowledge.  We need to get our people into the Word, so that they can get to taking the Word out into the world.

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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.- Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There are some who consider their congregations “open,” but their reality is something entirely different.  However, some of the churches that come out of a background of putting the protest in Protestant find it difficult to include all others when those others support gay marriage, abortion or legalized marijuana.  These churches are open in the name of Jesus, but they must remain mindful to stick to the way of Jesus.

I used to live near a Methodist church that prominently posted this slogan on its marquee and advertisements.   Open Hearts… Open Minds… Open Doors… Open what? I keep wondering just how “open” they are.  Are there doors more open than their hearts and minds? I should hope not, seeing as how I know some well-meaning Methodists and Wesleyans.

Our churches need to intensify their inclusion.  America has its first African-American president in Barak Obama.  Now, as we go forward in faith, let us open up and crank up our inclusion of others. 

Let us become:

  • More Intense with Inclusion
  • More Intentional with Inclusion
  • More Inclusive with Inclusion

Does your church invest in supporting underserved community members with necessary programs? Is your church campus a safe haven for at-risk youth and abused women and their families? Can those in recovery walk into your church without the shadow of shame? Can those returning from prison and jail enter your congregation without being judged and condemned all over again?

I love the story of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s origin as told in the Purpose Driven Church.  Warren shares that the ministries at Saddleback were developed based upon the needs of the people who came to the church.  He developed ministries that helped meeting the needs of people who came to them and who lived around them. 

As you help others get better and to live differently, they become the spokespeople for what is possible within your church.  Ex-addicts go back and share the Word with other addicts who struggle with addiction.  Former gang members and drug dealers spread the word on the streets of what your church has done for them since they met Jesus at your church’s altar.  Your job? Keep intensifying your inclusion.  Touch lives like never before.  Make a difference in the lives of people who attend your worship services and who live around and near your church.  Remain open to innovative and inventive ways to invite and include people to be part of the family since we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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