Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Millenial Hispanics

Here is a very helpful research summary of Millenial Hispanics -- based on Pew Research Center studies, but summarized by MediaPost. Deserves more thoughtful interaction than I have time for at the moment, but wanted to at least make it available to you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Facebook's Reign -Only Site that Matters for College Students

For today's college students, Facebook is the only social networking site that matters. That is the conclusion of a new study released by Anderson Analytics. While that may not come as too much of a surprise, there are a couple insights worth noting:
  • All other social networking sites studied were considered "lame" by students. Guess there really isn't any up and coming sites threatening Facebook's position any time soon.
  • Blogs are declining among students (down 8%). Maybe they are spending so much time communicating on Facebook, they no long have time to blog.
  • Hulu.com now ranks among students' top-ten favorite web-sites. The migration of TV and video watching to internet streaming is underway! Still watching the shows, just through a different delivery system.
My favorite quote:
"With its increasing variety of applications and flexibility, Facebook is delivering one-stop shopping... (in a) hyper-fragmented digital universe... (it) is becoming more of a hub than just a social networking site - almost a mass medium... " opined Anderson.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Barnardo's: Change a Child's Life

This is a convergence of a couple areas of interest. First, the story and legacy of Christ-centered, gospel-shaped individuals serving others with compassion. The second is creativity in telling a story.

Through the later, I became aware of this powerful commercial for Barnardo's:



Captured by the images, I wanted to figure out what Barnardo's is, which led to to who Barnardo was. Thomas Barnardo was an Irish doctor, who while preparing for the mission field to serve with the China Inland Mission, came upon his life work among the homeless children of London and the United Kingdom.

I really know nothing much about Barnardo's today, save what I just read on the web. But the legacy of Thomas Barnardo is challenging. Is it not?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Evangelizing Postmoderns Revisited

In 1998, I had the privilege of working with Dr. D.A. Carson and others from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in co-sponsoring "Telling the Truth", a three-day conference focused on evangelism in a postmodern age. As I shall be presenting a two-part workshop at Encounter '09 conference in Greensboro on "Evangelism in a Postmodern Age", I picked up "Telling The Truth" (the book which compiled our conference talks from '98) to see what has changed -- what we have learned since then. Interesting exercise that will perhaps (if I'm ambitious enough) will provide the grist for future blogs.

The first chapter is by Ravi Zacharias exploring, "An Ancient Message, through Modern Means, to a Postmodern Mind".

The most memorable line from Ravi's talk was the probing question,
"How do we communicate the gospel to a generation that hears with it eyes and thinks with its feelings?"
A decade later, is that still the question? Does that hit the bulls eye in defining the issue?

If so, are we communicating better now than ten years ago? My answer is "definitely" -- but more on why later.

Your thoughts?

Friday, December 4, 2009

A ChaCha Glimpse of Research

It is the midst of tracking student issues and attitudes, it is sometimes refreshing getting a quick read on how they are feeling "at the moment". Christmas time certainly qualifies as a distinctive moment to check in. Susan Marshall, Vice President of Marketing at ChaCha, shares what they are hearing from their constituents in MediaPost's "Bah Humbug!"

ChaCha has received almost 2 million questions over the last few days. Interestingly, about 43,000 related to depression and the holidays. Hmm... That is interesting.

What concerns ChaCha users? Overwhelming concerns: The Future. College. Jobs. The Economy.

Their research shows what was number one the gift wish -- electronics. (That clue should help you do your Christmas shopping.)

What is NOT surprising?
It's pretty obvious that they really want to be connected and to feel loved, especially during these uncertain times.
No surprise there...

CoJourners: Power of Metaphor

Aristotle wrote:
"The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor."
That may be an overstatement (or miscalculation of greatness). Certainly we can come up with something greater.

But it hints at why CoJourners has been so well received. It utilizes five metaphors in evangelism:
  • Journey: As the overarching metaphor for life, witness is joining others in their spiritual journey.
  • Explorer: Discovering where people are at in their journey.
  • Guide: Showing the way to Jesus.
  • Builder: Constructing pathways over or around the obstacles keeping others from Christ.
  • Mentor: Encouraging others on in their journey with Christ.
Master these five metaphors and you will be a "great" witness! Wonder what Aristotle would think of that?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Am Second - One Year Anniversary

Last February, I wrote a brief post regarding "I Am Second". Keeping my eye on such initiatives, it seems fitting to note its one-year anniversary by linking to Christian Today's article "I am Second Teaches Christians Evangelism without the Script".

The article reports the site has had 1.7 million visitors worldwide, while originally considering it a local (Dallas-Ft. Worth) initiative. Guess that is why it is called the World Wide Web.

"I Am Second" is brought to you by e3 Partners. You have to impressed with the intellectual flexibility of a ministry who can create the low-tech Evangecube and hi-tech, hi-quality "I Am Second" campaign!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Design for Discipleship: A Primer for Disciple Makers

A year ago, I mentioned working on an article (actually, a transferable concept) about discipleship. I now recognize, I never posted its completion.

So, here it is:

Design for Discipleship: A Primer in Disciple Makers

There is a pdf sample that can be downloaded for review.

"Bait & Switch" - Does the End Justify the Means?

Yesterday I listened with special interest to the Nov 6th edition of This American Life, entitled "Bait and Switch".

During the 2nd Act, "Raw Sex", host Ira Glass (who identifies himself in this segment as an atheist) interviews two personalities regarding "bait and switch" evangelism. Dave Dickerson shares two experiences with Campus Crusade for Christ (I take it as a newly involved student, though the time-frame is never indicated). Jim Henderson discusses "doable evangelism" -- i.e., noticing others, listening to others and ____ (I forget the third element. Ah, my aging memory)--as a alternative to bait and switch approaches.

Three quick observations:

1. I appreciate and respect Ira Glass. He did an excellent job in the interviews, probing and exposing, yet not bashing. He is, of course, an entertaining radio personality and this edition of This American Life is enjoyable and thoughtful.

2. Dickerson's interview is a good challenge to us who witness. How do we engage others openly, capturing their interest and communicating the gospel message with relevance, without slipping into the ditch of "bait and switch"? [Note: The integrity of surveys was one of the reasons we framed QuEST (Questions Exploring Students Thinking) as, not a survey, but an interview that would yield helpful information to be used for a variety of national purposes (which it has.) No bait and switch in this.] But this discussions should also cause us to reflect upon how others are experiencing our outreach efforts--whether young believers involved with us or the audience that we reach out to.

3. Henderson's work at normalizing relationships with those who do not (yet) know Christ and engaging them appropriately has been helpful for many. But I was most intrigued by Glass' probing if it doesn't slide into the other ditch -- all relationship, no message. Given Glass' self-disclosed unbelief, he astutely exposes relationships-only approach as "all bait, no switch." Fascinating.

