Evangelism Intelligence

Last night, we started our 14th evangelistic series in 7 years. This is probably my 40th+ in my years of ministry. We’ve been able to see a number of really good things happen because of evangelism, not the least of which has been over 1,000 baptisms.

Some people think evangelism is dead and doesn’t work anymore. I don’t agree. This post is a simple answer why I think that. I call this reasoning Evangelism Intelligence.

People travel through life with a variety of circumstances, issues and experiences. But when it comes to making decisions for their life, they tend to follow this four-fold path to decision making.

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CHAOS –> STRUCTURE –> PRINCIPLES — LIFESTYLE

We tend to make decisions to move us from Chaos based on a structure that helps us see our way out of chaos. From there, we begin to live according to the structure and begin to understand life principles that we slowly move into to make decisions by. Then after years of principled living, we find we just naturally make those decisions because those principles have simply become part of us and we no longer think about them anymore.

People who have been in church for 7 years or longer tend to live by the principled approach. They no longer need the structure that provided them an entry point into church – evangelism. People who live in chaos, are generally the ones who come to our evangelistic meetings. They want to understand the Bible more. They want to know what truth is. They want to listen, learn and be led. They are looking for a basic understanding of truth – a structure – to get them out of some of the chaos they might live in. (This does not mean their lives are in chaos, but possibly their theology, their understanding of life, or simply looking for a more structured approach to seeing life)

Our evangelism provides structure. Our evangelism gives a way out of theology chaos, life chaos, marital chaos, and all kinds of life chaos. People who live in principles or even in lifestyle tend to look back on the structure and want everyone to be like them. But  we are all at different stages of life. People need structure. Then they can move into principles. (More on this later) People who live in the principles or the lifestyle don’t like our evangelism, nor the advertising for it. I say, “That’s fine, it’s not targeted at you. It’s targeted at people who need and want the structure it provides. Eventually those people will get there after a few years too. Have patience with them.”

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My Son, Myself and Fire

When I was about three or four years old, my mom and dad were smokers. One day I picked up a book of matches. I played with them on the coffee table by batting around, flipping it here and there. Finally, I got around to opening it. And I fingered the little red matches long enough and one came out. I finally figured out how to light the match, and was mesmerized by the flame burning brightly… until it hit my fingers and I screamed! Bad experience. However, it didn’t deter my love of the flame. I’ve always liked fire. I’ve always played with fire.

Fast-forward ___ years….

My one year old son really, really likes fire too. When I start the wood stove in the morning (a near daily affair), he loves to come and watch. He’s learning to stay back, but we do have a fence up to remind him not to get too close. He likes to test us. He wants to make sure we really mean no. He thinks his way is best. Did I already say, he’s one…?

But I realized his nature: fire intrigues him. I realized that watching the fire was in his very core of who he is. He just wants to touch it. He loves to watch when I start the fire. He loves to lay in front of it when he gets his diaper changed – and will lay still while I change him, if he can just watch the fire. I love to watch fire too. It feels good. It’s relaxing. It’s mesmerizing.

So? Should I let him?

A few nights ago, we decided to open the doors of the fireplace/wood stove and roast hot dogs (should’ve done marshmallows, but didn’t think of it until now). As 4 of my kids crowded around the fireplace with the metal sticks and hotdogs a-roasting, my son crowded in behind them. He wanted to get close too. But he couldn’t. He was like Zacheus – He was too short to see over the crowd. But he JUST HAD TO SEE IT AND GET CLOSE AND TOUCH IT. I mean, it’s in his very nature. He is attracted to fire. (He’s not attracted to cold – go figure….) Then he saw a way around the girls and went for it. He ran beside them and was going to get in close. Fortunately the 12 year old saw him and stopped him. He screamed, he cried, he really wanted in to touch that brightly colored fire.

I know what he was saying. I don’t speak in tongues, but I still knew – I could see it in his eyes and read his facial expressions. “You don’t love me, or you’d let me!” “You must not care for me, you are telling me no!” “It’s who I am! I want that!” I could see it. I could hear it. Believe me, I could hear it!

Should I let him, because he wants to? Because it’s in his nature? Because he was born that way?

