Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

What Cannot Be Measured Cannot Be Managed

June 13, 2017

My early career education consisted of engineering and management. The mantra of each was What cannot be measured cannot be managed.

I started thinking about this after several meetings and conversations about the number of churches in my county in west Ohio. The population of Shelby County is approximately 57,000. There are about 100 churches. The rural Midwest of the United States is supposed to be one of those “Bible Belt” areas where “everyone” is a Christian–or at least a church member.

So, there are about 570 people per church. There may be only three churches in the county that are larger than 400 in average attendance. Most of the rest are lucky to have 100 in attendance. Excluding Christmas and Easter, there probably are not as many as 15,000 our of our 57,000 people in church on a weekend. And this is the Bible Belt.

But–does this statistic have any meaning?

Does this relate to the spiritual life of the area?

Is there a correlation between church attendance and spiritual life?

Check out Acts 2. Humans didn’t manage the growth of the early church. It was a manifestation of the outpouring of the Spirit. People joined because “I want what she’s having.”

Maybe in the US we aren’t living the sort of life that attracts others?

Maybe we focus more on politics than on the Gospel?

Maybe our priorities are internal to our group (congregation) rather than external to others?

What if it’s not about managing and more about living a life in the Spirit?

Who Did Jesus Come For–Why Everyone, Of Course

December 20, 2016

“9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,c and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” — Gospel of John, chapter 1

When we talk about Jesus, who he was, what he did, and his invitation, do we digest what John says? “Which enlightens everyone.”

Do the people have different appearances than us? Different lifestyles? Different gender roles?

I thought for years that John was quite Greek in thinking. After all, he began with the Greek word Logos. Translated as word, it is steeped in Greek philosophic meaning. But that was probably just influence by the German theological movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s that strove to remove the “Jewishness” from the New Testament.

John’s writing is obviously quite Jewish (I have read explications of Revelation that relate the narrative to Jewish Temple worship). It must have pained him deeply to write “his own people did not accept him.”

We make the simple and miraculous too complex.

“To all who received him.”

Yesterday I talked of invitations. Last week of gifts. Both are implicit in these simple opening verses of the Gospel.

And there are no conditional clauses. No “if…then…else” statements.

Receive Jesus. Believe in his name. Become born a second time–born of God himself.

In December we recreate the invitation and the gift in our worship and study. Do we receive the gift? Do we pass along the invitation to the gift? To everyone?

Showing Beats Telling Every Time

April 4, 2016

I picked up the morning paper and immediately saw articles about problems caused in people because of drugs. Overdoses among those released from prison are proportionately high. Locking people in prison for using drugs had essentially no effect.

There are many other stories about what drugs and addictions do to people daily in every news source.

There are other things that people do that destroy their lives–physically, emotionally, relationally. We know about them. We see them. We read ancient texts that describe them. It’s not a new phenomena.

Yet, what have followers of Jesus really done about it?

Do we point fingers and preach (telling) about how bad those things are?

Do we support locking people away in prisons or other institutions? Anything to get them off the streets and away from our sight?

Helping people after they’ve gone far down the wrong road is exceedingly difficult. There are people who do that. They should be celebrated as heroes. (How about that media? Celebrating people who help rather than loud-mouthed politicians? Maybe that would solve a few things?)

What about before they get so far down that road?

I wrote Friday about repentance. Turning away from the road you’re on and going down a different one. About how Matthew says Jesus began his ministry the same way–preaching repentance.

However, Jesus did it differently than John. Reading at the end of Matthew’s report, Jesus leaves his followers (us) the “Great Commission”. I love the way Jon Swanson approaches his writing. I wish I could be like him. But I guess I’m more like me. Today, Jon paraphrased that passage:

“Make more followers of me the same way I made followers of me. Spend time with people, showing them how you live. When you do, make sure that you are choosing to spend some of that time with every class of people. The kind you fit with, and the kind you don’t.”

What if we (including me…and you) did more of this when we can reach people before they get too far down that road?

