Saturday, January 20, 2007

Evangelism, The Key to the Lost Heart

When I used to travel around the country as a public speaker and Dale Carnegie instructor I had a trainer who often would challenge my style, my approach and my coaching of others with this question, "How much do you love them". When sometimes I would become frustrated with the reticence of someone in a program, an employee, or even an outside critic, he would ask, "Do you love them enough to make this work in spite of that problem".

Since the last post had to do with what kinds of love we are to have toward one another to be effective in evangelism the valid question is, what kind of Love was my trainer encouraging me to show? More important is what kind of love is required of me to be the leader and cause them to become what they asked me to help them become?

The love needed is still Agape. Not brotherly love, I'm not the class members buddy, I'm not their brother (yet). And, I'm not in "LOVE" (Eros) with them.

I must approach them with care, acceptance, embracing, non judgemental, wide open to them, folded in and part of the program.

If you read the previous post you will see all this pretty well wrung out there.

So, what kind of LOVE does the Father in Heaven, Thru Jesus, Shed Abroad in our hearts by the Power of the Holy Spirit have for us? Eros, NO. There is a place for an understanding of how Jesus views his bride. How intimate he is with us. How much we are on his mind. How much he desires fellowship with his creation. Our value. But it's not Eros. It's passion. It's the answer to the question I was asked, "How much do you love them?" Jesus spread his arms and said "this much". But although some could badly interpret the love as bordering on Eros, It's passionate Agape.

Or is the Love of God toward us Philial. Brotherly love. Again, it certainly is that as we understand all the dimensions of God's love toward us. I have a brother. I love my brother. I would do anything for my brother. I know he would for me. But we are brothers. When I am born again, Jesus becomes my brother. My veins flow with his blood of his Holy Ghost. That's another theological bunny trail I won't take right here. I am grafted in. We are blood. There is a danger in all this as well, Brother, Friend, Buddy, Jesus is one of my Peeps. He is a good friend at the expense of being transcendent God. So, while I love the old Hymn, "What a Friend we have in Jesus" I think we need to see that the Love of God toward the lost probably doesn't include a Philial dimension initially. They are lost, in the world, outside of the covenant. Like you were once. They can't respond to a brother Jesus. It doesn't compute. Even if it's true at several levels.

That brings us back to Agape. God loves us without qualifications. He loves the Satanist Crack Dealing Child Molester as completely as he loves you. Oh, they are enemies of God, but God made peace thru Jesus on the Cross with them. So they are fighting a battle that was already won. It's a one way war, Them against God. I have a feeling I know who wins.

They are still outside the covenant, but loved. To a worldly mind that seems a contradiction. To the lost it makes all kinds of sense.

The key to the Lost Heart is the Love of God shed abroad in OUR hearts so it's shed abroad in theirs. In the end there is only ONE evangelistic power in the universe. The POWER of the Holy Ghost. If a person is ready to come to Jesus because of Trouble, because of pain, because of lostness, because of Marriage problems, the Holy Ghost is calling them.

I know a man, Manny Mill who is one of the few true evangelists I know. Oh, he has a ministry organization that takes him away from his ministry gifting. He spends too much time administering, raising money, running around speaking to churches, to exercise the Gift God Placed in him. I have known Manny off and on for nearly 10 years. When I described the Brighter Light in an earlier post to outshine and attract, Manny Mills is that. I have seen him in small groups and he lights up the room. He probably thinks that's him. It's the power of God lighting him up and he lets it shine. It's attractive. He draws all men to Jesus by the light. Manny has chosen to let his light shine in a dark place, Prison. There he goes as an eagle to people who are eagles under the chicken feathers they think they are tarred with.
He tells them they were meant to soar.

Everything Manny does under the anointing of God, passionately, leading men to Jesus, letting his light shine is a wonderful gift as part of the 5 fold ministry. Everything he does outside of his gifting like trying to build, manage, and direct a national ministry is like an 8 cylinder engine in a fully loaded pickup truck hitting on 3 cylinders.

I know what that's like. When I'm doing what I'm anointed to do Prophesy and Teach I hit on all 8. When I do things outside of my Ministry gifting you have to pull a few sparkplug wires. Do wha
t you do do well the old song says.

Manny operates from love. Manny shines from love. He really flows at his peak in those times. My hope (even prayer) for Manny is that he finds more opportunity to do what he does so well and less time to do what his anointing doesn't touch.

