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THe Mission and Responsibility of the Church

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus Christ gave His Church—this body of spiritually transformed believers—a responsibility to carry out. The Church's mission is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God and make disciples throughout the world, teaching them exactly what Jesus taught (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).

The work of the Church continues; it did not cease when the original disciples died. At first the job of the apostles, the Church's mission has passed to each generation of God's people. Jesus promised to be with His followers as they accomplished that work until He returns at the end of the age (verse 20).

Paul said Christ sent him into the world "to open [people's] eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).

Paul also said: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . ." (Romans 1:16). The gospel is God's message of how salvation will be brought to mankind—starting with His Church.

The Church plays many roles in the bringing of salvation to the world. It stands as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). It is the household or family of God (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 4:17, NIV). It is the mother who nurtures God's sons and daughters (Galatians 4:26). It functions as the "pillar and ground of the truth" in a spiritually confused world (1 Timothy 3:15).

Let's look at the multifaceted responsibilities Christ gave His Church, His special people.

Must the Church save the world?

Paul describes the Church's responsibility as "the ministry of reconciliation" because "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

God's ultimate purpose is to gather—to reconcile—all mankind to Himself. The Church plays an important role in that worthy effort. God has commissioned it to preach how that reconciliation will occur. It is to baptize those who believe that message.

When will that reconciliation take place? A common misperception is that Jesus has commissioned His Church to save the world in this age. But that is not what the Bible teaches and is not what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5.

The Church's ministry of reconciliation is only the beginning of a much greater phase of God's plan for reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus Christ.

God has commissioned the Church to proclaim salvation to the nations. But proclaiming Jesus' teaching about salvation is vastly different from bringing mankind to salvation. The latter will necessitate bringing the entire world to repentance and conversion. Only Jesus Christ can convert the world; that task will have to wait until He returns.

Why Christ must bring Israel to repentance

At His return Christ will begin God's reconciliation to the world by bringing the descendants of Jacob—Israel—to repentance.

At that time, Paul explains, "all Israel will be saved." How? "The Deliverer [Christ] will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:26).

Then, as soon as the restored people of Israel learn obedience as a nation, many peoples will come and say, according to the book of Isaiah, "'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.' The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3, NIV).

Zechariah tells us, "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you'" (Zechariah 8:23).

Humanity will begin to realize that the law God gave to ancient Israel must still be observed. Mankind will shed its prejudices and even begin keeping the biblical festivals, which God gave to ancient Israel.

Those who remain unrepentant will soon find themselves in dire circumstances because God will humble them by withholding rain from their crops until they change their attitude. "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain" (Zechariah 14:16-17, NIV).

Since Christ knows human nature, He will do what is needed at that time to change the thinking of people—to bring them to repentance. But that is to occur in the future after Christ returns.

Even though the Church is to proclaim a message to the world that includes a call for repentance, Scripture tells us that relatively few people will truly repent before Christ returns. Thus, bringing the world to repentance is not the Church's role for this age.

A small group: the light of the world

To the contrary, Jesus said to His disciples: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). He also said, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19).

God's people have never been a popular or powerful force. Jesus describes their lot in life: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14, NRSV).

Yes, only a few are willing to follow all the teachings of Jesus Christ once they hear and understand them. Jesus comforted His disciples, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

God reveals that His people will be a little flock in this age. He is calling only a few to be the living examples of His way of life to the rest of world.

Jesus says to His true disciples, "You are the light of the world . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

God commissioned the Church to set the example of His way of life to the world. God is exposing humanity to His ways through the Church. Peter exhorts the members of the Church: "Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge" (1 Peter 2:12, NRSV).

The Church: God's firstfruits

During "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4), the Church of God consists of only the first small part of God's great harvest of people to eternal life.

James calls Christians: "a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). They are "redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (Revelation 14:4).

