Dear Friend: Getting Excited about the Gospel Again

Dear Friend,

I’m writing this simple note to check in on you. I know I never ask you directly, and, most likely, no one else does either, but, how is your spiritual life? How is your relationship with the Lord? Now, there is no reason to get up in arms about this question. I mean it sincerely, and I am asking as a friend. 

You know, so many Christians have given up in doing good, lost their first love, have watched their faith grow cold. This ought not be so. The New Testament gives one encouragement after another to continue to stoke the fire of our own faith and good deeds (Matt 6:33; Gal 6:9; 1 Cor 15:58; Heb 10:35-39).

Do you remember when you first became a Christian? I’m sure you felt so comforted and free! The Gospel releases us from guilt, the power of sin, anxiousness about the future, and it brings us into a right relationship with God. Sometimes, though, when we neglect our spiritual lives, we end up neglecting the Lord and moving farther and farther away from Him. You know how exhausting that is, how guilty you feel, how miserable your mind becomes. Yet, it is difficult to figure out how to get out of that rut once you are in it!

We have to prepare and pace ourselves for a long Christian life, and we have to get out of ruts quickly once we are in them. I want to offer you, my friend, a few practical helps for getting excited about the Gospel again, for renewing a healthy relationship with the Lord. The first two are traditional, obvious, and simple, but they are also tried and true: (1) Read the Scriptures every day and (2) spend time in prayer multiple times a day. There are so many different ways to read the Bible now. You can use your physical copy with just the Scriptures or open up a study Bible with helpful notes. You can also look up a Bible website or download an app. If using a study Bible, I highly recommend that you read an entire passage first, ponder it for a few minutes, and then read the study notes later. When starting back to Bible reading, I recommend you read the Gospels for a while so that you can see and experience Jesus up-close and personal again. When thinking of prayer, I’d suggest a couple focused times during the day, when you can spend at least 5-10 minutes in prayer. Confess your sins and give thanks to the Lord. Praise Him for His mercy!

After those two timeless and powerful spiritual disciplines, I would also encourage you to (3) spend time with Christian friends, but not just any—really think of some positive Christians to hang out with. There’s so much negativity in our world, and even in the church, to the point that we are all left drained. Find 2-3 people who you enjoy spending time with and who help to refuel you (without even knowing it!). There are so many practical suggestions I could make, but I’ll only share one more in this brief letter. (4) Spend a lot less time with electronics and a lot more time outside. There is something draining about being in front of a TV or phone. There’s lots of evil, honestly, that we are spiritually ingesting through these various platforms, whether it is the things we watch, or articles we read, or interactions on social media. There’s something draining about it, but there is something energizing—physically, emotionally, spiritually—about being outside in the sunshine. I grew up in the foothills of NC, right at the base of the mountains, and to this day I still enjoy being in the hill country and visiting the mountains. I love seeing those sights. The same is true of the beach, and rivers, or just traveling down some winding, country roads. Getting some fresh air and sunshine are good in so many different ways, and those times are also good opportunities for prayer and reflection.

Of course, the one practical, spiritual discipline that often goes without being said is being thoroughly involved in the local church. If you want to renew your spiritual life, if you want to care for your soul, if you want to come close to the Lord again, if you want to get excited about the Gospel once more, then come to church! Praise the Lord with us, learn more about Him, ask lots of questions, pray with us, eat with us, share in life with us! My friend, you have so many helps and encouragements for your Christian walk, don’t waste your life in a rut! See you soon!

Your Friend,

Dear Friend: Getting More Involved in the Church

Dear Friend,

Hey, buddy, I hope you are doing well. It has been nice seeing you in Sunday worship so much recently. The Lord is obviously at work in your life. I’m grateful for all of the progress you have made in your faith and for the support that you have shown me as well. I just wanted to write a simple but personal note today to encourage you to get even more involved in the church. 

I know you have a lot on you. You are a busy person. You work so much, and you have to take care of your family. There’s a lot that you are responsible for. Yet, joining the church and getting active in its life and ministries will balance out your life. There are so many reasons to get more involved. You will be less stressed and better prepared for what’s ahead. You will be able to fully follow the Lord Jesus. You know, we cannot even begin to fulfill most of the teachings in the New Testament without being involved in the local church. You will be more motivated to serve others, to pray, and to realize your full potential. This world has gotten crazier and crazier. I know you agree. So, now is not the time for less Bible and less church time. Now is the time to get even more involved in the church and to know the Bible that much better!

