Posts Tagged ‘great commission’
photo credit: http://stickyjesus.com
I want to tell you about a very good friend of mine. Her name is Tami. Our friendship is like many of my friendships–built on trust, respect, admiration, humility, faithfulness, prayer for each other’s families. We’ve known each other for about a year now, and she has quickly become one of my biggest advocates (and I her) and a mentor of sorts. We probably touch base every other day or so as we partner together in ministry on various initiatives. I feel like I’ve known her my whole life.
All this sounds pretty normal, right? Well, there’s one little caveat… I’ve never actually met Tami. Face to face. In person. We’ve never even been in the same city at the same time. That’s right. Tami and I connected over Twitter and continue to grow as friends and co-laborers over that platform as well as Facebook and Skype. My friendship with Tami is a great example of just how much our world is changing through Internet technology and social media.
Even in recent years, many have chuckled at the idea of ‘virtual’ friendship, and companies like eHarmony still have stigma attached to them. Despite the tendencies for many still to balk at the notion of meaningful human connections over the web, the fact is this is the way our world is shifting. I can bear witness to this, from my friendship with Tami, to mornings where I will have personal conversations with people in Russia, Malaysia, South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica and Fort Lauderdale (where I live), all while sipping the same chai tea in my local Starbucks. The fact that our world is growing exponentially more connected every day has tremendously profound and exciting implications regarding how Jesus followers ought to live out the Great Commission.
This is the reason why Tami (@tamiheim) and her friend Toni (@tonibirdsong) have collaborated to write @stickyJesus: How To Live Out Your Faith Online. In this super-easy-to-read book, Tami and Toni provide an incredible blueprint for us to meaningfully engage online in a way that honors and points to Christ.
Of course, more and more resources are produced on this topic as we go forward, but this is a book that you absolutely must read. The reason is simple but staggering. While most books like this explain cultural context first and then talk about how to retro-fit the message of the Gospel accordingly, @stickyJesus approaches the idea from the opposite direction. This book articulates the unchangeable Gospel context first, and then reveals how we can invite our lost friends into that space via the social sphere. If you know my writing, you know that I believe this is the foundational principle from which most thinkers on the subject of evangelism fail to originate their ideas and methodologies. Most begin with current culture, I think we should begin with the Gospel. And so do Tami and Toni.
Whether you dabble on Facebook or curate an influential cross-platform network, it is critically important that you read this book as soon as you can. For the casual participant, it will provide a language and framework for natural intentionality in your online interactions for the sake of making Jesus known. For the social media savvy, it will recalibrate your skill set for eternal significance and provide a wise ‘voice over your shoulder’ as you craft your status updates and responses each day.
I’m writing this post as more of an endorsement than a review on purpose. I’m hoping that once you’re done reading it, you will simply be inspired to click on the link below and get the book now. Endorsements tend to work better that way sometimes… Anyway, if you’ve read the book, please include your thoughts in the comments. If you read this and then read the book, please come back and let us know your thoughts.
I post this with a thankful prayer for my friendship with Tami, in hopes that her and Toni’s wisdom might have the same impact on you as it has on me for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.
Blessings and #LiveSticky!
(Author’s Note: This post is part 3 of 3 in a series exploring evangelism in the next generation. To really understand the context here, please read the first two posts by clicking here.)
Matt Metzger (@mcmetzger) is the college pastor at Blackhawk Church in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s also a childhood friend of mine whom I’ve looked up to since I was 12. We still chat occasionally and I’m always blown away by his creativity and his passion to see young people follow Jesus. A while back he shared with me about some of the ways they engage people through their ministry. Here in Part 3 of my series on exploring the depths of relational ministry, I want to share Matt’s creativity and paint a portrait of what “creating an experiential framework” really looks like.
Like a lot of ministries geared towards young people, Blackhawk is actively engaged in overseas missions. In one particular case, they’ve been traveling to Honduras for a few years now, building houses and playgrounds in a specific neighborhood. About four years ago, the trip began to evolve into something much bigger.
