Archives For Evangelism

You can read the first three posts here, here and here. Where do we go from here? I am sure there is all of the statistical data to discuss and missional “stratgery” that merits our attention. But if we take a step back and ask, “What works?” I am not sure that we can come up with a cookie-cutter plan that works for everyone. But that’s what we want isn’t it? We want a P90x program that can be plugged into any church context that will automatically multiply our numbers. We tell ourselves thought it’s not about numbers it is about saving souls (souls are numbers right?) yet the pressure of our budgets and the depleting numbers in our Sunday night service is evident that something must budge. So we want an evangelism P90x to plug in and get results. I think we should move in a different direction…one that is simple. Consider The Skit Guys and their hilarious video that closes with a point I want to highlight….

Investment into one person. We are not called to save the world but we can invest in one person. Eddie and Tommy both talked about how investment made on their part or on the part of someone else made the difference in salvation and changed their lives. Last night one of my former youth group kids spoke to my current youth group and he talked about a relationship he had with a girl for 2 1/2 years and how he was able to baptize her. Investment. One person. Full focus. Prayers, efforts, service, study all focused on one. So often we worry about all the things around us when sometimes God reveals the fertile soil that is right in front of us.

What if we taught students to invest their lives into people for a year committed to discipling them and helping them grow over a period of time. Then watching that person do the exact same thing. Friends, discipleship and evangelism does not have to be mutually exclusive. They can be one in the same. So that is what I have learned. It takes investment, relationships and a whole lot of God in this process.

What would you add?


Often we know what to do by what not to do. For example, Heather and I have told Samuel over and over not to touch the eye on the stove as it will burn him. Two year olds do not comprehend directions and the implications of danger. Sometimes they just have to learn it themselves. When we weren’t looking Samuel touched the eye of the stove and burned himself. Now he knows what to do based on what not to do. Evangelism is the same way it seems and there are some pitfalls in the way we are mission-minded. A bit of clarification in these studies: I am no missiologist and these are purely subjective based on experience. Some of these also might be contextual (i.e., what works for Eastern Christians might not work for Western Christians) both geographically and generationally. I am coming at these from the standpoint of youth ministry but some of them span the generation gap. For better research and methodology I suggest you peruse Ed Stetzer’s website for various “missional” topics. I am still a babe in the missional discussions but here are some evangelistic mistakes…

#1 Doing nothing at all

This is a pitfall many of us get into as the ruts of life tend to deter our focus. Whether it is based on fear, apathy, rejection, lethargy, apostasy or whatever one of the worst things we can do when it comes to evangelism is to simply do nothing. But…

#2 Doing instead of being

Us westerners are good at doing things as we are used to tasks, accomplishments, projects and goals. We are always at the cusps or precipice of the waves of doing. The church is no different as we have this program, that trip, this initiative, this goal or that yearly theme (“Saving Souls in 2013”) all border on idolatry. Mission-minded people do a lot of things but not to the neglect of being a lot of things. Jesus said the harvest is ready and that we needed more workers but he also told us to pray about this harvest. In other words we need people who are ready not who simply do things. Which reminds me…

#3 Making evangelism program-oriented or staff-oriented

Evangelism is the work of every member as we are a part of the priesthood of all believers. Comments like, “That’s why we hired you” or “that’s what we pay you for” are statements coming from people who are too lazy and selfish to do the work God requires them to do. Evangelism should flow effortlessly from the leadership and from every member in the church. It’s not a “class” or a “day” or even a “Service-project.” Evangelism seems to be a part of the spiritual disciplines much like prayer, fasting and giving.

#4 Evangelism as systematic theology class

I once thought evangelism was about knowing things in Scripture and when they figured these things out they would eventually become Christians which I equated to evangelism. It never occurred to me that sitting with someone in the hospital was evangelism. It never dawned on me that praying with someone over the phone was evangelism. I never grasped that maybe going to a football game to watch a kid play was evangelism. Knowledge is important but it also puffs-up. Transformation, submission and obedience seem to be key components of evangelism.

