Friday, July 25, 2008

Inner~View #45: Sharing the Gospel; from Four Laws to Five Thresholds

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I Once Was Lost

What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus

By Don Everts and Doug Schaupp

book cover


Phil~ The subtitle of your book captured my attention: What postmodern skeptics taught us about their path to Jesus ... Are you proposing we listen to not-yet-believers about how to do evangelism?

Don ~ Many of the folks we and our friends talked with had already become Christians. There´s a guy who used to hate Christianity... who is now a believer doing missions work! So we´d ask him: "What happened!?"
InterVarsity staff and students in southern California got into the habit of not only listening to not-yet-believers (which, yes, is very instructive) but also of hearing the stories of new believers to find out how they came to become Christians.It was their stories (not theories developed by Christians sitting
alone in a room somewhere) that led to the profound evangelism insights that are the foundation of our book. They are the real experts!

Doug ~ We should certainly listen thoughtfully to our context and to not-yet-believers. God will speak to us through our secular context, if we listen. On the one hand, I remember vividly my first time watching "Good Will Hunting." God rocked me through that movie. I learned that true friends will speak honest, even painful truth to each other in order to help each other grow. I need friends like that, and I need to be a friend like that. God spoke to me through that movie to shape how I think about evangelism. On the other hand, our listening
to not-yet-believers must be discerning. One of my friends on Facebook says, "Whatever works for you...leave people alone." I don´t think I will base my evangelism on that perspective.



Phil~ What would you say to those who remind us that the Gospel has not changed, even though our culture has undergone seismic shifts in world- view and value-system?

Don ~ We´d totally agree! We didn´t start asking questions about the content of the gospel - we started asking questions about how people these days come to believe in that gospel.

Doug ~ You have just articulated our dilemma, the tension of our lives. On the one hand, the Gospel never changes. On the other hand, the Gospel contextualizes into different cultures in different ways. Somehow, in faith, we hold this tension in our beings and in our churches. We must not ignore either side of this.



Phil~ Explain the difference between a "four spiritual laws" approach and the "five thresholds" understanding of postmodern conversion ... and hep us identify the implications to traditional or typical evangelism

Don ~ The four laws are a handy summary of the content of the gospel we´ve received. The five thresholds is an overview of how people come to believe of that gospel. Do people just read the four laws and confess faith on the spot. Not usually. Our work tries to outline just how people tend to walk from disbelief and cynicism to a place of confessing faith in Jesus.

Doug ~ A summary of the gospel (like the four spiritual laws) is one small, but helpful part of the evangelism process. (Personally, I prefer James Choung´s 4 circles diagram of the gospel found in True Story.) For example, in my wedding, my vows were one small but important part of the ceremony. My marriage is far more than just my vows, but the vows put things into clear focus for us. Similarly, we Followers of Jesus need a way to summarize the good news, but also must realize that servant evangelism is far more than just a mere summary.


Phil~ Help us understand the not-yet-believer's journey from:
  1. Distrust to trust - Don ~ Most folks these days are starting not on level ground, but in a hole. They greatly distrust Christianity and Christians. Most of our friends who´ve become believers tell us that their journey to faith began when they started trusting one Christian. A small step - that begins a wonderful journey.
  2. Complacent to curious - Just because someone begins trusting a Christian it does not necessary follow that they will become interested in Jesus. This is the second step - when someone becomes curious about Jesus. This doesn´t mean they completely understand him or believe in him - it just means that, often for the first time, they become curious about him, they find him a bit fascinating.
  3. Being closed to being open - Being open-minded is one of the most cherished virtues today. However, many people are not yet open- minded about Jesus. We want to help our friends see that being open- minded also includes being open to exploring Jesus. When people are biased against Jesus and won´t investigate him for themselves, it can be helpful to encourage them to become more open-minded.
  4. Meandering to seeking - Once our friends are open to exploring God and Jesus, it is helpful for them to clarify their questions and their quest. If they know what they need answered, they can seek with purpose and clarity ... crossing the final threshold: Entering the Kingdom. Once they get their questions answered and they have seen what Jesus is like, it is good to help our friends see that a decision is ahead, a choice to embrace Jesus. What a joy it is to see them embrace Jesus and his Kingdom!
Note>>> The Five Thresholds:
  1. Trusting a Christian
  2. Becoming Curious
  3. Opening Up to Change
  4. Seeking After God
  5. Entering the Kingsom


Phil~ Your use a set of different terms for familiar topics - Does that indicate we must think differently about, well, everything related to witnessing and evangelism?

