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Posts tagged ‘Evangelism’

Playing for Keeps – Single-minded Groom

EvangelismKey Bible Verse: He died for everyone, so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:15-17

[Continued from yesterday]  In Mexico my heart cried out to God, What can I do to awaken this nation to the life–changing gospel of Jesus Christ? Radio! We decided to get on the radio. There was only one problem. In Mexico, Christian radio was illegal. There’s got to be a way around this!

I came back to the U.S., transferred from my liberal arts college to Moody Bible Institute, organized a team of five, and headed back to Mexico. We started a bookstore. Then we went to the radio station. “We represent a bookstore. We want to advertise. We sell Bibles. The reason people don’t buy the Bible is that they don’t know what’s in it. We’d like to read from it in our commercial.” It worked. We read and explained the Scriptures over Mexican radio on a weekly, 15–minute program.

Back at Moody, I got engaged to Drena, and we were married just after graduating. We skipped the honeymoon and went straight to Mexico, trading our wedding cake for gas on the way. For six months we opened bookstores and evangelized. Then we moved to Franco’s Spain, which had little toleration for the gospel. I made it my home base while I studied Russian and prepared to launch into the Soviet Union. [Continued tomorrow]

—George Verwer in Amazing Faith

My Response: Do I find George Verwer’s passion attractive or bizarre? Why?

Thought to Apply: The sense of this word [enthusiasm] among the Greeks affords the noblest definition of it: enthusiasm signifies God in us.—Germaine De Staël

Adapted from Amazing Faith (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.


Playing for Keeps – No Dull Disciple

EvangelismWho Said It…Mike Yaconelli

Michael Yaconelli passed himself off as the “Italian correspondent” for The Wittenburg Door, the magazine satirizing evangelical Christians that he edited in the 1970s and ’80s. Mike’s no-holds-barred truth telling made this founder of the San Diego-based Youth Specialties a popular speaker.

Living on the water in his boat, for years he pastored a church on weekends in Yreka, at the opposite end of California! He died in 2003 in a heart-attack-induced collision.

What He Said…No Dull Disciple

The most critical issue facing Christians is dullness. We’ve lost our astonishment. The Good News is now just okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it’s life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into “nice people.”

What happened to the un–nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? … To the gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? … To the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, spoke the truth no matter the consequence, and weren’t afraid to follow Jesus wherever He went?

I’m ready for a Christianity that “ruins” my life and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment so captivating that I’m considered wild and unpredictable. I want to be “dangerous” to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that’s considered “dangerous” by our predictable and monotonous culture.

Adapted from Dangerous Wonder (NavPress, 1988, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.

Playing for Keeps – The Unwelcome Mat

EvangelismKey Bible Verse: I work very hard at this, as I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:29

Bonus Reading:  Colossians 1:28-29

[Continued from yesterday]  Roger Malstead and I smuggled Scripture portions and a printing press into the Soviet Union. But we got caught and were interrogated for two days. Convinced that we were religious fanatics and not CIA operatives, they expelled us at the Austrian border.

What is God doing? I wondered. I climbed a tree to get alone and spent the day in prayer. God showed me that my vision was too small, that my job was to mobilize the church, starting in Europe. He showed me how: bring people together for a summer, for a year or two, and send them on outreaches. Then send them back to their home churches and spread the vision.

In 1961, short-term missions trips were virtually unheard of. But it worked. The first summer we recruited 200 volunteers. By the second summer, our group had grown to 2,000. I moved to London, where we assembled a fleet of 120 old trucks. We crossed the English Channel, split up into teams, and drove out to reach the unreached. Within a year of my arrest in the Soviet Union, we were sending the USSR Europeans who spoke fluent Russian and could accomplish more than I ever could. [Continued tomorrow]

—George Verwer in Amazing Faith

My Response: How might I have answered the “what is God doing?” question after an expulsion?

Thought to Apply: Jesus did not come to make us safe, but rather to make us disciples, citizens of God’s new age, a kingdom of surprise.—Stanley Hauerwas (educator)

Adapted from Amazing Faith (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.


