17 08 2011

by Stephen L Dunn

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” – Jesus, quoted in John 8:32

The Gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  It is the revelation that God  loves us and wants us to be an integral part of His eternal kingdom by delivering us from the power and the penalty of sin. There is bad news associated with the Gospel. That bad news is the reason we need the Gospel.  Sin has us in its grips and has deceived us into thinking we are free.

Henry Blackaby is credited with saying, “Truth is a person.”  That person is Jesus Christ,  The Good News is that he has come into the world to free us from our sin and invite us to be a part of His kingdom of love and grace.  Delivered from the power and penalty of sin – we are now truly free. We are free indeed!

Our world has a skewed view of the Gospel.  They think it’s about rules and restrictions, about squelching our human aspirations and impeding our spiritual quests. If truth does not come from within, but is revealed–then we can become slaves to or victims of whatever religious powers define as that truth.  If we must be accountable to God’s view of our humanity then will not truly be free.

At times, however, the proclaimers of the Gospel feed these attitudes. When we make the faith about believing in God instead of giving our lives to God, we make it possible for people to reject God because we don’t yet believe every jot and tittle of the Bible.  When we make the faith about becoming a part of our particular church culture, adhering to its practices instead of inviting us to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we make it the Gospel about a new set of behaviors and laws instead of renewing our minds so that we have the mind of Christ.  When we make the Gospel about an intellectual decision that follows an answer to every question we proffer instead of a lifestyle of trusting God to keep His promises, we allow people to compartmentalize their lives into ‘practical’ and ‘spiritual’ worlds and we never challenge them to live 24/7 for God.

The Gospel introduces us to the Truth that sets us free.  Let us make sure that it is the Gospel we proclaim instead of a counterfeit that once again ensnares people in slavery with spiritual explanations.  Let us make the Gospel about introducing them to Jesus.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L. Dunn

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18 07 2011

 “Yesterday a little girl told me I sounded like Jesus’s wife when I sing… and she knows because “she saw the movie.” – Stacie Reber

photo courtesy of Lauren Zimmerman

Last week I had the privilege of leading a team of 26 persons to work with our Navajo sister congregation, Tsaile Community Church, conducting a Vacation Bible School for more 100 students. My team ranged in age from 15 through 78. Some were high school students, several bankers, several school teachers, another pastor, a financial planner, an electrician, a retired middle school principle, a candy-maker, a person who works with autistic adults, a candy maker, a graphic arts specialist, a quality control manager and more. An eclectic group with a common passion to help children meet Jesus Christ. We did this through stories and song, crafts and whiffle ball, a lunch, direct explanations of the gospel. We mostly did it by trying to let people see Jesus in the flesh by meeting him as he worked in and through us.

That’s a tall order when you think about it. We are imperfect vessels of a holy God. His unconditional love is expressed in his amazing grace, but we frequently hide that love in our actions and daily test his grace. We talk about Jesus in moment and live for ourselves in the next. We claim to be transformed into a new creation but reclaim our old nature when it is more convenient or comfortable.

Yet as imperfect as we may be and as inconsistent as we are in our actions, we still have the responsibility to share Jesus. It’s not our plan, it is His. In John 15:6 we read: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” And as if to reassure us in any hesitancy we may be feeling, he adds, “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Sometimes the odds before us are almost daunting. Not all of us have the opportunity as did the folks from the Church of God of Landisville to go work in another culture. Yet Christians are vividly aware that they live in a culture for whom God is increasingly out of sight and out of mind. We live among people who have heard many empty words and have grown deaf to many religious expressions. The first witness is not words, it is a life lived as a reflection of the Jesus that lives within us. The apostle Paul explained that to the Colossians.
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ (Colossians 1.27)

2011 Tsaile VBS Team from Landisville Church of God (photo courtesy of Stacie Reber)

Hopefully when they hear the words of Jesus spoken they will believe those words because “they have seen the movie.”

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

This post originally appeared on the blog LIFE MATTERS

You can also read more about the work of the Tsaile VBS Team by going to the blog WE ARE THE CHURCH OF GOD OF LANDISVILLE


1 06 2011

From Greg West The Poached Egg comes this usual index.

Reasons some people give for not approaching Jesus Christ for a personal relationship:


The God of the Bible is not worthy of my respect:


Index of Objections to Christianity


21 04 2011

Rob Westbrook shared this today as a pingback from a May 25, 2010 posting on this blog. Click on ROB to follow to his site.

Evangelism Principle

Posted on April 21, 2011 by Rob

Bullhorn EvangelismFirst get the centre of the fire hot, and people will be warmed on its outskirts, and drawn in. If we want the gospel to spread in the community of which we are a part, we would be unwise to start with some evangelistic outreach. We would be much better employed in paying attention to the quality of our church life. That is going to be the magnet that draws others to the Jesus who has made us into His body. But if our fellowship is cold, if nobody stays behind after the services because they are, frankly, ready to get away, if the music is dominated by an orge, if the minister is too fond of his own voice, if people are made to feel of a consumer mentality, rather than participants, if joy is frowned upon, then we are unlikely to see significant growth.
Thirty Years that Changed the World by Michael Green

What do you think of this?

Image from


4 03 2011

Evangelism without Discipleship
Posted on February 28, 2011 by Dr. Tom Cocklereece

My readers know that I am passionate about disciple-making and it pains me when other Christian leaders accuse proponents of full discipleship of being less than zealous of penetrating lostness by saturation evangelism. I am just as zealous of evangelism as I am about the teaching part of the Great Commission. However, I am also against what I call “Constantinian evangelism” which is evangelism without discipleship. Allow me to explain.


