Tag Archives: evangelism

3 Errors to Avoid with Missional Life Transformation Groups

This is part of a series of posts on what a missional community is – check out the others and let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.

In case you were wondering, I was indeed trying to see how many Christian buzz words can fit in one title with this post.

As we talk about how Life Transformation Groups can be used for mission, it’s important to once again question how we view mission. As we talk about mission, we are mostly speaking of helping the entire individual conform to the life of Jesus Christ spiritually, physically, socially, and psychologically. Mission doesn’t just happen in one setting or in one meeting but throughout all of life.

When we grasp that, we see every arena as an opportunity to know God more and extend the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. This includes the joy from hanging out (Christianese translation: fellowship) with one another, enjoying a meal (Christianese: breaking bread), and sharing about your faith impacting your life (Christianese: outreach).

Most people think of Life Transformation Groups as a holiness endeavor for Christians, but seeing it as part of the Christian and non-Christian’s process of being more like Jesus expands our views and aims. We are ultimately creating space for anyone to explore God, see how He affects our lives, and actively pursue this change.

Jesus’ Life Transformation Group

When I look at Jesus’ disciples who followed Him for 3 years, Jesus was constantly on mission to them and with them. He was over-explaining his sermons, reminding them again of things they had forgotten, and inviting people who didn’t truly believe in Him to be near Him. He enjoyed time with them, laughed with them, mourned with them, spoke hard truths in very challenging ways, prayed with them, and taught them truth.

I want Jesus to lead my Life Transformation Group (and Community Group and church, ok, all of life). He’s the perfect leader.

His life is an example for us, but also the very thing that gives us and empowers our salvation. We can trust God like He did and be concerned with others knowing God even as we try to get to know God more ourselves.

We have to get this mentality before we ever try to be missional in Life Transformation Groups.

3 Errors to Avoid & The Way Forward for Missional LTGs

We will commit errors on the mission of God, but there are a few errors we must avoid in Life Transformation Groups for them to be a space where someone exploring Christ will want to be there.

1)     Don’t Act Holier Than Thou

The aim is not showing off our morality and confronting others lack. The aim is to acknowledge that we don’t match up to Jesus and that makes Jesus look awesome. Confessing your faults, errors, and sins is essential to making a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Way Forward: Show that Jesus is Awesome for You.

Share how you struggle, where the Bible confronts your lack of faith and ways you want to change. Show that Jesus is the way forward as the only One who was perfect.

2)     Don’t Give The Answers

The learning is in the struggle. Let someone explore what the scriptures say about God without you giving them all the answers. They must learn to be a disciple of Jesus, not dependent on you.

The Way Forward: Ask Questions, Listen, and Fill in the Blanks

Most people will begin to explore their own beliefs and come to some conclusions. You become the facilitator of their exploration of God. Listen and remember your own journey in exploring faith. As necessary, fill in the blanks with other verses and thoughts. At this point, you’ve affirmed the value of their questions, thoughts, and you now provide them more context to understand.

3)     Don’t Ignore the Tension

At some point in your Life Transformation Group, you will come to a belief for followers of Christ that confronts the beliefs of someone who doesn’t follow Jesus. In the awkwardness, we all want to run and hide, downplay the tension, but you can’t ignore that Jesus confronts people. We also can’t ignore that he confronts the religious and irreligious, not just one or the other.

The Way Forward: Compassionately Align with Jesus

We must side with Jesus and take His positions on what is true, but we must also adopt His posture of compassion and understanding. Jesus engaged the tension humbly, but also confidently aligning with God in popular shared ideas and even in the unpopular. We must do the same.

As I’ve seen people be missional with their Life Transformation Groups, their vulnerability, honesty, and passion for Jesus is what provides the best opportunity for people to know God in Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ frees us to acknowledge that we all have flaws, are imperfect, and that our sin caused Jesus’ death. But we also see that Jesus forgives us, invites us by faith to have a relationship with God, and that we are no longer defined by our flaws or sins.

This gospel is our freedom and we have the opportunity to invite everyone to know this freedom.

