Credit the Crusades (not those Crusades ... or those)

I had a blast at the Billy Graham Crusade.

That may come as a surprise. I know that I write with the angsty, critical 20something voice despite my efforts to be positive and helpful. And I am going to write about how, if massive crusades were our only how of evangelism, our why might be out of whack.

But that doesn't change the fact that I had a blast at a Crusade. I spent months preparing for it. There was this deal they did beforehand, called Operation Andrew, where you prayed for a friend to come with you to the Crusade and, hopefully, to Jesus. I prayed for Matt. And he's in the kingdom now. I don't know what sort of impact the Crusade had or what, if any, impact my prayers had, but I felt like I was a part of something special.

For generations, Christians have held crusades and revivals as a "how" to share the good news of Jesus. They met in tents and stadiums, included prayer and preaching and music and altar calls. Some make "decisions for Christ" in those tents and stadiums, and some even stick with it when they get home.

(These Crusades are not to be confused with the dozen or so genocidal vacations that took place hundreds of years ago or the campus ministry)

If crusades and special events were our only way of "doing evangelism," what would this reveal about our motivations?

(We're operating from the assumption that "hows" flow from "whys". This is a huge assumption and I know it's more complicated than that, but it's a blog, not a book)

You might start by noticing the violent, life-and-death language we use. What were the crusades? What do you revive? There's a lot of struggle and desperation in our language around these events. It's as if the Christians are gathering all their resources together for a last-ditch charge into the overwhelming world and are hoping that Jesus will come through on his promise to show up: "Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East."

Secondly, you might notice the specialness of the special event. It might seem to you that we believe that evangelism is a seasonal thing or a thing we do to make us look better than we normally look, like dressing up for a first date or sifting through your Facebook pictures to find the perfect profile shot. A church that had Billy Graham preach and Charlie Daniels perform every week would be packed. So, you might think we do evangelism because our daily lives as Christians are boring and you'd never want to be one if you really knew what it entailed.

Lastly, you might think that we believe that evangelism is a team sport. And you'd be right in that. We don't think that evangelism can only happen occasionally or that we're desperately flailing about for new recruits, but we do believe that evangelism happens best when we're all together. Crusades bring Christians together in evangelism, bring churches together, bring the body of Christ together. And that's powerful.

But that's not how we "do evangelism," at least, not in GCF, not primarily. We won't look to big events or big name speakers to bring our friends to Christ.

We'll do something different.

Tracts as tips

I have a cousin who tips with tracts.

I remember the first time I ever saw someone do this. We were at lunch with my cousin, a wonderful Christian lady who does this one thing that drives me crazy. At the end of the meal, she picked up the check (that's not the part that drives me crazy) and said a polite "Thank you so much" to our waitress (not it either). Then she left a tract.

A tract is a booklet or pamphlet that contains some sort of gospel presentation. According to wikipedia (my source for all official information), five billion tracts were distributed in the year 2000 alone. Some people read them, some people follow Jesus after reading them, most people throw them away.

I understand the logic behind leaving a tract as an after-meal tip. Didn't Jesus say something like "What does it profit a server if he gains the whole 20% but loses his soul?" I mean, if someone read the leave-behind tract and, in the process, connected with Jesus and with his community, that would be invaluable. I'd trade the $7.62 I had coming to me in exchange for eternal life. Good deal.

And I know that that's the way my cousin sees it.

But I wonder how the servers see it. In fact, I wonder how the wider world views our tract bombardments.

Do they think we're afraid of them?
Do they think we don't care enough to talk to them?
Do they think we have to do this to be right with God?
Do they think our core beliefs are summed up in a pamphlet?
Do they think we're arrogant?
Do they think we're argumentative?
Do they think we're stupid? or shallow? or sincere?

If our only means of evangelism was tract bombardment, what might someone guess as to why we evangelize?

I would probably start by assuming that evangelism is some sort of Christian duty. They do it because they have to, not because they want to. That would explain why they don't invest a lot of time or energy into it and why they don't seem to care whether it works or not. I mean, no one sticks around to see if a tract bombardment "worked."

Second, I would assume that Christians evangelize (remember, they're only using tracts) because they think that the reason I'm not a Christian has something to do with the gospel not ever having been presented to me in the form of an acrostic. They think that I will totally rearrange my life and adjust my long-held worldview if I could just hear that the Bible says I should be a Christian. Why do they evangelize: because they think that I'm hung up on information. If only they knew I was searching for meaning, not data.

Lastly, I might assume that they thought that this whole Jesus thing was important. Maybe not important enough for them to take time to talk to me about it, but important enough to invest a little bit of their money and to do it even if they are setting themselves up to be mocked. Is there anyone who doesn't realize that the wider world thinks Christians who are leaving tracts behind are fools?

I admire folks who are willing to be seen as fools for Christ, who don't cave in to the whims of our society, who will call the Emperor nekked if he's nekked. But I just can't see tract bombardment flowing out of the bigger gospel story.

If we want to do what Jesus is doing, if we want to be with him, if we think that coming and seeing Jesus is the best thing in the world, we won't leave tracts as tips.

We'll do something different.

Why is the new how

How deeply does your "why" impact your "how"?

I've written a bit already about the how/why relationship. Recently, I've been very aware that "How is not the same as why" when it comes to evangelism. The story of how I became a Christian may or may not convince you to follow Jesus. And that's okay.

But the how/why relationship is important.

If you look at how most of us do evangelism, what would you guess about our whys? Would "following Jesus" get guessed?

Did you realize that you can share something that sounds a lot like the gospel of Jesus without really mentioning Jesus?

A loving God created the world and everything in it, including human beings. We humans have rebelled against God, sinned and broken the world and everything in it, including ourselves. But our God is a loving God. Through the cross we can be restored to right relationship with him, be forgiven and see healing to come to the world and everything in it, including human beings. If you ask God for forgiveness and trust in faith alone (not your good deeds), you will be saved. No Jesus.