Chi-Rho Symbol

In the spring of A.D. 311, Constantine and his force of about 40,000 troops marched toward Rome to confront the more numerous forces of Maxentius. In the evening Constantine saw a vision in the sky which was described as a bright cross with the words “By this sign conquer.” According to Constantine’s account, Jesus Christ told him in a dream to take the cross into battle as his standard. Constantine reportedly had his commander to mark every soldier’s shield with the Chi-Rho symbol- thought to be an early Christian sign identifying allegiance to Christ (Christianity Today).



Stories continue to circulate that Constantine supposedly marched his army through a river for a ritual mass conversion to Christianity or gave them a sprinkling baptism as they marched under a bridge. There is scant evidence that such a mass conversion event occurred. It is well documented in history that Constantine himself remained a superficial Christian at best during the rest of his life. The standard practice of that day for new converts to Christianity was a rigid discipleship course lasting up to three years followed by baptism. Constantine refused any such course of training and even refused baptism until he was close to death.

By his victory at the Milvian Bridge using the Chi-Rho symbol, many soldiers likely adopted the mark in a superstitious way. They accepted the symbol of Christianity while never seeking to really know the Savior Jesus Christ. Thus began what might be called “Constantinian evangelism” or evangelism without discipleship. Constantine may have instituted mass conversion of his military by the use of an indoctrination prayer:

Constantine’s Army Prayer
Emperor Constantine ca 320

We know Thou art God alone;
we recognize in Thee our king.
We call on Thee for aid.
From thee we receive victory,
through thee we are made greater than our enemies.

We recognize thy grace in present blessings
and hope on Thee for the future.
We all beseech Thee, we implore Thee
to preserve our king Constantine
and his pious sons safe and victorious to the end or our days.

In A.D. 303 it was illegal for a soldier in the Roman army to be a Christian; by 416 it was mandatory for a soldier to be a Christian (Adventist Review). The possible use of a prayer for either mass conversion (which converts no no one) or represents compulsory religious conversion by the state should send chills down the spiritual spine of any evangelical Christian. However, it does raise the question for evangelicals: “Do we use what is known as “the sinner’s prayer” in a similar manner?

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” The Sinner’s Prayer

Certainly evangelicals do not approve of or use the sinner’s prayer for state compulsory or mass conversion but the focus on evangelism and baptisms without an equal focus on discipleship raises concern.


Process Discipleship

I am not a proponent of a several year discipleship process before one is accepted as a genuine Christian. However, if only by default, many evangelical Christian leaders today may have unintentionally accepted a powerless form of Christianity—evangelism and conversion without discipleship, i.e. Constantinian evangelism. I am for all evangelistic efforts PLUS discipleship.

Discussions rage about the decline of evangelical churches and much of it centers on the need for more evangelism. However, undiscipled Christians are often poor evangelists. Consider that an original document is printed and then successive photo copies are made from copies of the original. Eventually the document will be unreadable. Undiscipled Christians may be like the illustration and fail to make new disciples. On the other hand, good discipleship of new Christians is an investment into future evangelism and real church growth.

Good discipleship of new Christians is an investment into future evangelism and real church growth.

It is time for the evangelical church to return to making disciples as the Great Commission commands—baptizing AND teaching. Church leaders should connect all discipleship ministries in an intentional process as well as cultivate a church culture where people are motivated to follow through in the growth process. The process must include missional opportunities that encourage hands-on ministry experience. Churches that do this are revitalizing their ability to do effective evangelism, as they create needed sustainability.



1. When Jesus commands his church to make disciples, to what degree does the responsibility belong to the church and to what degree is it the individual Christian’s responsibility?
2. Do you think that some evangelists use “the sinner’s prayer” as Constantine may have used “Constantine’s Army Prayer?”
3. What process does your church use to make disciples?
4. Does your church focus on evangelism without a viable plan for discipling new believers?
5. Does your church take a passive laissez-faire approach to discipling new Christians?
6. How may your church improve the discipleship process?

Simple Discipleship Blessings!

Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist

The Simple Discipleship blog is read by Christian leaders in over 66 countries. Pray for this ministry as God has enlarged our territory!


Simple Discipleship: How to Make Disciples in the 21st Century was published and released by Church Smart Resources in November 2009. It is not a self-published book. To learn more about Simple Discipleship and to order the book, follow the link below:


Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC

Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist


4 02 2011

How big is your gospel?  In reality, this is an expression of an even more important question, “How big is your God?”  Fred Sanders has written:

“A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.”  The Deep Things of God

Too often we settle for a gospel that leads only conversion, making evangelism simply about decisions.  We see Jesus Christ simply as the bridge to our salvation instead of something immeasurably more – people who are now able to live in the service of God and live life to the full (John 10:10).

Or we make the gospel simply a message of self-improvement … the be good, the be happy, the be more responsible – the gospel of moral therapeutic deism.

That is far too shallow. That simply requires a God who creates, watches, rewards. That does not require a God who transforms.

And transformation into new creations is what we need.

Transformation into a new heaven and a new earth is what the world needs.

The God of the true gospel is big enough to do all that … and immeasurably more.

How big is your God?  How big is your gospel?


15 07 2010

John Burke of Gateway Church in Austin TX provides some excellent thoughts on evangelism in a pluralistic culture. This video and others are available through CATALYST MONTHLY.