Thinking Out Loud

July 24, 2014

Evangelism for Non-Evangelists

Filed under: books, evangelism — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:57 am

I’m almost certain that if I lived in Hayward, Wisconsin, Mark O. Wilson would be my pastor. I thoroughly enjoyed his book Filled Up, Poured Out (reviewed here) and his newest, Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus was a delight to read. Christian non-fiction (i.e. doctrinal) books are not expected to be this much fun.

Purple Fish - Mark O. WilsonHere’s the difference: Mark Wilson is not dealing in theoretical evangelism. He’s a practitioner, with anecdotal accounts of the principles he believes in bearing results. In fact, to be honest, this is more a book of very short (i.e. many are single paragraph) stories of life change taking place because ordinary people were willing to take risks.

Oh, no! How many opportunities might I have missed by not being more attuned to people all around me?

This is not an attempt to teach a rigid methodology. There aren’t 4 steps or 6 steps to memorize. If anything, results are often achieved by breaking the perceived rules of witnessing, the book is very anti-methodology. By arranging the book in a series of 33 very short chapters, readers can take hold of these ideas in bite-sized morsels.

It is said that in Evangelical circles, many people delay being baptized because they cringe at the idea of having to give a one minute testimony. And that’s just to their peers. How much more are some people terrified to share their faith with a stranger? This book provides the nudge they might need.

To repeat, this book is very accessible for the average churchgoer who is intimidated at the idea of making a public declaration of faith.

The title? Mark Wilson pastors in the Northwoods area of Wisconsin where fishing is ubiquitous. So fishing is a motif throughout the book, a metaphor (that Jesus used), and a means to make connection. And in a rapidly changing world, I much prefer the idea of evangelism as fishing than speaking of going on a crusade. (And yes, that makes this a good recommendation for men to read, even non-readers.)

But what about the purple fish? I won’t give away the spoiler; you’ll have to read the book! Suffice it to say that it reinforces the idea that lost souls really do matter to God.

Purple Fish is published in paperback at $14.99 US by Wesleyan Publishing House.  Read an excerpt here.

 

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June 12, 2014

Witnessing on the (Summer) Job

Filed under: evangelism, Humor — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Witnessing on the (Summer) Job

This is from InterVarsity’s TwentyOneHundred Productions. (Click the link to source.) Jon Acuff has a word for these, he calls it a Jesus Juke. You can read that definition in this 2010 blog post. Since he coined the term it’s been adopted far and wide, to the point where if you Google the phrase (in quotation marks) you get “About 8,620 results.”

January 5, 2014

How Do You Know You Became a Christian?

Filed under: evangelism, Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:21 pm

When I’m in a general market bookstore like Barnes and Noble (or Chapters in Canada) I make a point of hanging out in the Bible aisle and getting into conversations with people. Many people are purchasing a Bible in a relative vacuum and store staff can’t offer the same advice you’d get at a Christian bookstore.

So on Saturday, when the opportunity appeared to present itself, I told the guy that I kinda work in Christian publishing and if he needed any advice on his purchase…

 “I have a doctorate in divinity;” he replied, “and I preach and teach around the world.”

By the tenor of his conversation, I knew that the tables had been turned on me that time. (I also got that humility wasn’t his thing; but that’s topic for another day.) This was clearly a man that doesn’t suffer fools, and that could have shut down the whole conversation right there; but I persisted by explaining what I do and why I asked.

He then asked me, “When did you become a Christian?”  This was quickly followed by, “How did you become a Christian?”  Finally, the most interesting question of the lot, “How does someone become a Christian?”

I liked his forthright manner.

The answer to the first for me would be as a seventeen year old. True, I “accepted Jesus” when I was seven, but I lived a very dualistic lifestyle all through high school. It was at seventeen I took ownership of the faith I had been raised in, the belief system I had been baptized into.

To answer the second question, I told him an analogy I often share with others; that of “taking delivery” of the salvation that God was “holding” for me.  I explained that often one receives a parcel-delivery card in the mail; the card says that someone has sent something, it’s got my name on it, but I need to drive to pick it up. I don’t possess it until I reach out and take it.

For the last question, I said that the act of accepting Christ’s offer of salvation is an invisible transaction that one makes on faith, trusting His promise that if I tell Him through prayer that I want to be under the covering He offers, He will do His part. (You could break this down into the ABC process: Acknowledging, believing, confessing.)

