Tag Archives: Bible

Your Elevator Speech

elevatorThe word evangelism can strike fear in the hearts of many Christians. The thought of knocking on doors to talk to strangers about your faith in Jesus or the idea of standing up in front of a group to say what you believe about Jesus can be very intimidating.

But evangelism doesn’t have to be like that.

I turn to the words of Peter and John in Acts 4 as a guide for a good approach to evangelism. The two disciples were called in by the leaders of the church at the time to essentially stop evangelizing about Jesus to the crowds in Jerusalem. Here was their response:

“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20)

Our attitude as Christ’s followers should be that we cannot help but talk about Jesus wherever we are, whatever we are doing. We have seen him at work in our lives. We have heard in God’s Word his message of our salvation through his death and resurrection of his Son.

Even the church leaders in Jerusalem could not help but notice something extraordinary was going on with how Peter and John were evangelizing:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

This verse helps me remember that I do not need to be a Bible scholar to evangelize and I don’t need to have just the right words to say. The truth of my faith in Jesus will come naturally from my mouth and I do not have to be afraid because the Holy Spirit will give me the confidence I need. I may be an ordinary person, but God can help me do extraordinary things through him.

A common question these days in the field of evangelism is, “What is your elevator speech?” In other words, what can you say about your faith in Jesus to someone you are standing next to in an elevator for a brief time? The answer is simple: Tell what you have seen and heard about Jesus. Whoever is listening will get the message loud and clear.

 

 

 

A-literacy and the Church

no readingIn an interesting article in the October 2017 issue of First Things. columnist Mark Bauerlein explains that we currently live in a society where younger generations are a-literate, meaning that they can read, but they don’t read much of anything. A 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts found that only half of 18- to 24-year-olds read a book during leisure hours during the preceding 12 months.

What does that mean for the church? Quite a lot, actually. If no one is reading anything, and if the basis of our growing in faith is built on reading, learning and inwardly digesting the Word of God, then that is a problem.

If they are not reading, how are people being fed words and getting information, then? Our lives are filled the sound bites and short quotes and pithy statements on Facebook and Twitter and on TV scrolls. But are we getting deeper into the meaning behind these words? Most likely not.

The old models of in-depth Bible studies are lost on younger generations, and have led, in general, to a decline in Bible class attendance on Sunday mornings.

So what is a church to do to appeal to the increasingly alliterate society. One thought I have is that the church needs to be more and more present on social media platforms with intriguing words of Scripture that then start a conversation thread and a larger discussion moderated by leaders in the church of the meaning and impact of the Word of God on our everyday lives. That is one way of reaching the younger generations with the Word in the places where they are reading and receiving information.

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Adiaphora

carpetingI have lately been contemplating the concept of adiaphora. Not only because it is fun to say, but because many of the things we spend a lot of our time thinking about in the Church oftentimes fall into the category of adiaphora.

In general for Christians, adiaphora means “matters not regarded as essential to faith, but nevertheless permissible or allowed in the church.”

Things like discussions of the floor covering in the sanctuary or the color of the paint on the walls of the fellowship hall, for example, are not essential to faith, but do constitute a large part of our time sometimes. Adiaphora.

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The Bible Reads Us

Bible reading

Let the Bible read you.

In the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of the Concordia Journal, Prof. Erik Herrmann says in an article on the relevance of remembering the Reformation, “There is a saying that ‘there are some books that you read, and then there are some books that read you.’ For Luther, the Bible was that second kind of book. He did not see the Scriptures primarily as the object of our interpretation, but rather we are the objects as the Scriptures interpret us” (Concordia Journal, Winter/Spring 2017, p. 24).

Letting the Bible read us instead of us reading the Bible completely changes our approach to the study of Scripture. We are not to lay our own thoughts and opinions and values onto Scripture. Instead, we need to let the messages of Scripture overlay onto us and reveal where we are at in our spiritual lives.

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Coloring Craze

coloringI’m sure by now most of you are aware of the adult coloring book craze that is sweeping the nation. I for one cannot make sense of its appeal. Maybe because I had tough art teachers in the past who reprimanded me for not coloring “in the lines,” and I am afraid of not “doing it right.”