One of the older leaders in his church decided to go back to school, enrolling in the College for Landscape Architecture (LA.) He quickly developed some meaningingful relationships with his professors, perhaps because he was closer in age to some of them than the typical student at University of Wisconsin. As those relationships grew, a conversation started about the Honduras trip. They discussed what it would look like to bring LA students on the trip, along with the Blackhawk college ministry students. After exploring the idea together, the professors not only supported it, they even offered study abroad credits to the LA students who went.
For this to work, there could be no ‘bait and switch’ type attitude. The church promoted the trip ‘as-is,’ disclosing the underlying reasons and Christ-centered purpose for going. Despite this, LA students signed up quickly. Their job in Honduras was to design playgrounds for the Blackhawk students to install. Many of the standard missions trip elements were present–daily Bible study and worship–but none were mandatory. Instead of preaching, the experience of serving families in Honduras began to reveal the Gospel to these young people. Over the course of the week, many began to sit in on the Bible studies, and many found themselves engaged in deep conversations about spiritual things with the Blackhawk students. Matt tells me there was no ‘us and them’ mentality at all. The students were in this together, and their relationships with each other grew quickly and in a very short period of time. This summer, Blackhawk will head down to Honduras with LA students and students connected in the ministry for the fourth year. Many of the LA students from past trips are going again.
Matt shared with me some of his observations about the students and the trip that I believe can help all of us see the massive value in approaching outreach this way. Firstly, he described the role of relationship. This wasn’t about the church first asking, “With whom can I be intentional about building relationships, and then how can I share Christ with them?” The whole endeavor was built upon existing relationships. Remember that the conversation began when an older leader from the church enrolled in the LA program. His friendships with his professors grew over time, and out of that came the idea to serve together. They never used ‘relationship’ as a technique or mechanism to reach people. The sanctity of the relationships was revered and preserved because there were no pre-existing expectations placed on them. The trip was a partnership, not a tactic.
Secondly, he noted that most of the LA students seemed to be ‘predisposed’ to serving. They were excited enough about doing good that they were willing to deal with their ‘evangelical’ counterparts as bunkmates. A lot of these LA students had some interesting, if not defensive, attitudes about the church. In other words, you would be hard pressed to find them attending a weekend worship service because a classmate extended an invite. Yet, when invited to serve through the church, they jumped at the opportunity. From a generational standpoint, Millennials are innately service-oriented. Giving, serving, welfare, civic-mindedness; these are all concepts found deep in the heart of the Millennials. The last generation to be wired like this is the GI (Veteran) generation, born 1901-1924. For most people alive, the idea that a generation is others-focused is quite foreign. But this is how the Millennials see the world. And this is why the approach works so well with them.
Matt leveled with me, “Adam, if your goal is to see as many people pray a prayer in the shortest time possible, this model is not for you.” The reality is that many of our evangelistic strategies are failing because our metric for effectiveness is out of step with Scripture. Thinking back on our Biblical reference in John 6, we have to remember that Jesus didn’t finish His work with the disciples right then and there. He spent three and a half years with them, providing experiential framework over and over before they really got it. Matt doesn’t do an altar call on the last night of the trip. He allows those conversations to naturally develop long after the students come home.
If we subscribe to the Great Commission, then some of us need to recalibrate what we want to see as a result of our efforts. It’s so easy to feel good about seeing people come forward after a Gospel message. I’m not even questioning whether this can work or not–it does work! Countless people have come into relationship with Christ through hearing and responding. The problem is that because it works for some, we can tend to rely on this as our primary means of evangelism. If it worked for everyone, could you imagine how many people would be in our churches? I know of churches who see hundreds come forward every weekend, but the community isn’t getting any bigger. Where are those people? What happened after they came forward? Despite our best efforts to follow up, the fact is most of these people were caught up in an emotional moment and because there was no experience with which to match the message (or any relationship that an experience would cultivate) the person walks away. At best, they’re a little more open to Jesus… at worst, they go on believing that they’ve secured a place in heaven–they understand Christianity as a religious afterthought rather than an old life transformed into a new life by the Holy Spirit.