…So, you’re in a bookstore like me, or a grocery store, or getting your car fixed, or your hair styled, and you’re asked, How does someone become a Christian? Do you have a ready answer? Is your answer different when explaining it to someone with a doctorate in divinity than it is explaining it to your mechanic, or mail carrier? Should the answer be different depending on the hearer?

A divinity student named Tweedle
When Refused to accept his degree.
He said, “It’s bad enough being Tweedle,
Without being Tweedle, DD”.

December 4, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Awkward Moments Children's Bible

This week, many links that will be of interest to pastors and church leaders, along with the usual dash of quirkiness. The list is posted each week at Out of Ur, a blog of Leadership Today, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read.

Looking for more substance, why not click over to Christianity 201.

March 13, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Romans 8

Let there be links.

In a week that is overshadowed by developments at The Vatican it’s hard to find other religious news stories, but we tried.

  • Two Afghan children that Shane Claiborne met a few weeks ago were killed by NATO troops.
  • N.T. Wright comes at an old issue in a new way, and offers his reasons why women should be in pastoral ministry
  • An Australian TV outlet does a 14-minute exposé of Hillsong Church with a particular axe to grind concerning the church’s tax free status.
  • Is the way forward in church planting that the pastors will have other jobs; be bi-vocational?  Well, yes and no.
  • Francis Chan talks to Canadian interviewer Moira Brown about leaving his church and starting up again in Northern California. (This is a part two of two-part interview; 15 minutes each.)
  • Want more transparency in the church? How about this Belgian church constructed in 2011 out of transparent steel?
  • And a church that treated its former pastors like trash held a service of apology and reconciliation.
  • If you tell people you don’t smoke because your body is “a temple,” then you need to know that in 2013, sitting is the new smoking.
  • A new digital edition of “the quad” the four books of Mormon scriptures includes some editorial changes reflecting “shifting official view on issues like polygamy, the Church’s history of racism, and the historicity of LDS scripture.”
  • It’s not too late to send a gift: Benny Hinn and former wife Suzanne were scheduled to be remarried last week. And since that link was older — but detailed — the answer is yes, it happened.
  • Mark Burnett tells Inside TV that “weird things” happened as they filmed The Bible miniseries. You’ll like the snake handler’s report.
  • Have trouble starting a spiritual conversation? Start by asking questions
  • “Teenage girls aging out of foster care and/or orphanages are known as the highest ‘at risk’ group in our nation. It’s estimated that a teenage girl on the streets will be approached within 48 hours by a pimp…” Read the stats and one city’s game plan.
  • Christian rapper Lecrae is performing along side his mainstream music counterparts at SXSW, the South by Southwest festival… 
  • …And Canadian Christian rapper Manafest is writing a book.
  • Found a great devotional site this week… Here’s a piece about following Jesus versus walking ahead of Him
  • …And the updated list of the Top 200 Calvinist Christian blogs is now online; or at least one person’s version of it.
  • The offbeat  ‘gay worship band’ story got way too much coverage last week which is why I would never link to it.
  • Here’s how Religion News Service was handicapping the race to be Pope on the weekend. Even though this final four may be old news by the time you read this, I left it here for comparison (if RNS keeps it online). 
  • A greater concern for the cardinals during a conclave week is if it goes into overtime and finds them running out of clean laundry.
  • Graham Kendrick has greatly reconstructed an old hymn into something new; check out Oh The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.
  • People from five religious ‘tribes’ will try to convert Catalina an atheist — who looks slightly like Tina Fey — on the latest contest from The Drew Marshall Show titled Soul Survivor.

 

August 3, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday list lynx

All the news that’s fit to link.

