Daily Devotional for Saturday August 23, 2008
The Start of the 12-day Florida State Fair
(John 7:37; Matthew 22:9; 1 Timothy 2:4)
Today is the start of the 12-day Florida State Fair. I am excited since this is not only exactly where Liveprayer is supposed to be, but it provides the perfect example for my message today. It also brightly highlights one of the biggest problem we have in Christendom in the year 2008. Liveprayer is not only one of the title sponsors of this year's Fair, but we are the only church/ministry that will be at the Fair other than a wonderful children's evangelism outreach. The Scientologists will be there. So will the atheists. The churches and the major ministries in the area have decided it isn't worth their time, effort, or expense to reach out to the 1/2 million plus Fair goers.
We will be providing great Gospel music all 12 days of the Fair at 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm. Early on, my staff contacted all of the major churches in the area, giving them an opportunity to have their music department featured at the Fair and to help promote their church. Liveprayer bore all of the expenses to provide the 5,000 sf tent, the staging, lighting grid, audio system, everything. All these churches had to do was show up, put on an hours worth of music, and use the time to promote their church to the people at the Fair. It was going to cost them nothing, we were even giving them the passes to get into the Fair for free. What a great opportunity right?
Sadly but not surprising to me, NOT ONE church was willing to come out. NOT ONE! I'm sorry, there was one willing to do it if I would send them a $5,000 honorarium! We are talking about major churches with multi-million dollar budgets and thousands of members. The list of excuses got comical after a while. That is OK, because we ended up lining up some great Gospel talent to fill all of the time slots, but it was just a classic illustration of how the church has lost all vision, passion, and desire to reach the lost. The fact is, every one of these churches should have their own presence at the Fair, but I guess they are too busy building new buildings and preaching to themselves. Why invest any time, not even money, into trying to reach the lost at the Fair?
The difference between preaching to the choir and reaching the lost masses outside the four walls of the church. I spent the first 3 years of my ministry preaching in over 500 churches all over the country. It was a wonderful time in my life, but deep inside I knew something was missing. I'll never forget laying in a hotel bed in Peoria, Illinois after a great service that evening in a large Assemblies of God Church. Many people came forward at the invitation that evening and accepted Christ into their heart and life by faith, but the Holy Spirit opened my spiritual eyes and told me that the masses who needed to hear about the hope we have in Jesus the most weren't sitting in the pews of that church. They were the ones living outside those four walls!
Let me share a question with you I get all the time during the many media interviews I do. It is a GREAT QUESTION that comes from reporters who aren't Believers. They ask me why are there more churches, more ministries, more Christian resources, more Christian media, than ever before in the history of Christendom, yet at the same time our culture and the world around us is in a spiritual freefall, the better percentage of two full generations don't even go to church, and Christianity has very little impact in the daily lives of the vast majority of people. It seems to be quite a paradox doesn't it? With all the churches and Christian influence that exists today, this should be a far better world.
I respond to their question by telling them the answer is quite simple. The above phenomena exists because we preach to the choir instead of reaching out to those who need the message the most. We have retreated into this incestuous place I call the "Christian trough" where the churches and most all Christian ministries live and operate. It is this Christian subculture that has evolved over the past 40 years that consists of the church, Christian TV and radio, Christian publishing, Christian music, and all of the various para-chruch ministries. It targets Believers with their message, not those outside the four walls of the church, since people who are already Christians will be friendly to the message, buy what they sell, go to events, and donate their money.
Make no mistake about it, it is business, and BIG business. Billions of dollars a year! Everyone talks about "reaching the lost," but the reality is they all end up simply preaching to the choir because that is where the money is at! Let me give you a great example. A little over a year ago, I was in the office of a gentleman who God has richly blessed financially. Money is relevant and this is a man who could write a check for $100,000 without blinking an eye. After sharing with him what God was doing at Liveprayer and asking for him to help us financially, he told me that he couldn't help me right now because he had just agreed to head up the finance team to bring a well-known evangelist to Tampa. He shared that he was responsible for raising $2.3 million dollars for this 2-day event and that the evangelist would only agree to come after the money was in the bank. (Who needs faith to follow this plan?)
