Equip Conference in Orlando

equip logoThe Equip Conference takes place in Orlando this coming weekend. Formerly the Spiritual Growth Workshop, the Equip Conference is a gathering of members of the churches of Christ with a focus on practical application of Scripture. This year’s focus is on “Harvest.” looking particularly at evangelism. That makes it fitting for someone to be there from Hope For Life, a Herald of Truth ministry. I’m privileged to be that someone.

Besides the sessions in English, there is also a strong Spanish track. I was very pleased to be invited to speak both in English and Spanish. As is often the case, there are numerous excellent offerings in English at the same time as my two classes; I have no illusions about drawing a large audience. In Spanish, mine is the only class where there is a separate ladies class going simultaneously; though I’ve got a better shot at speaking to a good-sized group, I know that my audience will only be half as large as it would be otherwise. But I don’t go to such events so that hundreds can hear me speak; I go to meet with other Christians and be mutually encouraged.

It’s been eight years since I’ve been to this workshop, but I remember it as a vibrant gathering. I’m really looking forward to being back there.

Evangelism Inside Out

CIOOne of the main reasons that I wrote Church Inside Out was to help churches and individual Christians grow in their concept of evangelism. More than that, I wanted to help everyone see that we can all be involved in the evangelistic process. Here are some excerpts to give you a feel for what I talk about in the book:

When we are talking about reaching out to others, be they teens or octogenarians, most of what we need to think about can be boiled down to what Jesus called the greatest commands:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37–39)

We have to love God and love our neighbors. We have to show our neighbors that God loves them and help our neighbors come to love God. (p.17)

If a church is focused on building itself rather than growing the Kingdom, it’s not doing the Lord’s work. If a church is focused on making a name for itself rather than making God’s name known, it’s not doing the Lord’s work. If a church postpones outreach and evangelism “until the time is right,” it’s not doing the Lord’s work. (p.35)

There are lots of good things that churches can do, lots of important ministries that need to be performed. But we must never forget that the unique mission of the church is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s the task we’ve been given as ambassadors of the kingdom of God. As Paul said, we beg people to reconcile themselves to God. (p.73)

Too often we approach our communities like marketing executives, coldly analyzing demographics and statistics to put together the ideal plan for reaching out to the people around us. We forget that the Bible tells us time and again that prayer is an essential part of evangelism. It’s an essential part of every aspect of the Christian life. (p.82)

Research done in the 1980s showed that anywhere from 75 to 90% of new converts came to church through the influence of a friend or relative. Five to six percent came through the work of the preacher. Less than one percent were reached through campaigns. Only four or five percent started coming to church through Sunday school. The vast majority came because of the influence of someone they knew and trusted. That hasn’t changed. If we aren’t forming relationships with people who don’t know Jesus, we won’t be able to effectively bring them to the Lord. (p.93)

As we talk about the process of conversion, we run the risk of de-spiritualizing the new birth. God draws people to Him and convicts them with His Word. It’s not a question of our skill nor our ingenuity. God gives the growth.
At the same time, He has given us the task of proclaiming the gospel and helping people know how to respond. In the above text, Paul makes it clear that the whole process depends on God; he also makes it clear that God uses people like Paul and Apollos in that process. (p.122)

I think one mistake that the church has made at times is to consider the new birth to be the goal. Remember how Jesus instructed His disciples:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

The command is to make disciples. We do that by baptizing those that believe in Jesus, but we also do that by teaching them to obey the teachings of Jesus. In the journey to discipleship, baptism is a critical step, but it’s not the final step. (p.130)

One problem with many of our evangelistic methods is that they are only focused on taking someone the last step to new birth. To continue the metaphor, we’re trying to sow the seed in a field that hasn’t been cleared or plowed. There was a time in the United States when most people were already several steps into this process. They believed in God. They accepted the Bible. They wanted to follow Jesus. They just needed to be “shown the way of the Lord more perfectly.”
That isn’t true today. We have to be willing to look at non-Christians and determine where they are in their journey toward God. And we need to deal with those people accordingly. Sometimes we’ll be the ones that get to rejoice as the harvest is brought in. Other times we’ll merely clear some stones so that others will one day be able to sow. (p.134)

Before planning what we’re going to say, we need to plan on listening. We build relationships. We are present in people’s lives. And we listen for the kairos, the right time for speaking a word for God. (p.142)

