Who Knows You

Today’s ‘Character Challenge’ is all about letting others know what’s going on in your evangelistic endeavors. Thom Rainer wrote an article several years ago that still is worth thinking about today.

He said that believers who effectively share the gospel exhibit clear patterns of behavior which he terms “the seven characteristics of highly evangelistic Christians.” We’re looking at one of them today…

Be Accountable to Someone for Your Evangelistic Activities

We all probably know how easy it is to decide on something that needs to be done only to see the completion of the project never materialize. Good intentions aren’t always the cement that binds our list of things to do. But there is a way to increase the likelihood of a task getting done.

Give a friend the right to check-up on your progress and you just might find the necessary motivation to carry through with your plan. You could meet weekly or monthly with your partner but the main thing is to grant them the authority to ask you, very specifically, how much progress you’ve made.

What Are Some Things They Could Ask

You’ve told them one or more of the following steps you want to take…

  • I want to pray for a friend daily
  • I intend to share the gospel with my sister
  • I need to learn how to be a better communicator of the gospel

At an agreed upon time, they check in with you and ask for updates on your plan of action. Now, doing evangelistic work because you don’t want to admit to your partner that you failed to meet your goal, is not the best reason to work on sharing your faith, but it’s better than not being evangelistic at all, and, over time, you could find that the accountability factor gives you the encouragement you need to be out there for Christ.

What Else Might Challenge You

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Quick Rick’s – It’s Ok to Be Less than Perfect

“Often we think of evangelism as sharing our strengths, having it all together spiritually. We think that’s what it means to be a witness.”

With those words, from Reimagining Evangelism, Rick Richardson gives us the start of a wonderful lesson when it comes to sharing our faith…it’s ok to be less than perfect. In fact, our imperfections and how God is helping us change or deal with them, can be a wonderful asset.

For instance, you’re in a hospital after a terrible accident, and the doctor has told you the balance of your adult life includes a wheel chair. A good friend WALKS in and, after spending time with you, tells you everything is going to be ok as they saunter out the door. Don’t get me wrong…they care for you and it’s good to offer encouragement but wouldn’t you feel better if the same words were spoken by a person who wheeled themselves into your room in the same type of device you’re going to be spending the rest of your life in?

There’s a connection with shared experiences that’s hard to deny and that’s the essence of Rick’s quote we’re looking at today. His comments continue with these mighty words of wisdom…”Our weakness, our story of struggle, even the truth about the cost of our choice to follow God–these are the greatest gifts we have to give to others in their journey.”

Some Other Things to Consider

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Who You’re Talking To

People can be such idiots…hard to talk to, difficult to care for, impossible to love…yet loving them is God’s great command to His children of faith. The author’s of Irresistible Evangelism, using a thought from C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Weight of Glory”, point out that, “other than the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the spirit of the human being to whom you’re talking is perhaps the holiest thing you will ever encounter.”

Keeping that thought in our mind and, more importantly, our heart, will help us to approach spiritual conversations with the type of care and respect needed. Because of the uniqueness that is humankind, the writers concluded, “so take off your shoes as Moses did at the burning bush. Treat the conversation with sacred seriousness and Christlike calm.”

What Else Can You Do?

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The Number One Response

The title for today’s post comes from a national survey, commissioned several years ago by Lee Strobel, which asked people what question they’d ask God if they could only ask Him one thing. ‘The Number One Response’ was: “Why is there suffering in the world?”

An example of that suffering occurred on July 20, 2012, when 82 people inside a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, were killed or wounded as a man in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms.

Two days after the shooting Lee delivered today’s Readable at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, dealing with the recent tragedy and a question many were asking; “Why? Why did God allow this?”

He didn’t pretend to know all the answers and even admitted “we may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why” pain and suffering occur, but he did lay out “some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights,” he said, “they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help satisfy our hearts and souls.”

