Secret Weapon!


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Today I attended the monthly men’s fellowship luncheon at The Pentecostals (church) in West Monroe. Each month a well known community leader, politician, coach, or other notable speaks. There is also singing by either a group or individual, and of course great fellowship around a delicious meal prepared by a local businessman and the ladies from the Pentecostal church. The event is free and very well done. (They also have a monthly luncheon for ladies)

Today’s speaker was our Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney. He gave a very informative and interesting talk about things the sheriff’s office is doing to make our parish safer and more appealing economically. Then, near the end of his presentation he unveiled something that had been covered by a large white cloth with two signs that said “Secret Weapon“. All of us wondered what it could be.

When the white cloth was pulled away we saw a large galvanized cattle tank used to water cows. He said that in his fight against crime this is his newest secret weapon, a portable baptistery. He went on to tell of the dozens of inmates (223 out of a population of 800) who have found Christ and have been baptised in the last few months. He mentioned Celebrate Recovery and what a fine job they are doing inside the bars and razor wire fences.

The recidivism rate in our parish is 80% compared to a national average of only 40%. He is convinced the way to lower that rate and our crime rate is to change hearts one man at a time. What a great thing for our sheriff to be proudly displaying a baptistery and saying faith in Jesus is the way to make our communities better!

This story reminded me that our Angola Prison, with one of the worst reputations in the nation for being a violent, tough place, has been transformed by winning men to Christ. Violence has greatly diminished since they have aggressively been allowing Christ to be preached and have even sent out missionaries two by two into other prisons to evangelize and disciple men for Christ.

The gates of hell, nor the gates of prisons, will prevail against what God is doing in bringing sons and daughters to himself. I am so proud of Mac and Mary Owen for bringing Celebrate Recovery to our people. And, I am equally proud of my friend John Grigson and others who head up CRInside. They are building churches inside the walls!

Christ be praised for the good things He has done and is doing!

Royce

Mission Church Needs Air Conditioning


new_roof_0208The Hemley Road Church of Christ in Bayou La Batre, Alabama desperately needs air conditioning for their church building. They are growing, (about 20 baptisms this year), had 80 for worship last Sunday, and are cooled by one large fan. The heat on the bayou by Mobile Bay is a muggy, wet heat and almost unbearable in the hottest months of summer.

This church has no means of getting air conditioning except by praying, trusting, and telling friends of their needs. (All biblical) Can you help? Do you have an A/C company? Do you have a friend or church member who does? Will you ask them to consider this project? Or, can you give a gift toward the $12k needed?

Any gift can be directed to either the Whites Ferry Rd church in West Monroe, or the El Campo church in El Campo, Texas. Either address is very easy to find by “googling” the name. Just designate your gift to “Bayou La Batre” or “Hemley Rd” and of course it is tax deductible.

Daphne German said to me recently in a phone call, “We either need air conditioning or a hundred funeral home fans!”. Daphne lives in a rent house on the church property with only one small window unit in one bedroom. Can you imagine cooking and other activities in the other rooms?

Please, please pray, please ask, please help.

Royce

***UPDATE*** God has provided the necessary funds to install one unit for the main building. One is still needed for the house and of course utility bills will increase sharpley once the large unit is installed and put to use. They still need help! Praise God for His faithfulness to provide every need.

How to Build a 1st Century church in the 21st Century


The following is a post from the archives. I believe it is worth a second look. Agree or disagree, I’d like to know what you think.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19) Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. (Matthew 16:18) It is clear that Jesus is in the church building business. He came to earth to seek and to save the lost. His mission is plain, His plan is sure. 

When you set out to build a great church like the ones you read of in the book of Acts your motive should be “redemption”. If it isn’t perhaps you should pursue some other endeavor. Tens of thousands of folks have set out to build churches and some of them had a measure of success. Many of them reached their stated goal, to build a church. In my view the goal should always be reaching folks with the good news about Jesus, the goal should not be building a church. If the job of presenting Jesus is done right the church will happen with little effort. 

Jesus mapped out a plan that was magnificent. Every time it has been tried it has been successful and when His plan is not followed there is little success. Matthew 28:18-20 is where we begin. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen”

 Before we “go” we must get Jesus’ “therefore” settled first. “All authority in heaven and on earth” is the most overlooked aspect of evangelism. In previous posts I have made the Bible case for having Holy Spirit power before you begin. I have heard possibly scores of sermons and Bible lessons on this great passage in Matthew 28 and almost all of them overlooked the most important part of the formula for success. We can only go and tell because of Jesus’ authority. If you and I will join God in His redemptive work we must go in His authority and power. It is precisely because He who commissions also gives authority. As the Apostle Paul pointed out in Ephesians 6 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 Satan is referred to as “the god of this age”. We must understand that when we go to the lost with the message of reconciliation in Christ that we are invading a wicked, spiritual kingdom controlled by Satan and we can only do this work in the “authority” and “power” of Jesus Christ. 

The “go” of the great commission is assumed. There is no “opting out” of the command. The emphasis is not on going but rather, “making disciples”.  How do we then make disciples? The same way Peter, Paul, Phillip, and others made them. One only has to read through the Acts to see that the message, the only message, was the good news about Jesus. When the apostles were put in jail it was for preaching about Jesus. When the Ethiopian did not understand the book of Isaiah the Holy Spirit sent along Phillip to preach Christ to him. There is no message other than Christ. 

