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Friday, September 27

Winning The Lost ... Throw off religious frames of thought!

           "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that wins souls is wise  (Proverb 11:30)."
     In these last days before Christ Jesus returns, we must do everything necessary to make sure that our partnership with God is strong. Only then will we be able to be truly effective at winning the lost, with God, God's Way.
            In 1987, I had a contemporary band that I put together for ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ through original music and lyrics. The band members and I were invited to a church in Roanoke, Virginia to do a concert for the purpose of reaching out to the lost young people in their city. As the event date drew near, I specifically remember asking God to pack the auditorium with lost teenagers, hundreds of young guys and girls whose hearts and lives we could win for Christ during this upcoming evening. After all, the more people we draw in to a concert event, the more effectively successful the outreach ministry will prove to be. Everybody knows that, right??!!

            We believed that our motives were pure, but our goal to draw the biggest crowd had become a bit too high in our outreach priorities. That popular, misguided, religious frame of thought, "the bigger our crowds, the better our ministry" led us to become too focused on mainly drawing the crowds to our concert rather than preparing to meet the needs of individuals who came. I was unknowingly well-on-my-way to becoming desensitized to the increasing need of the folks coming to the outreach concert ministry. Was I doing a good thing? I surely was, without a doubt! Was I doing the "right" thing? Not nearly as much as I should have been!

            A few days before the concert, after I had been praying for only about 10 minutes, The Lord said something that would forever change my life, especially in the way I would conduct my band outreach ministry from then on. The Lord said to me, "Keith, do you know why I was so successful at reaching the masses during My earthly ministry?" I replied, "Why Lord?" He said, "Because My passion has always been for loving people on a personal one-on-one basis, first! If a crowd assembles to hear you share what I have placed on your heart for them, then that gathering should be held for no other reason than for those in attendance to receive My Word of direction, correction, encouragement, or affirmation. And we make sure to address their individual lives first, then address the group. Always remember, I never call an assembly for entertaining individuals. I will only call individuals to gather together for solemn assemblies."

            In this age when a church's success is largely based on the number of people that are in attendance, or the amount of money that is in its coffers, it is no wonder that much of the body of Christ in America is in the impotent state that it is, especially where winning the lost God's way is concerned. Jesus said, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer (permit) ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence  (a false show)  make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte  (be converted)  , and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves  (Matthew 23:13-15)."

            I know that this may be a bit hard to swallow, but Christ Jesus could just as well be addressing the vast majority of church organizations in this country today, with that same message. God loves loving people. He hates when His people put anything ahead of loving Him and loving others. Before we can truly become effective at reaching people for the reasons God wants to reach them, we must understand that, contrary to popular belief, God is not at all impressed with our buildings, bank accounts, programs, or any other outward thing that secular society deems is an outward indication of inward spiritual maturity. In fact, secular society operates contrary to the ways of spiritual maturity. Therefore, with a lack of spiritual maturity in the lives of church leaders, the church's function will, in great part, sadly be operating in this all-too-popular religious frame of thought.

            Why have those religious mindsets and secular things become sought-after in churches, even more-so than the will of God for people? In short, it is because the church has allowed popular culture to affect the church more that the church has intentionally affected pop-culture. No matter what growth experts may tell you about buying facilities or adding programs, God's passion is for having an intimate relationship with each one of His individual people, individually. Not that I'm saying money and what it can buy is bad; I am saying that, when the pursuit of these things is hindering our ability to demonstrate God's Love for people, we have, as I like to say, "put the cart before the horse." We have to play a more effective role in winning the lost, as well as encouraging currently-active believers in the church. Millions of dollars are being squandered away on things, like the construction of facilities, the purchase of buses and other equipment, and developing exorbitant programs, that, for the most part, are never fully utilized for the purpose that they were acquired. It's just bad stewardship.

            In Matthew 6:33, Jesus gives us the starting place where it all must begin, "But seek ye first the Kingdom of God  (the Kingdom that IS God), and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

            As you hold on to that thought, Part II "Winning the Lost...We Can Only Give From What We've Got" is coming soon, then Part III, "Winning the Lost...Counting the Cost" after that too. We encourage you to ask the Person of The Holy Spirit to meet with you in the pages of God's written Word where He helps us develop our increasing WANT for oneness with others along with our become One IN God, IN Jesus Christ, and IN Him (The Person of The Holy Spirit). You see, for us to become truly effective at winning the lost in these last days, we must do everything necessary to make sure that our partnership with God is strong first. I once heard a very wise man say, "The best thing we can do to help the poor in this country is to not be one of them." The same thing applies where leading the lost in spiritual things is concerned. Make it your goal to befriend people who are outside of your own circle of friends, and share with them all that The wonderful Holy Spirit brings to light in all those times God has answered your prayers and walked and talked with you in your life. The results will bless both you and them, as your hearts become filled with gratitude that compels you to offer up thanksgiving to Him, for Him, and for everything He IS and does.

            We must always remember Revelation 12:11, "And they overcame him  (the devil)  by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." And, no matter what,  KEEP PRESSIN' IN!.

            Our sincerest hope is that you are encouraged as you take in this blog. We'd like to invite you to take advantage of even more messages of encouragement, for you and your friends and family members, specially available now in one of our most-requested Toward The Mark books entitled, "Letters From The Front." We want to personally invite you to get your copies today.

            Our book  LETTERS FROM THE FRONT is a special collection of 12 of our most-requested teaching titles:

Sin Makes Ya Stewpit
The Cart's Before The Horse;
The Crisis of Eroding Integrity
The Fruit's at the End of the Limb
Too Quick to Compromise
The Rarest of All Breeds
Please...Stop Stinkin'
3 Keys to God-Pleasing Faith
Let It Go!
Understanding the Fear of The Lord
Into The Secret Place
Give to Give!

This collection of twelve teachings, when taken to heart, will help you emerge triumphant over seemingly impossible situations... "LETTERS From The FRONT" available at TowardTheMark online. If you would like to request a special order of this resource or any product from Keith Shealy and Toward The Mark, or if you have questions about our work, resources, or giving tax-deductible donations, please click here to e-mail us.

Would you write and let us know how this message has fanned the flame in your heart for Christ Jesus, His Ways, and God's Plan for your life?  We welcome you to mail us a letter addressed to TOWARD THE MARK, P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152.  If you would like to e-mail your letter to us, please click here to e-mail us.
May you be greatly blessed as God writes this message in your heart. We praise Him, with eternal gratitude, for our loving Toward The Mark Family without whose help and support this work would not be possible!

Your friends and servants in Christ,


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