Many of our evangelistic methods reveal deep flaws in our understanding of why we do evangelism. Here's my hit-list for the week:

1) Tract bombardment
2) Massive crusades
3) Apologetic debate

These "hows" don't account for our main "whys". And why is the new how. If you get "why" right, if "why" is crystal clear in your mind, you'll end up with a different set of "hows". Dean Miller says "Theology drives ethics." Gary Deddo says "Imperatives follow indicatives." I guess I say "Whys lead to hows" at least today.

Why is the new how.

We want to do what Jesus is doing

To follow is to fish.

Luke 5:1-11, along with Mark 1:14-20, cements this truth for us. To follow is to fish. Andy Stanley preached a great sermon on this a while back and these concepts really capture what's happening on campus at Washington and Lee.

We share the gospel because we are finding that Evangelism and Discipleship are intimately linked. Jesus is an evangelist. He's sharing the gospel, reaching out to people and drawing them into a relationship with himself even now. If we want to follow him, to be with him, we'll be doing what he's doing: fishing.

Here's the audio from tonight's Large Group talk on this topic:

Jesus has the moral authority to call us to be evangelists

Jesus has the moral authority to call us to be evangelists.

"Moral authority" is a slippery phrase. Some might associate it with the divine right of kings (God-given authority). As God the Son, Jesus would have this kind of "moral authority." But that's not what I'm talking about.

Sometimes, I think that the only authority I have on campus is moral authority. My desire is to never ask students to do anything I'm not willing to do myself. If I ask them to read the Bible, I'd better be doing it myself. If I ask them to pray, I'd better be doing it myself. If I ask them to serve the poor or be discipled or become evangelists, I'd better be doing those things myself.

This generation won't follow leaders who ask them to do something they are unwilling to do themselves (especially if there's no money involved). Leaders who do this lack moral authority. And here's what happens...

The leader says "We should do this" or "We should believe this." And if they're good communicators and the request resonates with us, a lot of us will do or believe the thing that's being asked of us, at least for a while. We'll read, pray, serve and share. We'll do crazy things, sacrificial things, beautiful things, at least for a while.

But eventually, we see through the leader's facade. The phony image of perfection is difficult to maintain. As we do the things we're asked to do and as we deeply believe the things we're asked to believe, we grow. And if the leader isn't doing likewise, growth won't be happening. And this is where authority is lost.

Some leaders will fake growth: tell old stories, exaggerate and lie (I've done this). Some will hammer the guilt-nail to keep the spotlight away from their own inadequacies (I've done this). And some, some few, will make themselves vulnerable and admit that they're asking people to walk a path they're not walking themselves (I've done that). And it's hard, if not impossible, for leaders of volunteers to regain moral authority these days without an honest vulnerability.

Jesus has the moral authority to call us to be evangelists. He was an evangelist himself. Jesus "went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God" (Mark 1:14). He called people to come and follow him (Mark 1:17). He hasn't asked us to do anything that he hasn't done himself.

Let's follow him and let him make us what he wants to make us.

You can't do everything

You can't do everything.

We talk about this all the time in GCF. We've been told for most of our lives to do more and more and more, that doing more was the pathway to success. We talk about this all the time, but we still struggle with it. You can't do everything.

I find it so challenging to see that, when Peter and Andrew and James and John start to follow Jesus, they leave their nets and boats behind.

I don't want to leave anything behind. And there's nothing wrong with nets and boats, except that they hinder us from following Jesus and becoming fishers of men.

I have to admit, I'm tired of talking about this. I don't feel that I have anything new to say in the arena of work limits.

This is one of my big ministry struggles. I over-estimate the memorability of my sermons and this makes me feel like a broken record. "No one wants to hear me say 'You can't do everything' again."

But I think it's more complicated than that. It's more complicated because this is an arena where I struggle to maintain moral authority.

I tell these folks at W&L, these folks I love, that you can't do everything, but if you look at my life you see me really trying, trying to do everything.

And that's a problem.

Letter to Sherrie

Who helped you come to Christ?

At Large Group this week, we wrestled with the reality that we all were lost once. This reality is difficult to keep lodged in the forefront of our minds. As we move farther up and further into this faith in Christ, it's easy to lose touch with how we came to Christ. That's where this comes in...

We asked folks to write a letter or a note to someone who's had a significant spiritual impact in their lives. Here's my letter:

Dear Sherrie,

I just wanted to write you a quick note to say "Thanks" for the spiritual impact you've had in my life. I've been thinking a lot recently about key moments in my relationship with God and you were the person God used in, what appears to me as, the key moment.

Somehow, you ended up teaching Sunday School to the 6th graders at Lake Mag. I remember being in your class and being afraid. I had heard that God was angry and that he would punish us for our sins. I think I expected Sunday School teachers to go and do likewise.

You surprised me, Sherrie. You surprised me by being kind and by caring about me. With a big family, I often faded into the background to get out of everyone's way, but that never happened in your class. You asked about my family, showed interest in my interests and encouraged me to speak up as we talked about God and his word. I think you might have even prayed for me from time to time.

I wasn't prepared for that kind of care and attention from someone working at church. But that wasn't the biggest surprise. I still remember the day you sat us down in a circle in a long, skinny room and told us that the reason Jesus died for us was that he loved us. I had never heard that before. And I believed you. And I still believe you.

I know you've had hundreds of kids pass through your youth groups over the years, and, if you're anything like me, you wonder from time to time who you've impacted. Sherrie, what you did for me was so special and I'm so grateful.

I seems like every week I get to share with my students what you shared with me: God loves us and died for us that we might have life in him. Thank you so much for giving me good news to share and believe.

I really hope that things are going well with you and Robert and the boys. I'm really grateful for you and for the role God's given you in my life. Thanks again!

In Christ,
Steve

Three good reasons to share your story

What good might it be good or helpful for someone to know someone else's path to faith?

Here're three reasons:

Makes it personal
Conversations with folks about coming to Jesus can be incredibly abstract, confusing and esoteric. Christianity isn't another philosophy (although it sounds that way from time to time) and coming to faith in Christ is a very different experience from coming to believe an abstract idea.

