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Pass A Legacy of Faith to Your Kids

 
 
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The thought of passing on a legacy of faith from generation to generation sounds great, but where does a parent begin? As a starting point, try thinking about the spiritual, relational, physical, emotional, and mental characteristics of your life. Then, ask yourself what kind of legacy do you want to leave with your children in these five areas of life? Following, you’ll find some goals you might want to pursue. As you review them, feel free to add more specific practical ideas of your own.

• Spiritual: To love and obey God, teach integrity, value involvement in a church, grow in faith, learn and live by the Bible, develop a biblical worldview, be a disciple of Christ, serve others.

• Relational: Times of fun and laughter, family bonding vacation times, recreation times together, ability to resolve conflict with family member, listening skills, how to treat the opposite sex, developing lasting friendships, investing in the lives of others.

• Physical: Eat healthy foods, manage stress, exercise, financial integrity and stewardship, cleanliness and health issues, how to work hard, how to budget your financial resources.

• Emotional: Build healthy friendships, find times of rest and replenishment, build confidence and a healthy self-image, build trust and unconditional love, develop character traits such as discipline, perseverance, courage, and purity.

• Mental: Read good books, learn new skills, write and discuss ideas, discover how to think critically, become skilled at planning, learn decision-making skills.

These are good starting points for identifying what you want to teach your children. However, try hard not to overwhelm them or be overwhelmed yourself. Something is better than nothing, and those who don’t aim at anything won’t find their way.

Remember that your words are important, but they can only go so far. So much of the work of passing on a legacy of faith takes place when we model it ourselves and believe in our children. To do that, we must make sure that we as parents are working on these same issues within our own lives. It will take a plan, intentionality, and help from above. But I believe you can lead the way for your children and make a generation difference for lifetimes to come.

 


A Future for the Local Church

 

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The story of the First Free Methodist Church of Pasadena began in 1888. What originally started as a tent revival on the streets of Pasadena, California, under the call of the Rev. C.B. Ebey, flourished into a lively local church for several family generations. In fact, the church lasted for 120 years until the Free Methodist Church in Southern California closed the church building’s doors in 2008. The church experienced a rich history like the city in which it resides, but the congregation simply couldn’t keep up with societal changes.

Recent Barna Group statistics indicate that, in the past decade, “the number of adults who are unchurched has increased by more than 30 percent. This is an increase of 38 million individuals — that’s more people than live in Canada or Australia.” (fmchr.ch/bgunchurch). With such a staggering decline in church attendance, especially in Pacific Coast states “where residents comprise 20 percent of the nation’s unchurched,” there’s no surprise the First Free Methodist Church of Pasadena struggled like many other local churches.

According to sociologists such as Robert Putnam and Marc Dunkelman, the fabric that held the local church together is vanishing. In “The Vanishing Neighbor,” Dunkelman concludes that the disappearance of “middle-ring” relationships — the core relationships of the neighborhood — is the reason for such drastic societal changes. He writes, “Adults today tend to prize different kinds of connections than their grandparents: more of our time and attention today is spent on more intimate contacts and the most casual acquaintances. We’ve abandoned the relationships in between — what I define as ‘middle-ring’ ties. And that shift, made as the result of millions of individual decisions across the whole of society, has quietly spurred the second transformation of American community and left us with the impression that the future is bleak.”

Dunkelman brings to our attention what Putnam pointed to years ago in his book, “Bowling Alone.” The essence of American society formed around townships and Alexis de Tocqueville’s democratic institutions has been replaced by the individual power to choose the relationships we want.

The result has redefined the neighborhood. We simply don’t know the neighbors next to us anymore, and the truth is we don’t need to. Our phones let us filter calls to speak mainly with family and close friends. Our laptops help us stay in touch with longtime friends from high school who live in another state. Our cars let us travel to any place of our choice. Our apps connect us to anyone and anything instantly. There’s really little left in life that’s beyond our own choices. When left to our own choices, we choose what we like. So why choose to support the local church?

When I responded to a call in 2011 to restart the First Free Methodist Church of Pasadena, now called Rose City Church, I honestly had no clue either. To find out why our neighbors would choose the local church, we spent three years forming a community ready to serve the neighborhood. In that time, we realized two important lessons. First, it became clear that the local church is no longer at the center of community. We are just one community group among many in our area. Second, we learned that many of the organizations serving the city did so really well — better than we could ever hope with our limited resources. This meant our future did not rest in gathering people to us so we could take over the city. Our future rests in preparing our people to go out and support the good work already taking place. To find out whom to support and in what ways, we spent nine months in a listening campaign.

