Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Know your audience....

When it comes to evangelism, we have to understand who we are talking to and more importantly the "why..." Now we can create a complex social taxonomy, "Look at that, a post-graduate hipster who refuses to listen to the free U2 album" or, "Why there is a confused housewife who struggles with the pressures of home and marriage" or even, "There is a (insert random ethnic background here) who struggles to live in the larger culture of (insert different ethnic background here) people who surround him." We then look for the appropriate script or presentation that we feel may be useful.We like think in categories, in carefully drawn lines that allow us to quantify the conversation.  There is some benefit there. We have to recognize where people come from. We need to recognize differences in definitions, or what terms are hot buttons. We would be foolish if we didn't. 

Yet, the only labels that truly count (and are ultimately useful) are the ones that God uses. God does not look at the person on the other end of your conversation as a demographic or "project." He sees them as someone that He uniquely created in His image. He knows that individual far better than you ever will. He also knows where that person stands in relationship to His justice. This is a person who does not love the one Person who truly loves them more than anyone else. This is an individual who has been angry at Him since they could draw breath. This is someone who will end up paying the price for that rebellion unless they ask Someone else to make that sacrifice. This is someone whose deepest self needs to be changed on a fundamental level, and only Someone who transcends our universe can make that change. 

This may sound all dramatic, but I'm trying to demonstrate that these conversations cannot arise out of a desire to implement a program or raise the numbers on an attendance tally. This is life and death in its purest form. We need to recognize that by committing ourselves, in humility, to the only One who can truly bring about change. 

You are talking to someone who is an immoveable object unless they truly meet that Unstoppable Force. He needs to be part of it. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We are not Fuller Brush salespeople...

Evangelism is a tricky beast. It partakes of the messiest parts of human nature. On one hand it drinks deep from the well of divine arrogance. "I will tell you what God you need to worship and humble yourself before." We don't like being told what shirt to wear or what meal to order notwithstanding an entire belief system. Yet, at the same time we must approach evangelism with the bone deep unconscious humility that can only be truly found in God's sovereignty. We truly do understand that our intelligence or wisdom had nothing to do with our final destination, but His grace and love. 

I've seen several discussions over the last month or so that lay forth different approaches to evangelism. Should we stress God's wrath? Should we stress His love? Should we try to "close" the deal? I plan to kind of jump around the evangelism countryside laying out some thoughts...

A few presuppositions though:

1) All believers are called to be disciple-makers, and thus all believers are called to evangelize. There are no exceptions. A believers who has not participated in some way in evangelism in the past year is in all probability in some form of disobedience. They are not acting consistently with their call to be followers of Christ.

2) God works in spite of us, not because of us. This is not about techniques or even "getting it all right." It is God who brings the increase. It is God who brings forth that final working in the soul that somehow turns the heart to Him without violating the person's own will. I don't know how it works. I just know it is. 

3) Evangelism changes us in ways that we need. Yes, someone hearing and accepting the Gospel is catastrophically remade into His image. When we are part of that process, we are "working out our own salvation with fear and trembling." We are confirming our walk with Him. We are growing in our understanding of who He is and what He has done. We are also changed more to be like Him as we participate in the work.

And away we go...

The Hippo is back. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A biiig tent...

An article summarizing some of what happened with World Vision this last week...
He quotes Chesterton, so it has to be cool.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Walrus and the Carpenter...

I've been working on a project with my friend, Jason Alligood, "The Walrus and the Carpenter." Its a pod cast of the two of us talking about ministry and such. We are a bit free-wheeling, and enjoy the conversation. I hope you will join us. 

So far we have covered simple faith, sermon prep, the tornadoes that hit our area, and reading. 

I won't say its always fun, but I think it is always interesting.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Something to tide you over....

For those of you who have a high tolerance for pain and suffering, a podcast about ministry and such...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moving too fast to watch the sights...

I normally don't listen to my own messages after I preach them. I don't know if I would call it humility. Probably I don't want to hear all of the mistakes, gaffes, or fumbles that I have made the previous week. I hate to watch someone being embarrassed. I used to walk out of the room when my mom watched "I Love Lucy" as I couldn't stand to watch Lucy make herself look ridiculous. It hurt too much. (Same goes with Napoleon Dynamite)

I did listen to this last week's message though. My wife had made a few observations about it, and I wanted to see if I could pick up on what she was saying. I had skipped around different points, until I came to the conclusion, letting it play out. I realized something rather troubling. I had given the congregation a clear challenge in relation to the text itself. It was biblical, and applicable. It demanded an ongoing exercise in mediation and praise. Yet, as I thought back through the week I realized I had not followed through on my own charge. I don't remember having really done it once. 

I don't type all of this to communicate all sorts of guilt and remorse. I'm frustrated, true. I'm a little irritated with myself. How can I expect my congregation to follow in obedience, when I am not even doing it?

 I should not necessarily jump into the next week throwing myself into the next passage without any thought of what has gone previously. Rather, there needs to be a prayerful consideration of my own actions, making sure that I am continuing to grow in obedience myself pertaining to what I've seen in Scripture.It is like taking the family on a vacation that is so tied to an agenda, that you don't have the joy of those moments in between, the real heart and soul of a vacation.

Even if you are not a pastor, this is true. The Word is taught so that it may be prayed through, meditated on, and obeyed. Are we making time for that throughout the week after the message, making sure that the Scripture is really soaking into our soul? I am thankful that God has given us the tools of the Word and the Spirit, yet we need to make sure that we use them as He designed them, not according to our schedule.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A lovely interlude..

(Note--this is something I sent off to my church members in our weekly email.) 

Several of you may be aware of the “Sweet Lorraine” video that is making the rounds. It is made even better in that it happened here in Peoria. It’s a beautiful picture of the love shared between a husband and wife for over 70 years. (Here is the link. If you have a tear or two, no one will care. ) We find ourselves a bit amazed by the story as it stands so much in contrast to what we see in every day life. I don’t need to quote statistics about divorce rates, etc. It is amazing to see a couple stay together that long, parted only by death. It also touches us to hear the song of bittersweet longing for someone precious who has passed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a tv movie at some point. But there are a few things we need to remember.
1)      The love that the Son and the Father have for one another is much more greater and more beautiful than Fred’s for Lorraine. I don’t write this to diminish Fred’s love, but rather to remind us that examples of love in everyday life should be a reminder of an even greater love that serves as the basis of so much of our blessing.
2)      The Father’s love for us is a far greater love than what we see in the video. Our God takes delight in blessing us. His love for us is so great that He had His Son murdered on our behalf. That type of love breaks all of the paradigms.
3)      Our love for our God should be greater than Fred’s for Lorraine. Again, this may seem a little harsh, but it does helps us see what a supernatural love for our God should look like. It should be more beautiful than what we see in this video.
The love of/for God should be at the center-point of our existence, informing our decisions, and compelling our obedience. May He be praised.