Communicating An Offensive Gospel Without Being Offensive

Romans 9:33 just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE.“(1 Pet 2:8)  

I Cor 10:32  Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;

2Cor 6:3  giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited.

We know that the Gospel message is ” foolishness to people perishing,” and has elements in it that are offensive. 1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.   Jesus Himself is the “rock of offense” (Rom 9:33, 1 Pet 2:8).  Unfortunately, I have observed over the years that much of what is considered offensive or foolishness isn’t as much about the Gospel as it is about the people communicating it.

What I have observed over the years is that much of what is considered offensive or foolishness isn’t as much about the Gospel as it is about the people communicating it.

We must understand that when we’re talking to people, we’re called to be gracious, kind, and full of His lovingkindness.  If not we will add personal offense to an offensive Gospel.   

Our Annual Example

We make an annual shopping trip to an area of Kansas City the day after Thanksgiving.  Every year a street preacher, complete with microphone and speaker is there yelling at people about the judgments of God. The whole area is packed with shoppers.  He yells at them about their sinful condition by shouting the demands of the law.   There is usually about a 20-30 yard vacant (no go) area around him, kind of like a killing zone.  I have never seen anyone in the kill zone.  Most of the people walking by trying to ignore him or pretend he isn’t there. I have never seen anyone even pause to listen to him.  

I admire his courage and am inspired by it, but every time I hear him I wonder about the offensive nature of the Gospel.  The Spirit spoke to me once as I passed by, “most people’s offenses aren’t with the gospel but with the way it is presented and the lives of the people presenting it.”

God’s people are called to both demonstrate with their life and declare with their mouths the gospel.

God’s people are called to both demonstrate with their life, and declare with their mouths the gospel.  How we demonstrate the gospel with both is where the problem often is found.   Philippians 2:14-16  Do everything without complaining or arguing,  (15)  so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky,  (16)  as you offer them the message of life.

We mistakenly think they are offended by the Gospel and rejecting Christ when in fact they are rejecting us and our approach.  The “fruit of the Spirit” is very attractive while the “deeds of the flesh” are very ugly.   Religion without Jesus’ life and the Spirit’s fruit will be unattractive.  Galatians 519-23…the deeds of the flesh are…strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, envying…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control.  People need to taste the life and fruit of the Spirit in the people of God.

How Do We Help Remove Our Offense from the Offensive Gospel?

  • Exhibiting life of God in the fruit of the Spirit (gentleness, patience, love, lovingkindness, and respect).

Titus 2:7-14 In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,  (8)  sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us… They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.

Religion without Jesus’ life and the Spirit’s fruit will be ugly and unattractive. 

Peter said that as we respond to others with “gentleness and respect in a good conscience” people that oppose us will “become ashamed” because of the life observed before them.  As the world gets darker the life of God will become more appealing and get people’s attention.  They may disagree with our words but cannot deny our great attitude and conduct.

1Pe 3:15-16  GNB…Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you,  16  but do it with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are insulted, those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say.

  • Love the image of God in people.  

This creates courtesy and respect.  It is rooted in the Imago Dei, the concept that each of us was created in the image of a loving God. That is what gives each person—every person—dignity and makes each of us worthy of respect.  James 3:9-11  With our tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;  (10)  from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.  

  • Use all the aspects of salt we have been given (Mt 5:13).  

Salt preserves from deterioration and adds spice, but another thing it does, that we often don’t think of, is that salt when it is in water, keeps things from sinking.  It tends to lift things up and cause them to float. We are called to lift up people.  The devil, circumstances, and emotions tend to pull people down into the pits of despair.  Darkness brings death.  God’s people, full of God’s salt look for ways to lift people up by bringing His blessing.  Jesus greeted Nathanael, “behold an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (Jn 1:47).  This brought blessing and got his attention on Jesus.  

