Saturday, June 29, 2013

Natural Witness: The Modes of Evangelism (Part 3)

In recent posts, I have introduced the Modes of Evangelism (article & video) and Body Witness. The second mode is Natural Witness. 

As believers leave their fellowship to reengage in everyday living, their lives naturally intersect countless people. Some of these intersections involve intimate and long-term relationships, such as family and close friends. But most will be casual and brief. And while the number of intimate relationships may be relatively few, the total web of natural connections can be substantial. We have classmates, coworkers, and neighbors. We briefly relate to store clerks, waitresses, hairdressers and others in the marketplace. We talk with doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and repairmen. Entertainment, sports and recreational opportunities expose us to more people in casual settings. Even fellow travelers on planes can become temporary conversational partners. This is not to suggest that every time we are near someone, God intends for us to speak of Jesus. But we must recognize that our lives do intersect those of countless others and be ready at all times (2 Timothy 4:2).

Among this group of natural relational connections, God is already at work and may want to use us. If we are available and alert, if we show genuine care and concern, if we ask good questions and listen, we will often discover opportunities for gospel conversations. Paul exhorted us to be ready for such. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5,6). The key in natural witness is not the duration of the relationship, depth of its intimacy or the length of the conversation. Rather it is wisdom to make the most of each opportunity.

Witness among natural relationships was common in the New Testament. Among the first disciples, Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus and Philip brought his friend, Nathaniel (John 1:40-51). Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman was in a brief, but natural (albeit unusual) setting—at the watering hole. The Samaritan woman’s subsequent witness to her village was among those with whom she had natural relationships, though not particularly positive ones (John 4:1-42). The delivered demoniac was a witness to his people back home (Luke 8:38, 39). All of these examples underscore the importance of natural witness. God delights to work through his people within their web of natural relationships.

How does a leader help expand the natural witness of the believers they lead? It requires casting a compelling vision for the needs of others and the opportunities to be used by God. The leader must raise awareness, helping believers to be alert for divine appointments and opportunities to engage with others. It also requires motivation. Many influences work against believers’ natural witness, and probably none more than fear and busyness. The leader must cultivate the heart desire for God’s glory and the ultimate good of others. (See the Master principles, above.) But there is also the need for believers to be equipped in conversational evangelism, increasing their confidence and competence. Finally, they need practical ways to engage conversationally. It may be as simple as everyday conversation, guided by genuine interest. Or it may involve specialized outreach tools and resources (like Soularium, CruPress, 2008, or the Perspective Cards, CruPress, 2010). But believers need a plan, steps they can follow and methods they can employ.

Excerpt from Evangelism Design

Friday, June 28, 2013

Body Witness: The Modes of Evangelism (Part 2)

In the last posts, I introduced the Modes of Evangelism (article & video). Here I center in on the first mode: Body Witness. 
The body of Christ can have a powerful witness when it is gathered together and functioning in a healthy manner. A healthy community of believers grows in Christ through speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15, 16). This experience of authentic love and truth is what people genuinely desire. As they experience the fellowship of the body, they have opportunity to hear gospel truth explained and applied to life. They also see gospel love lived out in relationship.

God often uses this experience of gospel love and truth to draw people to himself. This may happen in formal gatherings; it may also occur in informal settings. But the love and truth of a healthy body of believers will have a profound witness to those who experience it.

Jesus underscored the importance of the witness of the body. He indicated that our love for one another would be the evidence to all men that we are his disciples (John 13:34-35). He prayed for our unity, knowing that through it the world would recognize that he was sent as the Messiah (John 17:22-23). So when the early church devoted itself to one another in healthy Christian community, it enjoyed “the favor of all the people and there was added to their numbers daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

How does a leader expand the body witness?

First, one must tend to the quality of fellowship, ensuring that it is a healthy environment for seekers to experience the gospel. This doesn’t mean everything must be oriented around the seeker. But it does mean that there is intentionality in creating an environment full of grace and truth, appropriate for anyone.

Second, the leader must increase the opportunity for those who are open and seeking to be exposed to the body. This will normally happen through relationships, as believers invite others into body activities. But it is not limited to personal invitations. A public presence and outward communication strategies have been vehicles God has used to usher many into body experiences.

As the witness of the body expands, many come to faith through it. The community of believers provides an environment for spiritual process and growth to take place. People have time and relational support to process new insights into the gospel and its implications. When they come to Christ, they are already involved and relationally connected. They have already passed through a barrier that those reached outside the body will have to later cross. Belonging before believing is a powerful pathway to the gospel.

