During our evening service last Sunday we listened to Dr. Alvin Reid encourage us to have gospel conversations instead of making presentations. During his talk, he mentioned the power of meeting in a third place. These are coffee shops, trendy sandwich boutiques, or the corner drug store with some booths. The third place is just that. Somewhere you go that isn’t your home (first place), your work or place of worship (second places).
A few nights ago, I went with Christy to Nashville so she could visit some of her students. We stopped at Panera for a salad in between hospitals. Sitting to the right of me were two groups of young ladies. One group of four had their iProducts open and their earbuds in; each listening to their different shows, musical tracks, or school projects in Garageband. They didn’t say a word the whole time we were there, yet they appeared to be happy.
The other group of six were having a Bible study. Each had their Bibles open to a passage and were deeply engrossed in study. Their silence amongst the noise of the restaurant was intriguing. For what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably only two, the group quietly read and contemplated what must have been some sort of question that had been asked prior to our arrival. I listened as one of the young ladies asked questions designed to simulate conversation. Their answers were peppered with humor, seriousness, and contemplation. They too appeared to be happy.
I commented to Christy that the girls seemed to really be enjoying themselves. She agreed. I told her that I really liked the third place. I like meeting people in loud, crowded coffee shops. I enjoy the smells of brewing coffee, freshly baked pastries, and the sound of the chair sliding back and forth as people come and go.
It smells like relationships. It is the sound of life. The coming and going of people reminds me of the enormous task the believer has in sharing the gospel.
The third place allows for a spouse to not worry if the clothes are picked up. It enables one to drop their guard as two people simply talk about life over a cup of coffee or a bread bowl of potato soup. It gives a new believer the sense of security as they meet with a wiser, more mature believer in an environment other than a church facility, a pastor’s study, or a busy home.
The third place brings a sense of normalcy to a fledgling discipleship relationship and it abounds in evangelistic opportunities for both the Paul and his/her Timothy. It allows opportunities to practice the discipline of prayer; both with another believer and for the lost around the two of you or your group. The third place also provides a gospel witness. As you sit with your believing or seeking friend, those around you will glance over at your open Bible, journal, or study material with wonder and may be thinking to themselves, “I wonder if someone would join me in a study like this?” or “If what they are talking about is true, should I consider talking to that pastor down the road who stops by once a year?”
Are you meeting someone in a third place? How has your experience been? What type of third place is best for you? Is this something you would like to try? Find a believing friend and teach one another to disciple a new believer using Billy Hanks’ material entitled A Call to Joy and then A Call to Growth. He has an 8-session guide that’ll take you through the material in a training fashion. Another great resource is the discipleship material from CGI. Start with the red book, move on to the green one, followed by Galatians. Any kind of material used to multiply yourself, enjoy fellowship, and learn effective evangelism is great with which to begin. Contact me and I’d be glad to share with you the experiences I’ve had in a third place!
We love social media! Facebook and Twitter for people my age, and instafeed and snapfish for the younger folks. (Just kidding. I try to be consistent with my purposeful mess-ups with these for my daughter's benefit.) Social media tells us what is important to our friends, gives us school and weather updates, and encourages us to share articles and news stories. It also lets us know who fell for the latest fake news article, who thinks Jesus will be upset with them if they didn't share with 25 friends, and who among your Christian friends have a potty mouth.
Today, I was excited to see that it was #nationalroastday with @wendys. They are hilarious! I also learned yesterday that a ministry I was interested in following likes to repost a popular heretical pastor, and a senior adult friend likes to post "flattering" pics of themselves online for us to enjoy.
Social media is fun, informative, and helpful. At the same time it can be addictive, personally harmful, and disappointing. I'm of the generation where the computer was introduced to us probably in middle school. No Internet, dot matrix printers, and rounded screens with pixels you could actually see. My computer skills have "evolved" over time. In college I was laughed at because I didn't know how to turn my computer on in the lab. We were late to the scene with smart phones. But here we are. I've made it after all!
I've also learned many lessons about social media. Many the hard way.
I've dialogued with people on Facebook in an unhealthy manner. I've allowed people's posts to change my mood for the day. I've posted things I wasn't proud of later. But I've learned some lessons that I pray I don't have to learn again.
Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following said to them, “what do you seek?”