I have touched on it, but tomorrow, the Genuine Evangelist, The Holy Spirit of God. He gets so little credit but without him no evangelism happens at all.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Love Driven Evangelism - 2 out of 3 ain't bad

We are taught in churches (mostly as a guilt trip) that we should be more loving toward one another. That they will know we are disciples by our love. That love toward the brethren was a sign of a good church.

My son, Tim, as I was having a discussion about evangelism with him told me that what impressed him about the Church he is a part of, what attracted him was the love.

When I say that, I hear all the pastors out there saying, "Yes and Amen, that's the problem". We don’t show enough LOVE in this Church.

Well here comes old bubble buster Gene. We might be showing the wrong kind. Let me give you a metaphor from real life.

This Sunday the Bears are going to beat the N/O Saints (We walk by faith and not by sight) on the road to the superbowl. I'm a Bear fan. I have a jersey and a tee shirt that says bears. I will wear both on Sunday afternoon and Pray as Grossman throws the ball. Very spiritual stuff.

I can't afford to go to the game. But I watch the fans on TV.
They have a good time. They pass the beers without taking a sip (manlaw), do the wave, sing the fight song (Bear down Chicago Bears, Rah Rah Rah) and when the Bears do something right the give each other high fives, cheer, yell, stand up, give each other hugs, head butt, and generally have a great time. They have in common the victory of a team they are jointly attached to, they honor, have fun with, accept, and generally treat each other as Buddy for the whole game. They don't know if the guy next to them is a gangster, truck driver, bum, or bank president. The concentration is on the Bears. They don't know if the woman next to them is a crack whore, waitress, housewife or the CEO of a major corporation. It's not about them; it's about the Bears.

A Bears game is exactly the kind of Love Jesus was talking about when he told his disciples in the most misunderstood verse of the Bible: By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another John 13:35

The word Love in this badly understood verse is Agape. Not Philia, Not Eros.

Jesus was saying, Love each other like the Bears Fans Love each other and you will "Get it". People will know you are mine as you Agape one another.

In good Bars and Bears Games true Agape is expressed. It's 1 Corinthians 13 Love, it's a Love Feast. If I were to go to a Bears game and get in the middle of the crowd I would be enjoying the fellowship and the game, FEASTING on it. I would want to go again. That’s why tickets are sooooo expensive and always sold out. It’s not always about who wins. It’s group focus. Being part of something bigger than themselves.

Now of course after the game is done if these people saw each other on the elevator, on the street, even in Church and were reminded how WIDE OPEN (another definition of Agape) they were at that game they might be embarrassed to admit that in the real world they don't love each other like they did at the game or half in the bag at the bar. For a few moments in time they were agape-ed at the game. It felt good. They wish it could be like that again. They certainly don’t become “Best Friends” because they go to the same game. The pressure for that level of friendship in the Church is huge. It’s not scriptural. Say with me three times, Agape, Agape, Agape. Besides you should only golf with sinners.

The real definition of Agape according to Zodiates in the Greek form is: Respect, acceptance, no judgment, honor, and esteem, received without qualification.

Sounds like a pretty good Church. Sorry to say it's not the Church you attend. I wish it were.

I wish Real Church could look like a Bears Game. Jesus is the focus. We sing the fight songs. We stand up, we wave our hands, punch the air, give each other high fives and pass the drinks and hotdogs in communion. Everyone is focused on Jesus. It’s exciting, there’s a sense that someone could take a kick and run it back for a touchdown from the one yard line. Anticipation.

It’s our love for Him that drives an Agape love for each other.

What if such a place existed? What if people could come just as they are? What if people were accepted, received, respected, even esteemed them without judgment? Would the Church have any trouble getting people to come back? I think I would even go back.

Love is the key component in Evangelism. I don't call many people Brother, Philia. I call some. You know who you are. I want to be more Agape towards others than I am towards the smaller group I consider brother or sister. I won’t cheapen the appellation as some have. My Eros love is restricted to one person, My Wife.

If you want to try to prove me wrong, I took Mr Strong’s BIG old concordance out this morning and looked up the New Testament verses regarding love. The focus overwhelmingly is that we should Love God as he Loves us. In fact we can't love God unless he empowers us to do so first. We can love one another only in the Love of Christ. The love defined between each other in the Church biblically is almost exclusively Agape in nature.

