How People See Christians

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My daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We’re weird because we go to church.

This means—well, as she gets older there’ll be voices telling her what it means, getting louder and louder until by the time she’s a teenager they’ll be shouting right in her ear. It means that we believe in a load of bronze-age absurdities. It means that we don’t believe in dinosaurs. It means that we’re dogmatic. That we’re self-righteous. That we fetishize pain and suffering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That we promise the oppressed pie in the sky when they die. That we’re bleeding hearts who don’t understand the wealth-creating powers of the market. That we’re too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures, full of meaningless distinctions, on the marshmallow foundations of a fantasy. That we uphold the nuclear family, with all its micro-tyrannies and imprisoning stereotypes. That we’re the hairshirted enemies of the ordinary family pleasures of parenthood, shopping, sex and car ownership. That we’re savagely judgmental. That we’d free murderers to kill again. That we think everyone who disagrees with us is going to roast for all eternity. That we’re as bad as Muslims. That we’re worse than Muslims, because Muslims are primitives who can’t be expected to know any better. That we’re better than Muslims, but only because we’ve lost the courage of our convictions. That we’re infantile and can’t do without an illusory daddy in the sky. That we destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick mythology in your minds. That we oppose freedom, human rights, gay rights, individual moral autonomy, a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research, the use of condoms in fighting AIDS, the teaching of evolutionary biology. Modernity. Progress. That we think everyone should be cowering before authority. That we sanctify the idea of hierarchy. That we get all snooty and yuck-no-thanks about transsexuals, but think it’s perfectly normal for middle-aged men to wear purple dresses. That we cover up child abuse, because we care more about power than justice. That we’re the villains in history, on the wrong side of every struggle for human liberty. That if we sometimes seem to have been on the right side of one of said struggles, we weren’t really; or the struggle wasn’t about what it appeared to be about; or we didn’t really do the right thing for the reasons we said we did. That we’ve provided pious cover stories for racism, imperialism, wars of conquest, slavery, exploitation. That we’ve manufactured imaginary causes for real people to kill each other. That we’re stuck in the past. That we destroy tribal cultures. That we think the world’s going to end. That we want to help the world to end. That we teach people to hate their own natural selves. That we want people to be afraid. That we want people to be ashamed. That we have an imaginary friend; that we believe in a sky pixie; that we prostrate ourselves before a god who has the reality status of Santa Claus. That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, law to mercy, primary colors to shades, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life.

But hey, that’s not the bad news. Those are the objections of people who care enough about religion to object to it—or to rent a set of recreational objections from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. -Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense

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Slow Evangelism

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Part of the problem with evangelism is many Christians feel they need to get the whole gospel out in one conversation. The reason for this is many Christians are only ever in a position to ‘evangelize’ strangers, because all their friends are Christians. Evangelizing friends and neighbors, gradually, relationally, over an extended time, means that the breadth and beauty of the gospel can be expressed slowly without the urgency of the one-off pitch. -Michael Frost, The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church

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One of My Hopes for the Church

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Can I tell you one of my dreams for Revolution Church and your church?

I preached on our vision and some dreams on Sunday. Here’s how I closed:

I want people to know that we stand against sin in our world, that we want to see people rescued from it and live the life God has called them to live.

I also want them to know that we are incredibly broken, more broken than we ever realized. But, that we have been rescued and it is greater than we thought possible and we will not quit until everyone knows.

I also want them to know, that even if we disagree with them, if they have a need we can meet, we will be there. I long for people to look at people who are part of our church and say, “I don’t agree with everything they believe, but when I needed a friend, when I needed a shoulder to cry on, when I needed food, when I needed help financially, when I needed a ride home because I was too drunk to drive, when I needed to be picked up off the ground because my life hit rock bottom, someone from Revolution was there.”

And that through serving, through loving, through walking with them, you will be given an opportunity to talk about Jesus with them and that through your serving and loving, they will be open. Because, they will begin to look around their life and see the brokenness and see that you are the only friend still there and wonder what is so different about you.

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Mission Leads to Life

When you preach or hear a sermon on mission, evangelism you should walk out of their feeling like you were just released and given the keys to life not burdened for a task.

Yesterday at Revolution we continue our series All In and I talked about sharing our faith through serving. This series though isn’t really about evangelism or sharing your faith, it is about the motivation to go all in, to change the world, to follow Jesus into the places he calls us. That motivation for changing the world, living our lives on mission, sharing the gospel all come from understanding the love God has for us.

The problem in many books and sermons on evangelism, missions or sharing your faith is that at the end, we feel overwhelmed, as if we don’t know where to start. But we also feel like we’ll never do enough.

I got a text after the sermon yesterday and someone said, “That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do with our friends. We feel so freed up to reach them.”

When you preach on evangelism, people should walk out and feel empowered to do everything God has called them to do, because through the Spirit, they can.

Now, should your preaching challenge, help others to see how difficult this road ahead is? Yes. But it shouldn’t feel like a burden. Jesus took the burden and gives us his (Matthew 11:28).

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All In Starts in 2 Weeks!

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Everyone wants their lives to matter, yet most people live in obscurity and rarely accomplish what God created them to accomplish.

Why?
The risk is great, but the payoff is even greater.
But what happens when a group of people go all in and put it all on the line for Jesus?
A world is changed.
Join us at Revolution Church as we spend 4 weeks leading up to Easter and look at how to go all in so that our lives matter and we see others live the life God created them to live.

