Archive for Evangelism

The latest Barna report is out and lists ten facts about the churchless in America. You can find the report HERE.

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When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:1-5, NLT).

If you grew up attending Sunday School, this story from Mark 2 is a familiar one. I used this text a couple of weeks ago as our staff and volunteer leaders unveiled our fall schedule and programming. I reminded our congregation that programs don’t reach people, people reach people. From Mark 2, I offer four characteristics of those who reach out to others.

1. Those who reach out have a spirit of cooperation.
I suppose one friend could have carried the paralyzed man to Jesus, but in the story four came together to get their friend to Christ. There was no discernible leader and we don’t know how they came together. The spirit of cooperation was and is fueled by the big picture: get him to Christ!

2. Those who reach out are deeply committed.
They literally carried him to Christ. It takes a lot of commitment to help people discover Christ, and that commitment involves effort, time, and possibly even material resources.

3. Those who reach out utilize creativity.
My favorite part of the story is the creativity the team used to solve problems and overcome obstacles. When they arrived, the house was packed. The doors were blocked, the windows were blocked, and apparently no one was willing to step aside. When there was no room they made room by tearing a hole in the roof. People who reach out to people will testify that the road to Christ is seldom easy. There are obstacles and challenges that have to be creatively overcome.

4. Those who reach out possess the faith that Christ is in the business of changing lives.
Verse 5 says that Jesus responded to “their” (plural) faith. My question at this point is, “Why did they believe?” Had they heard stories from others? Had they seen Christ perform some healing elsewhere? We don’t know, but I’d like to think the reason their faith was so strong was because of their own personal experience with Christ. Those who are most motivated to reach out are those who reach out based on their personal experience.

Categories : Evangelism
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One of the blogs I follow is Tony Morgan Live. This week he posted some thought provoking comments about how healthy churches think about big events versus how unhealthy churches think about them. Check it out HERE.

I came across this dated piece last week. I don’t know the original author, but thought it was good and wanted to share it.

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, these, who called themselves fishermen, met in meetings and talked about their call to fish and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be the primary task of fishermen.

Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further, they said “the fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.” They loved slogans, such as “Fishing is the Task of Every Fisherman,” and “Every Fisherman is a Fisher.” They spent considerable time discussing new fishing equipment, fish bait and places to fish. This was done in nice buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The one thing they didn’t do, however, was fish.

They taught numerous training classes on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, how to approach fish, and how to feed fish. Those who went through the training were given nice “fishing licenses” to hand on their walls, but they never fished. They did, however, laud the founding fathers who did great fishing in the past and praised them for handing down the tradition of fishing.

After one inspirational meeting on “The Necessity of Fishing,” one young man actually went fishing. The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. He became so busy he quit fishing so he would have time to tell about his experience.

Or course, there were those of were critical of the fishermen and the fact that though they claimed to be fishermen, they never actually fished. They were very hurt when someone actually said that those who don’t go fishing are not actually fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. And yet, can one be considered a fisherman if year after year he or she never catches a fish?

Jul
25

You Need an Outcast:: 3

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There are three things you need to know about having dinner with Levi. First, Levi’s take time. They’re a lot of work. Marginalized people take a lot of work. They can’t be fixed with money. They can’t be fixed with a manual. You have to get your hands dirty and walk with them where they are. Second, Levi’s may not offer much in return. You don’t invest in a Levi expecting to get something in return. And you don’t spend time with a Levi just so you can feel good about yourself. Finally, when you start hanging around with Levi’s, someone is going to criticize you. They didn’t “get” Jesus, and they won’t “get” you.

Jesus is in the business of relationships…of inviting people to trade tables. He’s in the business of reaching out to those who are passed by or looked over. Revelation 19 speaks of the marriage supper of the lamb, an event where one final table is spread. Around that table will be people of every tribe and tongue, gender and socio-economic status. Though John doesn’t mention it, I’m sure there will be plenty of “Levi’s” around the table as well.

Who’s your Levi? We need one in life to remind us that relationships are not just about what we get from others. Its important for us to learn to give back.

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Jul
24

You Need an Outcast:: 2

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In the text cited yesterday from Luke 5, Jesus invited Levi to leave his table for a life of discipleship. It is at that point that we are introduced to a second table. Levi was so happy that Jesus provided him an opportunity to walk away from the margins that he threw a dinner party for his fringe friends and invited Jesus to be the guest of honor. That may not seem like a big deal to us, but it was a very big deal in first century Jewish culture. Sitting down to dine with someone at “table” meant acceptance, forgiveness, and equality. You didn’t eat with your enemies, and you certainly didn’t eat with sinners. Which leads me to an important question. Who are you eating with? Or to ask it another way, how hypoallergenic are your relationships?

Jesus didn’t draw lines of exclusion. The lines he drew were against hypocrisy and judgment. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. He hung out on the fringe and walked the boundaries of culture and society. And, in typical Jesus fashion, he didn’t care what others thought about it.

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Jul
23

You Need an Outcast

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Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:27-32, NLT).

This weekend I spoke about a man named Levi from the above mentioned text found in Luke’s gospel. We know him better as Matthew, the author of the first book of the New Testament. But he wasn’t always a follower of Jesus. We are introduced to Levi who was working as a tax collector. Because of occupation, he was viewed as a betrayer to the people of Israel. Socially, Levi was an outcast who had been rejected by society. Today we might refer to him as “marginalized.” When Jesus found him he was sitting alone at his little table, surrounded by the long arm of the Roman government, collecting taxes from his fellow citizens. Most people would have passed by Levi, avoiding him at all costs. But not Jesus. Jesus didn’t walk by. He stopped and invited Levi to a new relationship…to get up and leave his little table and follow him into a new life of discipleship.