But taken as a whole, the interview serves as a clear reminder that as witnesses and as those who equip and lead others in witness, we must be sensitive and appropriate with our audience, while being faithful to our Lord and his message and mission.

An excellent expression of the balance is found in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's "Evangelism Code of Ethics", which includes this:

We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and affirm the role and goal of the Christian evangelist. However, we do not believe that this justifies any means to fulfill that end. Hence, we disavow the use of any coercive techniques or manipulative appeals which bypass a person's critical faculties, play on psychological weaknesses, undermine relationship with family or religious institutions, or mask the true nature of Christian conversion.

While respecting the individual integrity, intellectual honesty, and academic freedom of all other believers and skeptics, we seek to proclaim Christ openly. We reveal our own identity and purpose, our theological positions and sources of information and will not be intentionally misleading. Respect for human integrity means no false advertising, no personal aggrandizement from successfully persuading others to follow Jesus, and no overly emotional appeals which minimize reason and evidence.

Thoughts?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Artwork of the Human Soul

Artwork has been defined as visual representations. This raises the question, representations of what? Here are two intriguing images of the human soul, by Ryan Alexander for Leeds Counseling.





What are the implications as we engage in others' lives and enter their spiritual journeys?

Thanks to Creativity for sharing these images.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Students' Taste in Advertising

What does this generation of students respond to in advertising? A column by Dan Coates for Engage:GenY entitled "Ad Infinitum" gives us the answer. This isn't highly surprising, but helpful to have summarized.
  1. Humor
  2. Good music
  3. Very practical information
  4. Meaningful & relevant experiences
If this is what they prefer in advertising, what does it suggest about other media messaging?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

College Students & Technology: Totally Wired

Here are insights from the Center of Media Research report, "Totally Wired", based on Alloy Media + Marketing's 9th annual College Explorer Survey:

Technology is third in student discretionary spending, behind food and autos.

Students are spending twice as much time on their computers (5 hrs/day) as compared to television viewing (2.5 hrs/day). Cellular devices come in third (2.4 hrs/day) and MP3 at 1.3 hrs/day. The encouraging news (in my opinion), is gaming devices are only .75 hrs/day. But together that adds up to 9.5 hours of media intake per day. Now if you are good at math, you say, "Wait, doesn't it all add up to almost 12 hours/day?" Ah... you forget. Students love to multi-task. So the 12 hours are accomplished in 9.5. Aren't you excited about the 2.5 hours saved?

The conclusion: Andy Sawyer, SVP, Media Services for Alloy Media + Marketing, concludes that "... advancements in technology have clearly given students increasing control and ease... to socialize, communicate and be entertained on demand..."

"Socialize, communicate & be entertained on demand..." Hmm... What a life...

Evangelicals - Living Up to our Name?

Philip Yancey wrote a final column for the back page of Christianity Today, O Evangelicos! His final line:
Some of my friends believe we should abandon the word evangelical. I do not. I simply yearn for us to live up to the meaning of our name.
What do you think?

Resources for Exploring

How do you engage in spiritual conversations? How do discover where someone is spiritually?

In the CoJourner paradigm, the four roles we can play in another person's spiritual journey are:
  • Explorer: to discover where are person in spiritually
  • Guide: to show the way to Jesus
  • Builder: to construct ways over or around the obstacles that keep people from Jesus
  • Mentor: to encourage the person on in the spiritual journey
The Explorer is one of the two roles (along with the Builder) that people request the most help for. Over the last number of years, we have been developing and sharpening an Explorer toolkit. It currently features four primary "tools".

Short-films are the most media sophisticated explorer tool. Utilizing 7-minute or less films, students use their iPhone, iPods, DVD players or laptops to show films with spiritual themes and discuss their implications.

Soularium continues with the creative. A set of 50 photographic images are the basis for dialogue regarding life, God and spiritual experience. This has quickly become the most popular Exploring tool on US college campuses (and is spreading rapidly internationally, as well.) To explore answers that are commonly given visit mysoularium.com

Perspective is a card based worldview interview we are currently field testing and refining. It explores a person's view of God, humanity, meaning of life, Jesus and source of spiritual knowledge. (Thank you, Barry!) I did two Perspective conversations last week at the University of Chicago - Illinois. Fascinating!

QuEST (Questions Exploring Students Thinking) is the most left-brained tool. It is a simple five-question interview. Translation - it involves only asking five questions & listening. The questions can be used formally or informally. (If used formally, the results should be submitted throught the QuEST website.)

Asking questions and listening is the fundamental skills of a good explorer. Creative media -- whether short-films, photography, cards or questionnaires -- can help make that easier for you and for your audience!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Gospel: Reading "Along" or "Across" the Bible

Wednesday morning, I had the privilege of visiting Dr. D. A. Carson. I studied Greek, Greek Exegesis and Pauline Epistles under Dr. Carson years (ok, decades) ago. But this conversation focused on The Gospel Coalition. I must say, he is very enthusiastic about this subject!

Afterward, I returned to the Gospel Coalition website to explore the growing wealth of resources. I was struck by the Theological Vision for Ministry. While the whole document is worthy of reflection, one element relates to previous posts here re: the gospel itself.

What is the essence of the gospel? How do we best read the Bible in understanding the gospel? Here are the two contrasting (or complimenting) approaches (as delineated by the GC):
  • Reading “along” the whole Bible. To read along the whole Bible is to discern the single basic plot–line of the Bible as God’s story of redemption (e.g., Luke 24:44) as well as the themes of the Bible (e.g., covenant, kingship, temple) that run through every stage of history and every part of the canon, climaxing in Jesus Christ. In this perspective, the gospel appears as creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It brings out the purpose of salvation, namely, a renewed creation... [God] providentially brings about his eternal good purposes to redeem a people for himself and restore his fallen creation, to the praise of his glorious grace.
  • Reading “across” the whole Bible. To read across the whole Bible is to collect its declarations, summons, promises, and truth–claims into categories of thought (e.g., theology, Christology, eschatology) and arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches summarily (e.g., Luke 24:46–47). In this perspective, the gospel appears as God, sin, Christ, faith. It brings out the means of salvation, namely the substitutionary work of Christ and our responsibility to embrace it by faith... Jesus Christ acted as our representative and substitute, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
After reflecting on what happens when believers focus on one or the other exclusively, the "Vision" concludes:
  • We do not believe that in best practice these two ways of reading the Bible are at all contradictory, even though today, many pit them against each other. We believe that on the contrary the two, at their best, are integral for grasping the meaning of the biblical gospel. The gospel is the declaration that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has come to reconcile individuals by his grace and renew the whole world by and for his glory. (Emphasis mine)
That last line is a nice (concise) statement of the "essence of the gospel."

