Tag Archives: Evangelism

Where Does Evangelism Really Take Place?

3 Jan

I started this blog two years ago at the urging of family members who argued that, “Every serious writer needs a blog.” I had just been laid off from a terrific job (the victim of a company-wide reorganization), and had plenty of time on my hands. I confess that I didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew that I had a passion for youth, missions, and evangelism and decided to experiment by blogging about all three.

I’ve had a great time and have learned a lot since then. I have a much better idea about what works and what doesn’t than I did in the beginning and now it’s time to narrow the focus. That’s why, over the next few weeks, the blog will be getting a new look and feel. We’ll do our best to make the pages a bit more “reader-friendly” and bring up the tenor of the blog to match our “viewing audience” (most of whom happen to be adults rather than youth).

We’ll also be exploring some new subject matter as we delve into the world of workplace relations. The Bible has quite a bit to say about how we handle ourselves in relation to bosses and coworkers. Most of us spend almost as much time at our jobs as we do at home. Our bosses and our coworkers are our most immediate sphere of influence. They see how we react to unpleasant customers, how we handle disagreements with members of staff, even how we approach simple things like showing up on time. While we may view our presence “on the job” as something that simply pays the bills, our attitudes and actions can have a huge impact on the way bosses and coworkers view both Christians and Christ.

With that in mind, next week, we’re going to begin exploring what it takes to let Christ shine through us in an environment which often appears quite hostile towards faith of any kind. We’ll examine what the Bible says about common workplace issues like teamwork, submission to authority, and job security and take a closer look at some of the stickier issues like dishonesty and discrimination. We’ll also be exploring ways in which we can thoughtfully develop our careers even as we openly live our faith. It’s sure to be an interesting journey and I look forward to our taking it together!

How to Talk about Jesus without Freaking Out

22 Jul

A Hollywood producer, Karen Covell was used to speaking her mind on just about everything… except, that is, her faith.  For some reason, opening her mouth to explain why she trusted in Christ left her feeling weak-kneed.  Why was it that she had such difficulty expressing the one thing that mattered most?

Evangelism can be challengeing – especially for those of us who weren’t gifted with Billy Graham’s charisma.  Put us on the spot and we freeze.  We know we should say something, but what? Even if we do know what, how can we be sure we’ve said all of the “important” stuff?  And what do we do if the conversation turns hostile?  The answers to these questions may be simpler than we think.

In How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out), Karen, her husband Jim (a composer) and friend Victorya (an agent) draw upon their own experiences to teach readers a simple, relational way to talk about Christ without feeling awkward.  Like most things in Hollywood, the technique is based upon the concept of story-telling: the story of the person in front of you, your personal story, and the story of God and His love for humanity.  It’s about learning to give a testimony – in a way that clearly and honestly demonstrates the work of Christ in you.

Packed full of helpful hints and tips on everything from addressing personal fears to answering deep theological questions, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out) provides readers with a variety of effective techniques that will be comfortable for any personality type.  It’s a great introduction to evangelism for everyone whether they’re new to the faith or an old hand!

Re-released by Thrilling LIfe Publishers in 2013, How to Talk About Jesus (Without Freaking Out) is available for $16.14 in paperback.

Internet Evangelism: A Lesson in Etiquette

28 Jun

If anything can stir up a good online controversy, it’s the subject of religion.  Perhaps the reason for this is that the internet allows us the opportunity to share everything we think or feel without anyone knowing who we are and with little risk that our words will be censored.  Electronic media allows us to send our deepest thoughts across the globe in a matter of seconds, spreading our version of the “Good News” to anyone who will listen and, oft times, to many who won’t.

That’s why, this week, we’re taking a look at a few rules of internet etiquette and sharing some tips for those who want to utilize the web to share their Christian faith.  It is our hope that these will help you become a better example of Christ in a less than Christ-centered medium and, perhaps, make a difference in the way the online community views those who see things from our perspective.