Getting more involved in the church will be good for your soul. Listen, it doesn’t matter who we are talking about—we all need to be taught, to be encouraged, to worship the Lord, to have a support team, and to be/do/have several other things that only the local church provides. The truth is, if we are both honest, you need us, and we need you. We’re in this together, but the only way that will have any meaning is if we are together more often—getting to know one another, serving together, worshipping together, sharing with one another.

I like to encourage everyone to be “Plus One Members.” To do so, you come to Morning Worship on Sundays + one class + one ministry. Now, I would certainly be happy to see you come to all three services on Sundays and to find multiple ways to serve the church and community, but let’s start slow. If you’re willing to take my advice on getting more involved in the church, then simply pick one class to attend (The BLEND @ 10 AM or Eve Ministries @ 6 PM), and find one ministry in the church in/through which you can serve (greeting, praying, grounds, sound, singing, meals, office, online, missions, youth, etc.).

If you would like to read about it more, check out Bible passages like these: Heb 10:24; Col 3:16; 1 Cor 12:12-22; and Acts 2:42.

Love in Christ,

Dear Friend: Getting Back into Church

Dear Friend,

Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while, and I really miss seeing you at church gatherings. You have been missing out on wonderful times of worship and fellowship. I’m sure you have your reasons for stepping away for some time, but I would love to see you back this Sunday.

Maybe you have just gotten lazy or distracted by the things around us. It is easy to do. I get distracted, myself, from time to time. The world has a way of pulling us in several different directions. Let me encourage you like Jesus did with the Ephesians in Revelation 2: Return to your first love! Set your priorities straight again. Set aside time every first day of the week to worship the Lord.

Maybe you were hurt by someone or something in the church. These things are never easy to navigate, but I am confident that if we can simply sit down and talk, we could clear things up. None of us are perfect. I do not claim to be perfect and neither does anyone else in our church. You know the old saying, those who are closest to you can hurt you the most. Families have disputes, but we are still family. Let’s try to work toward reconciliation.

Maybe you are mad at God about something. Do you really think that moving farther away from the Lord during your struggles is the best thing to do? I would encourage you to draw near to God and cry out to Him. Do it with us, in congregational worship and as we support one another.

Maybe you are confused about living the Christian life in such a radically pluralistic society. Your faith is being challenged daily in many different spheres. There are moral, ethical, and political questions coming up continuously, and the Christian Faith is being portrayed as archaic and useless, even hateful. You know this is not true. You know that the love of Christ is for all people. Christians are the ones who are called to be peacemakers and to pray for all people. We are the ones who work for justice and reconciliation. And, yes, we are the ones who uphold strong morals and values in our day. Don’t shrink away now! Come to church and be better equipped to face each and every day with confidence in the Faith, seeking to be truth-tellers, Gospel-sharers, and genuine servants of all.

Maybe you have wanted to come back, but it has been so long that you are embarrassed. You might be thinking that the awkwardness of coming back to church at this point would be overwhelming. You don’t want to hear people say things like, “Where have you been?” And you don’t want strange looks from folks. You know what? You’re probably overthinking it! Now, there is the possibility that someone may say something stupid, but that’s always a possibility when a group of people get together! Stupidity is lurking every time you leave your house. Yet, for the most part, I’m confident that you will be warmly welcomed back and loved like you always have been. We have missed you, seriously.

I shouldn’t conclude without sharing the confession that maybe I haven’t said or done enough as your minister. If so, I want to sincerely apologize. If you know me at all, then you know that I respect people’s privacy. I don’t want to be nosey and get into your business. I also don’t want to be pushy. I have known too many ministers like that, and I don’t want to be one of them. That is why I have written you this letter. This is a simple note to let you know that I am thinking about you (whether you realize it or not), to encourage you to come back to church, and to let you know that you will be welcomed when you do come back. You know church participation is good for you; it is good for your soul. You also know it is the right thing to do as a Christian. Let me/us help support you in your spiritual journey. I hope to see you soon! Take care.

Your Friend,