What an interesting question. Not, “who are you looking for?” or “do you wish to follow Me?” but “what do you seek?” They sought “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29, 1:36).
These were disciples of John, who came preaching a baptism of repentance. One who came in preparation for the Savior (1:23). What did they seek while listening to and following John? They sought THIS Savior. The One of whom John spoke. They genuinely sought truth (Matt. 5:8).
What an interesting question to ask people: “What do you seek?” What are you really looking for in this life? No one can come to the Father unless He draws Him (John 6:65). Are we asking the right question when we evangelize or are we trying to get through memorized presentation? Like a physician, can we correctly diagnose and help the patient see the seriousness of their disease or are we just telling people about the cure when they don’t even know they are sick? What do you seek?
Father, help me have compassion that leads to passion. Give me a desire to not only love people, but recognize where they are spiritually. Help me give them the truth of scripture (John 14:6).
The Christmas season is a wonderful time to share the Good News! People are receptive to giving and receiving. Most recognize that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." Since they do, could there be a better time for believers to make a plan to share the Gospel? One plan I've made is to utilize two things about my small town.
1. The availability of Salvation Army bell ringers. They are seemingly everywhere! When you see them, don't ignore them. They don't work for a portion of the money given and from my experience, don't care if you give or not. Look at them and smile. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them why they are ringing the bell this season. Ask them if they know the reason people celebrate Christmas. The availability of bell ringers should prompt us to not only put a few extra coins in our cars, but ready ourselves with copies of Good News For You! and GNFY! tracts. I've started a person survey that I'm keeping track of on my phone. The two questions are: 1) Do you consider yourself to be a Christian? 2) As a Christian, can you tell me what the Bible says the Gospel message is? I haven't encountered a single person who can give me a Biblical definition of the Good News of the Gospel. I also haven't found anyone who said they didn't identify as a Christian, but I would word the second question differently. (Say: Have you heard anyone talk about the Gospel message? If so, what did they say? If not, would you like to hear it?)
2. The size of my town in driving distance. It's not that big. I plan on spending a few evenings out sharing the Good News with these bell ringers. I may bring along some water, snacks, or some hot chocolate to share with them. I plan on recruiting some friends to help as well. Maybe someone who hasn't shared their faith much. They can be my driver, or prayer partner as I do the talking. Maybe I'll ask another pastor to go along with me. Maybe someone who is on fire for Jesus and I'll be their prayer partner as they share the hope that is found in Christ!
These two truths can work in your town too! Maybe you live in a city and can't reach that many places in one evening. Strategically plan to reach a zip code or section of town. Recruit your church to help. Do so on a busy Saturday night for an hour. Grab some attractive Christmas Gospel tracts or Good News books to share. If you aren't able to share the complete Gospel message with someone, you want the message on the tract to present a solid presentation of the Gospel. Be sure it has a web address or a way for the person you are witnessing to to contact you or another believer in case they have additional questions.
Contact me if you'd like some GNFY! tracts. They are currently .07 each when received in the 1,000's. You can receive less than this, but they are .10 each this way. Good News books are $1 each and are available through myself or Dr. Charles Brock. I purchase them by the case (pallet really) and have several cases available.
When most people think about church they might think Sunday morning worship, Sunday School, and perhaps a morning ritual of eating a big breakfast. When I’m sharing my faith with someone, I often start with this question: “Do you have a church home you attend regularly?” More times than not, I hear the same litany of answers. “We used to go, but don’t attend as much as we’d like.” “Yeah, I go to church at ___________Baptist.” (But can’t tell me the name of the pastor.) “My mom used to take me, but as soon as I was on my own I quit.”
There are two glaring problems in evangelical Christianity today regarding the way most people (I would say those who label themselves as Christians) think regarding church and their church experience.
The former might be a post for another time, but the latter is for today.
I’ve learned that much of the problem stems from our pastors and church leadership. Pastors have not been discipled, therefore do not know how and are not providing an example for the rest of the church. “This is where our seminaries have failed us” some will say. I would make a different argument: this is where our past and present church culture has failed us. It is the job of the church and the Christians who make up the church to disciple new believers, not our seminaries. Our church culture is quick to pump out “3 easy steps for this,” and “a complete box for that,” all with good intentions of equipping people who equip people. It’s not working. There’s a famous definition for doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results…
The church is not meant for insanity, it’s meant to help grow people into maturity as they learn to worship God together and make Him known throughout the world. Instead of writing a dissertation on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of disciplemaking, let me ask a few questions that help to evaluate your disciplemaking potential:
If you’ve answered Yes to these four questions, you are exactly the type of person who needs to begin discipling another.