Don ~ Language is powerful, there´s no doubt about it. Even just mention the "e-word" and many people get weird. Christians have images of awkward but forceful encounters with strangers trying to "win them for Christ!" Mention "conversion" and many nonChristians have scary images from the crusades pop into their
heads.

  • Why do you use: Journey?
  • Jesus is more concerned about which direction we are headed than if we can verbalize a certain set of answers. "Journey" language helps our friends grow toward Jesus at their own speed.
  • Why do you use: Mysterious?
  • We use this word because the blossoming of faith is often beyond our control and beyond even our understanding. (The parable of the growing seed has been very instructive for us in this -Mark 4.26-29) What word do you use to describe something that´s beyond our tight control and careful analysis - mystery.
  • Why do you use: Curiosity?
  • Jesus used parables and lived intriguingly in order to provoke questions and new thinking. We need new eyes to see this in Jesus and to live it ourselves.
  • Why do you use: Kingdom?
  • This is the word Jesus, himself, used most often when talking about his good news and what he came to advance here on earth. And since a word like "Christian" tends to conjure up such distorted connotations these days (and since it isn´t necessarily an overly biblical word!) we find ourselves using kingdom language question often.

Phil~ What is the role of prayer; during the journey, then after?

Don ~ Prayer is huge, of course. It´s important for the Christian witness who is seeking the character and wisdom to love their nonChristian friends well. It´s essential to look toward God who is sovereign over conversion, to intercede for our friends who are battling not only their own sinfulness but also our very real enemy, and it is essential for everyone involved (whether the Christian witness, the seeker, or the dripping wet new believer) to be talking with God - this is all about God and people getting together!

Doug ~ The process of conversion can be short or long. Prayer is the secret to endurance. If we don´t labor in prayer, we can lose heart and give up hope. Prayer also awakens our discernment. We miss out on seeing what God is doing in our friends if we don´t pray for them.

Note>>> In the book, the authors suggest we open our prayer life to those on the path: "It is not only OK to allow our non-Christian friends to see our 'public displays of affection' with God; it is actually quite helpful. Inviting folks into that kind of conversation makes lots more sense when they have seen what praying is like."


Phil~ How would you coach a pastor who recognizes the need to transform the culture inside the church in order to become a transforming agent in the community?

Doug ~
1.First, the pastor must model Servant Evangelism himself/herself. S/he needs to go make friends with non- Christians, ask questions, learn, and grow. Start a God- Investigation-Group.Then from the pulpit, share these stories of risk and adventure.
2.Then highlight from the pulpit the yearnings of the generation. Point to yearnings for meaning and for the divine in secular culture.
3.Find the few in the church who are most open and able to take the evangelism lead with you. Ask them to model with you and to start shaping culture inside the church.
4.Call for a culture of welcome within the church, and for loving initiative to be taken outside the church walls.


Phil~ Don, Doug, please write a prayer for leaders who recognize the challenge and need courage to take the first step ...

Doug ~ "Jesus, thank you for coming into our world and being God-with-us. Thank you for being the world´s best evangelist by stirring intrigue and by pointing boldly to yourself.Thank you for your heart for those who are far from you. As your Spirit lives in me, help me to be like you. To love like you do. To talk dynamically about God´s work in my life today. To point to you as the source. Give me the courage to take one concrete risk this week. What one thing would you have me do? I am listening..."

===>Click headline to access information or purchase this book . . . And . . .
Download a supplementary article (PDF) on "Thresholds of Conversion" along with a worksheet (PDF or Word) to print and use as often as you like!