Which do you prefer to communicate in evangelism? The storyline gospel (such as, Life@Large) or the gospel outline (such as, Knowing God Personally)?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The World is Just Awesome

Having just posted the Guiness take on Creation, it seems only fitting to follow with the Discovery Channel's "The World is Just Awesome." Sing along with..."I Love the Whole World".



Hmmm... There seems to be a recurring theme in these commercials. Wonder what it tells of about humanity? A little Anthropology, or maybe, some Cosmology?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Creation - A Brewer's Take

I find special delight in short film, video, and other artistic offerings, especially as they create space for conversation, reflection and spiritual journey. Commercials are one genre I keep watch on. I came across this one today. A brewer's (that is, Guiness') take on bringing the world to life:



What do you think?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is Evangelism Worth Doing Badly?

I am perusing Brad J. Kallenberg's Live to Tell: Evangelism for a Postmodern Age (2002). While the insights of the book are many, I was struck in the end with this:
For anything worth doing is worth doing badly--until one can do it better. And one can become a skillful evangelist only be beginning poorly, but beginning nonetheless. Only one who begins, albeit poorly, has the hope of improving. (Page 124)
The insight caught me, transporting me back four decades ago, to when I was doing evangelism poorly. (I trust I have improved some, though there are times I doubt I have as much as might be assumed.) Nevertheless, I remember walking down a resident hall, sticking my head in the door of a class friend to say hi. The Christian worker I happened to be with at the time asked my friend if I had ever shown him "The Four Spiritual Laws". Gulp. I wasn't prepared for that question to be asked. When my friend said no, the staff member suggested I do so--now. Me? Ummm... Did I get that right?

I stumbled and stammered as I read through the booklet, asking the questions that were already printed there, feeling awkward and embarrassed. And then we got to the prayer. My friend said, yes, he wanted to receive Christ. And I led him in prayer.

To be honest, I don't know what really happened. Did he understand? Did he truly believe? Did Jesus Christ enter his life and forgive his sin? Did the Holy Spirit birth him into new life and the body of Christ? I don't know.

What I do know is that "I did evangelism poorly." But I did it as best I could then and I continue to do the best I can now. I am still learning. I am still growing. And I am still having conversations. Maybe still poorly, but not as poorly as I did before.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Communicating Sin to an iGen

A few days ago, I wrote a post quoting Tim Keller on "Communicating Sin to a Postmodern". Keller suggests it is helpful to communicate "sin is primarily idolatry."

Here is another example of communicating need from Scott McKnight. In his article, "The Gospel for iGens", he draws from Alan Mann's book, Atonement for a Sinless Society, and concludes, "For a person to feel guilty, that person must have a sense of morality." That appears lacking in this postmodern culture. So, how do you demonstrate need in a compelling (rather than repelling) way? McKnight suggests:
"...I have found that the self-in-a-castle feels shame about systemic sin, and their sensitivity to things like AIDS, poverty, and racism leads inevitably to recongizing the sin in each person. At some point in this movement to the castle door, the iGen will realize that systemic sin is linked to personal sin. Suddenly he or she feels accountable to God."
The whole article is worth the read. But I am intrigued comparing traditional "sin is falling short" messaging, with the approaches of both Keller ("sin is idolatry") and McKnight ("systemic sin links to personal sin").

Thoughts?

Humans are Lovers

Is determining one's worldview going deep enough in effective (cross-cultural or missional) evangelism?
"Humans are not primarily or for the most part thinkers, or even believers. Instead, human persons—fundamentally and primordially—are lovers."
From a review of James A. K. Smith's Desiring the Kingdom.

Perhaps we need to go below the worldview to the heart. Thoughts?

Failure in Communication

Came across this quote about communication:
"Failure in communication generally comes about because of our inability to reverse roles … to put ourselves in the position of those we seek to communicate with."
— John F. Budd Jr.,chairman, The Omega Group (as quoted in Wylie's Writing Tips")

What are the implications for effective witness?

Evangelism in a Postmodern Age

I have been asked to do a two-part seminar at the MidSouth Christmas Conference for Campus Crusde for Christ on "Evangelism in a Postmodern World." My description of the session is:
“The times they are a changing” and so must we. Yet to be effective and authentic witnesses, it is essential we understand what must and must not change. This biblical framework will enable us to explore our cultural landscape and adapt to our audience. Practical help will be given in engaging others conversationally, communicating the gospel and dealing with the beliefs that stand as barriers to faith in Christ.
It is important to note, this is a seminar whose main subject is evangelism, not postmodernism. Postmodernism is the context, not the main subject. With this focus on conversational evangelism, my list of recommended readings include:
  • Davy, CoJourners: Joining Others in Spiritual Journey (A Transferable Concept). CruPress, 2007.
  • Geisler & Geisler. Conversational Evangelism: How to Listen and Speak so You Can Be Heard. Harvest House Publishers, 2009.
  • Moreland & Muehlhoff. The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith. IVP, 2007.
  • Newman. Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did. Kregel Publications, 2004.
  • Pollard. Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult: How to Interest People Who Aren’t Interested. IVP, 1997.
  • Pollock, Doug. God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally. Group, 2009.
  • Richardson. ReImagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on a Spiritual Journey. IVP, 2006.
  • Sire. Why Good Arguments Often Fail. IVP, 2006.
Would you add any?

God is OmniPresent

This quote from AW Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy:
God is over all things, under all things; outside all; wthin but not enclosed; without but not excluded; above but not raised up; below but not depressed; wholly above, presiding; wholly beneath, sustaining; wholly within, filling. (Hildebert of Lavardin)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Communicating Sin to a Postmodern - Tim Keller

This summer I heard Tim Keller speak on the gospel. I was struck by a statement he made about how he communicates sin to the postmodern listener. Now I discover he has written an article articulating it, "Talking About Idolatry in a Postmodern Age".

While recognizing sin can rightfully be defined as "law-breaking", when it comes to evangelism among postmoderns, Keller uses a different tack, "I define sin as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God."

He writes: "

I ordinarily begin speaking about sin to a young, urban, non-Christian like this:

Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.

Why take this approach? Keller suggests two reasons. First, this definition convicts both the "prostitute and the pharisee", the ungodly and the self-righteous. It is the latter group that is more offensive to the postmodern. Second, this personalizes sin for the postmodern and they offer little resistance to it, while "law-breaking" assumes agreement on which laws.

Fascinating approach to getting to the heart of the issue of sin. Your thoughts?