#5 Thinking it is up to you to save people

We have many people out there who have Messiah-complexes and that if they don’t save someone then the world, as they know it, is over. News flash-you are not Jesus and the redemption of this world is not up to you. If Jesus wanted all of this world to be saved he would have died on the cross for our sins. Wait a minute…

What would you add?




You can read the previous post here.

I am concerned now about what motivates us to do evangelism. In other words, if I were to sit down with a teenager and ask them, “Why should you evangelize?” I wonder what responses I would get:

  • What is evangelism?
  • (With shrugged shoulders) I don’t know.
  • Because I heard I should do it in the lesson or something.
  • Because it says I should in the bible.
  • Because a whole lot of people are going to hell if I don’t and it would be my fault because I never said anything.
  • Because the gospel is an invitation for something beautiful.

Ok, that last one was mine but I am sure you have heard multiple reasons why you should evangelize and some of them are good and some of them are less than helpful. I would like to at least entertain that our desire to evangelize is related to two factors: 1) our understanding of the Scriptures (and our response to that understanding) and 2) our perception or view of the world.

I cringe when someone tells me that I need to evangelize because at judgment day I don’t want to be standing next to my friend and them asking me why I never mentioned Jesus to them as they go down the vortex to hell. First of all, who said we are going to talk to other people at judgment day? Secondly, God chooses different people to plant seeds, to water but only God increases. Thirdly, what about that person I met on the airplane? Am I going to answer for that for not offering them the invitation because I wanted to sleep instead?

The call to evangelize in Scripture:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are told to Go, while making disciples, while baptizing and while teaching. That is the call to the disciples Jesus worked with but it seems implied that this is not only a contextual command but an overarching command to all disciples bearing the name of Jesus. We simply “Go.” That is the call. Whenever, wherever, whoever, however we simply “Go.” What I have noticed though is that students don’t follow leaders from information they follow them by imitation (heard this quoted somewhere but have seen it true in my ministry). Show me a youth group kid and I will be able to tell you the personality of their youth minister. Hence, Main Street kids tend to be weird, cynical, prophetic, fun (we have been accused of being “rowdy”) and hopeful. Which describes yours truly! So here is the deal:


Remember that. So the call to “Go” rings forth from your leadership. You can have all of the resources imaginable (I recommend Dare 2 Share) and all of the events under the sun but if the culture of your ministry is not evangelistic then no amount of teaching will ever accomplish your task.

Secondly, We must perceive the world and look at it differently. We should feel broken at the people who are not participating in the kingdom of God. Our hearts should break when we see marriages fail, companies plunder, people turn to gods and not God, and all of the injustices we see. We must look at things differently. In the first Lord of the Rings movie: The Fellowship of the Ring it is apparent that everything has changed for the hobbits and for the world and the longing to go back has been trumped by a new task, one that is forged in fire and fraught with despair. The royal elf and Lady of Light Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett, says these words about what has happened:

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

Leaders, students and all of us need to get to this point where we say, “The world has changed and is forever different and everything we see is now filtered through the lens of the gospel and we will forever try to live out the call to reach out as laborers in the kingdom of God.”

© Graceway Media

Our students just got back from attending a conference about evangelism and the discussion that came from that from our students was extremely helpful and has shifted my thoughts on what it means to be evangelistic or to do evangelism. Our discussions seem to center around the difficult conversations we have when talking to people about God, Scripture and multiple issues. It seems that the student’s perception of evangelism is that it cannot be based on one simple, “throw-it-all-out-there” conversation but it takes multiple conversations built on a relationship.

That’s not to say the gospel cannot be offered to someone whom we have only just met but it is to say that most of the time evangelism takes time, initiative and a whole lot of prayer. This leads me to how we teach students what it means to be evangelistic. For a long period of time I taught students at Main Street that evangelism is sitting down and studying systematic doctrines so that when people assent to a knowledge of who God is and what the bible teaches then they could make a decision to follow Christ and put Christ on in baptism.