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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quote; Unquote . . .

See more book notes at www.davidmays.org

Leading Out of Who You Are

Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership

Simon P. Walker
Piquant Editions, 2007, 161 pp.

To purchase this book click here.


"Our primary task is to grow up. It is to learn, through the experiences we are given, who we are -- what it means to be courageous, what it is to serve, what it is to be loved and to love, what it is to be real, what it is to be fully human. True leadership is leadership of ourselves and others into this kind of life ... Leadership, therefore, is a task that occurs at every level of life and in every kind of sphere ... Leadership is a way of offering life to the world, in order to draw life out of the world. As such, it is a spiritual activity." (p. 154)



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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SHARE ~ From Four Spiritual Laws to Four Circles


.ePistle: Evangelicals for Social Action Newsletter, promoting engagement, analysis and understanding of major social, cultural and public policy issues.
From Four Spiritual Laws to Four Circles: An Interview with James Choung

by Andy Crouch for Christianity Today (6.27.08)

James Choung, author of True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In has found a way to tell the old, old story to a new generation. In this interview, Andy Crouch, editorial director of Christianity Today’s Christian Vision Project, probes Choung in order to shed light on this “new” approach to evangelism—an approach that uses four circles to explain “the Big Story” of the gospel. Read the interview.


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Monday, July 14, 2008

PRAYER ~ Is Praying for the Lost, Last?

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“God rules the world and His church through the prayers of His people. That God should have made the expansion of His Kingdom to such a large extent dependent on the faithfulness of His people in prayer is a stupendous mystery and yet an absolute certainty. God calls for intercessors; in His grace He has made His work dependent on them. He waits for them.” Andrew Murray

Are you ready for the harvest? Every day are you preparing and positioning yourself for what God is getting us ready for all across the earth? Do you realize that God rules the world through the prayers of His people? Yesterday I prayed, “Lord, I am positioning myself for harvest and for Your second coming. Help me not to do anything that does not fit into what You are right now doing on earth - Take away the unnecessary - Make me faithful in prayer!”

When we pray, God prepares the hearts of men and women. When we don’t pray, it’s as if we must pick the fruit one at a time, slowly. But fervent prayer is like the machine that shakes the olive trees. The fruit becomes ready, and what once took such a long time to harvest now happens very quickly. Prayer is preparing the harvest, and the crops throughout the nations are going to be large. We must keep praying and at the same time get our nets ready to catch the large amount of souls that God is preparing everywhere through prayer.


How to Pray as You Reach Out to the Lost
(Suggestions for prayer from Mission America Coalition)

“What an unspeakable grace to be allowed to deal with God in intercession for the supply of other’s needs! To be able to take part in Christ’s great work as Intercessor is such a blessing. It is wonderful to be in close union with Him and to mingle my prayers with His! What an honor to have power with God in heaven over souls and to obtain for them what they do not even know or think!” Andrew Murray

* Pray for people by name, and ask God to minister to their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs - James 2:16.


* Ask God to use you to demonstrate His love and care - 1 John 4:10-12.


* Ask God for opportunities to get to know the lost people in your sphere of influence - Luke 19:10.


* Ask God to build the relationships - 1 Corinthians 9:22.


* Ask God to show you ways to meet real needs - Isaiah 61:1.


* Ask God for opportunities to witness - Colossians 4:3.


* Ask God for boldness to witness - Acts 4:29.


* Ask God to open their spiritual eyes - 2 Corinthians 4:4.


* Ask God to set them free from spiritual captivity - 2 Timothy 2:26.


* Ask God to give them ears to hear faith to believe and the will to respond - Matthew 13:15, Acts 20:21, Romans 10:9.


* Ask God to send people into their life to witness to them - Matthew 9:38.


* Ask God for opportunity to invite them to a local outreach event - Luke 14:23.