I have a confession. Not a bad confession. I am part of a smaller fellowship in the Chicagoland region. I have been there since it was formed. It is a diverse group of people. I have an agape love toward them all. I really love them in that way. I know they love me the same. I feel accepted and embraced when I am there.

But there are people in that fellowship that on a friendship basis I don't want to know better. Like at a Bears game. Not everyone in the stands is someone I want to hang out with. In fact, despite the Agape Love I have for these people at this fellowship we have fights. We argue. We don't LIKE each other sometimes. Agape isn't about liking someone. I can have an agape love toward you and not like you. Look back at the description. That was true in the early church. The Apostles fought like cats and dogs and even didn't really like each other all that much sometimes. But they loved each other in the Love of Christ. Agape.

In fact even Eros love doesn't work unless we love Jesus first. But that's a topic for another book.

Love is the answer but it must be the right kind of love to be effective in evangelism. 2 out of 3 are wrong to guilt the congregation with. They are only required to Agape. IF they did, the lost that might visit would stay.

Evangelism Should be driven by Agape Love.

That's the way it's supposed to work.

Tomorrow: The KEY to the heart of the lost, How much do you LOVE THEM?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Eagles Evangelize Chickens, not the other way around

There is a motivational story about an eagle raised by a flock of chickens. I know you've heard it. The Chicken-Eagle is visited one day in the Chicken Yard by a wild adult Eagle. The Adult Eagle asks "Why are you here, Why aren't you up soaring with the other Eagles?". The young chicken-eagle says, "Soaring is only for eagles". "I'm a chicken". The Adult eagle remands, "No my young friend, you were created to soar, your destiny is to fly high". With much persuasion the wild Eagle with a mirror and demonstration builds enough longing and desire in the Chicken-Eagle who begins to believe. He tries, fumbles, tries again and in a few hours is soaring high above his former home. Oh, his foster chickens, his brother chickens, his friend chickens all said, "this isn't right, soaring is not for us".

What they didn't know is several of the chickens left in the yard were actually young eagles and could soar as mightily as their brother up in the clouds. But fear and tradition kept them grounded.

Learning to soar for the young chicken-eagle was a born again experience.

To an observer of the fowl religion, all these birds had feathers, beaks, flapped their wings, some of the chickens could actually take flight for short distances. Some were quite beautiful. So, when the young Chicken-Eagle took off there was some huffiness as in "We are as good as that young eagle, we just don't do that HERE". "We practice all the same fowl sacraments other birds do. We just don't soar".

Oh, there were some who watched this all happen. Who would tell others of the young eagle from the chicken pen who left and soared. Others who said they wish they could be like that. Some others who told grand stories of eagles who had left the pen and had mighty conquests. A few went to those Chickens who looked a little different and encouraged them to try soaring. They gave them books on soaring. In fact some even tried to offer a weak attempt on what soaring might look like. They were Chickens trying to convince others who had the potential to soar but couldn't because the ones trying to convince the little chicken eagles weren't able to soar themselves.

Without the capacity to believe they could soar themselves, without the capacity to demonstrate and show what it all meant to soar, it was good theology but without any power.

That is what is wrong with most evangelistic efforts in most churches. Mostly Theory without Practice.

If you don't have the light to outshine the worlds light you will be ineffective at reaching people for Jesus. People are attracted to what will open a door to soar for them. They don't want another sad tale, they want someone to offer them hope.

Then most Christians come along, head hung down, sad, frowning, looking defeated saying, "Wouldn't you like to have what I have? I'm Saved, I'm on my way to heaven" No thanks is the unspoken reply. Our words are right, but our light isn't on. Dim bulb in a bright blinding world.

These lost souls are eagles under the skin and they see us as clucking chickens unable to do more than talk and go thru the motions of flapping and pecking.

I know this seems harsh but I'm not the first to see this. Charles Finney over a hundred years ago saw what I see today. So does Andrew Strom.

These Excerpts (which I did edit) are from a piece by him:

Charles Finney spent his entire ministry preaching to professing Christians. And yet he was called one of the greatest 'evangelists'! What he was doing was evangelizing the church people? Because he found that most of them were not living in a state of true salvation at all. Most of the church was 'unsaved'!

