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When they laugh at your faith

Christians believe something very deeply… we’ve entrusted our lives, careers, money, opportunities, everything over to Jesus. We’re depending on Jesus’ grace to get us through death. These are all serious things!

So it makes it really hard when our non-Christian friends or family poke fun at our faith. When they joke about going to church, or even mention “hell” like its a place they’ll get to party. So, apart from letting it pass most of the time, in the odd times you can address it, what might we say?

  • “Just a second… I’d really like you to think about what you said just then.”
  • “Hey, I’m not sure you realise how important this is to me personally. Can I explain?”
  • “I know you think it’s kinda funny, but I really care what you think about this stuff.”

It may not get somewhere, but it might help them realise that you really do take it seriously… and maybe they should too.

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Paul, the Areopagus & the Why of evangelism

We all find evangelism hard. Admitting that is the first step to dealing with it. But what’s the second step? What gets in the way of people taking the next step with their acquaintances, friends and family?

Our Mission Pastor, Sam Hilton recently gave an excellent talk from Acts 17 that highlighted 3 big reasons. I’d recommend you listen to it. If you’re training an MTSer, it would be a great resource to listen and review together.

  1. We don’t understand the non-Christian world-view enough
  2. We don’t get distressed about people’s idolatry enough
  3. We get caught in the same idolatry, and don’t long for God’s glory enough

Have a listen here.

 

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Repost: An american perspective on evangelism

One of the american uni students I got to meet told me about how different it was over here in Australia. They couldn’t believe the number of non-Christians.

So I asked, “Aren’t there many non-Christians back home where you live?”

She answered — I kid you not — “Well, I only know of two in the town I’m from.” (Apparently it was a small American town, so it only had about 300,000 people in it.)

This girl had met more non-Christians in one day in Australia, than she had met in her ENTIRE LIFE. Now, I’m going to go out on a sceptical limb and say that not all of those “Christians” she met were actually Christian. In fact, she said herself that being in Australia had helped her see that many of her friends back home probably weren’t Christians – they just went to church.

Apart from being amazed, I couldn’t help thinking what happens in that town when the pastor preaches on “Evangelism”…

Bob and Terry get phone calls, letters, bibles, prayers, etc… from 299,998 people!?!

Repost: Before you answer, ask if they care

It’s nice when people ask questions; whether they are atheists or mature Christians. We all like the feeling of being asked, or the opportunity to “give an answer for the hope we have”.

But, before you answer, just ponder whether they are asking to understand or just asking to make a point.

It could be as simple as saying, “Yeah, that’s something I’ve put some thought into. If I tell you what I think, is there really much chance it will change your mind?”

This is particularly true when chatting to non-Christians. They may have many presenting questions… But they aren’t real questions; they’re just gap fillers, questions to ask to appear didactic. If you said to them, “if I answer that question adequately, will it really make a difference to you?” And if they say “no” (as many I’ve spoken to have), then all of a sudden the conversation had shifted from abstract hypothetical barriers to the gospel, to real personal barriers to the gospel. You can ask, “ok, then what is your real question? What would it take for you to really consider Jesus’ claims?”

Satan loves it when we keep the conversation abstract and impersonal, so don’t go there unless its really the issue they’re dealing with.

#Nexus2015 – Cross Shaped Ministry – What was missing…

(The recent Nexus2015 Conference “A cross shaped ministry” thought through the implications the cross has on how we think about gospel work in our churches. These are some of my personal reflections – see the previous 4 reflections here.)

I do feel there was an significant theme missing from the conference, and while I understand it’s a day conference and you can’t touch on everything, I think this is important. In fact, when I asked our staff team what ministry implications they think spring from the cross, they answered this one first… evangelism.

5. The cross defines the importance of gospel ministry

If God didn’t spare his only Son… if, when His eternal Son begged him for another way, He answered, “No – There is no other way”… then woe be to those who now suggest there is anything greater than declaring the work of His Son. As there is no other name compares to Jesus’ name to be saved, so there is no other work that compares to Jesus’ work of bringing all things together under himself. And we get to be part of that work!

