Category Archives: Evangelism

Another Great Post Worth Reading

No matter what group of people I’m connecting with, EVERYONE has a ridiculous (or scandalous) story that comes to mind when this is brought up. A story where we or someone we love was hurt or done wrongly inside of church. When the story is told, it’s just as fresh and raw as when it […]

via When Christians don’t act like Jesus — just a jesus follower

One Warm Day

She looked out on the street and could feel the heat of the early afternoon sun as it poured through the window.  It was time to go get water.  The other women were back from the well.  She felt comfortable making the trip, in spite of the heat.

She didn’t mind the other women, really.  She didn’t dislike any of them.  It was just the comments since the last divorce.  Most of the comments were meant well…

“Oh, its a shame things went so badly for you, dear.”

“You know, if you had just made better choices…”

Then there were those that cut a little deeper…

“How many more men before you settle down.”

“What man would want a woman like that?”

Enough was enough.  It was better to endure the heat of the day, rather than put up with all the comments, whether direct or indirect.  Sometimes, there were looks, too.  She felt bad enough over her situation without the comments, even if some were meant with good intentions.

waterjarOff she went, jars ready to be filled.  It was about a mile, or so, up to the well her family had drawn from for generations.  As she walked, her mind wandered from one thought to another, as happens with any of us as we walk alone.  She pondered her life, she thought of the good friends she had, she wondered if God really cared for her and even wondered if those old jars would last just one more trip.

When she got to the well, she set down her jars, removed the cover and lowered the pail to dip for her first load of water.  As she raised the pail, she noticed someone walking in her direction.  At first, she didn’t think much of it…probably just another man coming to demand water. But, as the man drew closer, she noticed something different.

He dressed differently.  “Oh, no!  He’s a rabbi!  A Jew!  I have to hurry up and get out of here.  They hate Samaritans.”, she anxiously thought.

She began to hastily lower the pail to get the next scoop of water.  “He’s getting closer.  I’d better hurry.” But, no sooner could she formulate that thought, he was even closer.  He was close enough to talk to her…

“May I have some water, too?”, he asked.

He asked?  She thought. Usually, if a Jew lowers himself enough to say anything to a Samaritan, much less a woman, he snaps an order as if he were talking to a dog.  The fact that this rabbi is even in Samaria is unusual in itself.

With a suspicious tone while folding her arms in a guarded fashion, she answered him. “You are a Jew.  I am Samaritan.  We have nothing to do with each other.  Why are you asking me for a drink?”

He smiled, a warm, friendly smile.  It was the kind of smile a father would have looking at his beloved children.  She had no idea what to think of this guy.

He answered her, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.”

She looked at him with suspicious, squinting eyes.  But, she had a reply.   “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?”

She had no idea if this man was for real or just another mean-spirited Jewish leader about to give her a hard time.  Was he setting her up for a big put down?  He had more to say.

“Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again.  But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”

Eternal life?  This intrigued her. She used her sleeve to wipe some sweat from her face as she pondered her next statement.  She brightened up a bit and told Him, ““Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”

The man smiled a warm, understanding smile.  He looked at her and gently asked her to go get her husband.

Oh, great.

This was a topic that did not sit well with her.  She hated explaining her situation. She especially hated the derisive remarks and judgmental statements.  So, rather than admit anything, she simply said, “I don’t have a husband.”

She figured she dodged that one.  No giving excuses.  No explaining the previous marriages.  But, this man was special…he seemed to know things.  He told her something a stranger would not know.

“You’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”

Her mind went racing.  How did he know that?   Did someone tell him about me?  But, he seems to know.  Let’s see if he is the real deal.

She stood straight up and spoke confidently.  “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.”

She figured he would just give another pat answer about Jerusalem, as she would expect a rabbi to give.  His answer was not what she expected.

“A time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.”

She was impressed, to say the least.  But, a little discouraged at the same time.  Like so many, she desired to see a savior.  She wanted to know the Messiah, because she knew the Messiah would have all the answers.  Then, she told the man, “When Messiah comes, He will let us know all things.”

He looked her directly in the eye and told her something that turned her life upside down.

“I am that one, and I am speaking to you now.”

At first, she couldn’t formulate any words.  She just stared at him for a few moments. Then, her eyes got wide and she began to get excited.

“Wait…what?  You?  Really?  Well, yes!  Yes, I think it is you!  Who else would know know what you know?  It’s you!  It’s really you!  I gotta tell somebody!  I gotta tell everybody! You’re Him!  He’s you!  Stay here…I’ll be back.  Don’t move!  They have to meet you.  They all have to meet you!  Let me grab my water jars…oh, heck…they’ll wait.  I will be right back!”

Off she ran, back to the village to gather as many people as she could.  She told everyone she could, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?”