After listening to Matt tell me about the LA students who have submitted to Christ through their experience in Honduras, and the students who haven’t, it became quite clear that while this approach is highly effective, it is no magic bullet. If that’s what you’re looking for in your ministry, I think you’ll be looking for a long time. Matt isn’t looking for THE way to reach young people with the Gospel. He has found a Biblical way that makes a lot of sense to the Millennial Generation. Isn’t that what we should all be looking for? The cool part of this is that you don’t need to go to Honduras to do it. My primary focus as a servant of the church is to develop this model in the local context. I would venture to say that we have many more opportunities to do this in our own backyard. It’s reproducable in that we can do it in Nebraska, New York City, Africa; anywhere. It’s contextual in that it’s built upon what’s happening right where you are.
Thanks so much for reading these posts. As I said earlier, we’ve arrived at a very important and special moment in history. Our choices and strategies today will have a trajectory-shaping impact over the next hundred years. I am grateful that you would engage in this exciting conversation! Please post your insights and ideas in the comments below. Also, I would LOVE to serve you. If we can work together to create evangelistic movement through your ministry, please email me at email@example.com. Blessings-
I reached a place beyond my limits yesterday.
My brother Matt (@matthew_bond) and I rode our bikes from Menlo Park, CA to Half Moon Bay–a 23 mile journey that took us through a forest, over a thousand foot high mountain, and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean. For many, this would have been a low-intensity Sunday activity, but for me it pressed my body to the very breaking point of my physical capabilities.
It began to look bleak only 20 minutes in when I suffered a severe cramp in my foot. Later my brother would tell me that when he saw me fall to the pavement in pain he was convinced we would be turning back at any moment. I kneaded the cramp out and climbed back on with determination, only to wince as the cramp returned immediately. The night before our ride, I watched a documentary film that followed a well-known German cycling team through the 2004 Tour de France. Its images of crashes, gashes, concussions and perseverance flashed in my mind as I pedaled up the long gentle slope in front of us. If they could do that, then I could do this. We continued forward towards the main 4 mile climb which wouldn’t begin for another 30 minutes. Matt set up a draft that allowed me to recover and rest–30mph over flat and and lazily descending roads to our final checkpoint.
We rested for a moment at the base of the mountain and Matt gave me one more chance to back out. “We can either continue or go back, but if we continue now, we will have to finish no matter what.” I looked at him through clouded eyes. “This is not a choice. We’re going.” He half smiled and climbed on his bike. Around the first corner the ferocity of the ascent confronted me. Steeply up a narrow winding road we went, at a snail’s pace. The pain increased rapidly and my heart began to pound out of my chest. A mile in, as I was losing all sense of my situational awareness, I suddenly felt a hand on my lower back. I glanced to the left and saw my brother arduously spinning with one hand on his bars… he was pushing both of us up the mountain–legs for him and right hand for me. His calm voice occasionally broke the ambient hum of my breath, my bike and the traffic around us. “This is a good pace. Keep pedaling. We can almost see the top. Keep pedaling.” More images of emaciated German cyclists nursing their wounds and launching day after day into the Pyrenees switchbacks strobed behind my eyelids as I fought total collapse.
Finally we reached the summit after 23 minutes of blinding agony up 829 vertical feet. I unclipped and sat down. My lungs burned as I shallowly pumped the 40 degree air in out, in out. Stars danced in my periphery. I couldn’t put a single thought together. “That was… sick,” I heard my brother quietly cheer. For him really, it was nothing. He’s done over 40,000 miles on his current bike in the last four years. But for me, with just over 200 miles in the last 2 months, it was the impossible made possible. The last 7 miles led us down the western face at 50mph–an experience more frightening than painful–to a beached fishing trawler (which painted an accurate portrait of my emotional disposition at the moment), and finally to a small cliff–a club-level seat to the Pacific sunset in Half Moon Bay. We had done it. But how?
As I wax contemplative about what happened yesterday, it occurs to me that living a Gospel-centered life significantly compares to my cycling experience. If you’re truly living out the Gospel, then you will almost immediately come up against barriers–cramps that will try to convince you to quit early. Realistically, those cramps will never really go away. Living like Jesus isn’t about overcoming obstacles, it’s about hope-fueled forward movement despite the things that stand in your way.
