Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism: Demonstration is the Key - Part IX

The encounter between the Samaritan woman and Jesus continues with Jesus purposefully inferring into the woman's personal life. Jesus goal is clearly to invoke an awareness of the sin that keeps the woman from partaking of the "living water." The spiritual light is coming on for the woman. She has gone from thinking of her physical need to thinking about the one same God, Jehovah, that the Jews and the Samaritans both worship but differently.

Knowledge of salvation is not the key to experiencing the living water, just as much as knowledge of God alone doesn't liberates us from our sin. We must be "born again" (see Part VII) and we must become "true worshippers." The later is where the Lord leads the woman next. 

Jesus' objective was to lead the woman to consider her own state of sinfulness - a delicate and yet penetrating way of making her see her deepest need. Jesus doesn't tell the woman she is a sinner, he allows her to reveal this fact in her own heart. Without such self awareness our evangelism will not go far, although some want Jesus for their own reasons (John 2:23-24). The Lord doesn't declare the woman a sinner, he already knows this to be true of all humanity. Instead, he does shows her that he knows her intimately, revealing the secret actions of her life and is therefore well qualified to teach her divine truth.

The woman responds, "'Sir...I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.'" (John 4:19-20) The woman establishes here religious identity, holding on to what she knows, but Jesus continues:  
"Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." (John 4:21-23).
Many worship what they do not know (Acts 17:23), even today.  The Jews worshipped what they did know, remembering how Jehovah had worked in their history - a central part of the Story. By saying that "salvation is from the Jews," Jesus isn't saying that salvation originates with the Jews. Salvation originates with God as God's global plan through Christ foretold by the prophets, a plan for the "nations" to be brought over to a life of true worship (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2) - through the Gospel for all.

Neither the Jews nor the Samaritans had their Gospel knowledge right, so Jesus pivots on the word "yet" to what he wants the woman to know, for us to understand and live out - complete reverence and total dependence on the Father. That's not simply an idea about God, nor the practice of the religion we know, have grown up with, or been indoctrinated into. Rather as "true worshippers" before the living God we worship in spirit and in truth, embracing our place in God's unfolding story. 

Today, we may have the idea that to be a worshipper means that we spend time each morning reading a devotional, studying our Bible, attending a church service and singing praise songs to the Lord. While these practices are good, and our intimacy with God is of paramount importance, that is not what Jesus is talking about. The Lord is going much deeper and wants us to go deeper with him. 

Jesus is talking about "true worshipers," as the kind the Father seeks (the word used for Worshiper in John 4:23 is a unique singular occurrence).  In the Greek,  "worshiper" can mean one who has charge of a temple, to keep and adorn it. The Father is looking for those who will worship in Spirit and in truth, to keep and adorn their lives for him, demonstrating their allegiance to the purposes of God.  This idea was so important that Jesus repeats it twice saying again, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."  (verse 24).

Consider what Paul David Tripp has so eloquently elucidated...
 “Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve.”
We are meant to live as "true worshippers" for at least two reasons. First , because we are created in the image of God and, second, to become who we are in Christ. As Tripp points out, we all worship something. Either we worship the one true and living God in the spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) and through the spirit of truth (John 16:13), or we worship false dead idols. Jesus wants us to be "born again" so that we can experience the fullness of who we are meant be as "true worshippers." 

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. And a man will worship something —have no doubt about that, either. He may think that his tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of his heart—but it will out. That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”

What we are worshipping we are becoming, which is why God the Father is seeking those who will worship in spirit and truth. Greg Beale put it this way, “We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.”  When only 14% of self-identified Christians are living with the actions and attitudes of Jesus the vast majority are not "yet" worshipping in spirit and truth. We are not resembling what we claim to revere. We must become those who do the will of the Father by resembling the life of Christ, which is why demonstration is the key.

When the disciples return to Jesus after purchasing food in town, they are surprised to find him talking with this woman. They want Jesus to eat something but the Lord responds, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (v. 34). Not even his physical needs would keep him from his purpose - to "harvests a crop for eternal life." (v. 36) Do we live with the same passion "to finish his work?" We will be better positioned to do so when we recalibrate our understanding of what it means to be true worshippers for "eternal life." That is where we turn our attention next for living sent today. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism: Demonstration is the Key - Part VIII

Why is it important to rethink what it means to "born again" in relation to how we do evangelism? Because it is important to reframe our evangelistic efforts through a process that produces life change that leads people into fullness of life Jesus promised (John 10:10), and not just "decisions" to "accept Jesus into my heart." That requires intentional discipleship and living a different story.

With the exception of a very small percentage, most people understand that they have need of  salvation. That is why approximately 84% of the world population belong to a world religion. That percentage holds true for Americans as well. Our message about getting "saved" isn't resonating today, however, since in our post-modern pluralistic culture believes there are many equally good paths to "get saved," maybe as many as 206.

What they don't grasp, really can't grasp, is our human need to be "born again" - a complete whole life make-over, converted to the life Jesus designed for us, to affect every area of our lives and the purpose we live for. But the problem is that's not the story we're telling. As Scot McKnight puts it:
“What must be emphasized in all of this is the difference between trusting Christ, the real person Jesus, with all that that naturally involves, versus trusting some arrangement for sin-remission set up through him — trusting only his role as guilt remover.”
When we communicate the Gospel in a way that is focused on getting decisions, on "accepting Jesus into our heart" for "guilt removal," we miss the whole Gospel story. Trusting Christ, "the real person of Jesus," with "all that naturally involves" is being "born-again." As we looked at in Part VII, we should redefine being "born again" as being brought over to the Jesus way of life. Knowing how our understanding of the whole Gospel interconnects with a robust definition of being "born again" is vital to the process of growing up into Christ,and living with the actions and attitudes of Jesus.

The evidence is that the majority of people are not converted by their "decision"  to the Jesus way of life. That is not to say they are not personally "saved" but salvation is only the beginning and not end of what it means to be "born again." When we do not demonstrate the action and attitudes of Jesus to a lost and dying world, we make it difficult for others to "see the Kingdom of God" has arrived. They rightly think we are hypocrites for not living the values we say we believe. Our "decision" may convince us we have "saving faith," but the question really should be do we have living faith? Do we have the faith to live the life we're called to? (Matthew 16:24).Without being brought over to the Jesus way of life, being "born again," we won't and in fact we can't live the Christ-like life (John 15:5).