When our listening campaign revealed the vast network in which Rose City existed, we began to see how drastically the neighborhood had changed. Dunkelman was right. People exercised the power of choice to participate in all sorts of relationships as they saw best. But this wasn’t a bad thing. We learned to make sure we did only one thing really well and not many things poorly.

Instead of attempting to be a church to all people by trying to meet all needs all the time, we made the change to focus on only doing one thing well: discipleship. We decided to focus on offering the one thing that no other secular community group can offer: an opportunity to grow as a disciple of Christ within the life of the church.

This singular focus meant we had to make major changes to our ministries. We had to hand over our student outreach at the local community college to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We had to transition Rose City Coffee, our coffee training program for homeless youth, into a small business like any other local coffee shop. This shift meant that the future of our ministries rested in the hands of strangers who would one day become our partners.

A simple vision of discipleship and partnership has provided us with a bright future as a local neighborhood church. Within a year of these changes, our impact in the city increased drastically. We partnered with numerous community groups. We organized community events. We were invited to chair city committees. We led the way in community development. We became a voice at the table with a strong reputation in our network. Best of all, we became friends with our neighbors.

Yes, the culture surrounding the local church has changed, but the future is far from bleak. We now know our place in the city and our neighbors do too. They join us for discipleship, and we join them for partnership. By God’s grace, we look forward to another 120 years as a local church.

Dan Davidson is the lead pastor of Rose City Church in Pasadena, California. He also chairs the Faith Community Committee of the Pasadena Partnership to End Homelessness.



Why Church Matters

 
 
A dim old church interior lit by suns rays penetrating through a colorful stained glass window in the pattern of a crucifix reflecting colours on the floor and a speech pulpit
 

Church fixes us — not the church building, of course, and note that the fix doesn’t always feel good. Being fixed isn’t the same as being happy or contented, but being fixed is the fundamental reversal of being fractured. It’s the restoration of the core of what it means to be human — relationships. Everything that’s wrong in the world stems from fractured relationships, be they relationships with other people or with the Creator. That’s what’s going on in church: We’re practicing right-relationship.

Strangely enough, the church fixes us together, not one at a time, because “self-help” is an oxymoron. Our needs can only be resolved communally, with others, because that’s what’s broken.

Evangelicals tend to emphasize that the salvation of God, through Jesus, is the personal forgiveness of sins. But I’m happy to remind you that salvation goes way beyond that. The good news is that Jesus came to fix it all, not just our personal offenses. He came to fix it all, and most of what’s broken is relational — our marriages, our friendships, our families, our communities, our nations, our political processes. Think about the headlines for a moment. What wrongs are they describing? They’re relational. “Group-help” might be more descriptive of what we really need, not “self-help.”

That’s why church, this gathering of people “getting-fixed-through-Jesus,” is indispensable for salvation. Yes, indispensable. Someone will point to the thief on the cross — or some believer on a deserted island — but granting the rare exception, salvation is found in, exhibited by and proven through the communal restoration of relationship. We call it church.

Let me go one step further to something that will sound strangely Catholic: You cannot be saved outside the church. Again, granting the rare circumstantial exception, there is no solitary salvation. The world knows no lone Christian. Why? Because the very essence of salvation is relationship restored, which cannot happen in isolation.

So although church is messy and sometimes awkward and often uncomfortable, this is where we put our inner experience of grace into a real-world trial. Church is where we test our heart’s transformation and bring to maturity the fruit of the Spirit. You say you’re saved; how do you behave in a board meeting? You say the Spirit has done a work in your life; how are you when the music drags and the singer is pitchy? You say Jesus has forgiven your sins; how are you at forgiving the hypocritical among us? You say you’re grateful to the Father for the gift of His Son; do your offerings truly show your gratitude?

Let’s go one step further. Might this communal understanding of salvation be more meaningful to post-Christian generations? These are friends who don’t instinctively feel the guilt of their sin nor our plea for them to be made right with God. Yet they instinctively join their voices against group sin: be it war, modern slavery or civil rights. This is why the cry for “social justice” is the drumbeat of our lives.