He shared five points of light and to encourage you to read the entire sermon, here are two of them…

  • God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
  • Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.

He concludes the sermon with an explanation of the gospel, which could be just what someone you know needs to hear, and perhaps by reading through Lee’s talk, you’ll be better equipped to share your faith with someone who wonders about the pain humans experience.

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Believe in Their Value

“Jesus’ stories in Luke 15 tell us that you have never locked eyes with another human being who isn’t valuable to God.”  So say Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg in Becoming a Contagious Christian and I agree but do I always act that way?

People who jump onto the train in front of others already standing in line, take up more than one space on the bus, or nearly run me down in the parking lot don’t get me thinking, “wow…they need Jesus.”  I won’t tell you what I sometimes am thinking about them , but I can say it’s not placing them high on my value index.

We have a choice, however, with how we react to other’s actions.  Their behavior doesn’t ‘force’ us to respond in a certain way.  So here are three things we can try that just might help us think and act a little more Christlike, and which God might use to make those far from him curious about why we’re treating them differently than others.

  1. Pray for them – What if the person who speeds past and cuts you off on the highway has a sick child in the back of the car?  Would you feel a little less angry at them?  Since we rarely know what lies in the background of a person’s behavior, prayer is always a good start
  2. Step Up and Help – Letting the aggravating, pushy person behind you move ahead so they can get through the checkout line quicker might be doing them a favor they need.
  3. Don’t Judge – A judgemental attitude, in addition to usually being sin, can easily take the compassion we want to feel and replace it with resentment or anger.

What’s Next

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The Seven Steps

A writer starts typing furiously when an idea strikes and may never know the extent of their words on the reading public and others. Such might be the case with Howard Belben’s quote in The Mission of Jesus; the subject for today’s ‘Comments on Quotes‘ post.

“When the lost are lost, what matters most is that they should be found, and when they are found there is cause for joy in heaven.”

The quote comes in Chapter Two of his book, which deals with the approach of Jesus to the lost. There are seven things He did in relating to people, and one or more just might be something we need to add in our interactions with friends, family and acquaintances. Here are the Seven Steps!

  • He offered people His friendship
  • He started where they were
  • He listened to what they had to say
  • He sought the root of their problems
  • He took their questions seriously
  • He sometimes asked favors of them
  • He did not force Himself upon them

Which of these is easiest for you to incorporate into relationships? Which is most difficult?

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Fear of Failure

Who hasn’t had that ‘fear in the gut’ feeling when getting ready to share their faith? Yet, we can take some reassurance from today’s quote in”How to Talk About Jesus Without Freaking Out”.

“Talking about Jesus is taking a risk–and risk, by definition, involves the chance of failure. The thing to remember is that the outcome of a discussion about Jesus is not up to you.”

“But wait”, people say. “I have to convince them or they won’t make it to heaven. ” Actually, the convincing is done by the work of the Spirit. God might use the words you speak to do that convincing or He might work in a million other ways to accomplish the same end result.

What God wants from us is clarity and accuracy. Don’t tell your friends that eating fresh watermelon or buying a new car every 5 years will get them to heaven. Share with them it’s having complete trust that Christ’s death on the cross erased everything we’ve ever done wrong in God’s eyes and because of that faith God will welcome us.

What’s Next

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They’re Not Listening

You have so much valuable information about your Savior to tell friends and family, but it seems like they never really listen; even after giving you the green light to share. So what can you try?

In today’s Readables post, I’m directing you to Forbes.com and an article written by Erika Andersen in April 2012. It’s title, 3 Simple Ways to Get People to Listen to You, should encourage many to give it a read, because that’s exactly what we want…people to listen to us.

But, let’s suppose you’re just too busy to read an entire article, no matter how helpful it is. Well, I’ve got the answer for you, if that describes where your at as you read this. At the bottom of her article, in 38 words, she sums up her piece and that alone could be helpful to your goal of getting more listeners.