That’s sounds good except the issue I have with it is that the first century Christians did not do evangelism this way. I know you are quick to go to all of the conversion stories in the book of Acts but I want you to think about something for a minute:

When Peter, Paul and others are involved in the conversion of people what exactly is said? What is discussed? Do they use Scriptures and if so what Scriptures do they use?

I think what happened in the beginning stages of the church was that the Spirit played a role in the preaching and teaching and what happened was that a lot of people bore witness (Greek – martureo) to the works, words and life of Jesus and part of that testimony was how Jesus completely changed their own life.

 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

There was testimony from what they saw in Jesus himself but they, in turn, bore witness to that testimony with the joy (1 John 1:4) of fellowship in Christ. In other words, Christ changed their life and they shared that news everywhere (Dare we talk about the apostle Paul here?). The original disciples were not quick at sharing dogma (i.e., teaching) but at sharing life. They were vulnerable and they invested themselves in the work and ministry of local churches all around the Roman Empire. That does not mean a system of beliefs is not necessary for Christians as part of sanctification includes knowing what to believe and what to do with those beliefs.

Yet it is entirely different to approach Scripture saying, “What do I need to know?” versus having the attitude, “What does God delight in or what brings God joy?” One seeks information and the other seeks transformation. I think where we fail in evangelism is that we are more interested in making converts instead of disciples. We seek to concentrate on their eternity (which is absolutely important) but we fail to tell them what to do here in the meantime.

So I want to blog a little about evangelism and how it relates to youth ministry. I admit that I am not good at evangelism because I am not good at sharing my life with people. I recently was asked to speak at the aforementioned conference about evangelism and my response was as blunt and confessional as I could be:

 I feel like I have not been evangelistic enough and teaching about evangelism when I am not practicing it like I should sounds a bit troubling to me.

Yet, I am learning. So join me as we journey together.

This post is from another good friend of mine, David (Dave) Miller. Dave graduated from Freed-Hardeman University with a business degree and currently works as a realtor for Crye-Leike. He is married to the former Harmony Holland and recently they welcomed their son into this world, Thomas Paxton Miller. Dave and Harmony worship at the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Dave has an amazing knowledge of people and probably is one of the best I have seen at understanding who people are and getting to know them. You will enjoy these words tremendously. 

First step: BUILD RAPPORT. Most sales jobs say this is the key starting point for a relationship to blossom. To me intimacy is about breaking down barriers and the walls of separation. Finding common ground on everyday items can lend itself to a comfort level that will breed meaningful conversations. The meaningful conversations may or may not be deep thoughts but I’m learning that any spiritual conversation is better than just our standard how’s the weather small talk.

I’m finding that more and more people are receptive to spiritual conversation if it is mixed in with our everyday chatter. How often will non believers be open to a discussion that starts off with “You should go to church more often” before we even find some sort of common interest with that person?
For years I said that I would focus more on evangelism when I get older or when I get more time or when I get to a certain place in life. I’m 30 years old now and I’m wondering if I will still be using those same excuses when I’m 60. I then started thinking that maybe I should start living way below my means so that I can use some of my work time to “do” ministry. Thankfully I have found a peace in that I can evangelize during everyday activity. This can be done even on days that I feel 24 hours isn’t enough to get it all done.
We are always taught to make the most of any opportunity to spread the love of Christ. But what does an “opportunity” look like to you? For many, I’m afraid we are waiting for the dream come true opportunity. One that would be so easy we wouldn’t feel any discomfort at all. The perfect situation that someone would randomly knock on our door and say, “I’m 99.9% sure I want to become a Christian. All I ask is that you tell me that I should and I will.” Wake up; it’s not likely to happen this way.
Opportunities are around us every day if we can only learn how to mix our everyday contacts and conversations with some sort of Godly words. It starts by being intentional. Being intentional about bringing up a faith based thought. For many situations the simpler the thought the better it will be. It can’t be right out of the gate and that is why some sort of rapport needs to be built first. Once it is then you will be surprised what type conversations can come from a simple, “God sure gave us a beautiful day today!” or when someone praises or compliments us we can say “I give God all the credit, He is so good to me.”
For fellow Christians we can get to the much needed deeper conversations if we only are willing to build the rapport and then step out and show interest in the spiritual well being of someone. We have to be willing to share our own struggles and be willing to help when others share theirs. We have to be intentional with where the conversation goes and the questions we ask. Thousands of times after worship I have asked many fellow Christians, “How’s it goin?” or “Do you think the Titans are going to win today?” but how many times have I asked, “how were your spiritual thoughts this week?” or “how’s your relationship currently with your spouse or kids?” or “what are your current struggles that the devil is currently hitting you with?”
How intimate will our evangelism and Christian fellowship be if we are willing to mix some sort of faith based thought with our everyday conversation? For strangers it takes building rapport. Once we have that we must be intentional about where we take the conversation. These intentions are highly needed with our friends and fellow Christians that we already have some sort of connection with. It’s not easy and in the past I thought I could never do it. It’s a struggle that I’m trying to get better at. Let’s pray about it and remember that nothing else in this world matters more than sharing Jesus with others. Are we going to say we will be better at it when the time is right or when that perfect opportunity hits us? Hopefully we won’t be asking ourselves that same thought in another 30 years. My hope is that you and I will both make the most of our present daily lives and that our love for Christ will show itself in how intentional our rapport building is and how intentional our spiritual conversation is with others.