I still remember when Mr. Morin joyfully explained to us that, if we applied differentials properly, we could calculate acceleration if we knew velocity. I remember sitting in Mr. Cano's physics class and testing out Mr. Morin's claim and finding that it worked. It really worked! But that's not the same experience I had when I came to know Christ.

A testimony matters because coming to Christ is personal, not abstract. We come to a person, engage with a person, ultimately, not an idea or a principle or a theorem. Telling my story of how I came to connect with that person can guide people away from the abstract and toward the relational.

Gives hope
Some people wonder if God can really rescue them. We hear a lot of that this time of year. People have just slogged through rush and some have done some things they regretted. Does God want me? Can God reach me?

Knowing someone else's path to faith can be marvelously faith-inducing. Again, it has to do with making the experience a little more concrete. "This is how I connected with Jesus" can spark in people an echo, a "Maybe I can connect with Jesus that way as well."

Building for the long-term
Lastly, we're building for the long-term. Telling someone an honest account of your conversion experience can give them a heads-up for what they're getting themselves into.

I think, and I don't have any hard evidence to back this up, that one of the main reasons we see so many people grow up in Christian homes and then go off to college and not follow Jesus has something to do with no one building for the long-term. We build temporary housing for the spiritually homeless, wanting to get them connected and committed.

So we petition and persuade. We manipulate and cajole. We cover over the rough spots so that this whole thing looks more attractive. And that's wrong. When we do that, we set people up to wander away. If I get started on this Jesus-thing and, all of the sudden, am facing all kinds of opposition and conflict and turmoil in my family/friend-group/community, how would it feel to know that this happened to you and you gave me no warning?

If we build for the long-term, we let people know what they're getting themselves into, at least in part. And we do that by telling them our story. Not just the story of the Pollyanna, I'm-in-love days, but also the story of the struggles and dark nights. We don't want to scare people away, but we also don't want to bait and switch.

Remember, we're called to be "fishers of men."

Intermission: Dishonest accounts

Larry brought up an excellent point in his comment on yesterday's post.

Not every conversion account is honest. People exaggerate, embellish, twist, tweak, adjust and lie. I know this because I do those things.

I was IMing (along with partner-in-crime Aron Stephens) with some folks in a chatroom for atheists in the late 90's (back when you could visit a chat room without being hit on by pedophiles). Someone asked how we became Christians. Can you guess what story I told?

"After a thorough study of major religions, I came to the conclusion that following Jesus was the most logical decision possible." This was partially true. I had heard about several religions in class, but hadn't done anything that approximated a thorough study. I wanted my faith in Jesus to sound like it was grounded in rational study. I wanted them to think that anyone with these facts would have come to these conclusions.

Dishonest accounts like these are so dangerous. What if they had believed me (they didn't, but what if)? What if they undertook a study of major religions that paralleled my embellishment? They might have spent a lifetime running a course with no guaranteed intersection with the gospel. What I had received, I didn't pass on. I tried to give something better.

Let's be honest, folks. (Thanks again, Larry.)

How is not the same as why

Michael Ramsden is a genius. But I misunderstood something he said a while back. And that misunderstanding jammed up my telling of my story of coming to Christ.

He was speaking on apologetics. Brilliant talk. You should listen to it sometime. He was pointing out a problem with the way we often answer people's questions about our faith.

When people ask us why we are Christians, we often answer with how we became Christians. So and so invited me to such and such and I heard this and that and so I became a Christian. It's all very relative. If I had gone with someone else to somewhere else, I'd be something else. Make sense?

"How" is not the same as "why."

In our pluralistic world, the "how/why" distinction is so important. I understood that. But I misunderstood Michael.

I thought that my personal "how" was irrelevant in a post-modern, pluralistic society. Since no one else will follow the same path to faith I followed (thanks, Heraclitus), what good is it for them to know my path?

I have some ideas about that, but maybe you could think about it for a day. Why would it be good or helpful for someone to know someone else's path to faith?

We all were lost once.

We all were lost once.

This truth shapes the way we think about evangelism, the way we do evangelism, the way we talk about evangelism.

Check out the audio from tonight's talk:


I'll be back and blogging tomorrow. God is so good!

It's complicated with Jesus

I love the relationship status line on Facebook.

I've seen people announce to the world that they're engaged via status. I've seen someone break off an engagement via status. Even though Derek and Sue Mondeau have been married for over a decade and have a baby on the way, their status lines still say "It's complicated."

One of the reasons I struggle to share my testimony is that I'm not really sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt when I really became a Christian.

Was it when I was in 6th grade and heard that sermon in chapel? I had gotten into a big fight in the neighborhood the day before, beat a kid up, and was feeling guilty about it. In the sermon at chapel, the preacher talked about God's wrath against sin and how the angry and violent and those who commit other sins will experience God's wrath and suffer eternally in hell. Jesus was the solution, the answer. His sacrifice would save me from hell, if I would pray the prayer and come forward.

Was that when I really became a Christian? It's complicated.

Was it in 9th grade at Van Dyke's Higher Dimensions worship service? Sherrie Leatherwood had made a huge investment in my life, encouraging me and talking to me about Jesus. Eventually, she invited me to Higher D and I heard that God saved me because he loved me. Even though my sins provoked his wrath, he pursued me with love. I didn't need to fear him or perform for him. I could just be with him.

Was that when I really became a Christian? It's complicated.

Was it before I was even born? The Bible says in Ephesians that God predestined us.

Was it after I experienced the Eucharist for the first time or when I was baptized (the first or second time)? The Bible says in Acts to believe and be baptized and in John that Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven and if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.

Friends, it's complicated. But we tell the story of our encounter with God anways. We have to tell the story the best we can in the moment we're telling it. Stories morph in the retelling. They always do. The point isn't to tell it perfectly or even consistently. We want to share our witness authentically and honestly.

So, let it be complicated and let it be told.

Bringing sexy back

One of my friends did some really crazy stuff before he became a Christian. People are always asking him to tell the story of God's work in his life. It's pretty cool.