They have been brought up watching world news, not local news. It’s all big picture. They respond to big-picture solutions. It’s helpful for them, given their worldview, to understand that salvation is both personal and global. That’s why church is the first step toward addressing everything that needs fixing today. It’s a group response that includes personal response.

Your local church will certainly seem like a far cry from God’s solution for the brokenness of our world, but it’s not. The good news of salvation through Jesus has been entrusted to a redeemed people, not a person. The radiance of God, which inhabited the tabernacle and the temple, now inhabits the living stones that are being built into a new temple. That’s your local church, the place where the radiance of God inhabits.

Church often lets us down. It often doesn’t rise to this lofty description. That’s normal. Within your local church, there will be individuals who are less “fixed” than others. You probably could list them!

Yet God, in His cooperative strategy, has chosen this instrument — this gathering of unequally fixed, yet restored people — to be His demonstration of grace and power. The church is exhibit No. 1 of God’s restoration of all that is fractured: relationships.

Bishop David Roller served for 17 years as a Free Methodist missionary in Mexico and then for 10 years as Latin America area director for Free Methodist World Missions. He was first elected a bishop in 2007.



God’s Messy Masterpiece

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“I’m done with the church. I don’t see the point of it all. I will worship Jesus on my own.”

Hearing those words from a longtime friend was a sucker punch to the gut. I sat in silence trying to gather my thoughts. I moved uncomfortably in the faux leather coffee shop seat and began to pray silently. This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed a Christian bail on the church. As a church planter and pastor for 20 years, I have sat across the table with a number of people who have been hurt, burned or disillusioned by their experience in the church. I’ve read countless articles (on Christian websites) that dismantle and deconstruct this sacred institution. I’ve listened to church leaders, in a grand stroke of irony, bash the very church of which they are a part. I’m not talking constructive criticism. I’m talking about the type of tongue-lashing where they throw it to the curb and kick it while it’s down. That always puzzles me. How could someone who shepherds the church speak in such a hurtful way about the church? I’ve heard it far too often.

I’ve sat and listened as other people have rejected the church, but today was different. Today this conversation hurt. It was personal. Maybe because it was such a close friend or maybe because it was the umpteenth time I’ve been on the receiving end of the “Dear John” letter, but I wasn’t going to let this moment pass without standing up for the church. With a thousand thoughts running through my mind and feeling like I had nothing to say, I leaned back into the conversation and said, “Listen, friend. Let me tell you about the beautiful mystery of the local church and why I love her so much.”

The church is made to be messy.


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Living Out God’s Mission

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Editor’s note: This is the last article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Previous articles include “Missiology: The Gospel at the Intersections” and “How Missiology Teaches Us About God and Mission.”

My last few posts have talked about missiology, the discipline of cross-cultural communication of the Christian faith. Missiology helps us understand who God is and what the gospel means at points of intersection in our world. Good missiology results in a healthy, autonomous, indigenous expression of the Christian faith, life and church within each cultural context or people group.

Unfortunately, a lot of what we call “missions” today ignores proper missiology. In the United States, lack of proper missiology results in churches doing their own thing because they’ve always done it that way, or because they are imitating perceived success elsewhere, without understanding the disconnect between their church and their context. I am increasingly convinced that a major part of the reason why the church in the United States isn’t growing as it should (and could) is because we have a weak missiology that doesn’t address real issues at places of intersection in our complex world. Today in America, Christian work is all cross-cultural. Even in contexts that look similar, there are layers and layers of cultural things happening simultaneously, impacting thinking and affecting relationships. If our faith, theology and missiology don’t learn to engage at those places of intersection, then the church of Jesus in the United States will not gain ground.

Internationally, lack of proper missiology is terribly sad. At its least dangerous, it becomes missions as tourism. Well-meaning Christians raise money from their relatives, friends and churches to see what they can see. They often paint churches that – for a lot less money – could be painted by someone local who longs to have enough money to feed the family. Internationally, lack of proper missiology results in doing what is good for us, with much less regard to the receiving church.

Good missiology asks and answers honestly:

  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Do these endeavors move forward the cause of Christ like in the book of Acts?
  • Is this move good for the church as an organization or for the cause of Christ?

The Apostle Paul was all about the accountability of what happens on the receiving end. Everywhere Paul went, the results were new disciples, new churches and new local leaders being identified and empowered.