In my morning reading I came across a familiar passage and wanted to share it with you and some of the thoughts I wrote down in my journal.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good. Psalm 14:1 (ESV)

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine in that when this verse is read, quoted or used it is within the context of atheists. I have heard many Christians say, “How could someone not believe in God? The Scripture says ________.” They will quote Psalm 14:1. I think people do not believe in God for a variety of reasons (hypocritical Christians?) but I wonder if we could go a different direction with the interpretation of this Psalm. Let me ask the question, “Who is the fool in Psalm 14?” They are those, contextually, who God looks down and sees that the people are 1) not understanding, 2) not seeking after him, 3) they have turned aside, and 4) become corrupt (14:2-3). Now surely this broadens our interpretation of simply atheists. Surely you know some folks at church that fit the bill there right?

Look at how Eugene Peterson words the Psalm in The Message

1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.

2 God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.

3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow their fellow.

I wonder then, who is the fool? I find it interesting that Psalms 14:1-3 is quoted nearly verbatim in Romans 3:10-12. The context there is that we are all sinners in need of the justification of God by faith. So then is it a stretch to say that the fool in Psalm 14 who says “there is no God” might be us? The immediate context for David are the enemies of his kingdom but the larger implication is that sometimes we are fools. Consider the following:

  • We are fools when we do not believe God will deliver us in a difficult situation.
  • We are fools when we try to conduct ministry, spiritual formation and kingdom-work on our own without the guidance of our Father.
  • We are fools when we do not lead our families spiritually.
  • We are fools when we try to bind things in Scripture that God never intended to be bound.
  • We are fools when we make it our goal to “correct” every person’s theology whom we have contentions with as if we can come up with a perfect theology on our own.
  • We are fools when we neglect the poor and build massive buildings (does Babel ring a bell?) and have big-screen TV’s, elaborate pulpits complete with techno-savvy ways to make ministry “easier.”
  • We are fools when we do not evangelize and disciple others.
  • We are fools when we judge people, as if we are the perfect standard.
  • We are fools when we say God can’t do something, as if our existence were not evidence for God being able to do something.
  • We are fools when we keep sin to ourselves.
  • We are fools when we spend too much time at work and forget our families.
  • We are fools when we do not take care of ourselves physically.
  • We are fools when we isolate ourselves in our Christian bubble, forgetting that God actually came in the flesh.
  • We are fools to think God does not care about us (how many hairs do you have on your head again? God knows).
  • We are fools not to learn from the past, redeem the present and wait, with hope, for the future.
  • Finally, we are fools when we think it is up to us to become righteous.

