This is a recurring scene. I’m sitting in church with my wife, and we’re praising the living God, thanking Him for redeeming our lives and saving our souls.
At the end of the sermon, the pastor issues an altar call.
He invites anyone who has been moved to receive the Holy Spirit to come to the altar — or, if they prefer, remain in the seats — and pray some form of “The Sinner’s Prayer.”
In the prayer, the penitent is led to declare his or her need for forgiveness and to thank God for sending His Son to pay the price of death that our sin requires. Then they are led to declare their repentance from sin and their desire to follow Jesus’ plan for their lives.
With everyone joining in on “Amen,” the row of penitents is led to another room or the church lobby for a gift — usually a small Bible and a devotional — and congratulated on having passed from judgment into life.
Jesus calls us to dream big, to take new paths, to make an impact on our world. The caveat is that He wants us to follow Him in that venture, not strike out on our own. Are you following a dream … or just drifting? I feel called to pursue a dream.
In far too many churches, for all we know, that’s it. Good bye. Good luck. See you around.
SEEKING TO SERVE
UNLESS WE’RE DEEPLY INVOLVED in the church’s complete ministry program, we would have no idea what resources are available for the newly initiated. Perhaps it’s extensive at some churches, but many churches seem to let the matter go at that point.
I want to change that dynamic, to come alongside the “newbies” and help them navigate the often bumpy and challenging road ahead.
Eleven years ago, when I surrendered my life to the Lord, I was tasked by Jesus to break free from my addiction to alcohol. That began a three-year fight before I gave in to Him, and He has sustained me since.
I had expected that He would demand that transformation, but what I hadn’t expected, never anticipated, and recoiled in horror at was something more insidious — it’s called “spiritual warfare” — and new Christians are seldom prepared for it.
I WANTED TO QUIT.
I was in a home group (some churches call them “life groups” or “small groups), which is a group of believers who meet together regularly, often in someone’s home, other times at another venue, such as a church or restaurant meeting room.
- Matt. 4:19 (NKJV): “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”
- John 15:5 (NET): “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me — and I in him — bears much fruit, because apart from me, you can accomplish nothing.”
I announced to the group that I was “quitting” my new-found Christian life because I was being attacked by Satan, and I did not know how to react. It felt like my life was falling down an endless black chute. I was scared, but more than that I was angry.
I had signed up for “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” when, instead, I got caught in the middle of a gun fight between the archangel Michael and the King of Demons.
No way! I wanted none of that.
Fortunately, our home group leader recognized the symptoms and explained spiritual warfare to me, even showing me the colorful graphic of a man clothed in Ephesians 6 armor, brandishing his sword (the Bible), and protecting himself with the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, and the shoes of peaceful readiness.
Yes, I remembered the graphic, but I had no idea at the time how to apply it.
Now, I was in the middle of a demonic attack, and I was ready to bolt.
AS I SIT IN CHURCH week after week, I’m compelled now to do something about the burning inside me to help someone else through the coming battles.
Wanting to be bold yet humble at the same time, I approached one of our pastors recently to inquire about whether such a ministry exists at our church, and, if so, if I could join it.
The scenario looks promising. Working with new Christians, as well as struggling Christians, seekers, and even skeptics, is my life’s passion.
Perhaps — just perhaps — this is the Dream my Lord and Savior has been calling me to follow … and now is the time He’s raising the curtain.
MAY IT BE SO!
ABBA FATHER, OUR LORD AND MASTER, let me kneel humbly before Your Throne of Grace, offering myself as an ambassador for Christ to minister to new Christians, to those struggling with their faith, and even to those who remain distant and skeptical. Lord, You know my strengths and weaknesses, and You can put both of them to work to complete Your plan. As Isaiah said years ago, “Here am I, Lord. Send me!” I raise this petition in the matchless, majestic name of Jesus the Messiah. AMEN.