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Worldview & Evangelism

Charles Colson writes (and speaks, if you listen to the radio) regarding Worldview and Evangelism in the latest Breakpoint. Here is an excerpt:
...you can’t evangelize without understanding the cultural context. It would be like a missionary attempting to work in a foreign country without understanding its language or customs. He’d make a fool of himself.
What is the relationship between worldviews and evangelism? Good question...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cause Celebre: Top Causes among US College Students

Ever wonder what causes US college students think are important? I have.

This summer, Dan Coates (Co-founder of SurveyU), wrote an article for EngageGenY on Cause Celebre. I was struck by this summary:
a study conducted by SurveyU in May shows that the environment is merely the 10th most-important cause in the minds of current college students.

What ranks at the top of the list? Education is considered very important by 81%, followed by child endangerment/abuse prevention at 68%. The fact that education leads the list shows how concerned students are about protecting and furthering their academic careers. Rape prevention (65%), civil/human rights (65%) and cancer (62%) round out the top five, with drunk driving prevention (61%), genocide (59%), domestic violence (57%), AIDS (57%) and environment/conservation (54%) completing the list of the causes that college students find important.

As the economy has collapsed over the past nine months, global causes have been replaced by local causes. Of the top 10 social causes, only one (genocide) has an obvious international context.
I don't know anything about the methodology used to collect this data, but it is suggestive to consider. What are the implications for those in Campus Ministry?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Journey up the River Video

Just viewed an interesting video regarding this generation. Well done...



This was done, I believe, by Nick Hall of www.pulseoutreach.com.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Separated Brothers

Separated Brothers is a fascinating article (June 16, 2009, Economist.com) on Latinos and the changing face of religion in America. Here is one of the fascinating quotes regarding the growing 15% who are now "born again":
Gaston Espinosa, a professor of religion at Claremont McKenna College, puts it. He estimates that about 3.9m Latino Catholics have converted, and that “for every one who comes back to the Catholic church, four leave it.” The main reason, he thinks, is ethnic identity. Evangelical services are not only in Spanish, as many Catholic sermons are nowadays, but are performed by Latinos rather than Irish or Polish-American priests, with the cadences, rhythms, innuendos and flow familiar from the mother country. The evangelical services tend to be livelier than Catholic liturgy and to last longer, often turning into an outing lasting the whole day. Women play greater roles, and there are fewer parishioners for each pastor than in the Catholic church.

Fascinating insights, especially for our brothers and sisters in Destino. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Evangelism Model: Leading Movements of Evangelism

For the last twelve years, the Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ has been operating from what has been known internally as "The Evangelism Model". One of the tools based up on it is Getting Biblical About Evangelism. While it has been applied in many different contexts, its principles have helped clarify what is involved in leading movements of evangelism.

Here is a "introduction" I used with team leaders this summer.

Since evangelism always involves:

God - The Master
  • Evangelism is first & foremost a work of God.
  • Therefore, a leader must learn to discern and align to what God is doing in their context.
World - The Masses
  • The audience is the defining context.
  • Therefore, the leader must understand and adapt to the audience in their context.
Believers - The Messengers
  • Believers are the primary initiators in evangelism.
  • Therefore, the leader must empower, equip and engage the labor force in effective outreach.
Gospel - The Message
  • The true gospel is always about Jesus—who he is, what he has done and why.
  • Therefore, the leader must ensure that the unchanging gospel is communicated with life-changing power.
Communication - The Methods
  • Methods will vary according to the context.
  • Therefore, the leader employs methods that bring it all together.
  • Empowering laborers—aligned with God and adapting to the audience—who are communicating the unchanging gospel with life-changing power and relevance.
If we are effective at developing leaders of evangelism with these competencies, how are we doing?

Changing Student Landscape (Part 3)

Pardon the delay, but I am finally completing my series of posts on the "Changing Student Landscape". The last few weeks of conferences and vacation delayed me.

In Changing Student Landscape (Part 1; Part 2), I have been exploring student trends that influence evangelism. I continue here with two final cultural observations.

#7 Disillusioned with Christianity
Christians have a PR problem. There is not only a growing disillusionment with institutional Christianity, but Christians, as a people, are increasingly perceived negatively. Student attitudes have been chronicled in numerous ways, including Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus, But Not the Church, and Jeff Martin’s documentary, “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers". Kinnaman & Lyons’ research, recorded in the book with the descript title, UnChristian suggest six common perceptions of Christians:
  • Hypocritical
  • Too focused on getting converts
  • Anti-homosexual
  • Sheltered
  • Too Political
  • Judgmental
While my experience confirms the research, I have also found that students do not necessarily apply these negative attributes to every believer they meet. Rather, if they perceive you as an open, honest, safe, and caring person, they have the ability to differentiate between you and the general public image. But one thing is for certain, this is a cultural apologetic for why we, as believers must be the primary initiators of significant positive spiritual interactions. When this generation is ready to seek, they are not inclined (given their general view of Christians) to turn to us for answers. We have to engage with them and show them (i.e. genuinely demostrate) that we are different than the perceptions.

#8 Worldview Stew
The final characteristic I’ll mention in this series is the inconsistencies in worldview. While there are exceptions to the norm, most students’ worldviews are a mixture of various beliefs adopted from the media, peers, education, family and other influences. For this reason, many of their views are logically inconsistent. Yet this does not seem to bother them. Their low view of truth (i.e., all truth is relative) eases any angst that might be felt by living with contradictions. Here are a couple of examples from Pew research:
  • 70% of those who claim religious affiliation believe multiple religions can lead to salvation
  • 57% of self-identified evangelicals believe multiple religions can lead to salvation.
  • 21% of self-identified atheists believe that some kind of God exists.
(Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life)

So what are the implications of this changing student landscape? How do these characteristics effect campus ministry and witness? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Gospel - Reflections of DA Carson

In the continued discussion on what is the gospel, this from DA Carson in an editorial for Themelios...
The gospel is what God has done, supremely in Christ, and especially focused on his cross and resurrection.

Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.

How would you describe the "essence" of the gospel?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Changing Student Landscape (Part 2)

In Changing Student Landscape (Part 1), I began exploring student trends that influence campus evangelism today. I continue here with five more cultural observations.

#4 Emerging Adulthood
Life for today’s student is not the same as it was for the student of (say) the 70’s. To be more precise, the stage of life is not the same. Think. for example, of marriage. (For an excellent research source, see: The National Marriage Project, Rutgers.) The median age for marriage in 1970 was about 23 for men and 21 for women. Today that has jumped to 28 and 26. What has changed? Today’s student does not enter into the responsibilities of adulthood (as assumed in the 70’s – marriage, settled career, home, etc.) until later in the twenties. Today’s student is in the early days of “emerging adulthood” (as described by Jeffrey Arnett), a period now between adolescence and adulthood. Or, as they are sometimes referred to, they are “twixters”.