Yes, dear woman.  He is.  As a matter of fact, you don’t know this, but He told His disciples that He had to go to Samaria.  Apparently, He had an appointment…with you. He had an appointment with your people, too.  You just saw love in a Person.

Love in a Person.

Jesus.

As His followers, we should show that same love.  The story of the Woman at the Well is one of the prime examples of how to treat a stranger, a sinner and a woman.  Jesus did not go to her with any more agenda than to introduce Himself to her and her people.

 

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The Profession Obsession or the Confession Direction

I have a long time friend, Mike, I have known since we served together in the Navy back in the early eighties.  He and I have managed to keep in touch and we talk together frequently, mostly by text messaging.  Besides pre-pubescent level insanity befitting two guys in their mid fifties, we share epiphanies and inspirations and often learn from one another.  Here is the sum of what Mike opened with recently:

What direction is love in your life?  If your theology hinges on your love for God, then the blood and the cross eventually take second place.  This can produce a compulsion to work and brag about your love for God and thinking you have “levels of faith”.

Interesting.  Wouldn’t you say?

loudmouthSo much of the Church has gone the way of professing their love for God and the result is a misinterpretation of what it means to love God.  If it becomes strictly a matter of us loving Him, then the Cross means nothing.

It starts with the Cross…His love for us.

We read, “Love the Lord with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind.”  However, this has become something of a doctrine of our effort toward salvation and approval by God.  It is as if they promote a gauge of how much a person loves God, which is measured in words and deeds.  In other words, the more work you do and the louder you can shout and profess your love for God, the more approved you are and the greater the proof of your salvation.

If you ask me, this sounds tiresome.  How do these “professors” and their faithful followers keep up with this?  Well, it’s like that commercial for a brand of anti-depression medication, where the people carry a paper smiley-face mask with them.  They put on a facade.

Fake it?  Yes.  Put on a happy face.  Therefore, all this profession is a facade in front of others along with an attempt to impress God.

Impress God?  As if.

How can anyone impress the Creator of the Universe?  Peasants.

His love for us, however, outshines anything we can even attempt to do to impress Him. He isn’t impressed with us or anything we do.  He loves us.

Law is profession.handup

It takes no faith to profess something.  You can shout anything you want from whatever vast knowledge or belief you may or may not have.  Profession takes no faith.  There are plenty of pulpit-pounding purveyors of various doctrines out there who profess stuff they don’t understand or necessarily believe. Confession, however, does.

Love is confession

We confess that He loves us.  Since we know He loves us, we love Him in return.

Parents, your children’s love for you is out of response to your love for them.  You don’t demand or command that they love you.  They love you because they know you love them.

How much more does the Father love us?

The danger of enforcing profession.

When leaders profess love for God and enforce (encourage?) the profession of love for God by others, what happens is individual efforts to impress God with our love for Him.  What we may see is people straining to reach God, singing and shouting loudly during “worship service”, as if the louder and more exuberant they become, the more obvious it will be to God how much they love Him.  Many of these people are insecure in the idea of God’s love for them.

Another, probably bigger danger is the judgmental statements that start with, “If you truly love the Lord…”.  This forces people to profess and/or prove their love for the Lord.  It results in the facade of behavioral modification.

God.  Loves.  You.

Learn that.  Agree with it.  Believe it.  Know it.  Take refuge in that.  Just sit back and know that He loves you.  Know that His work on the Cross is sufficient.  Did He not say, “It is finished.”?  We don’t need to stress and strain or prove our love for Him…He loves us, no matter what.

When we embrace the fact that He loves us, our love for Him follows.  Then, we begin to act on that love, when He calls, commands or speaks to us…and we obey because we love Him. We do for Him out of our love for Him and our love for Him is in response to His love for us.

Knowing how loved we are prompts, propels and compels us to love and serve Him.

A very busy man in ministry was once asked how he did all that he did, with the travel and ridiculous schedule.  His reply, “I know that I know that God loves me.”

Let’s not gauge our spirituality or our standing by how much (we think) we love God.  Let’s not measure how much we love God by what we do, how we do it or how we behave.  This is backward.  Our love is incomplete, impure and has its share of conditions and reservations.

We need to go back to the Cross.

We need to remember how completely and unconditionally He loves us.

1 John 4:10 (NIV), This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This gives us a good starting point toward loving Him.  First – and always – His love, proven at the Cross. Then, our love for Him follows.  It is more organic than demanded.

 

 

 

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Ministry Vs. Invitations

Every church, it seems, has some sort of an “outreach” program.  From what I have observed, there are two main ideas of what “outreach” is.

joinusThe lesser version is where the target of outreach is a getting people into a church. Whatever the specific program, the idea is to add numbers to their gathering.  Most think this is good ministry and what they are doing is spreading the Gospel.  While most involved are genuine, they are missing the fact that what they are doing is attracting people to their church.