You might be a pastor who has never taken anyone else under your wing. I was this pastor at one time. Swallow that pride and seek out a peer or a consultant who can model discipling for you. Some people like discipleship groups of 3 or 6 or whatever. Personally, I think one on one is the most productive way to disciple another believer. Check out www.ieaom.org. I like the “A Call to Joy/A Call to Growth Discipler’s Pack ($29.99). Get two and go through it with a pastor friend, equipping both of you. Another good resource is Charles Brock’s material found at www.churchgrowthinternational.com. Start with “Good News For You!,” work through “I’ve Been Born Again, What Next?,” “Galatians, Law to Grace,” and so on. These tools serve as a great format when meeting.
Maybe you’ve been a believer for some time but have never taken the time to disciple a fellow Christian. If you are a man, ask the next young man or brand new believing man who joins your fellowship if they’d like to meet weekly to go through some Bible study material. Vice versa for the ladies. You’ll start small and work your way through more difficult material. That’s why I like Dr. Brock’s material. Not only will you meet to study scripture, you’ll discuss the importance of sharing your faith, you’ll hold one another accountable, and you’ll build a lifelong friendship.
Perhaps you are a baby Christian, saved within the past year. Look for a mature brother or sister who is walking with the Lord. Ask them if they have ever invested in a younger believer. If they have, great! See if they have time to meet with you weekly. If they’ve never discipled anyone but seem interested, show them the web links above and see if this is something they’d like to do with you.
Make disciples who make disciples. Share the Good News with everyone and when you run across a believer, ask them if they are active making disciples. Encourage them in their journey as a disciplemaker or to get started.
Matthew 28:18-20 is for everyone. Be obedient to the Lord by helping others obey His teaching.
Recently we took a trip to Massachusetts to visit family. We try to make this trip every two or three years. While we were there we wanted to go to Salem to see some of the history there. We did not make it. The traffic through Boston was terrible and my daughter was getting car sick, so we settled for a visit to Boston that day. While we were there, we stopped to view some of the graves of our forefathers. I wanted to see Paul Revere’s grave among others. While in the graveyard that held his grave (Granary Cemetery on Tremont Street), we were able to see the graves of other notable Americans like Thomas Paine, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Crispus Attucks, Peter Faneuil, and Ben Franklin’s family.
An interesting commonality among many of the graves was the skull and wings engraved at the top. To the modern person, they might look super creepy or super cool, depending upon your taste. Personally, I went from creepy to cool as I looked, pondered, and learned of their meaning.
These people lived and died during a time that had heavy Puritan religious overtones. These people simply would not understand our culture. Of course there is a God. We don’t find too many atheists from this time period. Of course there is heaven and hell. Not too many would dispute this fact. Of course God is the creator of all things. How else did everything get here?
These gravestones were common as I walked through the cemetery. Why? Their culture wasn’t as individualistic as it is now. Walk through a modern cemetery and you will be hard-pressed to find many stones alike. They are tall, short, include Bible verses, pictures, favorite sayings, Masonic symbols, marriage rings, names of children, and all sorts of other things.
The Puritan style gravestone included the person’s name, dates of birth and death, and age. In the case of women, many said, “Here lie the body of Mrs. Mary Smith, wife of John Smith.” Plain and simple are these stones. They also have a commonality of the artwork at the top. Engraved is a picture of a skull with wings. It looks both morbid and interesting. If there was ever an evangelistic mode of artwork that I’d like to wear on a shirt, this is it. It was meant to symbolize our mortality and the briefness of life and the power of death. We are here for a time, then off to eternity forever. The difference in today is that it is easy to stop there and not have an issue with someone. You might tell them that “life is short and eternity is forever” and they wouldn’t have a problem with that. The problem lies in the reason life is short (sin-Genesis 3) and eternity will be spent in hell (John 3:36) apart from a life in Christ.