It is easy to find problems with the Church, to diagnosis the issues as the Barna study does - we are after all, all a bunch of sinners. The challenge is in the change. How do we rethink evangelism to activate our lives and live of others to live with the actions and attitudes of Jesus? We need to go back to the original plan asking that overused question - "What would Jesus do?" We need to understand the whole story Jesus was telling and not simply isolate a few verses for convenience sake and think we're communicating the Gospel. That's where I want to go next as we continue in the Gospel of John.

In John chapter 4 we read that Jesus and his disciples were "gaining and baptizing more disciples than John." Perhaps because of the success he was having the Lord decides it was time to move his operation from Judea and head back to Galilee. We aren't told why Jesus made this trip but only that the Pharisees knew of the successful disciple-making ministry of Jesus. He had certainly upset them when he cleared the temple, made a mess out of the money-changing tables and they thought he would destroy the place (John 2:13-35).

"Now he had to go through Samaria." That is where we find Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well. "When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)" or they may have stopped or at least hindered this divine encounter. They probably would have questioned, "what would other people think?" It was counter-cultural for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan (John 4:9). But Jesus was not bound by such ethnic divisions, nor would he allow such ancient prejudices to keep him from his purposes. 

Next Jesus probed for spiritual understanding saying,“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” With intentionality of knowing where he wanted to take the conversation, Jesus makes a spiritually infused statement to solicit a response. While the woman apparently doesn't understand the reference, based on her response, Jesus is referencing part of the Fall and Redemption story that was at least culturally familiar to the Samaritans. 

Jesus reference to living water first looks back to when the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the judgment upon the nation of Israel: My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremaih 2:13).

Jeremiah 17:13 also speaks of the spiritual condition of Israel:  "Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water." 

Jesus reference to "living water" also looks ahead, as the Prophet Zechariah looks forward to a day when: " water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name" (Zechariah 14:8-9). This speak to the Redemption of Israel as well as the Restoration of the Kingdom of God the Messiah would usher in.

Continuing this spiritual conversation, Jesus say, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life'" (John 4:13-14). Jesus introduces the solution to the woman's real need and brings up the eschatalogical concept of "eternal life," something all religious and many non-religious people have an interest in. 

Was Jesus talking about salvation when he speaks of "a spring of water welling up to eternal life?"  Today, we may understand "eternal life" as synonymous with salvation, or the benefit or rewards of salvation. But could there be another idea Jesus is speaking about that can help us to rethink evangelism, an idea that is central to understanding the whole story?

Clearly the woman didn't understand Jesus response as talking about salvation, for she responds, "Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."  The woman would have no reason to spiritualize what Jesus was saying beyond what she understood. Like the Jews, the Samaritans would have understood "eternal life" in the context of the age to come, when the Messiah would restore the nation of Israel, in a messianic era of peace and prosperity (John 4:25). That is the story that the woman at the well would have understood. 

Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration is the story of God and it is that story we must begin to tell because it is the story Jesus told. It is the story we must live in. Next time we'll look more at this "eternal life" idea so that we can understand the fullness of the story Jesus wants us to know. We are "born-again" to participate in the "eternal life" Jesus came to re-establish. We'll look at this more in the next post, for living sent today.

Tis not the dying for a faith that's so hard... 'Tis the living up to it that's difficult. - See more at:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism - Demonstration is the Key - Part VII

Repentance leads to new life which is why it was Jesus' message when he began to preach (Matthew 4:17). It was also at the heart of Jesus message to Nicodemus in John chapter 3. You know the story, how Nicodemus comes to Jesus "by night" with an interest in the signs of God, just like the people at the Passover Festival we saw in Part VI. Jesus says to Nicodemus, "You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again" (John 3:7). Nicodemus apparently doesn't understand so Jesus explains further and says, "that everyone who believes MAY have eternal life in him” (John 3:15, emphasis mine) - if they are "born again."

In the last post we looked at the passage in John Chapter 2 about the people at the Passover Festival who believed in Jesus because of the signs the Lord was doing. The people at the Passover Festival only wanted Jesus for their own convenience, just like I did in 1985, just like many who don't want an "asbestos suit." But Jesus doesn't want us to want him for our reasons but for his which is why he wants us to be "born again."

What does it mean to be "born again?" We may think of it as being saved but is that all there is to it? Certainly salvation is part of it but being "born again" involves a whole life transformation. Jesus tells us about this transformation in his discussion with Nicodemus, saying: 
"This is the verdict:
    "Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." John 3:19-21.
The King James version of John 3:19 begins: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world..." The word 'condemnation' in the Greek is the 'krisis' from which we get our word crisis. (Many theologians are saying we have a crisis of Christology, we don't know who we are in Christ, which is something I'll be blogging about in the future.) In effect Jesus is saying, "here is the crisis you are facing, the very essence of God (Light) has come into the world but people chose to remain ignorant (in darkness) respecting divine things and human duties, the result is ungodliness and immorality. You were made for better so reject ignorance, chose to acknowledge the truth of how you are made, and live in such a way that you demonstrate understanding." That is what it means to be "born again" - we are born in ignorance, and "born again" into who we truly are in Christ.

Irenaeus, a 2nd Century Church Father whose writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology and who is credited with the canon of the New Testament, said: "The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” That is the actuality of being "born-again" - being full alive so that we can behold God. We were born of water by natural means and by the Spirit we supernaturally become "fully alive" (see John 3:5-6). Then we will "see the kingdom of God," a reality where what God wants done is done. 

Irenaeus thought the essence of God's plan is a process of maturation. He believed that humanity was created immature, and God intended his creatures to take a long time to grow into or assume the divine likeness - the character and nature of Jesus, who is the glory of God in human form (John 1:14). Irenaeus taught that Adam and Eve were created as children so their Fall was not a full-blown rebellion but rather a childish spat. Adam and Eve had a desire to grow up before their time and have everything with immediacy.