Ordinary Attempts – Everyday Evangelism

Everyday Evangelism 2When you hear the word “choice”, what is the first thing you think about?

Do you think about the gift of choice that Jesus has given to you and me?

How do you share this gift – a relationship with God – with someone you barely know?

In the Great Commission, Jesus urges us to “make disciples of all nations”; but when and where would be the right time to do just that?  Leonard Buhler, President of Power to Change, shares how ordinary circumstances can be transformed into wonderful opportunities to share the hope of Christ that is in you.

Take the next step:

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real. Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

Ordinary Attempts – Conversation Lighter

Everyday Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today” Luke 19:5

Bonus Reading: Luke 19:1-9

A man in black, covered with tattoos, and reeking of cigarette smoke entered our rental store. While I checked his movie back in, he asked me an unusual question: “What kind of Zippo do you have?” (Zippo is a popular brand of cigarette lighter that comes with different designs.)

I told him I didn’t have one but was eager to see his. His had a family of four seated around a table—all skeletons. “That’s how I see things,” he said; “we’re all just waiting to die.”

“My take on it,” I responded, “is that God has more for us in this life.”

Instead of darting for the door, he opened up: “I just got out of prison after 16 years for attempted murder. ‘Doing my own thing’ is all I’ve ever known. I let my son do ‘his own thing,’ and he just dropped out of school.”

“I might have ended like that,” I replied, “if someone hadn’t come alongside to help me through some tough times. That’s one reason I’m a Christian, to help others find more in this life.”

“I never had that in my life,” he said. “Can you help my son? Could he come to your church sometime?” I said I’d be glad to hook up with him and give him a ride to church.

—Chris from Ohio, cited in a.k.a. “Lost”

My Response: Who do I know that might open up in response to a sympathetic listening ear?

Thought to Apply: The world is far more ready to receive the gospel than Christians are to hand it out.—George W. Peters (missions professor)

Adapted from a.k.a. “Lost” (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real. Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

Ordinary Attempts – Who Jesus Misses Most

Everyday Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” Luke 15:7

Bonus Reading:  Luke 15:1-7

I wanted the people in my church to want to be with “lost” people, not out of a sense of duty, but of adventure and partnership with God. I wanted them to love people who didn’t know Jesus, not to be mad at them for not wanting to come to church. I wanted to change our perception of those we typically treat as outsiders. I hoped that people in the congregation would experiment with finding new ways of connecting with them. I wanted Christians to blur the lines between “us” and “them” the same way Jesus did.

I had a problem more of perception than of motivation. I needed to help Christians reimagine who they were trying to connect with. We needed to overhaul how Christians perceive non-Christians. So my congregation and I decided to rename those we wanted to connect with. We tried out all sorts of new terms to substitute for the lost. The one that proved the “stickiest” was missing persons.

When you change their name, you change how you feel about them. Since in reality we do what we feel, not what we think, this small change proves to be very helpful in getting all of us back into the game of nudging people across the starting line toward Jesus.

—Jim Henderson in a.k.a. “Lost”

My Response: I’ll ask God to forgive me for assuming that I’m superior to “the lost.”

Thought to Apply: Missing people aren’t bad; they’re just not where they’re supposed to be.—Brian McLaren (pastor)

Adapted from a.k.a. “Lost” (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real. Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

Ordinary Attempts – Fitting Invitation

Everyday Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: As Jesus was going down the road, he saw Matthew sitting at his tax-collection booth. “Come, be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. Matthew 9:9

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 9:9-13

My wife and I went shopping on a Saturday night. While Barb was trying on dresses, I struck up a conversation with the salesclerk. I noticed she was from Latin America, so I began asking questions about her home country. One question led to another, and I found out this was a second job for her. Her real job was as a sales manager for a large hotel. It turned out that she was divorced and her son spent the weekends with his dad, so she found this department store job to keep her occupied weekends.

