MAWLing

MAWL is an acronym for Model – Assist – Watch – Leave. As we work through living life as an intentional witness, and as we learn skills/tools that we want to use in engaging the harvest, be thinking about “down stream.” How can we pass along the skill set that people need while doing our best to ensure it remains potent and well done? MAWLing plays a major role in this process. Or, should I say, a balanced MAWLing strategy plays a major role in this process. This is an important distinction because often times we do one part of this process well and the others end up lacking. Here’s some ideas on keeping it balanced.

Modeling – Jesus gives us the best example of modeling in His time on earth, as it is that life-on-life discipleship where we show those we’re discipling what we do and what we expect them to do. As you look at Jesus’s life, you see Him modeling what he wants the disciples to do, even chastising or correcting them when they get it wrong. In Matt. 17, Jesus casts a demon out of a boy that the disciples were not able to cast out. He chastises them, and then corrects them. In Luke 8, we see Jesus at work doing His thing. In Luke 9, he sends the 12 out to do what He had just done with them. In Luke 10, He sends out the 12 along with 60 others. The modeling principle colored all that Jesus did with His disciples. It’s important to note here that Jesus hasn’t pulled them into a sterile classroom setting and given them practice reps in the skill set and then sent them out. Too often, our modeling isn’t real modeling. We seek to instill a skill set in the sterile environment of a safe training setting, which is really teaching. And while this teaching may be enough for some skill sets, others require us to get out there and get our hands dirty with people, modeling for them rather than simply imparting a skill set. The intangibles come through in that real-life setting. Many church planting coaches are now seeing that where there’s a problem or obstacle with indigenous work, the modeling element has either not been done well or will serve as the tool to break through the obstacle.

Assisting – I often hear, “Oh, I could never do that. You’re the expert/professional/pastor.” That’s the perfect time to say, “Come on, we’ll go together. And if you get stuck, I’ll be standing right there to help you out.” There’s just something about having that presence with us in times of need, that confidence that someone’s got your back if things go south. And our presence can be that calming factor for those we’re MAWLing. This is one of the two weakest points in our MAWLing process overall. In John 4, we read that Jesus was receiving pressure because He was doing so many baptisms. And then John gives us almost a side note: although Jesus Himself wasn’t doing the baptisms, but His disciples. He was there with them, standing beside them, being associated with them, and no doubt helping them figure it all out. Let’s face it; you guys are awesome! And in your competence, you carry an attitude of being able to get the job done. And, sometimes, it’s almost natural to step in and “take over” what could be a touchy situation. After all, we want to win people. We want to equip people. And, we are competent, capable people. But there is something to be said for the teachable moment that comes through hardship. That discovery process can be short-changed because of our capabilities. Jesus let His disciples struggle; even fail (see Matt. 17 above) to impart what they needed. Don’t be too quick to jump in. But to jump in means we need to be there with them, standing by them and providing the nudges that will bring them through.

Watching – This one seems straight forward, right? We stand back and watch them do. But it’s at this point that I want to shift the paradigm a bit by asking the question, “What are we watching them do?” Are we watching them perform a skill? Or are we watching them assist someone else in learning that skill? There’s a huge difference here, and it’s this difference that’s making a big impact on the movements happening around the world. It’s in this watching-phase that, as Jeff Sundell says, practitioners have found the sweet spot! So, think of it like this:

Person 1 (you):        M         A          W        L

Person 2:                              M         A          W        L

Person 3:                                          M         A          W        L

Getting to the WAM seems to be breaking through the problems of passing DNA on to the 3rd Generation, giving DNA the best chance to make its way downstream. Here’s what I mean. You, as a discipler, have been Modeling for someone a skill set that’s necessary for their maturing. And, of course, you make that shift to Assisting them as you work together with that skill set. But what we often miss is that they should have someone they are modeling with, too. This is where person 3 comes in. Once person two has the skill set, your task becomes watching them assist person 3.   For example, if John has been sharing with Mike, and Mike decides to follow Jesus, John wants to model for Mike how to read & learn from the Bible. At some point, John wants Mike to be modeling that for someone else while John helps Mike. Mike begins modeling Bible learning for Chris with John’s help. At the point that Mike begins helping Chris, John is now free to watch Mike as Mike helps Chris. Only when Chris starts modeling the skill for someone is John free to take a step back and let the process roll. In doing so, we’re instilling a skill set into the fourth generation!