  1.  Don’t troll.  It’s great that you want to share the Gospel, but how you share that Gospel can make a big difference in people’s attitudes towards this important message.  If a site or conversation doesn’t naturally lend itself to religious discussion, don’t force your way in.  More than once, I’ve seen someone toss out John 3:16 in the middle of a gaming dialogue or go into a full-blown explanation of the Salvation message on a site that has nothing to do with religion.  While these “hit-and-run” tactics do occasionally produce fruit, most of the time, they simply produce a sense of annoyance amongst their victims.  If you want to share effectively, be selective.  Seek out those who want to exchange views and don’t bother those who don’t with pithy phrases or random verses.
  2. Don’t mistake anonymity for license.  This follows quite naturally from our first rule.  Too many times, I’ve seen Christians say or do things online that they would never do in real life.  While there is much to be said for the courage that can be gained when someone isn’t looking you in the eye, there are pitfalls as well.  One of these is the tendency to speak more freely and with less tact than we would if addressing a personal friend.  The result?  Christians online have gained a reputation for being thoughtless and inconsiderate: two things that Jesus wasn’t.  Before weighing in on a conversation, consider your words.  If you wouldn’t speak this way to your family, friends, or co-workers, you shouldn’t be speaking this way at all!  Not sure whether you should say something?  Take a moment to ask yourself how you would feel if someone said something similar to you?  If you’d feel put off, they probably will too.
  3. Be people-driven, not agenda-driven.  It can be tempting to presume that internet dialogues are a “one-shot” chance at sharing Christ with someone.  While this can be true, it’s equally true that genuine relationships can be formed online.  (Just ask my fiancé.)  Like any other relationship, these take time to develop and a quick jump from meeting someone to an intimate dialogue concerning the error of a person’s religious views can put an end to a relationship before it’s even begun.  Before you exchange views, exchange names.  Find out a bit about people and they’ll usually be interested in finding out about you.
  4. Keep the focus of the conversation.  Sometimes, you won’t have the opportunity to develop a relationship.  In these cases, at least try to keep your dialogue on-topic.  If you’re on a site that encourages the exchange of religious views and the topic being addressed is creationism vs. evolution, don’t go randomly diving into a discussion of divine sovereignty or the incarnation.  Make sure that your comments fit with the overall theme of the dialogue.  True, by following this rule, you might never end up at the Gospel, but by respecting the direction a discussion is taking, you do demonstrate respect for the individuals involved in the dialogue – something that Jesus definitely promoted!
  5. Give the benefit of the doubt.  The internet is a worldwide community.  The people you find online come from a range of ethnic, social, and political backgrounds.  They represent a diversity of culture and not every culture represents itself in the same way.  Because of this, it can be easy to presume that someone is being “rude” when, according to the social standards they’re used to, they’re just being forthright.  Don’t assume that you understand someone else’s motives or background and never respond to a comment based solely upon what you would have been thinking or feeling if you had said the same thing!
  6. Don’t be rude… even if others are.  Sometimes it isn’t culture that influences the way a person presents themselves.  On occasion, we encounter folks who are just downright nasty about things.  But that doesn’t give us the right to behave the same way.  As Christians, we are to represent the light of Christ and that means that we demonstrate respect for others regardless of how different their views may be or how badly presented!
  7. When the details aren’t provided, don’t fill them in.  More than once, I’ve seen someone ask a question and receive a response so far removed from that question that it’s hard to understand how the person who replied could have possibly thought they were being helpful!  Unfortunately, many times, this isn’t due to trolling, but to one person “filling in” the details when the other party hasn’t provided them.  If you are unclear about what is being asked, take the time to clarify before trying to answer.  A little humility can go a long way.
  8. Don’t tell others what they believe.  While some religious viewpoints have standards by which they can be measured (like Mormonism or Islam), others (like atheism) don’t.  And not every individual within every faith will believe the same things, regardless of whether their Scriptures say they should.  Instead of letting others know what they should believe, take the time to ask questions and find out what they do believe.  You’ll be in a better position to dialogue once you have.
  9. Avoid showmanship.  With a worldwide community watching, it can be tempting to try to say something brilliant, pithy, or new.  Unfortunately, giving into this temptation usually brings more glory to ourselves than to God.  You’ll get much farther if you “keep it real” than if you hop up on a pedestal and start spewing one-liners.  You’re here to talk with real people, so be a real person, yourself.
  10. Know when to leave.  Sometimes a dialogue just gets out of hand.  When this happens, it’s time to walk away.  Others may accuse you of cowardice or an inability to defend your point of view.  That’s just fine.  Remember that even Jesus remained silent when He stood before Pilate.  God will use the words you’ve already spoken to His own glory, though you may never see the results.

