Category Archives: Mission

6 Ways To Promote the Gospel & Demonstrate Your Love for Others This Easter

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This is a body life post for Grace Bible Church of Pleasant Hill

  1. PRAY before coming to worship. Pray for the word being preached on Good Friday and Sunday. Pray for the gospel to be made clear. Pray for the Sunday school teachers. Pray for the visitors. Pray for any last minute decisions being made whether to attend or not. Pray for the nursery workers, ushers and greeters. Pray for the worship leader and worship team. Pray for those serving in the media ministry and those having to stay at home to watch online. Pray for the Hispanic meeting. Consider coming to pray at the 8:15 a.m. prayer meeting. Consider staying to pray at the beginning of the 2nd hour service.
  1. Arrive EARLY to our worship services with your heart prepared to exalt the Lord for His gracious salvation. Show your concern and love for others by not being a distraction by arriving after the service of worship has already begun. This is a simple act that shows consideration for others.
  1. Park a bit further from the facility. Show your love and concern for visitors by not taking the closest parking spots but instead leaving those for our guests. Help people find their way if you see them in the parking lot.
  1. Sit up front. Show your love and concern for visitors by not forcing them to sit in the front seats in a new and sometimes intimidating setting. However, if you have small restless children sit closer to the exits and rear of the worship center. Be willing to give “your seat” to a visitor.
  1. Sing and praise God with your whole heart. Set aside your personal preferences and remind yourself that you are not a consumer but a worshipper. You are here to offer your praise to God and He is worthy of your attention, involvement and vocalized praises. It’s all about HIM. HE is the audience of ONE. Outsiders and children see the reality of your faith expressed by your genuine engagement in the worship of God.

Here is the link to the new resurrection praise song (“It is Finished”) we learned last week. Become familiar with it:

  1. Be gracious and hospitable. Reach out and introduce yourself to any and every new person you have the opportunity to greet. Ask people if there is anything you can do for them. Help people that look lost find their way around the facility. Offer visitors a free Bible or gospel literature found in the lobby.

Remember, you are the hands, feet and mouth of the Lord to others.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious…” (Col. 4:5-6a).

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A Tremendous Time to be “In the World but not of it”

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We live in a time of unprecedented opportunity for the gospel. The history of the church in the world is at a crossroads due to globalization and technological advancements in communication. The world is in a constant dialogue and the church has a voice in it. The frustration and anger in our society due to political and financial struggles is more than palpable in the current presidential election year. At the root are troubles and hardships common to all of us. We are surrounded by people who need the gospel truth of Christ.

As I sat in my study this week with my window open I could hear a man yelling obscenities and venting his frustration at someone on his cell phone. My prayers are now being shaped by what I’m seeing in the election debates and hearing on the street. I’m asking, “Lord give the church an audience with people such as these. They are everywhere. What can I say to them Lord?” What are we to do in such unprecedented times?

To the church at Philippi Paul wrote, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Phil. 2:14-16a). Several things in these verses deserve our attention.

First, Paul encourages the church to pursue a harmonious existence within the body. The world is in disarray and people have forgotten how to disagree with respect and courteousness. Self-love and discontent is the order of the day. But Christian contentment (a theme Paul takes up later in this epistle) is a breath of fresh air in a selfish, whining and complaining world. We have so much to be thankful for even in our disagreements.

Our world is divided into ever-smaller tribes due to the concept of “personal preference” as a most important defining principle wrongly derived from “individual rights.” Like the many warring tribes struggling for power in Egypt, Iraq and now Libya, our society is collapsing into special interest groups each advocating for their interest. The church’s ability to unite people of diverse backgrounds, socio-economic status, color, race and language in a single loving and harmonious community is starkly different. This is just ONE simple area of the church’s life in Christ that is contrasted to the world. Think of how many other aspects of our life together can potentially stand out against the darkness.

Second, it is this sort of practical Christ-like, Spirit-produced behavior that proves or demonstrates that Christians are “children of God.” Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). Elsewhere, Jesus also said that when we love our enemies then we are “sons of our Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:45). The grumbling people of the wilderness generation, by contrast, were repudiated as “no longer his children (Dt. 32:5). Love, said Francis Schaeffer, is the “final apologetic” and it is the believer’s “badge.” It is one thing to confess the faith and be listed on the roster of a local church; it is another to display love—the fruit of the Spirit.

