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Your Unbelieving Friend Just Heard the Gospel. Now What?

So you sent the Easter Sunday sermon link to your non-Christian friend, family member, or neighbor. They watched the singing, heard the Bible readings, and listened to the sermon. Now what?

The most effective evangelism and discipleship includes follow-up. In other words, we don’t grenade the gospel into people’s lives and then leave them alone to sort it all out. Christ actually calls us beyond evangelism into discipling. Discipling includes telling people the gospel, but also teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us (Matt. 28:19). To do this effectively, we must be willing to share our lives -- not just our links -- with people

So let’s say your friends and family just heard Sunday’s message about Jesus' resurrection. They heard several reasons why it’s true that Jesus is alive. They heard that they could be reconciled to God, have their sins forgiven, and escape death if they trust him. What do they need now? How can you follow up?

First of all, pray. If you’re not already, start praying for those people every day. God loves to show his power in response to our petitions. 

Second of all, enlist a few other people to pray with you. Tell some others from church about who you're praying for, and ask if they would pray with you. 

Third, reach out again soon. I don’t want to be too specific here, because every relationship is different and we don’t want to promote cookie-cutter techniques. But what if you shot them a text asking whether they agreed with the sermon? Or asked if they’d be willing to come to church with you next time the doors are open? What if you shared next Sunday’s sermon or sent them a gospel tract?

My family put together an Easter basket with candy, a note, Greg Gilbert’s book What is the Gospel?, and, of course, some toilet paper! Today I followed up and was encouraged to hear that the couple said they’d start reading the book together - pray for fruit! Whatever you do, don’t leave them hanging. Make follow-up contact.

Fourth, think strategically about how to create an ongoing discussion around Christ. The idea is that you don’t want this to be an Easter-only thing. Again, everyone must seek the Lord’s wisdom as to how this works in the relationships you have. It’s worth considering. Perhaps you offer to read through the gospel of Mark. Maybe you ask how you can pray for them, and then plan to follow up with them in a few weeks or months. Would they be willing to attend a Bible study? Think through ways that might elongate this conversation about Christ.

Fifth, rest in God’s sovereignty. He is accomplishing his purposes. Though we desire to do all we can for the sake of the elect (2 Tim. 2:10), we also rest in the promise that those who are his “will listen to his voice” (Jn. 10:16). Let’s be faithful to continue bringing the gospel into all our relationships, praying for God’s mighty hand to save.

Posted by Eric Durso with

Don't Waste Your Pandemic

John Piper published a book called Don’t Waste Your Life in 2003. Eight years later he published a short pamphlet after his bout with cancer: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. It’s a odd and provocative, isn’t it? It reframes our perspective, challenging us not to see cancer merely as a trial to get through but an opportunity to learn from. 

I wonder if it would be helpful for Christians to make a similarly odd statement these days: don’t waste your pandemic. It’s even more odd. But it’s helpful. Because wouldn’t it be awful if after all this, Christians learned nothing? 

I resonate with what Ray Ortlund recently said: “If we pastors and our churches get through this, only to return to ‘normal,’ with a sigh of relief but without repentance, without prayer, without courage, we will have wasted our historic moment. And then what more will the Lord have to do, to shake us awake?”

What do I need right now? Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself as a way to process how I might not waste this pandemic.

What is Dominating Your Mind?

First and foremost, I need my mind dominated by truth, not world news. Everything I read, watch, and listen to about the crisis in the world right now is unnerving. I am tempted to read it and meditate on it without filtering through the realities I see in Scripture. Unfiltered water can cause disease in the body; unfiltered news disease of the mind. World events need to be rightly filtered, interpreted, and processed. The truths of Scripture don’t remove problems, but they allow me to interpret them within God’s plan of redemption. That’s the framework I must fill my mind with: a sovereign God who is a heavenly father who is redeeming a broken creation through Jesus Christ for his glory. And in all this, if he cares for birds and flowers, he will certainly care for me, my family, and my church.

How Are You Guarding Your Heart?

Secondly, the truths in my mind need to be absorbed into my heart. In other words, God doesn’t merely want me to know the right things, but to feel the right things. His fatherly care is meant to produce rest and peace. His sympathetic ministry ought to cause me to feel understood, cared for, confident and assured. This means it’s critical that I continually rehearse truth to myself, not so much for rote memorization, but to feed my hungry heart. The first psalm encourages me to “meditate on the word day and night.” This is more than reading and memorizing -- it involves prolonged pondering. The shallow beds of trite cliches and pat answers are drying up; these are days we need to dig deep wells of truth for our souls. 

Are You Watching Your Information Intake?

Third, I will not be able to do this without being more careful about my information intake. Certainty feels like control. I am tempted to try and gain mastery over this situation by seeking to follow every last detail of every news story, and all the latest prognoses. While it’s good to be informed, I am also noticing that the firehose of (often conflicting) reports can drown my soul. Continually grasping for more knowledge about the crisis does not help me grab hold of the Lord; it seems to be a subtle form of self-reliance (the more I know, the more I can control). More than ever, the principle of “devotion before distraction” is relevant.

What are Your Learning About Yourself?

Someone said, “the plague searches us,” and I am finding this to be true. I am learning a lot about myself these days. What am I hoping in? What were my expectations for my life? Do I really trust God to do good for me and for the church? Can I trust that Christ will care for the church in this time (even as I feel unable to)? Do I engage in escapism (trying to ignore problems by tuning out in various ways)? 

