Evangelism

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Millennials Tried to Kill the Mall, But Gen Z Might Save it: Jordyn Holman with the surprising report that Gen Zers don't just go to the mall more, but they like going to the mall! She says, " Today’s teens interact differently with stores than their older siblings and Gen X parents before them..."

2.       John and Jesus Didn't Think You Could Be a Christian Without the Church: Fleming Rutledge says that, "the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him."

3.       Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Abortion and Eugenics: This is a long, but well written article on the history of Margaret Sanger, abortion, eugenics, and racism. And it's by an unusl author: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. 

4.       God's Inner Work: Susan Lafferty with a wonderful reflection on the hidden and beautiful work of God. 

5.       9 Types of Effective Evangelism: Aaron Earls offers 9 ways to reach out that studies prove are effective. One of the nine is inviting a neighbor to a service project: " Half of all unchurched (51%) say they would likely come to a community service project organized by a local Christian church."

6.       Faithful Evangelical Men Are Resisting Porn: Buried in new data about porn usage is this encourage fact: men who attend church regularly are resisting porn at much higher rates than those who don't attend church.

Why Doesn't My Neighbor Go to Church?

Why Doesn't My Neighbor Go to Church?

There was a time when going to church is what respectable people did. Two generations ago, every self-respecting citizen went to church, regardless of their desire to be there or not. When I was in middle school our family became acquaintances with someone at church. My parents ended up doing business with him only to learn later that he was far from ethical in his business dealings. Church, it turned out, was just a handy place for him to expand his business.

Long gone are the days of expected church attendance. And good riddance to them. I have no desire to have our society return to “the good old days” of church attendance insofar as that is merely moral behavior. What I long for are people to yearn for an encounter with a holy and loving God and to experience the warmth of God’s family.

A recent survey asked people why they do and don’t attend church. Those who attend cited reasons such as “to get closer to God,” “because I find the sermons valuable,” and “to be part of a faith community” as some of their answers. Those who don’t attend listed these as their top reasons for not attending:

1.       I practice my faith in other ways

2.       I am not a believer

3.       I haven’t found a church I like

4.       I don’t like the sermons

5.       I don’t feel welcome

That’s a helpful glimpse into the heart of the non-church attender. You might notice that four of the five reasons don’t have anything to do with their beliefs. That means that the most significant objection you might fear from your neighbor (disagreeing with your faith) is unlikely to be the main reason they aren’t attending.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Let the Children Get Bored Again: Pamela Paul speaks wisdom to our age that runs from boredom, "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

2.      Survey Says That Evangelism is Far More Prayed For Than Practiced: Aaron Earls shares the results of a recent survey that ought to call us to boldly speak the gospel to our neighbor.

3.      Guard Your Heart From Adultery: Robert Wolgemuth reflects on how seriously we ought to take any hint of adultery in our marriages: "When you are hiding a secret from your wife, this qualifies as “for worse.” You feel this in your gut. It keeps you awake at night..What’s for certain, however, is that the situation you’re putting yourself in is going to have an impact on you. It’s inescapable. Keeping secrets is like standing chest-deep in water, trying to hold a beach ball down. It takes both hands and lots of energy. But eventually, physics will win out. You’ll run out of energy and the ball will explode through the surface. You will be found out.

4.      How Can We Know that the Bible Teaches that Jesus is God? Justin Taylor offers this tight argument: "Finally, it’s worth remember the helpful summary by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan: ...The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.” The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.” The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!” Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ."

5.      7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness: Great stuff, as always, by Sam Allberry: "Certain misconceptions never seem to go away: The Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), or shaving makes your hair grow back thicker (it doesn’t). A significant misconception that has been around for many years is that singleness is a bad thing. This is partly due to a confluence of our culture’s focus on romantic fulfillment as key to being whole with common Christian thinking that marriage itself is the goal of the Christian life."

The Light and You

The Light and You

I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. During the dead of winter, there are several weeks where the sun skims the horizon for a mere four hours a day.[i] If you move north to the Arctic Circle, there are days with no sunlight at all.

