Going Beyond Invite - Share your Life!

 I have learned that church used to be all about the invite. Invite and Invite!

Everyone went to church whether they wanted to or not. It was a cultural expectation. All you had to do was invite someone, and there was a very good chance if your church had the right denominational sign on the building that whoever you invited would show up and get connected to the church. The "invite" strategy worked…and then it didn’t.

Church used to be all about invest and invite.

Going to church was no longer a cultural expectation. We still had relationships from our workplace, neighborhood, social circles and families though. We learned that outreach was highly relational. We were challenged to invest and invite. If we invested in a relationship, eventually there would be enough trust established to invite our friend to church. At that point, the church would take over. All we had to do was get them to church where our friends would hear the Gospel message, get plugged into a small group and start serving. The invest and invite strategy worked…and then it didn’t.

The problem with the invest and invite strategy is that we expect “the church” to be responsible for discipleship. We, of course, forget that we are the church. And, I think we forget that when Jesus said “go and make disciples of all the nations,” this wasn’t direction for an institution — this was intended to be the mission for every Christ-follower. That’s you and me.

For too long, we’ve abdicated our responsibility for discipleship.

We’ve assumed that’s something the church is supposed to do. Unfortunately, when that happens, it creates several challenges.

·         Disciples aren’t involved in discipleship.

·         Discipleship is relegated to the pulpit and the classroom rather than everyday life.

·         We eventually become dissatisfied with church programs because they aren’t producing disciples…forgetting that discipleship was never intended to be a church program.

·         The hyper-spiritual people get frustrated that the church programs are not “deep enough” and they start searching for another church where they can be “discipled.”

One of my favorite verses in Scripture comes from something Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. He shared:

“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8

That’s a great reminder (and challenge) for me. Discipleship is not just hearing the Gospel message. It’s not just about gaining knowledge. It’s also about applying that knowledge to everyday life. Because of that, discipleship can’t happen apart from sharing life. That’s why church programs and preaching will never make disciples. Both may be part of the discipleship process, but, if the church is completely responsible for the discipleship process, we’re doomed to fail.

I think we need new language. Maybe we can start with this. We can encourage people to invest and invite…and invest. We need to help disciples make disciples. It can’t be programmed.

Think about your own experiences. You studied the Bible. You engaged personal disciplines. You probably had someone in your life to encourage and challenge you in your faith journey. I did. There were different guys along the way — Greg, Jim, Alan, David and God Himself, to name several. These guys and my God didn’t assume it was the church’s responsibility to help me take my next steps toward Christ. They "invested" in me.

Rather than promoting church programs to help people take their next steps, what would happen if we challenge people to just invest in their friends. What if we gave them the tools to understand basic doctrine and spiritual disciplines and then encouraged them to share those tools with their friends? What if we gave people tools to continue the conversation and the study beyond the Sunday message and encouraged them to do that with their friends?

Is it possible that the church programs and activity that we designed to be our discipleship process are actually preventing discipleship from happening in our churches? What would happen if we encourage people to invest and invite…and invest? 

We need to get serious about becoming the people God ordained and created us to be...His "love appeal" to bring people not only to Him, but to disciple them to maturity in Christ.

Name one person you would be willing to get connected to through invitation and investment. It won't just happen...It must be intentional on our part. We cannot make excuses. It's time to take the step and make it happen. It's a choice...What will you do about it?  - Don Cowan

AuthorDon Cowan

Easter has become a wonderful spring celebration with a variety of different meanings to different people. It marks the inauguration of spring and with it the anticipation of warmer weather. We expect to see the flowers blooming, and the landscape turning a rich green. We celebrate with family gatherings, picnics, Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts. The commercial establishment recognizes this time by having Easter sales. And, of course, on Easter Sunday morning, many arrive at church in our Sunday best to celebrate the holiday, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 What about Easter?  Is it fact or fiction? Is it something we have conjured up in our minds? A make believe story about God’s love for us, that merely sounds good and brings a sense of peace and satisfaction to those who hear the story or is it real? Is it reality?

 These same questions have been raised throughout time. They aren’t new to our generation. Those questions have always surfaced with every generation that has ever lived. Which begs the question; is the Easter story true and relevant to us today.

 Being a Christian I believe the Bible has something to say to us about the holiday we call Easter.  Throughout the fabric of God’s word, we learn about Jesus and His crucifixion and resurrection.

We even read how people didn’t believe. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20). They had the same questions about Easter that we have today. Things haven’t changed.

 Brook Foss Westcott, English scholar and professor at Cambridge University wrote: “Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing, but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of the deficiency in the proof of it.”

 For 2000 years, people have tried to logically refute the resurrection of Jesus and found the task impossible. It’s much easier to prove Jesus rose than to deny the resurrection.

 Yes, the Bible is a good and accurate source for us to turn to for our answers.  But, I believe the greatest statement for proof of the resurrection of Jesus is in the lifestyle of the people who have been changed and transformed in their thinking and living, because they have accepted Jesus as personal Savior of their lives. The Bible is full of such stories. In fact you probably know an individual who has had a life-changing experience with Jesus Christ.

 Warren Webster tells the story of a Muslim from Africa who became a Christian. Some of his friends asked him, “Why have you become a Christian?” He answered, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive – which one would you ask which way to go?”

 If Easter had not happened – it really wouldn’t make a difference which road we took would it? However, if Easter did happen, it should make a tremendous difference in our lives.

 Jim Elliot was a passionate missionary and believer of the resurrected Jesus Christ.  In 1956, he was killed by those to whom he shared his faith. He prayed, “Father, make me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing the resurrected Christ in me.” He had come to the fork in his road, and he wanted to personally become a fork in the roads of others.