  • A U.S. judge has ordered the ban on circumcision to be removed from the fall ballot in San Francisco.
  • Nicholas Kristof remembers both John Stott and the idea that not all Evangelicals are blowhards in this New York Times article.
  • We’re getting weary following the Schullergate story, but the latest has Robert H. back on the board
  • Can’t post enough of these type of links:  Jim Martin on Six Ways to Avoid Having an Affair.
  • Or Jon Acuff on three perfectly easy ways to wreck your marriage with social media.
  • Randy Alcorn looks at the two books written in response to Rob Bell‘s Love Wins and finds great material with surprisingly little overlap in the books by Francis Chan and Mark Galli.
  • You can’t call it televangelism any more because they no longer use television.  So how about intervangelism.
  • This link is actually from 2009, but it’s good every once in awhile to get inside the anatomy of a witness/evangelism experience.    (Note: Go Buses are a provincial transportation system serving the Toronto hinterland.)
  • The amazing thing about this online book about Biblical Relationships is not the solid Biblical content or the clarity of the online formatting, but the fact that the author, Regis Wengel is only 19.
  • Nothing intensely spiritual about it, but here’s an interesting one minute video about What Matters Most.
  • ‘That was a great talk, can I have your notes and PowerPoint slides?’  John Stackhouse explains why the answer to that will always be ‘no.’
  • Tony Campolo on ‘Baby smiles’ and having a joyful countenance.  After you read this, copy and paste it and create your own brand of email forward.
  • Speaking of babies, Jason Boyett now has a parenting blog; check out Dadequate: Ordinary Adventures of a Write-Brained Dad.
  • This fall, Canada honors its own Christian musicians with the cross country Maple Noise Tour featuring Thousand Foot Krutch, Greg Sczebel, Manafest, Johnny Diaz, To Tell, Jon Bauer, Jodi King, Manic Drive…  oh yeah, and some group called The Newsboys.
  • Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk reports — with tongue firmly in cheek — on a group that finds the book of Genesis too explicit and is fighting to get it banned.
  • Our closing cartoon this week is a somewhat random sample of what’s going on at Mighty Mag.  Richard Gunther is a New Zealand artist whose work can also be seen on Ray Comfort’s webpage.  In addition to various types of illustrations, a “daily nibble” provides a brief devotional thought.  This one illustrates I Tim 1: 3-4

July 18, 2011

Hell is Real, But I Don’t Want To Talk About It

I just finished reading Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) by Brian Jones, published by David C. Cook.  The timing of this book — even though it began as a project long before the current furor — makes it a kind of response to Love Wins even if not directly so.  While the Rob Bell book uses its first two chapters to ask enough questions to somewhat undermine a belief in everlasting punishment for those who don’t believe, Brian Jones takes his first couple of chapters to state categorically that he now believes in the certainty of hell as traditionally understood, and as literally taught in the Bible.

He uses  his unwavering belief in a physical hell as the premise for what he wants to go on to talk about, which is the need to communicate the existence of hell to our unsaved family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.  It refutes Love Wins only in the sense that Jones’ dogmatic certainty stands in stark contrast to Bell’s questions and uncertainty.

The point Jones really wants to get to is taking the message of salvation to those whom life puts us into contact with.  Just as last summer’s Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick gave us the phrase “audacious prayers,” so does Hell Is Real… give us a phrase, “apocalyptic urgency.”   That urgency runs through all 266 pages.

However, don’t start constructing placards or buying TV airtime right away.  The hallmark of this book is the balance of the approach between said urgency, and finding appropriate times and places to work with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in a person’s life.  The key to this book isn’t the first part of the title so much as the parenthetic part, But I Hate to Admit It. Many of us have a natural reluctance to engage our friends and contacts in a faith conversation, much less a debate.

Unless people come to you with specific questions or a specific outpouring of the heart on a matter of need, sharing the message of — to use a $50 word — propitiation is delicate.  Too aggressive an approach and you create barriers that can set the conversion process back indefinitely.

In many respects for those who have decided that Bell simply asks to many questions and undermines too much of what church leaders have always believed and taught, Hell is Real represents the next step in the discussion.  In other words, after all is said and done, where do we go from here?  What is the practical application of all the debate?

Brian Jones would say the “hell part” of the equation is necessary to create the apocalyptic urgency needed to make evangelism effective.

Brian Jones is senior pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia, a rather edgy east coast church.

January 31, 2011

Jerusalem, Judea and the Uttermost Parts

I had an interesting conversation after church yesterday.

The pastor had quoted the verse we commonly refer to as “The Great Commission;” the verse which reads,

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The person who spoke to me has a huge compassion for Israel and is willing to share this passion with any who want to know more about the various facets of how modern Israel fits into Old Testament history, New Testament studies, evangelism and missions, eschatology, etc.  We’ve had some great interactions, and I’ve learned much about The Holy Land from our conversations and various items she’s given me to read.

She suggested to me that perhaps the passage in Acts 1:8 might actually be taken most literally.  That we should be evangelists in Jerusalem.

I told her that neither those we call the “church fathers” nor modern commentators have interpreted this passage that way.  I mean, it’s an interesting take on the passage, and certainly in first century context it is correct; but we tend to read their commission into our commission and when we do so, we tend to think of Jerusalem as the place where we’re standing or sitting right now.  The place we call home.  My Jerusalem is the close family, co-workers, immediate neighbors, etc. who in a sense, only I can reach.