But what characterizes this stage of life? Arnett suggests:

1.It is the age of identity explorations.
2.It is the age of instability.
3.It is the most self-focused age of life.
4.It is the age of feeling in-between, in transition, neither adolescent nor adult.
5.It is the age of possibilities.
Jeffrey Arnett, Emerging Adulthood

Wow! Think of the implications of this for significant engagement regarding life and the gospel.

#5 Spiritually Minded
But what is the spiritual orientation of today’s student? The UCLA research project, Spirituality and Higher Education, (a body of research important to anyone serious about campus ministry or understanding today’s student), demonstrates this is a highly spiritual aware (or minded?) generation. For instance:

77% entering Freshmen agree “we are all spiritual beings”
71% gain strength by trusting in a higher being
58% indicate that integrating spirituality is very important or essential
84% have had a “spiritual experience”

To engage in safe conversations about spirituality is not unusual. Spirituality is a common theme in today’s student culture. They might not use the word, but the reality of spirituality ubiquitous (i.e., it shows up everywhere).

#6 Identity Lockboxes
But does that mean that they are spiritually open-minded, ready to explore and change? Fascinating research has been done by Tim Clydesdale that would suggest not. His in-depth, longitudinal interviews and field research with college freshmen reveal is that most freshmen are thoroughly consumed with the everyday matters of navigating relationships, managing gratifications, handling finances, and earning diplomas—and that they stow their (often vague) religious and spiritual identities in an identity lockbox well before entering college. The key phrase there is “identity lockbox.” It seem that their religious identity is not abandoned (as has often been suggested or assumed). Rather it stored away, still in tact, subconsciously kept for a later stage in life.
Tim Clydesdale, The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School

What are the implications for evangelism? Is it easy to engage an identity that has been stored away, even locked up? Is it easy to see that identity change? This alone should press our dependence upon the power of the gospel and the Spirit’s work. Our conversational skills and relevant messages are not (by themselves) adequate.

Two more trends to go on this series… To be posted next.

Thoughts?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Changing Student Landscape (Part 1)

Last night I was engaged in an informal conversation with about 25-30 young campus ministry leaders regarding evangelism and culture. I mostly listened to the heart, vision, frustration and best practices of these emerging leaders. The conversation drew my mind back to earlier this year, when I was asked to speak to a group of about 100 directors of student summer projects on the subject of emerging trends among students as they make an impact on evangelism. My thoughts were delivered under the title of “The Changing Student Landscape: Exploring the Trends”. Along with my own reading, research and reflections, I utilized summaries found in Ivy Jungle's Campus Ministry Updates--a resource well worth subscribing to, if you have an interest in campus culture.

The next few posts will provide the essence of what was delivered.
“It is not the reality but the image of the audience that determines how communication occurs. The communicator chooses both content and communicative style based on his or her ideas about the audience—who they are, what they are interested in, and how they will respond. Normally, these ideas about the audience are approximately correct because of shared experiences and similar backgrounds and cultures. But…(ed.: You can fill in this blank.) A first step in improving communication is to gain a more accurate understanding of the audience.” (Donald Smith, Creating Understanding:A Handbook for Christian Communications Across Cultural Landscapes)
Here are the first three characteristics:

#1 – Introducing this generation of students.
A few demographical observations (mostly obvious):
• This is the largest body of US college students ever.
• Women out number men almost 3 to 2.
• Ethnically diversity grows. (Duh!)
Student culture is a mosaic of micro-cultures & subgroups, thriving in the same cultural landscape.

#2 - A Satisfied Lot
• 93% are happy with the way things are going in their lives.
• 84% say their life is excellent or good.
• 93% are satisfied with their family life and 91% in their relationships with their parents.
• 81% are satisfied the amount of free time they have.
Pew Research, “Portrait of Generation Next” (This is a very helpful report to examine more closely!)

If you are reaching out expecting to find a generation with lots of felt needs on the surface, just waiting and wanting to change, think again. You must go deeper!

#3 – The Digital Generation
What makes this generation different from its predecessors is not just its demographic muscle, but it is the first to grow up surrounded by digital media. (Growingupdigital.com)
When the primary means of storing and distributing information changes, our worldviews change. (Rex Miller, The Millennium Matrix)
Miller explores the four major communication shifts and their implications:
  • Oral Culture (Pre-printing press; up to and through Middle Ages)
  • Print Culture (Reformation, Enlightenment through mid-20th century)
  • Broadcast Culture (Later half of the 20th century)
  • Digital Culture (Present)
The digital culture is shaping the very worldview of this generation.

Five more characteristics to go in next posts. (See: Part 2 and Part 3)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Internet Campus - Who Gathers?

Internet campuses for the body of Christ are emerging. Notable in this category is Church OnLine, from LifeChurch.TV. But who chooses to connect (worship? fellowship? learn?) in this fashion?

Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.TV indicates for groups who choose do so (extracted from Outreach Magazine, "Catalyst for Creativity", July/August 2009, pate 86):
Distant: People who are outside the physical reach of the church
Curious: People who would prefer to explore their interest in spirituality in an online context
Mobile: People who are part of our church, but are looking for an option to worship together because they are traveling or displaced
Digital:People who prefer to experience much of their community in an online context
They are hearing accounts of changed lives from people around the globe. A sign of things to come?

Are you curious what an on-line church experience is like (but not wanting to take the time or make the effort to experience it)? Here is an introduction from LifeChurch.TV

God is...Online from BlueDoorMinistries on Vimeo.

Global Christianity = American Christianity?

There is a fascinating interview in Christianity Today with church historian, Mark Noll, entitled "Does Global Christianity Equal American Christianity?" Well worth reading the observations of this learned man. I was particularly intrigued by his final comment:
One of the things I'm most encouraged by in modern American missions history is how sophisticated the evangelism-minded groups have become. Sophisticated cultural analysis is now proceeding alongside a strong evangelism missions mandate. The 19th-century missionary pioneers in the U.S. were quite sophisticated in understanding culture and cross-cultural communications, compared to their own day and age. At the height of the imperial era, by contrast, say 1880—1950, there was a serious decline in cultural awareness and sensitivity in all the groups. But since World War II, there's been a strong awareness among everybody, including the strongly evangelistic groups, of the need for language training and cultural understanding, as well as for gospel urgency.
Usually, we are feeling behind on the cultural analysis. Maybe we aren't as bad at it as we sometimes think (or feel). Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Life Story: Brian Welch (Korn)

"Everyone has a story -- a life story."

Those are the opening line from Life@Large. It is so true and every story is worth hearing, exploring, considering.

Here is Brian Welch's story. It is another display of grace--the power of the gospel!