Actually, you see this pattern in most Revivals down the centuries. In many cases, what Revival was actually the church coming into true SALVATION for the first time. They THOUGHT they were saved before, but they had been under a delusion. When the 'Revivalist' arrived and preached to them, suddenly they saw that they were undone and in a lost state, and multitudes were converted. Revival almost always begins with the church.

That's the way it is today in America. That's why the American Church is so impotent. It's a holding pen for the Dammed. People are preached to in Churches that they are 'OK', when in reality they are headed for destruction.

Today we see exactly the same thing in the West as Finney saw in his day. We see a church that is very largely UNSAVED. A truly "saved" church (in the New Testament sense) behaves and looks and sounds utterly different to what we have today.

Even in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles we often find many "previously-saved-but-no-longer-walking-in-it" believers.

The doctrine of "Asking Jesus into your heart" does not exist in the Bible. I would come very close to calling it a lie from the pit of hell, because it falsely assures people that they are "saved" just because they have 'prayed a little prayer'. It is very dishonest and totally unscriptural.

According to what I know about it, a basic "New Testament Christian" is someone who has:

(1) Repented (real change) Then,

(2) Been Baptized in water, and

(3) Been filled with the Holy Spirit

I am convinced that the coming harvest will BEGIN IN THE CHURCH. It will begin with converting the "CHRISTIANS". -This has always been God's order. "First in Jerusalem, then in Judea...."

I am deeply burdened for the church in the West. Let the new "Charles Finneys" arise. Let the trumpet sound go forth. The message of PIERCING REPENTANCE must be heard in the land once again. And the idol of "Mammon" must surely be one of it's key targets.

I am convinced that the prophets must arise for Revival to come to the West in these days. "For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword." -May this mighty sword be brought to bear on the walls of Religion and false 'assurance' in these days.

So any discussion about those in the church evangelizing others outside the church is a moot point if the person in the church is not born again. If both the lost soul and the allegedly saved (but lost) soul are blind, one will lead another into the ditch. Most of the time it will be the lost soul leading the poor weak "believer" back into sin. I have seen it too many times, so have you. The Church of Jesus needs to become a place of real light so that others are drawn to the city on the hill. That starts with true conversion of those who ARE the church and not some nominal membership, and worse even leadership by people who to a Charles Finney would be prime evangilistic target material.

I know this part of my thesis seems a little harsh, maybe even judgmental. But, we don't have revival of those IN the church, we won't affect the world, we won't have any power, and we won't reach the lost because we have lied to each other and to ourselves about what a Christian really is. In my observation, RARE is the nomenclature I would put on it.

Last Sunday in our Church the Young Pastor had an altar call for salvation after a pretty effective presentaion of the Gospel. I was there for the altar calls. NO ONE came forward. No one repented. Yet, I know full well that there is a large portion of the Church asleep in the light. This is going to take a jolt. God has a Jolt coming.

True evangelism comes by people who desire to reach others getting saved first. You can't impart what you don't possess. You can't introduce people to someone you don't know, (Like Jesus). How can you introduce others to Him if you don't know Him?

Lovie Smith is the Coach of the Chicago Bears. I'm a bears fan.

I know about Lovie Smith, I have seen lots of interviews with Lovie. I read the sports section about Lovie. I admire Lovie. But, unless I actually KNOW Lovie my introduction of YOU to HIM will be empty and meaningless. I haven't earned the right. I'm not in the place where I can introduce you to Lovie. I don't KNOW him.

Now, you might decide to pursue meeting Lovie Smith on your own, partially based on my interest in Lovie that captured your imagination. As a result you might put yourself in a place where you might actually get to know him. Then, if I asked you to introduce me to him, who's his friend and who's an outsider?

That's the way most of the Church of Today is. Outsiders.

NEXT: The Power of Love in Evangelism (It's not what you think). You don't have to love others to reach them for Jesus. It's not about you. You do have to be head over heels in Love with Jesus however to make it all work. More later. I've beat you up pretty bad today. I love you, I just want to see you come into a genuine realationship with Him. You were created to soar!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Essence of Evangelism – Greater Light

We have so far explored the question of what evangelism is or isn’t. We have asked the question of how does one know that an evangelist is doing what he is called to do.

Now, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. What does true versus false evangelism look like?

