Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

Okay, first of all a disclosure. I do not like this song and after watching the video below, I feel kind of bad about that. It probably wouldn’t bother me that much but I go to a gym nearly every day and they play a top 40 pop station that seems to have the song on infinite repeat and I never really got the opportunity to take the lyrics in. To me it just sounded like one of those ear worm pop songs. I didn’t even understand the lyrics for quite a while and to be truthful, I’ve started to become one of those people I swore I’d never become, i.e. someone who doesn’t like the new music very much. There’s just something about the tone of the song that bugged me when I heard it.

When I finally understood that the first line of the chorus is:
“All my friends are heathens take it slow” I wondered, “What is he talking about?”
Could it be? As it turns out it looks like it is.
He appears to be talking about sharing your faith and how Christians approach non-Christians and now I have to admit, I’m intrigued. Consider how the Pop Song Professor Clifford Stumme explains the song.

I have to admit I agree with the approach presented here to some degree. When Peter instructs us to always be prepared to give the reason for the hope we have, he also instructs us to do it with gentleness and respect. If that’s what twenty one pilots are advocating, I am on board at least to some degree. Stumme gets it right when he uses that old adage people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care and a big part of sharing faith is meeting people were they are. We often can’t just barge in with our faith. Often instead we need to do the hard work of earning the right to be heard through forming genuine friendships or at least relationships, serving and being a blessing.

Sometimes you have to take it slow, especially with “heathens.”

peoplenumbersMy church still takes attendance (I guess most churches do). Last week seemed pretty full (for us) so I was a little shocked when I saw a not terribly high number on the sheet. I checked with someone who knows such things to see if there was an error. She confirmed the count and then said something you might be thinking, “Don’t become obsessed with numbers.” She was right to a degree and there is a little bit of a fleshly thing in me that I do need to guard against. I can’t afford to get my validation from how many people show up on a given Sunday and it would be very wrong for my church to assess my performance in that way as well, but there is also a larger issue.

You see, if as a pastor, I begin to treat people as numbers, I should get the right foot of fellowship from my church as soon as possible. I would deserve to be fired. People are not numbers, people are people, and they deserve to be treated as such, especially in the church. Everyone should be treated as individuals and with honor and respect. I strive to make sure that I always do that, and I think I succeed most of the time.

People are not numbers but numbers are people and this cannot be overlooked. Our attendance on a given Sunday ranges from 50 to 80, not bad for a small church and the people are faithful as all get out. Our area population is about 5,000, with nearby communities we could also draw from. This means our church accounts for about 1 percent of our population. Again people are not numbers, but numbers are people and in a world that needs Jesus so desperately, every church would want to see their numbers rise. Rising numbers means more people are hearing the truth that sets men free. The church is a body, a living organism and living organisms grow and reproduce. So am I fixated on numbers? To some degree, yes, and you should be too. We are called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Now of course it’s more than numbers because people aren’t numbers. We need to be exceedingly relational, after all we are called to do more than just make converts. We are called to do the hard work of making disciples, fully committed followers of Jesus Christ. In order to do that properly, guess what we need (in every church, not just mine). We need more people.

At the end of the day, a big part of the reason the church exists is for the people outside it. We exist to take the Gospel to the world. There are other functions as well but outreach is primary. Before people can become disciples, they have to hear God’s Word and that often means entering a local church. There’s this really great church growth book that says these words:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”

That book is called the Bible, specifically Romans 10:14-15. How will you use what you have been given, your creative gifts and talents, as well as anything else, to take the good news to the world and bring people in to the church?

People are not numbers, but numbers are people, and in this world, we need all the people we can get.

What would change if everyone knew Jesus? Here’s what I think might happen and how to get there.

This is a friendly reminder of our purpose as Christ’s ambassadors.

My friend Jason Leith is the creative arts director at Saddleback Church. A few years ago, he did a really unique project called Sacred Streets where he created portraits of people he met on the streets of Skid Row, largely on found objects and turned them into iconic images. This project is right on so many levels. What a great way to use your gifts to serve the Lord.

I have been working on a new presentation called Close Encounters with Jesus about several people who were up close and personal with Jesus. It’s all about sharing your faith because a close encounter with Jesus is meant to be shared.

