one at a time by Kyle Idleman–Book Review

I’ve been reading this book during my morning devotional time. It’s an easy read, but so challenging (at least to me). As Christians, we all want to make a difference but how do we do that? Often, we are so distracted by the many tasks we set ourselves, and by the immensity of the work we see before us that we lose heart. According to Kyle Idleman, the key is this — notice and love one person at a time. This is what is known as friendship evangelism.

This idea isn’t new — Jesus modeled it for us. Using many Biblical examples, the author illustrates the way that Jesus, even among crowds, was able to “zoom in” on one person and lovingly address their concerns and needs. He met people where they were — at meals, at parties, at times when they were ill, at times of grief. He did not heal or save everyone, but he focused on the person in front of Him. This is the way God chose to change the world. We can continue His mission in the same way.

Practical and encouraging, one at a time would be an excellent choice for a small group study.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Recommended reading for all Christians!

For more books for your small group see:

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton–Book Review

When Words Matter Most by Cheryl Marshall & Caroline Newheiser–Book Review

Difference Makers by Gregg Matte–Book Revi

Make a Friend, Be a Friend, Bring your friend to Christ

My recent post, The Rub, made me think about a song we often use on Via de Cristo retreat weekends — “Shake a Friend’s Hand.”  Part of the weekend message is that we influence people for Christ only when we are willing to become a friend.  We have to rub against them in a tangible way.  This song is a childish one that is often used on Saturday evening when we’ve all become tired and a bit silly.  However, it expresses the theme well.  Enjoy it and become childish in a good way, by accepting everyone you meet as a possible friend.

What’s Your Story #2

Years ago I worked with a younger woman named Vanessa.  We became friends, although we didn’t see each much outside of work.  We talked quite a bit, especially about our husbands and children.  I probably talked about church a lot.  One day Vanessa told me that she and her husband came from very different faith traditions–neither one felt completely comfortable in the other’s family church.  One was quite formal, the other very informal.  As a consequence, they weren’t attending church at all.  Out of my mouth came words that really surprised me,  “why don’t you come to my church, I think it’s somewhere in the middle!”

I was immediately nervous, fearing Vanessa would now think I was going to try to “convert” her at every opportunity and our comfortable work friendship would become strained.  Well, that didn’t happen but we didn’t broach the subject again, and she didn’t show up at church the next Sunday.

Time passed, and our church had their yearly yard sale.  Vanessa and her family stopped by and spoke with me and some other members.  Then a few weeks later, her family did come to Sunday worship.  Eventually they became members.

My point?  Well God uses even our fumbling, reluctant witness to call people to Him.  The Holy Spirit works in us and through us even when we’re not paying much attention.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27

When have you felt the prompting of the Spirit and where and to whom has it led you?



What’s Your Story?

I’ve heard it called friendship evangelism.  In the Via de Cristo movement there is a phrase to describe it:  make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.  Here’s one story about how that works.

When our older daughter, Beth, was in second grade she asked if she could have a sleep over party for her birthday.  Boy we were surprised to find out that the first person she invited was a little boy named Sean who was her friend at after school daycare!  We used to joke that it was our first and last co-ed sleepover!

The party was on Saturday and we told all the parents that we would take the children to church with us on Sunday morning and then drop them off at their homes.  On the way home Sean just kept saying over and over, “I love that church.  I wish I went to that church.”  I was touched and told my husband, “He lives right around the corner from church:  we could bring him with us every week.”  So Terry asked Sean’s mother if he could come with us, and she said yes.

People kept telling Sean how happy they were to see him visiting our church.  Sean’s answer was, “I don’t want to be a visitor, I want to be a member!”  After some time passed, Sean’s mother and brother showed up at church, too.  And then, finally his dad started coming.  They became active members, and eventually Sean’s dad was elected President of the congregation.  I heard him say that he had been loved into the church by the acceptance and friendship of the people he met there.

Friendship evangelism takes time.  It requires listening for the nudging of the Holy Spirit.  It means building relationships.  For many people, it’s the story of how they became Christians.

How about you?  What’s your story?

With Gentleness and Respect


Years ago, when our younger daughter Kate(now one of the Lutheran ladies) had just started high school, I received a phone call from the school office.  I was told that Kate would be suspended for three days because she was caught smoking.  The school secretary was somewhat apologetic, probably because Kate was a good student, and explained the punishment was mandatory.  She added “We want you to know that Kate was very respectful and polite when we questioned her.”

 Of course, I was unhappy and disappointed.  However, I know that teenagers push the boundaries and I trusted Kate would learn from her mistake and its’ consequences.  Surprisingly, the school called me back later the same day to say they had been wrong, and Kate would not be suspended.  Kate insisted that she was not smoking.  Because of her past history and her courteous behavior, the principal spoke with the coach who reported the smoking incident.  She had seen Kate with a group of students who were smoking, and assumed Kate was also.  She admitted she did not actually see Kate with a cigarette. 

 By this time you’re probably wondering, “and what is the point of this story?”  Well, here it is: Kate’s prior behavior and courtesy earned her a hearing.  The school took a second look at the evidence and realized Kate was telling the truth.  As Christians we can learn a lesson from this.  The Bible tells us:

    “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”(1 Peter 3:15). 

  People will not listen to the good news of the gospel from a person they perceive as self righteous.  They will not listen to a person who buries them in Bible verses without giving them a chance to respond.  They will not listen when they are treated as if the views they hold are ignorant or stupid. 

 Many people today know practically nothing about Christianity beyond generalities that they accept as truth. They’ve heard a lot of New Age nonsense about what it means to be spiritual. They may have been told that all religions are the same, just different paths to God. To them the Bible is simply another book they haven’t read and they have no incentive to accept what it says. To give them “ears that can hear” we must first earn their trust.  We must listen to them respectfully, and then, when the opportunity presents, gently explain our own beliefs.  We can tell them about our personal experiences and the things we know to be true as witnesses, not theologians or even students of the Bible.  We can answer their questions without being condescending.  If our attitude and behavior is caring, kind, and humble it may lead some to take a closer look at what we have to say.  Then we can trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.