She’s working a second job to kill her loneliness, I thought. I should invite her to church. When I did, I found out that several of her friends had already invited her to our church. She said, “There’s something there for me!” I gave her my business card, and later my wife and I stopped by the store to see her again.

Connecting with this woman was as simple as asking questions, listening to her answers, and sensing a need. Finding the people Jesus misses most involves doing the most ordinary thing you can do: Just be your authentic, spiritual self.

—Jim Henderson in a.k.a. “Lost”

My Response: Could I naturally invite a person I’ve come to know to visit my church—or to know Jesus?

Thought to Apply: Most people are brought to faith in Christ not by argument for it but by exposure to it.—Sam Shoemaker (minister & cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Adapted from a.k.a. “Lost” (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real. Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

Ordinary Attempts – Checkout Check

Everyday Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” … The woman was surprised. John 4:7,9

Bonus Reading:  John 4:3-14

I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, and the clerk was a fast worker. I realized that I’d hardly have time to ask her how she was doing. Then I noticed she was wearing a button that said, “We want to adopt.” This isn’t something most people would readily advertise to hundreds of complete strangers.

As the other customers were dropping their items on the conveyor belt, I looked at the checker and said, “I have some friends who’ve adopted. I’ll pray for you.” She seemed genuinely touched that I noticed her. That was it. I wanted to let her know that God cared about her and was proud of her courage, vulnerability, and selflessness.

I didn’t “share the gospel” with her, but I did share Jesus, the gospel creator. I wasn’t brave, bold, or smooth. I simply handed God the five loaves and two fish of my life and trusted Him to turn it into something significant for that young woman.

God only asks us to give Him what we already have. It might take a little work to identify what that is, but we already have what we need to help move others closer to Him. The problem is we don’t think that what we have is enough.

—Jim Henderson in a.k.a “Lost”

My Response: Do I agree that Jim shared Jesus? Why or why not?

Thought to Apply: Christianity isn’t, and never has been, about finding the right combination of words! It is about encountering the living, loving God.—Alistar McGrath (British theologian)

Adapted from a.k.a. “Lost” (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real. Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

Ordinary Attempts – Being Yourself Is Okay

Everyday Evangelism 2Key Bible Verse: “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”  – John 6:9

Bonus Reading:  John 6:1-13

You don’t need special skills or experience to make an Ordinary Attempt. You just have to be aware and available. It’s an attempt, not an accomplishment, so no extra credit is awarded for succeeding, no demerits given for failing. Ordinary Attempts are nothing more than free attention giveaways.

People crave attention. When we pay attention to people because we want to nudge them toward Jesus, it becomes their connecting bridge to God. Best of all, instead of asking them for their time, attention, and interest—we give them our time, attention, and interest. We give them a small taste of Jesus’ desire to attend to them.

Christians are the freest people on earth. Our past, present, and future are completely secure through the love of Jesus. We’ve nothing to lose. We can risk, attempt, fail—and still go to heaven.

When it comes to evangelism, we can be our ordinary selves, and it turns out to be good enough. All Jesus needs are the five loaves and two fish of our lives—something we already have. Rather than trying to escape the ordinary, we should exploit it and attempt something small for God, something ordinary.

—Jim Henderson in a.k.a. “Lost”

My Response: What “small attempt” could I make to nudge someone toward Jesus?

Adapted from a.k.a. “Lost” (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real. Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

Ordinary Attempts – A Fresh Approach

Everyday Evangelism 2Who Said It…Jim Henderson

Jim Henderson has been a Christian for more than three decades. One of his earliest Christian memories was being taken out to “go witnessing.” He says that he’s been trying to recover ever since.

Jim is passionately committed to normalizing evangelism for ordinary Christians. In 2000, Jim co-founded Off the Map to help move that idea forward. Before that he led the Servant Evangelism movement at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

What He Said…A Fresh Approach

I resigned from witnessing in 1996. Traditional evangelism isn’t normal. It’s a formalized program, a structured presentation, a memorized script. It works for extroverts, those with the gift of evangelism, and the few born to be salespeople. But that leaves us ordinary types out of the game. We have to work up a lot of nerve just to do it. So most Christians only do evangelism about once a year.