The biblical usage of the term firstfruits was readily understood by members of the early Church. "In acknowledgment of the fact that all the products of the land came from God, and [in] thankfulness for His goodness, Israelites brought as an offering to Him a portion of the fruits that ripened first, these being looked upon as an earnest of the coming harvest" (Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 1967, "First Fruits").

The firstfruits were the first part of the harvest, which the Israelites set apart for God. After they gathered them and dedicated them to their Creator, they harvested the rest of the crops. The apostles and other members of the early Church understood that, as firstfruits, the Church is the first part of God's harvest of humanity for salvation. The vastly greater portion of the harvest will not take place until after Jesus Christ's return.

Those whom God calls in this age will participate in the saving of the world—but not at this time and not as human beings. At the return of Jesus Christ they will become immortal spirit beings.

God will resurrect them to eternal life as the firstfruits of His harvest, receiving immortality at Christ's return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 51-53). They will be kings and priests in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 5:10).

As the immortal, resurrected children of God, they will assist Christ in teaching God's way of obedience to the world for 1,000 years. "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). The resurrection of these faithful servants of Jesus Christ to eternal life at the beginning of that 1,000 years is only the first resurrection (verses 4, 6).

All the dead will be resurrected

At the end of the 1,000 years, God will resurrect all others who have ever lived throughout human history to stand before Him in judgment (Revelation 20:11-12). This is far larger than the first resurrection; it is the resurrection of "the rest of the dead" (verse 5). At that time God will raise from the dead people from all nations, along with the people of Israel—all resurrected together (Matthew 11:20-24; 12:41-42).

"Do not marvel at this," Jesus said; "for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation [judgment]" (John 5:28-29).

Those who rise in this general resurrection—the resurrection of judgment—will rise as mortal, flesh-and-blood human beings (Ezekiel 37:1-10). Then they will learn God's ways, acknowledge their sins and receive His Spirit. Then they, too, can receive immortality.

Ezekiel describes their resurrection: "Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves . . . I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,' says the Lord" (verses 12-14). (For more information on this vital topic, please request our free booklet 

Christians are the firstfruits of the redeemed. They live in a deceived world, and they must strive to be "blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [they] shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).

The Church: The Body of Christ

We have already seen that Jesus Christ told His followers to go into all the world, making disciples of all nations and teaching people God's way of life. This takes cooperation and organization. To effectively describe the organized functioning of the people of God, the apostles used the analogy of the human body.

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of [languages]" (1 Corinthians 12:27-28, NIV).

Directing the work of the Church as its living Head is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). To emphasize how dependent the Church is on His leadership and inspiration, Jesus compares Himself to a vine: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). The success of the Church is dependent on the power and inspiration it receives from Jesus Christ.

Functions within the Body of Christ are established by Him "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12, NRSV).

Paul tells us that "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NRSV).

Spiritual leadership in the Church

Among the gifts Christ gives His Church are gifts of spiritual leadership: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). They are entrusted with the responsibility of teaching, nourishing, protecting and building the Church. Godly character and exemplary spiritual qualifications are required of those entrusted with spiritual leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-10; Titus 1:5-9).

These are to lovingly shepherd God's flock (John 21:15-17) so that all members of this spiritual body may "come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

They are to lead the people of God to work together in unity—to love, respect and support each other. "But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25, NIV).

Those who are led by Jesus Christ recognize a common Spirit in each other—the very Spirit of God, which makes them the people of God.

It should lead them to work together in unity to accomplish the mission Christ gave the Church as its ministry when He said: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . ." (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Church that Christ built is that special body of people who, led by God's Spirit, obey His commandments and are zealously committed to accomplishing the commission Jesus Christ gave them.

The Historical Background of the Term Church

The Holman Bible Dictionary, in its article "Church," explains the background of the word church:

"Church is the English translation of the Greek word ekklesia. The use of the Greek term prior to the emergence of the Christian church is important as two streams of meaning flow from the history of its usage into the New Testament understanding of church.