Jesus said “Come to Me you who are weary and heavy laden…My yoke is easy and My burden is light” Mt 11:28-30. God’s people should be known as bringing God’s blessing.  The gospel is good news.  Yes, people need to know the bad news that they are separated from God and under a curse, but there is great life and blessing in Jesus.  Let’s not forget to communicate that.  I recently witnessed to a young man who was having problems with his live-in girlfriend and her son.  I was able to share the blessings of 38 years with my life because of the change Jesus brought in us.  Living under His rule helps us daily overcome the things that were destroying his relationship.  Jesus and His kingdom is good news.

When Jesus sent the 12 and 70 out in Mt 9-11 and Luke 9-10 their first order of business was to bring “blessings” into receptive homes.  Mt 10:12-13 “give your blessing of peace.”  Luke 10:5 “first give your blessing of peace.”

  • Remember we were drawn by His loving kindness so make sure we communicate it.  

The prophet Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet because of the failures and judgments he experienced with God’s people.  Those things moved him deeply.  He wrote the book of “Lamentations” which means “a passionate expression of grief, sorrow, and weeping” over the condition of God’s people.  In His prophecies, he presents something of the heart of God that is one of the biggest draws, His lovingkindness.

Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

Psalms 63:3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.

Lovingkindness is an aspect of love, but it has some distinct features.  Love wants the best for the object of love, yet it sometimes means discipline or allowing unpleasant things.  Every good parent has had to discipline and deny their child something that the child would think is not reflecting love.

Lovingkindness on the other hand is evidenced by goodness and charitable behavior, a pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others.  It is a caring heart that wants to alleviate all suffering and lift the other up.  It is faithful feelings from the heart and acts of kindness that are motivated by love.  

I know in my own life I experienced the great drawing of His lovingkindness.  I had been challenged by the fear of God.  I knew I was in trouble because of the way I was living.  In that “severity of God” I also was also made aware of His lovingkindness.  Romans 11:22  Behold then the kindness and severity of God.  In the midst of my mess, He let me know He loved me and wanted me to be saved.  Even in my sin He cared about me.  I was drawn by His lovingkindness.  

His lovingkindness is a fruit of the Spirit that makes the Gospel appealing to others.  We need to embrace this aspect of God’s heart toward people.  Yes if they don’t follow Jesus they are under His judgment but at the same time God loves them and wants His lovingkindness expressed to them through His people. 

Seek God for His heart and attitude toward people.  May we feel for them and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.  It is okay if “Jesus is the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense” but out of immaturity or a wong heart we shouldn’t be.

 

  

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Prayer For Mission and Prayer On Mission

Prayer on Mission is like breathing. We inhale God’s presence as we pray, and we exhale His presence as we pray for others.

Every one of God’s people is called to His family mission to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:26-28, Jn 17:18, 20:21, Eph 1:22-23, 3:10-11).  God’s mission is not for a few “special Christians” with a “special call.”  Missions is everyone, everywhere, all the time, across the street, as well as across the ocean.

In our calling to engage in God’s mission we must remember that we can’t save anyone by our own efforts.  We are not called to save but to sow.  We are to sow seeds of God’s Kingdom.

A key to mission that seems too good to be true

What if there was a master key that would enable us to do the following?

  • Go straight to someone’s heart in an instant bypassing all the mental reasonings in a split second.
  • Communication Jesus to someone without people’s interruptions or deflective questions
  • Avoid the arguments of “my belief versus yours” while communicating Jesus
  • Hold the higher ground of influence above people’s resistance.
  • Giving “seeds” of God’s word with prophetic words, words of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment communicated (with wisdom) uninterrupted by the people you are giving them to.
  • Communicating and impacting people from other religious backgrounds.
  • See the power of God released upon people without resistance.

Is there a way to do these things or does it sound too good to be true?  Prayer for people is an often neglected key that will enable the previous things mentioned to happen.  In the accounts of Jesus sending the 12 and 70 on mission (Mt 9-11, Lk 9-10) His first order of business was to “pray to the Lord of the harvest”.  Then they were to pray for people as they, “give a blessing, heal the sick, and cast out demons?”