Or put another way; The cross of Christ is the very heart of God’s message to the world! It’s not a message to the disciples, or to the Jews… its God’s message to the world. God does not put an enormous flaming message in the sky saying “I’m sorry” (as in Douglas Adam’s galaxy). Rather he puts His Son on a cross and says, “It’s done”.

6. The cross defines the extent of gospel ministry

At the cross, Jesus purchased men for God (Rev 5:9), he was the Sovereign Lord who bought people (2Pet 2:1), he reconciled all things in heaven and earth visible and invisible to God (Col 1:20), he was a ransom (Mark 10:45).

Everyone in the world, because of the cross, belongs to Jesus. He bought them. They are his. This means that evangelism is not simply inviting people to consider Jesus (though we rightly want people to do this), rather our driving motivation is the knowledge and conviction that Jesus is already their Lord. We are pleading for people to “Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2).

They are His. We are right to covet what rightly belongs to our Lord. The extent of the cross should make us want more and more and more and more people to bow the knee. The cross should cause in us a holy-discontent with the size of our churches.

7. The cross AND RESURRECTION provides the hope of gospel ministry

I know this might be a fudge, as the focus was really only meant to be on the cross, but when it comes to gospel ministry, the resurrection and the cross need to be held together don’t they?

The resurrected Christ now pours out his Spirit – and that spirit is the ONLY hope we have in gospel ministry. Without the resurrected Christ’s Spirit at work in us and those we serve there is no gospel ministry to speak of.

What’s more, Jesus promises to save people! The resurrected and ascended Christ should give us great hope and enduring confidence to keep praying for more, keep speaking to more, keep running events and courses and calling people to invite their friends… We should be courageous, risky, bold… not in our own strength, but because we believe that Jesus died to save and rose to reign.

The resurrected Christ should keep us from being disheartened, and keep us zealous in prayer and evangelism.

Gospel Hurdles: People don’t know what a “King” is

There’re many hurdles to people accepting and believing in Jesus, but one of the commonly ignored hurdles is the concept of even having a “lord” or a “King”. People just don’t get what that means. 

And this is probably a fairly recent thing… Up until the 1940s-50s nations would still go to war “for King and country”, Kings still held complete sovereign power is certain nations. Whereas today, the only all-powerful Kings are despots and military coups. 

It’s no wonder that non-Christians hear us talking about Jesus as a king and then find the idea of repentance so strange. Why would you change your life for someone like Queen Elizabeth?!

The real idea behind Jesus’ kingship is his Lordship; He’s the Master and we are his slaves. And he has become like us to die for us and take us from slaves to sons (Col 1).

Have you got any Essential Jesus books going to waste in your church?

Over 4 years ago, our church was generously given about 8000 Essential Jesus books. They were left over from other churches mission events and plans.

After 4 years and by the grace of God, we’ve been able to give almost all 8000 away to people who don’t know Jesus. In fact, I gave one to a guy travelling up to Port Macquarie today – he told me he’d read it with an open mind.

So, if you’ve got any “Essential Jesus – Gospel of Luke” books sitting around your church gathering dust, either give’m away to people to read them, or… could we get them off you and give them to people we meet?

Let me know if you have any and we’ll send someone down to pick them up from you!

Reblog – Evangelism is not making friends with non-Christians

Making friends with non-Christians is making friends. It’s not evangelism until you evangelise them.

And just so we’re all clear… Being friends with non-Christians is not evangelism either.

I’m all for building friendships! And its a great way to open avenues to evangelism. Just don’t call it something it’s not until it is.