Third, though this Christian community is contrasted to the world it is “in the midst” of a “crooked and perverse” generation that this excellent life is lived out. The church cannot be so separate as to not be “in the midst.” This is a reflection of the old adage to live “in the world but not of it.” The church family and the individual believers that comprise it are to be distinguished by its behavior yet there can be no distinction without proximity. This may take place in the work place, neighborhood associations, schools and other normal intersections of life. The church is distinctive in its handling of things such as money, sexuality, opportunity, difficulties, family, power and influence and this distinctiveness is noticed in our interactions with the lost.

Fourth, the result of being “in but not of” is that “you appear as lights in the world.” The word Paul uses means “luminaries” (Greek phosteres). The term is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament in Genesis 1:14-19 of the sun, moon, and stars. As F. F. Bruce notes, “these luminaries do not shine for their own sake; they shine to provide light for all the world.” You and I possess what the frustrated masses need – the light of the truth. God’s truth informs and shapes all of life. Hence, His light can be seen in all aspects of our behavior and speech. It is recognized as HIS light when we verbalize the fact that the source of our insight or reason for living the way we do is the Lord Jesus. If we leave people to supply their own explanation they might reason that we live the way we do because we are “religious” or “moral” or perhaps we are Mormons or practice yoga and are very “centered.” What gives glory to God is our verbalizing the reason for our behavior as rooted in the gospel and our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is “confessing” Him before men.

How are some believers doing this? How are some encouraging others to do this? What does this look like in my field? These are good and helpful questions. My own pastoral suggestion is to live in community with other believers in order to discuss these matters and pray together. This is one of the benefits of our small groups. The testimonies of God’s grace in other people who face similar circumstances can be tremendously encouraging and challenging. This can take shape along the lines of our existing community groups or I can imagine forming small groups based upon scheduling or geographical challenges.

For example, I have read of churches in city centers forming “vocation groups” in order to meet other Christians in their profession and talk about the challenges and opportunities they share and how they are building bridges for the gospel in their specific field. This might provide not only examples and insight but prayer partners that really “get” what you face. To this end I can imagine student groups, public servants, teachers, homemakers and others meeting for a handful of times. These are but a few suggestions.

We live in a time of unprecedented opportunity for the gospel. The world is listening and watching. Sit for just a few hours on a park bench or a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station or a town center and you will see the pain, confusion and turmoil of those “wandering in the darkness” as Jesus spoke in John 8. This is a great time to appear as lights in the world. Let’s find ways to do this together and individually by the grace of God.

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Praying the Church Forward

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In our recent annual elders’ church evaluation and strategy meetings we came to the unanimous understanding that several challenges lie before our local congregation. Of course, this is consistently the case for every local church. There is always some challenge on the horizon. But it is important to stress that while identifying what needs to be done is a healthy exercise for church leadership, prayer is never the last step.

Before anything is done our intents and needs must be set before the Lord in corporate and prevailing prayer. I want to publish some of the major challenges facing our congregation here with the hope that they will be circulated among the flock and stimulate prayer, while we continue to develop goals and specific plans for moving forward.

I have purposefully left out details at this point and will devote the remainder of the entry to the subject of prayer. We will provide more information and seek the congregation’s input and involvement in the near future in a less public forum.

  1. The development of near and far term elders/pastors.
  2. The development and revitalization of the diaconate.
  3. Deepening and improving our discipleship of both men and women.
  4. The division of labor among ministerial staff.
  5. The resetting and recasting of vision regarding church growth/planting (mission) beyond the Hispanic ministry (which has been our focus for two years).
  6. Various facility improvements and the need to address our space limitations.

Praying for the Temple

In 1 Chronicles 29 David gives thanks for the offerings collected for the construction of the new temple. I find this chapter instructive and illuminating as I ponder the challenges that lay ahead for us. I hope you will also find them to be insightful and encouraging.

What stands out in my mind is not so much the amount collected but the heart attitude of the people and the theology of David’s prayer. I invite you to read the chapter and consider both of these principles. Whatever plans we develop for improvement in the areas mentioned above and others, it will require deep faith and church-wide involvement.

The Heart Attitude of the People

“Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart…” (29:9). The success of what we accomplish in ministry should not be measured in monetary value, but by the heart attitude with which our gifts are given and ministry is carried out. Their offerings were given with a “whole heart.” This pregnant expression deserves a brief explanation.