These rules, of course, are only a starting place.  You can probably think of a few more (if you do, please share them in the comment box below).  Keep them in mind the next time you visit a website or drop into a chat room and you may be surprised by the results.  Remember, our ultimate goal as Believers is not to get ourselves noticed, but to bring glory to God.  And that only happens when we demonstrate respect for others!

Fertile Soil

20 Mar

Read: Luke 8:4-15

“Still other seed fell on good soil.  It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

– Luke 8:8b NIV

My favorite encounters during the sign up period for our garden club were with the stalwart women who formed the core of our nursery’s faithful.  They wouldn’t have dreamed of buying their flowers from anyone, but us.  They came in twice a week, collected bonus dollars, and demanded that all gifts given to them by their family and friends be in the form of gift certificates to the nursery.  It didn’t matter if the chain stores offered the product at a lesser price: we were the store for them.

Because of this, they were more than eager to take a few minutes to hear what I had to say to them about our new program.  Each one recognized the benefits that they had received as one of our customers, but now they had the opportunity to be a member.  Instead of drawing generic benefits which ranged from knowledgeable staff to quality product, they now had access to the inside scoop through members-only classes and special discounts.  The deal was irresistible and it was not uncommon for me to have several of them crowding around the table at once, all reaching for pens and registration forms.

As Christians, we often encounter a similar response to the offer of membership in God’s family.  While there are many people who are quick to reject the Gospel or hesitant to consider it, there are many more who, like these ladies, have already experienced its benefits.  Whether they’ve seen the way that Biblical principles have affected the way they were treated by a Christian employer or have experienced the love of a believing neighbor, they know that a relationship with Christ has the power to dramatically change lives and benefit society.  And they’re ready to take the plunge.

Challenge:  The next time someone rejects your attempts to share the Gospel message, take a look around.  Every Christian you know chose to accept it.  And there are many more out there just like us, waiting to hear the Good News!

The Garden Club

13 Mar

Read: Ephesians 4:1-16

“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.”

– Matthew 28:19 NIV

 

I was hired for one purpose and one alone: to sign customers up for the free Garden Advantage Club.  I was to sit at a table by the door, wait for each client to grab a cart, then ask them if they’d like to join.

It wasn’t a difficult task.  The club was designed to offer discounts on select products throughout the year as well as keep track of the bonus bucks that were earned with each purchase.  As an added benefit, the store would also track the receipts of club members.  (This was a major advantage, since the garden center guaranteed most of its product, but wouldn’t take returns or issue refunds without a receipt.) As customers signed up, I told them about our special Member Discount Days, our series of advanced member seminars, and the special members-only newsletter.

I was in the process of explaining the program to a potential member, but appeared to be losing the battle when another customer looked up from the pop-cooler she’d been rummaging in and began to explain how she, personally, had benefited from the club!  Within seconds, my potential member became an actual member.

The Bible tells us that some Christians are gifted as evangelists.  A bit like me, their spiritual task is to clearly present the benefits of the Christian faith to anyone who might be interested.  Their work, however, is incomplete without the help of other believers who are willing to simply and honestly share their own experiences as Christ followers.  Like my customer, their readiness to present how they have benefitted from their relationship with God can make the difference between someone else walking away, or placing their faith in the only One who can save their soul!

Challenge:  This week, look for opportunities to step out and share your own experience with Christ.  You’re sure to make a difference!

The iPod Evangelist

18 Feb

Of all the tools I’ve used as an evangelist, my iPod is one of the best.  Small and portable, it gives me a great way to store a mass of information that otherwise might not be readily available.  Yet finding the apps that give me the greatest “bang for my buck” isn’t always easy.  Type the word “Bible” into iTunes and you’ll get a list of 4,449 unique apps – more than most of us have time to explore.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting a few of my favorite apps for evangelism and spiritual growth.  I’ve taken the time to limit them to only those which can be acquired for less than $1.99 and which offer the most flexibility and ease of use.  These are, in my opinion, the best of the best and it’s my hope that you’ll agree!

Because one of the key elements in evangelism is prayer, this week, we’re featuring “Prayer Prompter – Christian Prayer Time Organizer” by Rick Austin.  I’ve tried a few dozen different prayer apps and this one (available as a FREE download) is by far the best!

The “God Speaks to Me” section offers a variety of devotional verses on topics ranging from faith and worship to anger and submission.  The lack of denominational slant allows believers to focus wholly on what God’s Word says, spurring them to live a more Christ-centered life.