I don't get asked to tell my story (well...Jose asked me once, but that was a long time ago). I'm overweight, wear glasses and (you'll know if you listen to the podcast) have a high pitched voice. Everyone knows that I don't have a crazy story to tell.

And that bothers me sometime. It used to bother me a lot. I'd try to make stuff up or exaggerate things in order to make my testimony more sexy. Now, it just bothers me sometime.

My testimony isn't sexy, but it's mine.

And I resonate so much with the words of the Apostle Paul:
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

I was young when I became a Christian. I didn't have a lot to offer. By the standards of this world, I wasn't outstanding in any way. I sat the bench on most of my sports teams. I got good, but not top grades. I had friends, but not many and I wasn't very close with any of them. And I had a high pitched voice. Some of that changed after I started following Jesus, but not all of it.

I know that God had a purpose for calling me, even if it was only to say to the world that God is still interested in you even if you're not cool. I'm not cool and that's okay (thanks, Scott). I cannot boast before God. I'm not a trophy. I'm a child of God.

I don't have to have a sexy testimony. All that matters is that I have one. And I should tell the story I've got, not wish I had a different one.

Thank you, God, that it is because of you that I am in Christ Jesus, that it's not because of me. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.

Testimony Traffic Jams

How did you become a Christian?

I think the story changes every time I tell it. Sometimes it's a long story. Sometimes it's a short story. Some things get emphasized sometimes, some things don't.

I've shied away from my coming-to-Christ story (also known as a "testimony") over the years. Other things would come up in evangelistic conversations, but not my story. And I certainly would never, ever, not ever dream of bringing my story up in a conversation with other Christians. I've become more and more aware of this recently, thanks to a little help from a friend.

My friend Abby is an amazing follower of Jesus. She's one of those people who is excited about Jesus, smiles when she talks about him and talks about him like he's a real person and not just some idea in which she believes (this, by the way, is one of the reasons she's an excellent evangelist). Abby told me at some point last year (when she was still new to her relationship with Jesus) that no one in GCF ever explained "grace" to her. Not that we preached salvation by works, just that we threw the word - "grace" - around like everyone knew what we were talking about. Why was that?

The main reason I never defined the word "grace" to Abby is the same reason I stopped sharing my testimony and relied on non-story or impersonal means of verbal witness.

I assumed that all the Christians in our community had been Christians for a long time. I have been a Christian for over 16 years myself. And with this dangerous assumption came an assumed conclusion, the reason I didn't share my testimony or define "grace": what God did in my life when I was 11 couldn't really be relevant to the lives of 18-22 year olds.

Think about it. If they've been following Jesus for 5, 10 or 15 years, why do they need to hear my testimony? They'll have heard better, more exciting stories of coming to Christ. And if they're not following Jesus at age 18, what good would it do to hear a story about me and a fight and a Christian school chapel and Sherrie Leatherwood? Is there any chance in the world that Sherrie is going to invite them to Sunday School? Unless they're Tampa-bound middle schoolers, it's a long shot. Why do they need to hear my testimony?

I'm not sure I have an answer, but I think it has something to do with this:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
- 1 John 1:1-4

Is it possible that, because "the life appeared," our sharing "what we have seen and heard" creates space for real people to really connect with us and with the God who can be seen and heard, that sharing what we've seen and heard is necessary for our joy to be complete? Relevancy isn't the reason we share. We're not trying to make the gospel relevant. We're trying to make it personal. And nothing, no story's more personal than my testimony.

Why else? Why else do we shy away from sharing our testimonies?

Here're three more reasons why I wrongly back off from sharing my testimony:
1) I don't have a very sexy testimony
2) My point of conversion changes with my theology, making it complicated
3) I learned that "how" does not equal "why," so I thought "how" didn't matter

We have hope, Dr. King

As has become a bit of a tradition on this blog, I'd love to share some excerpts with you from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Smuggled out of the jail on scraps of paper, this letter challenges me deeply as I wrestle with the emotional and practical implications of my commitment to Christ.

"Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."

And that, Dr. King, is one of the reasons we do what we do. Our community catches disappointment before it turns to disgust and, by God's grace, helps turn it into hope. We have great hope for the church, Dr. King. God is at work in us, reconciling the world to himself.

Does God ask us to do some of the same things Philip and Timothy did?

Does 2 Timothy belong in our Bible? Is it relevant to us?

My exegetical thread from Philip the Evangelist to You the Evangelist runs through 2 Timothy. But in order to do that, I have to answer "yes" to those first two questions.

2 Timothy (and the rest of the pastoral epistles) was given by God to help us know, love and obey him. Note the "us." I'm including the dude named "Timothy" as one of us. The letter was to him initially, but it is also (in a way) to all of us.

Here's the complexity: Where 2 Timothy says "remember Jesus Christ," it can apply to Timothy and to us, clearly; Where it says "bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas," it applies to Timothy and not to us. So, when it says "do the work of an evangelist," was that to Timothy alone or to all of us? I clearly land on the "all of us" side.

But why? The context of the passage doesn't make it clear. Contextually, it could go either way.

This is where we telescope out, trying to run the right way around the circle of analogical predication, we come to a clearer understanding of what is an Evangelist. What did Philip do (as far as we can tell)? What did 2 Timothy call Timothy to do (in the immediate context)? Do we see an overlap between Philip's activity and Timothy's call and the call to all believers given in Scripture?

