31 Days of Evangelism Day 22: Passion and Pain

Everyone you meet lives somewhere on a continuum between the poles of passion and pain. Where they are on the continuum varies from mild to severe depending on their circumstances and how they react to them. Let’s say a guy just got his dream job or his family bought a new house, or a couple were married, while another had a baby. These represent things people get excited about, things that stir our passion. Or, conversely, a lady just lost her job, or an elderly couple received some bad health news, or perhaps a teen is experiencing deep hurt with a family member or friend. Whether the pain is deep and life-altering or something minor like a cold, we are all aware of pain. And, we all love to have our passions stirred.

Sharing Jesus is as simple as connecting with others around their passion or their pain. It’s in our everyday conversations that we can help people see that their life matters, that their passion to live comes from God, and that the good news of Jesus can rescue them from pain.

Let me give an example or two using the 3 Circles. If you aren’t familiar with it you can find out more here. In a nutshell, it’s an approach sharing the gospel from the perspective of the grand story of Scripture by use of three circles: the first is God’s Design, relating to creation, the image of God, and purpose. The second is Brokenness, where sin, its consequences, and our failed attempts to deal with sin are explained. The third is the Gospel, where Jesus’s work on the cross are explained. Following that, the pursuit of God’s Design represents the hope of Restoration.

I often share Christ with young adults, Most display passion for one thing or another pretty quickly. Sometimes I will ask, “If you weren’t limited by money or geography, and could go anywhere and do anything with your life, where would you go and what would you do?” I normally get one of two responses: most have an answer immediately and get very excited talking about the possibility. Some don’t have an immediate answer, but they admit the question gets them thinking. We all want to be part of something bigger than us. When I talk about this, I tell my story of being a teacher and how almost nothing gets me as excited as seeing someone “get it” when I’m teaching. We all have a passion for something. As we converse about this, I take the person to God’s Design, noting the Bible teaches us that God created us with an insatiable appetite to matter, and has given us the capacity to have a passion. From there I walk through the gospel, explaining how sin and brokenness keeps us from the things we want (and even more significant things we can’t even envision–God’s purpose for us), but how Jesus has made a way to know God and to discover the true passion of life: to be in fellowship with God and to serve him with a whole heart. I’ve found this to be a powerful way of explaining the good news.

If I meet something who is hurting, going through some pain, I don’t start with God’s design. I start with brokenness. I also admit the brokenness in my own life, recognizing we all suffer from some form of it. I discuss why this bothers us so much, because God has designed the world and us for something more than survival. So I start with brokenness and sin, and then go back to God’s design, and from there I explain how Jesus is the one who both understands our pain and has dealt with it on our behalf on the cross.

That’s a very quick and oversimplified summary of the kind of conversations I have. This week, think about the people you know who face pain, or those who are currently enjoying the passion of life. Apply the gospel story to their story. By the way, this will also help you to encourage fellow believers walking through a dark season, and will help to give glory to God for whatever joy they currently experience.

Adapted from Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It

31 Days of Evangelism Day 20: Traveling and Training

I wanted to take this Saturday in the series to talk about training. Many of you who know me understand how I had to make some adjustments to my workaholic life flowing out of my Type-A personality (among other issues). After a season of learning, evaluation, and developing the habit of regular sabbath days, I’ve gotten back in the saddle to doing more travel. It’s actually a very real calling, and one I enjoy. Ephesians 4 tells us God gave the church evangelists (and pastors, etc) to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. I love equip the saints in sharing Jesus.

Nowadays I’m very focused on helping believers and church leaders become more effective in evangelism in general and personal evangelism in particular. That’s why virtually all the speaking I do currently revolves around my newest book, Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out.

This week I flew to Atlanta to speak to the Georgia Baptist Association of Religious Educators. Apparently the weather in Georgia didn’t like the fact that I’m an Alabama fan, so it got snowed out. Next week I’m on the road –– or in the air, as it will be –– to Arkansas and then to Florida. I’ll be teaching my book to a lay institute in two Arkansas cities Monday and Tuesday, flying home in time for my first class of the spring that night. Next weekend I will be in two churches, First Baptist Naples and South Tampa Fellowship. Oh, and enjoying some warmer temps I hope. Following that I will be doing a makeup at a church in Virginia because of yet another snow event at the start of the year. Later in the month, and the months to come, I will be with several state Baptist convention evangelism conferences teaching, you got it, my book some more. In the middle of that I will fly to Lviv, Ukraine, to teach for a week at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary. I will also be teaching this same book as a part of my classes this spring.

You may think I would get bored or tired of talking about the same thing over and over. Talking about sharing Jesus without freaking out, about how anyone can have evangelistic conversations, and about the importance of grasping the wonder of the gospel might get old., when I do it again and again, right? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I can never get tired of this.

Paul was a one-trick pony.  He preached Christ and him crucified. Again, and again, and again. I want to be like Paul. I want to give my life to helping believers, whether a new believer or a veteran pastor, young or old, introvert or extrovert, to share Jesus. I’m convinced the church has unnecessarily muddled the urgent gospel message in our pursuit of so many important things.

Here’s the good news: there are many, many pastors and leaders who want this. It’s almost like we went through a bit of a void for a season. Evangelism got pushed to the curb. Other important things were emphasized, from church planting to global missions to social justice. All these matter of course. We should give them attention, but not at the same of the Great Commission. It’s time to remind people of the obvious, because sometimes the most obvious things are the most easily neglected. You can’t really plant churches well if you aren’t evangelizing the lost in your area. You can’t do global missions if you aren’t sharing Christ and seeing people saved in the 10/40 window and beyond. And you can’t do social justice from a biblical standpoint without beginning with understanding the greatest injustice in humanity is our rebellion toward God, and sharing the gospel is our way of confronting this.

So, I’m traveling more. I’m still trying to be careful and not overdo it. I’m going to stay focused on the main thing God has called me to. I’m grateful God allows me to encourage others to share Jesus. God may call you to focus on other things, but you don’t have to do so to the neglect of this.

31 Days of Evangelism Day 19: The Gospel Changes Lives

We met Michelle on a Sunday in July when she showed up at our weekly young professionals gathering. This is hardly unusual, as new people join us all the time. But on her first day among us, Marcy broke into tears. Now that doesn’t happen too often. Her sobs grew out of an unsatisfied life marked by pain— pain of a broken home and a broken life. But those tears also masked an even greater hunger: Michelle desperately wanted her life to matter. She still believed the gap between the life she currently  lived and the life she believed she was born to live could be crossed. She just didn’t know how.

That’s when the reality of the good news of Jesus came alive to her. The gospel soothed her pain and gave her true hope. Her relationship with Jesus gave purpose to the passion in her soul. I baptized her later that summer in the lake (we do that annually at our church). That was a few years ago. Since then Michelle has been passionately pursuing her career, growing in Christ, and sharing him faithfully with others. The pain Christ erased and the passion she now knows because of him have changed Michelle forever.

Over time Michelle met a fine young seminarian named Aaron, who also became a part of our young pros ministry.  Fast forward to recent days: last fall they were married, and they now serve the Lord in the Triad area of North Carolina. The gospel is good news that changes lives. Let’s share it with others!

Michelle and Aaron at their wedding and with their Young Pros home group leaders Bill and Judy Cramer.

 

[Adapted from Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It]