Tough list. I look at it and mourn. Because I want to be honest with you, I am a fool. At times, my actions and thoughts reveal the claim that there is no God even thought intuitively I know there is. Sad. Christ, forgive me.

Who is the fool?



Photo courtesy of

I absolutely loved Missional Youth Ministry by Brian Kirk and Jacob Thorne. Brian and Jacob are mega-bloggers for the amazing blog, Rethinking Youth Ministry. The book was well-needed for my ministry context and I gained a lot of principles to think, chew and meditate on as I continue ministry here in Springfield. I must say, the book is so much a “model” for youth ministers to place into their programs as it is a discernment tool to ask questions to see if we are leading our teens to be disciples. The book is not a textbook on what it means to be missional as it is more of a practical guide to share ideas and to ask (stated above) difficult questions. I appreciate how relational and ecclesial the book was in its primary focus. Love God, love others and love the church might be a good motto for the thrust of this book. My favorite chapter was “the end of educational ministry” where they dissected a teenager’s brain (metaphorically of course ;)) to show how they learn, connect and lead others. The book is worth the purchase just for all of the ministry ideas related to programming, worship and discipleship. I also loved how they implemented their blog posts throughout the book. I wish they would have cited the url for the post but we could always look it up. I could see this being used among youth ministry teams, youth minister retreats and even among parent-minister meetings. I loved it!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • Chapter 1 – “The challenge for those of us in youth ministry is to get beyond our fears and anxieties and trust that God is already working in the lives of young people” (p. 20).
  • Chapter 2 – “Helping teenagers grow stronger in the Christian faith goes far beyond having them memorize Scripture or learn bible stories or creeds” (27).
  • Chapter 3 – “I find that too often our youth ministries offer a Jesus who is safe, a Jesus who asks little of us beyond giving intellectual assent to a list of religious beliefs” (p. 45). “If you’re playing it safe to keep your job, or to make sure your teens like you, or to make parents happy, then it’s time to flip everything you’re doing upside down” (p. 46).
  • Chapter 4 – “Thinking intentionally about the boundaries in adult-teen relationships isn’t optional” (p. 64).
  • Chapter 5 – “We live in a results-and-success-oriented culture. Even the church has bought into the lie that its identity comes from its programs” (p. 75).
  • Chapter 6 – “We can teach all of the bible studies we want, but ultimately the parents have the most important and lasting influence on a young person’s faith–for good or ill” (p. 97).
  • Chapter 7 – “…it’s easier to tell teens what to think (and what not to think) than to walk with them through the long and sometimes difficult process of discovery–especially if we believe we’ve already found the right answers” (p. 108-09). Speaking of emotionally-charged camps and forced spiritual decisions: “Some of those same youth who made tearful committments tp Christ on the last night of camp were the first ones to ditch church and youth group a week later in order to go to a friend;s home to play video games” (117).
  • Chapter 8 – “Teenagers want to know and worship a God who spends time with them beyond the confines of stained glass and organ music” (p. 128).
  • Chapter 9 – “A truly missional youth ministry can only grow out of the unique gifts and needs of the young people in your group” (p. 145).

Lesson #2 – Why should we even bother celebrating it?


I am big on visual illustrations and movies and such so that is why I use a lot of videos.  I think you will enjoy this one.


What were your reactions to the video?
How did it change your perception on how we should approach the holidays? 





For some it is a waste of time to think about religious seasons like Advent, Lent and others.  They point to verses like Colossians 2:16-17 saying religious days should not be recognized.  Actually the verses point to religious days as being a REQUIREMENT for spiritual growth.  We shouldn’t require people to observe it but we should also not say that it is pagan or evil to observe the days.