Leave – Notice in the above example I didn’t say John was free to leave. I think this step is often misunderstood. Leaving in this process means taking a big step back and letting the process roll, and not that you leave them and never make contact again. The reality is, there may be questions, problems, obstacles, or who knows what which require your help. And if you leave, you’ll not be available to offer that help. The key here is to allow them to wrestle and struggle for the solution without your direct and immediate intervention. But even Paul spoke back into the places he’d “left” to deal with vexing problems that reared their ugly heads (sloppy worship practices, circumcision, and legalism, just to name a few). But his direction in such things was more prescriptive than directive. He readdressed the theology behind the sound principle, often with very strong language, trusting them to take what he’d prescribed and applying it to their setting. So, in essence, leaving isn’t really leaving at all. It’s handing ownership over, not abandonment. Think of this as Jesus telling the disciples that they will be His witnesses, and that He’s going away, but He would send a helper to guide them. He didn’t really leave. His coaching, His leading just took on a different look.

Who?

In 2012, I attended a conference for church planters and cross-cultural witnesses. I heard a breakout session leader give his 7 tips for reaching your people/city. Each one started with “Get out of your apartment and…” At first I was a little offended as it struck me as condescending. DUH! Of course we’re getting out of our apartments. It’s what God sent us out to do! But I’ve found over years that it’s not always a given that we’re out there engaging our culture.   It’s very easy to find yourself in a pattern of life that keeps you apart from those we should be reaching. Before you know it, it’s Saturday, and you’re thinking, “Where did the week go? What did I get done?” We’ve all been there. So, rather than assuming it, I want to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis and engage the culture around you. To help you do that, I want to look at some intentional activities that we should be employing in our contexts, all the while knowing that these things will potentially look different for each of us.

If we are going to be obedient and intentional, we will be engaging the world around us to assess where they are spiritually. There are 2 general categories for people: saved and unsaved, or lost & found. And, if statistics can be trusted, this becomes an easy task: They’re all lost! No, just kidding. But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of those we encounter are indeed lost and in need of The Gospel. As a practitioner, this activity drives our work. This diagnosis brings a sobering reality that over 80% of the people you’ll encounter today are separated from God by sin and stand in danger of His wrath. So, how do we make a difference?

There are two tools I use in identifying who I need to be sharing with. The first are the Name Lists: two lists containing everyone I know. The first list has the names of everyone we know who is far from God. The second list has the names of Jesus Followers who could join us in the work. These lists remind us of our responsibility for speaking The Gospel into the lives of people we know.   And it answers a question that most Christians pose when we talk about engaging the culture: “With whom should I be sharing? I don’t know any lost people.” The Name Lists remind us that we are connected to many who need to know/experience The Gospel. One important thing here to remember is a phrase that I learned from Jeff Sundell. It’s the phrase “from secondary to primary.” In America, one way to get an idea of how many people you’re connected to is you address book in your phone. We can also think in terms of spheres of influence or affinity: work, hobby, family, neighborhood, traffic patterns, etc. I want you to stop reading at this point, and take 5 minutes to begin your first name list: the people you know who are far from God.

Leave this list where you can see it every day. At first, I put it in my smartphone. However, I quickly forgot it was there, and had to think about it before I remembered to open it. Write this list on paper and leave it where you can see it every day SO THAT you will begin praying for those on your list EVERY DAY. If it’s a big list, pray for chunks of it each day. Pray three simple things for those on your list: 1) that they would encounter God in a supernatural way this week, 2) that God would touch their hearts this week, and 3) that you would have courage to open your mouth and share the Gospel with them.

The second Name List contains all of the people we know who are followers of Jesus. Of course, it’s not possible for us to know if someone is truly saved or not, but we can, based on fruit, make an informed assessment and proceed from there. Should it turn out that a person on this list was not really saved, they are going to hear The Gospel as they accompany you in your evangelism efforts. The Jesus people we’re already connected to have a slightly different need when you encounter them: vision. We need to cast vision with them so that they develop a hunger for the training that will get them to the accomplishment of the vision. Learn how to express your vision simply & clearly so as to inspire the believers you encounter as you engage the culture. With those that are moved by the possibilities, take them with you as you engage the culture. Let them see you in action as you Model for them what you’d like them to be doing. (In my next post, we’ll talk about MAWL, and getting to WAM.)

