Friday, January 26, 2018

Becoming a Contagious Christian: Words of Faith Encouragement

We have spent this first month of the year thinking about how we can be more missional in our faith in 2018.  To help spur our thoughts, we’ve used the book Becoming a Contagious Christian, which I
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believe presents a good vision of how Christians should reach out to others in a more genuine, natural way than is often taught.

If you have read the book or read our first two articles on this topic, you remember that the book has a formula built around Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:13-16 that His followers should be salt and light:

HP (High Potency) + CP (Close Proximity) + CC (Clear Communication) = MI (Maximum Impact)

We first explored the idea of being “High Potency” Christians – we must truly be salt, people who are different from the rest of the world, with a commitment and love for Christ that will be obvious to anyone who is around us for any length of time. 

Last week we considered being “Close Proximity” Christians – the salt must make contact in order to make a difference, and too often Christians don’t form the friendships with unbelievers like Jesus did (Luke 15:1-2, etc).  We called this “The Ministry of Friendship,” the idea that we should extend kindness, encouragement, and some measure of friendship to those God brings into our lives.  Whether they eventually become Christians or not, we can be like Jesus by showing people we genuinely care about them and trying to be a blessing to their lives by being a part of their lives.

The last part of the book’s equation for Maximum Impact is “Clear Communication.”  Here they point to Jesus’ image of light (Matthew 5:14), reminding us that light shows the way, and encouraging Christians to speak the words that show the way to others.

The Intimidating Part, We Think

This is the part of outreach that tends to scare us: actually speaking words to people about faith.  Faith conversations may scare us because some people present outreach as if Christians are giving a salesman routine in order to trick people into becoming Christians.  That’s not what biblical evangelism is.  We are not trying to manipulate people into becoming Christians – people are not combination locks that will magically open if you just turn the right numbers and say the perfect words.  Sharing the gospel with others is much more genuine than manipulation or salesmanship.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Becoming a Contagious Christian: The Ministry of Friendship

It’s January, and we’re thinking about how we can be more missional in our faith this year!  So we’re starting by sharing some thoughts inspired by the book Becoming a Contagious Christian
If you remember from last week’s article, the book has a formula, based in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:13-16 that His followers should be salt and light:

HP (High Potency) + CP (Close Proximity) + CC (Clear Communication) = MI (Maximum Impact)

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So last week we began with “High Potency,” the idea that we must first be salt.  If we want to make a
difference in the world for Christ, we must first be different in ourselves, with a genuine love, faith, and commitment that others can see in us.  That starting point makes sense to me.  I told you my favorite mental image of evangelism is “overflow,” the idea that I first have a strong faith and passion in myself, which naturally overflows onto those around me.  So before I have anything to share with others, I must make sure that I am truly living a genuine and committed life (not perfect, but genuine and committed) for Christ.

Once I have committed myself to truly being salt, I can then think about the next step of being missional in my faith…

Close Proximity, Just Like Jesus

Salt makes no difference unless we take it out of the salt shaker and let it make contact!  In the same way, we must have genuine (there’s that word again) contact with the world to make a difference.  How do we do that?
Well, let’s first notice that Jesus is once again the example for us.  He leaves heaven to come to earth, to be physically present with those He wants to draw closer to God.  And in His time here, we often see Him simply spending time with people.  Some examples:

·         The woman at the well is surprised that Jesus talks to her and shows kindness to her.  That’s the first thing she noticed about Him.  (John 4:7-9)
·         He goes to wedding feasts with family and friends (John 2:1-11). 
·         He eats in Levi’s home with a great crowd of tax collectors, showing friendship to people the Pharisees considered beneath them (Luke 5:29-32).
·         He regularly eats with people in homes (Luke 7:36-39, Luke 14:1-24). 
·         Jesus was with people so much that some criticized Him for “eating and drinking” as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19).

In fact, that last statement is a good summary: Jesus was a friend to people.  Now to be clear: Jesus wasn’t just a friend – He had a message people needed to hear, and He was eager to share it (more on that next week).  So it wasn’t that Jesus was “just a nice guy.”  But He started by extending friendship to anyone He came across.