I’ve always liked the heart of American liberalism more than that of American conservatives. The emphasis on helping people. However, they picked up some ideas in the early 20th century from Europe about using the power of government to help. Governments really can’t solve all problems.

Who can help? Who can solve the problems?

Well, Jesus of course. But not miraculously by some lightning strike from the sky, but through his followers. Who show people how to live and save them one person at a time. And one at a time until we reach every single living person. Isn’t that what we were commissioned to do when we signed up?

What’s An Evangelical And Why Are We So Popular?

March 11, 2016

Evangelicals must be an important group of people, whoever they are. Not from a religious point of view. Not even from a spiritual point of view. I guess more from a “traditional family values” point of view (therefore many who voted for a Mormon for president thinking they were voting for a Christian).

I bring up that voting thing, because we don’t read story after story every day in the news about evangelicals changing lives. We read about evangelicals as a voting bloc.

I guess all evangelicals vote for the same candidates. Well, er, not exactly if this year’s Republican race to the Presidential election is an indication. Evangelicals love Cruz. Except when they love Trump. Well, maybe they like Rubio. Or Carson (oops, he’s dropped out).

I was raised in the Methodist Church. If you are British, especially English, that may have more meaning than in the US. John Wesley and his friends (who followed spiritual disciplines methodically–get it?) decided to take the church outside the walls and preach and teach to where the people were.

The article about evangelicals in Wikipedia credits Wesley as one of the founders of the movement. The article estimates that about 13% of Christians are evangelicals. It tries to define evangelical, ultimately ending in confusion. But it begins by saying evangelicals believe in salvation by grace through faith in the resurrection of Jesus. Hmm, I figured that would define all Christians. Guess I’m wrong?

In the early 70s, I was trying to figure out what it meant to be evangelical. At that time, evangelicals did not participate in politics (remember those days?). I found a group called Evangelicals for Social Action. Christian evangelicals working for peace and justice for all people.

Sometime in the mid 70s to be evangelical meant being white. And building schools where white people could send their white kids so that they wouldn’t have to go to school with black kids. And I came fresh from the movement of Christian people working for civil rights–for black people. What’s an evangelical?

In the end, I am saddened that society thinks of evangelicals as a voting bloc to be manipulated.

I wish that we were back to the roots of the word where articles about evangelicals reported on how we change lives of hurting people through teaching, preaching, feeding them and bringing them into a life-changing community of worshipers and servants.

Treating Our Fellow Humans Well

February 29, 2016

I have many friends and acquaintances who are followers of Islam. Not one is even remotely a terrorist. Or even a bad person.

One thing I have noticed while reading about how Jesus and Paul treated people–they treated people of all cultures with respect.

Jesus was watched very carefully by the ultra-religious among the Pharisees. Every little thing was commented on. Yet, even in the Jewish  areas where he mainly served, he treated “outsiders” with respect. Think of his healings of Romans. Or the Samaritan woman.

Paul’s ministry was explicitly to people outside the Jewish faith and culture. Yet, he too treated people of other cultures well. Think of his “debate” in Athens pointing out the statue to the unknown god. “I’m here to tell you about that unknown God you’re worshiping. He is real.”

Last week I wrote a plea for more mature relationships among men and women. This week, I’m going even more off the deep end (at least as far as Americans are concerned) by commenting on relations with Muslims.

Someone asked me once about Muslims and Christians worshiping the same God. Certainly Muslims trace their lineage back to Abraham, just as we do. John Fischer on The Catch has been discussing this issue with great sensitivity and understanding.

I’m not going to give an answer to the question. But I know that most of the readers of this blog would be amazed to know just what is in the Quran. And that many Muslims are taught much more about Jesus than many who call themselves Christian.

I don’t believe that Muslims must suddenly become Baptist or Methodist. But I think that it is only a short step to go from their understanding of Jesus to the faith in the resurrection. We only need to present clearly the evidence that Jesus is even greater than they are taught.