And I wouldn’t be surprised that after you read the summary of her 3 points, you’ll want to check out the entire article.

What Else is Out There

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Salt Shaker’s – Selling or Loving

“I believe that much of our evangelism is ineffective because we depend too much upon technique and strategy. Evangelism has slipped into the sales department. I am convinced that we must look at Jesus, and the quality of life he calls us to, as a model for what to believe and how to reach out to others.” Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the SaltShaker

That sharing the gospel has “slipped into the sales department” is a gut grabber to me and I hope it makes you stop and think too. Do people see our approach to sharing our faith as meeting a goal, furthering our agenda, or something we’re forced to do? If any of those is the case, it’s all too likely, they’re not seeing much of Jesus in us.

Jesus had a unique edge on us since he could see a person’s heart and know what they were thinking and feeling. He could call someone out as a hypocrite, and be right, because of his knowledge of the heart. We don’t have that ability and yet, I fear, people too often are on the receiving end of a less than Christ-like example when they interact with a Christian.

If you think loving your neighbor like Christ is an easy thing to do, I strongly urge you to rethink your conclusion. Love is hard! Our culture talks about married love as a 50-50 proposition but true love seems to be better described by a 100 to Zero ratio. When one is lying in a hospital, unable to do anything for their well being or demonstrate even the smallest act of love toward their spouse, the obligation of the other partner is not reduced in the least. One hundred percent love is still expected, even though nothing is being received in return.

And it’s that same type of love we’re supposed to have toward those who are without Christ. We share without getting any thanks; our offer of help is rejected because of their preconceived idea of Christians; assistance with a problem is accepted but never acknowledged…still love must be the motivating factor and visible reaction in our response.

So how do we ramp up the love? A good place to start is with Scripture. Check out the characteristics of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 4-7, and pick one that you least display. Then ask God to help you develop that character trait in your life. You can even use this process to show Jesus to your friends.

Tell some people you’ve started asking God to change you in the area you selected. Ask them to record, from 1 to 10 (1 = you never display the trait; 10= you always display the trait) where they see this characteristic in your life. Then in 3-6 months ask them to go through the activity again. Also let them know that if they have any questions about your experience, you’d be willing to share with them.

If you grow in Christ likeness during this improvement phase, it’s possible they’ll see it and be curious about how the change took place. And just like that, you get a chance to share God’s mercy and power in your life…and maybe even how He could do the same for them.

What’s Next?

  1. See other Salt Shaker’s
  2. View more Comments on Quotes
  3. Take a Chance (you’ll end up somewhere within my site)
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Set Down the Jackhammer

Hearts that don’t know our Savior may be hardened toward the God we love and the gospel that saved us but that doesn’t mean we should haul out the jackhammers or other destructive tools of communication that can make them cringe or flee.  We need the tool of love and understanding.

The writers of Irresistible Evangelism, suggest that “instead of making risky, direct attacks on the pre-Christian hearts and trying to take them by jackhammer force, it is better and faster to take the path of low risk and high grace.  Like a well-designed road to the top of a mountain, this path spirals smoothly upward and inward.”

And that’s not all the authors have for us.  They say, and I believe, that “If we want to be good spiritual messengers, we must learn to progressively meet people’s needs in this safe and respectful order.  Our most important task is to represent Christ by finding lots and lots of little ways to connect with people’s physical, emotional/relational, directional, and spiritual needs.”

Maybe you’ve been taught or encouraged to make a dramatic entrance into another’s life and carry the gospel message boldly and proudly toward their souls.  Irresistible Evangelism suggests an alternate route…”forget the grand gestures, impersonal presentations, and once-in-a-lifetime events, and proceed lovingly with many caring touches that lead toward the heart.”

Wow…don’t think I could have said it better myself. 

Did someone wield a jackhammer of religious persuasion at you before you came to Christ?  How did it work?  What tools of Christian living have been your choice when given an opportunity to interact with others?  How were they received?

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