Philip was mentioned in Acts...
- going to Samaria and proclaiming Christ there (8:5)
- doing miraculous signs (8:6)
- preaching the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (8:12)
- listening to an angel, building a relationship with a eunich, and telling him the good news about Jesus (8:26-35)
- travelling about, preaching the gospel (8:40)
- baptizing Samaritans, Simon Magus, and the unnamed Ethiopian eunich (8:12, 13, 38)

Timothy is called to...
- preach the Word (v. 2)
- correct, rebuke and encourage (v. 2)
- keep his head in all situations (v. 5)
- endure hardship (v. 5)
- do the work of an evangelist (v. 5)
- discharge all the duties of his ministry (v. 5)

Do you see, in those lists, anything we might be called to do as followers of Christ?
So, after a lot of thought, here's what "Evangelist" means to us:

Philip was an Evangelist. He was one of the Grecian Jews, known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom, wait on tables, making it possible for the word of God to spread (Acts 6). During the persecution of the church after Stephen's death, Philip "proclaimed the Christ" in Samaria (breaking that barrier) and "told the good news about Jesus" to a eunich from Ethiopia (breaking that barrier); all his proclamation and telling leading to "great joy" and "rejoicing" (Acts 8). He then disappears from the limelight for years.

Now, what makes Philip an Evangelist? Am I importing the title onto him? By all mean, no.

The word "Evangelist" (in the Greek: "euaggelistes" if you're Greek and wonder how to say that in your mother tongue) appears in the Bible only 3 times and only once as a title given to a specific person. Can you guess who that specific person was?

"Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. (Acts 21:8)" He's mentioned in passing as Paul was passing through Caesarea (Acts 21). He was "the evangelist."

You might be wondering, at this point, if Philip was "the evangelist," how the title was passed on to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Rick Warren, and you and me. Maybe it has to do with the other two mentions (see how we're building a definitional picture from Scripture? Start with Scripture and then account for common assumptions): Ephesians 4:11 and 2 Timothy 4:5.

Ephesians 4:11 won't get you there, at least, not necessarily. As Paul builds his cosmic theology of the Church and unfolds the beautiful theology of our union with Christ, he touches on some of the gifts Christ has given to us: apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers and, yes, evangelists. These people are Christ's gift to the church.

But some were given to be Evangelists, not all. "He walks among us, but is not one of us" (do you know the quote without cheating?). But I'm going to come out on Thursday and say that we're all supposed to be Evangelists, in one sense of the word.

Will I be contradicting God's Word? If not, why not?

The answer will have to wait for "Manana, manana, manana is soon enough for me." Thanks, Peggy Lee.

No answer, yet

Yesterday, I asked what it means to us that someone is an Evangelist? that Jesus might call us to be Evangelists?

I said I'd wrestle with that question today and I have. But I still have no answer, yet. Or, at least, I don't have a clear, bloggable answer.

So, I guess we'll have to wait for "To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow." Hopefully, we'll hop off the Macbeth train before we get to "Told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

Evangelist is a ten-letter word

After all this time thinking and writing about evangelism, my eyes are just drawn to words that start with "evangel."

Today was rough on that front. The title "Evangelist" was scattered and splattered all over the news. Apparently, an Evangelist had some "good news" for the hurting people of Haiti. This nifty shake-up will actually give them a great excuse to do some remodeling and, anyways, they asked for it (their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents did something stupid and, God visits the sins of the parents onto the children, even to the eleventh generation (he doesn't actually do that, right?)(can you do parentheses in parentheses?)).

Why is it that every time a tragedy happens, someone with the title of "Evangelist" gets to say something confusing / stupid / unkind / weird / controversial as if they represent all Christians?

Guess what, friends? One week from tonight we'll be wrestling with God's call for us to become Evangelists. Get ready to say something crazy!

Seriously, though...why is it that when Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, he says he's going to make them Evangelists? Is he going to do that to us? Couldn't he just make us Virtuous People? or Servants? or Justice Workers? or Better Husbands, Better Wives, Better Friends, Better Parents, Better Children? C'mon, Jesus, Fishers of Men? Of all the things we want Jesus to make us, Evangelist rarely appears on the list.

To the fourth estate, Evangelist equals (at least) someone who will say something outrageous when tragedy strikes. To us it means something else. What's that?

Tomorrow, tomorrow,
I'll tell you tomorrow.
I'm only go-ing halfway.
(I hate it when bloggers leave me hanging while they try to think up answers to the questions they raise for themselves)

Why are you glancing around the room?

I've glanced around the room before telling a joke. Any girls in the room? Any children? Anyone from West Virginia?

Why is it that talking about evangelism with someone present who's not a Christian feels like telling a racist joke?

Q:What do you get if you mix a Cuban, a Southerner and an Agnostic?
A:I don't know, but I wouldn't want him to move in next door!

Awkward.

Talking about evangelism around our unChristian friends is awkward because, if it's done poorly, we communicate a lack of acceptance.

This is a point where you might be tempted to check out, assume I took too much psych (which I did...it's like a drug), and write this off as Rogerian babble. But acceptance is important. God always accepts us.

This doesn't mean that we're not sinners, that we shouldn't expect life-change as we follow Jesus, or that God accepts our behavior. Sin never ceases to be sin, even after we sinners are united to Christ and accepted in him.

How can we speak in such a way that our friends will both be able to hear:
1) that we love, care about, and accept them
2) that we want them to experience radical transformation.

It's easier to have these conversations in our Christian bubbles, to reserve evangelism conversations for Leaders' Gatherings. It's easier, but not - in the long run - wise.

I want my friends to see what my faith is all about. No "bait and switches" with us, brother. I want them to know what they're getting themselves into. When Jesus called his disciples (in itself, evangelism), his invitation linked relationship and evangelism: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."

If our evangelism conversations are such that we have to hide them from our friends, something's wrong. Our friends may not understand our conversation (there are some things that just make more sense once you're through the threshold of the kingdom), but they should never doubt that the people of God and, more importantly, the God of the people of God accepts them.

What would it sound like to have a communal conversation about evangelism that we would want to have overheard by the listening world? What would happen if we talked about evangelism in such a way that we didn't have to glance around the room?

You should be ashamed of yourself, Evangelist-to-be

"Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell!"

Yeah, I'm ashamed to say I chanted that. At Cameron Indoor Stadium, the whole wild pack of Cameron Crazies got whipped into a frenzy chanting that. Everyone at Duke, at one point or another probably chanted that. It's not one of the unofficial graduation requirements, but it's expected.