"First, the Greek term which basically means 'called out' was commonly used to indicate an assembly of citizens of a Greek city and is so used in Acts 19:32, 39. The citizens who were quite conscious of their privileged status over against slaves and noncitizens were called to the assembly by a herald and dealt . . . with matters of common concern. When the early Christians understood themselves as constituting a church, no doubt exists that they perceived themselves as called out by God in Jesus Christ for a special purpose and that their status was a privileged one in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:19).

"Second, the Greek term was used more than one hundred times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in common use in the time of Jesus. The Hebrew term (qahal) meant simply 'assembly' and could be used in a variety of ways, referring for example to an assembling of prophets (1 Sam. 19:20), soldiers (Num. 22:4), or the people of God (Deut. 9:10). The use of the term in the Old Testament in referring to the people of God is important for understanding the term 'church' in the New Testament.

"The first Christians were Jews who used the Greek translation of the Old Testament. For them to use a self-designation that was common in the Old Testament for the people of God reveals their understanding of the continuity that links the Old and New Testaments. The early Christians understood themselves as the people of the God who had revealed Himself in the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1-2), as the true children of Israel (Rom. 2:28-29) with Abraham as their father (Rom. 4:1-25), and as the people of the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament (Heb. 8:1-13).

"As a consequence of this broad background of meaning in the Greek and Old Testament worlds, the term 'church' is used in the New Testament of a local congregation of called-out Christians, such as the 'church of God which is at Corinth' (1 Cor. 1:2), and also of the entire people of God, such as in the affirmation that Christ is 'the head over all things to the church, Which is his body' (Eph. 1:22-23)" (emphasis added).


The book of Acts is an eyewitness account of the early Church from Christ's death until about A.D. 60. Chapter 2 records the beginning of the Church, when God sent His Spirit to 120 followers of Jesus Christ.

Many Bible readers are familiar with the miraculous events of that day—of the house in which they met filling with the sound of a mighty wind and what appeared to be tongues of fire alighting on those gathered there. Another miracle occurred as those people, now filled with God's Spirit, began to speak in the languages of people from many lands so that all could understand their words.

Often overlooked in this account is the day on which these events occurred, the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), one of the festivals God commanded for His people many centuries before (Leviticus 23). In revealing these festivals, God said that "these are My feasts . . . the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations . . ." (verses 2, 4). God proclaimed that these festivals were to be "a statute forever throughout your generations" (verses 14, 21, 31, 41).

The Gospels show that Jesus Christ kept the same festivals (Matthew 26:17-19; John 7:10-14, 37-38). Both the book of Acts and Paul's letters show the apostles keeping these festivals during the decades after Christ's crucifixion (Acts 2:1-4; 18:21; 20:6, 16; 27:9).

Most churches teach that the festivals were "nailed to the cross," that they were somehow annulled by Christ's death. Yet the unmistakable record of the Bible is that the early Church continued to observe them, but with greater grasp of their spiritual significance.

Speaking of one of these God-given feasts, the apostle Paul urged the church in Corinth—a mixed group of gentile and Jewish believers—to "keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). Paul clearly was referring to the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:16).

Paul explained the significance of the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; Leviticus 23:5) and gave instructions on how to properly observe this ceremony (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).

The many references in the Gospels, Acts and Paul's epistles prompt an obvious question: Since Jesus, the apostles and the early Church kept these days, why don't churches teach and observe them today? After all, Paul directly tied the feasts to Jesus, His purpose and His sacrifice for mankind (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The Gospels and the book of Acts are equally clear that Christ, the disciples and the early Church kept the weekly Sabbath—from Friday evening to Saturday evening, the seventh day of the week—as their day of rest and worship (Mark 6:2; Luke 4:16, 31-32; 13:10; Acts 13:14-44; 18:4). Jesus even called Himself "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28).