The second major element in identifying who we can be sharing with is the House of Peace search, or what many practitioners call a PUSH (pushing out into a new area to meet new people). This is a necessary component to include in reaching our people. If we don’t, we can quickly exhaust our Name Lists and miss out on potential harvests in new sectors of our cities. A PUSH is an intensive effort into a specific area where you use the most effective means possible to connect with new people. We’ve used surveys, offering prayer, and a variety of ministry projects all geared towards initiating conversations with those we encounter. And an important element in such a PUSH is the transition to The Gospel. Depending on what you’re doing, these questions differ, but serve the same end: getting us to The Gospel. Here are a couple of the transitional sentences we’ve started training with and practicing weekly with our trainers.

*During PUSH/Prayer Walking:  “We’re here praying for the area, families, people, etc.  How can we be praying for you and your family”

*During PUSH/Prayer Walking:  “We’re here praying for the area, families, people, etc., that God would do a miracle for them.  If God could do a miracle for you today, what would it be?”

*Problems:  “Thanks for sharing so personally with us.  I share your concern, and would like to share something with you that give me great hope when dealing with problems like this.”

These transitional statements can serve as a bridge getting us to a point of being able to share our testimony and The Gospel. I can’t emphasize enough the need to practice these simple transitional statements. We should practice them as much as we practice our Gospel presentations and our testimony. We’ve seen it too many times: someone connects in conversation but has no idea how to move into the spiritual realm. Practicing these statements sets us up for it to happen more naturally.

It’ll be important to come to grips with a simple way to share the Gospel, so I’ll cover that soon. But first, I want to give you some things to consider AS you go to share. Next up: MAWLing.

Changing The World

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”― Leo Tolstoy
I was sharing with our local body last night about the need to be praying for workers in the harvest. It was a little blurb as a piece in a larger evening of prayer. As I shared what I’d planned to say, I quoted Luke 10:2-3, where Jesus commands His disciples to ask God for workers to be sent into the harvest, and in His next sentence says, “Go! I am sending you out…” It occurred to me that we spend a lot of time praying for God’s will to be done; for God’s Kingdom to come here on earth; for our culture to be changed; etc. when we ourselves are not willing to be the agent of said change or kingdom expansion. Jesus basically says, “Pray for workers, and I am sending you out as said workers!” This is in line with several other passages, but this morning struck me as particularly connected to the model prayer in Matthew 6. Let me explain. But before we really dig in, please get your Bible out and read each reference carefully. Don’t just blow through here and miss the chance to hear God’s voice from His Word!

In the prayer Jesus offers as an example of how we should pray, He gives us some things to be praying for. These things are not new to us, right? Here’s a simplified list:
God is holy, His kingdom come and will be done on earth as in heaven, give us our daily bread, forgive our debts (as we forgive our debtors), lead us not into temptation/deliver us from the evil one, and in some manuscripts we are to acknowledge that His power and glory are the power and glory that are eternal. It took me a long time to see this. It actually took someone else pointing this out to me. But this prayer looks an awful lot like asking for things He has already promised us. I’m going to take the above list and break it down for you.
1) “Hallowed is Your name” – This is for us to acknowledge that He is above and apart from His creation. Even His name is holy (set apart). He is active in His creation, but not part of the creation itself. Isaiah 40:22-26 is a powerful reminder of this.
2) “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” – The Scriptures are replete with calls to obedience as that is God’s will for us. Take your pick from the plethora of NT passages like 1 Thes. 5:18, Hebrews 13:20-21, Luke 9:23, James 1:5, and so on. How does God’s will happen on earth? We conform to His design for us in obedience. PARAMOUNT! This is the focal point of this entire model prayer: our conformity to His desire for our lives that His will would be done on earth.
3) “Give us this day our daily bread.” – Jesus has already promised that God meets our daily needs for food and water. In fact, later in this very same chapter of Matthew we read a well-known passage about not worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear. So, why are we praying that God will give us the food we need? We are reminding ourselves that His will gets done through our submission to His principles for us. Why do I strive to provide for my daily needs? Because I’ve forgotten His promise to provide for me. His will gets done on earth when I trust Him for my daily needs.
4) “Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – For those who have trusted Jesus, their debt is already forgiven. 1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 1:7, Hebrews 10:17, Ps. 103:12, Mark 11:25… Why are we asking Him to forgive us? We often miss the contrast here. It’s His will that we forgive others as He has forgiven us. By submitting to His model of forgiving, His will gets done on earth.
5) “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” – This one’s a bit trickier, but if we look at a few Scriptures, we can make sense of it. First, James 1:13 says that God Himself doesn’t tempt us. But we find the Holy Spirit leading Jesus to temptation in Matthew 4:1. The key verse for understanding this is found in Psalm 20:24, which says, “A man’s steps are the Lord’s steps.” There’s not a moment you’ll face in your life that doesn’t hold a temptation. The thing is, God doesn’t lead you INTO the temptation. He orders our steps to places where our faith can grow. But our prayer is to not fall to the temptation. Again, this is a point of submission for us. He has already promised to deliver us from the evil one. He’s already promised us a way out of every temptation, as we see in 1 Cor. 10:13. Will we submit to His way out? Will we follow Him out of the temptation? When we submit ourselves to His way out, His will gets done on earth.