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15 Lessons in 15 months in NYC: 15-11

The end of the year is always a time to reflect over what went on and what you’ve learned from the past year. For me, this is an opportunity to reflect over the last 15 months of being in New York. These are lessons we have learned personally and from watching and interacting with others in the city. I’ve broken them up into 3 posts because I have a tendency to write too much, so today will be 15-11, Wednesday 10-6, and Friday 5-1.

15. You can’t call another city home and love where you live.

Over the past 15 months, New York has become home for us. When we first moved here, we fell into the same trap of so many transplants, that “home” was where we came from and this is where we live. Vacations become “going home” and the city suffers because you become an extended-stay tourist instead of an invested resident.

Every transplant must make the transition to New York as home and until they do, their love for the city and their community will be lacking.

When New York became the place we called home, a place where we established roots, we took ownership for the condition of our city, for the betterment and enjoyment of our neighborhood. Some say home is where the heart is, but God establishes where we live, so we can make it a home for the benefit of others.

14. You don’t REALLY need 2000sf, all the furniture that fits in it or a dishwasher

We moved from a 3-bedroom house in “everything’s bigger here” Texas to a two-bedroom apartment. We sold, gave away, or threw away about 70% of our stuff and we don’t miss it. Extra space becomes a need for furniture too easily with a big house and one day you wake up to find you don’t even use that two car garage because it’s storing all of your excess.

We’ve learned to live more simply, it’s been challenging, but really refreshing. We left a piece of furniture on the moving truck when we first moved and it was a sign of things to come as we find ourselves looking to avoid clutter for the sake of sanity.

Our 3 kids share a room and they love it (for now). There’s always a tendency to long for more, but we’ve learned (are learning) contentment enables joy to flourish in a home, and to be thankful for things we used to take for granted, like a full-size fridge and oven.

13. Evangelism is more education & advocacy than apologetic debate
When most people think of evangelism, pictures of awkward interactions where you try to convince the uninterested through intellectual arguments are often the first thing to come to mind. There’s also the stereotype of the New Yorker uninterested and hostile to Christianity.

In 15 months, I’ve met just a few hostile to Christianity and most curious about Jesus. Any hostility is mostly due to being uninformed of Jesus and mostly angry at “church”. Most of evangelism has become educating and advocating for who Jesus is, what He has done for everyone, and what He calls a people who represent (the church) Him to live for. From my experience, people here have become interested in hearing more, wanting to have these “deeper conversations” instead of avoiding religious conversations.

Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and overall purpose are what convince people of and even desire that truth, not my carefully crafted words. I’ve learned to spend more time discussing these things and listening to actual questions about Jesus.

12. The city forces you to parent more

As a parent in the city, there can be many fears, from losing your kids in the crowds, to the dangers of walking along streets packed with more cars than they were designed to hold. One response to these fears is to shrink back, do less, and try to protect your child from all the dangers.

For us, it has forced us to parent more. To train, equip, instruct, and correct more than we did in the suburbs. It can seem non-stop because of the nature of the city, but I’ve had conversations with Eli & Calvin at their age that I wouldn’t normally have until much older. Things like why people are sleeping on the streets, collecting change on the corners, or performing for money in the subways (the last 2 Eli has thought would be good careers…).

The comforts of the suburbs have a way of hiding things that may need to be addressed while the close quarters of an NYC apartment tend to bring out the best and worst right in front of you, providing an opportunity to parent. For me, it’s made me a better, hopefully wiser, and engaged Dad.

11. God answers prayers big & small

We’ve seen God answer prayers to sell our house, get Eli into a great school, and provide a new apartment when it seemed hopeless.  We’ve also seen God answer the “small” prayers of friends for Eli and Calvin, keeping our kids healthy, and providing community for our family.

God is interested in the mundane and the monumental and prayer has revealed that to be true because He hears and He answers. Not always exactly how we want it, but it’s always been good.

Moving to New York City has blessed our family life, our marriage, and has taught us more than we know. Prayer has taught us and shown us God’s provision in all these things. It’s been a great 15 months.

Lessons 10-6 coming Wednesday.

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The Gospel at Work

Does the gospel affect every area of your life or only your church life?