Thank you to those who put together, I Am Second.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Whole Good World: Reflections by Yancey

What captured my attention with this article, A Whole Good World, was the mention of Mako and the 9-11 art project. Peaked my interest having been in NYC with the Tribecca Art Project when Mako spoke.

For those interested in Art & Culture, I commend the International Arts Movement. Link

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sharing the Wealth - Missional Church Reading Room

In the spirit of "sharing the wealth", here is a valuable link for readings on Missional Church thinking, provided by Tyndale College University and Seminary. You will note it has readings on:
  • Foundational Texts
  • Leadership Resources
  • Missional Hermeneutics
  • Missional Theology
  • Missional Education
  • Missional Articles
  • Missional Websites & Blogs
  • Missional Resources
It also includes a couple of articles on the Missional Debate. Wow! This is a treasure chest of information!

Thank you, Tyndale!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saying More Than We Can Say

Related to our theme Art & the Gospel, CT Today has a nice short article: "Saying More Than We Can Say" by Carolyn Arends.

The story of Olivier Messiaen in the concentration camp arrested my attention. Imagine composing a masterpiece of (musical) art from inside "death's domain."

Is it surprising that it was inspired by Scripture - Revelation 10:1-2, 5-7?

If you want to listen to it while pondering the connections of music and the gospel, enjoy this from the Quartet Messiaen.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Text & Twitter: A Future?

Increasingly aware of discussions regarding the value of "texting" and "twitter" for ministry. For instance, Mark Galli of Christianity Today just posted an article entitled: "Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?" The article begins with the Trinity and then interacts with Kevin Kelly's article in Wired entitled, "The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society is Coming Online". Fascinating.

In a more playful manner, Timothy McSweeney offers "God Texts the Ten Commandments" by Jamie Quattro. Is this what "dynamic equivalence" means?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Read this - Before you die

Here is another media based gospel presentation:

Read This -- Before You Die

Did you notice that you can choose different music tracks? One of the tracks is Trip Lee's faith story.

Don't know much about the ReachLife Ministries, who have developed and deployed this.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Graffiti Bridge to Life

Through the years, one gospel illustration (or presentation) I have often used is the Bridge to Life (thank you, NAVs). As I continue in discussions exploring Evangelism and Creative Media, I have become aware of a Graffiti Bridge to Life - where the Bridge, art (graffiti), music and video come together. This is done by the BGA.



What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Age of Decision

I recently heard a variation of the common statistical claim that "nine our of ten Christians accept Jesus as their Savior before the age of 18." This statistic is often brought out as justification for youth ministry. Youth ministry, of course, is of great value, with or without this statistical support. But I am always interesting in reality, so taking a closer look at statistics is a bit of an interest. In this case, it reminded me of a Barna report worth recalling from October 11, 2004 -- "Evangelism is Most Effective Among Kids".

Couple of things to note here:
If that statistic was accurate in the past, it no longer depicts U.S. society. The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
That suggests the number is significantly lower (i.e. 2 out of 3, not 9 out of 10). But also of interest is that 43% accept Christ by the age of 13. This leaves only 21% receiving Christ during the traditional "youth ministry" years of 13-18.

Also of interest (to me) are these stats:
Among people who accepted Christ when they were age 13 through 21, the process was much more diverse. One out of five credited a friend with bringing them to Christ, and a similar proportion said their parents were responsible for their decision. One-fifth also recalled an event as the trigger for their commitment. One-sixth of the people saved as teens (16%) listed a relative other than their parent as the primary influencer. Ministers were cited by one out of every ten Christians who accepted Christ during the 13-to-21-age bracket, while media and special personal situations were listed by only 1%.
Among the adults, I find it interesting that natural relationships account for about 40%: parents (8%); relatives (13%) and friends (19%).

What are the implications of all this outreach? What stands out to you?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Preach the Gospel Always: What Would Francis Do?

It is common in this day and age to hear St Francis of Asissi's famous quote:
"Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."
While it underscores the undeniable importance of integrity in our life and words, the quote has never seemed to reflect the biblical perspective or balance regarding the relationship between the two. The gap between the biblical emphasis and Francis' quote caused me to feel a twinge of discomfort each time I heard it pulled out to emphasize the importance of our life, while minimizing the importance of our words.

But now I learn that Francis never said this, nor did he live it. It seems that biographer (and CT Today editor) Mark Galli sets the record straight in his article, Speak the Gospel: Use Deeds When Necessary.

A couple of quotes from the article:

First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. It's not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples.

Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle.

The point is this: Francis was a preacher. And the type of preacher who would alarm us today. "Hell, fire, brimstone" would not be an inaccurate description of his style.
And his conclusion:

That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Changing Demographics

NOTE: I posted this back in May, with my interest less about the stats themselves, more about the implications for mission and evangelism in Europe. Since then, it has been brought to my attention that the statistics have been "debunked." Rather than pulling this post, I leave it up with the counter-point article, "Debunking a You Tube Hit", a "case-study" (so to speak) of the misuse of statistics.
_______________________________________________

A friend recently brought this video on the changing demographics of Europe, Canada and the US to my attention. What are the implications of this for mission and evangelism?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Believe Again

Another account of A.N. Wilson's journey back to faith--this one from Breakpoint. My earlier post was "Why I Believe Again."

Have you ever known someone who has journeyed from faith to atheism and back? Fascinating to me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dialogue Veritas

In Rennes, France, two campus ministries (CCC and IVCF) are partnering to sponsorship a 3-night event called Dialogue Veritas. Each night they will explore and address one or two critical questions for the 21st century student. Here is their line-up:

“Why believe in God if it is only to be disappointed?”
“What’s the purpose of life?”
“What is there after death?”
“Hasn’t science weakened the existence of God?”
“Why are there so much suffering and inequality in the world?”

Sounds pretty interesting. Is anyone here asking these same questions? Can you respond to each issue?

State of Play

Nick Pollard on Film is a helpful resource for exploring film and the messages contained therein. Here is Pollard on State of Play.

I suspect what caught my attention with this one is that I have a brother who is a journalist (and a very good one, I should add!) The power of personal connections.

Look forward to seeing this one.

Thoughts on Pollard or on journalism?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Why I Believe Again"

Always being interested in spiritual journeys, I found A. N. Wilson's particularly fascinating. He has written it in an article "Why I Believe Again" for the New Stateman (a U.K. publication.) It is particularly insightful in relating the inner thoughts and journey of one converted to atheism. But alas, atheism offers so little in life, that Wilson has journeyed back to faith. Remarkable story, really.

There are themes that remind me of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy - the experience (and evidential power) of language, love and music.

What do you think? What does Wilson's journey suggest regarding the modern atheistic resurgence?

