The church that I serve has been putting on a Living Christmas Tree program for 35 years. Even though some people feel like Christmas pageants and church-sponsored light shows are thing of the past, our program is still very vital. We have tweaked and changed it over the years for sure, but it still draws a large crowd in our community and gives us the chance to present the real Christ-centered meaning of Christmas.
This year’s Living Christmas Tree program wasn’t without its challenges, but it taught me three valuable lessons. The first lesson is that Christmas provides a great opportunity for the church to reach out to the community. People seem more open to new ideas and new opportunities during the holidays. It may just be sentimentality or loneliness, but it’s a door that’s open for the gospel.
The second lesson is that personal invitations are powerful. We purchase advertising and put up signs telling people about our program, but it’s the personal invitations that make a difference. I met many people this year who came because they were invited by friend, family member, or an acquaintance.
The third lesson is the power of collaboration and teamwork. It takes a lot of people to pull off a program like the Living Christmas Tree – from those who sign in the tree to those who help park cars – everyone is important. When people serve together, they grow together and develop a closer bond, which a great benefit to the health of our church.
In the end, the Living Christmas Tree is just a tool to help us share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our local community. It may not last forever in this form, but it’s still effective and I’m thankful for it.
Nativity scenes are a common sight at Christmas time. People set them up in their homes and public places to remind us all of the true meaning of Christmas. Regardless of the size, nativity scenes always include the same characters: Mary, Joseph, the Wisemen, and some shepherds (not a mention a few animals). The focal point of the nativity scene is always baby Jesus lying in a manager.
If you are not careful, you will get the wrong idea about Jesus. Yes, Jesus was born in the most humble of circumstances. Yes, Jesus was born a real-life, flesh and blood baby boy. Yes, Jesus was born into a Jewish family, but he was also born a king.
Matthew goes into exhaustive detail in his Gospel to emphasize this part of Christ’s character. Jesus was an heir to the royal throne and the promises of God through his connection to Joseph (Matthew 1:1-17). Jesus brought the presence and saving the power of God to earth through his supernatural conception (Matthew 1:18-25). Jesus received immediate attention and respect as the true king of God’s chosen people (Matthew 2:1-12). Jesus experienced unspeakable heartache and endured exile in order to fulfill his mission.
When you see a nativity scene this Christmas don’t forget that baby wrapped in swaddling clothes also wears a crown. He was born in humility but destined for glory. Jesus was and still is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Personal evangelism is sharing one’s faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. D.T. Niles described it more vividly as “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” As exciting as evangelism is, most believers find it challenging and intimidating. Here are three books to read about personal evangelism.
1. Everyday Evangelism by Matt Queen
Matt Queen wants to create a culture of evangelism in churches across North America. He writes as a Southern Baptist to other Southern Baptists, but his simple strategy can be applied to any church that wants to improve her evangelistic efforts. Queen explores a number of common questions and challenges before recommending a hands-on strategy for personal evangelism. This book is great for church leaders who are looking for straightforward way to motivate others to share their faith.
2. Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright
One of the most difficult parts of personalism evangelism is making the transition from talking about everyday things to talking about spiritual things. Scroggins and Wright use the concept of “brokenness” to move unbelievers into a conversation about the gospel and our need to recover God’s original design for our lives. This book is will be a help to anyone who is afraid of personal evangelism
3. Evangelism Is… by Dave Earley and David Wheeler
This book is a devotional book about sharing one’s faith. In it, Earley and Wheeler approach evangelism from 40 different angles – from motivations to methods. This book is thoughtful, thorough, and practical. It is great for readers who are willing to reexamine their thoughts about personal evangelism in order to become a more faithful witness. Every chapter is full of ideas on how to share Jesus with passion and confidence.
As always, you can find these books at your online retailer or bookstore. Feel free to share this post and these books with anyone that you know who wants to improve their personal evangelism.
Family reunions are multigenerational by design. Grandmas and grandpas get together with their children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins, and in-laws to love on one another and reconnect. As often as they happens, they are times to pass family values on from one generation to another.
The Bible affirms the value of the young and the old when it states, “The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29, NASB). The Bible also assumes that the younger and older generations will come together in the ministry of the church. Titus chapter 2 includes instructions for older men and women who are worshipping and serving along side their younger counterparts. Older believers are to set a good example while looking for ways to encourage the next generation to follow in their footsteps (Titus 2:2-4a). Younger believers are to be teachable and responsive as they live out their faith (Titus 2:4b-8)
A multigenerational church is a healthy church. It’s not easy to bring the younger and the older together into one big family of faith. Every generation has its own concerns, preferences, and expectations in life and life in the church. It’s not easy, but it’s good and healthy. It’s good to see grandparents and their grandchildren worshipping together for the sake of the gospel. It’s healthy for young adults to learn from senior adults and vice versa in the ongoing ministry of the church.