March 23: Why Go All In

March 30: Giving All I’ve Got

April 6: Asking for it All

April 13: This is How we Change the World

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Shouting So They’ll Listen

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In his new book, A Call to ResurgenceMark Driscoll shares some eye opening stats about our culture:

  • 88% believe Jesus existed.
  • 78% believe God exists.
  • 73% believe in evolution.
  • 71% believe in karma.
  • 68% believe in heaven and hell.
  • 67% believe spirituality exists in nature.
  • 65% believe in angels and demons.
  • 59% believe Jesus rose from the dead.
  • 53% believe in the devil.
  • 46% believe in extraterrestrials, aliens, or UFO’s.

This is the culture we live in, work in, play in, and pastors, this is the culture you preach to each week.

So how do Christians tend to communicate to this culture? By shouting.

We don’t necessarily walk up to people and start screaming, although, I’ve seen people with signs stand on a corner and shout at people.

Have you ever seen someone try to communicate to someone with a language barrier? Americans when they encounter someone who doesn’t speak English, they talk louder. As we’ve brought Judah into our home from Ethiopia, we have a language barrier to overcome as he speaks little English and we speak very little of his language. Our boys, in an effort to get him to play with them or do something, simply talk louder if he doesn’t respond.

That’s what Christians do.

We don’t change what we are saying, we simply say the same things only louder and with more force.

Yes, but the message doesn’t change.

That is true. The gospel is the same. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We never stop talking about the glorious news of Jesus’ sinless life, our brokenness and need for a Savior and how Jesus met that need by dying in our place and rising from the dead and sending us the Holy Spirit. We never stop talking about that.

But, we can change how we talk about that.

Instead of shouting, find common ground, a common language. Answer questions and needs that people have.

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What our Family Does on Halloween

I get asked each year at this time if I let my kids go trick or treating. Within the Christian community, there has always been a polarizing debate about halloween. Do we as Christians reject it, receive it or redeem it?

Because Halloween is next week, I thought I’d share what we do as a family.

Rejecting it would mean we turn our porch light off, pretend October 31st, does not exist and shun those who participate in a day dedicated to eating too much candy. Receiving it would mean we simply go along with what our culture does, participating mindlessly. I think both of these fall short of what God calls us to as his followers.

While there is some history about the origins of Halloween that Christians should be aware of and Justin Holcomb has a great look at that history here.

Practically, the question remains what you’ll do on that day. For our family, we’ve chosen to participate with our neighbor and seek to redeem Halloween. Here are some things we’re doing:

  • Stand out in our driveway. Be out front to say hi to everyone, talk to them. This is a great opportunity to meet your neighbors. Everyone is out walking around. Not sure how often that happens in your neighborhood, but it isn’t an everyday occurrence. Being present in your neighborhood is a great step forward in being on mission in your neighborhood.
  • Build a fire in your fire pit. It makes people hang out longer when there is a fire. Put some chairs around it and invite people to sit down with you.
  • Have the best candy. Your house as a follower of Jesus should be the house kids want to go to 5 times because your candy rocks.
  • Have something great for the adults. We often have hot apple cider or some other treat that adults can take with them. Maybe bottle of water. Something they can take with them.
  • Include your missional community. Because the mission of our MC is our neighborhood, many from our MC will come and trick or treat with us and spend time helping to hand out candy.

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Everyone Finds Jesus Differently

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While all Christians realize the title of this blog post is true, we often forget it. Many times, we fall into the trap that says: What rescued me, what impacted me to start following Jesus will work for everyone.

Many times, this is what is underneath our passion for more modern music, deeper preaching, life on life discipleship, a women’s ministry, a men’s ministry, a singles ministry. You name it. Whatever ministry God used to save you, we often think, “If everyone experiences that, they’ll be saved.”

The reality is that everyone starts following Jesus differently.

This came up in the passage I just preached on in John 9 this past Sunday at Revolution. You can listen to it here if you haven’t already.

The Pharisees are having a hard time with Jesus healing the man born blind on the Sabbath because they don’t do it that way. They don’t think God works that way, they’ve never seen it done before (vs. 32), or they weren’t saved that way.

I’ve had this conversation so many times I’ve lost count (and every pastor can relate). It goes like this, “Pastor Josh, we need to start a __________ ministry to reach ___________. If we do, Revolution will explode.” Or, “Josh, if we just get every man to do __________” or, “If we get every woman/student/single to do ____________ they’re life will be changed.” Or, “Josh if you preached more topical sermons, more deeper sermons, longer sermons, shorter sermons more people would get saved.” Or, “Josh, if we did faster songs, slower songs, more responsive readings, more hymns, more modern songs, if it was louder, if it was quieter, people would worship more than they do.”

Now, I’m not saying those things won’t change their lives, but we show a lot of immaturity if we think God only saves people the way we were saved or the ministry we are passionate about.

Come and See

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There is an evangelism strategy, whether you call it Invest and Invite or Come and See, it has the same idea. Invite someone who doesn’t know Jesus to the place you met Jesus to introduce them to Jesus. This place could be a missional community, a retreat, an event, a worship service, your small group or your dining room table.

Here’s where this idea comes from in John 1:38 – 46:

Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

In this passage, those who followed Jesus, believed in him, simply pointed people to him.

In fact, Philip and Nathanael is a great example in our culture. Nathanael is incredibly skeptical about Jesus and doesn’t want to believe anything about him. Philip, instead of arguing with him, simply says, “Come and see this Jesus.”

Come and see is a powerful way to witness to someone. It means, building a relationship with someone to the point that they see Jesus in you so that they will want to see this Jesus you follow. It means, being in a place where you can invite someone to see Jesus in action.

There is a danger to this. Some can simply sit back and say, “I’ll invite them to church, they’ll see and my pastor will tell them about Jesus.” You’ll notice in the passage above, the person who said come and see also told their friend about Jesus. The come and see was simply the end, the final step, not the first.