Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

At our denomination’s annual conference this year there was a lot of talk about evangelism. Not surprising, as that is primary the mission of the church. I was struck by the many creative ways that different congregations were going about that mission. For example:

  1. We have a church plant in Hawaii that meets in a park by the ocean, and partners with a surf shop to offer free surfing lessons.
  2. One pastor regularly breakfasts at the local diner, she he can meet and get to know folks in the neighborhood.
  3. Another church, during the winter months, floods an area nearby to create a skating rink for the community. They also visit the local laundromat and offer to pay for people to do their laundry.
  4. A Chinese American pastor has started a ministry to visiting Asian students and faculty at the local college.
  5. One of our pastors has written a book about his experience doing prison ministry.

It strikes me that there is one thing that all these strategies have in common –they all involve building relationships. That’s how the church grows, and no amount of advertising will replace it. If we want others to catch the vision of the Christian life, we must be willing to go out and meet them where they are. We must be in relationship with them. We must care about them.

Lutheran Via de Cristo puts it this way: Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. So, who is the person in your life that you can befriend? (I am asking myself as well).

For more about relationships see:

Servant Relationships

Prayerful Relationships

It’s All About Relationships

Evangelism–Thinking Outside the Box

At the recent AFLC Annual Conference, my husband and I attended a program called Rekindle the Fire. This is offered yearly for pastors and their wives, and it focuses on evangelism and discipleship.

This year we heard from some speakers who told us about ways they are trying to reach out to their communities, things that may be a bit (or a lot) different. I was particularly impressed by a young pastor who has started a gathering in Hawaii. He is bi-vocational (in other words, he has another job in addition to pastoring the church). They do not have a church building, instead they meet in a park by the beach. They partner with a company to provide free surfing lessons once a month, host picnic style meetings, and reach out to people in other ways that are non-traditional. Here are the points he made about how to “do” evangelism.

  1. You can do anything short of sin to attract people– (for example, surfing!), in other words, what would folks in your environment enjoy doing together? Provide that or be there for that.
  2. Bring the church to the people — sometimes it’s difficult for unchurched people to walk into a church building for the first time, so meet them where they already are. Also, many will encounter you for the first time on social media.
  3. Speak their language. Using words that the unchurched do not understand may be intimidating, so avoid unfamiliar terminology
  4. Be real and authentic. We’re all sinners, and we don’t need to appear to be perfect –just saved. Sharing your struggles will encourage others to participate
  5. Your life is your mission field. We all have spheres of influence –friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers. These people should be the first ones to evangelize.

If you would like to learn more about the gathering in Hawaii, here is a link to their website: https://www.wbg.church/.

For more about evangelism see:

Mercy Ministry & Evangelism — Fanning the Flame CD

one at a time by Kyle Idleman–Book Review

Teach A Friend About Christ

Can’t We Do More?

The AFLC is not really a Synod, we are an association. The congregation is considered the right form of the Kingdom of God on earth–nothing decided at the Annual Conference is binding on individual congregations. One of the reasons the AFLC exists is because, as a group of congregations, we can accomplish things that could not be done individually.  The support of missionaries is one of those things. There are AFLC missionaries in Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, and Uganda.  There are also several missionaries on loan to other organizations such as Wycliffe, working to translate the Bible into other languages.  One of the highlights of the Annual Conference is the report from World Missions about these folks and what they have been doing. If you would like more information, you can visit:  https://www.aflcworldmissions.org/.

As I was arranging a display of the missionary families for one of the bulletin boards at our church, I came across this quote by William Carey (missionary to India in the late 1700’s):

“Is not the commission of our Lord still binding upon us?  Can we not do more than we are doing?”

The commission of course, is from Matthew 28:19-20

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

This really convicted me. I know that I, as an individual, could certainly do more. I think my congregation could do more.  Everyone reading this post, can probably do more to support these people who are sacrificing to spread the Word of God. We can pray– not just once, but regularly. We can send notes of encouragement. We can donate funds or needed supplies.

So, my thought for the day is this: what can you do to support someone else in their service for our Lord?

For more about missionaries and evangelism see these posts:

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn–Book Review

The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs–Book Review

resuscitating evangelism by Jordan Easley and Ernest Easley–Book Review

You Give Them Something to Eat

At our most recent Wednesday night service (Lutherans often do this during Lent), the gospel reading was the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand taken from the book of Luke. Our pastor had an interesting take on this familiar story. He focused in on the fact that the disciples were whining, telling Jesus to send the crowd away. After all, it would soon be evening, and all these people needed to eat. It made sense. Instead of acquiescing, however, Jesus issues what amounts to a command:

“…’You give them something to eat.'”

As usual, the disciples don’t get it. There’s simply not enough food to go around. What are they expected to do? Jesus just wants them to cooperate with Him, to trust Him. Even though they’ve seen Jesus heal and perform other miracles, they doubt. So, He guides them, step by step. Have the people sit down, He tells them. He blesses the bread and fish and instructs the disciples to distribute it. Lo and behold, everyone there ate–not just a bite or two, either. They ate enough to be satisfied, with leftovers to boot!