Perhaps the most compelling revelation came to me as I thought about the ascent. The motivation and determination to do something impossible came not from my focus on the present, but from what I had observed in those German warriors, and from the hand of one far more experienced, placed firmly on my back. We cannot expect the impossible from ourselves if we refuse to study those who have gone before us or deny the assistance of those around us who are stronger. In order to share and live out the Gospel every day, we must FIRST saturate ourselves with the Gospel itself by humbly looking to those who have done it before and those who are doing it in front of us.
Ephesians 4:11-13 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (ESV)
This is the first purpose of evangelism, to build up the body of Christ–each other–in order to accomplish what we see as impossible; that is the expansion of God’s Kingdom through the news of a Savior and Redeemer. Before you set out to change the world through the Gospel, you must first live as one changed by the Gospel. You must share the Gospel with yourself. You must become an internal evangelist.
If they can do that, then I can do this.
Acts 4:32, ESV
Of course it isn’t the first time we find a statement like this about the early church. So what was it about these people that had Luke repeating this idea over and over? Was it their vision statement? Their organizational abilities? Scholarship? While I’m sure the early church had these things, it occurs to me that the reason we hear about their unity again and again is found in their deep understanding of Jesus’ Great Commisson. The litmus test for every action and attitude for the early church was, “Does this build community for the glory of God?”
Taking a quick look at Matthew 28:19, you’ll notice a few seemingly basic words like “GO” and “MAKE (DISCIPLES)”. If you’re like me, then this passage has the tendency to kind of roll off the tongue–maybe even in one ear and out the other. Looking deeper into the original text, though, you might find what they found: a contextual, relevant statement about the very nature of God.
First word: GO. In Greek, the word is poreuomai. The word refers to journey, or to traverse. In other words, “As you are going…” It’s a derivative of the word peira. Peira is the word that the writer of Hebrews uses when describing the Egyptians as they entered the Red Sea after Israel… in English it translates to assay, which means to analyze, try, attempt–as in, the Egytians took it very slowly, step by step, unsure of what would happen next, analyzing as they went. I get an image in my mind of walking across a frozen lake–each step you’re checking your progress with increasing concern for the integrity of the ice.
Peira is also used a few verses later to describe the experience of being mocked and scourged for the sake of belief in the One True God. In this place it means a trial or tribulation.
Second word: MAKE (DISCIPLES). I’m using the parenthesis because in English we would see “MAKE DISCIPLES” as two separate words. In the Greek, it’s one word: matheteuo. This word comes from mathetes, which is the word for disciple. Matheteuo means to teach–in other words–to enroll as a scholar.
OK. Let’s put the Great Commission back together with these ideas. Jesus is calling his followers to, in the context of the challenges of their every day lives, enroll the people they encounter along the way as students of Jesus.
Evangelism that fails to cultivate community is incomplete.
I posted this quip on Twitter the other day and boy did it get some heated reaction. But if you look closely at Matthew 28:19, as we have here, I’m just not sure what argument a person could make against it.
Are your evangelistic efforts creating community? Or tearing it down? You see, God’s very nature is community. It’s togetherness. The first community, after all, is the Trinity–God in three persons. I love that passage in Genesis, “Let us make man in our image…” (Gen 1:26) US and OUR. We were created by a community God! It’s no great revelation, then, that He would call us to create community as we seek to fulfill His Will.
In every conversation you have today, I encourage you to ask yourself, “Am I building community here?” Here’s the beauty–if you seek to create community in every human encounter you have, the most amazing doors of opportunity will open up to you to share Christ. Evangelism within the context of community is so simple and obvious and easy and natural–you will begin to experience the overwhelming joy God has in store for you as His follower!
Blessings on your journey… as you are going.
This is one of six new videos we shot to supplement the current XEE DVD content. Thanks to Pastor John Poitevent and our friends at Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, FL for partnering with us on this project. Let me know what you think! And check out the rest of this series at my YouTube Channel.