And do you know what Jesus’ friendships often led to?  Opportunities to help people draw closer to God.  Look at Luke 15:1: “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.”  People who were far from God – tax collectors and sinners – wanted to listen to Jesus!  Why?  Not because He told them what they wanted to hear, but because of what the Pharisees said in the next verse: “this man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Jesus had the ability to “receive” people as friends, to “eat with them” as friends, and that ability to extend friendship led to open doors for them to hear the gospel.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Becoming a Contagious Christian: Starting With Me

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It has become a January tradition for me to sit down and flip through the book Becoming a Contagious Christian, a book I first read years ago and have taught in Bible classes before (I probably need to teach it again sometime soon).  The start of each year causes me to think about about how we can be more missional in the next 12 months, both in our church family outreach and in my own personal faith, and that book is one of my favorite evangelism books to revisit.

If you’re looking for a book to help you become more missional this year, I think Becoming a Contagious Christian is a good one.  Like most books, you’ll find things you don’t agree with.  The writers have a different denominational background, and so you’ll notice their belief that you become a Christian in a different way (saying a prayer) than what we find in the New Testament (faith, repentance, baptism).  But if we can look past that (important) disagreement, I think the book as a whole shares a good perspective on evangelism.  It’s a very real approach, not salesman-like or manipulative.  Too often, Christians fear evangelism because it doesn’t feel real to them – it feels fake or forced, as if we are trying to trick people into becoming Christians, and doing it through approaches that don’t feel natural to our own personality.  This book helps overcome some of those misunderstandings, and points us toward a more relational and encouragement-based perspective, sharing our faith in ways that allow people to see the gospel in us and make their own decision.  Even more importantly, it draws from the teaching and example of Jesus.

So I’d like to take 3 blog articles (starting with this one) to share some thoughts from and inspired by that book, perhaps helping us be more missional this year, or at least help us plant seeds to grow in that direction.

The “Formula” of the Book

The book presents a “formula” based on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:13-16:
(13) You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  (14) You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  (15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  (ESV)
The formula they get from that passage is based in Jesus’ images of Christians as salt and light:

HP (High Potency) + CP (Close Proximity) + CC (Clear Communication) = MI (Maximum Impact)

As the book suggests, all 3 of those elements are needed to add up to Maximum Impact for Christ.  The first part of the equation, High Potency, demands that we truly be salt.  As Jesus said in verse 13, if salt loses its saltiness you might as well throw it out.  It’s not going to make a difference like it should have made.  So if I want to have Maximum Impact on the world (the last part of that equation), I first must have High Potency in myself – I must truly be distinct as someone who is living with a real faith.

Am I Salt?

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Real Story of 2018

Have you settled into 2018 yet?  We are already 5 days in, but with so much still left to go! 

I always enjoy the articles around this time of year that summarize the big events of the past year and preview the year ahead.  They make us think about how every year brings new stories and new things we’ll be talking about.

So what will be the big stories we will be talking about in 2018?  Well, we of course don’t know the specifics, but if we simply pause to think ahead, we know several things that will happen this year:
  • Some of America’s Winter Olympic athletes will become new household names (February).
  • People will celebrate Britain’s royal wedding (May).
  • The soccer world will be focused on Russia, who will host the World Cup (July).
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    • Moviegoers will be excited about another Star Wars movie, another Jurassic Park movie, and another Marvel movie.
    • Business people will anxiously watch to see which city Amazon will choose for its new second headquarters.
    • Like recent years, we will see more technology advances in things like phones and driverless cars and voice-recognition assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home.
    • We will hear the media talk nonstop about how every government action will affect the upcoming midterm elections for Congress.
    • People will argue about Donald Trump.
    • The sports world will have another year of heros, championships, disappointments, and endless TV debates.

    Those are some of the things people will be talking about in 2018.  They will be the headlines, along with the controversies and scandals and public apologies that we know will happen, we just don’t yet know who or where or what. 

    But from a faith perspective, will those really be the stories of 2018?