When you’ve finished meditating on the Scripture, take a moment to explore the “I Speak to God” section.  Individual verses recommend ways to pray for yourself and for others while “file drawers” allow you to enter your own requests for everyone who touches your life.  Based upon the information you enter, the app will create randomized prayer lists.  After you’ve prayed for a topic, hit the “Prayed Today” button and move on to the next.  The app keeps track of how long you’ve spent praying each day, allowing you to see whether you’re taking the time to sincerely talk with God about each topic or simply flicking through the list.

Perhaps my favorite features of the app are the ones which aid in developing a regular prayer time.  Set the alarm and the app will give you a daily reminder to sit down and commune with God.  Download the “Dropbox” app and you can share your requests with multiple users – keeping each other accountable for time spent praising God and interceding for others.  It’s a great way for family members, church prayer chains, and Bible study groups to keep up with each other’s prayers and praises!

With all of that to offer, it’s not hard to see why this comprehensive prayer app is one of my favorites!

I Was Listening

13 Feb

Read: Philippians 1:12-20

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

 

My attempts to sign people up for the garden club did not always meet with an enthusiastic yes, despite the program’s many benefits and free price tag.  For every agreeable customer, I met a handful set upon simply ignoring the offer and a scattered few who were downright offensive about it.

It was for this reason that I felt rather hesitant when a lady stepped up to my table with the words, “This is the second time you’ve told me about this.  I was here last weekend too.”

I smiled, feeling rather sheepish for not recognizing her (not that I should have been able to given the number of people who passed the table each day) and was about to apologize when she stopped me.

 “I think I’ll sign up this time.  It sounds useful.”

Astonished, I grinned and handed her the enrollment form.

She had begun to fill in her contact information when another customer walked over from the check stand, receipt in hand.  “I’ve listened to you talk about this over and over while I was waiting in line.  It sounds like a good deal and I’d like to sign up, too.”

Of course later, I couldn’t help considering the similarities between these women’s reaction to the garden club and the way some people respond to the Gospel message.  While it would be nice if everyone we met immediately responded to God’s offer, statistics tell us that most people who accept Christ do so only after receiving a steady witness from another believer.  As with the garden club, sometimes someone needs to hear the message just one more time before it makes sense to them.

God has promised that His Word will never return void … and it’s a promise that can be trusted.  We may not always see immediate results, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep sharing!

Challenge:  Are you feeling discouraged about your evangelism efforts?  Don’t!  Sometimes people just need to hear the message a few times before it sinks in.  This week, take some time to talk to other believers in your community.  Ask them how they came to faith in Christ.  You may be surprised at how many of their stories sound like my customers’ tales!

You Can’t Even Give It Away!

5 Dec

Tomorrow, through December 9th, get a FREE Kindle edition of “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”!

Read: Matthew 28:18-20

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Some people seem to be sent into our lives simply to test us and, on this particular afternoon, I found just such a person standing nearby as I worked to sign people up for our store’s discount card.

After listening to several customers tell me that they weren’t interested, he turned around and declared quite adamantly, “You can’t even give those away!”

I smiled and said that I was giving them away to which he responded with a piteous smile.

After I had been told “no” several more times, he turned and said something to the effect of, “Guess they don’t know what a great deal they’re missing.” (At this point, I could feel myself growing irritated at his mockery.)

No, no, no, no… “So how many hours do you have to do this?” he asked with a delighted grin.

Resisting the urge to let him have it, I relaxed in my seat and continued my work. The truth was, despite his derision, I was ten memberships short of averaging one for every three minutes of the entire six hour period in which I had been working! The results of my efforts had been nothing short of phenomenal and the choice was now mine – to focus on the negative and give up or to see the success which had been achieved and finish the task.

As believers in Christ, we often face very similar situations and it can be difficult to keep our focus, particularly when people are making fun of us or deriding what we believe. And that’s why the Bible tells us to keep our eyes on Christ. Only by making Jesus the center of our lives at all times will we be able to stay on the path He has prepared for us and accomplish the task which He has given us – that of sharing the Gospel with sinners like ourselves!

Challenge: This week, commit to keep your focus on Christ and finish the task!

The Two Minute Relationship: Relate

18 May

Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the question “What’s in a Name” and dealt with the importance of taking the time to “Ask, Listen, and Observe”.  This week, we’ll be taking the art of the Two Minute Relationship a step further as we consider the importance not only of showing an interest in those whom we meet, but in taking the time to relate to them, ourselves.

