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Why Pharisees Can't Count

  • 5 June 2017
  • Keith Reed

Pharisees"Joe had curly hair. But he didn’t know how much hair he had because he couldn’t count that high. In fact, he couldn’t count at all." [1]

Joe is a fictional character in an imaginative children’s book called Sideways Stories from Wayside School. In the third chapter, we learn that Joe isn’t allowed to go to recess because he can’t count correctly. When his teacher, Mrs. Jewls, asks him to count five pencils, Joe says, "Four, six, one, nine, five. There are five pencils, Mrs. Jewls." Even though his answer is correct, Mrs. Jewls tells Joe that he is wrong: "You got the right answer, but you counted the wrong way."

Joe’s counting problem is an example of why the process in which we do things is important. His teacher understood that his answer was lucky—even a broken clock is right two times a day—so the way he counted had to change. His method wasn’t sufficient or sustainable.

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that arriving at the right answer validates the way that I got there. But when we place too much weight on the "right" thing, we can discount the process which is often as important as the result. When I’m truthful with myself, I discover that some of my honourable deeds are prompted by a heart that is less-than-honourable. An act of generosity is sparked by my hope that I’ll be recognized; a gesture of service is motivated by my desire to please someone; a decision to sacrifice my agenda is fueled by the possibility that I will get my way the next time.

When my noble actions are prompted by selfish motives, I live like a Pharisee. I might arrive at the "right" answer, but I’m counting the wrong way.

Timothy Keller suggests the main barrier between Pharisees and God is not their sins, but their damnable good works [2]. He explains this further by stating:

To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent of the very root of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness—the sin of seeking to be our own Saviour and Lord.  

The call to repent is at the foundation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. When we refuse to acknowledge our wrongdoings—even if they lead to acts of righteousness—we cease to be disciples and start counting like Pharisees. 

An Outsider’s View to Door-to-Door Evangelism

  • 16 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

Locked doorThe Mormons came back.

They knocked on my front door on a Monday evening at the typical time: shortly after our dinner table had been cleared and just before our kids’ bedtime.*

I had not met the two young men who stood on my porch, but I quickly learned one was from Sacramento and the other from Salt Lake City. One introduced himself with the title of Elder, the other with only his first name. While they talked, my daughter gripped my hand and pirouetted from time to time. This wasn’t new to her either.  

Visitors from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made it a habit to stop by our home. A few years ago, my wife and I invited a small group of missionaries into our home to discuss their faith in greater depth. This led to a series of meetings over several months and gave me the chance to participate in an Alpha course with a couple from the local LDS ward. The missionaries from that first meeting have returned to their respective hometowns, but the cycle of visitations is now continuing. New faces, new introductions, but very similar interactions.  

After I bid them farewell, I collected my thoughts and reflected on how it felt to be an “outsider”the person perceived to need the faith being presented. Many times, Christians try to think with this mentality so they can communicate the gospel message more effectively. But thinking from a certain perspective is much different than experiencing it firsthand.

Here’s what I learned from my latest interaction:

They came with a purpose

Pranks aside, people don’t knock on doors without a reason. Salespeople want me to change my gas or internet provider, my neighbour asks me for a favour, my friend arrives and doesn’t want to barge in. There’s always a reason for knocking.

Developing a Missional Mindset in Your Church

  • 10 May 2017
  • Keith Reed

What does it mean to be on mission for God? In a previous blog, I explored Six Marks of a Missional Church from Acts 2:42-47. In this article, I want to explore this theme further and unpack ways we can develop a missional mindset in our churches. 

A Missional Church is Incarnational

A missional church recognizes that most people will not come to a building to hear the gospel. People in a missional church are actively bringing Christ to those who desperately need him. Just as "the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood," so too, those on a mission incarnate and share the gospel with those around them [1]. 

For the past 18 years, my family has lived in a nine-unit townhouse complex. Even though we’ve contemplated buying a detached house many times, one of the main reasons we choose to stay is because it’s easier to do life with people when you live close to them. It’s definitely harder to avoid your neighbours when they’re standing ten feet away (although we do manage to do this sometimes). Over the years, we’ve been able to share the gospel with several of our townhouse friends. At least two of them have accepted Christ.

We took this living-in-close-proximity-thing one step further last year when we moved into an apartment building with refugees for seven months (you can read about our adventure in the Do Something blog). We did life with these newcomers to Canada and had many opportunities to share Christ. In fact, it was sometimes ridiculously easy to talk about our faith.

Of course, not everyone lives in an apartment or a townhouse. The point is that we need to find ways to move into people’s lives—to build relationships, to be a blessing, and to share the gospel as the Holy Spirit opens up people’s hearts to hear it (see Six Ways Anyone Can Share Their Faith for more ideas).

A Missional Church Equips and Empowers Individuals to be Active in their Harvest Fields

It’s one thing to talk about being a missional church, but how do we mobilize the masses to live missionally? Let me suggest five ways: 

1. Sermons need to remind people of the importance of the gospel for both them and the unsaved. This gives people a vision for gospel-living. 

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