In our instant gratification culture we too often seek the immediate. We are in a hurry to get things done and this too effects how we do evangelism. The goal of much of today's evangelism is to get people to make a "decision," get them into church on a regular base, keep them entertained on Sunday, and hopefully get them to give their money "to the Lord. " If they find a place to serve that's even better. Since most people want to belong to something bigger then themselves the formula works but the question is: are we growing up into Christ-likeness? The Barna study is revealing.

We often assume that "believers" have been "born-again," because they have said the "sinner's prayer" and "believed" in Jesus. But its not belief in Jesus alone that makes the difference (James 2:19). We may even have had a conversion "experience" but that's not the litmus test. The Barna Study should inform us we need to rethink what it is to be "born-again," so we can effect change in our evangelism. It is more than a personal "decision" that is made once.

Being born again, just like our physical birth, is a process, perhaps even a painful process, more than it is an event. It is a process of not only coming into agreement with the Light but growing up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 2:2). Paul writing to the Galatians, struggles with this spiritual process, writing, "Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth" (Galatians 4:19-20 MSG). As we know, that process takes times.  

Jesus says to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).  Born again is translated from the Greek ‘gennaō’ for "born" and ‘anōthen’ for "again" The idea of being 'gennaō' was not something foreign to the Jews of Jesus' day. It was a metaphor that in Jewish sense meant the act of bringing others over to your way of life - a conversion process. What was new, the reason Nicodemus was befuddled, was the ‘anōthen’ which probably is better translated as "from above, from a higher place." 

The word 'gennaō' is also used in 1 Corinthians 4:15 where Paul says, " do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father (gennaō) through the gospel." Being "born-again" is a process of bringing others over to the Gospel way of life by ‘anōthen,’ the power of the Spirit (John 3:6). It is the Gospel that it is "the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes," (Romans 1:16).  It is the Gospel, the very person of Christ, who by his resurrection power indwells and converts us to the Gospel way of life - living out the actions and living with attitudes of Jesus. It is a process that we must intentionally seek to live out (Matthew 6:32-34).

If as a Christ-follower we are not demonstrating we are 'gennaō anōthen,' we should question if we are even truly "saved" (2 Corinthians 13:5). Doing so is actually a healthy exercise for our spiritual growth. We may find we need to repent again and believe anew. Our lives are to demonstrate we have made more than a decision to be "saved" but that we are being brought over to the life we are called to, growing up into Christ and increasingly living and loving like Jesus - in the power of the Spirit.

Nicodemus went from being a Pharisee who was ashamed to being seen coming to Jesus, to defending Jesus (John 7:50-51), to serving the crucified Lord (John 19:39-40). Christian tradition holds that Nicodemus was martyred sometime in the 1st century so we can surmise he had become unashamed of the Gospel, a direct result of being"born-again," and brought over to Jesus' way of life. 

Nichole Nordeman's song "To Know You," include these words: "Nicodemus could not understand how You could truly free us. He struggled with the image of a grown man born again. We might have been good friends, 'cause sometimes I still question too how easily we come to You." 

“How easily we come to Jesus” calls us to rethinking evangelism. The fact is Jesus does not make it an easy decision to follow him (Luke 14:26-33) - just worth it. We need to rethink the immediacy of our "decision" oriented evangelism. Yes, we need to have a sense of urgency to bring people into the Kingdom. But we need to ask if we are like the people at the Passover Festival (in John 2), like Nicodemus coming by night (in John 3) or like the woman at the well in John chapter 4 where we will turn next.  

Yes we need to make a decision but our decision isn't simply to believe in Jesus for salvation. Our decision must be to become like Jesus, through being "born again." Our decision must be to follow Jesus in his actions and attitudes for that is the only way to "see the kingdom of God." And our decision must be to live with Gospel intentionality, for as David Platt radically questions:
     "Could it be that one of the reasons why so many people in our churches are not praying with zeal or giving their resources away or going with the gospel into our neighborhoods or the nations, could it be because they’ve not been born again? Born again believers don’t have to be cajoled to obey the Great Commission. Born again believers are compelled to accomplish the Great Commission."
The purpose of evangelism is not to make converts based on decisions by getting them to say the "Sinner's Prayer." The purpose of evangelism must be recalibrated as a process that demonstrates people are being "born again" into the Kingdom of God. Then we will demonstrate we are living sent today.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism: Demonstration is the Key - Part VI

In the last post we looked at the recent Barna Study that reports that 7 out of 10 Christians aren't doing a good job of living out the actions nor living with attitudes of Jesus. Only 14% or about 1 in 7 the study found exemplify both attributes. The majority of believers tend toward the Pharisaical, demonstrating an unloving attitude and uncaring in our actions toward a lost and dying world. The majority of Christians aren't living out a Christ-likeness and I believe there is an important reason why I want to continue to explore in this post.

What the Barna study reveals is that while the Church has produced to some degree morally conscious citizens, we haven't often done what Jesus asked us to do. Our evangelism has been too frequently content to make "decisions for Jesus" the primary focus. But here's the thing, Jesus never told us to get "decisions," rather he told us we "must be born-again" (John 3:7) at the beginning of his ministry and he also told us we must "make disciples" at the end (Matthew 28:19). There is a big difference between "decisions" and what He commanded which is the reason we're seeing results like this Barna study. There also is a connection between the two - being "born again" and making disciples - we need to understand.

I made a "decision for Jesus" once. What I mean is that I made the decision to "accept Jesus into my heart." I was 24, which was a long time ago. I had been invited to a non-denominational worship service on a Sunday morning. At the time I was totally unfamiliar with the kind of evangelistic message I was hearing that morning. I had grown up in a home with an agnostic dad and a devout Roman Catholic mom and had become a professing atheist at the age of 18. I had decided to go to this service only because some buddies were going as part of a business function we were attending. 