In our culture, we see symbols every day and don’t think anything about them. People wear cross necklaces and have no idea what they symbolize. Someone takes the “Christ” from Christmas and replaces it with an “X” and everyone loses their minds. (X is the Greek letter Chi which early Christians used instead of writing “Christ.”) What if we learned about Christian history AND the studied the Bible? Maybe we’d be a more effective witnesses for Christ. What if we wore clothing that contained symbols not as a fashion statement, but as a platform for a verbal witness? What if we explained our heritage to non-believers in love rather than a spirit of regret as to “where our country is headed”?
The Puritans dealt with sin too. People in the 17th and 18th centuries struggled with the idea of Jesus dying for their sin too. Churches were splintered then, pastors did terrible things, and hypocrites faithfully attended the famous Old Union and North Churches. Not much has changed on that front. Our sin nature really hasn’t changed.
The question is this: Can you and I tie our culture and history to the Bible in such a way that we can be an effective Gospel witness to our non-believing/lost family and friends? Do we care enough to take the time to not only learn, but to tie the two together, AND use it for a future witness?
Remember to keep the bait in the water and keep fishing! Matt. 4:19
It’s funny how the stages of life provide new experiences, lessons, loses, and friendships. Since moving to Kentucky, Christy and I have really learned a lot about who we are as a couple as well as who we are in Christ. Sometimes it just takes a different view with different people around you to give you a different perspective.
One of these lessons came in the form of a new friend and mentor for me. We’ve known this man for over 4 years now. He can be described as one of the few people I know who talk about the Father as if He were right here, right now. With feeling.
This man teaches me things almost weekly. We get together for coffee, or chat on the phone for a little bit. I used to terrorize him by texting his flip phone constantly. He couldn’t stand to not text back, so he’d take 10 minutes to send a 1 minute text. He’s now stepped into the 21st century with his smart phone.
He said something to me one time that changed me.
No one outside my family told me this like he did.
Not only did he say it once, but over and over again. In fact, every time we get together he says it.
I remember the first time he said it. We were at a church gathering; a lunch of some sort and we were parting ways and he said, “I love you bud.” What do you do when a man says, “I love you” to another man?? In my world, you get weird followed by an awkward smile and a “thanks man.” But I surprised myself. I said it back!
The funny thing is that I knew he really meant it. He wasn’t being “all Christian,” or “holy,” or “one upping” with the pastor act. (Yes, that happens.) He meant it and was telling me so I’d know. There was no pride, no pretending to be someone he wasn’t, and he really didn’t appear to struggle in saying so. He really cares for me as a friend and was telling me.
Men aren’t very good at this, but we need to be! We terrorize each other on purpose. That’s how we say “I love you!” Women think we are awful! Sometimes when he is speaking in a group, I’ll call his cell phone just to see if he remembered to put it on silent. He quietly ignores it and later on we roll in laughter! I’ve learned a lot from this friend about simply telling someone “I love you.”
It doesn’t have to be weird, is certainly not sexual in nature, and it often comes with a hug to convey meaning. (A tight man hug, not one of those “I kinda know you and feel like I’m supposed to do this right now” hugs. The loose hug is akin to the limp handshake from a man.)
He’s opened my eyes to the fact that believers need to let others know how we feel about them. We DO love them! We appreciate the work they do for the kingdom. We value their friendship. Their opinion matters.
I’ve been trying to do better at this by telling others I love them. I have a couple in my life whom you might call “spiritual grandparents.” I practice on them. When I see them, I start with her; telling her I love her and giving her a big hug. Then I move on to him; doing the same thing.
Our Heavenly Father has given us a love for one another that surpasses every kind of love. As brothers and sisters in Him, we have a unique relationship with one another. We’ve been forgiven and granted something we could never gain on our own. We’ll be with one another for eternity, serving our King.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Show your friends in Christ you love them. Tell them you love them. Men, practice by telling your family and find a close brother in Christ to whom you can say, “you know what, I love you as a brother in the Lord.”
Yesterday Christy and I went for an early morning walk. It’s hot, humid, and we enjoy the time we share talking and getting healthy. During our walks, our conversation will range from work, to family, faith, hopes, dreams, etc.
We were having a conversation on faith when I was reminded of something Charles Brock said over the weekend. He quoted a missiologist as saying, “any faith not worth sharing, is not worth having.”
As we talked, we discussed how saddened we were for the current state of the church. There are more pretend believers than actual believers. I have more Facebook friends who profess Christ with their lips and daily posts than live their Christianity out daily.
