Evangelism simplified

image credit: CreationSwap user Douglas Shelton

If you’re anything like me, witnessing comes super-easily. It seems I can winsomely turn every conversation I have back to the foundations of the gospel, have people laughing, nodding their head in agreement, crying, and saying, “Amen!” within just a few minutes. I quote a verse, and people cry out, “Please, more truth, Ben!” I sing a hymn while walking down the sidewalk, and people never look at me like I’m a freak … nay, they begin singing along, raising their hands in worship. I just have to encourage them not to close their eyes while they’re walking!

I carry tracts in my pocket, because every time I meet an unbeliever and give them one, they ask me if I’ll baptize them on the spot. I say, “It seems you need to hear about Jesus …” and they immediately respond, saying, “Yes, I’ve been waiting all my life! Please tell me more…” I always have the perfect word to say, the perfect prayer to pray, the perfect timing, and the perfect closing.

Don’t you?

No?!? Yeah, me neither. To me, witnessing is tough. It often feels stilted, forced, and unnatural. I never seem to have the right timing. And trying to perfectly remember each point about the gospel, combined with the fact that I’m nervous — that I feel like the other person hates me for bringing it up, that I feel woefully inadequate to share, that I feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I just know that the other person has to be somewhere else and do something else — makes sharing my faith one of the most difficult activities I ever do.

I think we make it too difficult, though. I know I do.

When it comes to sharing the gospel, let me offer you three steps to think through.

3 Steps to Sharing the Gospel

Follow

Follow Christ. That’s what He calls each of you to do, right? You, living the life God has called you to live and being the person God has uniquely gifted you to be — that’s a great testimony to God. Each of us is a walking billboard for the goodness of God and a testimony that God can redeem, right, and set straight a person’s life. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody expects you to be flawless. (Gasp!) And if you try to portray that to people, you’ll come across as arrogant and fake. You don’t have to have a perfect testimony, but you do have to follow a perfect Savior. That’s essential.

Share

Share your story. Your story is compelling. Riveting. Life-changing (assuming you actually have been changed). And sharing your faith involves sharing your story. Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People will connect with your brokenness more quickly and fully than they ever will your “awesomeness.” Share the junk God’s redeeming you from, the junk you’re done with, the bigger picture He’s inviting you into, and the ways His grace is sufficient and His love is captivating.

Invite

Invite other people into your story. Build relationships with people. And not just so that you can “get them saved.” Genuinely love people. Invest in them. Be their

friend. Listen to their story. Value them as God’s crowning creation. Look for ways to serve them, expecting nothing in return and with no strings attached. In so doing, you’re inviting them into the story that God’s writing through you. I’m convinced that people want to plug into something that’s bigger than themselves. Inviting people into your story, showing how your story fits into the broader story of God’s redemption of His people, does just that.

“THAT’S ALL?”

That’s it. Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we (church leaders) often make it. But it’s also much more difficult. Much more engaging. Much more demanding of your time and effort. Much more challenging of your life.

The goal of evangelism isn’t for the person to walk away with the “right” doctrine. Though doctrine is important, it’s not an end in itself.

Right doctrine should

  • drive us to love others more, not less.
  • move us toward people, not away from them.
  • move us to condemn less, and love more. It should propel us toward kindness and patience, breaking our hearts for those far from Christ.
  • drive us to serve others, looking for nothing in return.

“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21, ESV). All. Day. Long. God’s hands are full of hope, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and blessing. He sent His Son to earth to have a relationship with us. Let’s not reduce the beauty and power of that to mere words. To do so rips the truth of its love, grace, and mercy.

Follow Christ. Share your story. Invite people in. It’s that simple.

Without love, truth is …

Obnoxious.

Offensive.

Impersonal.

Insignificant.

Empty

Relationships matter.

Question: 

Have you ever given someone a tract, and seen the heavens instantly open up?