The simple (yet deeply spiritual) stumbling block to evangelism

People cite all sorts of reasons why our culture is resistant to the gospel, individualism, consumerism, sexual-ethics, so on. But for the day-to-day Christian hoping to talk to their friend, these are rarely the stumbling block.
Rather, the reality is that most people like living on the surface. They like talking about the game, about work, about surface things. Just chit-chat until we’re too drunk to know what we’re talking about. And if you run out of surface things to chat about, you can always turn to gossiping about people.
But the gospel sits beneath the surface. It is, by nature, deep. It’s about you and God, you and guilt, you and shame.
So what might we do?
How about training our Christians to own the deepness of the gospel?
Saying, “Hey I know we usually chat about pretty surface things, but I wanted to ask you guys a deeper question… What do you really reckon about this idea that Jesus will judge us?”

The gospel is a press-release not an archive.

The word gospel is usually thought to mean “good news”, but it’s more like “important news”.

The gospel is what happens when the president calls the TV stations and says, “Clear your airwaves, I need to address the nation in 30mins”.  He’s saying, “I have a gospel”.

For a gospel to be a gospel it needs a speaker and an hearer. It needs to be passed on, communicated, to be a gospel. In fact, if you knew the gospel and didn’t pass it on – in some senses – it actually stops being a gospel. It becomes an archive. It’s still true. But it’s not a gospel because it’s not being proclaimed and communicated and announced.

Reblog: If you had the cure…?

You might have heard the illustration that asks Christians, “if we had the cure for cancer, how would you feel if we only reached 3% of the sick population? We wouldn’t be happy with that… so why are we content with only reaching 3% of people with the gospel”
It’s a good question, but it assumes that the gospel is like a cure easily administered by injection.
The gospel is more like insulin for a diabetic… It needs a long diagnosis time, it requires training to administer, and you need it daily.
Still, we’d want more than 3% of diabetics to have access to it wouldn’t we.

Reblog: Evangelism trumps everything

If you’re in Christian leadership, you probably already think this. But don’t assume your people get it. You need to play out what it means…
If you have to choose between going to your small group or taking a non-Christian to a gospel event suited to them… You blow off small group and take your mate.
If you have the choice between leading your small group or taking a mate to hear the gospel, you tell your small group to fend for themselves ‘cause evangelism is more important.
If you think that, do you think your people think that?

Who should you design your church meetings “for”

At one level, this shouldn’t be a hard question… surely you design your meetings for the people who are meeting with you.

So, since the meeting is for everyone – especially Christians (see the last post) – you have to think about the different types of people in the room, and there’s really only two types of people: people who are not Christians who need to hear the gospel, and people who are Christians who need to hear the gospel.

So proclaim the gospel. Proclaim it in the welcome, in the songs, in the reading, in the sermon, in the prayers, in the invitation to hang around for supper. Christian or not, they need to hear it and be reminded of it.

But, since the gospel is the power to save from God’s eternal wrath, there’s a right priority to make the most of the opportunity afforded by the non-Christian in the room. Don’t do everything for them, but don’t ignore them as though they’re not meant to be there… they are meant to be there! They just don’t know it yet.

Who should church be “for”?

This is a question that seems to cause grumbling, but that’s usually because those discussing it haven’t defined their terms, and the preposition “for” is very slippery. As such, these are all true…

  • Church is for everyone!
    It’s a gathering to sit under and respond to the word of the living and true God. The God of the universe. When Jesus comes back and raises everyone from the dead, they’re all going to be gathered (churched) around him and respond Philippians 2 style. So they should be in local churches now too.
  • Church is for Christians!
    This is a true, although narrow, use of the term “for”. Technically, church “is” Christians. Church is the family/community/flock-of-an-under-shepherd gathering of those who hear and respond to Jesus as Lord. It’s a Christian “thing”, so yeah, it’s for them by the simple fact it is them.
  • Church is for Christian encouragement and perseverance!
    This takes the previous point and gives it some flesh. If church is the gathering of those under Christ, then that gathering should support and equip those very ones to remain in Christ, in a fully Heb 3:13 way. In other words, if you’re going to get people together who exist on the basis of Jesus’ words, REMIND THEM to keep going!!
  • Church is for gospel proclamation
    See, this is really the common thread. The gospel is a message of the global king. Its content describes its extent. It’s a message for everyone, especially those who have already believed it.