Today, good missiology results in more disciples, leaders, groups and churches — plus energized churches here and overseas, mission agencies with empowered people, effective missionaries, and alive networks and eager individuals in the West resourcing at every level the cause of world evangelization.

Good missiology is like a great orchestra: everyone playing instruments that took a long time to learn to play well – and together – with nuanced ups and downs, loud and soft, fast and slow, to create something beautiful that both musicians and listeners enjoy.

The Lausanne Movement for World Evangelization uses the language of reflective practitioners for people who live and dream, think and minister at places of intersection. I invite you to be a reflective practitioner. No Christian is exempt from the Great Commission. We are all instructed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus Christ commanded.

We are all called to go and live out God’s mission. The increasing fragmentation of our world multiplies the points of intersection (and friction) at every level of society, culture and certainly church. Let us decide to live out our faith, our vocation, and flesh out our thinking, even at those wild places of seemingly incomprehensible intersections. Because at the end of the day, Christ’s cause is the only cause that counts.

Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.



How Missiology Teaches Us About God and Mission

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Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Click here for the first article andhere for the final article. We posted part one on Monday and will post part 3 on Friday here on this church blog.

A key aspect of my spiritual journey and my ministry has been learning what the gospel means in places of intersection through a discipline called missiology. In the mist of cultural complexity and a constant whirlwind of social change, missiology gives me the tools to offer the reality of Jesus. So what exactly is missiology?

Missiology is the study of cross-cultural communication of the Christian faith. It includes:

  • How the gospel spread and the church expanded throughout history.
  • Understanding other religions in order to communicate the gospel.
  • Dynamics, culture, geography, economy, religions and politics of specific global regions.
  • Clear strategies for communicating Christian faith.
  • International and cross-denominational mission movements.
  • Leadership and organizational dynamics.
  • Linguistics and Bible translation.
  • Behavioral and social sciences, especially anthropology.
  • Theology in specific contexts, such as studying postmodernism to understand how to communicate Christian faith in a postmodern world.

Missiology brings together faith and practice, intellectual understanding and spiritual life, “secular” scholarship and theology. Missiology is all about being the church in a world of intersections. Missiology is about the mission of God in the world.

Understanding God’s mission is key to what we understand about God. Basic Christian theology is: God so loved the world that He sent His son. At the very beginning of God’s sending, there was a love for the world, and a passion to see the world changed that resulted in the Son being sent. At the beginning was a holy God on mission. Jesus Christ lived — in the flesh — the mission of God in the world, and His teaching explained what He was doing.

The Apostle Paul’s great contribution to theology arose from his church-planting movement and specific situations he addressed as he was carrying out the mission to which Jesus had called him.

For both Jesus and the Apostle Paul, theology arose out of their mission. German theologian Martin Kählerexpressed it like this: “Mission is ‘the mother of theology.’” J. Andrew Kirk, a theology teacher, built on that: “All true theology is, by definition, missionary theology, for it has as its object the study of the ways of a God who is by nature missionary… Mission as a discipline is not … the roof of a building that completes the whole structure, already constructed by blocks that stand on their own, but both the foundation and the mortar in the joints, which cements together everything else.” There is an unavoidable intersection between theology and missiology, the academy and the church, the church and the world, and the U.S. and the international church.

We are all spiritual beings. What we think of God and how we think about God directly affects how we function. Bad theology kills — literally. For example, children die of treatable illness because their parents believe only in faith healing and refuse medical attention, or pastors are killed by snakebites in Christian subcultures that practice snake handling. (Snake handling is based on misinterpretation of passages like Mark 16:18 and Acts 28:3.) These are tragic results of misunderstanding and misapplying Scripture. Bad theology hurts people and dishonors God.

As bad theology kills, good theology sustains, frees us to think clearly about God, empowers, protects and preserves us from the subtle lies of the snake. It is not an empty exercise but a means to freedom. We know the truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Every Christian has a missiology. When that missiology is weak, bad, poor or self-serving, it is lethal for both the recipients of our mission and our own souls, and it devastates our participation in God’s mission. Good missiology frees us to think clearly about God and to lead the church of Christ in ways that result in healthy expansion with deep roots and vigorous, New Testament-type reproduction. This kind of healthy church is exactly what our world needs! In my next post, I’ll apply this understanding of good missiology to how we do global church and mission work.

Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.



Missiology: The Gospel at the Intersections

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Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series on “The Only Cause That Counts.” Click here for the next article in the series and here for the final article. Or we will be posting them here on our church blog on Wednesday and Friday of this week. 

Think for a moment about the many intersections that are part of your life. I have lived my whole life in the midst of intersections of language, culture and faith, which make me hungry to understand how the gospel relates to these places.

I was born into a large Swiss extended family in Argentina. My parents’ colleagues and our neighbors were friends from Sweden, Finland, Germany, England, Spain, Italy and the United States. We all lived in the center of what was then the fifth largest city in the world. There were always people around me — at home, at play, at church — who needed translators, and I realized early on that translators were not just translating words. Multiple times, I heard translators re-interpreting what foreigners had said. Many times, the interpreter wouldn’t even translate because it would be considered crazy talk cross-culturally. I grew up understanding that what makes sense in one culture doesn’t necessarily make sense in another one. Missing important cues in cross-cultural intersections can cause pain and confusion, even among people who love each other and want the best for each other.

Yet I saw the gospel spread! People met Christ in Buenos Aires, and later started house churches as they shared their faith. Later, as a young pastor, I planted a church in Rochester, New York, mainly made up of Cuban refugees. Churches started in Cuba because people I had led to Christ paid exorbitant prices to visit their families in Cuba, so they could share Jesus with them. I saw firsthand that the gospel transforms everything. It moves like fire through cultural and cross-cultural networks. In my first pastoral assignment, people from the church who had little knowledge (except that Jesus Christ had changed their lives) communicated the gospel in Belize and Puerto Rico and saw their extended families changed by God’s power. But I also saw how common and how painful cross-cultural miscommunication could be, even among people who loved the Lord and wanted to see His kingdom advance.

I realized that to become an effective and responsible participant in God’s mission, I had to pull back many layers and get to the core of the gospel. To me, if the gospel and the church didn’t make sense at places of intersection, they just didn’t make sense. I remember reading one of my husband Paul’s books for a seminary course that explained the word “missiology.” That moment, I realized it was describing me. I understood that if I wanted to be greatly used by God, I needed to get a proper missiology for the church.

Missiology is all about intersections. It is the discipline of communicating Christian faith cross-culturally. It made sense to me, because it gave me language to understand my own spiritual journey. It gave me frameworks for how to build on what was happening in Cuba, Belize and Puerto Rico because of our ministry, even though Paul and I had not yet been there. Missiology helped me understand how I could become a responsible participant in God’s mission in the midst of cultural complexity and social change.

Missiology became my scaffolding to organize everything in my brain as I did ministry and dreamed about a better future for my corner of the church. It has been such an important tool for me, that I am now passionate about teaching and sharing it with others.

The world needs more Christians who know how to engage their own communities and cultures from a proper missiology for the mission of the church. Understanding missiology helps Christians to communicate their faith so that others are attracted to commit their lives to Christ, and to develop more leaders to do the same. If you are hungry to understand how Christian faith relates to the intersections in your life, read my next post for a deeper explanation of missiology.

Delia Nüesch-Olver is the Latin America Area director for Free Methodist World Missions. She began this role in 2008 after 35 years of ministry experience as a cross-cultural church planter and pastor. She also served as a professor of global urban mission at Seattle Pacific University. She is an ordained elder and has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.



Two Kinds of Fishing

by Mark O. Wilson

Standing in line to buy worms at Pastika’s Bait Shop, I ran into my buddy, Kenny. He carried a bucket containing a big fish.

“Wow, Kenny, what a nice fish! Where did you get it?”

“Right here,” he grinned, “I just bought it. It’s my bait.”

My worms suddenly felt very small.

In an attempt to console me, Kenny added, “But if I don’t catch a musky, I’ll just fry this fellow for dinner.”

That day, I realized there are two kinds of fishing.

There are also two different approaches to sharing the gospel: the pearl merchant and the treasure hunter.

Pearl Merchant

The pearl merchant says, “I have something great and you need it.”

If the person on the receiving end is in the market for pearls, then this approach works splendidly. After all, everybody does better when they discover the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45–46). People certainly need Jesus, and knowing Him is the greatest joy on earth.

When our hearts are captivated by grace, we naturally want to share Christ with others. However, unrestrained enthusiasm in pushing pearls often backfires and pushes people away.