A careful study of 1 & 2 Chronicles will reveal a special emphasis on the concept of a properly disposed heart. While the Hebrew term heart occurs 850 times in the Old Testament it is found 63 times in 1 & 2 Chronicles. The phrase “with a perfect heart” or “with a whole heart” occurs 21 times. This prompts commentator Roddy Braun to rightly see “the disposition of the heart” as one of the main themes in 1 & 2 Chronicles. We should also point out that a note of joy is frequently struck in connection with this attitude of a whole heart. The expression, therefore, depicts the undivided enthusiasm in which the project was taken up by David’s generation. It underscores that what matters is that our obedience be done with a willing, generous, undivided and joyful heart. Think about how far this heart attitude could take us.

I thank the Lord that He has given His New Covenant people a new heart from which the obedience of faith springs. Our efforts should outshine the world’s examples of “teamwork” a “human spirit” and “dedication.” We are the family of God! Christ is our brother! We realize that true and lasting joy is not found in what we KEEP but in what we GIVE! This applies to our wealth, gifts, talents and energies.

He has taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). It will take nothing less than our whole hearts joyfully submitted to God to move forward in our mission. May God profoundly unite our hearts in this effort.

The Theology of David’s Prayer

Read David’s prayer (29:10-19) and note the following:

(1) We human beings don’t truly “own” anything. Wealth comes from God and He is the ruler of all things (29:10-12). Hence, David will say, “For all things come from you, and from your hand we have given to you” (29:14). Whatever we give and offer to our local church ministry is “for the Lord’s sake” and belongs to the Lord as it is. We are stewards of our “possessions” and abilities, not owners. This prompts D. A. Carson to note, “Such a stance utterly destroys any notion of us ‘giving’ something to God in any absolute terms. It becomes a pleasure to give to God, not only because we love Him, but because we happily recognize that all we ‘own’ is His anyway!”

(2) Our human experience is transient while God Himself is eternal (29:10, 15). Here is the king of a powerful and enduring dynasty settled ‘in the land” God had given him and still he recognizes that they are just “tenants.” This theology is grounded in the truth that only what is rooted in the eternal work of God will have lasting value. The temple to be built was significant only because it was to be built to His “holy name” (29:16). We are all just passing through the Bay Area on our spiritual journey with Christ.

(3) Though the responsibility to persevere in this heart attitude belongs to man it is made possible only by the intervening grace of God (29:18). This was a tremendous day! The people had given so liberally and wholeheartedly. But this was just the beginning! The work to be accomplished was “great” and would require sustained commitment. Hence David prays, “preserve this forever” and “direct their heart to you.”

As I sit here today I humbly recognize the need of God’s powerful, gracious and sovereign hand. This will be my twentieth year as pastor-teacher of GBC. In some ways we have plateaued. In many other ways we are still growing. But moving forward will require greater teamwork, sacrifice, faith and wisdom.

Addressing these areas looms over the horizon like nearby Mt. Diablo. It will entail much from each and every one of us. Yet, I have hope because I know that David’s God is our God. He still owns all things. He is still the Chief Shepherd of the Church. He still walks among the candlesticks as the all knowing, omnipotent Lord and Savior (Rev. 1-3).

What we seek to accomplish we seek for the sake of His holy name. He can still direct all our hearts and the hearts of those with whom we will partner. May He make our hearts and hands strong for the work ahead that all praise might be given to Him alone.


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Diving into Diversity with the Gospel Pt 2

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Reflections from GBC Mission Conference – 2014

Our mission conference week has concluded here at GBC in Pleasant Hill. It was a tightly packed eight days with a focus on “Reaching the Unreached” people groups. Most of the emphasis was upon increasing awareness of the concept of unreached people groups (UPG) and the dynamics of the diversity that exists in the Bay Area alone.

Specifically, we learned there are 13 various UPG’s living in the Bay area,  totaling 730,000 people. Often these groups are more open to the gospel – or at least expect that they will hear about Christianity –  simply because they believe the USA to be a Christian nation. This affords us with many opportunities to enter into discussion with them regarding the good news of Jesus. The map below outlines their distribution throughout the Bay Area (click to see more clearly).

UnReached in the Bay Area - gospel - reformed While the conference was primarily informative by design, the question was asked “What’s next?” That is to say, “What are we as a church going to do to take the gospel to the nations in our backyard?”

What we do as the “church gathered” is under prayerful consideration and will be communicated as initiatives take shape. It was great to see a high interest level among the flock in response to becoming aware of the number of UPG’s in the Bay Area (over 100 in attendance). This will help us as we evaluate the various options before us.