That Sunday morning I was hearing that if I didn't "know" Jesus I should get an "asbestos suit." I needed to "turn or burn" forever under the worst torment imaginable, if I didn't accept Jesus as my Savior. This was a shocking and unfamiliar message so I decided that since I didn't really want to suffer such an eternal fate, and if there was any truth being told, I would go forward at the "altar call." After all, what did I have to lose and since my friends were also going forward it made it easier to tag along. That day I made my decision to "accept Jesus into my heart." I prayed the "sinner's prayer" as instructed, following the lead of the evangelist, and whamo I was "saved!" or so I believed.

I really had no idea what it was I was "accepting" or what it meant to be "saved" beyond recalling from time to time that initial decision and knowing I wouldn't need an "asbestos suit." I had bought my "fire insurance" and was good to go - to heaven. I don't recall being told to study the Word, I don't think I even had a Bible, I know I didn't really pray, but I did serve at a local traditional church because those same buddies were serving there as well.

One of the funny things about that church was that they quickly made my new wife and I deacons. Here we were, newly minted "saved" people and asked to serve in leadership. In an aging church youth does have its privileges. But no one discipled me, no one mentored me, no one became my spiritual father. I don't recall anyone even asking how I was doing spiritually. Not that I would have understood what that meant. I did cook a big Mother's Day brunch for the ladies of the church one year and figured that had to count for something.

I am the classic case of the problem with decision-oriented malpractice, sorry I mean evangelism, that to often leaves people lost - and I was so lost. I was lost in the world for the next 12 years until at the end of my human strength, with major problems in my life, alone in my car one evening, broken and contrite I called out to God in a real sinner's prayer: "God if you're real you need to change things, I can't live like this anymore. If you change my life, I will serve you the rest of my life." No phony words, no peer pressure just a real decision - I needed God to change my life. I was ready and willing to repent and confess that Jesus was not only my Savior, if in fact he had been, but also Lord of my life.

Decision based evangelism is focused upon getting people to say the "sinner's prayer." The problem with this approach is that it produces experiences like mine. You can think you're good with God, you may even want to trust and obey but there is something terribly wrong as the Barna study revealed. Praying the sinners prayer doesn't mean that you have been "born-again,"  although you may think you have. There was no real evidence in my life that I had been "born-again." I mean, if you've been "born from above" (perhaps the better translation), you should know it and live like it, right?

Jesus calls us to repentance (Luke 5:32). Repentance demonstrates the effective work of God in our lives (2 Corinthians 7:10). And it is the only way to be "born-again." We have told people that all they need to do is say the "sinner's prayer," believe in Jesus and their salvation is assured. The result is many are convinced they are "saved" but their lives bear little witness to the fact, just like mine from the age of 24 to 36.

The fact is, Jesus can see right through our "decision," especially when our decision to "accept him" are based on anything but a heart level change in our thinking. That is the story we read at the end of John chapter 2:
"Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person."
Isn't Jesus for everyone? Absolutely but that doesn't mean he necessarily believes our "profession of faith." I don't believe he believed mine in 1985. Saying the "sinners prayer" doesn't change the fact that Jesus knows what is in each person. The "sinner's prayer" too often only produces people who believe in what they have experienced in a particular moment, the "signs" that they see, just like I had, and just like the people at the Passover Festival in John 2. The "sinner's prayer" is not a mystical formula for being saved. Too often is has been a manipulative, though perhaps well-intentioned, "sign."

In the next post we'll look further at being "born-again," and what that means for living sent today.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism - Demonstration is the Key - Part V

If demonstration is the key, one crucial piece for rethinking evangelism is thinking about how others receive what we have to share. Not that they will necessarily agree, "repent and believe," that is not our responsibility, but that our messaging, our witness, is as effective as possible (1 Peter 2:12). We simply don't want to erect "stumbling blocks" by our actions or attitudes (2 Cor 6:3).

How we live then before others, especially in our Post-modern, Post-Christian culture, is as vital a part of our message, as the words we share. How we live today for Christ drives the "missional" movement, and motivates some of the best young leaders shaping Evangelicalism, as they seek to respond to our quickly changing world.

In Part IV, I referenced a post over at the Great Commision Initiative: "The world has changed. We can change our methods but not the message. How do we catch up with the new world?" The fact is, today, the world isn't so much interested in what we say but in how we live. Do we live a message consistent with our faith? Do others see in us the message of Jesus or do they see something else?  If they don't see Christ, what are they seeing?  

As recent a Barna study revealed, only "14% of today’s self-identified Christians—just one out of every seven Christians—seem to represent the actions and attitudes...consistent with those of Jesus." Our actions and attitudes demonstrate much to the watching world. Could it be this inconsistency is the reason we are seeing such a surge in the of the number of "Nones" - those who profess no allegiance to any religion? As Kevin Max, best known for being a member of the Christian pop group dc Talk, so aptly put it:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
In light of this new Barna study, living the Christian life in a way that is an effective witness needs much rethinking. Barna reveals that most of us, Christians, aren't doing a good job in the all important area of being like Christ - in word and deed. I believe this is rooted in our "decision" oriented evangelism, that produces religious converts who then learn a lot about the Bible but does not produce born-again disciples who actually live what they learn (I'll continue to develop this idea more in the next post). The result is that the majority of Christians tend toward a repulsive Pharisee-ism, a religious spirit, that does not serve Jesus' mission in the world well.

The Barna study sought to flesh out the Christ-likeness of a representative sample of Christians through a response to 20 statements, to determine whether Christians lived the actions and attitudes of Jesus, or were more Pharisee-like. 
The 10 research statements used to examine Christ-likeness include the following:
Actions like Jesus:
  • I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
  • In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
  • I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
  • I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
  • I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.
Attitudes like Jesus:
  • I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
  • I believe God is for everyone.
  • I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.
  • It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
  • I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.
The 10 statements used to assess self-righteousness (like the Pharisees), included the following research items:
Self-Righteous Actions:
  • I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules.
  • I don’t talk about my sins or struggles. That’s between me and God.
  • I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.
  • I like to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.
  • I prefer to serve people who attend my church rather than those outside the church.
Self-Righteous Attitudes:
  • I find it hard to be friends with people who seem to constantly do the wrong things.
  • It’s not my responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves.
  • I feel grateful to be a Christian when I see other people’s failures and flaws.
  • I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.
  • People who follow God’s rules are better than those who do not.
Overall the study found that most Christians lack Jesus' love for others, with more than 7 out of 10 Christians lacking the actions or attitudes or both (51%) of the one we're call to represent, the one we say we follow. When plotted the results of the study look like this:

Based on the answers to these 20 questions where would you fall on this grid? 

