Five Challenges for 2015/2016

Sunday was an important day for our church. Once a year I speak to the vision of our church (both NRHBC and Cross Church). It is a day I set aside to challenge our church around five areas of future growth moving forward in the remainder of this year and much of next.

Below is a quick recap of the five challenges. I have also included video portion where I speak to our church. If you care for our church, please join me in praying and rally together toward these five challenges.

1. Increase the Number of Bible Study (SMBS) Groups. We currently offer 36 adult SMBS groups at NRHBC and 5 small groups at Cross Church. In the next four years, we want to offer 45 groups at NRHBC. Sunday Morning Bible Studies is the lifeblood of our church. This is where we care for people and it is where we study God’s Word in depth. I cannot underestimate the importance of these groups to the life of our church. They are critical and God does so much good through this one aspect of ministry. In fact, if you are not in one of these groups, you are missing out on an area of growth and relationships.

To get to our goal, we need competent godly people to step up and start new groups. It takes real work to call, teach, and care for adults. However, leading also brings a great deal of joy. Seeing others grow in Christ and “get it” spiritually is extremely powerful. Pray that God allows us to move to our desired number.

2. Send 30% of of NRHBC and Cross Church on a Mission Trip by 2018. During a short term mission trip, we mobilize Bible-believing people for a short period of time, from a matter of days to a few weeks. The impact of how God works through these important times is incalculable. When you go on a short-term trip, you grow exponentially, but you also impact the people where you are ministering. Whether you are clearing debris after a disaster or sharing Bibles in a major metropolis around the globe, short-term missions puts you in touch with career missionaries and causes your hearts to beat with the love and compassion of God Himself (Romans 10:1).

To get to our goal, we need 450 people to step up on a mission trip in the next three years. We have trips planned to Colorado Springs, Colorado, Vancouver, British Columbia, and SE Asia. More trips are planned continually and you simply need to reach out to our missions pastor for more information on how you can be involved.

3. Join together for a Week of Prayer on November 8-15 and for 24 Hours of Fasting on November 14-15. In a recent New York Times article entitled “Googling for God,” we witness some of what happens behind closed doors when Americans are alone with their computers.

“It has been a bad decade for God, at least so far. Despite the rising popularity of Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, Google searches for churches are 15 percent lower in the first half of this decade than they were during the last half of the previous one. Searches questioning God’s existence are up. Many behaviors that he supposedly abhors have skyrocketed. Porn searches are up 83 percent. For heroin, it’s 32 percent… The top Google search including the word “God” is “God of War,” a video game, with more than 700,000 searches per year. The No. 1 search that includes “how to” and “Walmart” is “how to steal from Walmart,” beating all questions related to coupons, price-matching or applying for a job.”

Many of us feel the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation slipping away. The commitment to Christ and His church has slowly eroded. Apathy for spiritual things has moved to antagonism for people, for the Bible, and those who believe. Turning this around is beyond any one person and any one congregation. We need God to move in and change the tide. We need to recognize our inadequacy and plead with God to change our churches, our lives, and our nations. We need a spiritual awakening.

We are setting aside one week to ask God to bless our missionaries and to advance the gospel around the world, November 8-15. And we are calling for a church-wide 24 fast beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. through Sunday at 7 p.m. Your fasting should be a sacrifice on your part and it can include food, drink, social media, television, or video games. This 24 hours is set aside to plead with God to impact our church and our nation.

4. Finish Paying for the Land for the Future Home of Cross Church. Our church purchased approximately 27 acres in 2013 in order to begin Cross Church, our church’s second campus. God has blessed our work in a remarkable way over the past 18 months as our second campus has meet in a nearby school. Yet, our longterm goal is to secure the land as a future home and erect a building. We need a permanent home for many reasons but here is one of our biggest needs: a permanent home allows us to meet together anytime of the week rather than only Sunday mornings. A permanent home allows us to better serve North Fort Worth as community center hub.

To complete the purchase of the land, we have set aside Sunday, November 15 as a Big Offering Day. Our one day goal is $325,000. Join me in praying and giving sacrificially on this day.

5. Commit to Share the Gospel on Thursday, October 15. Let’s join with hundreds of churches across the United States in prayerfully committing to intentionally engage in a gospel conversation on this Thursday. Take time to share your commitment with friends and ask them to join. You may want to use gospel presentations such as 3 Circles or The Story. Begin praying right now for someone that needs to hear about God’s love through the cross of Christ. Again, I am calling on everyone of us to share our faith on this one day.

Thank you for taking time to read this and watch this video. Please consider sharing these five challenges with a friend, co-worker, or family member as a way to stir them to great faithfulness in Christ.