Below are some reasons I think we should celebrate Advent or Christmas (or the holidays if you can;t bring yourself to say those two).  [I am not going to expound much on these as I wanted to give you just a raw outline]

  1. Because everyone else is talking about it.  Good or bad people are talking about gifts, vacation and this is the one time many people will cross the threshold of a church auditorium.  To not talk about the birth of Jesus, the point of advent and the hope of mankind is, at best, awkward.  Imagine you never go to a church and you decide to pick the local church of Christ to attend Sunday morning Christmas worship.  You listen to the songs and they sing Blues Skies and Rainbows, The Old Rugged Cross, Each Day I’ll Do and you think, “What is going on here?”  Then you the preacher gets up and you think, “Well this will be better as he will talk about Jesus.”  But he delivers a sermon on premillenialism and never mentions Jesus.  Was that ok?  Sure.  Did they do things biblically?  Absolutely.  Dis they miss an opportunity?  You better believe it.  This is an opportunity to make sure the right story is told.  They hear stories of consumerism, selfishness, and gluttony why not correct that with the real story of Jesus?
  2. It allows us to see how God redeemed mankind, and how he will eventually redeem the church.  God created everything good (Gen. 1) but eventually mankind encountered the Fall (Gen. 3) but God established his covenant with his people (Gen. 9, 12; Exodus 20, et al) and assured the people that eventually the Messiah would come to redeem the people from their oppressive state.  Jesus came to save mankind from their fallen state and died on the cross for our sins.  To participate in the saving act of Christ we become disciples of the church through faith, grace and baptism.  God has promised (Rev. 21-22) a particular time where he will redeem the church and we will live with him forever.  The first coming was the birth of Jesus and the second coming will be his return.
  3. It places perspective on what our weaknesses truly are.  Last lesson we learned about what Christmas really has become: a consumerist buffet for getting things we really do not need.  We as an American people struggle immensely with greed which, ironically, was something Jesus did not come for.  He came to free the captives and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Isa. 61:1-2) yet we proclaim it the year of the iPad, the PS3, the cool outfit, or insert whatever you have desired.  Advent forces us to focus on THE reason for Christmas: Jesus Christ.  Not just Jesus in a Let’s-sing-sappy-songs-about-Jesus-and-feel-all-warm-and-fuzzy-inside kind of way but a Jesus is going to come again so you better be ready kind of way.  That’s perspective.
  4. It gives us an evangelistic (missional) thrust with a sense of urgency.  My good friend Rusty Pettus is doing a series of lessons called, “Telling Your Friends About Jesus” where he is taking advantage of the season to help his students talk to others about Jesus.  Great time to do this as it gives us a sense of preparation and urgency.  Right now!


Again….another video.


I had the opportunity to interview Dan Kimball, teaching pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California. Dan wrote the book, “They Like Jesus but not the Church,” and has a keen awareness of perceptions people have of the church. We talk about some of those perceptions and also talk about the way the church needs to think about those on the “outside.” Dan is really perceptive on intentional, missional living as a Christian. You will enjoy.

I got an idea for a post when listening to a conversation that was, in essence, gossip.  I have been thinking a lot about the church lately which sounds a little bit strange considering thinking about the church kind of goes with my job description.  But, when I say thinking about the church I mean I have really been meditating, pondering, wrestling and struggling with the ideas of church.  I am reading a book that has slapped me across the face when it comes to thinking about what other people think about the church.  The book is The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons and his premise is that we just don’t listen to what people are saying about the church.

That has spun me in a thousand different directions as to why the church is not relevant in our current circumstance.

Gabe said, “Many churches are increasingly exhibiting less and less real influence in the communities where they’re located.  If they were gone tomorrow, one can’t help wondering if anyone would notice.”  (The Next Christians, p. 25).

Talk about a shot to the lower abdomen.  I want to begin a series of posts with the framework of, “what do you think the perception is of the church is from the unchurched?”  I was talking with a student in my office today and we discussed tomorrow’s See You At the Pole day.  While there are a lot of redemptive things about this day I poignantly asked her, “What do you think people’s perception is when they walk by and ya’ll are huddled up praying around a pole?”  She seemed to think that it would be negative, awkward and maybe even a little resistant.

So…I would like to offer a discourse on the seven deadly sins (Prov. 6:16-19) and use that as a framework for people’s perception of the church.  Sound cool?  After that I hope to give you a review of Lyons’ book.

See you tomorrow.