There may be some push-back based on doctrinal positions with some of these statements, but getting our answers right will go a long way toward living like Jesus and toward having like impact as Paul.

How do we move and help others to move from the Pharisaical to one of Christ-likeness? Paul put it simply as this: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). I think Paul's point is that to live the life of a Christ follower we need to understand how Jesus lived, and then live it - just like he was doing. But that's part of our problem, we don't really live like Jesus because we don't really understand what he taught or why. If it were different, there would be a greater percentage in the upper left quartile. 

Paul instructs the Corinthians further in this second letter that they were to be to "God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. (2 Cor 2:15-16). The word "aroma" is a metaphor that speaks to our ability to capably, competently and completely represent Christ well. Paul continues his thought here with a profound question: "And who is equal to such a task?" (v16).

The answer to Paul's question is - none of us! No one is up to the task, at least not in our own strength and by our own methods, especially if they are different from Christ's example. Thankfully, we are not called to live the Christian life in our own power. But we are called to live a life worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).

Pharisee-ism repels but Christ-likeness attracts because it demonstrates the power of God at work in our lives. If we're not exhibiting that power, which is expressed in passions and pursuits for Christ, shouldn't we be asking "why?" In order to move from the bottom of the above chart to the top we need to demonstrate that we are sincerely and genuinely following Christ's example, at least taking steps in that direction, to live the life we now have in Christ - if we are in fact of Christ (2 Cor 13:5).

Paul completes his thoughts in 2 Corinthians chapter 2 saying, "in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God." (v17). Paul was dedicated, wholeheartedly and without equivocation, to not only the cause but the demonstration of the likeness of Christ in his own life and ministry. Living sent today, we now go must now and do likewise.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

@ the Intersection of Faith and Politics: Toward a Healthy Patriotism

Hope your recent 4th of July celebration was a blast, filled with family, food and fun, as it should be. I also hope as well you took time to acknowledge God's blessings on you, yours and on our nation. Independence Day should be a time to consider what God, in his sovereignty, mercy and grace, has bestowed upon us as a nation - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! A healthy sense of patriotism is not wrong for a Christ-follower but needs to first recognize the Providence and provision of God, just as John Adams informed us at the signing of the Declaration of Independence:
"It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized With pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore."
Patriotism is defined as the "love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it." Should we not love our country and have a willingness to sacrifice for the common good, as recognition of God's "deliverance"? Of course. Does that mean we look past the challenges, problems and even sins of our nation? Of course not. Our nation is not perfect, often far from it with gross issues of injustice in our history and even today. A patriotic spirit should not look past the injustices done, to only embrace the good. Neither should we bemoan our God given blessings and see only the negative, as some seem prone to do today.

What got me thinking about this issue of patriotism was this recent article by CNN entitled,"Mourn on the Fourth of July: Inside the Christian anti-patriot movement. 

Instead of a celebration of the Fourth of July, a Mennonite group had a picnic but their primary purpose was calling attention to all the faults of America. They prayed, “We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives, but lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the Earth.” Certainly in a free nation, where the 1st Amendment is still in effect, that is their God-given right. But it seems this group sadly missed the point of Independence Day and offered nothing more than a Red Herring up to God in a prayer.

A Red Herring is an informal logical fallacy. The red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant diversionary tactic. It fails on the basis that it leads to a false conclusion. In the case of these Mennonite's, the error is that our abundance is bought at the expenses of others leaving our "sisters and brothers throughout the Earth” in destitution. This is based further on an underlying faulty premise called a zero-sum game.

In a zero-sum game, there can only be winners and losers, and the winners win at the expense of the losers. In our geopolitical realities this is a false premise. History demonstrates our nation did not begin to experience national prosperity, really only from the 1940's on, at the expense of other poor nations. Our nation prospered due to a national work ethic founded on a theological view of work as good and based solidly on a Christian worldview, endowed by our Creator and understood by our Founders and for generations thereafter.

Our Declaration says “all men are created equal” and while that needed some clarity over proceeding generations, history records that no nation has done a better job of bringing about a place where such equality is available to all. That is not just true for our own people but also many peoples of our world who call the USA home.  On the basis that all men are created equal, not just Americans, we should also seek to improve the lives of all others citizens of the earth. America does a finer job in that regard, being a compassionate people than any other nation, as imperfect as it may be.

In our globalized interconnected world, it is easy to look through an ideological prism and see that today there are many poor on earth, about 1/2 of the world's population live in poverty. To fault our nation's prosperity however for this global state of poverty is not at all well reasoned. It is simply an emotional response to what is beamed into our TV sets. Poverty however is not a lack of material goods, as Corbett and Fikkert discuss in "When Helping Hurst."  Rather it is an attitude, based on broken relationships, of the impoverished.

When you begin to study global poverty what you find is that most extreme poverty (living on less than $1 per day) is found in the least Christian areas of the world - the 10/40 Window.

The right answer here then should be fairly obvious, especially for those who are called to living sent today. We must advance the Gospel of the Kingdom into all the regions of the world where it has yet to take root. As the Apostle Paul understood, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17). Liberty never comes from a redistribution of wealth but rather from the only one who has the power to transform lives as well as nations.

If we are lamenting anything, perhaps it should be that after nearly 2000 years such freedom as is found only in Christ is still not experienced by much of the world today. But as we do so, we can give thanks to Providence that our nation has been used as the greatest missionary force in history, the greatest advances of the Gospel flow from our nation - even today. Much more is needed.

This is not to excuse the historical failures of our nation: from Native-American oppression, slavery and civil rights, women's rights, wars of choice, and other issues of injustice.We do have much to repent of and we must learn from our history how to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before our God. We must stand against global corruption and advocate for the "least of these."