Christian America?

Interesting culture discussion about the "End of American Christianity" with Tim Keller and Jon Meacham on Morning Joe--a Good Friday Special.

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge respond in the Wall Street Journal to the Newsweek discussion with "God Still isn't Dead."

For a balancing perspective on the subject, check "Post-Christian or Polarized" -- a blog post of GetReligion.org.

The polarizing of America... What are the implications for witness in the 21st century?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spurgeon - The Essence of the Gospel

...for this is the essence of the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures - died the substitute for us criminals, rose the representative of us pardoned sinners - died that our sins might die, and lives again that our souls may live.
C. H. Spurgeon
"The Messages of the Stone and Angels"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Native Student - Changed Life Story

Over the last few years, we have watched God use the efforts of C.C.C. to contextualize ministry to ethnic student audiences. There has been profound growth of these ministries. At CCC winter conferences this year, almost a third of the students were of ethnic or international background. Exciting!

Nations, the contextualized ministry to Native Americans, is one example. Here is the changed life story of Native--Nick Ross-Dick.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Round Trip" Missions

A "maturing" perspective on short-term missions...

Round Trip Missions - Trailer from Round Trip on Vimeo.

This is the trailer for a new Christianity Today curriculum.

For the story behind the video, read Andy Crouch's blog, culture-making.com, regarding it.

What do you think of it?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Praying for the Lost

My good friend and co-worker, Gilbert K, has recently posted his "coaching tip" for those in Campus Ministry on "Praying for the Lost." Worth the read!

No, better yet, it worth praying!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

God - There Probably Isn't or There Probably Is

This from the Agape Ministry of UK at Imperial College:
The infamous bus campaign, carrying the slogan "There's probably no God; now stop worrying and enjoy your life" has not escaped the team's innovations. They set up a table with a picture of this slogan and another one with a counter sign saying "There is probably a God. Start worrying and look for him. He is everywhere." Students have been giving feedback to this and the team are hosting a meal shortly, where students will have the chance to discuss both of these ideas.

The Coming Evangelical Collapse - Scenario Planning?

I have begun to lead (in a very limited way) a group of national leaders in scenario planning. It is a fascinating exercise of which I am only beginning to learn the art and science. But I read this morning a fascinating scenario by the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer. Extrapolating from the current drift of Evangelicalism, he predicts its collapse in an article bearing that title, "The Coming Evangelical Collapse".

Spencer lists seven reasons for the collapse (written fuller and better than here), but their essence (for your quick read and reflection) are:
  1. Evangelicals identification with the culture war and with political conservatism.
  2. Failure to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.
  3. Current models of the evangelical church.
  4. A self-serving educational system.
  5. The culture’s increased rejection of the “good works” evangelicals seek to do.
  6. A waning vitality of the Bible Belt.
  7. Declining financial resources.
Read his article for yourself.

Suppose he is right. How will this effect witness in the future? How will it effect ministries dedicated to evangelism and gospel ministry? How will it effect you?

Thoughts?

Better Answers - Quote of the Day

"Perhaps if we are confronted with better questions about the meaning and value of religion, we will be forced to find better answers."
Maurice O'Sullivan
"How I Learned Not to Fear the Anti-God Squad"
Wall Street Journal On-Line

Monday, March 9, 2009

America's Worldview

New research out from the Barna group on the changes (or lack thereof) of American's worldviews.

As for change, it reports
The results indicate that the percentage of adults with a biblical worldview... has remained unchanged for more than a decade. The numbers show that 7% had such a worldview in 1995, compared to 10% in 2000, 11% in 2005, and 9% now.
But I find it interesting that:
Seven out of ten adults (70%) say that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who still rules it today.

Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches.
Those statistics suggest a fair large segment of the population (perhaps half?) that can still be engaged with a gospel built upon (or assuming) the biblical worldview. (Thus, the Four Spiritual Laws; the Bridge; etc. remains effective for some.)

The flip side is that the other half(?) cannot assume a biblical outlook. For them, Paul's message to the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17) becomes a better model.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Conversational Evangelism

I haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, but a new book I'm looking forward to reviewing soon is Geisler & Geisler's, Conversational Evangelism.

Publisher's description includes:
David and Norman Geisler share an engaging, conversational approach to evangelism as they address:
  • What makes old models of witnessing ineffective in today’s culture
  • Why evangelism must start with relational pre–evangelism
  • How to ask questions, listen attentively, and understand what someone believes
  • Ways to identify the real barriers to belief in order to build a bridge to truth
  • How to keep dialogue going with different personality types
Dave has sharpened his model through the years of ministry with Meekness and Truth Ministries.

Let me know if you get to read it before I do...

An Atheist's Compliment

Twice recently, I have been made aware of Penn Jillette's video compliment of an unknown Christian witness. What makes this refreshing, is Penn (of Penn & Teller fame) is an atheist, expressing appreciation for someone trying to witness to him.

What do you think?

Cardboard Testimonies

For years as I have equipped others in sharing their "life stories" I've used the example of the Samaritan woman who expressed her encounter with Jesus in sixteen words,
"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"
Her powerful witness led a whole village to encounter Jesus, with many coming to faith (John 4:28-30, 39).

I recently made aware of a modern expression of this -- Cardboard Testimonies -- from Hillside Christian Church (thanks, Larry, for cluing me in on this) and a Cru version from JMU: JMU Cru Cardboard Testimonies.

So how would you express your "faith story" in a sentence or two?

The Multi-faceted Gospel

I recently introduced the article by Tim Keller, The Gospel in All Its Forms. Here is another article: The Multi-faceted Gospel.

We strive the get the gospel right!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Gospel in All Its Forms - Tim Keller

Having posted my own thoughts related to the gospel's essence and fullness, I have recently been introduced to Tim Keller's article on The Gospel in All Its Forms. It complements quite well my conclusions.

Excellent article. Your thoughts?

The Gospel - Essence & Fullness

I have often explained the gospel in this way…

There is generally agreement that there is only one gospel and that is very important to “get it right” (Galatians 1:6-9.) But what is it?

It is helpful to think in terms of the both the gospel essence and the gospel fullness.

