Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

Marking a first for Caffeinated Thoughts I wanted to introduce you to our first guest blogger, Narciso Zamora.  Pastor Zamora will be joining us this week for his “Walking Man Blog Tour”.

Pastor Zamora has been a church-planting missionary for over 25 years in Peru, Ecuador, and Chile.  He is currently establishing an institute in Peru to train Latin Americans to be missionaries within their own continent.

Pastor Zamora has walked the message of Christ into the mountains, jungles, fields and forests of his native Peru and throughout Ecuador and Chile. Dreading the life of hard labor offset by nights of drunken stupor that his father modeled, Zamora ran away from home after high school. He lived a vagrant’s life, surviving through delinquency, until through the generous support of a Christian family, Zamora came to know Christ. He left the jungle to study at a seminary in Lima.

He has recently written a book called Walking Man which recounts Zamora’s winding and treacherous path, literally and figuratively, toward finding his calling in missions. Characteristic of Zamora’s more than 30 years of mission experiences is his determination to go anywhere he felt called to preach and teach – walking day and night into the jungle or trekking from valley to alpine zone and back down the other side of the mountain, just to reach an isolated village.

With half a dozen well-established congregations in place in Peru, Zamora affiliated the churches with an international denomination and later moved to Ecuador and Chile planting churches. In Chile a new trial faced the Zamora family when his wife’s kidneys started to fail. Dealing with the emotional turmoil of a chronically ill spouse wore more heavily on him than any adversity he had encountered in his ministry. Zamora became depressed and in this chapter of his life, he learned new lessons and gained new insights into what it means to carry the cross of Christ.

Anyway, I look forward to Pastor Zamora’s guest blog this week and I hope you stop by to check it out and be sure to visit the Walking Man website.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Read Full Post »

I don’t work with many Muslims in my ministry with Serve Our Youth Network, but I have had a few, believe it or not, come through our Bible discussion groups while they were in juvenile detention center.  They are typically Bosnian or occasionally an American-born Black Muslim… not necessarily as devout as what we see in say a madrasah in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, this commentary by Chuck Colson peaked my interest.  What brings Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ?

Colson references a questionnaire done by Dr. Dudley Woodbury, professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary to find out the answer to that question.  His survey of 750 Muslims who converted to Christianity shows five main reasons why they chose to place their faith in Jesus.

  1. The lifestyle of Christians. Former Muslims cited the love that Christians exhibited in their relationships with non-Christians and their treatment of women as equals.
  2. The power of God in answered prayers and healing. Experiences of God’s supernatural work—especially important to folk Muslims who have a characteristic concern for power and blessings—increased after their conversions, according to the survey. Often dreams about Jesus were reported.
  3. Dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the Qur’an, emphasizing God’s punishment over his love. Others cited Islamic militancy and the failure of Islamic law to transform society.
  4. The spiritual truth in the Bible. Muslims are generally taught that the Torah, Psalms, and the Gospels are from God, but that they became corrupted. These Christian converts said, however, that the truth of God found in Scripture became compelling for them and key to their understanding of God’s character.
  5. Biblical teachings about the love of God. In the Qur’an, God’s love is conditional, but God’s love for all people was especially eye-opening for Muslims. These converts were moved by the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The next step for many Muslims was to become part of a fellowship of loving Christians.

It is easy to paint Muslims with the “would-be jihadist” brush.  It quite another thing to reach out to them with the love of Christ.  I believe that ultimately the only (lasting) way the war on terror will be won is through God through Christ changing hearts and transforming lives in the Islamic world.  Muslims are turning to Jesus throughout the world even in places where it will cost them.  We need to lift them up in prayer and support them anyway we can.

It may start with reaching out to Muslims next door.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Read Full Post »

When I was a kid my family and I attended a small rural church several miles outside of the town I grew up in.  I remember going to VBS, Christmas programs and the fact the church didn’t have indoor plumbing.  I remember that the pastor was in the outhouse when a bull snake presented itself.  Let’s just say we were laughing about that for quite some time.

They were good people.  I had a good time.  I didn’t hear much about having a relationship with Jesus there.  Then when I was in junior high we quit going.  I’m not sure why, but there wasn’t an intersection with my life.  So I didn’t miss it.

From junior high until the summer before my senior year in high school I did not have one person tell me about Jesus.  My freshman year I met a guy after moving into Des Moines who invited me to church, but he quit spending time with me when I found excuses each time I was asked.  I didn’t encounter anyone who had a heart for somebody like me who was outside the faith.

That isn’t the heart of Jesus.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” (Matthew 9:35-38, ESV).

He would look at those around him and have compassion on them.  He saw past people’s facade and saw their brokenness and pain.  He loved lost people.  He knew as well that the harvest of those outside the faith would be plentiful if we would pray to Him to provide workers.

We’ve been looking at the Church in Jerusalem and we have seen a continual devotion to growth and obedience to God’s word.  We saw that the enjoyed and were committed to the fellowship that they shared.  They were also enjoyed God,  worshipping him continually in small groups and large.

If we were to stop looking at this passage, we would have a very inward view of the Church.  On its own Acts 2:42 presents a very lopsided picture of the church’s life.  That wasn’t all that was going on though.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved, (Acts 2:42-47, ESV, emphasis mine).

It is important to realize, the Lord did it.  It was He who added to their number those who who were saved.  The Church was being the Church and He provided the fruit of their faithfulness.  This first church had a contagious community and that was attractive to those on the outside looking in.

They were also faithful in getting the good news of Jesus’ death & resurrection out.  They couldn’t contain themselves.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ, (Acts 5:42, ESV).