Along with many people in the church I was leading, we decided to do something doable and less threatening. We wouldn’t memorize anything, follow a script, or write down a carefully prepared speech. Instead, we decided to count all the small attempts we made to connect with people in our community. We could still be ourselves, but just live with a more intentional focus on others. We’d try everyday things, such as asking questions, listening, giving away our attention, and praying behind people’s backs. We called these everyday efforts Ordinary Attempts.

Adapted from a.k.a. “Lost” (WaterBrook, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:   Lord, I want to come across to others not as religious so much as real.  Help me make being Your disciple look inviting.

When Asking Beats Telling – Everyday Evangelism

Everyday EvangelismTrained as a rabbi, Paul was taught to think about God and life through a style of debate still used today in Jewish training schools called “yeshivas.”

This “pulpil” method responds to questions with other questions.  Acts 17 is the chapter that most fully describes how Paul engaged in the give-and-take of “rabbinic evangelism” in synagogues, and then exported it to Gentile communities.

Interact with God’s Word

Acts 17:1-5, 16-20, 32-34

  1. What verbs (vv. 2-3) describe how Paul functioned during his synagogue visits?
  2. Does this sound to you more like a sermon or a Q and A session?
  3. What points do you think prompted the most lively discussions in Thessalonica?
  4. Which issues today need the most debate?
  5. What kind of responses (vv. 4-5) did the interactions with Paul produce?
  6. How and with whom did Paul interact in Athens (vv. 17-18)?
  7. What kinds of reaction were there to Paul’s discussion with the Council of Philosophers?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a growing confidence in the gospel that will allow you to casually engage in give and take about it.

Acts 17:1-5, 16-20, 32-34

1 Now Paul and Silas traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he interpreted the Scriptures to the people. 3 He was explaining and proving the prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah and his rising from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.”4 Some who listened were persuaded and became converts, including a large number of godly Greek men and also many important women of the city. 5 But the Jewish leaders were jealous, so they gathered some worthless fellows from the streets to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. 17 He went to the synagogue to debate with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. 18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “This babbler has picked up some strange ideas.” Others said, “He’s pushing some foreign religion.” 19 Then they took him to the Council of Philosophers.[a] “Come and tell us more about this new religion,” they said. 20 “You are saying some rather startling things, and we want to know what it’s all about.”

32 When they heard Paul speak of the resurrection of a person who had been dead, some laughed, but others said, “We want to hear more about this later.”33 That ended Paul’s discussion with them,34 but some joined him and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Council, a woman named Damaris, and others.

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Dental “Dialogue”

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.  – Proverbs 18:13

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 1:18-20

The waiting-room sign warns, “Blessed are those who engage in lively conversation with the helplessly mute, for they shall be called dentists.”

My dentist drives me crazy! He asks really thought-provoking questions right as he puts sharp, pointed objects into my mouth. “So, what’s the real solution for the Palestinian problem?” Or, “Aren’t all religions basically the same?” I want to respond, but my attempts are muffled by his hands in my mouth and that noisy suction thing.

I wonder if some of our evangelistic conversations sound like interactions between my dentist and me. One side posits a question, not really expecting an answer or listening for a response. The other side sits frustrated, not really getting to answer or expecting to be heard.

Scripture admonishes us to always be ready to explain our Christian hope (1 Peter 3:15). But doing so requires listening in order to know when and what we’re being asked. Listening primes the pump, opening hearts to accept conviction of sin, establishing common ground for further dialogue, or giving insight to felt needs.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: I’ll listen-out a friend, connecting and clarifying without interjecting my own thoughts, so he’ll know I’m hearing him accurately.

Thought to Apply: If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.—Dale Carnegie (writer & speaker)

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Gospel-paving Questions

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse:  As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. Acts 16:14

Bonus Reading:  Acts 17:1-5a, 16-20, 32-34

A pastor urged his congregation to open the door to evangelism by challenging the prevailing slogans of our day. “The next time someone at work says, ‘Image is everything,'” he told them, “Respond, ‘No, it’s not! The glory of God is everything!'”

