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Archive for Evangelism

Who do you know that doesn’t pray? Who do you love that doesn’t pray? How do you pray for those who don’t? The Book of Romans has been called the “Gospel According to Paul.” It is his treatment of what the gospel is and what the gospel does and how we are to approach it and spread it. As part of this great book, Paul spends some time talking about praying for those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Check out the following passages and observe Paul’s burden for those he holds near his heart:

“With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them” (Romans 9:1-3, NLT).

“Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved” (Romans 10:1, NLT).

Paul’s prayer for his fellow Israelites was passionate and vulnerable. It was hopeful and optimistic. He doesn’t condemn them, neither does he judge them. It is hard to imagine loving someone so much that you would be willing to take their place in hell if that would mean they would discover the righteousness that is provided through Christ.

What follows in Romans chapter 10 is an explanation of the righteousness of God and Paul’s description of the “never to be embarrassed faith” that one can find in Christ. Throughout this week I want to unpack Paul’s challenge for us to pray for people who have yet to discover God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Categories : Evangelism, Prayer, Romans
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Tips for Writing Your Own Story

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Yesterday I posted the outline of Paul’s story as found in Acts 22:1-21. Today I want to share some simple tips to help you write your personal testimony in a clear way. First, magnify Christ, not sin. Years ago when I served in St. Louis we had an itinerant evangelist come share his story in our church. His name was Rick Stanley, and his claim to fame was that he was the step brother of Elvis Presley. For over 30 minutes our guest described his personal experience with the decadence of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” to our wide-eyed congregation. His conclusion was that he came to Christ and began traveling across America sharing his story about life with Elvis. He had traded life with the “king” for a new life with the “King of Kings.” While his story was certainly powerful and compelling, Rick did what many do who have experienced a colorful past: he magnified his sin. Your story may be colorful in its own right, and certainly that does provide the context for the change that Christ brings. But if you choose to share that in your story, don’t glorify it; glorify Christ!

Second, use everyday language. I have a friend named Dave Bennett who once described to me his frustration with Christians who use “insider language” when they communicate their faith. Take for example the simple phrase, “I asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior.” For those in faith, that communicates. For those who have not grown up in the culture of church, however, it doesn’t. Bennett told me he went to Webster’s Dictionary and looked up the words in that common phrase. He discovered that according to Webster’s, Jesus was a religious leader who lived in history 2,000 years ago; that the heart was the muscle in the center of your chest that pumps blood to the rest of the body; that a lord was a feudal castle owner; and that a savior was a person who rescued you from a situation of danger. Bennett argued that when we say “I asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior,” people might actually hear us say, “I asked a religious leader who lived in history 2,000 years ago to come into the muscle in the center of my chest that pumps blood to the rest of my body to be my feudal castle owner and rescuer from situations of danger.” Ok, you get the point. Use everyday language as you think about how you will communicate your faith. Don’t assume that everyone you talk to has knowledge of church culture.

Next, be brief. If you’ve been to a management or a leadership seminar you’ve probably heard people talk about giving the “elevator pitch.” In other words, it’s important to have your story so concise you can share it in the length of time it takes to ride the elevator with a potential client. There’s something about being brief that helps us stay on point and communicate effectively. Sometimes less is more.

Fourth, be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else. God made you to be you, so be yourself. Resist the temptation to borrow elements from someone else’s story. When we try to be someone or something we’re not, we diminish the authenticity of our testimony.

Once you have written your story, commit it to memory. Learn it “by heart,” as they say. Then look for opportunities to share it. They say that as many as 95% of American Christians have never shared their faith. One of the reasons why is that we aren’t prepared. God can’t use what you haven’t prepared to, but if you’ll take the time to write and memorize your own story, God will meet your preparation with opportunities to share it.

Categories : Acts, Evangelism
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Telling Your Own Story

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One of the things I’m working on this year is changing the culture of our church from one that values numbers to one that values stories. Not just any story, mind you, but stories about life transformation. One of my favorite quotes is by G.K. Chesterton, who said, “The only thing that can satisfy the soul is a story and a person…and even then the story must be about a person.” I believe that going forward churches are going to be built one “story” at a time.