This week I want to ask a simple question: Who are you walking by?

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When we pray for those who don’t, Paul has encouraged his readers to pray with understanding, but his real emphasis is that we pray God’s mission into action.

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’ But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, ‘LORD, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:14-17, NLT)

Paul has listed five verbs in direct succession: calling, believing, hearing, telling, and sending. If you invert that listing, you’ll see a marvelous description of God’s mission in the world. God sends the messengers, the messengers share good news, people hear the message of good news and believe the message, and believing leads to calling on the name of the Lord.

At the heart of the prayer for those who don’t is the prayer for God’s mission to be unfurled in the world. The prayer for those who don’t pray does not begin with the unresponsive or the unreceptive; it begins with the sending of the church into the world.

But this concept isn’t original with Paul. Decades before, Jesus said it this way, “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields’” (Matthew 9:36-38, NLT).

When we pray for the mission of God to be unfurled in the world, remember that God may use you to answer your own prayer.

Categories : Evangelism, Paul, Romans
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So since self righteousness is not a valid option, what are the benefits of the righteousness provided by Christ? In the next section of Romans 10, Paul reveals the benefits of the righteousness that are available through Christ.

For example, we do not have to ascend to God through our own efforts because Christ has come near to us. In Romans 10:6-8, Paul continued, “But faith’s way of getting right with God says, ‘Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).’ In fact, it says, ‘The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.’ And that message is the very message about faith that we preach” (Romans 10:6-8, NLT). Through the incarnation and the resurrection God fully demonstrated His commitment to come near to us, rendering our efforts to ascend to God unnecessary.

Not only did God come near to us, righteousness is made available by believing and confessing the gospel. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10, NLT). Self righteousness is pursued through external efforts which are believed to transform one’s inner life. But in these two verses Paul has shared that life change happens inside-out. Believing in the heart leads to confessing with the mouth. In other words, when the heart is right, right behavior will follow.

This Christ righteousness is available to all who ask! Regardless of race, gender, or status; all are welcome, and those who come to Christ are not disappointed. The next section of Romans 10 goes like this, “As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved’” (Romans 10:11-13, NLT).

Tomorrow I’ll conclude this series on praying for those who don’t. Thus far I’ve observed that we should pray with understanding. What remains involves you and me and God unfurling His mission in the world.

Categories : Evangelism, Prayer, Romans
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“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:1-4, NLT).

How do you pray for those who don’t? The first suggestion that Paul offers is to pray with understanding. Our prayers for those who don’t pray can be guided by understanding the heart of the problem. Paul shares three problems that his fellow Israelites have that are not uncommon with people today.

The first problem is what I would call religious enthusiasm. Paul acknowledged that his Jewish brothers and sisters had ample enthusiasm about spiritual things. It wasn’t just an observation that Paul had made about the Jews. He had observed the same thing about the Gentiles (cf. Acts 17:16-34). Clearly he would say the same thing today.

A simple search on Amazon.com revealed that if you searched on the word “christianity,” 280,099 results would pop up. For “spirituality” you would net 131,619 results, and “new age” would yield 13,307. If you amplify the search to a broader domain such as Google, “christianity” would provide a return of 116,000,000 hits. “Spirituality” would produce 136,000,000, and “new age” a whopping 422,000,000!
Our Christian houses of worship may reflect otherwise on Sunday morning, but the world is buzzing about spirituality with zealous enthusiasm!

A second problem that Paul identified was spiritual blindness. While people throughout history have demonstrated abundant zeal for spiritual things, “they don’t understand.” This enthusiasm is without knowledge. In other words, their passion is sincere, yet without truth.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul writes about how the god of this world has blinded the minds of people so they have a difficult time comprehending the truth about God’s way of making people right with himself. There is a spiritual battle involved concerned that we must be made aware.

Problem number three is perhaps the heart of the issue when it comes to understanding those who “don’t pray.” At the core is the attempt to make themselves right with God apart from Christ. Any righteousness they hope to attain is by self effort. In the specific case of the Jews, it is by keeping the law. But in principle, there is a sense that out of self effort will evolve the ability to connect with God. They refuse to accept God’s grace and acknowledge Him as the source of righteousness. With stubborn independence, they prefer to get to God based on their own efforts and accomplishments. Does that sound like anyone you know?

So what’s the point? The point is self effort is hard! In the next verse, Paul continues, “For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands” (Romans 10:5, NLT).

Self effort is hard because it requires the continual, unending process of learning and earning; of trying to impress God through dutiful observances and good deeds. It is based on the theory that if a person can accomplish enough good behavior that the good behavior will transform their hearts. In short, my external life will transform my internal life. The obvious problem is this: How good does a person have to be in order to be good enough for a holy God?

Let me explain it this way. How many times per day would you say that you sin? Let’s suppose for a moment that the number is three. Just three sins per day. There are 365 days in a year, so that would roughly calculate to about 1,000 sins per year. How long do you expect to live? Let’s say a number like 80 years. If you live to be 80, committing only 3 sins per day, at the end of your life you would have amassed 80,000 sins! How good would you have to be to overcome that? How many good things would you have to do to surpass that mark?

That’s Paul’s issue with self righteousness. It’s never enough. So when you pray for those who don’t, pray with that understanding in mind. Tomorrow I’ll continue in Romans 10 and share how Paul contrasts self righteousness with the righteousness provided by Christ.

Categories : Evangelism, Prayer, Romans
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