I agree with his theology. But a better response would be a puzzled look and “Really?” After getting the coworker’s attention, you could add “What do you think is everything? What would you say is the most foundational thing in life?”

When your cousin asks, “Why are you so narrow-minded as to believe that all Buddhists are going to hell?” don’t indignantly quote, “No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Ask her, “What have you found about Buddhism that convinces you that its adherents are worthy of heaven?”

When your neighbor asks, “Why do you think that Jesus was more than just a good moral teacher?” don’t take out your Lord-liar-lunatic diagram just yet. Ask her, “What makes you think that Jesus was a good teacher? Have you read a lot of His teachings? Which messages impress you the most about Jesus’ teaching ability? What would you say was Jesus’ main message?”

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: Who is someone with whom I could have this kind of give and take?

Thought to Apply: More and more we should hold back our answer, and with a question, pave the way to receptivity. —Randy Newman

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Wake-up Questions

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God.  – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

When people say things that, given some thought, don’t add up, we must help them see the fallacy of their statements. A good way is a one-word question: “Really?”

When people say, “I think all religions are the same,” We could respond with “Really?”

After they begin to awaken, we can elaborate by asking, “Do you really think your religion is the same as all others?  How about the religion that led people to kill themselves when they saw the Hale-Bop comet?  They thought that it was going to take them to heaven.  Do you really think their religion is the same as yours?”  The ensuing discussion could explore which religions are ridiculous, which credible.

When people say, “I think all people are basically good,” we could respond with, “Really? Does that include Osama Bin Laden? Or the boys who killed their classmates at Columbine High School?” If they’ll concede that they didn’t mean all, it’s worth exploring where the lines are drawn between good, not so good, pretty bad, and downright evil.

This waking process might hurt. So say the word really with as little sarcasm in your voice as possible.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: An illogical belief a friend must question before he can receive the gospel is …

Thought to Apply: Confronting a prospect with unpleasant truths doesn’t work in sales, but it is essential in evangelism.—Randy Newman

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Reflecting the Heat Back

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: Let me ask you a question first … . Did John’s baptism come from heaven, or was it merely human?  – Luke 20:3-4

Bonus Reading:  Luke 20:1-8

At a dorm-room Bible study, the host’s antagonistic roommate showed up—along with a handful of likeminded friends. “I suppose you think all those sincere followers of other religions are going to hell!” said one, more as an attack than a sincere inquiry.

“Do you believe in hell?” I responded.

After a puzzled silence, he said, “No. I don’t believe in hell. I think it’s ridiculous.”

Echoing his word choice, I said, “Then why are you asking me such a ridiculous question?” I wanted him to honestly examine the assumptions behind his question. His face indicated that he was considering issues of judgment and God’s righteousness for the first time in his life.

Another guy chimed in, “I do believe in hell. Do you think everyone who disagrees with you is going there?”

I asked, “Do you think anyone goes there? Is Hitler in hell?”

“Of course, Hitler’s in hell.”

“How do you think God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Does He grade on a curve?”

From there, the discussion turned civil, and serious interaction about God’s holiness, people’s sinfulness, and Jesus’ atoning work ensued.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: Do I really need to know all the answers to represent the gospel?

Thought to Apply: Learn what questions non–Christians are asking (some indirectly), and what to ask to move the conversation in a Christ–ward direction.—Randy Newman

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Beyond Take It or Leave It

Everyday EvangelismKey Bible Verse: When they handed him the coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”   – Matthew 22:19-20

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 12:9-13

I usually answer non-believers’ questions with a question because I’ve grown tired of having my answers rejected.

At times I’ve responded to questions with biblically accurate, logically sound, epistemologically watertight answers, only to see questioners shrug their shoulders. My answers, it seemed, only further confirmed their opinion that Christians are simpletons. My answers had hardened them in their unbelief rather than softened them toward faith.