I have a few biblical foundational verses for you. First let's just be radical for a moment and see what JESUS says about who he wants to concentrate on:
  • Matthew 19:14 - But Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them: for to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.
  • Mark 10:14 - But when Jesus saw it, he was very displeased, and said to them, Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them: for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
  • Luke 18:16 - But Jesus called them to him, and said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them: for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
  • Matthew 21:16 - And said to him, Do you hear what these say? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have brought perfect praise?
  • Matthew 18:5 - And whoever shall receive one such little child in my name receives me.
  • Mark 9:37 - Whoever shall receive one child such as this in my name, receives me: and whoever shall receive me, does not receive me, but him who sent me.
  • Luke 9:48 - And said to them, Whoever shall receive this child in my name receives me: and whoever shall receive me receives him who sent me: for he who is least among you, that one shall be great.
  • Matthew 18:6 - But whoever shall cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him that a great millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.
  • Mark 9:42 - And whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
  • Matthew 18:10 - Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I say to you, That in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
  • Matthew 18:14 - In the same way, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
  • Matthew 18:3 - And said, Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted, and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
  • Matthew 18:4 - Therefore, whoever shall humble himself as this little child, he is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
  • Mark 10:15 - Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter it at all.
  • Luke 18:17 - Truly I say to you, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall by no means enter it.

Evangelism is best exercised and most effective when the children are reached young. The world ,the flesh and the devil are doing all they can to evangelize the little ones via the media, advertising, public school and music. The church owes nothing less than all it can give in effort toward bringing little children to Jesus. I won’t rehearse all the statistics about a child coming to Jesus, or Bible passages about raising up a child etc. I will say this, that unless the passion of a Church and of a Christian is any less than working hard and harder to see to it little children get grounded and sealed at the earliest age possible everything else we do as Christians is doubly difficult, expensive and mostly ineffective.

Then, once we have done what we can till the child is 10-13 years old, we must do what we can to disciple them, ground them, fire them for Jesus, see them filled with the Holy Spirit. We must do everything possible to see to it the great commission takes place in the lives of these young ones the Devil is trying to strip away from Jesus.

By the time that child grows to 18 or 20 years old the pattern of the next several years of that child’s life is set, for good or bad; Toward or away from Jesus.

They go away to College or work, get married, try to fit in, party down, and find it hard to become the man or woman of God they hoped to become. Unless they go off into this battle with the full armor of God they will go naked and are beaten in the battle.

True evangelism must focus primarily on the young. When I see the budget of a ministry I have a measurement I make, unless the bulk of the ministry money is being spent for children and youth, it’s wasted. Sorry to be blunt, it’s the truth. I think you knew that. It’s just not popular.

I have become close personal friends with some powerful men of God who led great Churches. Every one in reflecting on what has happened in the years previous has at one time or another said, "I wish we had invested more in youth and Children than we did". I never ever have heard ONE say, "I regret what we spent on Children and Youth. It was a waste of time and money".

After adulthood reaching people for Jesus is a losing crap game at best. Oh a few come in but the bulk of the people coming to Jesus are people coming back who were once discipled as children. So in reality, we are reclaiming the evangelistic efforts expended years before.

I have worked Billy Graham crusades. The bulk of the responders are moderate backsliders looking for fresh assurance of salvation.

That means, in a world of pagans, sinners, atheists, agnostics, and just plain passive unbelievers not practicing any faith, real conversions from that point are few and far between. Sadly this means that the bulk of money spent on trying to reach the lost in adulthood is a waste of time, energy and money. I’m not saying give up. I am saying, in resource allocation this is a new perspective. Reaching the lost is a one on one exercise in adult evangelism. More on that later.

There is one opportunity, when a couple has children and that couple was raised in some form of Christianity (early evangelism paying back again), there is a guilt complex that causes them to seek a little Christianity for the kids. If they come and bring the kids to church and Sunday school MAYBE they might stick. One can only hope.

Otherwise, the idea that an unchurched couple are going to come to church just because OK, Because of, of, of, WHAT? To join Club Jesus? Not too likely.

There is only ONE reason that anyone comes to Jesus as an adult. I'm talking about someone who doesn’t know Him now. They come because someone they knew personally was lost and destroyed, came to faith in Jesus, life got better, the light went on and the person watching all this said to themselves, “I would like to have what they have”. When they saw this light come on in the other person’s life they said, “I want what he has”.