And the regular questions I need to ask myself have been amplified: How do I lead my wife through this? My kids are cut off from the godly influence of the church, how am I discipling them? Is my leadership in the home life-giving or oppressive? Do I encourage or exasperate my kids? The stay-at-home order brings all these questions to the fore and we must deal with them.

The COVID-19 Classroom

I guess, in summary, what I’m realizing is that I have a lot to learn and the coronavirus crisis is the classroom in which God instructs me. And not just me -- God has enrolled the whole world in this course. What grace! He is not done with us! May this season of severe learning lead to another kind of outbreak - of robust truth, sacrificial love, holy zeal, fervent prayer, and all-in service. Let’s pray for a global awakening the church has never seen. 

As C.S. Lewis has said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures...but shouts in our pains.” Are we listening? Am I listening?

Posted by Eric Durso with

Grace Rancho Coronavirus Update and Plans

Dear Grace Rancho Church Family,

The last 48 hours have been a tumultuous time for our nation as we are reminded again of human frailty and mortality. The coronavirus is leaving devastation in its wake and the world is reeling to figure out how to respond. Over the last 48 hours, we have been prayerfully seeking the Lord for wisdom for what we should do as a church. We do not want to respond in fear or panic, but with confidence in the revealed wisdom of God. Here are some principles that are guiding our decision regarding how to move forward.

Principle 1: God is sovereign and good, so we need not fear. He is not surprised by this, and intends to glorify himself through this. Let’s humble ourselves before our mighty God and run to him as our only refuge (Ps. 5:11). The Bible repeatedly commands us not to fear because God is sovereign.

Principle 2: God is sympathetic, so we can lament. There are two common responses to the outbreak: panic or dismissal. Christians should avoid both. We must not panic, because a good and sovereign God rules over all (Ps. 103:19). We must not dismiss it, because we are called to care about suffering in the world. A more biblical response is to lament over the brokenness over our world, cry out to God for healing and mercy, and reassert our confidence in him. We must not be ruled by fear, but faith, trusting God at all times (Ps. 62:8).

Principle 3: The gathering of the church is a weighty responsibility, so we pause. As believers we are called to gather regularly to help one another remain faithful to Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:24-25). To cancel the gathering of Christ’s people is no small decision, and should be evaluated carefully.

Principle 4: God the Holy Spirit is a wise helper, so we pray. The Holy Spirit is called a “Helper” (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26). We believe that as we seek him, he helps us. James encouraged us to ask for wisdom when we lack it, and he will give it (Jas. 1:5). We’ve been praying that God would guide our decision making.

Principle 5: Government is a gift from God for the good of society, we should listen. Romans 13 instructs us to be “subject to the governing authorities” because they have been “instituted by God.” It says that government is “God’s servant for your good” (v 4). Pastors and church leaders are not health experts, and must defer to those who are, trusting the God-ordained institutions God has placed over us. This is particularly relevant, since the California Department for Public Health’s statement reads, “Smaller gatherings held in venues that do not allow social distancing of six feet per person should be postponed or cancelled. This includes gatherings in crowded auditoriums, rooms or other venues.” We believe it is responsible to take this recommendation seriously.

Principle  6: Pastors must protect the flock, not only spiritually but physically. The early church sacrificed for the physical needs of one another, even if it was costly (Acts 2:45). Following their example, we must seek to care for the physical needs of our members. We must take this into consideration as we plan what’s best. In our church we have elderly, infants, and people with chronic illness. We must seek to protect them.

Principle 7: The church must act in self-sacrificing love, so we must consider what’s best for our neighbor. In making this decision, we must not only think about what’s best for our church, but what’s loving to our neighbor. We feel our decision has the potential to impact the broader community, and we would not want our gathering to damage the loving witness of our church.

What Will We Do?

We will be canceling this weekend's in-person gatherings. Our Saturday Men’s Equipping Group and Sunday morning and evening gatherings will be cancelled.

We will be livestreaming our Sunday morning service. We want families and small groups to follow and worship remotely. We’ve sent our order of service in the Grace Rancho Weekly email, and we encourage our members to tune in at our Grace Rancho Youtube Channel at 10am to worship with us. We will not all be together, but we can remain united in our praise and prayer to God. You can find lyrics for the songs we will be singing this Sunday here. As the church relies upon the generosity of our members, though we’re apart we encourage you to continue giving by either mailing in your offering to the church or giving online.

We will be providing questions for families and groups to work through together. After you participate in the livestream, we’ll provide some verses and discussion questions to work through. As difficult as it is for us to not meet in the same location, we want to make the best use of the time. You can find Sunday’s discussion questions here.

We will be praying to God for mercy and healing. If we are to be a sympathetic people, we must care about the suffering of those around us. We are calling upon all Christians to cry out to the Lord for mercy and healing. He could stop all of this with a word, let’s look to him.

We will be asking God to use this to provide open doors for the gospel. People are now being confronted with the reality that they are mortal. We are praying that this opens up doors for the gospel to be shared. We believe in the resurrection of the body, and we do not fear death. Let’s be prepared to give an account for the hope we have (1 Pet. 3:15) and pray that God gives opportunity to do so.

Conclusion

We are confident the Lord does all things for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28), and we are confident this is a good decision for our church to make. We are going to evaluate one Sunday at a time, and do our best to communicate with you what we’re doing as a church and why.

Please: if there are any needs at all, please let us know. There are many people who are willing to do what they can to help you. If you are able, I would encourage you to check in with other friends and church members to see if they’re okay. Though we cannot physically gather, now is a crucial moment for us to band together in prayer and support, seeking to set an example to our community of self-sacrificial love.


Yours for Christ,

The Grace Rancho Elders

 

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