 Easter can and should make a difference for all of us.         –Pastor Don Cowan

AuthorDon Cowan

 "Destructive and Unhinged or Together and United"
People! Listen-up! We are at a major crossroads not only in America, but around the world! We can either continue to be divided and destructive, destroying the country we all love or we can "unite together" and become a people working together for all people. Today, with the instability of our country and world, it is not the time to be disgruntled, destructive and divided, arrogant with our words, biased and hateful, but a time of being "united together". United regardless, of our ideological or cultural differences! The gap between the two major parties, between cultural groups and people in general, must be diminished and brought to a resolve.
Our society is in a constant state of turmoil and at times just down-right mean-spirited. The moral gap between what we think and do, in relationship to what's right, widens daily. The result is a country in moral crisis, very splintered and culturally divided. Americans no longer hold to a coherent philosophy of life. Instead, we make our decisions upon impulse, personal preferences, biases and convenience, emotions and outright selfishness and above all what is done is based on misguided or distorted information. We no longer take into consideration what is true, right or best for all. The nasty and pathetic scenes we see on TV are absolutely heart breaking. 
I can't believe how far have we drifted from our sanity? It is literally insane to see what is happening today. The ultimate question is this: Can we recover? Absolutely! But it won't just happen. We cannot let our national foundations continue to erode. Beating each other up and attacking people rather than the problem will only lead to more corruptive division among us. 
Please, regardless of your religious affiliation, please join me in prayer, praying that God will bring us together! I know it seems impossible, but God says, "all things are possible unto him who believes". Let us give God a chance and pray!

AuthorDon Cowan

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

 Have you ever gotten to know someone and later realized that your first impression of him or her was completely wrong? We all have a tendency to form opinions based on subtle cues, knowledge and even our own perceptions. When our impressions are 180 degrees off base, they become a real barrier in building an authentic relationship with someone.

Much in the same way, many of us have constructed an image of God that’s based on our feelings rather than on who God really is. In doing so, we constrain God to characteristics and proportions that make sense to us … personality traits that we’re familiar with. Essentially, we completely limit the very essence of who God is!

Consider this cause / effect relationship:

·        If you see God as an overzealous policeman, you’ll always walk on eggshells.

·        If you see God as an angry judge, you’ll always struggle with guilt.

·        If you believe God is just like us, you’ll be casual about your sin.

·        If you see God as distant and uninvolved, you’ll never pursue an intimate relationship with Him.

What you think about God shapes your whole relationship with Him. In addition, what you believe God thinks about you determines how close you will grow toward him.

You were created for closeness, purpose, love and friendship with your Creator. Are you experiencing that? If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions:

·        Do you feel like you never measure up?

·        Do you sense that God is “down on you?”

·        Do you fear that God is waiting for you to mess up so he can discipline you?

·        Do you find it difficult to pray?

·        Does the thought that God delights in you seem foreign?

·        Do you secretly struggle with obeying God because you fear missing out on the fun in life by completely surrendering to Him?

Your answers to these questions reveal a lot about who you believe God is. You see – God cares a great deal about what we think of Him. He longs for us to see him as He really is and know him on a deeply personal level.

I invite you to take out your wallet-sized, crinkled snapshot of God and trade it in for an entirely new perspective. Doing so will change the way you pray, the way you live, and the way you think about the world around you.

How can this happen you ask? By being in the Word of God on a daily basis. When you study God's Word and meditate on it - God will reveal Himself to you as He really is. The only tools you need is your mind, Bible and the discipline to dig into God's Word for yourself. Approach the Word of God believing that He will reveal Himself to you based on where you are in your relationship with Him.

Humor me and begin this inspiring task today! Keep a time line of daily God moments and never be afraid to share with someone what God has said to you. What joy will be yours.

Blessing Ahead!

AuthorDon Cowan

What Does god Expect from US?

13-16 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

17 You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.

18-21 Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

22-25 Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
    its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
    God’s Word goes on and on forever.

This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

2 1-3 So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

What Peter is talking about here is accommodating Christianity. In other words, I want to have my way and God's way at the same time...but it doesn't work that way. My choice to live for God creates for me boundaries. I live according to His will, not mine. "He must increase and I must decrease" the Scripture says. I can't accommodate me and God at the same time. It's impossible to live that way and be walking according to God's Word...the Bible.

Here is a sampling of accommodating theology:

God wants me to be happy. I can't be happy married to her. So I'm leaving . . . and I know He will understand.

There was a time when this might have been considered immoral. But not today. The Lord gave me this desire and wants me to enjoy it.

Look, nobody's perfect. So I got in deeper than I planned. Sure, it's a little shady, but what's grace all about, anyway?

Hey, life's too short to sweat the small stuff. We're not under law, you know.

If that's true . . . if that's right, then what in the world does it mean to be holy
"Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior" 
(1 Pet. 1:15).

Or pure?
"For this is the will of God, . . . that you abstain from sexual immorality" (1 Thess. 4:3).

Or under grace?
"Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" 
(Rom. 6:15).

The simple fact is this: If we sow a lifestyle that is in direct disobedience to God's revealed Word, we ultimately reap disaster.

The consequences of sin may not come immediately . . . but they will come eventually. And when they do, there will be no excuses, no rationalization, no accommodation. God doesn't compromise with consequences.

When the bill comes due, the wages of willful sin must be paid in full.

God is not out to get us. But, too often, we just want God around when we need His love, grace and support, but there is also, the holiness of God who says, I want your love, dedication and support. Something to think about!

AuthorDon Cowan