Hence the question, “how many evangelists does it take to change a light bulb”. Answer, “Only one, but the light bulb must WANT to be changed and the wattage the Evangelist is offering must always be brighter”. If you have a working but dim lighted bulb, why would you put another in just as dim, or dimmer? You would always want to see things more clearly, more light, more wattage.

Men are like moths, given a choice they are drawn to the light. Conversion as the result of proper evangelism is always showing the light you have and then leading people to want more. Evangelism is showing the light:

“I have made you a light to the nations, a means of salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 26:17-18)

Jesus tells us to take the light in us and place it on a tabletop, “so that those entering the room can see” (Luke 11:33) Like a city on the mountaintop, shining like a beacon light at sea, leading people to the safe harbor, Jesus Christ.

In the heavenly Jerusalem, where “there will be no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God gave it light and the light was the Lamb and the nations shall walk by that light” (Revelation 21:23).

“Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Do you know what hope means? It means I’m going to have a great tomorrow. I am walking in greater light. I have HOPE. LIGHT!

Isaiah 9:2 will come to pass as we let the light shine out of us: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. And on those who live in the shadow of death, light has shined.”

We are light bearers. Light is the essence of true evangelism for reaching adults. We know how to do this for little children. They are open, hungry and ready. We can almost not do it wrong. But with adults it is infinitely more difficult; we must let our light so shine before men that when they see the Good Works God does thru us they will Glorify HIM.

Church Hopping is off limits for both hoppers and church outreach efforts. Much of what we call evangelism is nothing more than borrowing sheep till they get frustrated and move on to another pasture. I believe Christians must commit to a body they can treat as a ministry and exercise the gift God put in them until they are no longer able to do so. That excercise will cease only with death and darkness on the part of the person or on the part of the Church. The only reason for anyone to ever leave a Church that has died or gone dark is for more light. Greater Light must always be the goal. The only reason to leave a dark and sinful life is for more light, greater light. The Church of 2007 must meet the culture with relevance. That's what this series is all about. Things are about to change, I'm preparing you.

Tomorrow: Shining the Light - a HOW-TO Primer

Now for a Brief Commercial

Mostly this blog is about stuff I'm thinking about, things I am getting insight into, things that impress or annoy me, and just generalized whining about things.

Some is serious, some is very very serious. Some is an attempt at bad humor.

Some is meant to just allow me to air an opinion. Not EVERYTHING I write carries with it some divine or otherwise inspiration. Most of it does not. When it does, I'll tell you.

I am in the middle of a thesis on evangelism. I haven't given up, I'm just not quite ready to post the next section. Still writing. I'll post it soon.

So it's in this vein (Not inspired, irritated) that I want to respond to a common news story that wanders across the pages of the newspapers of our minds:

"Most young people today get their news from fake news casters like John Stewart and Colbert".

I don't watch either, I'm not hip. But I have tuned into both from time to time. I don't find them all that amusing. I don't think much of the gravity of the world a topic for a knee slap. "ooooo that 9-11, wasn't that a hoot, how bout those towers coming down, WOW, what a laugh". Mostly in my opinion these two clowns are just clowns. Clowns are clowns. Like a class clown.

But to you weak minded sycophants who watch them, they are the funny boys who were class clowns in high school. You wanted to be in. You wanted to be hip. Being out of sync with the latest jokester was a place that no hopeful up and coming preppie wanted to be. SO, you laughed. You didn't always think it funny when they made fun of the little blind girl, or the kid that walked kinda funny from polio; that was funny wasn't it, when the class clown imitated her limp.

So, you went along. You laughed on cue. You were "IN".

Nothing's changed. Now you are older, maybe much older and you still laugh at the class clowns. Pretending it's just humor. Never mind that they are creating a mindless acceptance that nothing is funny except they say it is and nothing is serious ever.

So, if you are one who watches these two class clowns making a humor living on the misfortune of others, especially if you consider yourself a Christian, I have the right and responsibility to ask you, Who are you really following?

Try reading a newspaper. Try looking at some objective news sources who don't live from skewing the very values and freedoms that allow you to look at these two
stunted 40 somethings acting like pimply faced 13 year olds.