When Jesus said, “Go, therefore…”, there was no indication of any instruction that included inviting people to be among their number.  There was a commission to preach the Gospel.

Jesus demonstrated what it is to minister to people.  Of course, minister = serve. He taught, healed and He had the disciples distribute food (that He multiplied) to thousands. Very few of these people became part of the crowd that followed Him.  Yet, He never selected, segregated, cast away, shunned or denied anyone healing or a meal.

For some reason, we feel that if someone does not want anything to do with us or the message we are shoving down their throats, we may feel justified in having nothing to do with them anymore.

‘Tis ignominious thinking, there.

Stop inviting them to church!

Before you go to your corner and ponder whether you have sinned by reading my post, let me clear this up.  What I mean, here, is that we should not make outreach into a recruiting expedition.

We were never called to bring people to church.  We were never called to threaten people with Hell if they don’t yield to the message we are planting in their faces.  I fail to see how this is spreading “good news”.

What is “outreach”, anyway?  To be clear, you won’t find that word in the Bible.  We just added that one to our lingo, some time ago.  Basically, outreach is reaching beyond – so, it is not a mistaken word to add.  We should “reach beyond”.  This is what love would do.

It also means to – now, don’t be offset by the massive difficulty of this definition – to reach out.

But, as much as we use the word, outreach, we have allowed it to morph into something lesser.  It becomes less about ministering to people and more about marketing the local church.  We seem to want to reach out as long as we can pull them in.

Love does not pull.  Love draws.  Drawing is not manipulating or convincing…it happens more organically.  We cannot force it or manufacture it.  It is not our love that draws.  It is not us who draw.  Jesus draws.  It is His love, through us.handreach

We do have some effort on our part. If we are going to reach out, our efforts should be the same ones Jesus put forth.  Take care of people.

Feed, clothe and house the poor.

Welcome and love the disenfranchised.

Protect the weak from predators.

Serve the “less-than’s”.  Don’t let pride get in the way.

Make donations to or serve local food pantries or soup kitchens.

Raise money to help someone who has fallen behind, financially (unless you are loaded, then unlock that purse).

Have a shoulder available.  Sometimes people just need to vent to a non-judgmental ear.

If able, open home to someone who needs a home (teen having a tough time at home, pregnant teen, someone needing financial relief).  This has to be a well considered commitment – it can be a disturbance and upset to the household (we did this for a young woman and there were adjustments, but it was worth it.  Might tell that story, eventually).

Don’t forget, home first.

We also read to love others, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).  While outreach is how we show our love to others, we must never forget loving one another. How we interact and take care of each other keeps us all going so we can feel free to reach out to the rest of the world.  Plus, people see how we treat each other and that speaks volumes. So, if a brother needs a “leg up”, another brother, who is able, should give him that boost.

Let’s be reminded…Jesus gave a new commandment…love one another.

Wear their shoes.

When Jesus saw the crowds, even when He was exhausted, He had “compassion on them” (Matt. 9, Mark 6).  To have compassion is to suffer with.  Let’s also consider, sympathy and empathy.  Jesus put Himself in their place…He felt their anguish, pain, anxiety and stress. He knew their loneliness, their shortfalls and their illnesses.  Rather than being all about our own agenda, we should listen to Him and allow Him to show us what He sees.

I, like many others, have been on the  receiving end of compassion as well as ignorance. There were times when I and my family needed some help and someone was there, without any of us asking.  Other times, I stood in “prayer circles”, explaining my trials during unemployment and was basically ignored, other than being prayed for.

The latter issue is huge.  There is too much “God bless you, be warmed and filled.”, which shows no love or compassion.  Too often, people of financial means essentially ignore the plight of a person in their lives who needs a boost.  No…just because someone has money should they dole it out to every struggling soul.  But, if someone has the means…well, John stated it well in 1 John 3…

16 By this we know [and have come to understand the depth and essence of His precious] love: that He [willingly] laid down His life for us [because He loved us]. And we ought to lay down our lives for the believers. 17 But whoever has the [a]world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? 18 Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. (Amplified)

Less inviting.  More ministering.

Less preaching.  More serving.

Less apathy.  More compassion.

Less judgment.  More love.

I am no better at this.  I speak to myself, as well.  This year, I am praying to see what my hands can do.  I am tired of the same old – same old.  I feel it is time to rise up and be Jesus to people (especially in the current. political and “evangelical” climate).  For me, I am seeking just how that will go.  For now, I do what I can as opportunity is presented.

Let’s all seek ways to be Jesus to people.

 

 

 

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The Marketing of Jesus

We have all seen those brilliant “info-mercials”, showing how awful your life is without their gadinfomercialget and how wonderful it becomes with it.  It’s as if the extra 2 minutes taken for a task or the extra one foot you may have to walk doing things the way you always have is simply the worst thing ever.  Now, their new product will save you time and effort.  Then, when you take another look, you realize, it is not that big a deal.  But, the hype that goes with it sure makes it sound good.

