January 23

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. [Ephesians 4:14-15]

This Scripture is one of those that is referenced in today’s lesson. We are continuing the series built from research of the Barna Group, which developed six mega-themes that characterize those in this country who profess faith in Christ. Today’s focus is on the conclusion that we have become much more inward focused and much less interested and active in outreach. They share these three statements regarding this subject, and this should give us all pause for reflection and recommitment.

[1] Atheists are becoming more strategic in championing their godless worldview;

[2] There is increased religious plurality;

[3] There is an increasing reticence of Christians to engage in faith-oriented conversations.

We can’t control the first two. But we can certainly affect the last one. And we must. The above Scripture tells us we must speak, and it must be the truth that we speak, and we must speak the truth in love. Anything else is unbiblical and unfaithful.

We must speak the truth in loving ways that communicate to people today. Those of us in our late 40’s and older remember different times when we could argue with someone over Scripture teaching, win the argument, and see that person become members at our church. Those days are gone, likely forever, and we better get used to that. If not, our church will die. The apostle Paul realized this in the first century, speaking to Athens in a far different way than he spoke to Jerusalem, but sharing the gospel with both. Jesus realized this as well, speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well differently than he did to the rich young ruler or to the Jewish leaders, but sharing God’s truth with all. Will we trust God enough to do the same? Maybe, as Paul says above, it’s time to grow up.

Bill Allen

Dr. Bill Allen preached at South Fork from 2005 to 2015. He received a Bachelors degree in Bible from Oklahoma Christian in 1978, a Masters in Bible from Abilene Christian (ACU) in 1988, and a Doctor of Ministry from ACU in 1992. He now preaches at the West Erwin Church of Christ in Tyler, Texas.

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