How do we know when someone is ready to hear a presentation of the gospel? If you have built a relationship with the person with whom you’re working, there shouldn’t be too much pressure at this point. That is, even if you jump the gun and share with someone who isn’t ready to hear, that won’t be a big problem if you’ve established a friendship. If she knows you and trusts you, she won’t be offended that you decided to share with her something that’s important to you. (p.147)

When we’re ready to share the gospel, it’s important to keep in mind what we’re wanting to talk about and what we’re not looking to discuss.
What we share can be summed up in one word: Jesus. People need to know about Jesus. (p.156)

Links To Go (June 23, 2016)

Christian universities put on ‘shame list’

“Some voices are calling for Christian schools to be expelled from the NCAA, and others are calling for Pell Grants to be denied to students who attend our universities,” said Bruce McLarty, president of 6,000-student Harding University in Searcy, Ark. “These attacks seem to be coming from every direction these days.”

What the Tower of Babel Can Teach Us about Our Desire for True Gospel Witness

  • Racial and ethnic diversity is increasingly dramatically.
  • Diversity is suburbanizing.
  • The majority of children born in the U.S. are non-white.
  • Integration is not keeping pace with diversification.

How Fast Does a Christian Grow?

Our growth is much more like a tree than a bubbling science experiment. If you take measurements of a tree over several days or weeks, you’ll be disappointed. When you don’t see growth, you might doubt the tree is alive.
But if you measure a healthy tree from one year to the next, you’ll see what God is doing.

My Top 10 Insights On Burnout

  1. Limits exist for a reason
  2. God is still present, even when he feels absent
  3. Your unresolved past will sink your future
  4. Grieve your losses
  5. If God wants to go deep, it’s because he wants to take you far
  6. Your heart will heal and you will trust again
  7. Your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience
  8. Managing your energy is more important than managing your time
  9. Sleep is a leader’s secret weapon
  10. Your best days may actually be ahead of you, not behind you

When Men Leave Emotionally

Many men have learned that the safest place to take one’s pain is within. While withdrawing may be one’s default for dealing with pain, it is not conducive to connecting with another. In fact, to family members and friends it can feel like the person has “gone away.”

Kill the Soulmate

We can clearly look at our sweetheart and focus on the many joys they bring to our life. And each time our mind flips a middle finger at the lovely, full, shining truth of the now and zips off to soulmate land, we can practice letting go of the fantasy person and, instead, simply choose to love the one we are with.

Work begins to try to save Christianity’s holiest shrine: Jesus’ tomb

And at the heart of the heart of the edifice, in the center of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, they will lift the slab where millions of pilgrims have knelt and prayed, where the salt of tears and the wet of sweat have smoothed and worried the hardest stone.
And for the first time in more than 200 years, they will look inside.

‘Angels’ Singing ‘Amazing Grace’ Blocked Westboro Protestors from Accessing the Orlando Funerals

A line of “angels” blocked protestors from the controversial Westboro Baptist Church from interrupting the funerals of victims of the Orlando gay nightclub massacre. The line of people wearing large, homemade angel wings were part of a collection of nearly 200 people who turned out to form a human chain to prevent the protestors from disrupting the processions.

Florida boy asks to pray with police officers after eating breakfast

Before leaving the restaurant, Garza says her son approached the officers, who had just gotten their meals, and asked if they could all pray together for their safety.
As they prayed, Garza snapped a photo of Joshua sitting at the table holding hands with the police officers, all bowing their heads in prayer. Garza says her son finished the prayer with, “And please help us all to live a good life. Amen.”

Barbies, missions, and satire

I admittedly have concerns about short-term mission trips. They’re not all bad, but they’re not all good, either. And I think they proportion of church funds spent on short-term trips vs. long-term works is WAY out of balance. We need to be funding permanent works at a much higher rate. Keep the short-term if you will, just up your long-term investments proportionally.

White Barbie Savior is an Instagram account that uses humor to address some concerns about mission trips, particularly orphanage volunteering. If you browse through the photos, read the hashtags to be sure you get the point.

Now the people behind that satirical brilliance have a blog to further their message. You can find there work at www.barbiesavior.com.

Besides the message, what do you think of the medium? Is the point lost in the humor? Or are they effectively making a point with Barbie dolls?