But people do read scripture differently, and many passages that seem straight-forward are subject to different understandings; just as I thought my wife was getting take-out today, and she thought I was going to meet her at the fast food place.  (We ended up eating at home.)

So in Acts and Paul’s epistles, my friend at church sees Paul’s consuming drive to bring the Gospel to the Jews; whereas I read Acts and am struck by how Paul was compelled to go to Rome against all odds.  (To be fair, both elements are present; “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”)

Driving home, my wife pointed out that a most-literal reading of the passage would be difficult since Samaria no longer exists and the “end of the earth” (ESV and NKJV) or the even more archaic “ends of the earth” (HCSB and strangely, NLT, above) no longer applies to an earth we know is round and has no ends.  (I like the NASB here, “the remotest parts of the earth.”  Good translation and very missional.)

I’m not sure I agreed with the pastor’s take on Samaria, however.  He chose Toronto, a city about an hour west of where we live, as our “modern Samaria” because of its cosmopolitan nature; because it’s a gateway to so many cultures impacting the rest of the world.  Truly when Jesus met the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4, it was a clash of cultures in several ways at once.

But Samaria would not be seen that way by those receiving the great commission.  In Judea they will like me and receive but in Samaria we have a mutual distrust and dislike for each other. Samaria is the place you don’t want to go to.  Your Samaria may be geographically intertwined in your Jerusalem or your Judea.  Your Samaria may be at the remotest part the earth and it’s your Samaria because it’s at the ends of the earth.

Your Samaria may be the guy in the next cubicle that you just don’t want to talk to about your faith, but feel a strong conviction both that you need to and he needs you to.  Your Samaria may be the next door neighbor whose dogs run all over your lawn doing things that dogs do.  Your Samaria may be the family that runs the convenience store where you rent DVDs who are of a faith background that you associate with hatred and violence.   Your Samaria may be atheists, abortionists, gays, or just simply people who are on the opposite side of the fence politically.   Your Samaritan might just be someone who was sitting across the aisle in Church this weekend.

And perhaps, with its heat, humidity and propensity toward violence, perhaps your Samaria is modern-day Jerusalem.

June 16, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Seems like only about seven days since we did the last Wednesday Link List.   Funny that…   But just think, if you read all these linked items you will be as wise as I…