That’s the question I believe every Christian should ask. Often the latter, church life, is what most Christians focus on as a life lived for Jesus, where you serve on Sundays and your mid-week small group gathering. Only in the last 2 years, have I really evaluated every area of my life and assessed how the gospel of Jesus Christ should define my approach and how I live in those various environments (parenting, my job, what I consume and why, how I live as a neighbor, etc.).

One of the areas that I believe has changed the most for me is work.  What is my attitude for going to work? How do I share my faith in a work environment in a way that is normal and not attacking? The gospel had to change me first before it changed the answer to those questions. I believe it has not only made me a better employee, but also helped me immensely in sharing my faith as an outflow of my everyday life. As I spoke with a friend this morning, he’s seen a similar thing occur in his own life. When I asked him what had changed in the last year, he articulated it this way:

I just realized the other meaning in that title. I think that’s truly what changed this year. I could see and EXPLAIN how the Gospel was at work in my life…in life in general. It was being able to boldly and openly share how the Gospel shaped every aspect of my life. Why did I serve? Because Christ did. Why do I pursue a relationship with a girl the way I do? Because it’s supposed to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the church. It was the Gospel at work that allowed the Gospel being shared at work to be real to people. I’m not really sure I can keep typing this right now cuz it conjures up a lot of intense feelings. But I’m pretty sure that was the difference…that and allowing the Gospel to be my identity. Not a church-going Christian, but a Gospel-believing-and-Gospel-sharing normal guy.

As I read it, I felt like it explained what has happened in me as well. As the gospel begins to be at work in you, it will change the way the gospel is displayed at work through you.

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Everyone Proselytizes

man-with-megaphone

While we were in Manhattan, we saw 2 people proselytizing (proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ) using a megaphone in Union Square and another in the Subway.  They were both preaching the warnings of sin and the impending judgment.  It was disappointing that Christ Himself appeared to be less exalted than the sins of man.  At Union Square people were watching, listening, ignoring, but all looked completely uninterested.  In the subway, people just walked on by as if it wasn’t happening.

This is the typical image people have of evangelism, proselytizing the coming judgment of God on people for their sins and it’s typical because most street preachers focus on this.  For most people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, this seems ludicrous and most would rather he be silent and simply live out his faith, but I believe the reality is that everyone proselytizes about something, some cause, some event, some show, something.

Amber found this quote from C.S. Lewis that I think outlines perfectly what I’m trying to say:

But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or any thing – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . .

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

          -C.S. Lewis

I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t proselytize, I think the question is now whether the thing you praise is truly worthy of infinite value? If you’re a Christian, you are proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the ultimate value of your life. Is that reflected in what you praise?

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Lessons in Evangelism – Community Evangelism

In my last post in this series, I dealt more with a personal evangelism method (Questioning Evangelism) which is where most of us find ourselves when we seek to declare the gospel at work, in our neighborhood or apartment. It’s also how we’ve come to view and teach evangelism. It has become a personal responsibility that you do by yourself so you better know all the answers and the best methods to explain the gospel to anyone you see. This is a half-truth that often overwhelms us because the burden rests solely on us for it to be carried out. It’s true that we must be ready to give an account for why we believe what we believe, but evangelism was never seen as solely an individual activity.

I’m talking about the idea of community evangelism, which is joining with other believers in Jesus Christ to express the gospel through word and deed to similar individuals, a neighborhood, or a group of people. Instead of doing it on your own, partner with other believers to accomplish the same task together.

This is something I’ve primarily learned by observing it carried out by others, but also through observing truth in the Book of Acts in the Bible. In Acts you never see anyone sent out to evangelize or establish a church or to be on mission all by themselves, it’s as if it didn’t make sense to them. The first missionary journey (Acts 13) sets apart Paul and Barnabas to go together, and even with they split in Acts 15, they find others to go with them as they separate and never go alone.

Christ sends out His disciples in pairs in Luke 10 and then sends them as a group when He ascends into heaven. It appears more biblical to seek to do this as a community rather than as individuals.

Maybe for us the independent American lifestyle has bled into our evangelism methods and theology to the point we refuse to share our burden and responsibility with those we love that also happen to be closest to us.