They are bad for your spirit, bad for your brain and bad for your adulthood.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Net Result of Evangelism

In order to get a grip on evangelism in a Biblical fashion we need to frame what the net results of evangelism are.

We know or at least think we know what the net results of an effective Apostle, Prophet, Teacher and Pastor is. For a teacher would be well grounded and prepared disciples; pastor would be secure and nurtured disciples, prophet would be commissioned and encouraged disciples, apostle would be placed and well ordered disciples all in the fellowship of believers.

So, with all that in mind, what are the net results of an evangelist?

I did a study of all the evangelized people in the Bible. I was looking for commonality. I was looking for scriptural basis from where we can get a glimpse of what an evangelists net results are.

Surprising, or perhaps not so surprising, there are not a huge number. Oh, people were added to the Church daily in the New Testament. But few real conversions are identified such that we can sort thru and develop some truths.

Of the ones that are, here are a few threads:

They were all seeking. The evangelist’s effort was to answer the questions they were asking.
Nicodemous, the Woman at the Well, The Greeks seeking Jesus, The Rich Young Ruler, The 3000, The Jailer, Cornelius.

There were lots of failed evangelical attempts. Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Paul at Athens, the mob at Ephesus, even Jesus in Nazareth.

Jesus even appeared bodily to over 500 people after resurrection. A pretty big deal I'd say. But in the upper room there were only 120 on the day of Pentecost. What happened to the 380? Golf game?
From those three postulates here are 3 conclusions:
1. Evangelizing takes place only after inquiry. If a person isn't asking the question your answer is useless. The questions usually come on the heels of a personal crisis of some kind. Much of what we think of as evangelism is answering questions people aren't asking.
2. Attempted evangelistic persuasion without the calling of the Holy Ghost is useless effort. In fact it will only cause a riot or ridicule.
3. Information, even supernatural information like a person rising from the dead isn't enough to make disciples. Hunger must be stirred and fed.
I have read carefully all 3 biblical references to evangelism I have cross referenced that to include any reference of which there are 4, to any kind of worker in the Gospel. I have read the whole book of Second Timothy over and over again to get a glimpse into what evangelism really is and what we should or shouldn't expect from evangelism.

I know that in the Greek there is an equivalency of evangelism to missionary preaching. I'm probably not going overseas anytime soon. Likely neither are you. So how does that work? Unless we look at our mission field as within 10 yards, the distance of a first down, our neighbors, our friends, our associates we miss the point.

If I am doing the work of an evangelist what should be the net result? If I'm a hole digger, I did a hole, I do the work of a hole digger, I get a hole, and a pile of dirt. If I'm an evangelist what result should be expected of me to wear that ministry office appellation?

To say conversions are the net result of evangelism is not accurate. To say that decisions for Jesus are net results may be missing the point. Both are part but there is more. A clue. Conversions and decisions are measurable results but for the most part superficial and short lived. I know how it is. So do you. You have had many conversions and decisions who fell off the radar screen completely. So have I.

I think as I have really tried to dig down very deep I have found only ONE passage that in my opinion really grasps the heart of evangelism.

Here's the backdrop to the story:
Jerusalem, about 30 AD, just before Passover.
It takes place just after The Palm Sunday Hosanna’s. The story of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead is on everyone’s lips. Judas has now decided to betray Jesus. The Sanhedrin leadership is plotting on how to get rid of this pesky Galilean.

Some Greeks have come to town to be part of the Passover Celebration. If they were really from Greece or were simply Gentiles they ask Phillip for an audience with Jesus.

Jesus, not being rude decides to tell the disciples what was about to happen and to start to instruct them in genuine evangelism.

From John, Chapter 12, Verses 20-50 New Living Translation:

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to attend the Passover paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, "Sir, we want to meet Jesus." Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.
Jesus replied, "The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. The truth is, a kernel of wheat must be planted in the soil. Unless it dies it will be alone-a single seed. But its death will produce many new kernels-a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, `Father, save me from what lies ahead'? But that is the very reason why I came! Father, bring glory to your name."

Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, "I have already brought it glory, and I will do it again." When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.
Then Jesus told them, "The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time of judgment for the world has come, when the prince of this world* will be cast out. And when I am lifted up on the cross,* I will draw everyone to myself." He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

"Die?" asked the crowd. "We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. Why are you saying the Son of Man will die? Who is this Son of Man you are talking about?"