America also has been a beacon of hope to the world, inviting immigrants to come and experience her liberties. America has led in the arts, sciences, healthcare, education, and commerce, making life better for the masses, although there are problems in each of those areas because of the sins of man. America has provided the best standard of living for the most, although not all our citizens enjoy the same level of prosperity. While America is not perfect, to bemoan her achievements and be "anti-patriotic" is a rejection of the facts concerning her place in the history of "nations,"  an insult to the blessings of God and shows a lack of understanding about what true patriotism is.

As patriotism is the love of country and a willingness to sacrifice, we need to work toward a healthy ideal where love and sacrifice are paramount. From my vantage point, I see many American Christians willing to do so. Love and sacrifice are two ideals we know as Christ followers we should live out. We must however avoid any Americanization of our faith that mixes nationalism - an exaggerated or fanatical devotion to political ideology - with a knowledge of the saving work of God in an unhealthy syncretism. Our love of country becomes an issue when it exerts itself above obedience to our most holy faith.

What a healthy patriotism should call us to is a Biblical definition of love that seeks the benefit of the other in our society. Our love is not for an idea but for the individual. Our patriotism needs to be expressed in a willingness to sacrifice for "one another," for our neighbors in our community, for the welfare of all people. A right view of patriotism puts our personal interests behind that of our people. We don't pledge allegiance to a symbol (the flag) but to what that symbol represents - "We the People."

In the mournful article I linked to above, Mark Van Steenwyk the group's leader is quoted as saying that "Jesus’ identification with the poor, love of enemies, and refusal to take power are incompatible with the entire political and economic system” of the United States. He's entitled to that perspective but what Mark doesn't seem to understand is that in fact "We the People" are the government. The reason that our "political and economic system" is failing is because we lack a healthy patriotism of love and sacrifice - two areas Jesus calls to lead in and live out.

Instead of being anti-patriotic, isn't it time for Christians to love effectively, sacrifice abundantly, and pray effectually for the revival of our nation. That's true patriotism! Let freedom in Christ reign! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

@ the Intersection of Faith and Politics: Thoughts for Independence Day

Thomas Jefferson said,  "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever. . ."

Happy Independence Day! Or is it?

Sure we will have our barbeques and fireworks, our family fun, friends gathering to eat, drink and be merry. We should also consider however where our nation is today and the continuing move away from the "firm basis" upon which our nation was established. I don't mean to dampen the spirit of celebration, and it is right to celebrate the blessings of God, but neither can we ignore our nation's spiritual, moral and resulting leadership decline of the early part of the 21st Century. To do so puts future celebrations of our independence in peril. Liberty is guaranteed to no one but is a right of everyone who appreciates and understands its "firm basis."

As we celebrate the 237th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I got to thinking about how our independence has been misappropriated in this country, how they have been "violated." Last night I read for the first time in some years the actual text of the Declaration. I was struck once again by the long list of grievances that our Founders leveled against the King of England. If you haven't read the text of the Declaration in some time, can I recommend that you do so now - online version. 

You probably know the 2nd paragraph or at least the oft-quoted part:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Following these self-evident truths, of our unalienable Rights - Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, are these words:

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." 

Our Founders understood that governing power ought to rest not with the central government but the consent of the governed. They were throwing off tyranny by a governing power. They understood governments are answerable to the people, which is the very basis of democracy. Our Republic offered an experiment in elected representation of the people, by the people, and for the people. Today, our nation's power rests, in large part, with the Electoral College majority, and is the very reason that our nation is where it is. We are experiencing the great turmoil and culture wars that have been raging for decades now, not because of our government policy but because "We the People," have lost the conviction that our liberties are a "gift of God."

On the surface, our presents problems in 2013 are directly the result of the 51% of the voting population who have given our government, by which I directly mean our President, at least passive consent to do the things this Administration is now doing. Compound this with the 47% of non-voters, citizens of voting age who simply relinquish their right to exercise their vote. That is a travesty! The failure of the governed, as it is today. is largely the reason our nation is experiencing our woes. "We the People," or at least the popular majority, have the government they deserve. The rest of us, those who understand the endowment of our Creator and the "firm basis" of our liberties, must speak prophetically but have largely failed in that regard.

As I revisited the grievances recorded for posterity in that historical moment of July 4th 1776, I am struck afresh by the similarities of what our Founders faced and what we face today in our moment in history.  The grievances penned by Thomas Jefferson and conjoined by John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin along with the other 53 Signers, instructs us through these 237 years where they were coming from, their deep sense of obligation for they were undertaking for the future of a nation, and should inform us as well in our present day. Let's consider what they charged the King with against current events:

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good." 

The lawlessness of this present Administration is well chronicled, especially in the past few month's since this President's reelection. The circumventing of Constitutional law and the numerous scandals of prior months, all demonstrate a refusal of "Assent to Laws."  From the Benghazi cover-up to the intrusion into the private records of citizens, as well as the invasion of the right of a free Press, this Administration is doing harm to the "public good." Of course, the President pleads ignorance to these offenses which only goes to the quality, or lack thereof, of his leadership.

"He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance"

As but one example of this grievance, our Justice Department's intrusion into the immigration laws of Arizona, that sought remedy from the failure of the Federal government to act to reform our broken immigration policies, correlates with forbidding the passage of laws of "immediate and pressing importance." When the central government fails to act, it is the duty of the "States of America" to protect and defend their citizenry. This Administration forbid and brought charges against Arizona for acting in their best interest.

"He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people..."

There is today one very large "district of people" who have been silenced and offered no or very little protection from our central government. I am of course referring to the right of the unborn, and the resulting calamity of  abortion. Of course, the President is not alone in refusing "accommodation" to this "large district of people" but he is outspoken against extending them any rights.  He champions the cause of the abortion proponents, extending support just recently in opposition of Texas legislation to make abortion rarer after 20 weeks and hold abortion provides accountable for the conditions of the death mills. Indeed, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever..." 

"He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers."