Yesterday I taught our congregation how to write their own story using the model presented in Acts 22:1-21 by the Apostle Paul. To set the context, Paul had been brought up on charges and had been given the opportunity to present his own defense. At that point Paul simply shared his own story of life change. I’ve provided the outline to the text so that you can see how it works.

1. My Life Before I Came to Christ (Acts 22:1-5)
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language,a the silence was even greater. Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the Christians from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.

2. How I Came to Know Christ (Acts 22:6-13)
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene,b the one you are persecuting.’ 9The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me. “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’ “I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!

3. My Life Since I Have Come to Christ (Acts 22:14-21)
“Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’ “After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesusc saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
“‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’ “But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”

While your story may have different content than Paul’s, you can still use the same outline to hang your thoughts upon. Your story is valuable to the Kingdom of God! It’s worth sharing, but you can’t share what you haven’t prepared! Tomorrow I’ll post some simple tips on how to write and share your story.

Categories : Acts, Evangelism, Paul
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Bill Hybels on Personal Evangelism

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I found this interview with Bill Hybels at ChurchLeaders.com on the subject of Personal Evangelism. The most compelling insight is his observation that believers have done a much better job over the past three decades learning how to speak authentically with one another, although it is perhaps to the exclusion of honing their skills on speaking with people who have yet to make a life commitment to Jesus Christ. I think he’s spot on about this. You can find the article by clicking here.


Get Uncomfortable

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Acts 10 is the story of two people. The scene opens with a man named Cornelius, a prominent Roman military leader who was compassionate toward others. You get the feel that he was well respected by those who knew him. He was a good man; in fact, one of only five men in the Bible who are called “good.” That’s quite a compliment! But despite all of his goodness and his many acts of charity, he still had a huge hole in his heart. There was a vacuum within. He knew it, and God knew it.

Cue the next scene. The story transports the reader to another location where one finds Peter atop a roof deep in prayer. While in prayer, Peter had a vision. In his vision, a sheet descended from heaven filled with a variety of animals that didn’t exactly fit the Jewish dietary laws. A voice came from heaven that instructed Peter to kill and eat the animals. Peter protested to God and passed on the ham sandwich. After the vision repeated itself the third time, Peter got the point.

What was God doing? He was trying to get the gospel to Cornelius, but in order to do so he had to disturb and disrupt Peter from his comfort zone.  As I thought about this passage, it made me wonder how willing I was to get uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How about you? What comprises your spiritual comfort zone? Religious tradition? Dress? Political party? Socio-economic status? Skin color?

We must never forget that the call of the gospel is a call to become like Jesus Christ and not like ourselves. In order to make an impact in today’s culture, it may require people like you and me to leave the limits of familiarity and take some steps into new territory.

We are usually most comfortable in the comfort and security of our own homes. The farther away from home we venture, the greater our level of discomfort. Think of Jesus. Bethlehem’s manger was a fair piece from the throne of glory. Yet Jesus left his comfort zone and took on flesh and came to our polluted planet. It seems the least we could do is walk across the room.

I believe for every one of us there is at least one corresponding person like Cornelius who is waiting for us to be willing to take the risk leaving where we want to be to head to where we need to be. Think about it. It could change your life, and someone else’s, too!

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My Place in this World

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This weekend I presented the third sermon from my series titled Missionaries You Should Know, focused on Saul of Tarsus, aka the Apostle Paul. What gained my attention from my study of Acts 9 was Jesus’ simple testament in verse 15:  “Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as the people of Israel.”

This verse reminded me of the counsel I once received from my friend Ken Lumley. Eating pancakes at a Village Inn in Ft. Worth, Texas one night, Ken leaned across the table and said, “God calls special people to specific places for His sovereign purposes.” We were talking about church planting and the story of Abram from Genesis 12:1-2.

I thought about Ken and Abram and missions and Saul, and used that principle to share what I believe God wants to do in each of our lives. So this weekend I used Acts 9:15 to simply point out this truth: God calls and sends special people to specific places for His saving purposes.

I believe that each person is special. Not in a little league “everyone gets a trophy” kind of way, but in the sense that we are special because God has set his affection on us and we are profoundly loved by Him. In other words, we are special because we are God’s children. We don’t really bring anything to the table that completes a deficiency in God. He’s quite complete on His own without us. But because we belong to Him, special we are indeed.