Jesus replied, "My light will shine out for you just a little while longer. Walk in it while you can, so you will not stumble when the darkness falls. If you walk in the darkness, you cannot see where you are going. Believe in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light." After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them. But despite all the miraculous signs he had done, most of the people did not believe in him. This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted:

"Lord, who has believed our message?
To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power?" Isaiah 53:1

But the people couldn't believe, for as Isaiah also said,

"The Lord has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts-
so their eyes cannot see,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them." Isaiah 6:10

Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he made this prediction, because he was given a vision of the Messiah's glory. Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in him. But they wouldn't admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

Jesus shouted to the crowds, "If you trust me, you are really trusting God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness. If anyone hears me and doesn't obey me, I am not his judge-for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged at the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don't speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me gave me his own instructions as to what I should say. And I know his instructions lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say!"

Now, if we take Jesus at his word, if we see how he just a few days before his brutal death on the Cross stripped naked uses his time to instruct, he gives us clear instruction on what and how to get the desired net results in evangelism.

Tomorrow, How many Evangelists does it take to change a light bulb?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Evangilism - Getting it WRONG

In a conversation with my son Tim who is a better theologian than I am, the topic was, "what is or is NOT evangelism". This is on my mind right now. I am coming to the conclusion that the western Church by and large is a waste of time and energy. Unless the western Church starts getting things right it will decay into oblivion.

This is important because I am rethinking the ministry gift of evangelism that lies within the 5 fold of Ephesians 4. I have come to a deeper understanding of what the Apostle, Prophet, Teacher and Pastor are. I know they are in that order. I just don't know what the Evangelist does or is supposed to be doing.

That does NOT make the evangelist least in importance but there must be something to evangelize within. The Apostle and Prophet manifest the vision and order of the Church and the Teacher instructs and corrects the saints for the work of the ministry. The Pastor heals and encourages the Saints to move out.

What then is the role and the function of the evangelist? How does it work? How does one know if they are doing the work of the evangelist? What should be the benchmarks of an evangelist?

I have known many who were proclaimed by themselves and others to be evangelists. I don't know if very many of them really are or ever were .
What evangelism is NOT:
  • Inviting people to a meeting, to church, small group, bible study while good things to do is not evangelism.
  • Giving people a book or tract is not evangelism although many people have come to Jesus by a book or tract.
  • Speaking in front of a large group of Africans as you see regularly on TV while having the net effect of creating an evangelistic environment is not evangelism.
  • Having a TV program with passionate guests and a 1-800 number at the bottom of the screen to call a prayer partner while having the capacity to be a way people come to Jesus is not actually evangelism.
  • Introducing people to the Pastor is not evangelism. He might help. It's just not evangelism.
In fact before I tell you what evangelism is, I submit that as I have queried several people, read books, and did research on the subject, I have come to the sad conclusion, almost no one really understands or engages overtly in real evangelism.

Oh, conversions happen. But they are scattergun. Lots of fire, smoke, noise and buckshot. 99% misses the mark. But now and then even a blind sow finds an acorn. A person is converted. Angels rejoice in heaven. Christians get excited and try to create a scattergun evangelism program. They spend lots of time and energy attempting to replicate what worked by accident once.

This is NOT evangelism. This is busy, ineffective and badly executed. Most of what we spend in money and effort in evangelism is lost.

As a caveat. I have been part of some HUGE evangelistic efforts around the nation and internationally. Worked the altar. Prayed with sinners. Took names, got cards.
Here's the truth. Out of 100 heartfelt decisions for Jesus we retained 3 after 1 year. We did the math. We did the research. What a waste. It would have been better for the 97 to have never attended this crusade. They have hardened their hearts further and will be doubly difficult to reach in the future. I won't participate in these things any more.

Most "Evangelists" would tell us that pitiful result is the church's fault, that the discipleship efforts were wrong. That the follow-up stunk. That we weren't loving enough. That we didn't assimilate them enough.


The reality is, they weren't ever evangelized. Oh, they prayed a sinners prayer, asked Jesus into their heart after having HELL scared out of them. They just weren't evangelized.
So, here is the question, What is the net result of evangelism? What should be the fruit of evangelism?

It's not as simple as it seems and it's not what you think. I am going to use a pretty scary source for my argument. Ready for this?

The Bible.


More tomorrow.