The point our pastor made is this: we need to put ourselves in this story. The world is full of hungry people. Some are hungry for food, but many more are hungry for hope and for a purpose in life. We, the church, have the food that they need–food for the body, and also food for the soul. We have the gospel, and Jesus has commanded us to share it with others. Our job is to go and tell–Jesus will make sure that what we offer is more than enough. We can trust Him to do that.

For more about trusting God see these posts:

When Things are Unclear–Trust God

Grow Through Surrender and Trust

Trust and Obey

Teach A Friend About Christ

The person who combines her natural abilities to teach and lead others becomes a Christian leader. For most of us that means simply living out our calling in the families, workplaces, and congregations where God has placed us. Martin Luther said, “people who quietly do their jobs, tend their children, run the farms, fix shoes, cut hair and teach the children are the glue that holds the world together.” Each of us is called, each of us is chosen, each of us is gifted and entrusted with the task of transforming our little portion of the world. God promises that if we are rooted in Him, we will bear fruit.

Think of the disciples: a couple of uneducated fishermen, one particularly inclined to speak without thinking; a hotheaded zealot; a despised tax collector; an introvert or two that we never learn much about. Yet, when they began to preach and teach, “people were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” We are not so different. When we work as if everything depends upon us, and pray as if everything depends upon the Lord, He will transform our natural talents into extraordinary spiritual gifts.

That doesn’t mean we won’t have doubts or feel inadequate. Years ago, I worked with a young woman named Vanessa. In the natural course of things, we shared what we did outside of the office, the things that were important to us. I often talked about my faith and my church. Vanessa shared that she and her husband came from different religious traditions and so they seldom went to church at all. They hadn’t found a place that worked for both of them. One day, out of the blue, I invited Vanessa to my church. I know it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, because it had never occurred to me to do that. Immediately I felt uncomfortable. Now Vanessa would think I was some kind of pushy, religious nut and back away from our friendship. Well, it wasn’t that bad — but Vanessa didn’t come to church with me that week. A year later, after she changed jobs, I ran into her and she said, “I think I’d like to visit your church now.” She did, and in time she, her husband and her children were all baptized and confirmed. When her mother died, Vanessa told me how much being part of a caring Christian community meant to her during that difficult time.

As Christians, don’t we want everyone to experience that comfort and caring, whenever, however they need it? If we see a movie that excites us, we’re quick to say, “It’s great, you must go see it!” If we share Christ in the same natural and enthusiastic way, people will notice and some of them will change. Like the boy in the story of the loaves and fishes, when we offer our gift, however small, to Jesus, He will take it and use it to bless many.

I’m not done yet ….

For more about evangelism see:

Introverted Evangelism

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Evangelism

Mercy Ministry & Evangelism — Fanning the Flame CD

Go Home

Continuing my lectio divina reading of the book of Mark, in chapter 5, this verse stood out for me:

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you …” Mark 5:19b

Jesus has just cast an unclean spirit out of a man who had been suffering for years.  As Jesus gets in the boat to leave the area, the healed man begs to come along.  Instead he is instructed to go back to his home, to tell the people he knows about what has happened.

This reminds me that sometimes it’s not easy to talk about our faith in Jesus to the people closest to us.  We probably all have friends and relatives who are not believers, or who profess belief but don’t really practice the faith.  Maybe they know that we go to church.  Maybe we send them a Christian Christmas card each year.  Maybe we even invite them to worship with us occasionally.  I find myself asking, after reading these verses, is this enough?  Have I really tried to tell them how much the Lord has done for me?  Would it make a difference?

Jesus doesn’t say we need to know a lot of theology;  he doesn’t say we have to worry about their reaction;  he just says to tell what He has done for us.  So think about it.  What has Jesus done for you?  In my case, I could say, He has kept my marriage intact (nobody can survive 50 years together without the grace of God!). He has enabled me to forgive others (thereby avoiding all the problems that come with chronic resentment).  He has given me good friends in the faith with whom I can work toward common goals.  He has made my life meaningful.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without Jesus.  I know it would not have been as good.

So, that’s all I have to do.  Tell others, especially those in my closest circle, what He has done for me.  I can do that.  You can do it, too.

For more of my lectio series on the book of Mark see:

Pay Attention to What You Hear

I Can Do Better

Come Here!

 

 

resuscitating evangelism by Jordan Easley and Ernest Easley–Book Review

Sometimes we feel guilty because we are, and this book will make many readers feel deservedly guilty (I include myself here).  We all know that as Christians, the Great Commission tells us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”(Mark 6:15).  But here’s the question:  when was the last time you shared your faith with someone? Be honest. If you can’t remember, you’re not doing your job as a faithful follower of Christ.