The obstruction of Congressional investigation into the Fast & Furious gun running scheme, is but one glaring example of refusal by the Presidents to the "Assent to Laws." Instead of complying with the authority of Congress to investigate the deaths of two duly authorized law enforcement officials, this President chose to issue an Executive Order, effectively shutting down the process of justice.

"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance."

While appointment of "New Offices," is nothing new for a President, this Administration has used these "New Offices," also called "czars," in unprecedented ways to "harass" and to "eat out their substances" of the people. This has been accomplished by expanding the regulatory powers of the central government, Obamacare being the largest such single policy (found to be broken before it even gets started), harming businesses, the economy and thereby American families. Most recently, this President is prepared to circumvent the constitutionally established process of "advise and consent," unilaterally declaring himself ready to rule by decree to advance the false ideology of climate change. 

"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation..."

Despite lacking the Constitutional authority to so, at the beginning of June new Secretary of State John Kerry said that this Administration will sign a UN treaty on arms regulation despite lawmaker opposition. The Administration may sign this treaty, against the consent of Congress, or "We the People" but ratification of any treaty requires a 2/3 majority vote of the Senate. We will have to wait to see if  the Administration seeks to bypass Congressional approval in their efforts to enforce this unconstitutional measure.Given this President's track record however it is almost a sure bet they will find a way to abjugate the Constitution once again.

In our Declaration of Independence, our Founders brought 17 grievances (stating each with the pronoun "He"), along with several sub-charges, against the ruling power of the time. No doubt other correlations can be made between the charges against the English King then and with our current Administration today. Just like the preceding time that brought about our nation's foundation establishing day, however, we didn't get to our present foundation crumbling crisis overnight, or even in the last 4 1/2 years. Nations don't rise and fall overnight.

Just like then our peoples tribulations were decades in the making, as "We the People" drifted further and further from one the true Cornerstone, the "firm basis," of all freedom our Founders understood - the "self-evident" truth of our "Creator" who "endowed" certain "unalienable Rights." One truth of God, as a measure of his judgment, is that he gives to people the leaders they deserve, due to their wayward hearts and the trampling of his "gifts." 

Consider the people of Old Testament Israel who went to their great judge, Samuel, demanding he give them a king like all the other nations had. When Samuel took their petition to God he was grieved, but God told him the people weren’t rejecting Samuel; they were rejecting Him. So God honored their request and gave them Saul as king. Saul was right out of central casting and certainly looked the part physically, but inside he lacked moral clarity. His first loyalty wasn’t to God, but instead he was constantly trying to please the people instead. Eventually, he became so spiritually blinded by his own inner demons and ambition that the people had exactly what they had asked for – a king just like everyone else.

It is "We the People" who must take a stand just like our Founders did, as Israel failed to do, as Thomas Jefferson points us to. This is not a call to a revolution of arms, but a revolution of hearts turning back to God. This is not to advance the agenda of any political party but the agenda of Christ's and an understanding of the Rights that have been "endowed by (our) Creator." That can only happen through a national spirit of repentance, a re-embracing of the truth that our "liberties are of the gift of God, and according to the words record in Scripture:
 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
John Adams recognized that:
 "we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion....Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
It is not the government, then who is to fault for our clear and present danger of a nation in crisis, and the growing lose of civil liberties but the fact that we have forgotten the "moral and religious" basis on which all freedom reigns. The Apostle Paul put it like this:
 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1
The place to stand at the intersection of faith and politics is on the freedom we have in Christ. 

Now for the barbeque and fireworks!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism: Demonstration is the Key - Part IV

My encounter with my Facebook friend over my "missional reinterpretation" and the exchange of the word "preached" with the amplified "demonstrate," has me on this quest of rethinking evangelism. God works all things together for good, for honestly its been a while since I last seriously considered evangelism. Not that I haven't engaged in an occasional conversations with a non-Christian about Jesus. I do that fairly regularly. However I know I have lacked the intentionality I would want in my witness. My ministry isn't focused on evangelism rather on mobilization, but we are all called to be witnesses and proclaim Christ with our lives. Like Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York City, we should regularly ask, "how am I doing?" with respect to this vital task all Christ followers are called to.

Evangelism should be recalibrated as a lifestyle that regularly connects our life with others and connects others to Christ, which is why friendship (as mentioned in Part III) is so vital to the process. That is part of the "missional" life Jesus calls us to. When evangelism becomes more about method or formula, than a life on life journey, we miss the example Jesus set and the life he calls us to - making disciples. Sharing the Good News of Jesus should be something all Christ followers do naturally, but it is one that most of us struggle with. Perhaps that is because of how we have viewed the task and the fact that Biblical evangelism (I'll develop this more in the next post) just isn't taught as the priority it should be. 

It is not our charge to make converts to Christianity but to be witnesses who make disciples for Jesus. That idea needs a lot of rethinking, but somewhere along the way this core concept of Christ's, making disciples, got lost in our definition of evangelism, as well as in our eccleisology (we'll have to revisit that one).  Conversion became about a decision which then manifested itself in our prevalent modes of and thinking about evangelism."I have decided to follow Jesus," isn't a one time decision but a daily discipline.

One thing that is lost in this convert-oriented evangelism is the very definition of "convert." From the Greek epistrephō,  "convert" means "transitively" or "characterized by or involving transition." In other words, conversion isn't about a decision but about a series of decisions, actually a life-time of making the decision to follow Jesus. By our decisions, we are transitively being remade into the likeness of Christ. Yes, we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) but every new creation takes time to form into the fullness of its intended design. The worm doesn't become a butterfly over night. Neither do we get formed in Christ in an instant (Gal 4:19).

Somewhere in the decisions we make we confess that Jesus is Lord for the first time (for a fine illustration of this I recommend C.S. Lewis story of how he went from being an atheist to mere Christianity). There are decisions though that we make before that big decision and decisions we must make afterward. We make a decision how to respond to God's saving grace, we make a decision to confess Jesus is Lord, and we must make decisions after our initial decision to continue in God's sustaining grace. Failing that we can always return to God's grace (Luke 15:11-32).

