of The Unexpected Adventure
Phil ~ You've written several books on evangelism but The Unexpected Adventure is different ...
Mark ~ That’s true – this book is all about motivation! The other works I’ve done, especially the Becoming a Contagious Christian book and training course, have been more systematic in trying to prepare Christians to share their faith from A to Z – starting with how to build a relationship with a non-believer all the way through to how to lead him or her in a prayer of commitment to Christ.
I think there’s still a vital role for that kind of training, but Lee Strobel and I realized that nothing fires people up for outreach like real-life stories of ordinary Christians taking small, everyday risks to share their faith with others. Stories are the jet-fuel for evangelism! So in this new book we tell 42 of them, and lay them out in a 6-week devotional format, with short, practical, “doable” lessons drawn from each story to inspire our readers to get in on the adventure themselves.
Phil ~ With all the books available on personal witnessing and cutting edge training on sharing our faith, research indicates the Church is not growing, even falling behind population growth. Has the culture we live in changed so much that we need a fundamentally different approach; a paradigm shift in how and even when we explain the gospel?
Mark ~ There’s a lot of debate on that. I think our culture has become more secular as well as more relativistic. The secular part means that many people don’t share our beliefs or assumptions, nor do they understand our language — so we need to explain ourselves more thoroughly, and be willing to back up and explain and defend our assumptions (yes, we believe the Bible is the Word of God – but why?), and put our answers in words that people can actually understand. As Colossians 4:5 says, it’s important to: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
The relativistic aspect of our culture means that we often need to defend the notion of truth itself before presenting what we actually believe is true. I try to do this in my previous book, Choosing Your Faith, where I explain that things aren’t true just because we believe them – including Christianity. Rather, something is already true, and we need to discover what it is and then respond accordingly (and I lay out twenty reasons why we can trust that Christianity is true).
That said, I think people are more the same than they are different. And while I think we need to work to be clear and relevant in what we say, I mostly think we need to make sure we come out and say it – namely the Gospel message, which according to Romans 10:13 is still “the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that many times our evangelistic efforts fall short not because we’re not trying something new, but because we fail to tell the message that is old but life-changing: that Jesus died for sinners – people like us, and like everyone we know!
Phil ~ What does it mean to "enroll in the adventure?"
Mark ~ That’s a phrase I use in the first story I tell in The Unexpected Adventure. It means finally saying a full “yes” to God – expressing our willingness to follow him completely, including into the exhilarating unknown of talking with others about Him. I believe it’s God’s desire for every one of us as Christians to enroll in that thrilling adventure – and that our spiritual life will be at its richest only when we’re active in fulfilling the evangelistic purpose.
Phil ~ Talk about the adventure of:
• Prayer: praying for lost people –
There are many things we can and should pray for – but prayer for people who are far from God can be done with the greatest level of confidence because evangelism is God’s idea, and the Holy Spirit is the ultimate evangelist. So when we pray for lost friends and family we’re completely aligning ourselves with God’s purposes and the mission he’s given us — and our churches. So pray – and then get ready for some action! [Click here for a sample Prayer Adventure]
• Care: blessing neighbors and neighborhoods –
This one has a double thrill: the immediate blessing of meeting the needs of others in ways that serve them and evoke their appreciation, and the longer-range spiritual blessing of seeing how our acts of service can begin to open up their hearts to the love and truth of the One we serve. [Click here for a sample Care Adventure]
• Share: helping seekers find and follow Christ –
This flows naturally from the first two. It’s ironic that this is the one that many Christians are afraid of, because it’s the most rewarding thing we can possibly do. When you Care for someone today, you might get a Thank You tomorrow. But when you Share and help lead someone to faith in Christ, you can be assured of their deep gratitude and thanks for all of eternity – and not just from them, but from all the people they in turn reach for Christ! [Click here for a sample Share Adventure]
Phil ~ How should we rethink vocabulary? How do terms useful in discipleship become barriers in evangelism?