I stopped chanting "Go to hell" at some point and switched to other, less-theological cheers. Something about wishing someone to "Go to hell," even in jest, made me uncomfortable.

The sounds of hell echo through evangelism series. To quote an old theologian:
Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen.

And we love some of these "unconverted men". And this is where the shame and manipulation come barrelling into my life. If we don't share the gospel (remember, we're cool with bad theology, so long as we're in an evangelism series), our unconverted loved ones will end up in hell.

That's motivation.

The day I became a Christian, a day full of fear-filled stories of hellfire and brimstone, I rode my bike to my best friend's house to warn him. I thought I was warning him about hell. It turned out that I was warning him that, if he wouldn't become a Christian, he and I couldn't be friends. I couldn't handle the tension.

Despite the violence of my youth, I had a soft heart. When EJ wouldn't respond to my attempts to share the gospel, I was filled with shame. Why couldn't I rescue my friend, convince him, save him? What was wrong with me? Rather than face the tension, shame and pain, I stopped spending time with EJ.

As folks preaching, we are severely tempted to use shame to get people to do things they're supposed to do. Shame is so powerful. People respond to shame. Shame is so destructive. People respond to shame.

When we attempt to shame people into sharing the gospel, a few things happen:
1) We share the Good News as bad news (we pass on our shame)
2) We distance ourselves from people who are not easily converted
3) We associate evangelism with shame and wisely avoid it

Now, I don't want any of that to happen, so why do shaming elements creep into my sermons?

One of the reasons it's so difficult to speak on evangelism without provoking shame in my hearers is because I am so wrapped up in shame myself. Sometimes, I feel like I'm a sick doctor. I cough and sneeze on my patients and they catch whatever it is I have. My disease is shame. If I am not cautious and God is not gracious, you will catch it - this shame - if you listen to me long enough and digest my teaching. Thank God, he's gracious!

We share out of an overflow of love, out of excitement, out of our joy. We share hopefully and expectantly. We share freely, grateful to be included in the sharing of the news about Jesus. Sometimes, we share fearfully, reluctantly, timidly, poorly, weakly. We never share the gospel out of shame. What gets shared when I've been shamed is never the gospel. It may sound like the gospel, feel like the gospel, quack like the gospel, but it is not the gospel.

The gospel is that, in Christ, God has taken away our shame, along with our alienation, guilt and bondage. God has adopted us and placed his claim on us, united himself to us and set us free. God does not motivate by shame. Why do I?

Our God is a Needy God (He reigns - if you can call it that - in heaven above)

We serve a needy God.

He needs our praise and our worship, according to some songs. He needs us to give him money, according to some (he makes the point by 1:02, cut it there). Oh yeah...and he needs us to share the gospel because he can't do it himself, according to some.

If only our God wasn't so puny!

But then again, if our God wasn't puny, it'd be a lot more difficult preaching an evangelism series. A God who was sovereign and active and involved would make a conversation about evangelism very complicated.

That God would lead me to ask "Why does he include me?" or "Why doesn't everybody get to hear?" Fortunately, I don't have to ask those difficult questions. I already know the answers.

God includes me in the sharing of the gospel because his admiration of free will makes it so that he can't interfere with folks directly. He includes me because his purity is such that one word from him would cause the brains of the pagans to implode (my new-birth regeneration renders me immune to holiness-implosions, doubters). And, lastly, he includes me because he needs someone who understands the culture.

As to why everybody doesn't get to hear, it's pretty complicated. All you need to know is that if God could, he would tell them all himself. He is so loving, our precious, little Deity! Oh yeah...and free will (that needs to show up in the answer somewhere...no one can challenge 'free will' in a theological conversation).

Some might challenge my perception of our needy God. But they'd better wait until after the evangelism series. I mean, if we start talking about God-the-evangelist, we might lose our motivation to go out there and share, share, share.

We need to carry the ball. It's our time. Hang in there, Little Buddy (that's what I like to call God when I'm helping him out). We're on our way!

[I really hope you caught the sarcasm...otherwise, this post is going to seem really ridiculous]

I wish I knew

Why don't I talk about Jesus more frequently?

I wish I knew, exactly.

There's a point in every evangelism series where the speaker tries to get at why we don't share the gospel more often.

It makes sense, right? They have to try to get at this mysterious stumbling block, whatever it is. If we're talking about evangelism out of some perceived deficit, there must be something wrong with me, something we can fix with a minor homiletical adjustment.

But there's a problem with this reasoning. It assumes that the problem is in "me", that I, as an individual, need help. And, as with most flawed reasoning, this reasoning is partly true. Part of the reason I don't share the gospel more often has to do with my bad theology, my lack of compassion, my shaky grasp of the "proper" technique. Part of the reason. Only part.

For the rest, we need to look to the community. What if it were the case that one of the reasons I talk about Jesus infrequently is because when I'm around Christians that kind of conversation is considered show-offy and elicits eye-rolls? What if another reason was that I'm so busy going to Christian meetings that I don't have time to develop meaningful friendships with people who don't yet know Jesus? What if yet another reason was that I don't feel that I can trust my Christian friends to treat my unChristian friends (whom I've already admitted I'm on shallow terms with) with respect and love? What if there's something wrong with "us", not just with "me"?

The systems in the community can hinder the witness of the community. How many of us have been stirred by a sermon on evangelism and left the meeting wanting to share the gospel, but had no one to share it with?

This is a tough spot for me personally. In GCF, we refuse to ask students to do anything that we're unwilling to do ourselves. Sometimes I think that the only authority we wield is the moral authority earned over years of doing ourselves what we ask them to do.

How do I preach an evangelism series and address hindrances folks might have with evangelism if I'm unwilling to address the things that are holding me back? I could preach about theology and compassion and technique, but that would miss the mark for me. My problem isn't primarily with my theology or my compassion or my technique. My problem mainly has to do with the systems and structures into which I have plugged myself, systems of sarcastic irreverance and busyness and dishonesty. How do I address these systems and structures that I've built and had a hand in maintaining over the years?