Thanksgiving is a holiday built around gratitude. It has been a national holiday since 1941 and it was an annual tradition for a longtime before that. We should be thankful all year long, but the holiday helps to remind us of our God-given blessings. Here are three books that will spark your gratitude this Thanksgiving.
Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have by James Autry
James Autry is a former Fortune 500 executive turned author, poet and business coach. In this book, Autry writes about finding gratitude for the simple things of life like family, friends, spiritual matters, those who serve, and even the pain of life. He doesn’t necessarily come from an evangelical Christian direction, but his writing is humorous, warm, and inspiring. His original poetry is a breath of fresh air too. This book is great for someone who is looking for new inspiration this holiday season.
Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin
Cranberry Thanksgiving is a classic children’s tale about sharing with others and mistaken impressions. In the Devlin’s tale, Grandmother and her granddaughter Maggie invite someone poor and lonely over for Thanksgiving dinner. When one of their guests steals the receipt to Grandmother’s famous cranberry bread their meal takes a surprising turn. Share this book with your children or grandchildren as you prepare for your own Thanksgiving feast.
Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
In this book, DeMoss challenges and equips readers to live intentionally based on the freedom that is found in Christ Jesus. My favorite quote in this book is, “Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle. This is a guide for readers who want to push back against the bitterness and resentment that exists all around us and who want to choose joy. Gratitude and joy exist together in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with any one that you know who wants to grow their gratitude.
Seminary offers intense instruction and specialized training for those called into various leadership roles in the kingdom of God. Seminary exposes students to wide variety of Biblical, theological, and practical themes. It also inevitably involves a lot of reading. Here are three books a student should read before he or she goes to seminary.
1. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
This suggestion is not a put down. Before I went to seminary, I didn’t realize how bad I was at reading, analyzing, and interacting with written text. Alder’s and Van Doren’s book on how to read gave me the tools I needed to become a better reader, which a must in seminary. This book is especially for those who already think they are a good reader and those who would like help improving their skills in this area.
2. Who Needs Theology? by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson
In this book, Grenz and Olson describe why everyone is a theologian and why theology (especially good theology) matters. Then they explain how to “do” Christian theology well. The authors go into the tasks, traditions, and tools that are available to a theologian in order for him or her to do their work. This book is good for the student who may look past the reflective side of seminary in a rush to learn the more practical skills of ministry.
3. Why I Am Not An Arminian by Robert A.Peterson and Michael D. Williams and Why I Am Not A Calvinist by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell
The titles of these two books alone should be enough to explain why they are this list. Too many seminary students have emerged from there first semester of study thinking they have solved a debate that has been raging in the Church for generations. These books should be read together by the student who wants to get better, humbler handle on these popular approaches to salvation.
You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with any one that you know how is thinking about going to seminary.
Churches can be as creative as they want to be with their vision, strategy, and values, but not when it comes to the mission of the church. In the Great Commission, Jesus tasked the church with making disciples in His name (Mathew 28:18-20). The mission of the church is and always has been to make disciples. Here are three books I would suggest about how that can be done in today.
- The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
This book has evangelism in the title, but it’s really about discipleship. In it, Robert Coleman traces the eight guiding principles Jesus used to train His disciples and to send them out in His absence. Coleman cautions church leaders against prepackaged discipleship programs. Instead, he encourages a more relational approach. This book would be good for anyone who is thinking though the overall process of discipleship and leadership development.
2. Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty
Robby Gallaty builds his case for discipleship in the church on the ministry of Jesus and other discipleship leaders throughout church history. He goes on to suggest a model of progressive discipleship found in Charles Wesley’s ministry. Gallaty gains ground by including spiritual disciplines like Bible memorization and journaling into his suggested model. This book is excellent for church leaders who want to refocus their churches on reproducible discipleship.
3. Disciple-shift by Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington
Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington believe that discipleship should be the core focus of the church. To that end, they suggest five shifts to engage the “engine” of discipleship. The shift that is most meaningful for me as a pastor is to go from informing the church to equipping the church. This book is best for those who are already looking to ramp up the discipleship efforts in their churches. Readers will find value insights to help them troubleshoot their revitalization efforts.
You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with the people who know who care about discipleship in the church.