Here it is: this model prayer is all about us submitting ourselves to His reign and rule in our lives. He is holy, set apart. And to see His will done here on earth is His desire and should be ours. Therefore, trust Him for your daily provisions. Therefore, forgive as He forgives. Therefore, take His way out of temptation. The model prayer isn’t a wish list. Instead, we find a submission list with some of the greatest areas of our lives; all pointing to His Kingdom comes when we let Him change us by submitting to His design for our lives. Will you change the world by allowing God to change you?

Revisiting the Past

As I prepare to revamp, well, okay, revive TheJiggyBishop, I have started reading through old posts.  And one in particular struck me as pertinent to the continued conversation.  So, I’m reposting it here as a launching point for moving forward.  This posts attempts to strip away the facade of Christianity that many of us find ourselves in.  Please give this a read, and let’s hear back from you!

The Center of Your Universe
Who is at the center of your universe?  God?  You?  Your kids?  Your Spouse?  Your Values?  HIS Values?  It’s an important question for followers of Jesus, especially today.  I live in a very secular, very humanistic culture. And, I would guess that you do, too. I see it all around me: people who have decided humanity is the highest good. As a short definition for secular humanism, I would offer this: a belief structure that embraces social justice, human reasoning, ethics, and philosophy for the shaping of a value system while simultaneously rejecting anything spiritual or faith flavored UNLESS said belief stems from a sense of self-fulfillment or self satisfaction. Such a system would, then, value human choice, tolerance, and logic in the pursuit of self-fulfillment. And, self-fulfillment is the bottom line.

Before you go wagging your finger at such an obviously non-Christian way of living, ask yourself what drives you day in and day out.  For example:  if I were to sell all of my possessions, give the money to the poor, and live the rest of my life in the service of the least of these, it would appear to be a very Christ-centered life.  It very well could be.  But why do I choose that life?  Do I choose it ultimately because it’s fulfilling to me?  Is it my value being played out?  Or have I embraced something Christ has asked of me in the pursuit of obedience to Him?  That’s the issue.  As if reading my mind, The Nomad Podcast posted this quote from Carl Medearis this morning:
“As Christians, we’re faced with a problem difficult to see because it’s so obvious. We’re aware of Jesus, but we are obsessed with Christianity. We’re stuck on its requirements and we’re defined by its doctrines, caught in an endless struggle to find out where we fit, if we’ve “arrived” yet, and if we’re doing it right…In this state, we’re not living in the grace of Jesus. We’re trying to maintain our membership.”

Modern western Christianity seems to be moving toward, at least in part, an attempted  synergistic mixing of Christian principles and secular humanism.  We follow those teachings that bring us the greatest fulfillment or that broker acceptance from those we value, avoid most things that require deep faith or great sacrifice, thus elevating ourselves or the group to the position of god.  This is a very complex and serious thing to me.  We have found a way to secularly humanize Christianity with the pursuit of what feels right to us, often embracing logic, social justice, and self-fulfillment with no thought to God’s desire for us or faith while at the same time having the appearance of Christianity.  Still having trouble wrapping your brain around what I’m saying?  When people come together to study the Bible, they circle up, read a verse, and then ask, “What does this verse mean to you?”  Fourteen answers and perspectives later, we’ve taken a text and filtered it through us to derive its meaning.  And no one dares say, “This verse couldn’t mean that…” or you’re intolerant, dogmatic, and narrow minded.  I agree that there is room for interpretation of the Bible, but not to the extent it’s normally taken.  The flex should come in what that simple truth looks like as it’s put into practice in our lives.  In my 20+ years of being a Youth Pastor, I saw it countless times.  I would ask, “What does this verse say?”  And 20 answers later there’s been an honest attempt at deeply spiritual things, philosophical things, application-type things, only to have to say, “Look at the verse.  The answer is there.”  Typically, we’ve run God’s Word through the filter of “me” in order to find its meaning.