When you pray people yield their agenda and become somewhat passive.  As you pray you get free access to their hearts.  Most of the time offering to pray for someone about something is inoffensive and communicates care.

Of all the times I have offered to pray for someone both inside and outside the church only once have I been turned down.  I even offered to pray at a public intersection for an atheist who was protesting and holding a sign touting the great virtues of atheism.  I ask her if she would mind if I offered a prayer to the God that she doesn’t believe exist.  After all what harm would it do since she didn’t think anything was there.  To my amazement, she said she wouldn’t mind so I took her up on the offer right there on the street, in front of all her atheist friends.

God’s Spiritual Bee Sting

When we pray for people there is an instant connection to God, His presence, and His resources.  There is an immediate impact of God.  Prayer in this way is like getting stung by a bee.  You often know it is buzzing around but can’t see where it is until it stings you.  When you pray for someone you go directly past all their reluctance and like a bee sting it will make an impact.

As we are inquiring and entering into conversations with people about their family, health, work, or circumstances we will find out something we can pray for.  In that moment we can say, “would you mind if I pray for you about that?”   Then as we pray we bring them into direct contact with the all-powerful God of the universe.  It is an instant connection with God.

Prayer is a key, a door, and a bridge over which God’s power flows.  I remember an evangelist giving the following observations to encourage us to pray for people.   There is nothing that can’t be prayed for.

  • When you don’t know what to do, pray for them.
  • When you can’t speak the language prayer for them.
  • When you don’t have the time to speak a lot, pray for them.
  • When you know the issue is too big for you, pray for them
  • When you might not see them again, pray for them. 

As we go on mission in our everyday life we need to have confidence that we can lead people into an encounter with God.  We fear that people will just watch us pray for them instead of entering into God with us.  We can ask them to participate like close you eyes, bow your head, or extend your hands like you are receiving etc. Sometimes outward/natural steps can lead to an inward spiritual reality (1  Cor 15:46 “first the natural then the spiritual).

Most of the time prayer is a matter of calling people to focus their attention on Him.  You can also ask God to open their senses.  Paul prayed this way in Ephesians, “open the eyes of their heart to His great power towards us…the same power He exercised when He raised Jesus from the dead” (Eph 1:18-20).

God’s kingdom isn’t just a lot of words. It is power. 1 Cor 4:20

We must remember that God’s “Kingdom isn’t just words but power” (1 Cor 4:20).  We want to connect people with God’s supernatural power as they connect with the supernatural God.

I had the great privilege of watching this as an observer when I walked up behind my wife as she was asking a lady if she could pray for her.  The lady responded in a pleasantly surprised way, “I have never had anyone ask me that before…I guess so.”  I was looking over my wife’s shoulder into the lady’s face.  At first, she didn’t know what to do and her eyes started to blink then she shut them and her head went down.  When my wife was done with the short prayer the lady’s eyes opened with tears in them and she said, “that was great…I felt an amazing peace.”  Then to our surprise, she said, “That felt so wonderful I think people should have people pray for them more often.”  This opened a door to speak more about Jesus.

Don’t forget to use an important key that works in any situation…prayer!

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What about Mondays?

When I see people heading for the parking lot after Sunday services I wonder if they will see any connection between the service they just attended and the other 98% of their waking hours?  Do they see any connection of the Kingdom of God they just touched on Sunday to the same Kingdom they are to carry to their places of employment, school, or the marketplace on Monday?

If not an age old problem called “dualism” can capture our thinking.  Dualism is the tendency to see your life in sections (spiritual, social, and natural etc.) that have no bearing on each other.  Dualism causes people to think the Christian life is what we do for a couple of hours on Sunday or Wednesday but has little bearing on the rest of our life.  God’s design is much greater than this.

There is a mandate that began at creation in the garden of Eden that continues through His church everyday.  Genesis 1:26 contains the mandate “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.”  God continues these three ideas through Christ body, the church

Eph 1:22-23... At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  (23)  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.  

