Embracing our ministries

One growing conviction that I have is that people need to embrace their role in the spectrum of how people approach God. That is, some people have a real talent for spotting hurting people and establishing a connection with them. Others have a gift for explaining theology in ways ordinary people can understand. There are people who have the ability to feel and convey a sense of urgency regarding our need to reconcile with God; others have the patience for working with new Christians.

We all need to grow in these different areas, yet I feel that each of us will always have one or two areas in which we excel. We need to embrace that.

What does that mean?

  • We seek to identify the ministry that God has gifted with us, looking to use it to help people draw closer to God.
  • We observe the body we are a part of, affirming and enabling others as they exercise their ministries. We don’t call them to do ours, nor deride ourselves for not having their ministry. We embrace our ministry and help others do the same.
  • We work in a concerted way with other Christians to make our ministries glorify God by helping the Kingdom grow in three directions: inward, outward, upward.

We have different areas of service, but those ministries are to mesh together in a coordinated way. It’s not about what I do, nor what you do. It’s about what the body does. And one of the main things the body does is help people get closer to God. We do that through bringing in outsiders, discipling new Christians, and enabling the ministries of all believers.

Links To Go (June 13, 2018)

A Faithful Response to Suicide

Here are three modest proposals:

  1. When someone seems to have it all together, they may be most at risk. Rather than idolize them, offer prayers for them. We often demand the most from people who have the least left to give.
  2. Fund independent research for pharmaceuticals that are affordable and effective. Major drug companies are not making better drugs; they are marketing more profitable ones.
  3. Integrate faith, therapy, and psychiatry so they function more as a three-cord strand rather than ropes pulling the most vulnerable apart.

Watching our Words in the Age of Outrage

I want to be clear about something as we move into an evaluation of the words we speak. I do not write this in response to any controversy or in light of a particular thing someone said. This post comes from years of observing how we engage with each other amidst deep disagreement. This is not a question of conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, or any of the other divides we face. Every human being on this side of Genesis 3 faces the temptation to speak in a harsh, cruel, untrue, and unkind manner.


Lending Our Voice to Family — It’s More Important than Government

Evangelicals have long stood in the public square for the value of the family. This is part of our heritage we can and should embrace by speaking up again now.
This is not a hard one, sisters and brothers. Yes, immigration is a tricky issue and debatable issue, but using the separation of families as a threat and a tool is not. We can (and must) do better.


In defense of handshakes

But handshakes matter even more as part of our internal narrative. When you see yourself as a weasel, or as a bully, or as someone who is entitled to win at all costs, you’re poisoning your ability to be a generous creative. When you tell yourself a story of insufficiency, that you’re the sort of person who can’t possibly find the emotional or financial resources to keep your word, you make everything smaller.


Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey criticized for eating Chick-fil-A during Pride Month

While many agreed with O’Brien’s view that Dorsey’s tweet could be seen as being in bad taste, the backlash rubbed some Christians and Chick-fil-A fans the wrong way. Dorsey’s meal — and his subsequent regret — has now fueled a flurry of tweets defending the chain and its values.


For kids getting busted for running lemonade stands without permits, these guys are here to help

Country Time Lemonade is creating a team to help pay fines and permits for kids nationwide who want to run their own lemonade stands. And in the spirit of the drink’s name, they’re calling their initiative Legal-Ade.


Dad, son prank mom coming home from business trip

Barbara Nielsen said she was coming home from a week-long business trip in Michigan and when she came back her husband made this sign for her son to hold.
The sign read: “Welcome home from prison Mom”


Compassion shown by Mounds View high school pitcher is sportsmanship at its very best

After striking out Jack Kocon for the final out to send Mounds View to State, pitcher Ty Koehn made a beeline for the beaten batter and embraced him, all while his teammates rushed the field, celebrating wildly.
But there’s a story behind this act of tremendous sportsmanship, the pair are old friends and have known each other since childhood.


Perfect people need not apply

It’s okay not to know all the answers. One of the biggest fears people have when it comes to the idea of sharing the faith is the fear that they will be asked a question they can’t respond to. I think an important thing to do when preparing people for evangelism is to assure them that they don’t have to know everything.

In a meeting on Sunday, we were discussing the need for greeting visitors and working with newcomers. Someone observed that we should always have someone in charge of that who could answer all of the questions. I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s go talk to Sister Johnson, who’s been here for many years. She probably knows the answer.” And if Sister Johnson doesn’t know, she’ll probably know someone who does know.

But here’s the secret I want to share with you: people like to see a little vulnerability. If you come across as the skilled professional with all the answers, you set yourself apart from the person you’re talking to. If I’m talking about astrophysics with a NASA engineer, I’ll probably learn some things, but I won’t come away saying, “I can see myself being like them.” If we present ourselves as sinless saints who know everything there is to know about Christianity, we project an image that people can’t relate to.