* I originally had this article published in the Fall 2011 edition of Collegiate Magazine (with a couple of minor tweaks here to fit it in as a blog post. To read more, pick up the magazine HERE

** Image credit: CreationSwap user Douglas Shelton

 

 

The #1 way a young leader can gain influence

Young leaders often feel behind the curve.

Every meeting they attend, every team they lead, every trip they plan…they’re the youngest and least experienced.  And, in my case, I’ve been in the room where everybody present had children older than me.

I can’t tell you how many looks I was flashed that said, “How cute…he’s trying to lead us…isn’t that neat?!?” As a leader, that’s frustrating.

When I started in my current role, I was the youngest on staff.

When I started in my current role, I was the younger than every one of the small group leaders at Grace.

But over time, I’ve been able to grow some level of influence.  And here’s one principle I’ve learned:

Be faithful in the little things.

If I was given a task, even if it didn’t directly relate to my area of leadership, I worked to make sure I completed the task well.  Not just half-heartedly, but with excellence.

If I took on a new responsibility, I made sure that I was 100% faithful, to the best of my abilities and even more so, to exceed expectations.

And this principle is biblical:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much… – Luke 16:10

It’s the little things, the smaller responsibilities, that are the greatest test of character, not the bigger ones.  Letting the ball drop on the “little things” is a symptom of a heart that’s not ready for bigger, weightier things.

If you’re given smaller, less significant assignments and you fail to meet and exceed expectations, why would those who are in leadership over you trust you to meet and exceed expectations in more significant roles?

The insignificant tasks you take on early in leadership may be just that…insignificant.  Except for one thing: they show your character.  And if you want to gain influence, character (even more than age and experience) is key.

A certain level of trust must be granted to you because you’re young.  But a deeper, more substantial level of trust, the one you’re looking for, is earned.

Trust is earned one faithful step at a time.

Be faithful in the small steps.  It’ll pay off in time.

Have you ever dropped the ball on a small responsibility?

Did you see that affect your influence?

 

Follow Friday

I’m convinced that Twitter and social networking are operating on the cutting edge of society.  Not necessarily the platform itself, but the opportunities it opens up for the spread of ideas.  What used to take hours to reach the print is now being spun out in real time.  What you used to have to wait for the evening news to see, you can now see instantly wherever you are.  What used to take months to get to to the print press as a book is now updated daily.

But social media is so large, now, that it can be tough to find those people that you’d like to follow.

For a while now, Twitter users have been promoting their friends using the hashtag #FF (which stands for Follow Friday).  Basically, on Friday, you mention a few people that you enjoy following on Twitter, and encourage others to follow them, too.  (by the way, if you need a crash course on the language of Twitter, read mine HERE)  Here’s an example:

It’s kind of like Facebook’s “Suggest” button.  Mike suggests that people follow these Twitterers.  Make sense?

I’m taking this concept one step further.  I’ve been on Twitter now for about 2.5 years, and have stumbled upon some great leaders.  To save you the time of reading their updates and visiting their blogs to see if they’re worth following, I’m handpicking the best of the best.

Not on Twitter?  No worries. Even if you don’t use Twitter, you can follow people on Twitter. Just open up a Google Reader account, and subscribe to their RSS Twitter feed. (that sentence lose you? Don’t fear. My explanation of Google Reader is HERE)

Each week, I’ll present a different crop of Twitterers that you need to be following.  This week, I give you 5 people who are influencing me right now.  You should follow them…immediately.

5 people influencing me:

Seth Godin - Seth Godin is a entrepreneur, author, and speaker.  And he’s a marketing genius.  His books are helping shape the way I think about leadership and influence. Follow him on Twitter, @ThisIsSethsBlog and find him on his website HERE.