Two examples of community evangelism in our college ministry:

Kasey and Clay: Two of our college guy leaders began interacting with and caring for Korean international students on UT’s campus. Each of them would interact with them separately, but also together at times and each time would seek to engage them with the truth of the gospel. As a result, they’ve seen a Korean atheist become a believer in Christ and then join them in reaching his friends.

Madison and Megan: Freshman girls in our college ministry that decided to pray like crazy and share their faith as much as possible. Together they have seen a number of people come to faith in Christ, baptized girls in their dorm’s pool and seen those girls join with them in sharing their faith and baptizing others. Here’s the video.

How does this play out in our lives?

I have seen this begin to play itself out in my marriage most of all. Amber and I are a ministry team that lives in close community as part of our marriage. We spend our weekdays separate, but with a common focus of seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed through our words and our lives to the people we see on a regular basis. When together, we encourage one another, keep each other accountable to staying committed to sharing our faith, we learn from one another and we pray for each other. Lately, we’ve also worked together in spending time with the people each of us has connected with individually. In those moments we get to show them Christ by our lives in community and then collectively declare the gospel. We’ve seen more opportunities to share our faith this way than ever before.

Community evangelism creates more opportunities for the gospel to be spread, provides a close training and support network for learning, encouragement, accountability, and prayer. There are small groups in churches everywhere, but many of them meet to serve just each other, what if their focus for gathering was centered on engaging communities with the gospel they encourage each other with? I think they’ll see and experience greater joy in Christ and see salvation in Christ more than ever before.

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Lessons in Evangelism – Questioning Evangelism

This is the next in my series on evangelism, the first few can be found in the blog archives.

 

After dealing with the motivation for evangelism (loving Jesus and loving others) and the content of evangelism (lifestyle change & Jesus as Lord), it’s time to get into the mechanics of evangelism. How do we evangelize? When we ask that question, we’re typically looking for the silver bullet of evangelism that works every time and that’s not the point.  The focus in regards to evangelism is simply talking about the gospel and doing it often using various methods. Just start seeking the Lord and then start talking about Him with others. Then you’ll learn the method of evangelism that is natural for you. So let’s discuss methods.

 

The first is Questioning Evangelism, which I’ll define as engaging people with questions regarding their beliefs rather than simply answering their questions about Christianity. You may be thinking, “That doesn’t make sense, if they ask a question, why wouldn’t I just answer it?” Well, let me tell you a story that ultimately forced me to figure out why I am horrible at evangelism.

 

My personal education

Last fall, during a family event, one of my family members asks me the question, “Logan, Do you think everyone has to go to church?” which resulted in me doing joyful back flips in my mind at the opportunity to talk about Jesus.

 

So I answered his question looking forward to the conversation that followed, only that’s when it ended with an “I agree”. Meanwhile my wife has taken this opportunity to start asking questions to the girl sitting next to her and spends the next hour outlining the gospel.

 

I sat there wondering, What did I do wrong? And why does this seem to always happen? And why is my wife better than me at doing this (I’m a little competitive)? It led me to listen to my wife as she was talking with the girl sitting next to her, and it led me to look at the scriptures, specifically the gospels to see how Jesus responded when people asked questions. This is what I found.

 

How did Jesus do it?

Many people came to Jesus with questions and he responded in ways I wouldn’t have thought. Luke 10:25-37 is a perfect example of questioning evangelism. A lawyer comes to test Jesus and asks “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Sounds like a simple question. Jesus responds with “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answers, Jesus agrees and seemingly moves on (not your typical evangelism training method). The lawyer then proceeds to ask another question, and then Jesus is able to speak to the real issue the lawyer is dealing with (hating his neighbor) that is keeping him from seeing the gospel.

 

What Jesus has done here is what I’ve seen other evangelists do that is natural for them, but was foreign to me, He’s drawn the lawyer into an engaging conversation while revealing the lawyer’s motives.

 

The same works with conversations we have regarding faith and Christianity. We’re typically quick to speak an answer and then the conversation is over with a simple “I agree.” When you engage a questioner with questions, a few things happen:

 

1)     They are forced to articulate their belief system and worldview, which is something they have likely never had to do. This assists you in evangelism because it will show you where they stand in the spectrum of beliefs about God and allow you to speak the gospel directly to their worldview. Instead of being general, you can be specific.