We talked about the increasing persecution of the church within the United States that no one seems to see. (Sure, we talk about the demise of Christian values within our churches and homes, but our daily actions prove we 1). Don’t get it, or 2). Don’t really care.) This increased persecution will lead to hate crime laws against believers, the loss of tax exemption for churches and ministries, and the stripping away of our first amendment rights to evangelize and preach God’s Word among other things.
I thought of the churches in my area and how I’ve been asking pastors and church leaders these two questions:
The answers I receive are both surprising…and not. I’m surprised that most pastors and leaders are neither sharing their faith NOR are in a discipleship relationship with another. I’m surprised that these people will lament the plateauing and dying church without themselves having a Great Commission mindset. I’m surprised that they keep looking to the newest and latest box or evangelistic tool from their favorite Christian retailer or missions sending organization to “fix their church,” while just as quickly abandoning it when it does not work.
At the same time, I’m not surprised. Pastors are not sharing because they have not been mentored and taught that evangelism is a must. Pastors are not discipling because they do not know what it looks like and are too embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. I’m not surprised our churches are plateauing and dying. We spend more time greasing the wheel of the needy “Christian” than we do pouring into the hungry disciple. We spend more and are in our churches more than we are on the streets, businesses, and homes of the lost sharing a cup of coffee and God’s Word.
If most pastors were honest and were asked to count those in their congregation who are Great Commission Christians and truly understood the definition of that, I believe they could count them on two hands at the most, many on one hand.
As we walked, a sad thought came to mind. One that I’m reminded of from time to time, but hate to think about. The reason we are not sharing, discipling, and acting as Great Commission Christians is because we do not believe “it.” The “it” is the Gospel. “Any faith not worth sharing, is not worth having.” This is why we don’t look any different than our lost co-worker or friend. This is why people come to our churches never to return. This is why we are plateauing and dying.
Pastor, are you leading your congregation as you evangelize weekly? Christian, are you learning to disciple a new or baby Christian? Please consider using the Good News For You! booklet for an “as you go” evangelistic method. People gladly receive it. It is a complete Gospel presentation, and you can be sure they can hear the Gospel whether they read it, or by sitting down with you for a weekly Bible study.
Here is an email I received from Charles Brock a few day ago...
For the past few weeks I have been going through the Good News for You booklet with a 63 year old legally blind woman. She is a Roman Catholic from New York. I read the question and the scripture. Then I repeat the question slowly and pause at each blank. She responds with the answer.
Today we were at lesson number six where a decision to follow Christ is called for. At the end of the lesson I read Romans 10:13 and I talked to her about how to pray the sinners prayer.
She said “I have already done that. Two weeks ago when you came by and prayed with me, I prayed that prayer and I was saved.” She spoke of the new peace she has and the joy in her life. She spoke of the chaos with the rest of the family but that she has peace. She prayed today thanking the Lord for her salvation.
She agreed for me to come by each week and lead her through the study of I Have Been Born Again What Next?
Miracles are in the field.
Graduation season, spring gardening, and summer vacations can quickly fill up one's spare time leaving little room for evangelism. (In our minds anyway!) This year our oldest is graduating high school, we are participating, helping, or leading various graduation events and we still have a busy church schedule to keep up with. Our first "international" vacation is being planned this spring along with church summer camps and another trip or two.
This is where intentionality comes into play. Sometimes, in order to get some things done, we need to sideline other things. Most of the time I would say that this is okay. I would disagree with sidelining evangelistic practices on the alter of seasonal busyness.
We are all busy at times!
Be intentional during busy times! This means you need to think ahead evangelistically. Do I need to have something on hand to send along with graduation cards? Maybe you are busy planning and hosting parties. Use this time to think about who is coming and how you might be able to share the Good News with them. One of the things I recommend to those I disciple is to build a spiritual family tree. This helps them have a quick mental picture of who has made a profession of faith, who has not, and those they have not asked yet. Take a picture of it and store it in your phone in case you are forgetful like me!
Summer vacations are another example of busy times. I love to relax at the beach, see new ball fields, and travel to different cities. When you pack your bag, pack some bait as well. Plan to put copies of English and Spanish of Good News For You! in your bag, car, and everyday 'go' bag while you are out seeing the sights.
Check out CGI for some bait. Make a plan to share during your busy season!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.