In evangelism, we want to show ourselves as imperfect people who are trying to become like a perfect Jesus. We don’t want them to see us as perfect, or they’ll feel like they can never really join us. We want them to see Jesus as perfect and understand that they take a lifelong journey down the road to being like Jesus, just like we’re doing.

People don’t need someone who has all the answers. They need someone who can point them to where the answers are.

Links To Go (June 11, 2018)

How to remain true to Christian teachings in a combative world

Here are 10 suggestions, taken from the New Testament, for behaving as a Christian ideally should:

  • Bite our tongues. Eph. 4:29
  • Turn the other cheek. 1 Peter 3:8-9
  • Lead a quiet life. 1 Thess. 4:11-12
  • Avoid judging. Luke 6:37
  • Practice agape love. 1 John 4:7-8
  • Pursue peace. Rom. 12:18
  • Be joyful despite ourselves. John 15:11
  • Quit fretting. Luke 12:29
  • Remain humble. 1 Peter 5:5
  • Be generous to the least of these. Matt. 25:34-36, 40

On Professors and the Cult of Personality

The cult of professor worship is perhaps the most dangerous and reprehensible cult in the theological world. It is no respecter of theological position, afflicting the left just as much as the right. It is no respecter of intellectual ability, as the psychology of leader-follower is predicated more on personality and relational qualities than brainpower. And it is no respecter of souls; nothing so destroys a Christian leader, or his followers, than the mutual flattery involved in the uncritical adulation of a fan-base for a professorial rock star (and I use that term advisedly).


Elders Leading through Prayer

An elder’s job description includes numerous responsibilities. Teaching, managing, leading a small group, attending meetings, listening, and making decisions fill an elder’s time. Two of the most important responsibilities an elder can fulfill is are modeling a life of prayer and leading his church in a powerful, impacting, and continuing prayer experience.


I met two great evangelists dressed as repairmen…

But I not going to be able to share the Jesus story with most people. Neither are the preachers. Because we are professionals. We are supposed to do it. And by nature of our profession, we don’t meet as many ordinary people in the community as we could. Maybe even should.
But I tell you who is going to make a difference in bringing people to Jesus. It is the ordinary person going about their everyday business… and who talk about Jesus.


Moving Our Congregations to More Effective Evangelism

If you currently don’t have any outward facing ministries that allow your people to engage non-Christians with the gospel, start one or two. Consider taking a team of people out on the town once a month to share the gospel with others. One leader I know regularly takes college students to the streets of Chicago. He starts the conversations with, “I am trying to teach these guys how to share Jesus with others. Can we practice on you?” It’s a funny, but effective way to start a conversation!


4 Sacred Cows Haunting Churches—And How to Corral Them

  • Be respectful.
  • Understand the history.
  • Be patient.
  • Pray for other churches.

Good vs…

To my mind, that is a powerful thought not only concerning the Holocaust, but in service to God as well.Indifference to the sacrifice of Christ is eternally deadly.Indifference to sin in my life leads to problems. Indifference to the lost leads to lack of action.I could go on. Indifference.


Your Phone Is Listening and it’s Not Paranoia

With this in mind, I decided to try an experiment. Twice a day for five days, I tried saying a bunch of phrases that could theoretically be used as triggers. Phrases like I’m thinking about going back to uni and I need some cheap shirts for work. Then I carefully monitored the sponsored posts on Facebook for any changes.
The changes came literally overnight. Suddenly I was being told mid-semester courses at various universities, and how certain brands were offering cheap clothing. A private conversation with a friend about how I’d run out of data led to an ad about cheap 20 GB data plans. And although they were all good deals, the whole thing was eye-opening and utterly terrifying.


Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

Listen!

The most important skill needed for evangelism is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for church leadership is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for body life in the church is the ability to listen.

We focus way too much on what we’re going to say. We need to focus more on picking up on what others say.

The spate of celebrity suicides reminds us that there are hurting people that need someone to listen to them. So much violence, like the shootings at schools, could be avoided if people would listen to those who feel they have no voice. So many abuse victims could be protected if the people around them would listen.

How many problems in the church reflect a lack of listening? How many people fall through the cracks because we don’t hear what they need to say? How many young people are frustrated by their perception that the older generation doesn’t care about their situation? How many older people feel that their wisdom and experience is being cast aside in favor of the young?

People around us are dealing with much pain. They are dealing with much fear. They have guilt and regrets from the past. They have uncertainty about the future.

Listen. Truly listen to the people around you. Spend less time talking, more time listening. You may be surprised at the changes you’ll see.