I realized that, instead of moving people closer to a salvation decision, an answer can push them further away. Rather than engaging their minds or urging them to consider an alternative perspective, an answer can give them ammunition for future attacks against the gospel.

So I started answering questions with questions, with far better results. Answering with a question brings to the surface the questioner’s assumptions. It also takes the pressure off you—the one being asked—and puts it on the one doing the asking. Shifting the burden is important because as long as we’re on the defensive, the questioners aren’t really wrestling with issues. They’re just watching us squirm.

—Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism

My Response: Have I pictured witnessing as a monologue or a dialogue?  Why?

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

When Asking Beats Telling – Hold That Answer

Everyday EvangelismWho Said It…Randy Newman

Randy Newman—not the famous singer/songwriter—has served with Campus Crusade for Christ for more than 20 years, relating to students on college campuses. He also teaches a seminar every week at the Pentagon for Campus Crusade’s Christian Embassy.

His book, Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004), is designed to help believers deal with objections to the gospel in an engaging manner.

What He Said…Hold that Answer

Because I’m Jewish, I grew up with dialogues that went like this:

Randy: “How’s the weather down there?”

Granny Belle: “How could the weather be in Florida in the middle of July?”

Or …

Randy: “So, how have you been?”

Uncle Nat: “Why do you ask?”

Or …

Randy: “How’s your family?”

Aunt Vivian: “Compared to whom?”

So that may explain why I think this way, responding to questions with questions. I’d like to think, though, that it’s because I’m following the example of Jesus.

Try reading through the four Gospels to see how the Rabbi answered the questions put to Him. A clear, concise, direct answer was a rarity. Answering a question with a question was the norm.

A rich man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?” (Mark 10:17-18). What a great setup for a clear, concise gospel presentation! But how did Jesus respond? He posed a question, “Why do you call me good?

Adapted from Questioning Evangelism (Kregel, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me share the Good News in a less cut-and-dried manner, softening hearts through relational give-and-take.

The Thing That Keeps Most Non-Religious People Away From Church and 3 Ways to Solve It

Here is an insightful article by Josh Daffern from the March 21, 2017 issue of New Wineskins that addresses the problem of reaching the unchurched.

The Thing That Keeps Most Non-Religious People Away From Church and 3 Ways to Solve It –

Recently I ran across a fascinating article titled “Why You Will Most Certainly Fail to Reach Your Secular Friends,” in which the writer made the argument why most non-religious people will stay away from church. For most of us religious folk, our default mode is to view this issue from a religious standpoint, so we would list “sin” or “rebellion against God” as the primary reasons why secular people stay away from church. The beauty of this article is that it addressed the issue from the secular point of view.

The thing that keeps most non-religious people away from church is simply that they couldn’t care less. Rather than open hostility, it’s indifference that keeps many out of church. They’re simply too distracted. The beautiful technology that we love and depend on has created a pandora’s box of distractions that keep our minds from drifting to the eternal. There are too many other fun and fulfilling (at least in the short term) options for people looking for something to do on the weekends. It would probably shock us religious folk to realize just how little non-religious people even think about the issues that are core to us.

So how do you get people to care when they couldn’t care less about God or religion? How can churches begin to make inroads into the rapidly expanding generation of ‘nones’ that don’t identify with any religion?

Here are three steps to move in the right direction:

1). Befriend them. Yesterday I was a call-in guest for the 6 am hour of a Wisconsin Public Radio show (which is hilarious because I live in Mississippi). What was convicting for me was simply how odd it felt for me to engage in a non-religious environment. It’s so easy for Christians to surround ourselves in a religious bubble that we fail to venture outside of it.

Get involved in your community. Find a non-religious group to get plugged into. Help out at the ball field. Do something on a regular basis where you interact with people outside of the religious bubble and begin to cultivate relationships with non-religious people.

2). Be curious. People can spot your agenda a mile away. If your only aim in a relationship is to convert them, then that’s not really a true friendship. Care enough about them as a person to get to know them outside of the religious realm. Find out what makes them tick.