Matt Chandler – Pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, TX.  I often listen to Matt’s sermons when I run…which means I laugh, I’m convicted, and when I’m done running, I have pages worth of notes in my head.  My small group is also going through his Philippians study.  Follow him on Twitter, @mattchandler74

Michael Hyatt – Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael is a prolific blogger (blog HERE) and Twitterer.  His content is consistently helpful and insightful for me in my area of leadership.  With my love of leading and writing, I don’t miss one of his posts.  Follow him on Twitter, @michaelhyatt

John Burke – Pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. His book No Perfect People Allowed will mess you up. Follow him on Twitter, @johnburke_, though he’s not a prolific Twitterer.

Rick Warren – To be honest, when the Purpose Driven Life craze was in full swing, I was not on that bandwagon.  Not because I had anything against it…I just hadn’t bought in yet.  Or read it.  Which explains why I hadn’t bought in.  On top of that, early in my ministry career, Rick Warren was lumped into a category of pastors who were seeker-friendly at the expense of the Gospel.  I’ve learned that that category is far from fair with Rick.  His short Twitter updates strike to the heart. Follow him on Twitter, @rickwarren

Who’s influencing you?

 

Directions

My wife and I just got back from a trip to the United Kingdom.  While there, we visited the city of Windsor.

Windsor is a charming town, with cobblestone streets, vendors selling pastries, and lots of people roaming the markets.  The queen also resides occasionally at Windsor Castle, and while we were there, she happened to be in town.

There were a whole lot of tourists visiting…many, I’m sure, hoping to spot the queen.

For whatever reason, we didn’t look like tourists that day (even though it was our first day there, and I’m sure we still had that wide-eyed look that tourists seem to have), and were stopped and asked the question, “Do you know where the McDonald’s is?”

Don’t mind the irony of the situation (the fact that they were asking a couple of Americans, who weren’t in America, where an American restaurant was located).  We really weren’t sure where the McDonald’s was located.  It seemed like we had passed one (and passed we did…we refused to eat American food while in the UK) earlier, so we pointed them in the direction we thought best.  Turns out we were right.

Turns out we were right.

But we could have just as easily have been wrong.

Just because we were American didn’t mean we knew where the McDonald’s was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole process of mentoring lately.  Maybe because I’m at that stage where I need a lot of help. (will I ever get out of this stage?  Would it even be healthy if I did exit this stage?)  Maybe it’s because I see others’ errors more easily than I see my own (that’s a problem, I know).  Maybe it’s because I thoroughly enjoy learning from others.  But I’m not going to just choose to learn from anybody.  I mean, I’ll read lots of books.  Listen to lots of podcasts.  Read lots of blogs.  But when it comes to asking somebody to specifically speak truth into my life, I’m being very picky.

And I think you should as well.

Because the people who are influencing me now really are influencing me.  They’re shaping the way that I look as a husband, a dad, and a pastor.  And for some odd reason, I think that’s pretty important.

In looking for help thinking through your current stage in life, choose wisely.

Just because someone’s a dad doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing.

Just because someone’s a pastor doesn’t mean they can help give you the counsel you need.

Just because someone’s a leader doesn’t mean that they can help you take the next steps you need to take.

They may be right.

But then again, they may not even be in the right country.

The people who are influencing you now really are influencing you.

 

I Lost My Voice, and So Did You?

I lost my voice on Sunday, and still haven’t been able to get it back. I’m able to squeak out a whisper most of the time, but that’s about all I’ve got.

Why is it that people feel the need to speak softly to me now? As if somehow their soft voice mimicking my hoarseness makes me feel better. Or makes the conversation go more smoothly. Maybe they’re doing it consciously, but honestly, I think it’s an unconscious reaction much of the time.

I see the same thing in other areas of life. We take on characteristics/attitudes/quirks of those we spend time with. We begin to laugh at the same jokes. Use the same illustrations. Care about the same things.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are easily influenced by those closest to us. Which places an even higher priority on finding friends who will help us to grow in our faith, instead of taking steps further from God.

I’ve lost my voice. And if you spend much time around me, you may lose yours, too.