Mission

Gospel Fluency in Your Relationships

I was recently asked by someone in my Missional Community how Gospel Fluency applies or works in personal evangelism. My conversation with her reminded me of a book I read this past year called The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathon Dodson. In his book, Dodson looks at how we have made the gospel unbelievable in our age and how we can make it more believable in the midst of a changing culture. He addresses concerns and fears about the state of evangelism in our churches. He’s not undermining the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, for we certainly believe that salvation is a work of the Spirit solely based on the finished work of Christ. His approach to how we can make the gospel more believable addresses why our increasingly post-Christian culture has stopped listening to the church.

Reshaping Our View of Evangelism

Francis Schaeffer was once asked what he’d do if he had an hour to share the gospel with someone; he responded by saying he’d listen for 55 minutes and then, in the last 5 minutes, he’d have something meaningful to say. In other words, he listened in order to speak the gospel.

Far too often believers today have turned this around. We feel like we must preach to someone for 55 minutes and then in the final 5 minutes ask them to respond. Constantly, throughout the gospels, Jesus is always asking questions and looking to engage people. As we think about sharing the gospel we need to reverse how we think about it. Dodson says, “we should listen to people’s story, then empathize with their story, then look to redemptively retell their story with the hope of the gospel.”

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How the Gospel Speaks to People’s Needs

From my experience, most of the time when we dig deep enough people share in very similar needs and desires for life. Jonathon Dodson shares in his book 5 of the greatest needs all people experience and how the gospel speaks to each. This is what gospel fluency in relationship and in personal evangelism can look like. We should listen to peoples stories, hear their needs/hurts/pain, empathize with them, and then share with them the hope that the gospel specifically gives to their needs.

SEEKING ACCEPTANCE

One of the greatest needs people have today is to be accepted, to know that they are welcome and won’t be rejected. Though we may try to deny or hide it, we all carry with us a sense of shame, a fear that we will be found out, rejected, and judged when people learn who we really are.

When we explain that, through justification, the holy God offers perfect acceptance through his unique Son, Jesus Christ, it can bring tremendous relief and joy to those seeking acceptance.

SEEKING HOPE

The metaphor of new creation can be especially compelling for people who are longing for a new start in life. People whose lives have been littered with failure, scarred by abuse, humbled through suffering, darkened by depression, or ruined by addiction need the hope of becoming a new creation.

When we explain that, through new creation, their old life can be exiled and that God welcomes them into a new life in Christ, it can shed a bright ray of hope into the lives of the hopeless.

SEEKING INTIMACY

Our search for intimacy is in relationships seems to never end. Even the best friendship or marriage inst enough for our insatiable demand to be noticed, loved, and cared for. We all want a place where we can be ourselves and know that we are accepted. We want relationships that are secure, where we feel safe to share our innermost thoughts and darkest struggles.

When we explain that, through union with Christ, people can enter into the most intimate, loving, unbreakable, fulfilling relationship known to humanity, it can bring deep healing and joy to those seeking intimacy.

SEEKING TOLERANCE

Many people are seeking tolerance. Some don’t know the difference between classical and new tolerance. That alone can be an illuminating conversation that deepens mutual respect and admiration between people.

Others will not like the exclusive claims that Christianity makes. However, before scoffing at their perspective or trying to crush their worldview, ask questions to get on the inside of their perspective and appreciate their views. They often have good reasons or difficult stories attached to their objections.

Respectful dialogue can go a long way in over-turning bigoted impressions of Christianity. In fact, it will open doors that would remain closed otherwise.

Sharing that, through redemption, Jesus offers a redemptive tolerance that gives progressive people an opportunity to experience grace and forgiveness in a way that doesn’t demean other faiths, can be very liberating.

SEEKING APPROVAL

The thoughts and opinions of parents matter to their children. What my dad and mom thought about me as I was growing up meant a lot. Their thoughts and opinions could crush or lift me in a moment. We are made for approval, and though our parents are often the first ones to give this (or withhold it from us), the truth is that we seek this approval from others all the time.

Sharing that, through adoption, God the Father offers an undying approval in his Son Jesus can radically change people’s view of God, and thrill them with the hope of a Father’s love.

Next time you’re in a conversation with someone listen more and talk less. Listen specifically for areas of unbelief or struggle, empathize with them, then retell their story through the lens of the gospel, the hope of Jesus.

