Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dividing Lines

Evangelism is like having a much longed for child.  All your sisters should be excited, encouraging, and enthusiastic. And to some degree it’s true.  If you announce to your ladies Bible class that you talked to your best friend about coming to church with you, they’ll all give you a little pat on the back and promise to pray.  If you tell them that you signed up to grade correspondence courses or that you are going to teach a community Bible class at the Library, you’ll get proud smiles and offers to help with anything they can do.  

But when you joyfully announce something like, “One of the ladies from our prison bible class was baptized this week.  She’ll be out next month and she and her kids will get to be a real part of our congregation.”  

Do you think you’ll get that pat on the back?  

Maybe. Maybe not.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Intentional Evangelism

Evangelism.  It’s the main job Jesus left for his followers (Matthew 28:19-20), yet it’s the one job that often gets shoved to the back burner in our lives.  We know we should do better, but we just don’t. There are many reasons for this oversight, but I suspect that one problem is that we aren’t intentional enough. We don’t make a plan and follow it.  While it is certainly possible for someone to come to us and say, “I’m missing something in my life, and I think you have it.  Can you tell me how to get it?” and then happily agree to everything we tell them and become followers of Christ with little or no outreach on our parts, it’s not very likely.  In our examples of Biblical evangelism, Jesus and the apostles were very intentional about spreading the gospel.  They had a plan to share the good news, and they followed it as best they could.  Sure, there were bumps in the road and detours created by the Holy Spirit.  But if they had never had a plan and sat in their homes waiting for someone to come to them, the church would not have spread like it did.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

God the Pursuer

Can you imagine what our world would be like if God sat back on His fatherly heels and said, “I’ll wait till they come to me?” What if he had never spoken to Abraham, never wrestled with Jacob, never declared his name to Moses?  What if he did not reveal himself to us? Never wrote his glory in the stars or gave His law to the assembled people he had claimed for himself (Psalm 19)?  Aren’t you glad that he is the God who pursues us?

In the extremity of love and need, He pursued us right down into our own neighborhoods. John 3:16  reminds us: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God loved and God gave.   

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Improving our Attitude toward Muslims

Monday, I talked about the toxic attitudes and behaviors that some Christians display towards our Muslim neighbors, and how those prejudices hinder our ability to reach followers of Islam for Christ.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have never shared the gospel with a Muslim, but I’d like to think that if I were given that opportunity, I’d be willing and able to do it.  So these are some steps we should take to improve our mindset so that we are ready if that time comes.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Modern Day Jonahs

Last week, we took a look at our children’s favorite prophet, Jonah.  He had been commanded by God to prophesy to his people’s enemy, the Assyrians, and he was not happy about it.  Even after he obeyed and went to Nineveh, he wanted God to wipe out the people of the city instead of forgive them.  God was not pleased with Jonah’s attitude, and as I watch my social media feeds, I can’t think that He is too happy with some American Christians and their attitude toward Muslims either.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Jonah: Beyond the Fish

Once upon a time there was a nation who believed that conquering neighboring people was a religious duty. Their god had given them a divine mandate, so it was an act of faithful obedience to punish nations that would not bow down to their rule.  Based on this belief, the aggressive empire built a huge army.  In order to frighten nearby kingdoms into submission, the conquerors committed unspeakable atrocities on any peoples who resisted their army, then boasted about it to further spread the word. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jesus Style Evangelism

I was sitting on my husband’s desk, swinging my short legs and discussing the upcoming weekend trip to Montana.  In the swivel chair, he sorted the mail.  A padded manila envelope labeled, “To the minister” revealed a free book.  

Neither of us were all that excited.  New books addressed “to the minister” are most often books with an ax to grind.  But when I flipped it over, the title, “The Jesus Style” caught my attention, and I decided to take it with me to the retreat.  

I was not disappointed.  

The author, Gayle D. Erwin, has a simple thesis. The only way to the win the world for Christ is to do it like Jesus. In other words, we have to imitate the way Jesus loved and served others. This seems painfully obvious.  What else does WWJD mean?  Yet when Erwin gets down to brass tacks his conclusions sting.

I frequently laughed as I read and had to turn down the radio to read snippets in the car. For example, when talking about how he would have chosen someone suave as a forerunner, he comments, “Jesus obviously didn’t do it my way. Instead, he used a raving, rough-hewn man who dressed inappropriately for a minister and was committed to organic food.”   Or when trying to explain the horror and shame of the cross, he paraphrases apologetically, “Can you hear us singing, “At the electric chair, at the electric chair where I first saw the light.”  Or, “There’s room in the gas chamber for you?” Or, Take up your firing squad and follow me?”.

Erwin reminds us of things we are committed to in theological terms but neglect when the rubber meets the road.  For example, this quote on how we would behave if we were really slaves to Christ.

“A slave should have no title that raises him above that lowly level and definitely no title that raises him above others.  A slave should have no status symbols except the scars that come from hard work.  You would not expect a slave to have a parking space more accessible than his masters.  A slave would not have an office larger than others or more ornately decorated in order to show his position.  A slave would not wear clothing that intimidated others or impressed them in any way except as being their servant…A slave would not try to use his “power” to protect his position of “first.”

Probably the most poignant of the many short chapters was the one on humility.  Erwin defines humility as a life without hypocrisy-a life in which we are as real and transparent as the “Great I AM.” He reminds us that rather than becoming more aloof as his ministry gained steam, Jesus became increasingly intimate with his disciples.  Furthermore, Erwin says this is what it means to “walk in the light.”  We know our failures and faults and feel no need to hide them or ourselves from God or our brothers and sisters.  Instead without pride we all walk together growing in grace and knowledge. 

Each point in the book is tied back to evangelizing like Jesus.  Can you imagine an evangelist who showed up in shorts and flip-flops-in other words a slave who did not dress to put herself above the master? Can you imagine one who was humble, confessing her shortcomings to her student?  Who freely admits that becoming a disciple of Christ (taking up our cross and following Him) is more about opening oneself up to humiliation, suffering and injustice than it is a quick ticket to heaven?  Or who never manipulates an argument or an emotion but gives people the dignity and respect that God does by allowing them to say no? As painful as it seems, that would be evangelizing like Jesus.  


If you can’t guess, I really like this book.  The chapters are short and suitable for a daily devotional.  Or alternately like me you can devour it in a weekend; just be sure and choose a place where you can both laugh like a loon and mull over how you might be less like Jesus than you first imagined. 

An audio copy of the book can be downloaded for free at http://www.servant.org 

Helene