I have often speculated that one of the many reasons God does not make us perfect (at least our vision of perfect) upon our acceptance of Christ is that, in many cases, perfect people are entirely unrelatable.  Think about it for a minute – how often do you pick up a book, only to put it down again when you realize that the author (or his characters) have nothing in common with you – no similar experiences, no shared struggles or triumphs.  You may even feel that you were born on separate planets!  Unfortunately, Christians often try so hard to “have a good testimony” that they cover up the commonalities between their lives and the lives of those who surround them and, as a result, they fail to have any testimony at all.  While, ideally, we shouldn’t handle our life experiences the same way we did before we knew God, we still have the same types of experiences that everyone else does.  Want to see someone loosen up and open themselves to a great conversation?  Take the time to show them (not just tell them) that you have some common ground!

One of the best ways to do this is through telling a good, clean joke.  Humor spans every form of human condition and telling a joke is a quick way to dispel the misconception that Christians are all serious all the time – in other words, it’s an ice-breaker.  God didn’t create humans just so we could spend our lives suffering the effects of an unjust universe and not everyone claiming the name of Christ has a persecution complex.  Telling a joke lets the person you’re talking to know that you’re human too and can appreciate the lighter side of things.  And, once they know you’re not some extremist whacko planning to take over society and implant everyone with cow brains, folks will be far more willing to engage in honest discussion about other topics.  In the thirty-seconds it takes to make someone laugh, you’ve formed a relational connection upon which you can build.

There’s more to the art of “relating”, however, than just demonstrating your ability to walk on the bright side of life. The truth is, you’re life probably isn’t a dream, or at least it isn’t 100% of the time.  You probably live in a house with people who don’t always see eye-to-eye or have had a teacher who failed you no matter how hard you tried.  You just barely make enough money to pay the bills and you know what it’s like to have a bad day at work.  Just as humor connects us to our fellow men (and women), so do struggle and sorrow.  Sometimes, our willingness to admit this makes the difference between a continuing dialogue and one that gets cut short.  Remember that the appeal of Christianity is not that it changes our world, but that it changes the perspective from which we view that world!  When people see you reacting with peace and joy in circumstances that only drag them down, they’re going to want what you have!

Finally, take the time to pray.  How does this relate to… well… relating?  Think of it this way – if I know you and the two of us have something in common, and I have an absolutely fantastic friend who also understands that commonality, it’s only natural that I’ll want to introduce you.  And that’s exactly what happens when a Christian offers to pray for an unbeliever.  It may sound crazy, but offering to pray for someone is one of the easiest and most inoffensive ways to share the Gospel.  Most people are amazed that someone they’ve never met before would take an interest in bringing them before God.

For a long while, I would offer to pray for people only after they’d jokingly made some comment about it.  (You hear, “Say one for me while you’re down there, will you?” quite a lot when you’re stocking the bottom shelves of a department store!)

The first time that I made the offer on my own was to a lady whose husband was a soldier in an Army National Guard unit which had been called up to fight in Iraq.  We met at a business meeting and I could tell that she was struggling;  trying to take care of the kids on her own, maintain and fix things around the house, and worrying that life might continue to be this way forever.  It was wearing on her.  Afterwards, I asked if I could pray for her and her husband.  Her response was an amazed and grateful yes.

As you go through your week, take the time to ask yourself whether your words and actions express concern and interest.  Do those around you relate to your circumstances?  And when you relate to theirs, do you let them know?  It doesn’t take much to form a relationship, just a genuine, honest, intentional approach – a willingness to let others see you as you really are, not as you wish you were.

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation

26 Mar

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  A spiritual battle must be fought with spiritual weapons and one of the greatest which God has given us is prayer.  That’s why, this week, we’re featuring “Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.”

Available in print, on disk, or online at http://www.operationworld.org/country-lists, OW seeks to inform Christians about the spiritual state of countries throughout the world.  Check out the daily prayer calendar at http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-calendar and you’ll find a wealth of information including  profiles of unreached people groups and detailed prayer concerns both for the country and for the Believers who live there.  You may even want to go a step further and get involved by joining the Prayer Movement at http://www.operationworld.org/join-prayer-movement.  Whatever you do, don’t sit on the sidelines!  Hit your knees and join the battle!

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