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Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

marketingI know it feels like marketing sometimes, this “evangelism” or spreading of the gospel, the good news. Back in the day, it was a little different since communication was a personal craft. People who could speak well or or turn a phrase, or read, were the ones who led the way. People who had miraculous experiences were quick to tell (for a season) and eyewitnesses retold what they saw and/or heard again and again. But, have we been playing “chinese telephone?”

The Lord has commanded us to do this. Remember His words:I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel, so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth.” [Isa 49:6] These words created two strong reactions. The outsiders were thrilled and praised God’s message, and all those who had been appointed for eternal life became believers. Through them the Lord’s message spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders united the aristocratic religious women and the city’s leading men in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and soon they were persecuted and driven out of the region. They [Paul and Barnabas] simply shook the dust off their feet in protest and moved on . . . [Acts 13:47-51a]

Oral traditions are powerful. The personal telling of a story or episode is always more compelling than a newspaper article or textbook telling of the same event. We have all read about the execution of 6 million Jews in the second world war, but meeting and speaking with even one survivor of the Holocaust will sear the mind forever.  Just last week, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, we were appalled and even fascinated, watching hour after hour for the smallest bit of news. And yet, the reality of that story was much more immediate when I spoke to Mary whose daughter was in the race. She was there.

Over the Easter season, I watched the old movie, The Robe, again. The phrase that keeps ringing through my mind was, “Were you there?” And this was the point: being “there,” being at the crucifixion was the turning point for Marcellus Gallio [Richard Burton]. And, in the end, when he finally embraces his first hand experience, he is changed.

It is our own first hand experiences that change us as well. Some of those sagas are dramatic and others are not. We cannot all have a “road to Damascus” [Acts 9] story. And yet, there is something personal that moved us from one place to another, from one belief to another, from one understanding to another. Each moment is different and even unique. When did you come to believe?

But I urge us all to take care. We are not longer living in an oral society. We are living in the Twitterverse where Google and Facebook have become verbs, where the image now trumps words, and “reach” means how many “eyeballs” we can accumulate and entice to land on a web page or a flat screen.

The gospel is not a show. It’s not some event that we are “marketing.” The gospel is only as dynamic as your story is for you.

The rest is hype. And just as you get sick of seeing the same commercial over and over again, so people grow tired of hearing and seeing the canned gospel.

If it really means something to  you . . . to me, then that is story I have to tell. And if it resonates, that’s great. If not, then I simply knock the dust from my shoes and keep on keeping on. Because I know my story is true. I cannot convince anyone to believe it. It just is what it is for me.

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Illustration by Brain Danaher

I’m not much into fishing. In fact, I’d say I’ve gone fishing exactly one time. This metaphor for drawing people to the Christ doesn’t exactly resonate. My view of fishing: get some equipment, pick/find a spot, bait the hook, throw it out and wait; get a nibble and yank like crazy. Lose fish. Start over.

Matthew 4:19-20
As He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He noticed two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, throwing a dragnet into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, Come after Me [as disciples—letting Me be your Guide], follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men! [Amplified]

What’s the attraction for fishing? I see people fishing off our town dock all the time. Sometimes in small groups, sometimes alone, sometimes with a kid-relative. When I go on vacation, there are signs everywhere for bait (apparently different bait works with different fish – I got that much). And the first time I actually walked around the fishing department of a sports store, I was shocked. There were so many different lures and poles and gadgets. Did these actually make someone a better fisherman or just high tech?

But let’s go back to the message behind the metaphor. Jesus was talking to fishermen who used nets. It was more like a drop it in and haul ’em out kind of fishing. The expectation was that “human fish” would be hauled in by the hundreds and even thousands. I wonder if the fishermen-disciples started out expecting some additional equipment.

In the end, the fishing was done quite differently: travel, talk, share, teaching, listen, accept, and invite. The bait was love. Only one kind: unconditional.

Some people still think fishing for people requires a lot of extra stuff like buildings and hot worship music and lights and video and an “online presence.” Are people so different today? Or are we just in a hurry?

Peter was in a hurry. By the time he got to the day of Pentecost, he was bringing in believers by the net full. But in the end, despite the initial haul, the most effective method was still travel (go to where the fish are), talking (give and take conversation), sharing (give what you have and can), teaching (what you’ve learned long the way), listening (everyone has a story), accepting (practicing the art of non-judgment), inviting (live life together) and love (do, act, and touch in their best interests).

In God’s time, I am fishing every time I with someone, every time I engage with someone, every time I touch someone, every time I share space with another human being. My success as a fisher-woman is my commitment to handing out the bait.

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Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…

I am currently reading The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight who made this comparison between views of salvation.

So often, people think of salvation as a “birth certificate” and once they’re born again, the work is done and they have their “pass” into heaven. But his Jesus Creed, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. [Luke 10:27] takes more than just a “pass.” Hence, the idea of a Driver’s License in which we learn and become better at the skill.

Love is a skill. Love is conscious. Love is intentional. Love is risk. Love is trust. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is other-oriented. Therefore, love is also humility.

These do not come naturally to us. I think it’s interesting that I Corinthians 13, the great “love” chapter, actually highlights all the things that love is NOT more so than what love is. Perhaps this is because we more familiar with the “nots” of love.

I have two teenagers who have put off learning to drive a car for almost 2 years. They have plenty of friends, a brother, and parents, who have been hauling them around. They have not seen a “need” for a driver’s license. A driver’s license is a scary business. How many of us remember that first day we got behind a wheel? When did we really start getting comfortable as drivers? So often, we take the whole process for granted.

I can see this applying to a lot of Christians (including me). As long as we remain in our safe environments, go to church every Sunday, drop a buck or two in the offering plate, attend a workshop or a covered dish, we’re good. The driver’s license form of salvation requires more of us… of me. I mean, I’ve had my Jesus license for 30 years. Isn’t it time to start driving into some unfamiliar roads and places?

My daughter has finally started driving practices. She is fearful of all the other drivers. She still drives very slowly. She is very cautious. When we start using our Jesus license, we will be the same way. But, in the end, we must build up our speed. We must trust what we know. We must integrate all the rules with the pleasure of it. We must teach others to drive. And that’s the scariest part of all.

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John 3:17 (Amplified edition)
For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.

How many of us have forgotten that the Son didn’t come just “to save” us as individuals but for the sake of the world. Just like the world in the time of Noah, we have been on a crash course for ruin. And everything has suffered: the animals, the landscape, the oceans, the weather, the children … everything. So God sent his “only Son” to make a supreme sacrifice so that the law of sowing and reaping could be nullified for anyone who believed in Him. This process is not just so you and I can go to “heaven” when we give our bodies back to the Earth. This “deal” was made for the whole world. This was a supernatural transaction.

Those of us who have believed are in the recovery business…. recovering that which has been lost.
We are in the lighting business… shining in the dark places.
We are in the food business… bringing savor (salt) to the tasteless.
We are in the hydro business… bringing streams of water to the dry places.
We are in the messenger business… bringing the good news that the Kingdom of God is near.

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