But it is limited, as well. Body witness can only impact those who are close enough to see the body in action or brave enough to enter. Thus, body witness normally reaches only those who are spiritually seeking or relationally connected. Generally, that is a small percentage of the people in need. Large, diverse populations (such as a campus or community) cannot be fully reached through body witness alone. The other two modes must also be employed. (Coming soon.)  

Excerpt from Evangelism Design.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leading Evangelism: A Video Intro to the Modes

Last post was an excerpt from Evangelism Design, introducing the Modes of Evangelism. Here is a brief video version from CruPressGreen.

CruPress Presents: Modes of Evangelism from Rick James on Vimeo.

Have you organized your Evangelism Plan around the three modes? What strategic insights have you gained?

Leading Evangelism: An Introduction to the Modes

How does a leader determine what evangelistic or outreach methods to employ? How does one develop a comprehensive strategy, aligned to God but adapting to the context, while mobilizing the whole body? It begins with God, for evangelism is always first and foremost a work of God.

Imagine joining our Lord at the right hand of the throne of God to watch him work through his people as he seeks to save the lost. Suppose you could see his work throughout the centuries and in all different cultures. Are there common methods? Would there be consistent patterns? Are there ways that God always works? The number of distinct methods would be far too numerous to count. Nor would it be that helpful to list, as some worked well at one time and place, but others in a different context. Yet in the midst of them all, there would be a pattern—three consistent relational connections through which God has always worked. These are what we call the relational modes of evangelism.

A mode is by definition a customary or preferred way of doing something (such as an “MO” or “mode of operation” in business). When we speak of the modes of evangelism, we are speaking of the primary relational contexts in which God always works through the body of Christ. Knowing these modes enables us to align ourselves with God’s work in any context. Together they provide the framework for a comprehensive strategy of evangelism that adapts to the audience and mobilizes the whole body.

Each mode is distinctive. Each has its effectiveness and presents unique opportunities. Each is limited by itself. But when working together, the three
create a powerful synergy. They create evangelistic momentum. Together they provide the contours of an evangelistic movement.

Excerpt from Keith Davy, Evangelism Design, CruPress.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Napkins & Discipleship: Still an Effective Medium

The latest Campus Ministry Journal (Issue 3) is now available. This issue is about Disciple-making. It has articles on disciple-making movements, lessons learned in disciple-making and more.

But, given my love for sketching or diagramming everything I do (evangelism, discipleship, planning, even sermon notes), John Allert's article, "Napkins: Top Discipleship Diagrams" caught my attention.

In this visual world, sketches can make an impact. If you don't believe me, check out,  Dan Roam's, The Back of a Napkin, or any of David Sibbet's books, like, Visual Meetings.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Evaluating Your Outreach: Good Questions, Great Outcomes

Ed Stetzer suggests seven good questions to use in evaluating your outreach in "3 Things Churches Love that Kill Outreach":

  • Who are we reaching?
  • Are we primarily reaching people who are like us?
  • Are we primarily reaching people who are already believers?
  • Are we primarily reaching people who understand Christian subculture and taboos?
  • What about the people who don't have a church background?
  • What about the people who are unfamiliar with Christian beliefs?
  • What about the people who don't understand church subculture and behavioral taboos?
Those are good questions to reflect upon. To go to the next level of evaluation, consider doing an Outcome-based Evaluation.

Good strategic analysis lies at the base of great strategic planning.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Do Universities Erode Christian Faith? New Insights into an Old Question

One of the "narratives" commonly told in our Christian culture is the story of how secular universities destroy the faith of many young Christians. It is a fascinating question that should not be answered to quickly or with too simple of an answer.

For many individuals (including myself, my wife, all four of our now adult children and their spouses, well, at least for the three now married, one's yet to marry), the college years at state universities provided a time of significant growth and development in the Christian faith. Forty plus years of involvement in campus ministry has demonstrated that it does not have to have an adverse effect.

But there is more to the story than my personal experience.Sociology confirms it.

Earlier this spring, I had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Christian Smith, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, speak on the sociological data regarding this question. Fascinating results.  Though I took notes, my ability to keep up with the speed of the presentation limited their value in reproduction.

However, now Glenn T. Stanton has done the favor of reproducing some of the findings on a Gospel Coalition blog: FactChecker: Does College Cause Young adults to Lose Their Fatih?

It turns out, that not going to college is more detrimental than going to a secular university. In fact, attending statistically results in more students identifying a strengthening of their faith vs a decline.

One of the reasons for the trend: the "increase in presence and effectiveness of campus-based ministries like Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, and Young Life."

Well that is an encouraging finding for those of us who have invested lives in campus ministry.

Thank you, Lord!