One of the people whose story I am exploring is someone we call the Demoniac. He was filled with so many demons that he Jesus asked his name the demons should “Legion, because we are many.” Jesus cast the demons out and set him free and then something strange happened…

CLOSEENCOUNTERSLOGOThe man is free. He’s sane and in his right mind for the first time in a very long time. The thing is there were other people around to see what happened. The people tending the pigs. They see the power of God in Jesus, they see the changed life of the man and they rejoice, right? No. They ask Jesus to leave. They don’t want Him around. Jesus isn’t welcome.

Why? Well maybe because their pigs just ran into the sea, but I think it’s more than that. I think they feared His power. I think they saw him as a threat to their way of life. They realized that if this guy stays around things are going to change. Do you see any parallels to today. Friends we live in a world and especially in a nation that is telling God over and over again that He is not welcome here. It’s as if to say, thanks for the first 240 years, but we don’t need you anymore. He gets in the way. He wants to change us. He wants to Make us righteous. He wants to be Lord and so many of us don’t want that. We say people can’t pray anymore. We remove the ten commandments from the courthouse. We want to remove Him from our money. His way is not our way and we want our way so He has to go. This is the path we’re on and the news every day shows us the results. We went from God bless America to Godless America and we are paying the price.

These people in Jesus day, saw God’s amazing power to do good and turned away from it and I think we’re doing the same thing. They didn’t want Jesus around. I mean they have proof. The maniac is sane. He’s dressed and acting like a civilized human being. He no longer needs to be chained. He’s not dangerous anymore. A few minutes with Jesus, a close encounter with Jesus and he is healed once and for all.

Can you imagine, what it must have felt like? The demons are gone. He can see and think clearly for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, and the first thing he sees is this man that just saved him being asked to leave. I can’t imagine it. This man has just found the source of hope and he will never be the same. If they’re asking Jesus to leave. He is going to go with Jesus.

Then Jesus does something no one could have expected. He looks at the man and says no. Jesus doesn’t want this man to come with Him. Think about it. As our world becomes more and more hostile toward the faith, isn’t the temptation to huddle up with other believers and go into hiding with Jesus. It’s easy to separate ourselves from the world and say enough’s enough. If this world doesn’t want Jesus, they don’t want us, so we’ll just huddle together and wait for the rapture. Here’s the thing, Jesus isn’t there. He’s not hiding in the church. He’s out in the world, doing what He came to do.

The reason Jesus doesn’t want this formerly possessed man to come with Him is not because Jesus doesn’t want him. It;s because Jesus has a mission for Him. He says, “No, don’t come with me, go to your home town and tell them what God has done for you.” I mean can you imagine what it would have been like to see the crazy guy that lived among the tombs standing in the streets and talking about Jesus? That would be something to see and his story empowered by the Spirit, probably convinced many. Friends, it’s the same way with us. You may not have story like his or like mine, but you do have a story, and just because the world doesn’t want to hear it doesn’t mean they need to hear it any less. Jesus doesn’t want us huddling away separated from the world. He wants us in the world and not of the world, sharing the way to be saved. Some won’t want to hear it, but some will receive it.

A close encounter with Jesus is meant to be shared. When you see Him for who He is, you need to share Him. Church the world looks the way it does, because the world is not following Jesus and getting the world to follow Jesus is why we are here. We are are the ones who’ve been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. We are here to prepare the way for the Lord’s return. That’s our mission and we need desperately to be on it.

Stay tuned for more on Close Encounters. I’m presenting it for the first time tonight. If you’re a believer, you have seen Jesus for who He is. You’ve had your close encounter with Jesus.

It was meant to be shared.

So often people are really hesitant to share their faith. One of the reasons for this is because we feel we don’t know enough. Now you may not be a theologian. You may not know hermaneutics or exegesis, which has occasionally been renamed “exit Jesus” but I digress, but there is a story you know, a story about Jesus that you know better than anyone, even those with half the alphabet behind his or her name. It’s the story of what Jesus has done for you.

Truthfully, this is usually the most convincing story, when it comes to sharing our faith. Maybe that’s because it’s the one you’re most passionate about, the one you have actually experienced. Whatever the reason, it’s the story you’re most prepared to share and the one that usually hits home, especially when you take into account the fact that God orchestrates our encounters.

So what’s your story? Write it down. Get to know it and be prepared to share it at every opportunity. You will be amazed at what God can do through it. Oh and by the way, even if you grew up in the church, came to Jesus at an early age and lived a pretty upright life, you still have a story. It’s the story of a God who blessed you immensely.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” How will you share your story?