Links To Go (June 20, 2016)

White Savior Barbie Nails It

Perhaps the lesson of White Savior Barbie is that there is nothing wrong with service or with enjoying another culture but it needs to be done with integrity. Let’s be qualified and well trained for the work we do. Develop authentic relationships based on more than great photo ops. Educate ourselves. Be wary of quick clichés like, “I fell in love with Africa the moment I got off the plane.” Be learners.

My Marriage to an Undocumented Immigrant

The net result is that parents are still vulnerable to being deported on a daily basis. Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president and additional raids are planned, so the fear is grounded in fact. Estimates suggest that approximately half a million parents of children who are US citizens—typically fathers—were deported between 2009 and 2013. These family separations affect children in every way, with financial insecurity, emotional upheaval, and even physical relocation, as many kids move in with distant relatives or become part of the foster care system.

Wait a minute! What did Southern Baptists say about religious liberty for Muslims?

Once again, journalists do not have to AGREE with the theological content of these arguments and decisions. But it is inaccurate, flawed, biased journalism to ignore the religious content of these kinds of events. By the way, this happens when journalists cover liberal, “mainline” Protestant events almost as often as it happens with coverage of doctrinal conservatives.

Southern Baptists Split With Donald Trump On Refugee Resettlement

Participants voted to approve a resolution urging Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome refugees, affirming “that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands.”

“It’s Going to be an Issue.” Biola, Conscience, and the Culture War

Such a distinction is one that owes much to a faulty understanding, increasingly common on the Left, of what it means to be “religious.” Conservatives have warned for some time now of a serious attempt by sexual revolutionaries to make religious belief synonymous with religious worship; ergo, the private ritual of religion is what’s protected by “free exercise,” not the living out of such beliefs in the public square. The language desired by the California legislature feels like a clear substantiation of this concern.

7 Things to Say When a Conversation Turns Negative

  • Reframe — Cast the issue in a different light.
  • Rephrase — Say the words in a different, less negative way.
  • Revisit — Use an earlier success to redefine a current failure.
  • Restate — Clarify or redirect negative wording.
  • Request — Ask a question.
  • Rebalance — Adjust the other person’s power.
  • Reorganize — Change the priority of the issues.

What the Hook-up Culture Has Done to Women

It is no coincidence that the top two prescribed drugs at our state university’s health center are anti-depressants and the birth-control pill. Our young women are showing up to a very different version of “college life” than that of the previous generation. One woman, while in her freshman year, went to her health center because she feared she had bronchitis. In perusing her “health history,” the physician said, “I see here that you are a virgin.” “Um, yes,” she responded, wondering what that fact might have to do with her persistent cough. “Would you like to be referred for counseling about that?” This student came to me to ask if I thought she should, in fact, consider her virginity—at the age of eighteen—a psychological issue. (I said no.)

‘Jesus’s wife’ papyrus likely fake, scholar says

A Harvard professor who rocked the musty world devoted to studying early Christianity when she presented a tiny swatch of papyrus that referred to Jesus as married now concedes the fragment is probably a fake.
Karen L. King’s acknowledgment about the papyrus she’d named “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” came after the Atlantic magazine’s website published an investigative article that delved into the background of the fragment’s owner, Walter Fritz, a Florida man.
“It appears now that all the material Fritz gave to me concerning the provenance of the papyrus . . . were fabrications,” King told the Globe Friday. Her interview with the Atlantic the day before marked the first time she had said the fragment is probably a forgery.

No such thing as a bad theory

My assignment? Uncover why the Association inspires more conspiracy theories, in volume and salience, than any other U.S. sport. Ask sources around the league to rationalize the irrationality behind the 125,000 YouTube videos that appear when you search “NBA + rigged” — nearly three times as many as the NFL (27,500), MLB (8,910) and the NHL (5,880) combined. Determine what makes the perception of the game unique, even to those inside it.

Ontario police, firefighters intervene after fight breaks out over Earth’s shape

Police in Brockville say they were called to St. Lawrence Park on Monday after an intense argument between family members.
They say a woman who insisted the Earth was flat was locking horns with her boyfriend’s father, who argued it is round.
Investigators say the 56-year-old man grew so enraged that he started throwing things into their camp fire, including a propane cylinder.