Contrary to the idea that God is only trying to rescue people out of the earth, He also wants to fill the earth with His glory through His people.  I like the theologian Abraham Kuper’s comments on Psa 24:1,  “There is not one square inch of this universe that God doesn’t say “mine.”

As we walk about this earth in our everyday life we need to look at it through the eyes of God’s desire.  He wants to fill every square inch of it with His glory, and He likes to use His people in the process.

One of the great motivation robbers is when we see our everyday spheres of life (2 Co 10:13-16) as a drudgery that we have to endure rather than “square inches” of God’s earth that are to be filled with His life.

We need to seek God for creative ideas and expressions to fill “His square inches.”  It includes good works, words, but also works of power.  We need to pray for people, lay hands on them, and help break and heal the demonic influence in their lives and homes.  One Scripture I would encourage all of us to incorporate into our prayers for this coming year is 2Th 1:11  To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy (make you fit) of your calling, and  fulfill every desire for goodness and the works of faith with power. 

At our everyday workplace

One of the main areas we spend a majority of our waking hours is our places of employment (work and school).  We want to be fruitful, multiply and fill these areas.

What are some of the Biblical ways we can embrace at our workplace or school?

Col 3:22-24  employees, obey your bosses according to the flesh in all things; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart (heartedly), fearing God.  23  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

  • Work in a way that respects and honors your bosses and teachers knowing they carry authority from Christ and you are first and foremost serving Him (Romans 13).  1Tim 6:1-2…regard your own masters (bosses) as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against….Teach and preach these principles.  This even extends to those bosses who are unreasonable, or perverse  (1 Peter 2:18-20).
  • Work wholeheartedly, not halfheartedly, because you are serving Christ.  I remember hearing a quote written on the wall of a break room:   Sometime between starting and quitting time, without infringing on lunch periods, coffee breaks, rest periods, storytelling time, holiday planning, and the rehashing of yesterday’s TV programs, we ask that each employee try to find some time for a work break. Don’t be like a coworker I once had who used to come to work and before his shift sit in a chair with his feet up and declare his intentions, “they pay me minimum wage and they are going to get minimum effort.”
  • Don’t gripe, complain, or backtalk, but give blessings instead (Phil 2:14-15).   Your source of life comes from something greater than the job.  Always be thankful (1 Thes 5:18) and that will make an impact on a hopeless culture around you.
  • Be trustworthy (Titus 2:10) and dependable ( 16:10).  This tends to make an impact at our workplace, especially in the cultural climate of entitlement all around us.
  • Express the Biblical attitude of contentment with finances and freedom from the love of money (Lk 10:7, 1 Tim 6:6-10  Heb 13:5).   In a greed filled culture this will have a great impact.
  • Bless your co-workers and fellow students through caring, serving, and praying for God’s power to touch their lives (Lk 6:28, Rom 12:14).  One guy I know who worked part time at Pizza Hut was so faithful to care and pray for his coworkers that he received a special award from His bosses and co workers called “God’s Healer Award.”  With this attitude toward coworkers you will be surprised at the opportunities to bring the Kingdom to bear in their personal life.
  • Seek God’s wisdom, insight, and gifting to help your company to prosper.  Many of the saints in the Bible like Joseph and Jacob gained insight to help make the place they were employed prosper which ended up prospering God’s people.
  • Join with other Christians to pray over your workplace.  

 

 

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Good Habits for Everyday Missions

Life on missionBiblical Christianity is not just about a belief or a meeting. Its is a life that we live following Jesus.  A motto we have adopted that encompasses an important theme of the Bible (beginning with the Garden of Eden Genesis 1-3, and culminating at the great end time family event “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb Rev 19:7-10, 21:9) is,  “God’s Spirit filled family together on His mission.” Christianity is not just about a belief or a meeting. It is a life that we live following Jesus. Click To Tweet

When we understand that Christianity and church isn’t a meeting or organization but a way of life (with God’s and His family) it affects the way we engage in everyday mission. Missions and evangelism isn’t a program or event but an everyday life’s journey.  It’s to be a way of life not an optional add on.  