Knowing others who were involved in the organization of this event, they spent over a year getting hundreds of the area churches to get their people to come to the event. So ultimately it was a couple of services with apx 100,000 people from area churches. Listen, I pray that many hearts and lives were touched and impacted during those two days. I have no doubt there were souls saved, and praise God for that. But the point I want to make is that this is how it works in the world of Christian business. Big names who won't even come until they are guaranteed to make so much money. Big events that are called "evangelistic," but are full of people who have been recruited to come from the area churches.
Do you want the perfect contrast? What we are doing for the next 12 days at the Florida State Fair! Liveprayer is a title sponsor and will have a major presence with the 5,000 square foot "Liveprayer Gospel Tent" in the heart of the State Fair, providing live Gospel music 3x a day and having church each night for the over 500,000 people who will attend this year's Fair. Are those people coming to see Liveprayer? No. Most haven't got a clue Liveprayer even exists. However, we will be there, boldly and visibly letting people know that if they are hurting, going through problems in their life, there is a place to come and find help and hope. We will be praying for people, no doubt leading many to faith in Christ, and most every person who comes to the State Fair will have one of our brightly colored flyers with the Plan of Salvation on it!
It cost Liveprayer right at $70,000 for the sponsorship, staging, lighting, audio, insurance, security, staffing, printing, and all of the other related costs. I'm not making a dime to do this, as a matter of fact, my wife and I put in the first $1,000. I am not here to get paid or to see how much money I can raise, but to simply reach the lost and hurting with the Gospel!
THAT IS WHAT THE DIFFERENCE IS BETWEEN PREACHING TO THE CHOIR AND REACHING OUT TO THE LOST MASSES OUTSIDE THE FOUR WALLS OF THE CHURCH!
I love you and care about you so much. In 2008, this is so critical. If we are going to truly impact lives, make a real difference in our culture so God is honored and Biblical Truth becomes the standard once again in this nation, then the followers of Jesus Christ have got to leave the "Christian trough" and quit simply preaching to the choir and start making a serious attempt to reach the lost and hurting masses outside the four walls of the church! We've got to quit worrying about how much money we can make, and start focusing instead on how many souls we can lead to faith in Christ! We have got to quit wasting our time and effort reaching people who are already saved, and start reaching out to those who are clearly lost!
A true evangelist is better off preaching to 20 outside the doors of a nightclub than a stadium full of people from the local churches. Of course, the 20 people outside the nightclub aren't going to buy your products or give you any money, they probably won't applaud your message, as a matter of fact they may even physically attack you because of your message. But at some point what do we do this for? For fame? For fortune? Or do we do this because God has called us to reach the lost with the Gospel?
If you have been called to serve the Lord, now is the time to start serving Him. There is a lost and dying world outside the four walls of the church that desperately needs God's Truth and the hope we have in Jesus Christ. God needs men and women to rise up in these last days who will take His message of hope to these lost and hurting souls. Paul could have had a nice life simply preaching to those Believers in the churches of his day. But he understood that it was the lost who needed to hear the Gospel, since without Jesus they were going to die and spend eternity in hell. He literally put his life on the line each day to bring the Good News to the lost and hurting even though most didn't want to hear it!
The cold hard reality is that a person who dies without Jesus is going to spend eternity in hell. People are dying and going to hell every second. We, who possess the words of everlasting life have a responsibility to bring that message of salvation through faith in Christ to these dying souls. Why do we spend all of our time, energy, and resources telling the saved how to be saved, when it is the lost who need to hear those words of everlasting life?
I pray that God will stir your heart today and that you will be motivated to remember that Jesus commanded us to bring the Gospel to those who are living without the hope of Christ in their life. God has raised up pastors to shepherd their flocks. True evangelists aren't called to preach to the choir, but to bring the Gospel to the lost and hurting OUTSIDE the four walls of the church!
In His love and service, Your friend and brother in Christ, Bill Keller