Jesus addressed systems as well as individuals. Somewhere in his example, I'll bet I find help. And if I can't find the help I'm looking for in his example, he's given me something better: his Spirit, present in me and in us. I wish I knew how to tackle this.

Lord, help us to be relevant. We need your help.

Let's talk about what we're talking about

I have a confession to make, I only think about my roof when it's leaking. I only think about my plumbing when it's leaking. I only think about my dogs...okay, well, I think about them more often than that, but if they're standing by the door and whining, they get my full attention.

Churches and Christian groups tend to only talk about evangelism when it isn't happening. This is a familiar pattern.

We often wait to talk about things until when we're struggling with them. We only talk about tithing when the money's running low. We only talk about politics when we're nearing a big election or vote. We only talk about evangelism when we feel like we're not sharing the gospel enough.

And let's be honest, when do we ever feel like we're sharing the gospel enough?

The Good News is so good and God's gospel is so great, we never get to the end of talking about it. We may get tired of talking, feel afraid to talk, but we never get to the end.

I wonder if that's why we assume that people aren't sharing the gospel. I wonder if that's why we talk about evangelism like our roof is leaking.

And here's the crazy thing, our roof isn't leaking, at least, not now. People in our community are sharing the gospel. They doing it often and doing it well. Maybe they've shared the gospel with you, tried to share with you the good news about Jesus. Maybe it's been uncomfortable or weird, but they're trying. And I'm proud of that.

We're going to talk about evangelism, not because we're not sharing the gospel enough, but because God is doing something in our community that is prompting us to share the gospel. We're going to talk about evangelism because we're talking about it already. We're talking about it when Luke shares a story or when Abby prays for courage or when Will gets that slanty grin on his face. We are a community that is faithfully (not perfectly) sharing the gospel.

What would happen if folks who get to preach leaned into the work that God was already doing in their community? If God is connecting us with the poor, we would preach about justice. If God is broadening our community, we'd preach about multi-ethnicity. If God is stirring our hearts so that we're talking about our Jesus-the-Only with folks who don't yet know him, we'd have an evangelism series.

Let's not be pessimistic. By the grace of God, great things are happening!

Five reasons I hate evangelism series

I've been reading Henry V before going to bed. I love the olde spear shaker: he moves me and then puts me to sleep.

Last night I read this:
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'
- Henry V III.1

I don't think I'll be running around yelling "God for Harry," but I do feel a little bit like a "greyhound in the slips, straining upon the start." I can't wait for school to start again and everyone to get back. That's what not having classes will do to ya, huh?

This Winter Term, starting in a few weeks, we'll be kicking off the new year with a series on Evangelism. I love evangelism, but hate evangelism series.

Here's five reasons why I usually hate evangelism series:
5) They're pessimistic and assume evangelism isn't happening
4) They're irrelevant and don't address the reasons I don't share
3) They're theologically off-kilter and make God seem puny
2) They're shame-based and manipulative
1) They're non-invitational. Would you invite a visitor to this?

I'd like to expand on these over the next week and force myself to wrestle with them. I'd love for our start-of-the-year series to be different and new, but, first, I have to deconstruct the old. Why do our conversations about evangelism usually end up in the pessimistic, irrelevant, off-kilter, manipulative and non-invitational place?

The New One is not like the Old One

Is the Christian vision of the kingdom of God just another way of talking about the liberal utopia?

Think about what we've been talking about over the last week...
...start by naming your fears
...think globally, act locally
...displace yourself, give up privilege

Isn't there a lot of belief in the power of the individual? in the power of the community? Isn't there a sense that if we all just tried a little harder, got a little more serious, everything would be okay? Isn't there an element of let's just sit in a circle and hold hands with each other and we'll all get along? Can you see this in what I've been writing?

Social justice, apart from the power of God, will not take us where we want to go. The tracks may overlap for a while, but they will differ radically. God is creating a new world, a new kingdom and the New One is not like the Old One.

The kingdom of God that is coming, the kingdom God is bringing into existence through the advance of the church, is a kingdom marked by his power. We bank on his power, do things that don't make sense apart from his power.

That's why we don't grasp for the world's power, by the way. We have power enough already. With God's Spirit dwelling in us, we already have enough power to change the world.

That's also why we make lousy political allies, we Christians. We won't stay on your side for long. You think you have us in your pocket because we agree with you on abortion, but then we say something crazy about marriage or something crazy about immigration or something crazy about the environment. We can't be trusted. We have a power that we can't share with you unless you become one of us. We are exclusive and obnoxious, the power-filled community of God.

When Brenda told us that we must go out in the power of God, she wanted to make sure we heard that the Christian vision for the world, our credible witness, is an apocalyptic vision. God is making all things new. The old order, with its strategies for social change, will pass away.

God is breaking the world through us, mysteriously. I say "mysteriously" because it's hard to see how our living as this new community will bring about the kingdom of God, how it will make any difference. It's hard to see how my praying for my friend Fabian's job interview today brings us any closer to that day when God "will wipe every tear from our eyes." It's hard to see how that offering we collected last Sunday brings us any closer to that day when "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain." It's hard to see how any of my sermons will ever bring us any closer to that day when "the old order of things [will pass] away."

That's why we must go out in the power of God. We don't see how any of this - our life together as the new community - matters to the big picture. But God has his own utopia planned and it will come in the way he desires: by his power. The New One is not like the Old One.

The Gospel looks fake

"That kind of diversity looks fake" he said as we walked out of the Dome after one of the Urbana plenary sessions. This student noticed that up on stage there were men and women of Asian, African, Latino and European descent. In fact, he noticed that (other than Alec Hill, who runs InterVarsity, and Jim Tebbe, who runs Urbana) only one of the main speakers was a white, American male. And I appreciated both his attentiveness and his honesty.

He was awakening to a hard truth: the gospel looks fake to us.

When Paul reached for evidence that the good news of Jesus Christ was meaningful, he went to two different places (mainly):
1) The gospel changes lives
2) The gospel creates a new community

This "new community", the church, is made up of people who wouldn't normally be in relationship with each other. This "new community", the church, crosses all sorts of lines and creates a special diversity.