Together in the Harvest, Debbie Przybylski, Intercessors Arise
deb@intercessorsarise.org
www.intercessorsarise.org

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Friday, July 11, 2008

CARE ~ What to do while caring, which may lead to sharing

.The Serve! with Steve Sjogren: Issue 19

Serving Prayer
… love in action meets conversation with God


Is it A or B?
  • A: "Prayer is the art of doing nothing, while still appearing to care." (Geo. Carlin)

  • B: “Prayer is noticing God then people then following through on the invitation that stands before us.” (Geo. Elliot, Jr.)

Let's face it. The perception of the church-scene is colored by jargon that is chockfull of words like "prayer" and "evangelism." Church-ish people rarely agree on these terms, so just imagine the confusion of those watching from the outside. Wiseacre George Carlin (who recently passed) was a source of inspiration to point out the need to embrace the wisdom of skeptics. The challenge we face is to be relevant without our actions coming across as gimmicks like the Carlin character Cardinal Glick getting excited about "Buddy Jesus" improving the image of the church. There is a balance to be found when we blend authentic prayer and evangelism. Sometimes critics of the faith hold the mirror for us, revealing the weaknesses in our approach to loving others. As Carlin often declared, "Prayer is the art of doing nothing, while still appearing to care." This issue focuses on reversing that perception.

Serving prayer is the art of listening to God while actively caring for people.

There are many kinds of prayer. A quick scan of popular books shows that there are countless approaches to prayer. Unfortunately, most of these techniques seem passive. To understand prayer as merely a matter of being ‘Alone with God’ or ‘Locked away by myself’ is to miss the power of walking out that prayer.

Prayer that is always cloistered is an oxymoron.

Prayer requires action. As we respond to what God has called us to in any venture, especially loving others, it is imperative that we lean on God. Prayer without obedience is nonsensical. When we yield to a reliance upon God we begin to connect with God in prayer in a ‘new natural’ as we merely live out our lives in his presence.

How does this work?

Serving prayer is as natural as…

1. ‘Be there’

When we step into the path of availability, we step into the line of communication. The flow of God-talk becomes unmistakable when we are in the presence of those who are in desperation. Guess what? The entire planet is populated with people who are desperate. Each person is desperate at unique levels of desperation. As we walk through the open doors he provides, we engage in a new kind of dialog life with God that is amazing.

2. ‘Hear now’

Prayer and serving go together like ‘Peas and carrots’ as Forrest Gump says. You can’t have one without the other.

Serving encounters don't just stir the presence of God in the ones we notice. Often the very core of our being is impacted as we serve. In the course of bringing kindness to others, we begin to see with clarity for the first time in life! We see what we were previously blind to. (That is what contrasts the sheep from the goats as Jesus spoke of in Matt. 25 – the ability to notice and serve or ignore and pass on. All the ‘Livestock’ are in the same barnyard gathering.)

Prayer is always marbled with serving. To separate them is to disconnect any hope of effective serving

3. ‘Do hear’

Evangelism that is not increasingly aware of the spiritual nature of being outwardly focused is not maturing

Express ‘Availability prayers’ as the notion strikes you. ‘Here I am God – use me!’

Confess your inability to accomplish anything lasting, strong, worthwhile apart from him – frequently!

Access the opportunities he is opening for you today – maybe right now. These will come as you are slightly open. Flex and more encounters, more stories will follow.

For all of Jesus’ followers the best is always yet to be!

As we serve, we will notice the presence of God in the midst of our serving. Why so? Not because of any cleverness on our part. God’s kinetic, ministering presence tends to hover where people in need are met by those that seek to serve that need. Granted, as the servers we cannot make any of this just happen. I have often seen this dynamic when God’s people avail themselves to him as open hearts and hands with the simple prayer attitude of ‘Show me the pain around here, God.’ As John Wimber was fond of saying, "I am just spare change in God's pocket. He can spend me however he chooses."

Best-selling author and speaker Steve Sjogren is not only the publisher of Serve!, he is also the senior leader of a cluster of churches launching on the east side of Tampa, FL, CoastlandTampa. For more information and resources from Steve Sjogren, visit his online resource site: PrettyGoodBooks.com.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

PRAYER ~ Ways to Pray for Others

Rediscover the Joy of Praying for Others



Have you ever felt overwhelmed, bored, or distracted when praying for someone else? These dilemmas can take the pleasure out of praying for others. The July/August issue of Discipleship Journal offers practical ways to help you rediscover the joy of intercessory prayer.