My concern for people is not what “church” they call home–if indeed they even have one. My concern is to make disciples of Jesus. Maybe they are Samaritan. Maybe Greek. Maybe Muslim. Maybe Buddhist. Jesus is what is important. And sometimes we lose sight of the basics of the faith.

Humans are born with a longing. Jesus fulfills it. Those of us who are truly disciples try to tell others about that in such a way not to turn them off but to engage and encourage.

God’s Grace Is Better Than Rules

January 5, 2016

One thing about rules–everyone can have their own set. And feel good about it. A set of rules that we say we’re following places us apart from other people. And at a higher plane. We feel closer to God.

When I scan the news of the day, I see self-described “Christians” or people the news media enjoys calling “Christians” doing all manner of bad or evil things all justified by saying that they are following their set of god-given rules.

Maybe that is a reason Andy Stanley likes to say that calling yourself a Christian is pretty meaningless since it’s so hard to define. Jesus-follower, though, that is very well defined and hard to do.

I’ve been deep in study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He shows his anger and disappointment in those early believers because they slipped back into being rule followers instead of grace accepters.

Very early in the journal of the Acts of the Apostles, Mr. Jewish Christian himself, Peter, is shown by God that the Gospel and God’s Grace are available to all. Forget the rules that set Jews apart from everyone else. The Gospel breaks that all apart.

Grace is sufficient.

My heart breaks when I see people who think that they are following Jesus overcome with anger and hate and drawing up rules that set them apart from others.

That is the very attitude that has driven so many people I know away from the church and made them suspicious of the Gospel.

It’s easy to see why. Would you rather join a group that is suspicious of outsiders, bound up with rules, and shuns or even hates people who are different–or join a group that is welcoming, laughs and smiles a lot, sings, helps people in need whoever and wherever they are?

Every once in a while step back and look at the groups you are a part of–church, small group, service organization. See it with the eyes of an outsider. Is it welcoming? Is it helpful? Does it reveal God’s grace to others?

If not, it’s time to either work to change it or to say good-bye and find another group.

We teach new soccer referees that the profession is the only one where you are expected to be perfect from the first minute you set foot on the pitch and then improve!

Sometimes we treat people coming into church the same way. You need to be perfect according to our rules before you come–and then get better!

Grace says, join us first. Discover grace. We’ll get better together.

Tell The Story Of Christmas

December 22, 2015

Can there be anyone in the world who does not know that Friday is Christmas?

It is impossible to live in the US and not know about Christmas–at least as a holiday. The name is everywhere.

Many people will have the day off work.  Many have been buying presents. Even people who do not celebrate Christmas or know about the reason for the celebration buy presents for celebrations.

Unlike Easter which always occurs on a Sunday, Christmas can be any day of the week. But still churches are filled during December. Maybe not so much in January, but the last Sunday before Christmas and Christmas Eve services will draw more people than any other time excepting Easter.

Even more than presents and church attendance, the holiday means family gatherings. These dinners are as often fraught with tension and disappointment as they are joyous. Often the tension between hype and reality takes the luster off the day.

Let’s look at just the “Christian” perspective.

Is this just a celebration for the “in” people? We gather the members, sing songs, pat each other on the back, congratulate the pastor on drawing a big attendance.

What if…what if the followers of Jesus took advantage of all this marvelous (and free) advertising. We don’t have to be apologetic. Or in your face. We don’t have to say “merry Christmas” as if it were a challenge.

But so many people are hearing about Christmas who have no idea what the meaning is. They only know rumors and bad information about who that man Jesus was. Some may only have a vague idea that this is a birthday party for a man who changed the world and billions of individual people.

What if we saw this season as a great opportunity to start conversations with people outside the church. Let’s turn it all inside out. Instead of inbred celebration, let’s reach out to others.

Marketers spend tons of money and lots of energy to create this sort of messaging. I consult with companies to help them achieve just a part of this sort of marketing. Companies use this marketing to start conversations with prospects.

What if we used all this awareness throughout the culture to introduce people to a man who was God who can help them through so many life challenges? Not by shouting at people but by conversing with them.