To the Ends of the Earth...through college students

photo from mercer.edu

photo from mercer.edu

I get really excited about this time of year. I mean REALLLLLLY excited.
Colleges are starting up their Fall semesters and its Mercer's move-in weekend!  #gobears

I love seeing the new faces on Sunday mornings - all smiles and laughs as the new year starts. I love hearing the voices of students who love Jesus loudly singing with us. I love how so many of the students who come jump into serving roles with kids, students, the band and all sorts of places. I can't wait to get our students back and meet our new students!
BUT
There is something more than just students at New City that excites me as I think about this weekend and this Fall - it is how those students will go places and reach people that most of us will have no access to, it is how they will travel to the ends of the earth as both students and graduates... and we have an opportunity through them to see eternity changed.

It is true that some students come and go and never connect. But it is equally true that many students come and stay connect deeply with New City. I remember when we were starting New City - we held an informational meeting at a small cafe downtown. A handful of people showed up to hear more. Two of them were Mercer students - Meredith and Catfish. They were dating at the time. They came to help us start New City. They connected. They served. They joined a missional community. They married. They had a son. And Catfish became a doctor. Just this summer they accepted a position close to home and 11 years later, they left us. But they leave taking a bit of us with them. They leave with a deeper love for Jesus and greater understanding of what it means to be His family. They take that to South Georgia.

Zac and Mia Rice come to mind.  They served us so well. They also were served well as Arthur coached and discipled Zac because Zac served in our student ministry. They recently moved to  California and take with them a greater gospel depth. 

Jessica Encalrd. Goodness. New City was the first protestant church Jessica had ever been to. She knew about Jesus but she didn't really know Him. Jessica became a believer. She was baptized at New City. She and Sam were our first wedding at the Cherry Street building. Jessica and Sam live in the Atlanta area. She's a doctor now. They have a beautiful family and serve in their church.

In the last month or so I received a message from Davis Lacey. Davis was a part of New City during his Mercer years. He contacted me to let me know he was gearing up to plant a church and he wanted me to know that New City had a great influence in his decision to plant.

I remember meeting, talking with and praying for a Mercer couple - Dan and Alex. Alex was a newer believer and Dan was a not yet believer. They joined an MC who loved them and prayed for them. I counseled them and married them. I watch them now, mostly from a distance - Dan supporting and loving his growing family well it seems, Alex serving in Young Life and pointing so many to Jesus.  Aiken, SC doesn't know how blessed they are to Have Dan and Alex.

I could go on and on. New City has influenced countless students through years who are now all over the country and even the world. So often they leave us changed forever by God's grace. When they do, they take that with them, wherever they go.  This morning I have shed a few tears thinking about them and how amazing God has been through these years at New City. They are all evidences of God's grace!

This weekend a whole new batch of students will likely be with us.
Where will they go?  Who will they touch?  Will they marry? Have children? Raise families? Will they plant churches? Will they travel to distant places?
YES they will. They will do all of that and more.
And we have an opportunity to send them well prepared - to send them loved - to send them saturated in the beautiful news of Jesus - to send them changed by the gospel.

New City, please don't miss this.
Please don't overlook what God is doing here.
Please don't miss our opportunity to reach the ends of the earth....through college students.

Same Message, Different Methods

I grew up in a family of six and my older brother and I were only two years apart from each other. We are very close now but growing up we fought like cats and dogs. Sometimes my parents would disciple us separate from each other and I remember getting upset because it seemed like I got punished differently than my brother. I would complain that it wasn’t fair and that they loved my brother more than me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve began to see that my parents weren’t showing favoritism but rather they were disciplining us with the same goal in mind, just with different means because my brother and I have unique personalities that receive discipline in different ways.

This truth applies well to the work of evangelism. As Christians, we must affirm the message of the gospel and that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is true and unchanging. As for methods of evangelism, they can be fluid and change over time. For example, there is the confrontational type where the individual is forthright and urgent in sharing the message of the gospel. There is also the relational type in which someone wants to be hospitable and warm and build a relationship prior to sharing the gospel. Maybe consider the service style of evangelism where someone sees a felt lead and enters in empathetically, meets that need, and then proceeds to share the gospel message. All of these are right and true and appropriate because in all three cases they are trying to emulate Christ in all they do and proclaim the gospel message to a lost and dying world.