The authors walk us through the reasons we avoid evangelizing:

  • Apathy (I don’t really care)
  • Apprehension ( I’m afraid)
  • Abdication (it’s not my responsibility)
  • Inadequacy (I don’t know enough)

While stressing that evangelism is not the responsibility of the pastor or staff alone, the authors believe it is necessary for the leaders of the congregation to create an atmosphere that expects and values evangelism.  This can be done through careful planning, so that there are regular, consistent (weekly, monthly, yearly) evangelism events.  Some should be training, others reaching out into the community.  Most churches have a preference (perhaps due to the giftedness of their pastor) for either discipleship or evangelism.  Actually, both are needed for the congregation to remain healthy and growing.

Every church can evangelize. Good suggestions were included for those who want to change their church culture.  This is not something that will happen quickly, but requires attention and effort over the long term.

Overall this book was biblically based and helpful.  Take note that the authors are Southern Baptists, so some of their suggestions, for example the “invitation” at the end of the service, simply could not be used by Lutherans because of our theological differences.

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  It was easy to read, and most will find some practical ideas for increasing evangelistic activity in their church.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/resuscitating-evangelism-P005811473

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

 

 

A Quote on the Christian Life by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I wonder how many of us meet this standard?

For other quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer visit these posts:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian Freedom

Staying On Course–Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Piety

The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs–Book Review

This book review was written for our Fanning the Flame team by one of our members, Barbara G.  I have edited it a bit to make it shorter for the blog.

The author of this book truly loves the Lord and is trying to convey to the reader what we, as people who love Jesus, should do with our lives.

This book is divided into sections.  The first stresses the mission of the world.  That mission is Christ’s Great Commission that he gave to his disciples before his ascension.  The Great Commission is for the whole church of Christ and not just the apostles.  Jesus said there were four horizons for the apostles to spread God’s word.  The first was Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem for the church should be the town in which we live, work and raise our families.  What are you and your church doing to draw people to Jesus in your Jerusalem?  The second horizon is Judea.  This is our country.  We send our ministers to all parts of the U.S.A. to spread the word of God as Jesus commanded.  Is your church  doing their part in your Jerusalem?  The third horizon is Samaria.  These are people in our community who are different from us.  There is a lot of hostility in our country today and that is why we must preach the word of God to everyone in our community.  Is your church building bridges in your community to those who are red, yellow, black and white?  The fourth horizon is the Ends of the Earth.  Is your church sending missionaries to countries all around the world to reach those who know nothing about Jesus Christ?  Barr says the last horizon is the original, literal Jerusalem and Judea.  God is not forgetting the people of Israel.  They are God’s olive tree into which we are grafted, if we are Gentiles.

In the next section the kindness and perseverance of God are explained.  God doesn’t give up on us. Our personal history is part of God’s plan. Someday we will meet someone we can introduce to God, and then we will see clearer God’s plan for our own life.  In this section, he gave his testimony and explained the barriers we face when we decide that we want to evangelize to the world.

In the final section, he reveals how we must respect all those with whom we share God’s word, and explains how Jesus did it.  We must learn about the beliefs of other people so that we can see how and why they live the way they do.  We must use much kindness, love and understanding as we clarify God’s good news to those we try to reach.  Lastly he explains how Paul denounced the Greek’s confidence in rhetorical skills, rather than in truths.  Paul said, give God’s truth in your quest to win souls for Christ and God’s truth will be the words that convince their hearts.  Clever words are not necessary.

Mercy Ministry & Evangelism — Fanning the Flame CD

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38

I gathered with some other Fanning the Flame team members recently to listen to a CD lecture by Pastor Harry Reeder on the topic of mercy ministries.

Pastor Reeder called mercy ministries “the gateway to the kingdom of God” and the preeminent strategy for evangelism.  Unfortunately in our churches we often regard such ministries as simply a drain on our resources.  The greatest mission field is those who are in need of mercy.  Most of our evangelism efforts center around gospel words, but some won’t listen to those words until they see our gospel deeds —  deeds of love mercy and justice.

Here’s what will happen when we undertake mercy ministries:

  • God will be glorified because the world will see a full picture of authentic Christianity
  • People will be influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Our own members will be encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they are incorporated into ministry

He did have a word of warning.  It is important to ensure that the ministries undertaken are constructive.  They should take time to teach that God has a purpose for pain and suffering and that He can take our brokenness and use it.  Those who are suffering are not victims, and we must love them, not tolerate them, building on improving self respect rather than guilt and shame.

Here are some of the steps Pastor Reeder’s recommends:

  • Make mercy and mercy ministry a part of the congregational culture
  • Do Bible study and preaching that will lead members to develop a theology of mercy
  • Equip people to be involved in mercy ministry as part of discipleship training
  • Pray for a champion for this ministry
  •  Ask God to reveal a starting point for the ministry
  • Make sure mercy ministry is gospel-driven, Christ-centered and has evangelism embedded in it
  • Create a project/s that allow a low level of commitment and an ending date to encourage people to give it a try
  • Make sure leaders take responsibility for the project
  • Be strategic–impel and compel others to get involved

For me, the real eye opener is the idea that mercy ministry should be the 1ST strategy for evangelism.  As spiritual gifts coordinator, I have discoved that we have few people with the gift of evangelism, but many with the gift of mercy.  We can do this.