We need to see God come into our everyday patterns of life that we already live.  What are the areas of life that everyone engages in?  Rest, Eating, Work, Leisure, and Celebrations.  Celebrations are things like holidays, birthdays, and weddings etc. (Jesus first miracle was at a wedding).  Leisure can be vacations, recreation, and sports etc.  Work is self explanatory whether it be work around the house or your job site.  Physical and emotional rest is something everyone needs.

Rather than missions and evangelism being a program added on to our already busy life, what if it really became part of our everyday life patterns/rhythms?  We either invite others into ours or we join them in theirs. 

Building Everyday Missional Habits among God’s People Missional Habits

Like any area of life good habits help us to develop and walk in beneficial endeavors. Here are two acronyms I have heard that contain ideas in developing good habits for everyday missions and evangelism.

VISA (Visit, Invite, Serve, Ask):  All foreign missionaries have to get a visa to go to their mission field.  

  • Visit – visit with your friends and neighbors showing interest, friendship, and offer to pray for them.
  • Invite  open your homes and lives to show hospitality (making people feel welcome and valued).  Invite friends and neighbors over for a meal, dessert, or conversation etc. Jesus did quite of a bit of His mission around meals.  Almost all of the book of Luke records accounts of Jesus going to a meal, eating at a meal, or coming from a meal.  Conversations around meals can be openings to talk about deeper things.
  • Serve  look for ways to practically serve neighbors or people in the community.  We are looking for ways to show the love of God through serving and caring.   
  • Ask – we are looking for ways to ask God for them.  Pray for them, and with them when you can to release the presence and power of God.  

BELLS (Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Serve):

  • BLESS – Bless means “to speak well of or to praise.” Later the meaning shifted toward “pronounce or make happy.”  Today Christians use the word “bless” in a variety ways. Even blessing someone who has just sneezed is an expression of goodwill and a desire for continued health.  In blessing someone we want to bring encouragement and help lift the burden of life even for a few moments.   How can we bless someone?

Words of Affirmation  This is the simplest way to bless someone.  Speak or send people words of affirmation or encouragement through a note, an email, or a text.  Let them know you’ve noticed something valuable about them. This isn’t flattery, but something God helps you notice to bring His light on.   I’ve heard it said that a word of encouragement is like oxygen to the soul.

Mark Twain, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” 

Acts of Kindness  Who doesn’t feel blessed when someone does them a favor or provides some kind of practical support? Cutting someone’s lawn. Babysitting an exhausted couple’s kids. Helping a neighbor move. These acts of kindness lift up and bring strength to others.

Gifts  There is a thoughtful element behind giving a small gift that shows we value and care for someone.  

  • EAT – Eating was an important part of life and ministry with Jesus, the disciples, and others.  Much Kingdom activity in the Gospels happened around meals.  We need to see eating missionally.  Eating is a normal rhythm of life. You won’t need to add a great deal into your already busy schedule. You already eat 3 times a day. That’s 21 meals a week. We simply want to see people come around some of those 21 meals.  

The table is the great equalizer in relationships.  When you sit across the table from people it is easier to open up.  When we eat together we rediscover the value of people. We share stories, hopes, fears, and disappointments. People open up, and we can open up to them to share things, including our faith in Jesus.

  • LISTEN – We listen for Holy Spirit’s voice and promptings over our neighbors and friends.  It may be a direction or an throught God wants you to share with them in a wise, discreet way. 
  • LEARN – We can learn from the life of Jesus about how He did things.  We do this by studying the person and work of Jesus in the gospels as well as reading good books about Him.  I have done a systematic study of how Jesus engaged in mission on earth in a fresh way going though all the gospels.  I am finding that He tended to do 3 things throughout the gospels.  He indiscriminately blessing and healed people.  He gave clear calls to follow Him.  He challenged people who took comfort in their own ability to please Him.
  • SENT – We need the identity of a missionary everyday.  Missions is everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Everyday missionaries, like Jesus and the disciples, alert people to God’s reign/kingdom through acts of love and kindness as well as releasing God’s supernatural power.  