Building a church that is like the 1st Century one must follow the same formula. You will not build a Bible church, focused on Christ, by preaching the church. Many church planters have as their goal a church and their message reflects that goal. In churches of Christ much of our historic ministry has been “corrective” rather than “redemptive”. The most common method employed is to lay out a logical argument in favor of the church of Christ as the only true church, for water baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and to finally win the argument. The result in my view is that our churches are populated by many people whose security is tied to the church of Christ and the fact that they have been immersed and not to Christ alone. 

 While I am on this subject, I am reminded of the seriousness of preaching the pure, unadulterated, good news about Jesus. In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia he gave this chilling warning. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8, 9) This is pretty serious language! “If I, an angel from heaven, or anyone else..” preaches anything other than Christ “Let him be accursed”! Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul was pretty upset that some were not preaching Christ and Him only. In verse 7 Paul spoke of those who “want to pervert the gospel of Christ”. What had they said or done that was so offensive that Paul would make such a strong defense for the gospel? The Jews who had given allegiance to Christ were teaching Gentile believers that faith in Christ is not enough, to really be saved you also need to be circumcised. That was it? Yes, that was the “perversion” of the gospel in this case. At first glance this doesn’t seem to be that bad, after all we of the faith have Abraham as our father, our history goes back to the old covenant, so what is so wrong about having some foreskin removed? Wouldn’t that be more proof of one’s allegiance to God? Paul would have none of that! The Holy Spirit through the pen of the Apostle says to those who preached circumcision in addition to faith “Let him be accursed”! 

 I ask this with a pure conscience and with love. Am I treading on the same ground if I tell people they are not really saved unless they are members of a local church of Christ? Is it a perversion of the gospel to tell a person they must be re-baptized to really be saved? Is a person in danger of being accursed if he preaches that only people who sing in worship without the accompaniment of instruments are going to heaven? These are serious matters not to be taken lightly.  One more quote from Galatians chapter 1. In verses 3 through 5 Paul clearly lays out the gospel story. “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen”. The reason we must preach only Christ is that only He can save; only He can deliver us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. No church can do that, no religious act can do that, no pattern or from of worship can do that, and water baptism cannot do that. Jesus saves! Nothing or no one else does. 

Building a 1st Century church in the 21st Century requires the right motive, the right authority, the right message, and also the right ministry. We go in Christ’s authority and power, we preach Him and make disciples or (learners), we baptize them in water, and then we begin to teach them ALL Jesus commanded. The model is laid out clearly in Acts. These men and women, including Peter, who were prayed up and filled up with the Holy Spirit, preached Christ, baptized believers, and then the Scriptures say this of those new Christians, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship..” (Acts 2:42)What was the “doctrine” of the apostles? Christ! Read it for yourself. They taught that salvation was only though Him and were convinced enough to endure jail, whippings, hunger, and finally death rather than compromise the message of the gospel.

 There was an air of excitement in the air! These new believers met every day to break bread (possibly to share the bread and cup of communion remembering the Lord), the praises of God were on their lips, (they even had the favor of outsiders), they exhibited the unselfish love of God by pooling their resources for the furtherance of the gospel and the care of fellow believers, and the church grew like a prairie fire driven by the wind. There was no focus of how to “do” church; there was no preaching about the church. The church grew because of the Christ who was the focus of their faith, their love, and their surrendered lives, and He alone was their message. 

There is no question in my mind that any people who go into a community any place on the earth and follow this ideal will find God’s blessing and the church will grow, multiply, and men and women will become children of God. If the meetings take place on the patio of a Starbucks, in a rented saloon, in an abandoned theater, or in a beautiful church facility, the results will be the same if Christ is central in every message, motive, and mission. 

 Churches that make much of Jesus grow, and those whose focus is elsewhere do not. Admittedly, there are still false prophets and those who follow them. And the way to mark them out is the Jesus test according to 1 John, Paul’ and Peter’s letters, and Jesus’ own words. 

My prayer and sincere hope is that we will see scores of churches rise up whose only goal is the one Paul talked to the Corinthians about. I close this post with his words.  

                            Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 
(2
 Corinthians 5:18-21) 

Grace to you,
Royce Ogle

Christ followers…what do they look like?


I wrote the following as a comment on a young church planter’s blog today. I think you might be interested to know what I think a disciple might look like.

Christ followers?

A young business man who is convinced that Jesus’ claims are true and is trying to follow, but is still lustful and addicted to porn.

A young unmarried mother of two with a history of a broken family, broken dreams, and bad choices who thinks she has met some people who really care, they act like they love her. She is silently asking “Why would God love me?” She has a glimmer of hope that her life might actually change for the better. “Me, a Jesus freak?”

A homeless guy who lost hope many years ago when he lost his family, his business, and most all of his friends because of a crack addiction. He just can’t understand why every few days this older couple comes with a nice meal that they share with him, and warm NEW clothing, and they don’t want anything from me? “What makes them tick?”

A very successful retired couple from New Jersey who moved to Austin to escape the cold winters, high home prices, and high taxes. Two souls tired of boring church where Sunday and Wednesday are two check marks on the list of Christian stuff. They are inquiring because they heard about a small group of people who are loving the community in tangible ways. They are doing yard work for a Catholic widow, an atheist man who is grouchy and in ill health, and a Methodist preacher’s mom. And they don’t expect anything in return? “We have to check this out closer. These people seem to be real Christians”.

There are these in every city, some who are not yet convinced, waiting to be loved, to be told the good news by someone who is not just wanting to add to a number. Some will follow more closely and some at a distance for a long time. And, there are those who will disappoint over and over again.

Love never fails. Love NEVER fails.

Jesus died for the wicked, unrighteous, broken folks. They are waiting by the thousands to experience that love.

How will you and I join God in what He is up to?

Royce