So for us, we must be genuinely interested in our neighbors, co-workers, classmates, roommates, friends, and family members to get to know them, their stories, their personalities and then adapt our method of sharing to that individual situation. For example, if your neighbor is an astrophysicist you know that she is highly intelligent and you may want to approach your evangelistic efforts with more of an intellectual approach. What about your co-worker who comes from a Middle Eastern country that is very big on hospitality? What you can do is invite him into your home, around your table, to eat with your family because it is through that that he will be open to receive the gospel message you have to proclaim to him.

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Again, let me affirm that the message of the gospel is never-changing but the method of sharing the gospel is ever-changing. The reality is this, as Tim Keller said, “there are some needs only you can see. There are some hands only you can hold. There are some people only you can reach.” The command, privilege, and joy of sharing the gospel is yours and mine. You can reach different people with the gospel than I would ever be able to reach. How amazing is it that God has invited all of us into His Story to play a part in redemption and restoration? It truly is a great joy to play a part in God’s Story! Are you sharing the gospel with those around you? Do you need help learning how to share the gospel? I’ve tagged some resources below to help you get started.

EXPOSED BY THE MISSION

In a recent conversation about 'Life on Mission', we explored what that could look like and some of the reasons we try to push it away. Jeff Vanderstelt does a great job at exploring the importance of living on mission in community, as well as some of the reasons why we try to excuse it away.


Yes, we can pretend to have it all together while sitting in a pew on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture. But mission exposes our inadequacies and need for grace.

If you are in a small Bible study group, one of the best things you could do is move the study out into the neighborhood. When you read a command in Scripture, ask, “How are we going to obey this command together on mission?” In other words, ask yourselves what this passage says you should do together (life in community) and how you might do it in the middle of a mission held together (life on mission).

Doing this will bring up all sorts of opportunities for discipleship: excuses will be expressed, fears acknowledged, lack of confidence or courage realized, and inadequacies verbalized. Then you’ll be getting somewhere in terms of people’s discipleship.

In this process, you will discover the truth about everyone’s present state. When you actually get out of the comfort of your Christian community and onto the streets of mission (in your neighborhood, at a café, in the park, or at a local high school), you will discover together where everyone still needs to be discipled. The junk will come out, and then you will be able to disciple one another in the everyday stuff of life.

I was surprised by this on my first mission trip, but after a few of them, I knew it was coming. Soon, a part of me began to hate taking mission trips because I knew things would get bad—we would fall apart and we would be seen as needy.

Yet that was why I continued to lead them. Such brokenness has to happen if real discipleship is going to take place.

Sometimes I wonder if this exposure is why Christians avoid getting on the mission of making disciples together in the stuff of everyday life. We know we will be exposed. We will be seen for the needy, desperate people we really are. Our junk will come to the surface. Yes, we can hide and pretend to have it all together while sitting in a large gathering on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture in a weekly Bible study. But out on mission, the need for grace and power from God will never be more clearly manifested.

That’s exactly what we need. We need to see and know our need for Jesus. We need to see and know others’ need for Jesus. Then we need to give one another the truths of Jesus to change us, empower us, and allow His Spirit to work through us effectively. We also need to experience God using weak, tired, and broken people to do amazing work.

This happened in the early church as well. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait for power from God—the Spirit of God was going to come upon them and empower them for the work (Acts 1:8). The disciples were sent out with God’s power and presence with and by His Spirit. They faced persecution. Many died for their faith. They lost possessions and family members. Many messed up and grew in the grace of Jesus as a result. And they grew in their love for one another, their devotion to obey God’s Word, their prayerful dependence on God, and the powerful proclamation of the gospel. They all grew while on mission (Acts 2:42–47).

The mission revealed their need and required God’s help!

I’m amazed at how often Christians want to experience the presence and power of God apart from the mission of God. I’m also surprised at how many people believe they can grow people up toward maturity in Christ apart from getting them involved in the mission of making disciples.

This stuff can’t happen in a classroom. It does not happen in one-on-one meetings. And it does not happen if we just hang out together as Christians all the time. We have to get out on mission to fulfill the mission of being disciples who make disciples.

I used to think we should take people out on mission trips once or twice a year. Now I’m convinced we need to help people see they are on mission all the time.

Unfortunately, many disciples of Jesus don’t get beyond seeing church as just attending an event on Sunday or Wednesday or doing a Bible study together. They are not experiencing what it means to be on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. So they live with the facade that everything is OK. On the surface, they look as if they are all in for Jesus. But brokenness, pride, insecurity, and selfishness are all there under the surface.

(taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life.)