This diversity is special because it is unnatural. This student knew that. He commented that "People tend to self-segregate" and he's right. They do. We do. We gravitate toward people we like, toward people who like us, toward people like us. And so diversity is rare. Homogeneity is common.

And here's the kicker: the world wants diversity. The world tries to create diversity, to force it. Even though we naturally gravitate toward The Similar, we long to be connected to The Different. And forced diversity looks fake. It is fake. It's plastered on the outside, but doesn't look natural. People are dragged together, not drawn together.

So, when, through the gospel, Jesus creates the church, the new community, and this new community draws people together, God is glorified and people pay attention.

This is why Brenda said that we must move to a new neighborhood. Chances are, our neighborhoods are not diverse. Chances are, our churches are not diverse. Chances are, even though the gospel brings people together, we don't experience that and our friends don't experience that.

As we move toward a credible witness, we need to acknowledge that the gospel looks fake to us, that we'll feel phony living like Christ, but that this is real and that this is how we live out the gospel: we move to new neighborhoods.

The Secret is Where You Start

God starts small.

Open the Bible and it's right there, small. Okay, so he created the heavens and the earth and all the animals and trees and all that. That's a lot. But he created a man and a woman. Two people. A small start to this epic story.

He calls Abram and Sarai, an older couple with no children. A small start to this epic family.

He chooses Israel to be his people, to dwell with him in his land under his rule and blessing. Former slaves, tossed back and forth by the global powers, planted in a strategic crossroads that everyone watches but no one wants to live near. A small start to this epic kingdom.

He comes as a baby, grows up in obscurity, attracts a few followers and dies. A small start to this epic identity.

He fills a rag-tag crowd with his Spirit, makes a few promises, gives a few commands and then unleashes them on the world and the gates of hell. 500 people, max. A small start to this epic movement.

God starts small. And so must we.

If you want to change the world, do something epic, present "a credible witness," start small.

Start where you are.

You don't have to move. You don't have to leave. You don't have to uproot and displace and sell all your stuff and scare your parents. Not yet, at least. Start where you are. You are already in a neighborhood. Love your neighbor.

In 1 John 4:19ff, the apostle uses this train of logic:
If you don't love your brother,
whom you have seen,
you can't love God,
whom you have not seen.

(I wondered if John just didn't know that it's because I do see them and see them avoiding me at Wal-Mart that I struggle to love my brothers and sisters in Christ...until I realized that he's reshaping our use of the word "love")

I'd like to apply John's logic to Brenda's talk and the "we must start where we are" idea:

If you don't love your neighbor,
whose loud iTunes playlist you have heard,
you can't love God,
whose iTunes playlist you have not yet heard.

And maybe this works too:

if you don't love and serve your near neighbor,
whom you can love and serve with very little sacrifice and discomfort,
you can't love and serve your far neighbor,
whom you cannot love and serve without much sacrifice and discomfort.

(Of course, this requires reshaping our use of the words "love" and "serve").

So, here's the secret: start small. "Here" is small. "Now" is small. "With what you've got" is small. Start small.

You want to develop a credible witness? Start here and now and with what you've got. Start small.

What are you so afraid of?

I was the biggest guy on the football team.

Well, the heaviest, if not the biggest. It was little league and they capped the weight limit at 175 pounds and I was right at the limit. All of the linemen were supposed to be.

I was the biggest guy on the football team, but I kept flinching, flinching. D-linemen would fly by me, linebackers would jump over me, and this one free safety would run right through me. And I kept flinching, flinching.

My coach would yell, grab my helmet and yell "What are you so afraid of? You're the biggest guy out here and you're covered with armor. What are you so afraid of?"

Coaches have to yell, I think. Somewhere in a closet under the stairs there's an official rule book that requires coaches to yell if they want to get through to their players.

I was afraid of a lot. I was afraid of getting hurt, sure. But I was mostly afraid of my teammates. This was Police Athletic League football, rough football, football for kids whose parents got their gear at thrift stores. And I had the lightest skin on the team. I stood out.

I was afraid that I would block well, play well, get praise from the coach and get jumped while waiting for my mom to pick me up after practice. I didn't know my teammates, I didn't live near them, I didn't know they would never do something like that to me.

Then something happened. There were race riots in St. Petersburg on a Friday night. Some white police officer shot an 18-year-old black kid. The next day, we nervously showed up for the PAL game. One of my teammate's fathers met us at our car. He gave me a hug and thanked us for coming to the game. He sat next to my parents in the stands and protected them by his presence. I was on the field, so I prayed and became less afraid.

I had been afraid that they would hurt me because I wasn't like them. That was a fear, a big one. God wanted me to name that fear and he had a bigger purpose than interracial sportsmanship.

Brenda asked us to name our fears, to identify them, bring them into the open. Hidden, unidentified, unnamed fears are hard to abandon. They cause us to do things that seem rational and justifiable but are also non-incarnational. They must be named as we start to present a credible witness to the gospel of Jesus, as we start to tear down walls and barriers between people.

Here're some of the fears Brenda has encountered on her journey...
...I can't change anything
...I can't change everything
...I'll be overwhelmed
...I can't identify with these people
...I'm not worthy

Can you see how these fears - unnamed - would keep us from starting where we are?

A Credible Witness

Why is it that some people don't believe us when we talk about Jesus? We say that Jesus is loving, that he cares, that he came for everyone...but they don't believe us.

Here's one possible reason:
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
-Brennan Manning

If our lifestyles can diminish the credibility of our witness, how can we present a credible witness?

Brenda Salter-McNeil addressed this question on the last night of Urbana. Unfortunately, I missed it, sick in bed with a high fever. But, the video is available here.

According to Brenda, if you are going to present a credible witness to the gospel of Jesus...
...we must name our fears
...we must start where we are
...we must move to a new neighborhood
...we must go out in God's power

I'll expand on these more later, but in the meantime, ask yourself, are we presenting a credible witness?