Let’s incorporate good missionary habits in our everyday life.

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On Mission Everyday All The Time

MissionalJoh 1:14  MSG The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

When I see people heading  for the parking lot after services on Sundays I wonder if they see any connection between the service they just attended and the other 98% of their waking hours?  Do they see any connection of the Kingdom of God they just touched in the meeting to the same Kingdom within and around them everyday?  Will they see God’s mission in their everyday life? Will they look for a week of opportunities as  His missionaries at their workplace, school, neighborhood, and marketplace?

We put a slogan up over the main exit of our church building, “You are entering  your mission field” as a reminder that we are called to God’s mission everyday all the time.

Contrary to contemporary missional ideas, Christians do not need to move to a Third World  country to make a significant contribution in the mission field.  They don’t have to go overseas to participate in the fulfilling of the great commission. Many times the most significant mission field is right under our nose.

I have heard estimates that America is probably the fourth largest non-Christian nation in the world. Some report that there are 235 million non-Christians in America.  Europe and other nations have similar statistics.

Every Christian spends about 65% of their waking moments at work, school, their neighborhood,  or the marketplace.  There is a strategic nature of these places in the plan of God.

The early church advanced in the first century not primarily by preachers, teachers, debaters, and evangelist. It was the nameless thousands of people who brought Jesus into their everyday life and reached out as His ambassadors. Men and women shared to gospel with their friends, colleagues, customers, and others in their everyday course of life.

Think what would happen if the vast majority of people in Christians became serious about their calling to their personal mission field Monday through Saturday. Here are a three things to remember in order to keep a Godly perspective on moving in our everyday mission field.

  • Remember that God is at work in the earth.  We need to look for His hand at work and join Him.  

We are not on our own as we move in our everyday mission field. This was the secret to Jesus working. Joh 5:19-20…”Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

Jesus spoke this just after the encounter with the woman at the well in John 4. In the midst of His ordinary day in which He was tired and hungry He sat and spoke to the woman at the well. As He engaged her He saw signs of the Father working and He joined Him in the process.

We are not called to force spiritual conversations on reluctant strangers. None of us, especially introverts, aspire to be Christian telemarketers and high-pressure Spiritual salespersons. It isn’t about cornering and converting them. He wants us to be alert to ways in which He is working or has already broken ground, then join Him in the process.

As Peter tells us, as we live our life out loud we are more apt to respond to questions about why we are living the way we are or why we believe what we do. We respond, not if a rude way, but in an up front, honest and courteous way. 1 Peter 3:15 MSG Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.

  • Remember that evangelism is often a process not just an event.

Joh 4:35-38 “Do you not say…, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. (36) “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (37) “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ (38) “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
1Co 3:7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Often people take small steps and make small decision that lead to the big decision of giving their life completely to Jesus. God wants to use ordinary followers of Jesus to erode the barriers in their hearts and minds. Like any form of erosion it can take time. It happens through the course of interaction, caring relationships, meaningful conversations, and thought provoking presentations of the truth.

One evangelist, Glenn Middleton uses the analogy of warming the soil. Sometimes we are planting seeds and other times we are warming the soil. The soil has to get to a certain temperature to cause the seed to sprout. No effort is wasted.  The Biblical metaphors of agricultural work in the harvest show us the process of evangelism. Every farmer knows the harvest is hard work, clearing the land, cultivating the soil, planning seeds, watering, and fertilizing, always precedes the joy of harvest.

  • Remember that what we do and who we are is just as important as what we say.

Simple efforts to serve others, express care, and live out the Christian life has as much of a positive impact as our talking points. While we need to speak up, just because we don’t speak at times doesn’t mean how we live isn’t communicating something in the hearts of people.

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Summertime Missions

summer missionsJohn 17:18-21  “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world…(21)  that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. (3 times in this prayer Jesus asked that His people would have the same type of relational life as the Godhead and with the Godhead).  This prayer can be summed up with the motto “God’s family joined together on God’s mission.”