Anyway, I digress.  I really simply wanted to pose the question today, “Why do you and I do what we do?”  Here’s a couple of quotes to meditate on today:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)  “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:27)  “My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34)  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

If I do all the right things, but only because I find them fulfilling and derive great satisfaction from them, have I really embraced what Christ is all about?  Honestly, only if I can say that love for and obedience to Christ, no matter the cost, are my bottom line.

The Heart of the Matter

So, lets say you sell it all and move to another country where you hope to see revival, awakening, salvations, etc. Isn’t that a great reason to move? Isn’t that a great cause to devote your life to?

In Matthew 13:44, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a treasure that a man found. Hiding the treasure again, he goes and sells everything he owns to be able to buy the field and be the rightful owner of the treasure.

The treasure of great price is not an obscure verse. It’s pretty well known. I think, at least for me, the problem isn’t the selling of everything to lay hold of a treasure. The problem for me is at the very beginning where Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like… So often what I want, where I commit time, what I want to lay hold off is indeed something worthwhile, but not the greatest treasure, the Kingdom.

My daily reminder to take up my cross every day now comes with an attachment: take up your cross and pursue the Kingdom. Sure, revival and awakening are kingdom things. Salvations are the greatest of all miracles! But if i pursue them and not HIM, I’m missing the point entirely. Seek first His Kingdom, and He’ll do the rest.

My Time In Lisbon

Tonight, while sharing Jesus in the streets of Lisbon, I met a man with a definite need. He was begging for money on the side of a shopping street, and was missing his left leg from the knee down.

When I was hungry…
Our new friend is Umberto. We asked him some questions, seeking to see which language we could use with him. Turns out he speaks fluently English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French! He’s 26 years old, and has been on his own since he was 14. He lost the bottom part of his leg in a motorcycle accident. As a general rule, I don’t hand out money on the streets, so we asked him if he’d like to get a cup of coffee. To say he was shocked would be an understatement. He said on rare occasions people bring him food, but no one ever took him for coffee or to get something to eat! No one ever spends time with him. He led us to a café around the corner where we got coffee and some “slap yo’ mama good” pastries. And we got to know Umberto.

As we turned to spiritual things, he pulled a Bible out of his backpack and told us he reads 30 minutes every day. He was currently reading Psalms and told us all about Ps. 91, which was what he’d read today. He prays, speaks to God every day, and hopes to do enough good to tip the scales in his favor and earn a spot in Heaven. That’s when I shared the good news with him: Jesus has already tipped the scales, and would like to have a relationship with him. We spoke for some time, and it became clear that Umberto loves God, His Bible, but has been alone for so long that he didn’t want to trust what we were explaining to him. BUT, he’s agreed to meet with a friend on Saturday at the same café to find out how he can better understand the Bible and God’s plans for him. PLEASE pray for him, and for Joe as they meet to further the conversation. Pray for his salvation AND pray for him to finish raising the money for his prosthetic leg. He’s got 80% of what he needs. Now, because Portuguese is only minimally close to Spanish, either he needs €1,800 and already has €1,600 OR he needs €8,000 and has raised €6,000! Pray that the local body of Christ will be faithful to meet him at his point of need and express God’s love for him.

As we wrapped up our coffee, I told him that God was leading me to express God’s love to him, and asked if I could just give him a hug. He somewhat hesitantly said, “Yes, that would be okay.” And when I hugged him, and wrapped my arms around him, he grabbed a hold of me like he didn’t want to let go. He then told me he hadn’t had contact like that in 12 years, since his dad died and his mom abandoned him. He began to cry. I told him he didn’t have to be alone any more. That his is loved, valued, and would have people in his life to prove that.

From the café, we went to a local restaurant for dinner. Umberto took us to a restaurant where they serve his favorite Cod fish. We shared a meal, shared more life, and shared about our faiths. We shared our stories, and connected over common experiences we’ve had in our lives. After dinner, we hugged one more time. As I hugged him, I prayed God’s blessing on him and told him how loved he is. Then he headed home.