But in the meantime we should all remember that the “church scattered” (that’s you and me living our normal daily lives) is always on mission. The calling to make disciples belongs to each of us. Christ in His sovereign grace fulfills the great commission – we obey it. We have now been made better aware of a potential harvest field and we don’t necessarily need organized outreaches or evangelistic efforts sponsored by the Mission Ministry to respond to the challenge set before us. Here are a couple of steps you can immediately begin to individually consider.

1 – Can the normal routine of your life be shaped to place you in contact with UPG’s? When we had an active college ministry on the UC Berkeley campus I would study half a day per week in one of the campus libraries or public spaces and have lunch locally. My aim was to shape the rhythm of my life to some degree around the students, waiters and other contacts. The fruit of this was several gospel conversations with students as well as a growing understanding of their world-view. Most of the concentrations of UPG’s are not in our immediate vicinity but many of you travel, commute and work throughout the Bay Area. What steps can you take to deliberately routinely intersect with them?

2 – Consider opening your home to an international exchange student. Students from many nations move here to attend Diablo Valley College because it is a stepping stone to UC Berkeley. Consider opening your home to one of these internationals. Several families in our church already do this including one of my own children. As a result a Chinese exchange student has heard the gospel many times and repeatedly experienced the love of a Christian household. He has been a part of our Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings for a couple of years. You can find all the information you need at this website.

3 – Consider serving at the International Christian Fellowship. This ministry was introduced by Tim Williams on Wednesday evening. There are various opportunities there for any who would like to take a first few steps towards interacting with internationals. You can find more info at their website.

Mission Fair Booths a Success

Sunday afternoon, following second hour worship, the fellowship hall was lined with various booths. Each booth offered information on upcoming short-term mission trips or other mission opportunities. Our thanks to our own Tim Hammack and the crew from Bay Area Rescue Mission for providing tasty morsels at each station. I had to leave for a special luncheon with one of the visiting missionaries before stopping at each booth but from what I was told the hall was eventually packed tight and there were 61 different requests for further information or expressions of interest in volunteering.

Hispanic Ministry Hosts Pastor David Robles

Pastor David Robles Second from Left

Pastor David Robles Second from Left

While many of us were in the second hour worship service the Hispanic ministry was meeting across the street in the Teen Center as they routinely do. However, this week they had the special privilege of listening to the word preached by David Robles. David is the preaching pastor of a growing church strategically situated in Leon Spain. He was in California attending a conference and accepted our invitation to speak. His presence provided both a link to our church’s mission focus and a personal connection to another Spanish speaking ministry serving Christ in a difficult foreign country. We hope to hear more about David and his ministry soon.

GBC Hispanic Ministry Gathering

GBC Hispanic Ministry Gathering

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Diving into Diversity with the Gospel

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Responding to the Reality of Unreached People Groups in our Back Yard

Harvest is Plentiful

Our focus this week here at GBC is on “Reaching the Unreached.” There is a lot on the calendar designed to create a greater awareness of the vast array of opportunities that surround us right here. It is our hope that the Holy Spirit will produce  a deep love for the many ethnic groups that live in the Bay Area and that this will lead to focused efforts at penetrating these communities with the gospel.

According to Wikipedia nearly 43% of California residents speak a language other than English at home. This is a proportion far higher than any other state. The Bay Area leads the state in this multiplicity of language. I offer this graph to help you visualize this diversity. It was formulated with US Census data. It does not reflect unreached people groups per se but it does vividly portray the mixture of nations in our own back yard.

Bay Area Ethnic Diversity

Bay Area Ethnic Diversity

Wednesday evening’s meeting will shed light on the difference between “unreached people groups” and ethnic diversity.  Not everyone agrees on a precise definition but Tim Svoboda of YWAM offers the following:

An unreached people group is a sociological grouping of people that shares a common affinity with one another and does not have an adequate amount of indigenous believers and resources amongst them to evangelize their own group of people.

You can find more information on “unreached people groups” at the Joshua Project.

As a congregation we will be discussing not only definitions and principles but practical ways we can begin to be more proactive in targeting efforts towards the unreached. I want to point you to the following article in order to prime the pump for this topic:

It is a post alluded to by Dustin in his message this past Sunday and written by Trevin Wax entitled “Failure to Live on Mission is a Worship Problem.”

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