  • Lots of family-related stuff this week, like this one:  Jason Salamun contrasts the American Dream with what could be called the Missional Dream in a piece titled, Don’t Focus on Your Family.  (Great Donald Miller story at the end, too.)
  • Krista Bremer gives her 10-year daughter a choice between the Western clothing she grew up with, and the Islamic costume that is part of her husband’s culture.   The girl chooses to wear a headscarf.  This is a long article, but one I think parents — especially moms — will want to read; as well as anyone in a ‘mixed’ marriage who has or is planning to have children.
  • Jason Wert can’t watch World Cup Soccer without thinking of hundreds of women being raped.   Yes you read that right.   But his short article also shows this isn’t just something happening half a world away; it’s true of the Superbowl as well.   Check this out.
  • If you’re a parent, you might also want to check out this 5-minute video about the commercialization of our kids over at Vitamin Z.
  • But if you want to take the spirit of that video and really get into this topic in depth, you need to check out an article from the June issue of Catholic World Report, 10 Ways the Media Has Failed to Protect Kids.
  • The 17-year old daughter of Naked Pastor David Hayward is going to have a different take on church, right?   Check out this excellent guest post by Casile.
  • One more parenting link, which you’ll relate to if your kids are worriers; a short article at Canada’s Christian Week.
  • Michael Spencer’s widow, Denise, gets brutally honest about her own suffering and pain in dealing with Michael’s physical decay and death at Internet Monk.
  • Here’s something you might relate to — the blogger at Upwrite encounters some people doing coffee shop evangelism, and realizes that perhaps God sometimes sends these people to minister to the saved as well as the unsaved.
  • If your taste in Christian music is toward the heavier sounding bands, you might want to get the free 15-song “Summer Soundtrack” from Tooth and Nail Records, which includes Children 18:3, The Almost, The Letter Black, Sent By Ravens, Write This Down, and more.
  • Speaking of music, here’s an indie artist from Canada:  To Tell (aka Zach Havens in the tradition of Owl City, though I think Zach was there first!)  Give a listen to the song “The Problem” from his new album at this MySpace page.
  • Thomas Nelson, the (somewhat) Christian publisher, has done a book about beer.   Seriously.    Tim Challies reviews the brew book so you don’t have to read it.   Better him than me.
  • USAToday Religion doesn’t think this is a very good job market for pastors.
  • Meanwhile, Thom Rainer writes a First Person piece about seven mistakes he made in ministry.  (Number four is about failing to “love the community where I live.”   I know some pastors who see their present assignment as a short stop on the way to somewhere else.)
  • On my other blog, Christianity 201, I pay a second visit to an online church service — that’s a different animal from a podcast or sermon download — at North Point.
  • In case you missed it, David Quinn at Passion Australia has that “trinity diagram” that does the best job of wrapping up a tough concept into a small space.   Click on the image to see it full size, and then save and send it to your friends.
  • Staying with the church theme, David Fitch at Reclaiming the Mission has embedded a video with Fr. Robert Barron on the state of empty churches in Europe and beyond.
  • If you live in the Northeast and have done the drive to Florida down I-75, you’ve seen the giant King of Kings statue at Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio; between Dayton and Cincinnati.   Well, this week the statue was struck by lightning and it’s no longer there.  (The statue, had just received a makeover back in March.)
  • Pete Wilson guests at Michael Hyatt’s leadership blog with Four Leadership Lessons he learned from Nashville’s “1,000 Year Flood.”
  • Note to other bloggers:  If you get a comment that begins, “If I had a penny…” or ends “you’ve done it again.  Incredible article;” don’t bother approving it.   The comments all link back to a number of Blogspot blogs containing only one post — always March, 2010 — with a rather rambling article.
  • Our upper cartoon is from ASBO Jesus by Jon Birch in England, where this sort of road sign warns of hazards up ahead.   Jon’s place was recently burglarized and he lost all his cartoons, animations and music.  Thanks to cloud computing, at least the blog survives, but it sounds like that was a very small part of the whole.
  • Our lower cartoon is from Preacher’s Kid by David Ayers at Baptist Press.

June 12, 2009

Apologetics in a Box

Filed under: Christian, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:31 pm

apologeticsSo there I was, a young, zealous Christian guy in my 20s, flying back from two weeks immersion in Christian community in southern California.    He was a French scientist, en route from Los Angeles to Toronto.

I shared a little bit of what had driven me to spend two weeks in Orange County, and then decided to probe him about his faith.   Eventually the conversation rolled around to evolution, which he said he believed in.

So of course, I started to unpack my reasons why evolution can’t possibly be true, and number two on my list was the Law of Entropy, which states that things tend to break down in complexity not increase in complexity. Devolution, not evolution.

That’s when he interrupted me and said there was a flaw in my logic.   I was taking the Second Law of Thermodynamics and applying it to a life science.   “You can’t do that;” he said.

Oh.   How come nobody mentioned this issue before?

I mention this story because I know a young guy who is, figuratively speaking, on his own flight from L.A.    He’s encountering people and ideas online that are, in one sense, like a breath of fresh air, but his box of apologetics is too neat, too ordered, too unchallenged to accommodate these recent objections.

So the atheists, agnostics, and followers of New Thought, while they have not won the war, are certainly winning the battle.

It’s a confusing time.

I’ve decided I can’t win those arguments.   I know people who can hold their own in discussions of science and faith, but I have to content myself that knowing the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ is sufficient.   I can trust that he’s got it all worked out.    What I can do is communicate the reality of the faith I experience.  And once in awhile, I can articulate the way out of an argument trap, simply because I know God’s got it all sorted.

I wonder what might have happened if I’d asked the scientist, “Where do you think ‘love’ came from?”  “What is your view on why we are here?”  “Do you believe that humans are endowed with a soul?”  “What do you think of Jesus?”

Instead, I, an arts major, tried to debate thermodynamics with a French scientist.    It’s laughable, really.

Anyway, pray for my young friend.   I don’t know him well, but I know his family and I know they’re trusting God that the present season of doubt and uncertainty will not last long.

And pray that he encounters someone whose faith is robust enough to withstand the challenges to faith that happen to us all.    Maybe I’m that person.  Maybe you’re that person.

The comic is from Back on Earth, which began online in January, has posted 40 episodes so far, and is, well, certainly one my more interesting online finds!

Related reading:  The Changing Face of Apologetics — An interview with Lee Strobel at Christianity Today Online.

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