Of course not! The most loving thing any parent can do at that point is to say no. Love doesn’t mean agreement. Love doesn’t mean acceptance of everything, but it does mean acceptance of everyONE. I did the most loving thing I could do – I provided a safe place for my son because I told him no and put the fence back up after the hotdogs…. And one day, when he realizes what could have happened to him, he’ll thank me. I’m sure of it.

It ought to be the same at church. I would hope that when I’m headed down a faulty way, someone (ANYONE!) would tell me to stop. I’m not talking about people outside the church. I’m talking about people inside the church. We help and support each other. Church should be a safe place. And a safe place isn’t where I’ll get burned. A safe place is where I choose to follow the “law of liberty” the Bible talks about. Any help along that path, I’m grateful for.

Leadership Vs. Bossy

girl second coming heavenI have a daughter who is probably a bit bossy. But I think and believe that God has endowed her with that “ability” in order that she learn to lead.

Leadership is different than being bossy. Bossy is when a person simply takes charge and begins commanding others after themselves whether they have been given the right to do so, earned the right to do so, or is respected in a way that allows them to be in charge. Leadership on the other hand is something that is earned and respected.

How do you teach leadership to a bossy child. I will tell you that it’s not by telling them, “Stop being so bossy!” Rather, leadership is taught by giving principles that s/he can do and teaching her/him how to take charge of the situations s/he finds themselves in.

Some of those principles I’ve been trying to teach are:

  • You can’t lead by yelling
  • You can’t hit people and expect them to keep following
  • Take charge of the things you’ve been given charge over
  • learn to be an encourager, not a complainer
  • Let go of the little things others do
  • Take a look at the big picture and point the direction there

So now the question is…. Did she learn how to be bossy from me? And am I rethinking my own leadership issues at church and at home?

Leading People to Truth

Leading people is often hard work. Some embrace truth readily and some embrace it slowly. Others don’t embrace it at all. It is still very much like the Parable of the soil that Jesus told in Matthew 13.

It’s really hard to watch people get excited about some truth yet when it comes to harder truth they begin to walk away.

No matter their response, I have to remember that my job as a leader/preacher is to do two things: (1) teach truth as the Bible unfolds. God’s job is to get people’s hearts ready to hear it. He’s working on everyone. I have to trust him to do what is right for the individual. I must be faithful to the text. However (2) I must also take a look at how I am presenting that truth. Am I speaking in a language these people understand? Does it make sense to them? Is it logical? Am I being faithful to my hearers as well as to the text?

In order to accomplish those two things above, I must first submit myself – heart, soul, and mind to God. Clearly I have to be connected to be able to preach with power.

Texas Mission

I’m sitting here in Texas because we are doing a Prophecy Seminar for a friend. People are coming night-by-night (6days a week!)

The cool thing is when I watch the lights go on for people as we talk about Jesus and help people fully understand His grace and His hope of the world. We’ve been able to show that grace through prophecy, the second coming, the sabbath and many topics.

I was able to show them that the topic if the sabbath shows that we keep it because God is creator (Exodus 20) and because God is our redeemer (Deuteronomy 5). The Sabbath may be one if the clearest pictures if grace we have. So far 8-10 people have accepted this new thought for them.

I love this but can’t wait to get home also. We are camping out and doing well but it’s not home and it’s not as routine at this point in time.

What’s Your Job To Do Today?

I once heard singer Michael Card say that as a singer/songwriter, he had to schedule times for songwriting. Some days he would get up and even though it was on the schedule to write a song that day, he didn’t feel like it. He said, “Do you know what I do when I don’t feel like writing a song? I write a song.” I’ve heard writers say the same thing – I have to write whether I feel like it or not.

storm clouds with peopleI’m not a writer. I’m not a singer. I’m a leader. And as a leader, people are looking for me to lead – whether I feel like it or not. So, even when I don’t feel like it, I have to make decisions, cast vision, and shape the direction of my church. In the end, it’s a good quality. One of my core values says, “Discipline will get me where I want to go.” Discipline as a songwriter, as a writer, or as a leader, will get me where I want to go.