The problem comes when evangelism is focused on decisions rather than on disciples. Then we end up with the cultural Christianity so pervasive today. People think they are "saved" but show no or very little evidence of their salvation, except a decision card they signed years ago or recalling a prayer they once prayed. They haven't continued in their decisions or somewhere the decision process got stuck, so they haven't transitioned into a process of daily decisions called repentance (which simply means change of thinking), toward the fullness of life that makes the Good News truly great. Our evangelism must be rethought on the basis of whole life transformation, not just a one-time decision.

Jesus didn't just say "follow me" and leave it that. He said, "follow me and I will make you..." (Matthew 4:19). He then invested the next 3 1/2 years into his disciples lives making them disciple-makers. Jesus never asked the crowds that followed him for a "decision." Rather, he showed his love and compassion for them and demonstrated who he was to them (Matthew 9:36, 14:14). In fact, Jesus chased away most from any decision to follow Him (John 6:66-67) because the true Christian life is to be demonstrably different than the culture around it. But that is not what is taught in our traditional evangelism, which is why we need to rethink evangelism with demonstration as the key.  

Jesus life, death and resurrection, was and is the Gospel which we are to demonstrate. Jesus life calls us to live incarnationally, Jesus death calls us to a life of forgiveness, and Jesus resurrection makes it all possible. What Jesus demonstrated to his disciples was how to live as the redeemed of this world. The Good News makes that life possible in Christ. Only through demonstration of a redeemed, transformed, and incarnational life, does the world see that we believe what we claim. Only as we share it with others do they know we live as we are called  (which was the point of Penn Jillette's quote in Part I). That doesn't guarantee the world will follow our lead but it is the way to live as a disciple of Christ's.

I want to now move on to the "how" of demonstrating the Gospel. In Part III, I said that I believe the way to do so is to live as a cross-cultural missionary, even in a dominant culture context. Just because we are all Americans doesn't mean that we all see the world the same way, especially in our multiethnic and multicultural land of immigrants. Today we also have the influences of postmodernism to contend with, plus numerous subcultures who see the world through their own lens. The "one-size fits all" approach to evangelism is no longer effective in 21st Century America, which is why we need to think like missionaries.

There is a process that missionaries go through in entering a culture. To begin with, part of the missionary task is to understand a culture at the worldview level, asking the question: "what makes these people tick?" That questions goes way beyond the "they're sinners and need Jesus" attitude. Of course they are sinner and need Jesus - we all are and do. The "what makes these people tick?" starting place means we have to enter their world and understand their needs, just as a missionary would. Missionaries must go as learners, which is the implied definition of disciple.

To begin to frame this "How to," in the balance of this post I want to share the following comments from my friend Tim Ahlen, Executive Director of the Great Commission Initiative. Tim, was answering the following inquiry, which speaks to the need of understanding worldview in our quickly changing world:

"The world has changed. We can change our methods but not the message. How do we catch up with the new world?" 

Tim answers: 
 "This is a great question. In some ways, the world has changed. Technology, communication and travel have all served to shrink our globe and expose massive numbers of people to different cultures, and different ways of seeing the world.

However, in other ways, the fundamental issues of the world have not changed. Mankind is still in rebellion against God, living in fear, shame, alienation, impurity and guilt. Satan and his minions are still the rulers of this world system, doing all they can to enslave humanity and keep us from God. Jesus Christ is still God's unique and chosen solution for mankind's predicament. By shedding His blood on a cross, He provided the only way for mankind to have our fear, shame, alienation, impurity and guilt removed, and our relationship to God restored.
In generations past, communicating this truth was not a problem for most of us who claim the name of Christ. Why? Because everybody with whom we came in contact shared our worldview. To communicate the Gospel, we simply had to explain it the way we understood it-- Four Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace With God, the Roman Road, etc. Those methods "worked," unless we went to a "foreign country" as a missionary and had to communicate in a different language to a different culture.
In the last fifty years or so, global migration, technology, the decline of Western culture and the corresponding rise of non-western cultures, have brought the mission field to our doorstep. As a result, we can no longer assume that our understanding of the Gospel will resonate with our next door neighbors. Before we can communicate the Gospel effectively, we have to listen to our neighbors carefully. If we do, we will find that our Indian neighbor from a Hindu background will be framing his questions about life differently from my African neighbor who has an animistic background. My Muslim friend may not feel guilt as I do. But his sense of personal shame before God, which he understands as the primary consequence of his sin, will drive him do whatever it takes to restore honor to himself and more importantly, his family.
What are the implications of these different world views for gospel communication? Well, for the Western individualists, continue to communicate the gospel in terms of guilt and innocence. Press the point of individual responsibility and "accepting Jesus as a personal savior." After all, "our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22). But for my Muslim friend, I might want to talk about his family coming to Christ and receiving a position of highest honor-- joint heirs with Jesus Christ. For the Scripture says,
See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.” (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6)

And what about my animistic friend, who is scared to death of the evil spirits and desperately trying to appease them? He needs to hear the clear call of Jesus to "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God."
So, the question does not automatically suggest a lowering of standards. Nor does it allow a business as usual, this is the way I have always done it approach. The changing world should drive us back to the Word of God that does not change, so that we might discover passages that answer the fundamental questions about life that others are asking, in a way that will resonate with their view of the world..
I guess I am making an appeal for all of us to have the attitude of the humble sinner, instead of the proud publican. It does little good to focus on the shortcomings of others, when I have my own problems keeping me from being as effective in my ministry and witness as I could be. I haven't been in Monterrey, but I have spent some time in Guerrero. The lostness is disheartening. On the other hand, the vitality of the believers was equally astounding and a testimony to what God does apart from expensive programs,huge buildings and highly paid clergy. On a recent trip to Acapulco, GCI provided training to more than 250 church planters, none of whom were looking forward to full time pastorates or large buildings. They knew that their future was going to entail suffering and persecution, and they were willing to do whatever it would take. As hard as that is, it is the price we have to pay if we are going to fulfill the Great Commission." 
Tim shares so much in his brief comments that demonstrates others are thinking about rethinking evangelism. Perhaps the Lord is up to something? There are several point to be revisited in the next posts...all for living sent today.  

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about your own witness?