Please add Umberto to your prayers. I’ll do my best to keep in touch with our folks here in Lisbon and provide updates on Umberto as I can.

Thanks for praying!

You’re Invited

In Germany, there’s a saying when someone has invited you to dinner and you attempt to pay. They say, “No, you are invited.” In German, “Nein, du bist eingeladen.” That means that the inviter expected to pay, and by accepting the invitation, you agreed to be paid for. To violate this would be rude. Okay, maybe not rude, but interesting push back would begin.

In the last 2 plus years living in Germany, I’ve shared the Gospel with hundreds of people. Some are people I know. Some are people I’ve met. And some were just random people. In that time, we haven’t seen GREAT returns, but we’ve seen people saved. In the last year, we’ve also started training groups to help Christians get out there and share their faith. 100% of people who do not hear the Gospel have no chance of salvation. That means, when we share with at least 1 person, their chances increase by 100%. But as I share and train, I come up against the same push back over and over and over. It goes something like this, “I’ve shared Jesus, but no one is interested.” At first, I empathized with this response. I’ve encountered it many times. My usual response is to encourage them to keep sharing. Someone will say, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus.” But recently I’ve pushed back a little when I get this answer, and have found that, just as in America, those sharing Jesus do not offer an invitation to make a choice to transfer their trust from their own redeeming work to the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross. When it comes to salvation, and the most critical step in any Gospel conversation, we must invite those we’ve shared with. Jesus has already paid! They just need to accept His invitation to new life. The power of The Gospel is the power that changes people. And they’re invited to be paid for, too.

Recruiting or Recruited?

I just returned from a motorcycle tour of the Harz Mountains. It was a blast! When a local believer invited me to go with him on this retreat for bikers, I had mixed feelings. I was pumped because it was 3 days on the motorcycle in the mountains of Central Germany. I was also not so excited because it was retreat planned by a local Pastor for believers who also ride. If you know me, you know I’m cautious about spending my time with groups of “already believing people.” Not that hanging out with Christians is a bad thing. No, the opposite is true. But my heart is more for reaching the lost and investing my time in the harvest field. And after 2 decades of serving as a Pastor, it’s comfortable to slip back into relating primarily to Christians. So, I geared up for this trip, almost canceled twice, and rolled out with the idea that I’d be looking for partnerships in reaching local bikers and for potential Christian Motorcyclists Association members. You know, like a recruiting trip.
But what happened was altogether different.

The mixture was, from what I could tell, 50/50. There were a couple pastors there, a German missionary serving in communist Asia, a few church members, and then just a bunch of folks who like motorcycles and riding them. My training kicked in, and I started looking for the non-believers in the group, almost intentionally avoiding the believers when God got my attention. I was sitting with two local pastors and the missionary when the missionary asked me what I did, and why I was in Germany. I get that. A LOT. After a few minutes of introduction, one of the pastors asked me what my main focus was. Without hesitation, I said, “Reaching the lost.”

“How are you doing that?”

“I’m sharing Jesus and life with them.”

“Yeah, but how?”

“I tell them my story, Jesus’ story, and invite them to follow Jesus.”

“Are you doing this alone?”

“Actually, I’ve found some local partners, individuals and churches, who are joining me and allowing me to train them.”

“What kind of training?”

“To share their story, Jesus story, who to share with, and what to do with those that say ‘Yes’ when invited to follow Jesus.”

“What does that look like?” And the conversation lasted a good hour as I shared about the need to reach the lost and not just stay in our bubble of politeness and tolerance. The missionary from communist Asia asked some questions and shared insights into what a Church Planting Movement in his asian context would look like. We agreed that the concepts were the same, but the appearance was completely different from Asia to Germany. Out of the blue, one of the pastors says, “Would you come and train my people? We really need something like that. Would you have the time to invest in us?”

As I’ve already said, I try to spend my time in the field. But I knew that God had just asked me if I would help put workers in the field. How do you say no to that? It became clear that God had a reason for me coming on this trip that was well beyond riding the motorcycle to the mountains, or bigger than finding a potential CMA member. Here was a Luke 10:2 moment. I’ve been praying that God would send workers into the harvest. Although I was there to do some recruiting, turns out I got recruited; seemingly as an answer to my own prayer.