It was Jesus' custom to go to the synagogue every Sabbath to worship (Luke 4:16). Contrary to the teaching of those who say that Paul abandoned the Sabbath, it was his custom, too, to go to the synagogue every Sabbath (Acts 17:1-3), using the opportunity to teach others about Jesus Christ.

The weekly Sabbath is another of God's festivals, like those mentioned earlier. It is, in fact, the first of His feasts listed (Leviticus 23:1-4). It is included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

As with God's other feasts, the Sabbath is ignored by the overwhelming majority of churches. Rather than keeping the Sabbath as God commanded, most churches meet on the first day of the week—Sunday—a day nowhere commanded in the Bible as a day of worship. Why? If we are to observe any day as a weekly day of rest and worship, shouldn't it be the same day Jesus Christ and the apostles kept?

We find other differences in teaching and practice. Many churches teach that obedience to God's law is unnecessary, that Christ kept it for us or it was "nailed to the cross" with Christ. This is directly contrary to Jesus' own words (Matthew 4:4; 5:17-19) and the teaching and practice of the apostles (Acts 24:14; 25:8; Romans 7:12, 22; 1 Corinthians 7:19; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Following Christ's example, the apostles powerfully preached about Jesus Christ's return to establish the coming Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43; 8:1; 21:27, 31; Acts 1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23, 31). But Paul warned that, even in his day, some were already preaching "a different gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6).

We see much confusion in churches about what the gospel is. Most view it as a message about Christ's birth, life and death without really understanding why He came and why He had to die and without proclaiming the message of God's Kingdom that Christ Himself taught (Mark 1:14-15).

Similarly, Jesus and the apostles did not teach that the righteous ascend to heaven at death (John 3:13; Acts 2:29, 34), and they understood that man does not possess an immortal soul (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Matthew 10:28) that would spend eternity in either heaven or hell.

Nowhere do we find popular religious holidays such as Christmas approved in the Bible. The only time Easter is mentioned in the Bible (Acts 12:4, King James Version), it is a blatant mistranslation of the Greek word for Passover. Lent and its practices are nowhere found.

These are some of the major differences between the Christianity of the time of Christ and the apostles and that commonly practiced today. Shouldn't you look into your Bible to see if your beliefs and practices square with what Jesus Christ and the apostles practiced and taught?


Secrets to Answered Prayer - What Does it Mean to Ask and Receive?
 by: Rob Marshall

In Luke 11:9 Jesus tells us, "Ask and you will receive."

I don't know about you, but I have had times when I've asked and have not received. Since God's promise is pretty clear, and nothing is impossible for Him, then the problem may not be with the giving, it may just be with the asking.

James 4:1-3 tells us that the reason we don't have is because we don't ask. That sounds pretty simple, and it agrees with what Jesus taught in Luke 11: "Ask and you will receive."

But then James goes on to say, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3). James seems to go from giving us a blank check to placing a major condition on our prayers. In order to understand what he's telling us, we need to look at the context of what he is saying.

James is writing to people who were so consumed by their covetous lusts that they were willing to murder people in order to take what they wanted. The problem wasn't that they wanted things; the problem was that they wanted their neighbor's things. They weren't happy with just having more, they wanted to be sure that everyone else had less.

As we look at our universe, one thing becomes very clear: God loves to create. Our world shows us that not only is God continually creating, He has placed within every living thing the ability and drive to create more.

After God created man He spoke and said, "Be fruitful and multiply." Within each of us is a God given desire to create and enjoy abundance.

In Matthew 25 we read the parable of the talents. In that parable a man gives three of his servants different amounts of money. He gives five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to a third servant based on their individual abilities. It then says that the man immediately left on a journey.

Have you ever wondered if the master gave the servants any instructions? Did the master tell them what they were to do with the talents? Or did they already know?

I believe that they already knew. They understood that God had given them the talents so that they would use them and multiply them. God's first commandment to man has never changed. He wants us to be fruitful and multiply what He has given us. He gives us "talents" from His abundance, as well as the desire and ability to multiply them, so that there will be even greater abundance.