Be curious about why they don’t have any interest in spiritual things. Many times our only interaction with the non-religious world is our fleeting attempts to convert it. Build up enough relational capital so that it holds the weight of the religious conversations you’d like to have down the road. Be curious.

3). Show them what eternal love looks like. Many people couldn’t care less about religion or spiritual issues because they haven’t experienced anything worth investigating. They’re so consumed with temporal things that they have no concept of what the eternal looks like. That’s where acts of sacrificial, eternal love come in. When you show love to others by serving them, caring for them, sacrificing for them, you break through their temporal facade with a glimpse of eternal love, like the blinding sun breaking through a thick fog.

The eternal will always create an appetite for more within the receiver. Once you truly experience eternal love, temporal distractions fail to fully satisfy. So go out and sacrificially serve your non-religious friends. Show them what the eternal looks like. Show them love and whet their appetites for a greater life then they’ve ever experienced.




Our Role in Evangelism

Church Organist 2Sometimes I need to be reminded that as Christians seeking to expand the Kingdom of God in this world, our role is in Marketing, not Management, and that roll out and details of God’s divine plan are not subject to our knowledge or control.

I’ve served as the Organist at Central Church for more than 40 years, and we have a temperamental, old pipe organ that requires ample measures of tender, loving care, as well as the occasional fine adjustment with a sledgehammer.

Saturday nights are reserved for conducting a quick confirmation of the condition of the organ so any last-minute adjustments can be made before the Sunday worship service.  That’s also the time that one of our recovery groups meets in the Fellowship Hall, so I usually try to wrap-up my weekly review upstairs in the Sanctuary while their advance guard is downstairs putting the coffee on to brew an hour or so before everyone arrives.

Over the years, I’ve gotten to know some of the fellows who come early to set-up for the meeting, and I’ve invited one older gentleman in particular more than a few times to join us for Sunday worship.  He’s never taken me up on my invitations, but I continue to make them.

Last Saturday, after the organ review was completed, I moved over to the piano for a quick run-through of the Choir anthem.  It was a beautiful arrangement that incorporated two old hymns, and, while I was playing, I heard the staircase creak.  A few moments later, I saw the Sanctuary door quietly open out of the corner of my eye, and that older gentleman slowly made his way down the ramp into the Sanctuary, stopping behind me.

Thinking that the combination of my repeated invitations and the heartstring tug of the old hymns had finally had an effect, I worked through the rest of the anthem with gusto.

With the final chord still echoing through the Sanctuary, I felt the gentleman’s hand on my shoulder.  I turned on the bench to look up into the old man’s eyes, listening for the words that I had waited to hear from him for so long, when he said to me in a soft voice……

“The Men’s Room’s out of paper towels.”





Playing for Keeps – Evangelism

EvangelismOf all Paul’s letters in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians was probably hardest to write. It’s certainly the most intensely personal. Because false teachers were attacking him, Paul felt compelled to spend half of the letter (chapters 3–7) reviewing his ministry and listing his credentials to demonstrate the validity of his message. In the process, we glimpse what motivated him to unreservedly pour his life into a pitched battle for hearts and minds.

Interact with God’s Word:   2 Corinthians 5:11, 13-18a

  1. What happens when a person becomes a Christian, according to verses 17-18a?
  2. How is this different from reeducation, reformation, or rehabilitation?
  3. Why might some of the Corinthian believers have wondered if Paul was unbalanced (v. 13)?
  4. Might verse 16 be describing how Paul’s critics in Corinth were evaluating him?
  5. To what extent have you died to the old life you used to live (v. 14b)?
  6. To what extent are you still living to please yourself (v. 15)?
  7. What would it take to have your actions motivated and regulated by Christ’s love (14a)?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to complete His work of making you a new person: uninhibited by what the world thinks about you, passionate about pleasing Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:11, 13-18a

11 It is because we know this solemn fear of the Lord that we work so hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.