You'll read about:
  • Praying creatively: Ways to make praying for others consistent and enjoyable
  • Praying from a fresh perspective: When God shows up, He brings renewed enthusiasm to our prayers.
  • Praying when it’s hard: What do you do when answers don’t come or life’s crises leave you too depleted for words?
You can purchase this issue at your local bookstore, or click here to order one or more copies. To become a subscriber, click here and save nearly 20% off the cover price when you subscribe for 2 years (12 issues) at only $41.97 or 1 year (6 issues) at $23.97. Click here to give the gift of Discipleship Journal at our special gift rate of one year (6 issues) for only $17.97.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Culture Change. Why Your Church May Need A Culture Change

Eight signs of spiritually dead churches and six signs of resurrection

by Bill Easum

For much of the past three decades, denominational officials have been promoting seminars and programs aimed at revitalizing the church. I know because I have been the speaker or consultant to many of these groups. For many of these leaders, their goal was to breathe new life into churches experiencing declining memberships and lack of commitment. Yet after years of trying to revitalize these churches, the vast majority of them are still declining. What gives?

Reformation, renewal, and revitalization assume some preexisting foundation of faith from which to raise up a new church. But what if that assumption isn't correct? What if the assumption is part of our problem? What if being a member of a church for 40 years doesn't automatically guarantee any spiritual depth? What if holding every office in the church doesn't automatically mean someone is a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do we dare look deep enough into our souls to find answers to these questions?

Based on the conversations and actions of the thousands of Protestant leaders with whom I worked over the years, I have concluded that most of them are spiritually dead and their institutions have ceased being the church. They have the form but not the substance of what it means to be the church.

Let me define what I mean by spiritually dead churches. If your church spends most of its energy on itself and its members, it's spiritually dead.

Such churches are living corpses. They are physically alive; some may even be growing; but they are spiritually dead to the mission of the New Testament church—to make disciples of Jesus Christ. They've turned inward and exist solely for themselves. They look for ways to serve themselves, and the kingdom be damned.

They're like baby birds sitting in the nest with their mouths open waiting for momma bird (pastor) to feed them with no concept that Jesus intends them to feed others. Oh, they might collect money to send away to some distant mission field, but they're all thumbs when it comes to sharing the good news with their neighbor or community. What growth they might experience is not of their doing—it just happens because of the population growth around them.

Here are eight death clues. Spiritually dead churches:===>Click headline to access complete article . . .


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Coaching ~ Why We Ask Questions


Questioning Knowledge

knowledgeKnowledge is overrated.

I used to think that if I knew the right things, I'd be set. After all, knowledge provides answers to solve problems, right?

We live in a knowledge economy where we live off what we know instead of what we physically produce. The Internet has made that information widely available to millions of people, most of whom are hungrier and more clever than myself.

Knowledge has a short shelf life.
Change is everywhere and increasing. What used to be relevant and important isn't any longer. It's been replaced by new knowledge, that will be out-of-date tomorrow.

Questions are change-proof.
I'm struck by this statement: "Questions rather than answers fundamentally drive the future." Knowledge isn't key, questions are!

Knowledge is past;
Questions are future.
Knowledge is rigid;
Questions can learn.
Knowledge is static;
Questions are dynamic.
Knowledge puffs up;
Questions take humility.
Knowledge limits options;
Questions create possibilities.
Knowledge requires adaption;
Questions require innovation.

Questions are a journey.
Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9). All three verbs - ask, seek, and knock - are a journey of discovery. Knowledge doesn't help me ask, seek, or knock, because I think I already know!

Knowledge is a location;
Questions are a journey.

How would things change if we journeyed together through questions rather than persuading others to stand with us in our knowledge?

Share your thoughts at our blog or ===>Click headline to access website . . .


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