So what does all of this have to do with the first few verses in the fourth chapter of James? Everything.

As James points out, we have gone from "ask and you will receive" to "take whatever you want." Man's history is full of everything from bad business to war. It's the story of men and women who have used power to exploit other people for their own selfish gain. Unfortunately, it is the story of what happens when we forget our Creator.

By asking God for more in our lives we are asking Him to reveal to us what He has already given us, and to show us ways to multiply it. We are asking for His blessings and favor on what we do so that we become wealthy be enriching the lives of everyone we meet.

We can have whatever we we ask for, but not at the expense of others. When we stop coveting what others have, and ask God to help us create more, then we'll know what it means to ask and receive.

Copyright 2006 Rob Marshall


About The Author

Rob Marshall is the author of "Taking On Goliath - How to Unleash the David in All of Us." Learn how you can unleash your faith and overcome any "Goliath" that may stand between you and your dreams.


   Books To Read

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The Dark Side of Christian History.
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The Unholy in Holy Scripture.
Gerd Ludemann.
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The Case Against Christianity.
Michael Martin
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Leaving the Fold (A Guide to Recovery from Fundamentalism).
Dr. Marlene Winell.
ISBN : 1879237512.

The Jesus Puzzle.
Earl Doherty.
ISBN: 0968601405.

Atheism: The Case Against God.
George H. Smith.
ISBN: 087975124X.

Who Was Jesus?
Prof. G. A. Wells.
ISBN: 0812690958.

The Jesus Legend.
Prof. G. A. Wells.
ISBN: 0812693345.

The Jesus Myth.
Prof. G. A. Wells.
ISBN: 0812693922.

Religious Postures.
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ISBN: 0812690710.

(i)The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy,
and (ii)Biblical Errancy - A Reference Guide.
Dennis McKinsey.
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The Jesus Hoax.
Phyllis Graham.
ISBN: 085632096X.

Jesus, in History and Myth.
eds. R.J. Hoffmann & G.A. Larue.
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The Unauthorized Version.
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ISBN: 0670824127.

The 2000 Years of Disbelief.
Famous people with the courage to doubt.
James A. Haught.
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Holy Hatred.
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James A. Haught.
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Holy Horrors.
Illustrated history of religious murder and madness.
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Disciples of Destruction.
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Charles W. Sutherland.
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The Hallelujah Revolution.
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Close Encounters with the Religious Right.
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The Ape-man Within.
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In the Beginning.
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Science and Earth History.
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God and the Burden of Proof.
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Nonbelief and Evil.
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Why I am an Agnostic and Other Essays.
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Don't Call Me Brother.
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Deconstructing Jesus.
Robert M. Price.
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Gospel Fictions.
Randel Helms.
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The Bad News Bible.
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The Christ.
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Deadly Blessings.
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Richard J. Brenneman.
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The Mind of the Bible-Believer.
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The Gospel Time Bomb.
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Jesus in History and Myth.
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Blind Faith.
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The Christ Myth.
Arthur Drews.
ISBN: 1-57392-190-4.

Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.
Ed. Edward T. Babinski.
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Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist?.
Dan Barker.

Beyond Born Again.
Dr Robert M. Price.

Relic, Icon or Hoax? Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud.
Harry E. Gove.
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The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts.
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Challenging the Verdict.
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The Jesus Debate.
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What The Church Expects From You

 by: Mike Fletcher

Rush hour commutes, soccer practice for the kids, extra work from the office and the everyday demands of live in a culture wash in activities and time demands is posing a serious dilemma for churches across the country.

People are so busy that they simply don't have time to serve on church committees or work in church service projects.

How much do you care about the church?

About God’s people? How much of your time is spent helping… giving…praying for your church? A lot of people give money to the church but much less give themselves.




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