Mark ~ Paul said: “I become all things to all people so that by all means I might reach some” (1 Cor. 9:22). I think that included putting spiritual concepts into ordinary language that everyday folks could understand and respond to. This is vital to effective outreach. When we send a missionary oversees, one of the first and foremost things they study is the language of the people they want to reach. We need to do the same thing – because we’re all called to be missionaries to the person next door or down the hall at work or at school. What’s the best way to learn to do this? Hang out with non-Christians, and be a good student of how they talk and what words and phrases get through to them.
Phil ~ How would you respond to a coworker or friend who asked "Mark, I'm confused. So many denominations and interpretations ... what is the gospel anyway?"
Mark ~ I think the differences between denominations are overplayed – at least among the ones that hold to the teaching and authority of the Bible. Generally wherever the authority of Scripture is intact there is also a consensus on the central teachings of the faith. Put another way, Biblical “denominations” share the common “denominators” of the one eternal triune God, Jesus as the Son of God in human flesh, the death of Jesus on the cross to pay for the sins of the world, the need to trust in Jesus for his salvation and new life, etc. These things are agreed upon, and most of our denominational differences are trivial by comparison.
Phil ~ Agree or disagree ... Many excellent resources that are designed to train believers in sharing their faith, mistakenly bypass the pastors and leaders of the church. We must also equip pastors and leaders in how to create an adventure-culture that leads to a praying-caring-sharing lifestyle ...
Mark ~ I agree; unless we help pastors and church leaders first own and model evangelistic values, then their churches will never reflect them to a great degree, either – which is a pretty good description of many churches today. It’s “Speed of the leader; speed of the team.” That’s why, for instance, I wrote and recently updated my book, Becoming a Contagious Church – to help leaders LIVE evangelistic values (that’s Stage 1 of the book’s central message: the 6-Stage Process for helping your church become highly effective in evangelism), as well as know how to instill those values throughout the churches they lead.
Phil ~ What are key action steps you'd recommend to pastors who want to develop adventurous disciples who live and speak about their faith?
Mark ~ Set the example yourself. Don’t pretend you have the gift of evangelism if you don’t (most pastors do not). Just admit that this area is a challenge for you – and then show the folks you lead the ways you’re facing that challenge! Tell them your success stories and your stories of failure and embarrassment (as Lee and I do in The Unexpected Adventure!). The successes will inspire your people; the failures will endear them to you and make them more willing to try and fail and try again – all the while learning, growing in confidence, and increasingly being used by God to reach others.
On a very practical note, consider doing what many churches are already starting: have your entire congregation read through The Unexpected Adventure at the same time. That way they’ll all be getting the same input and encouragement, and they can compare notes in groups and classes concerning how they’re applying what they learn. If you act fast, the summer is a great time to have people do the readings – while they’re traveling and dispersed on vacation. Or the Fall is a good time, leading up to the evangelistic opportunities afforded by Thanksgiving and Christmas, or in the Spring leading up to Easter. Thankfully, our publisher (Zondervan) has gotten behind this vision, and is offering cases of books for half price (see ordering info at
www.theunexpectedadventure.com ), making it affordable for your members (and if you recoup that discounted amount from them it won’t take anything out of your church budgets – and everybody wins!).
Phil ~ Mark, please write a prayer each reader can pray with you; for their own life and for their congregation ...
Mark ~ LORD, please help us as leaders and the churches we serve remember why we’re here – to reach as many people as possible for Christ. It seems like a daunting task in a world that often doesn’t want to hear it – but thank you that you assure us of your presence, help, and power as we bring the Gospel to people you love and of whom you assure us you don’t want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Help us to remember this, and to live like it. Give us the courage and the tenacity to set the example, and then help us inspire the rest of our churches to get on board with the mission Christ gave all of us – going into our worlds and reaching people for Him. Make us fruitful, LORD, and we’ll celebrate and thank you throughout eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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