2)     You get to the heart of the issue. It is often more than curiosity that leads someone to ask a question about faith. They may have a conviction or have been wrestling with certain issues. If you never ask, you’ll never know their motivation behind the question.

3)     You give them buy-in to the outcome of the conversation. If their beliefs are now on display, they’ll be more interested in the ultimate outcome and answer that is given.

 

Maybe they don’t engage you with a question initially, instead you engage them with questions from the beginning. People love it when you care about their response and speak directly to it. This is a method of evangelism that establishes a relationship based on deeper issues than who should be kicked off American Idol. The conversations you have in the future will reflect that.

 

Randy Newman wrote a book titled Questioning Evangelism and recently gave two messages found here that have helped me understand this method further and assisted me in many conversations. These messages are helpful, but you’ll learn more from personally trying to engage people with the gospel and it’s more fun too.

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Lessons in Evangelism – What?

Last week I began a series, Lessons in Evangelism, dealing with how God has changed me over the last 6 months. I’m not a televangelist, though sometimes I look like Joel Oesteen with a curly-haired mullet, and I’m not even remotely considered an evangelist, but the last 6 months I’ve made an effort to do the work of an evangelist.  I’m documenting what I’ve learned from the motivations of my heart to the methods I’ve used and everything in between. Through this process I learned a lot about my motivations (which I dealt with last week) and this week I want to focus on the content of the message when you evangelize.

 

The question and debate is always what constitutes evangelism? When does a conversation become evangelism?  Here are my conclusions.

 

1)     Christ and his disciples focused on a change of behavior (repentance) and belief in Christ alone as God.

2)     These ideas were presented in different language and form based on their context.

 

Different in form, alike in Content.

 

In high school, I was trained to evangelize using the 4 Spiritual Laws, The Spirit Filled-Life, and using the Roman’s Road. These methods are based on the assumption and the idea of one-shot evangelism where you need to cover the whole realm of Christian thought in that moment or it wasn’t truly evangelism and you may never see that person again. In reality, the majority of our time is spent in on-going relationships where Christianity can be validated by deeds and shared with words over time. That doesn’t mean we neglect one-shot evangelism, as we should be prepared for those moments as they come, but we have to reevaluate our methods.

 

When we look at scripture, we will find that evangelism happened in both circumstances and we’ll realize that we do not have to cover every aspect of Christian theological thought for it to be considered evangelism. Looking at Peter in Acts 10/11, and Paul in Acts 17 as examples, the forms, language, and structures were different, but the content was the same. These were of the one-shot evangelism type and if you want to see Paul participate in the ongoing evangelism, one instance is evidenced in Acts 18 (reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath). The conclusion we can come to is that a conversation becomes evangelism when Jesus is exalted and proclaimed as Lord, and people are called to change their ways (repent) and believe in Him.

 

As you discuss Jesus with various types of people, the word choice you use, the structure of your explanation will vary. Artists don’t interact, connect, or talk like engineers, so the language and issues for each vary and they will connect with descriptions of these 2 major points of evangelism differently. Even in scripture, different language is used to describe sin (darkness, evil, rebellion, disobedience) and salvation (light, peace, redemption, rescue, following). Word choice may sound trite, but each word carries different symbolism and background for each different hearer.

 

This makes evangelism easier for us all. We don’t have to master a method, we don’t have to memorize a certain series of scripture as the magic evangelism bullet, we simply put the focus on Jesus and His declaration for men and women everywhere to turn from their ways and follow Him. Every Christian can do the work of the evangelist if they are a follower of Christ because they themselves have changed their behavior (repented), and believed in Jesus as Lord. This was Jesus’ first message, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near” and it becomes our message as His followers.

 

 

Next in this series, I’ll be getting into the various methods I’ve seen used that are normal. The next post will be discussing the idea of questioning evangelism. You can check out the gospels and see how Jesus responds when people ask him questions to get a sneak preview of what I’m talking about.

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