Have we been hyping up the Gospel?

I began my walk with the Lord over 40 years ago.  For some of the readers, here, that was before you were born.  For one or two others, well, we are in the same aging boat.

Back then, programs and gimmicks for spreading the Gospel were becoming very popular. There were hundreds of tracts to pass out, evangelism classes and programs and all sorts of gimmicky items at the local Bible book store.  Each of these were to make everyone “effective witnesses” for Jesus.

I am here to say, none of it was ever necessary.  It was all hype.  Every tract, every program, every class and seminar seemed good on the surface, but was really only riding the wake of what the Lord was already doing.

One program was called, “I Found It!”, back in the late 70’s.  The church I was with at the time took part and I was part of the program.  First, you sat through an introduction and there was some training for the materials used.  Then, there were 3 levels of “outreach”; door to door, a phone campaign and (if phone contacts accepted) home visits.  You can’t get any more like a marketing program than that.  The program, for lack of any better term, was an overall failure.

We don’t need programs or tracts in order to be a witness.  A witness is just that.  What does a witness do?  Witnesses stuff.  We can only witness what we see, hear or experience. Then, we can testify based upon what we have witnessed.  Our witness is not based on a program or a seminar, but on what we have experienced.

There is also no sense in sensationalizing Jesus or a life in Christ.  You have probably heard some say how “life is better” or “without Jesus you are not truly alive”.  We have all seen the droves of people gong for an “altar call” at churches, revival meetings or evangelism meetings.  Often (not always), there is a teacher/preacher who uses rhetoric and flashy phrases, mixed with the threat-of-hell speech, countered with the reward-of-heaven speech which simply appeals to peoples’ emotions.minister cartoon

Yes, many people started their walk with Jesus from one of those meetings.  But, most of the people who we see running up for those “altar calls” wind up right back in their same old lives, not getting to know Jesus.  This is not the fault of the meeting nor the people. What it seems to be is an exercise in futility.

From Matthew 28…

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is really quite simple.  In Acts 1, verse 8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Let’s highlight a few things…

  • Make disciples.  Jesus simply taught people.  This doesn’t mean we have to hold Bible Study or the like.  But, when opportunity arises, we should be open to share what we know.
  • Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  I am impressed how many people teach stuff that Jesus never said.
  • I. Am. With. You.  Always and forever.  His Spirit dwells in us.
  • You will be my witnesses.  We tell what we have witnessed…what we know, what we have seen, what we have heard.

There is far more simplicity in sharing the Gospel than what we have been led to think. What is the Gospel?  Good News.  What is the Good News?  Jesus.  Not that He saved us from Hell, nor that He made a way for us to get to Heaven.  But, that He made a way for us to get to the Father, to know Him even as we are fully known.

The Lord has really given us everything we need to share the Gospel…His Spirit.  Then, all we need to do is share, as we have opportunity.  We start by sharing ourselves, as a friend, with the love of God working through us.  As for whether a person is “reached” or decides to follow Christ, really has nothing to do with us.

Jesus said in John 15, “You did not choose Me…”.  It is not up to us to convince anyone.  For us to do that makes us take on a job that is not ours and a position that we are not qualified for.  That job belongs to the Holy Spirit.

When we manipulate, cajole, sell, convince, beg, plead, scream and yell in order to “win souls”, what we are doing is taking the place of God’s Spirit.

I am not about to say the programs are bad or that they are completely useless. Unfortunately, we often look at new and better ways to preach the Gospel, when all the while, we have all we need to share the Lord with others.

~Let me be a little picky about some wording.  We do not “witness to” anyone.  We use the term “witnessing”, but this is also not accurate.  We are witnesses of what the Lord has done for us and Who He is.~

Here it is…Jesus loves me, this I know.  Repeat.  If Jesus loves me, he surely loves everyone else.  My life should reflect this.  My walk should reflect this.  Our job, if you will, as believers, is to imitate Him and do as He commands.  We are to love one another, love Him and love our neighbor.

With love in – I will say it again – the nucleus, what we say and do will be out of genuine concern and compassion for others.  If we share the Lord with them and they are not interested, love dictates we don’t shun them or blow them off, we don’t treat them like they are sitting on a ledge overlooking Hell and will drag us with them because we associate with them.

It’s not up to us.  Not up to pulpit pounders.  Not up to “street preachers”.  None of us have to stress and strain to make sure people “get saved”.  We are to simply imitate Christ and share as we have opportunity.  It may be to one person.  It may be to a crowd.  It is always up to the Spirit.  More of us are like Stephen (less the stoning thing) or Philip than we are Peter or Paul.  Let’s relax a little and make ministering more organic and way less mechanical.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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