One pearl merchant pitfall is condescension — an attitude of superiority: “I have the answer, and you are clueless.” In extreme cases, sidewalk evangelists blast messages of repentance through bullhorns and wonder why nobody responds. We all recoil from those who convey a condescending attitude and immediately seek an exit strategy.
 
Another pitfall is coercion. Some pearl merchant evangelists are mean-spirited. They’re the ones who give evangelism a bad name, suffering from what B.T. Roberts called “a warring holiness.” These folks bulldoze and won’t take no for an answer: “You’re going to have it whether you want it or not.” Evangelism without loving-kindness is brutal coercion. I’m pretty sure Jesus has an anti-bullying policy for his children.

During my youth pastor days, Victor, a varsity football lineman, came to youth group with a glowing report. “Guess what? I led six freshmen to Jesus this week!”

“Wow, that’s great Victor,” I replied. “How did you do it?”

“Simple,” he explained. “I caught them in the hallway, grabbed them by the collar, slammed them into the locker, and asked if they’d rather have Jesus or a knuckle sandwich.”

Treasure Hunter

The second approach is more along this line: “Here you are! I’ve been looking for you!”

This is how Jesus loves the lost. He seeks them out and reveals their true worth. Compassion always leads the way.

One April afternoon, our family combed the Lake Superior North Shore in search of agates.

“Here’s one, Dad,” Wes said from behind me. “You just stepped on it — and look, there are more.”

Sure enough, agates were strewn across the rocky beach, but they seemed so ordinary, I trampled on them. I was searching for something with more sparkle and zing. Thankfully, Wes walked with a different set of eyes. On the shoreline, buried in dust, the agates appeared insignificant. However, when we found one, dipped it in water and held it to the sunlight, it shone like a jewel.

Our job, as treasure hunters, is to look again — look beyond the ordinary. “The sacred gems are scattered at the head of every street” (Lamentations 4:1). Lost treasures are everywhere.

Dip them in God’s grace, lift them to the Sun of Righteousness, and they will gleam. Seek, and you shall find.

Be a Witness

A Barna Group survey found that 90 percent of non-Christian young people between the ages of 16 and 29 view Christians as judgmental. Perhaps one reason for this is because we have assumed the wrong role in the courthouse. We play the part of judge, jury or prosecuting attorney, rather than witness.

Your role as a Christ-follower is to simply be a witness. All you need to do is share your faith story. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Pray that God will open doors for you to share.
  2. When the door opens, have courage to speak.
  3. Stay humble and never portray an attitude of superiority.
  4. Keep it simple and brief. Don’t share more than they want to know.
  5. Tell them what you experienced, rather than what they should do.
  6. Focus on the message (Jesus) rather than the mess.
  7. Don’t engage in argument. If they protest what you’re saying, back off and let the Holy Spirit work.

Mark O. Wilson is a pastor in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. This article is an adapted excerpt from “Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus,” which is available in print and e-book format at wphstore.com. Copyright 2014, Wesleyan Publishing House; used by permission.

DISCUSS IT

1 Have your evangelism efforts been as a pearl merchant or a treasure hunter?

2 How can you discuss sin and the need for salvation without coming across as judgmental?



Tell It to Yourself

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All things in life — such as businesses, relationships and movements — begin with a conversation. Talking one-on-one is human beings’ most powerful form of attunement. Conversations help us understand and connect with others in ways no other species can.

I wish some conversations would never end. I remember the many conversations my wife and I had while dating. We discussed the possibility of getting married, fusing our lives together and having kids.

The world began with a powerful conversation. There was nothing but emptiness and chaos, and then a conversation happened (Genesis 1). That conversation has not ended.

The Word

John 1 tells us that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (v.4–5).

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v.9–14).

The chapter tells us of John the Baptist, “a man sent from God” who “came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (v.6–8).

 John testified — or had a conversation — concerning Jesus: “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ … For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (v.15–18).

Because Jesus came to earth, the announcement of God’s invasive kingdom was both a fulfillment of a prophecy and a challenge to the world’s present rulers. “Gospel” became an important abbreviation for the news of Jesus Himself and the apostolic message about Him. In Romans 1:16 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul saw this message as the vehicle of God’s saving power.