So, if church is for everyone, especially Christians… how should you design your meetings?

The difference between being in ‘sales’ and being in ‘ministry’ is…

The difference between being in ‘sales’ and being in ‘ministry’ is heartbreak.

See, if I’m trying to sell you something, it’s because I get a commission, or it’s my job –  get paid to help you want something (usually want something enough to buy it). If you decide to say “no”, it’s disappointing, and it may even be frustrating. I might have wasted heaps of time on one customer and never make the sale. I may even feel insecure about my ability. But that’s all.

On the other hand, if I’m doing personal follow-up at church, or inviting someone to a series like LIFE, or simply just trying to help someone see the majesty of Christ they should be living for… If they decide to say “no”, I would still experience all those things above (disappointment, frustration, insecure, etc). But, I will also experience heartbreak.

Because Christian ministry is motivated by love, it also has the potential to hurt. A lot. In fact, the more I cultivate love for you (which drives me to say certain things and do certain things) the more I open myself up to be heartbroken when I see you turn away from Jesus, continue in sin, make stupid decisions that will affect your relationship with Jesus and others.

Ministry is an investment of Jesus-inspired-love in people. We invest more than our time, energy, mind… we invest our heart. And so you can’t invest your heart into people without expecting to be heartbroken. When that happens, refill your heart with Jesus’ love and go love some more.

Reblog: You can’t reach everyone

Any time you do anything as a church; whether the time you meet, the place your meet; or the style of your meeting… you will make it near impossible for thousands of people to come along.
That’s not a theological thing, its not a sin thing, its just a human thing. Humans are all different. They have likes, preferences, responsibilities, etc…
By all means, try and suit as many people as you can, but don’t get caught in the trap in trying to suit every single person. Just deal with the fact that there will be some people who you – personally and even corporately (as a church body) – won’t be able to suit.
The danger is that in trying to suit those minorities, you will in fact make it harder to reach the people what you’re much better suited – by God’s grace – to reach.

Don’t forget to preach repentance “of sins”

Sometimes when we preach the gospel, our tribe can preach salvation through faith, but conveniently forget to preach repentance. Now, yes, understood correctly, they are two sides of the same coin… The question is not whether you understand them correctly, but whether you’re helping others to understand them correctly.
So when, in your evangelism, do you tell people to turn from their sin? Not just the sin of “not trusting Jesus”, but actual “sins” – lying, stealing, adultery?
Are you “forgetting” to include that?

Would it have been better to just do walk-up?

Structures take a lot of effort. They take time. Human hours.
Sometimes structures can get so big they no longer justify the number of human hrs it takes to make them happen.
But how can you make that call? How can you know if a huge amount of human effort is better directed somewhere else?
One way (but not the only way) is to ask the question, “what if we ditched it all, and just did walk-up instead?!?”
What would be gained?
Well, you’d probably see HEAPS more gospel conversations. That’s a huge thing.
What would be lost?
Well, you’d probably only have half the people doing walkup. People will just opt out. Structures (even structures that aim to focus on evangelism) have more than one good outcome – they help people find ways of serving and belonging that “just doing walkup” wouldn’t let happen.
So, are you doing enough walkup?

The purpose of church websites

Why should churches have websites? There are loads of good reasons to have a website… Public “face”, state key beliefs, info for members, info for non-members… These are all good things to have, but they’re not big “purposes” for having a website.
I think there’s really one overriding purpose that outweighs all the other good purposes: consumer confidence.
Why would someone go looking at your church website in the first place? Almost always, it will be because they’ve heard about your church already: friends, flyers, drive-by, etc. but before they even seriously consider turning up, my bet is that almost all people will Google your church first. Why? They probably don’t do this consciously, but they’re looking for legitimacy, credibility… They’re are looking in order to determine how confident they can be in what they already know.
Does your church website help inspire “consumer confidence”?