Related Post: For the Five Convictions that Direct our Church, go here.

For the full video of Sunday’s Vision Recast Sermon, go here.

Prayer Resources – From the Archives

Over the past year or so, I have written a lot to encourage believers to pray. Here’s a helpful summary of Prayer Resources from the Archives. Simply click on the links below for more information about your chosen topic.

How to Pray for Your Pastors

How to Pray for Your Wife

How to Pray for Your Children

Why Should You Fast and Pray?

How Can I Pray for People to Experience Christ?

Does God Change His Mind When I Pray?

Should You Pray for Physical Healing?

The Need to Pray for Spiritual Awakening

Programming Note: I future plans to write on how to prayer for husbands.

Four Reasons to Pray & Fast: Preparing for Prayer Week 2012

American Evangelical Christians are more known for eating rather than fasting. Many evangelicals supported Mike Huckabee’s call to eat at fast food chain Chick-fil-A this past summer in support of biblical marriage. Many more of us are several pounds overweight. Still, the Bible calls on Christians everywhere to push away from the table in a practice called fasting.

Fasting does not just have to be pushing away from the dinner table. Fasting can include deliberately abstaining from social media such as Facebook and Twitter, Television, Video Games, and favorite hobbies. Married couples can abstain from sexual relations for a period of time for the purpose prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). Fasting has more to do with your appetite for anything that substitutes for God than it does food.

Jesus began His teaching on fasting in His famous Sermon on the Mount by simply saying, “And when you fast…” (Matthew 6:16). Just a few verses before, Jesus spoke on prayer by introducing the subject the same way, “And when you pray…” (Matthew 6:7). Just as Jesus expects all of His followers to pray, we are equally expected to fast. Yet, so few of us do fast. Polling from this past weekend’s worship services suggested that less than 70% of NRHBC attenders have never fasted (via www.youversion.com ). Additionally, little more than 25% have fasted less that twice in their entire lives.

Let me offer four biblical reasons why you should pray and fast.

1. Pray and Fast for Humility – During the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia (mid 5th century BC), Ezra was sent back to his homeland of Israel after spending the majority of his lifetime in the foreign land of Babylon. Because the trip was dangerous and because his caravan was loaded down with many goods, Ezra was scared of bandits along the way. He was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers to protect his group along with their numerous possessions, so he fasted before he set out. Rather than ask the foreign king to protect Him, Ezra sought the favor of God to protect them along the journey.

In describing Ezra’s story, the Bible specifically says Ezra’s fast was designed for the bigger purpose of humbling himself before God (Ezra 8:21). We humble ourselves by fasting.

2. Pray and Fast for God’s Reward – Jesus directs His followers to fast in secret (Matthew 6:16-18). You are not to tell others when you fast. Don’t tell your friends or your family for the purpose of bragging about your spiritual status. This goes for those times when you “casually” drop it into conversations for the purpose of making yourself look more holy.

When you keep your fasting to yourself, God sees your actions and rewards your actions: “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17-18). God Himself will be pleased with you. Can you think of anything more fulfilling than pleasing God?

3. Pray and Fast to be Free – American Christians have a gluttony problem. Gluttony is taking anything to excess. We watch too much TV and play too many video games. Anything you mention, we can form it into an addiction. We live for sports. We eat, drink, and sleep Gallup polls during the political season. We are even addicted to Internet surfing and work itself. And yes by the way, we also eat too much. In our wealth and abundance, American Christians have been mastered by many things. The Bible calls on us to not be dominated by anything other than God Himself (1 Corinthians 6:12). A regular time of prayer coupled with fasting can identify those things that master you. Pray and fasting can free you up in your service to Christ.

4. Pray and Fast to Long for God – The Bible frequently portrays the Christian life as marriage between God and us. As with any relationship, there are times when we are closer to Him while other times we feel distant. Fasting provides a tremendous foundation to prayer as we fast to cultivate a greater hunger for God. At times, our hunger for God is so intense that we lose our appetites for other things. Like a soldier separated from his girlfriend by an ocean during the time of war, his hunger for her overpowers his hunger for food.

Still, there are other times where we fast to increase our hunger for God. When we are distance from our Father, we will allow numerous small hobbies to fill up our lives. We pursue trivial matters and neglect our life’s passion – God Himself. Consequently, it’s at these times that we fast to increase our longing for God.  Fasting and prayer can intensify our passion for God.

On November 4-11, I am calling on our church to fast and pray for the cause of World Missions. Outside of the library, there will be table filled with resources on prayer and fasting this next Sunday. For more information on this important week in the life of North Richland Hills Baptist Church, please view our World Missions Prayer Guide. To sign up for the 24 hours of Prayer on November 10-11, click here.