Can you imagine a world without light? A world where you can’t see your hand in front of your face?

A world without light is a world of terror and fear. It is a world where nothing is revealed and everything is hidden.

Jesus tells us that the world was dark before he came into it. In John 8:12 he tells us that he is the light of the world. Without Jesus the world is utter blackness.

And we are made to be the light. But before we can become the light, we need to have the light illuminate any darkness in us.

In Luke 8, Jesus talks about the lamp that comes into our lives: “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”[ii] 

This passage is usually misunderstood.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What A Ten Year Study on Self-Centeredness Revealed: John Cacioppo concluded, "that focusing on yourself causes you to feel more isolated which causes you to focus even more on yourself. A vicious cycle of self-centeredness and loneliness ensues. To put it plainly — a focus on ourselves grows when we are continually by ourselves." 

2.      Half of Millennial Christians Say It's Wrong to Evangelize: Kate Shellnutt reports on new research from Barna, "Younger folks are tempted to believe instead, “if we just live good enough lives, we can forgo the conversation entirely, and people around us will almost magically come to know Jesus through our good actions and selfless character,” she said. “This style of evangelism is becoming more and more prevalent in a culture constantly looking for the fast track and simple fix.”

3.      What God Does for Us in Suffering: Randy Alcorn offers important wisdom, " There’s no nearness to God without dependence on God. And nothing makes us more dependent on Him than when the bottom drops out."

4.      How to Read the Book of Revelation Well: Great advice by Ian Paul. Every point packs a great punch and is well worth the read. He shares, " This is not an exercise in being ‘academic’ in our reading. It is just the normal discipline of recognising that the Bible was speaking in the language of its context and culture, and this decisively shapes its meaning."

5.      Confronting Defensive People: Jim Van Yperen with seven pieces of advice that we can all use, "A simple rule is this: never confront power with power, confront power with loving truth."

6. Making Faith Your Own or Making Up Your Own Faith? Benjamin Vrbicek reflects on stunning statements from a seminary President.

How to Invite Someone to Church

How to Invite Someone to Church

An encouraging study by Lifeway Research found that two-thirds of churchgoers invited someone to church in the last six months.[i] When was the last time you invited someone to church? What would it look like for you to increase those efforts?

Inviting someone to church isn’t, of course, a substitute for evangelism, but it sure is a great partner in our evangelistic efforts. Similar to our homes, our churches ought to be a place that, while they are primarily for the gathered body of Christ, are also always welcoming to the outsider.

Diana Davis had an excellent post at Lifeway that spurred me to consider ways that I can better engage those God has put in my life with the gospel and be more active in inviting them to church.[ii] I’ve tweaked and whittled her list of 52 down to 17. They are a good challenge for me, and I hope they will be for you as well.  

The Faces of God’s Movement in India

The Faces of God’s Movement in India

Just last month the updated world watch list was published. The list ranks countries that have the highest level of persecution of Christians.[i] Sandwiched between Iran and Syria, India ranked as the country where Christians endure the tenth most persecution in the world. That’s worse than Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and China. India is a very difficult place to be a Christian.

Numbers are one thing, faces and stories are another. Over the past two weeks we had the privilege of meeting hundreds of God’s saints in India who are not merely enduring extreme persecution, but doing so joyfully. Over the course of two weeks we had personal conversations with dozens of these pastors and their wives. Only one said he had not experienced significant persecution and opposition. Every other couple we met lived under the constant threat of violence and most had been beaten and thrown out of their homes at least once.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,”[ii] Jesus said.

Let me tell you some of the stories of these blessed ones[iii]:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       A Visual Journey of How Amazon Became the World's Biggest Retailer: This is an interesting as it is visually compelling.

2.       My Son's Down Syndrome Showed Me the Real Imago DeiThis is a well written and important article. Corey Latta reflects, "The longer I looked along the beam of my experience with Down syndrome, the more I realized that my propensity for sin was enhanced by an intellect, cunning, and premeditation wonderfully absent in my brothers and sisters who have it. People with Down syndrome neither understand nor practice malice, greed, jealousy, or deception the way others do. They speak out of an unmasked honesty. They love without the pretentious and self-protective impairments that taint our relationships."