We are not God’s special people in a vaccuum. We are who we are in the context of where we are. Paul was called and sent to a specific people in specific geographical locations. Part of knowing what God expects of you is to simply evaluate where you are in this world. You are in a family, a neighborhood, a school, a job and a city by God’s design. He intends for you to live your life as an expression of his tangible presence in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ right where you are.



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I hate to be interrupted. I bet you do too. You know…

…the phone rings at dinner;

…the door bell rings during the ball game;

…someone drops by your office unannounced;

…your youngest spills milk;

…your oldest has a fender bender;

…your spouse locks his or her keys in their car;

…it rains;

…or snows!

You could probably add a dozen more ways you’ve been interrupted in just the last week alone.

Do you ever wonder if God is a part of those interruptions?

Allow me to introduce you to a man named Philip. Philip was person that God kept interrupting to do Kingdom things. Those interruptions may not have made much sense to Philip, but they did to God. And because he was “interrupt-able,” God used him to make a mark in the world.

Philip, just like Stephen, was not an apostle. He was an average Joe in the church who had come to faith in Christ in the ground swell of response following Pentecost. You might say that Philip is believer 2.0. I think it would have been exciting to have participated in the awesome work of God in the days following Pentecost. But Philip, like many others, found his world interrupted by the persecution that flared following the martyrdom of Stephen.

What can Philip teach us about interruptions?

1. Life’s interruptions may be God’s opportunities. Acts 8:1-2 says that when persecution hit the church, the people scattered from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria. Who wouldn’t rather have stayed home? Or stayed together? What appeared on the surface to be a very bad thing (persecution), actually turned out to be a very good thing because the gospel became decentralized.

2. Spiritual leaders make the most out of interruptions. Acts 8:4 tells us that the believers who scattered proclaimed the gospel as they went. How Kingdom minded is that?! I like Luke’s word play at this point: they scattered the gospel as they scattered out of town!

3. God will interrupt us from good things for better things. The next report we get concerning Philip is that God interrupted his travel plans and told him to take an exit and focus on one particular town. There, Philip preached, cast out demons, and was used by God to perform some incredible miracles of healing. In the end, God gave Philip that city for Christ, and filled it with joy! It wasn’t that Philip had been doing bad things. God just had something better for him.

4. God’s interruptions don’t always make sense. The next scene provides us with the most recognizable story about Philip: his conversation with the Ethiopian eunuch. Think about this one. Philip is impacting multitudes, and God interrupted him to leave the multitude to go to the desert road to talk to one person. That’s right, one. That doesn’t make sense to us, does it? But it did to God. Legend has it that the eunuch became the first to take the gospel to the continent of Africa. We need to be very careful about how we assess God’s interruptions. His interruptions may not make sense to us. But like Philip, we need to be responsive nonetheless.

5. As long as you are open to God, he will continue to interrupt your life. I like how the chapter ends. Philip is snatched from the baptismal waters and parachute dropped into another region where he continues to share the gospel. His life is one big interruption after another, all the way to Cesarea.

How long has it been since you have sensed that God is playing a part in the interruptions of your life? Are you “interrupt-able?” Or do you wear a big DO NOT DISTURB sign across your heart? What would happen if you began to interpret the interruptions of life as the interruptions of God?

Let me encourage you this week to look for signs of the divine. Look for the providence of God to lead you from where you plan to be to where you need to be. It may surprise you what God has in store for you!

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Seizing Opportunities (part 4)

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Peter’s gospel message came as a response to the attention that was stirred by the healing of the lame man. As I posted earlier this week, in Acts, events lead to explanations. With that being said, let me share a couple of points of application as I wrap up this series from Acts chapter 4.

First, God sightings begin by discerning God’s work in your own life. Unfortunately we miss a lot of the “events” because at our very core we are pretty self absorbed. We esteem ourselves as intelligent and hardworking, therefore the blessings that come in our lives we take credit for. Until you begin to intentionally and diligently give God glory for the good things in your life, you may continue your journey and miss the very God who is at work in your life on a daily basis.
Second, let the good things in your life become your platform to share the good news. You’re not lucky. You’re not fortunate. You’re not deserving. You are very blessed. As you discern God’s blessing and give him the glory for those blessings, you’ll find that your opportunities to share the gospel will dramatically increase. And so will your effectiveness.