Praise and proclamation were both the natural overflow of hearts that are full of the Holy Spirit.  And as their witness was continuous, so continuously were people being saved.

The great 19th century American evangelist D.L. Moody was once approached by a woman who criticized him for his methods in attempting to win people to the Lord.

Moody replied, “I agree with you.  I don’t like the way I do it either.  Tell me, how do you do it?”

The woman replied, “I don’t do it.”

Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

The key is faithfulness, not so much our methods.  We do need to be relevant.  We do need to be winsome.  But we also have to remember that the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist, not us.  Our goal is not to see people as targets, and move on to the next person if they are not responsive (much like I experienced my freshman year in high school).  Rather we need to faithfully share, with those whom we love and encounter, the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:16-17, ESV)

The Gospel is powerful.  We shouldn’t be ashamed to share it.  It is good news, why would we not want to pass the word along? 

Do you intentionally look for ways to build bridges with those outside the faith that you know or encounter?  Do you have compassion for those without Christ, or are you like the woman who spoke to D.L. Moody?  Do you partner with others to share Christ with your friends, family and coworkers who don’t know Him?  Does your church have a heart for those who need Jesus?  Do you know how to share your faith effectively?

It is my prayer that you and your church will seek to be contagious for Jesus.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Read Full Post »

Judge not, that you be not judged,” (Matthew 7:1, ESV).

That seems to be a favorite Bible verse today.  I won’t get into the problem that is is often misapplied and ripped out of its context in this post.  The point is that things have changed and the Church is definitely perceived differently today than it was by a previous generation.

The Church is now seen as judgmental, and that is the topic of Chapter 8 of the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.   This is one of outsiders’ most significant concerns about Christianity – that Christians are judgmental.

Respondents to our surveys believe Christians are trying, consciously or not, to justify feelings of moral and spiritual superiority.  One outsider described it like this: “Christians like to hear themselves talk.  They are arrogant about their beliefs, but they never bother figuring out what other people actually think.  They don’t seem to be very compassionate, especially when they feel strongly about something.”

The authors define what being judgmental is in this way:

To be judgmental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized.  Some part of their potential to be a Christ followers is snuffed out.  Being judgmental is fueled by self-righteousness, the misguided inner motivation to make our own life look better by comparing it to the lives of others.

The authors learned that 87% of young outsiders and 53% of young churchgoers believe that the label of judgmental accurately fits present-day Christianity.  Judgmental attitudes are difficult for Mosaics and Busters for a couple of reasons according to the authors.

  1. They are insightful people’s motives.
  2. They are increasingly resistant to simplistic, black-and-white views of the world.

Pointing people to Jesus is not achieved by being popular.  The outrage of outsiders does not change or diminish God’s expectations.  People still have to answer to a holy judge.

Yet an entire generation of those inside and outside the church are questioning our motives as Christians.  They believe we are more interested in proving we are right than that God is right.  They say Christians are more focused on condemning people than helping people become more like Jesus.  Could this be telling us we have lost something in the way we articulate and describe God’s expectations?  Are we more concerned with the unrighteousness of others than our own self-righteousness, (emphasis mine)?

The authors point out that followers of Christ need to understand the distinction between condemning people and helping them become soft-hearted – “aware of, and sensitized to God’s standards.”  Often times when we point out sin in others we fail to do anything for the people affected by that sin.  “The perception is that Christians are know more for talking about issues than doing anything about them.”

If we cross the line and judge people to make ourselves feel better, we are just as sinful as those whose actions and attitudes we condemn.  Being judgmental pushes people away from God’s purposes, and people become repulsed by an image of Jesus that is not at all like the real thing.  When Christians are judgmental, when we are arrogant and quick to find fault, we are unChristian.

Those surveyed highlighted four forms of judgmental attitudes:

  1. Wrong Verdict: “The first error that Christians make is coming to the wrong conclusion.  God’s judgments are perfect; ours are not.”
  2. Wrong Timing: “We sometimes have the right idea about God’s views, but we describe that verdict in the wrong context or at the wrong time.”
  3. Wrong Motivation: “We may have the right verdict but give it with the wrong motivation.  Scripture is clear that we should be motivated by love.”
  4. Playing Favorites: Being judgmental in reverse.  “It is human nature to show partiality, but favoritism affects the relationships of Christians in unfortunate ways.”

Jesus gives a clear example of pursuing people, of accepting people at face value.  Often he scandalized others by hanging out with the least desirable people in the culture, and his teachings is unambiguous: do not judge others or you’ll face the same yardstick; remove the log from your eye before pulling a splinter from your friend’s eye; and you do not have the right to condemn others, unless you are sinless (see Matthew 7:1-5).  How have Christians gotten so far from this?

Pride.  It is the fuel behind judgmental attitudes.  “Arrogance is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of sin in the church today,” writes Kinnaman.  We have forgotten that God says that he “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6, NIV).

God is the righteous judge.  We are not.  We are not qualified.  He alone does it impartially.  He alone is perfect.   We need to remember the grace that He has shown us.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance, (Romans 2:1-4, ESV – empahsis mine)?

We need to consider how we can build mutual esteem, and some guidelines that outsiders gave:

  1. Listen to me.
  2. Don’t label me.
  3. Don’t be so smart.
  4. Put yourself in my place.
  5. Be genuine.
  6. Be my friend with no other motives.

Build mutual esteem, show respect, exercise humility, and let’s not just talk but let us serve outsiders.  We also need to remember that we all are in need of God’s grace.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Read Full Post »