3.       Why God Still Works Through Fools Like Sampson: Fred Smith minces no words on what he thinks of Sampson and what that tells us about God, "The writer of Judges doesn’t hide any of that or even attempt to justify or condemn his behavior. It is not a tale with a moral. It is not a warning. It is simply a puzzling illustration of how God’s ways are not ours. But if there is hope for Samson, there is hope for us when we have misused our strengths, wasted our gifts, not lived up to God’s calling, and even harmed our friends and family. God can redeem and he does."

4.       Evangelism is Changing: Reflecting on Sam Chan's new book, Jeremy Bouma shares 12 ways that evangelism is changing today. He shares this about the news of salvation, "Various evangelism methods have emphasized differing benefits from salvation: deliverance from hell, forgiveness of sins, the gift of heaven. 'But Graham Cole,' Chan observes, 'believes that the umbrella metaphor for all of these salvation metaphors is peace or shalom' (84). Peace, connecting with the ultimate existential cry of every heart."

5.       The Bizarre Physics of Fire Ants: How is it possible that ants can act like liquid? Unreal. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What Do Americans Really Think About God? Pew's recent polling is revealing. Christianity Today reports, "Even in an era where more of the nation doesn’t ascribe to a higher power at all (10%) or believes in some sort of higher power or spiritual force (33%), a slim majority of Americans (56%) still believe in God “as described in the Bible,” according to the Pew report."

2.       Just How Christian Are the Wealthiest Zip Codes in the US? Not very, it appears. "Both communities also have fewer evangelical Protestants than the national average, data from TheARDA.com shows. Evangelicals account for less than 11 percent of the population in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and a scant 3.4 percent in San Mateo County, California—well below the national average of 16.2 percent."

3.       Children's Crusades: Alan Jacobs takes a cultural phenomenon head-on, "One clever little speciality of adult humans works like this: You very carefully (and, if you’re smart, very subtly) instruct children in the moral stances you’d like them to hold. Then, when they start to repeat what you’ve taught them, you cry “Out of the mouths of babes! And a little child shall lead them!” And you very delicately maneuver the children to the front of your procession, so that they appear to be leading it — but of course you make sure all along that you’re steering them in the way that they should go."

4.       Can a True Christian Have Depression? Jeremy Pierre's answer is excellent. He concludes, "The promise 'the Lord is my light' is most precious from a place of darkness."

5.       Beauty from AboveIncredible shots of America's beautiful landscape.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Massive Self-Storage Industry: If you were going to invest in one industry over the past few decades, it would be hard to beat self-storage, which is now a $32 billion a year industry. Patrick Sisson digs deeper into the industry where "One in 11 Americans pays an average of $91.14 per month to use self-storage, finding a place for the material overflow of the American dream."

2.      Study: Atheists Find Meaning in Life by Inventing Fairy TalesRichard Weikart reflects on a recent report, "The survey admitted the meaning that atheists and non-religious people found in their lives is entirely self-invented. According to the survey, they embraced the position: 'Life is only meaningful if you provide the meaning yourself.'”

3.      Ten Things You Should Know About the CrossPatrick Schreiner concludes, "The cross is not only where our sin is paid for, where the devil is conquered, but the shape of Christianity. As Rutledge has said, 'the crucifixion is the touchstone of Christian authenticity, the unique feature by which everything else. . . is given true significance.'”

4.      Can Social Media Be Saved? Kevin Roose examines whether there might be alternatives to the current quagmire, "I don’t need to tell you that something is wrong with social media. You’ve probably experienced it yourself. Maybe it’s the way you feel while scrolling through your Twitter feed — anxious, twitchy, a little world weary... Or maybe it was this month’s Facebook privacy scandal, which reminded you that you’ve entrusted the most intimate parts of your digital life to a profit-maximizing surveillance machine."

5.      The Owner of the Paper Airplane World Record Shows You How It's Done: You also get to check out John Collins's loop-de-loop plane and his bat plane. Pretty cool.