On one hand, there is an essential core that the gospel can be distilled to include. We may not say it exactly the same (every time), but the essential elements would always be there. What is that essence? I suggest you compare Jesus’ summary statement in Luke 24:45-49 with Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. There are common elements in both:
• Who is Jesus: The Christ
• What has he done: Died and rose again.
• Why: Forgiveness of sins
• How do we know: OT Scriptures and resurrection appearances
• How are we to respond: Repentance (so Jesus, in Luke) and Faith/belief (Paul)

Test those. Do we find these same essential elements in our Four Gospels? Certainly. Think of Mark, for example. The first eight chapters move thematically toward the answer of “who is Jesus.” As Peter said, “You are the Christ” (8:27-30). From that point, Mark moves toward the cross and his resurrection (three predictions of his death and resurrection in chapters 8-10, followed by their fulfillment in the remaining chapters.) Mark is a narrative of who Jesus is, what has done and why – the essence of the gospel. So also, Matthew, Luke or John. Or “gospel messages” of Acts – whether to Jews (say in Acts 2) or Gentiles (like Acts 17:22-32), they declare who is Jesus, what has he done and why. It is at its core a message about Jesus. Even Romans begins with Paul declaring "the gospel of our God...concerning his Son who..." (Romans 1:1-6).

But to speak of the “essence” of the gospel, is not to say everything about the gospel. We may also speak of the fullness of the gospel. Its truths, themes and implications are so vast that it will take a lifetime to explore and experience. Indeed, we never master the gospel and move on (to some other truth). It is not the initial message for the follower of Christ, it is the only message. We are gospel people. And so, we dig deeper and deeper and become richer and richer (for an analogy, think a vein of gold), always growing in our understanding. So Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are full (narrative) presentations of the same gospel truth as Paul proclaimed. Romans is all gospel truth, unpacked in its theological implications (as also Galatians and the other epistles.) Jesus enabled the disciples to see that the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms (the OT Scriptures) all spoke of him (gospel truth), as in Luke 24:44-49. It is all gospel truth!

While I don’t want to press this too far, I would suggest that it is our mastery of the essence of the gospel that enables us to communicate accurately and it is our growing understanding of the fullness of the gospel that enables us to communicate relevantly. We get the message right if we understand the essence, but we can share that in a wide array of effective ways (as many of you suggested) because of its fullness. Thus you can tell the story of redemption (the biblical storyline), or you can explain the gospel thematically (perhaps the theme of the promise of the Spirit – Acts 2 – or perhaps Steps to Peace with God – Billy Graham). You may share it in a testimony (even the Samaritan woman pointed to Jesus as the Christ) or theologically (as Paul does in Romans. Think of how many have come to faith simply reading the truths of Romans.) You may declare the good news of the Kingdom with the same essence within the context of God's glorious reign! It always the same in essence and but the audience and context determines what form of presentation is most appropriate (thus achieving relevance.)

If this is accurate, then our witness is always who is Jesus, what he has done and why. But we have an unending array of possibilities as to how we can accurately and relevantly communicate and apply this one gospel.

The Overflow Show

The Overflow Show now has 25 episodes -- five-minute podcasts, featuring great books on evangelism. Check them out.

What are your favorite books on evangelism?

Listening: An Explorer's Key

One of the four roles in the CoJourner paradigm is Explorer--discovering where people are in their spiritual journey. Listening is a key for Explorers.

I recently read this quote from Henri Nouwen:
"Why is listening is so difficult? I'll tell you why. It's because you move away from being the center of attention and you inviting someone else into that space. When some one listens to us with real concentration and expresses sincere care for our struggles and our pains, we feel that something very deep is happening to us. Slowly our fears melt away, our tensions dissolve and anxieties retreat. Listening is so simple to do and it's a gift with tremendous healing power that we can offer to others."

From the book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri J.M. Nouwen.

Imagine the power in our witness when we listen before we speak...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Am Second

Have you seen this elegant, story-based site, called I Am Second? It is a very cool use of story for witness. I'm trying to get a read on it's metrics. Hmm... Wonder how much traffic it is seeing?

Here is one news story on it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Atheist Ads - Look Whose Preaching Now

They are showing up in the news more and more -- the atheists advertising. You might say its their "gospel" (though I would wonder what "good news" is in their message.) And its spreading. The message they proclaim:
"There probably isn't a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
Or...
"The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that we don't need him."
The idea is spreading from England (with Dawkins full support) to the US under the sponsorship of the American Humanist Association.

A new billboard is appearing in South Carolina, "Don't Believe in God. You are not alone!"

Christianity Today has a new article commenting on it. It quotes one of the AHA spokespersons on their effect:
Edwords said the ads are doing what the AHA hoped they would do: increase the group's visibility. "We can't imagine people changing religions after two seconds of reading a bus ad," he said. "But in this culture, we need to be interesting in order for like-minded people to see we are out there." The result: 800 new members in December.
How do you like this? After years of flinching at "Christian bumper stickers" (clever though they may be), I now discover the Atheists have begun to follow suit. Does this mean that Christian marketers are leaders that the skeptics have been looking for all this time?

UnReal TV Spots

Here is a new use of Creative Media for witness:



See more at:

Evoke Ministries

Monday, January 12, 2009

Americans & Eternal Life

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, most "Christian" Americans say non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life.
A majority of all American Christians (52%) think that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Indeed, among Christians who believe many religions can lead to eternal life, 80% name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so.
What do you think of that?

Culture: Humanity's Operating System

Culture, to use a computer analogy, is humanity’s operating system. Without it, there would be no language, no communication, no knowledge, and no meaning. And like a computer operating system, culture gets installed with certain “default” settings that, unless overridden, determine how humans view their world and structure their everyday behavior. In the United States, the current default settings install a popular American moral culture that: celebrates personal effort and individual achievement, demonstrates patriotism, believes in God and a spiritual afterlife, values loyalty to family, friends, and co- workers, expects personal moral freedom, distrusts large organizations and bureaucracies, and conveys that happiness is found primarily in personal relationships and individual consumption. Unless these default settings are altered, typically to install more specific religious or nonreligious sub-cultural settings, this constellation of beliefs and practices is characteristic of most Americans.

Tim Clydesdale, Associate Professor of Sociology, College of New Jersey. Excerpted from "Abandoned, Pursued, or Safely Stowed?"

Thoughts?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Finding Jesus in London

Time has published an intriguing article, "Finding Jesus in London", on the influence of Holy Trinity Brompton, the Anglican Church fueled by Nicky Gumbel and his Alpha Courses. The article highlights:
Long considered an aggressively secular city, London has quietly become one ofLink Britain's most Christian areas, going from the least observant region in Britain in 1979 to the second most observant today.
The church's 4000-strong congregation has almost tripled in the past 15 years, and its average age is 27 years.
Underpinning this success is Holy Trinity Brompton's Alpha course, a 10-week introduction to Christianity aimed at converting young people.
With that kind of impact, it causes you to sit up and take notice of the Alpha Course. The mechanics of this course are simple - 10 weeks, meal and discussion, along with a day/weekend away. But the spiritual dynamics are what is powerful -- on-going, gospel-centered discussions in a relationally comfortable and attractive setting.

Imagine all the ways that could be replicated...