But the theory behind it is that coloring is a creative endeavor and clears our minds of troubling thoughts and sharpens our brains’ abilities in other tasks.

The craze has made inroads into Christian publishing recently with adult coloring books being launched that include religious imagery and Bible verses. The books are presented as a kind of tool to use as a devotional or meditative spiritual outlet. And many are finding that to be so for themselves in their personal faith-walk.

Going a step further, there is a larger trend developing in the publication of Bibles that includes more white space in the margins to allow for drawing, doodling, coloring and note-taking on the Scripture passages on the pages. I do like this idea, because it makes the activity of Bible-reading something that is more personal, more intimate, more tangible, more practical, and less academic and structured and orderly. Continue reading →

What Is Essential?

praying handsThe June 2016 issue of Christianity Today reported on the findings of a recent Pew Research Center survey that asked the question, “What is essential to being a Christian?” (They could choose more than one thing.)

Among all Christians surveyed:

86% said “Believing in God”

71% said “Being grateful”

69% said “Forgiving others”

67% said “Being honest”

63% said “Praying regularly”

42% said “Reading the Bible”

35% said “Attending church”

What would YOU say is essential to being a Christian?

I say it is “Being more like Jesus every day.” What does that mean?

For me, I go back to that classic song from my childhood days, which said, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Our love for others is what is essential to our Christian faith and what we should focus our attention on. It is, of course, at the heart of the Greatest Commandment that Jesus gave to us:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35

Our love from Christ is what sets us apart as Christians in this world.

And the love Christ showed was selfless, all-embracing, outside of the norm and ceaseless.

My prayer is that it is this kind of Christ-like love that defines who we are as Christians 100%.

Favorite Verses

favorite versesIn the June 2016 Thrivent magazine, there was an article in which people related their favorite Bible verses and why they were so meaningful to them.

Here are some of them:

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:16

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever. —Psalm 125:2

Then came this verse:

The Lord turned to him [Gideon] and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?“ —Judges 6:14

This verse struck a chord with me in that moment because I was feeling over-busy and bedraggled. And the words “go in the strength YOU HAVE” really registered with me and gave me hope and confidence that I could accomplish the multiple tasks that laid before me. I may not feel the strongest I have ever felt, but God has given me the strength I DO have to do great things, which is something I need to be grateful for and remind myself of daily.

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Keeping the Sabbath

people in churchIt seems like it is getting hard and harder these days to “keep the Sabbath,” unfortunately. There are so many competing activities on any given Sunday morning with soccer games conflicting and sporting events starting at noon and homework and family obligations that have to be taken care of before the end of the weekend.

The wife of a friend of mine recently said, “The devil is really hard at work on Sunday morning.” It’s a fact, especially in households with teenagers, where it is more difficult than ever to get them to wake up and go to church with so many other things to do.

But that is exactly why we must keep the Sabbath, to keep all the competing events in perspective. If we don’t have time for God on Sunday morning, what does that say about having time for God during the other days of the week?

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The “Perfect” Small Group Leader

small group leader 2

I only wish I actually looked as cool as this.

I lead Bible class at my church from time to time, so I was struck by this image of “the miraculous small group leader” in an advertisement for smallgroup.com in Pastor Resources magazine recently.

I decided to take look at each trait described in this image and see what I could learn from it and think of ways to apply it to my own leading of my Bible class small group.

  • Coffee aura. While I don’t drink coffee, I have gotten into the habit of bringing a soda can with me in an effort to calm any nerves I might have. In the process I have learned that having a beverage of any kind in my hand breeds a sense of familiarity, a humanness, an approachability that opens up participants to feel freer to engage in conversations and feel comfortable doing so. Having a “coffee aura” gives leaders a vibe that we are all in this together. We all need something to get us going in the morning. We are all seeking to know God more. I am not there to dictate all the answers, but just to start a dialog about what it means to be a faithful Christian in this world today. Continue reading →