13 If it seems that we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us.[a] Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live.

15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now!

17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

18 All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.


Playing for Keeps – Borden’s Three No’s

EvangelismKey Bible Verse: If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. Matthew 16:25

Bonus Reading: Matthew 16:24-28

When William Borden, heir to the Borden Dairy estate, graduated from high school, his gift was an around-the-world trip. Touring Asia and the Middle East, he experienced a growing concern for the lost. He wrote home, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” In the back of his Bible he wrote two words: “No Reserves.”

Enrolling at Yale University, Borden promptly began a student movement. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By his senior year, 1,000 out of Yale’s 1,300 students were in these groups! Beyond campus, he founded the Yale Hope Mission to reach out to those on New Haven’s streets. After graduation in the class of 1909, Borden declined numerous offers of high–paying jobs to pursue his call to mission, now focused on Muslims in China. He wrote in his Bible: “No Retreats.”

Borden next went to Princeton Seminary, then set sail for China, stopping first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted cerebro-spinal meningitis. In less than a month, Borden was dead at age 26. But before his death he’d written two more words in his Bible: “No Regrets.”

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: What “no’s” must I declare if I’m to be fully available to my Lord?

Thought to Apply: I became my own only when I gave myself to Another.—C. S. Lewis (British scholar, writer)

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.

Playing for Keeps – Aiming High

EvangelismKey Bible Verse: By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.  – Ephesians 3:20

Bonus Reading:  Romans 15:15-22

We sent two teams to India. They drove the whole way in old trucks and encountered all kinds of problems getting there. Feeling responsible, I flew to India to see how things were going. I traveled around on the train, always evangelizing and giving out tracts. I was blown away by the needs of the Indian people. I said to my wife, “We’re moving to India.”

We moved to Bombay. The people were drawn to our radical message about discipleship, forsaking all, world missions, and prayer. We partnered with the church in India, our work exploded, and I got kicked out of the country. So we moved to Katmandu, Nepal, because there the people of India could come to us without a visa.

Driving old trucks back and forth across Europe and Asia wasn’t working well. As I prayed about this and looked at the globe, I was struck with how much water there is on the earth’s surface. Then it came to me. We need a ship!

Six long years later, our first ship, the 2,319–ton Logos I, set sail from England to India. Later, we acquired a second, larger ship (the Doulos), and they became floating bookstores and literature centers, as well as launching pads for short–term missions.

—George Verwer in Amazing Faith

My Response: What could I ask God to achieve through me?

Thought to Apply: There are grave difficulties on every hand—therefore we must go forward. —William Carey

Adapted from Amazing Faith (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.

Playing for Keeps – Radical Conversion

Key Bible Verse: If it seems that we are crazy … it is because Christ’s love controls us. 2 Corinthians 5:13-14

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 5:11-14

After my 1955 conversion at a Billy Graham meeting in New York City, I dove headfirst into any opportunity to share the gospel. I got a chance to speak to the entire student body of my high school, and used it to talk about Jesus. I shared my faith door to door. I organized rallies—600 people came to one of them, and 125 stood up to make decisions for Christ (including my own father). In 1957 I arranged to get people to the Billy Graham crusade, literally by the busload. But I didn’t attend the crusade myself. Since every seat was taken, I wouldn’t take a seat that could be occupied by a non-Christian. So, while Billy preached in Madison Square Garden, I preached in the streets of New York.

Then with two friends, I took off to evangelize Mexico. It just made sense. Why not go someplace where people hadn’t heard the gospel? In those days, Mexico was a semi-closed country. Protestants were persecuted. Importing Christian literature was illegal. Our car was full of it; we had no idea how we were going to get across the border. But we prayed much, stuffed our literature under our mattresses, crossed at night, and they waved us through. [Continued tomorrow]

—George Verwer in Amazing Faith

My Response: How enthusiastic am I about the gospel?

Adapted from Amazing Faith (Moody, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I want to fully follow You, even when it’s controversial or risky. Please give me the grit it takes.