Product Evangelists

The idea of “good news” (also translated as evangel or gospel) had two meanings for the Jewish people. First, it meant the news of God’s long-awaited victory over evil and the rescuing of His people. Second, it was used in the Roman world for the emperor’s birthday.

For early Christians, this creative, life-giving good news was seen as God’s own powerful word. They could use the “word” or “message” as additional shorthand for the basic Christian proclamation.

The term “product evangelist” is commonly used today. It is, in fact, a full-fledged job in some companies. The job is occupied by someone with the ability to grasp, translate and communicate the capabilities of a service or product into clear, beneficial and life-altering results.

Daily, I question what the good news means in my life. This has altered my behavior drastically. I can recalibrate the concept of being a product evangelist to live my life as a product of Jesus’ gospel. I have the capability to evangelize with the greatest story to tell.

Prepare to Share

When you prepare to share the good news, consider three things. First, what do you want someone to know? Second, what do you want someone to feel? Third, what do you want someone to do next?

My story is of a life-transformed, reborn into the family of God. My good news offers change — for the better. My story has a happy ending, and yours could too!

How do artists get better at their craft? They practice, of course, but they also pay attention. You should act like an artist. Practice telling your good news. Tell it to your friends and tell it to your neighbors. Tell it to yourself. Then listen. You might even learn a bit about yourself in the process.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t end that conversation anytime soon.

Jay Cordova is an ordained elder who serves as the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses in a Michigan incubator.



Leaking Good News

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Why is it easier to leak (or expose) bad news than to leak good news? Gossip is a lot more prevalent than evangelism. For some people, gossip seems much more fun or entertaining.

In both gossip and evangelism, unknown information is revealed. Something is exposed. In the first case, it is devastating or troubling news. In the latter, especially when it comes to the “Good News,” it is transformational, life-changing news — saturated with blessings and mind-calming solution.

Leaking bad news is controversial and injurious, but it is profitable business. Perhaps Watergate and the Pentagon Papers (a secret Defense Department study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam) were two of the more notable leaks a generation ago. These incidents started an avalanche of leaks and led to a president’s resignation and the first war to end on the basis of leaked information. More recent examples include WikiLeaks, Benghazi revelations, the contents of Hillary Clinton’s email server and the early posting of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket on Twitter. Leaks are newsworthy. They are a little salacious and fun. Frankly, gossip is the ancient art of combining leaked information with the sprinkled air of judgment and shame.

When David’s son Absalom died, one person was so eager to deliver the bad news to David (2 Samuel 18:19–33) that he could not resist running ahead of the official news bearer to tell it. It is hard to imagine what his compelling desire was to request being the deliverer of bad news. Sin is perhaps lurking in the answer. People are curiously wired to seek bad news — as long as it is others’ bad news. Perhaps a more honorable reason is that most people desire to express empathy for those who are struggling more than they want to celebrate the victories of others.

Charles Swindoll said it well years ago when he referenced Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NASB). Swindoll said, “It is far easier to weep with those who weep than to rejoice with those who rejoice.”

Perhaps it is because we wish we would have received whatever others rejoice over, and we find a little solace in not suffering what they suffer. Perhaps it is because we feel a little more useful if we are helping someone who is down. My experience tells me that people sometimes take special delight to be present when tragedy strikes someone else — perhaps to be close to the hurting, perhaps to commiserate on shared pain. The bad news oddly draws us into the drama.

Two features stand out when it comes to leaking information. The first is that bad news is generally more newsworthy and career-advancing (such as in the news media or cyber protection) than good news. The second, and perhaps in some ways related to the first, is that bad news is easier and much more tempting for most people to share.

Don’t get me wrong. Most people like to pass on delightful information — you see it on Facebook all the time — such as the acquisition of a new puppy or the announcement of an engagement. For the most part, however, that is just giving broader exposure to things already known. Leaking bad news has shock value. It is stunning by nature and engenders deep emotion.

Why is this so? Why is bad news easier to share than good? Sin is interesting to report because it has shock value and is tempting to expose. As sinners, we are tempted to gossip or tell of other’s failures for a number of spiritual and psychological reasons.

But, as forgiven and loved children of God, I wish we were better at leaking the best news known to humanity — the Good News of salvation. The under-told story of salvation in Jesus Christ leads to life transformation. Who wouldn’t want to share that? Everything about that news is transforming, uplifting and life-changing?

Four Factors for Sharing the Good News


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