Joh 20:21as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

We are sent by Jesus into the world which is the heart of all missions.  Missions and evangelism isn’t an event.  It is not some add-on program to an already busy life.   It is our life!  It is to be a way of life among God’s people.  “Go and make disciples…Let you speech always be seasoned with salt…be prepared to give a defense for your hope” (Mt 28:18-19, Col 4:6, 1 Pet 3:15) is what we are to naturally live out in everyday life.  It is living with gospel and missional intentionality.

Gospel and Missional Intentionality

Gospel and missional intentionality in everyday life is what Jesus encouraged in the account of the woman at the well (John 4).  He was tired and hungry.  He sat down to drink and sent the disciples to get food (everyday life things).  He encountered the woman and shared the things of God with her causing her to go in to town and bring a bunch of other people to meet Him. When the disciples returned (from doing everyday life things) Jesus told them to “lift up your eyes and look on the fields” (Jn 4:35).  Lifting up our eyes and looking on the harvest field all around us is the idea of missional and gospel intentionality.

The summer months are a unique time for living everyday life with gospel and missional intentionality.  It is warmer and more people are engaged in outdoor activities.  Because of this it is easier to see people and be seen by people.    It sometimes helps to have some practical ideas to prime our creative/Spiritual pumps. Often the profound is in the simple! The normal everyday things that many people are already doing can be engage with intentionality.

Simple Summertime Missional Ideas

It is easy after a long day of work to go indoors and sit in front of a computer, phone, or television screen surfing the internet or watching programs.  Force yourself to get up and get out in public.  You can visit a friend, neighbor, hang out in a coffee shop, park, tropical snow (flavored shaved ice shop), or ice cream shop.

  • Go for a walk or better yet go for a walk with family (church family). Walking is one of the best ways to be seen and engage people in your neighborhood, parks, campus, and other public places.  It is good to be seen and known in your neighborhood. Have the mindset to go with gospel intentionality meeting people, saying hello, and striking up conversations with those you don’t know.  It is simply loving and taking an interest in people.  Ask questions, serve, show the love of God, pray for people, and bring up Jesus (the good news).   Make friends.  Get out of your house and get into the stream of people.
  • Prayer walking is a good thing to do as well (discretely, no shouting, wild praising, or spiritual dancing).  As you walk and pray you will often get insight by the Spirit as you are onsite praying.  This helps in God directed prayer for people, places, businesses, and yourself to have God’s heart for people.
  • Have an idea of taking one evening a week or month to serve neighbors.  Mow the neighbor’s yard, weed eat, weed their garden, or pick up trash in your neighborhood. People often move in warmer weather.  Offer to lend a hand to someone moving in our out.  Try to do it things like this with others for your church following the pattern of Jesus as He sent out the 12 and 70 in pairs on mission (Mt 9-11 and Luke 9-10).   This is both for mutual support and it sometimes makes it easier to talk with others.
  • Eat with someone.  There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came…”  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many ” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); ” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking …” (Luke 7:34).  The first two are statements of purpose. The third is a statement that is descriptive. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.

Jesus mission strategy seen primarily in Luke often included a long meal stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table or the fire.  The whole book of Luke seems to be about Jesus going to, eating, or coming from a meal.  We all eat 3 meals a day.  That’s 21 opportunities for church and mission.   In the Bible meals were a powerful place of hospitality.  You can express the welcome of God as you eat with gospel intentionality.  Summer cookouts are easy to do with others in public or home spaces. 

  • Adopt a local park, coffee shop, or ice cream shop you visit regularly with missional and gospel intentionality. You will become known as a regular.
  • Have meetings, study, and read in public spaces like coffee shops and parks. It will naturally help you engage the culture around you. You may do so with fellow church members and you discussions can be overheard.  You will be surprised at who and what Holy Spirit will bring across your path.
  • Look for things you already enjoy doing, find a group that shares that passion, and get involved with missional and gospel intentionality.  Softball leagues, fishing, work out groups, golf or swimming groups etc.  You can be missional and have fun at the same time.

 

 

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