The Center Of My Universe

Who is at the center of your universe?  God?  You?  Your kids?  Your Spouse?  Your Values?  HIS Values?  It’s an important question for followers of Jesus, especially today.  I live in a very secular, very humanistic culture. And, I would guess that you do, too. I see it all around me: people who have decided humanity is the highest good. As a short definition for secular humanism, I would offer this: a belief structure that embraces social justice, human reasoning, ethics, and philosophy for the shaping of a value system while simultaneously rejecting anything spiritual or faith flavored UNLESS said belief stems from a sense of self-fulfillment or self satisfaction. Such a system would, then, value human choice, tolerance, and logic in the pursuit of self-fulfillment. And, self-fulfillment is the bottom line.

Before you go wagging your finger at such an obviously non-Christian way of living, ask yourself what drives you day in and day out.  For example:  if I were to sell all of my possessions, give the money to the poor, and live the rest of my life in the service of the least of these, it would appear to be a very Christ-centered life.  It very well could be.  But why do I choose that life?  Do I choose it ultimately because it’s fulfilling to me?  Is it my value being played out?  Or have I embraced something Christ has asked of me in the pursuit of obedience to Him?  That’s the issue.  As if reading my mind, The Nomad Podcast posted this quote from Carl Medearis this morning:
“As Christians, we’re faced with a problem difficult to see because it’s so obvious. We’re aware of Jesus, but we are obsessed with Christianity. We’re stuck on its requirements and we’re defined by its doctrines, caught in an endless struggle to find out where we fit, if we’ve “arrived” yet, and if we’re doing it right…In this state, we’re not living in the grace of Jesus. We’re trying to maintain our membership.”

Modern western Christianity seems to be moving toward, at least in part, an attempted  synergistic mixing of Christian principles and secular humanism.  We follow those teachings that bring us the greatest fulfillment or that broker acceptance from those we value, avoid most things that require deep faith or great sacrifice, thus elevating ourselves or the group to the position of god.  This is a very complex and serious thing to me.  We have found a way to secularly humanize Christianity with the pursuit of what feels right to us, often embracing logic, social justice, and self-fulfillment with no thought to God’s desire for us or faith while at the same time having the appearance of Christianity.  Still having trouble wrapping your brain around what I’m saying?  When people come together to study the Bible, they circle up, read a verse, and then ask, “What does this verse mean to you?”  Fourteen answers and perspectives later, we’ve taken a text and filtered it through us to derive its meaning.  And no one dare say, “This verse couldn’t mean that…” or you’re intolerant, dogmatic, and narrow minded.  I agree that there is room for interpretation of the Bible, but not to the extent it’s normally taken.  The flex should come in what that simple truth looks like as it’s put into practice in our lives.  In my 20+ years of being a Youth Pastor, I saw it countless times.  I would ask, “What does this verse say?”  And 20 answers later there’s been an honest attempt at deeply spiritual things, philosophical things, application-type things, only to have to say, “Look at the verse.  The answer is there.”  Typically, we’ve run God’s Word through the filter of “me” in order to find its meaning.

Anyway, I digress.  I really simply wanted to pose the question today, “Why do you and I do what we do?”  Here’s a couple of quotes to meditate on today:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)  “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:27)  “My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”  (John 4:34)  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

If I do all the right things, but only because I find them fulfilling and derive great satisfaction from them, have I really embraced what Christ is all about?  Honestly, only if I can say that love for and obedience to Christ, no matter the cost, are my bottom line.

Shouldn’t it be simple?

We have some measurements for the things we put into practice here in our work. Too often, as we search after something revolutionary to reach the world we live in, we implement things that don’t meet these standards and in doing so, we hinder a greater movement. Having studied Church Planting Movements (CPMs) around the world, we have discovered some things present in all of them. Mind you, each of them is distinct, and solely dependent on God and His moving. I’m not saying that God doesn’t figure in, because in the final evaluation, He is the only factor that matters. However, we’ve found that these other elements keep us out of God’s way, and keep us from doing things that lead to weird places. Some of these elements seem no brainers. For instance: urgent, fervent, and frequent prayer are present in the lives of believers where CPMs are happening. We also see a great emphasis on the sharing Jesus with those who don’t know Him. Anyway, I digress from what I sat down to write. Needless to say, there are things we, as His people, should be doing. And, if we’re not careful, we can spend all of our time talking about what we should be doing, studying what others are doing, and even training others to do what they should be doing: and not doing it ourselves. We can advocate the newest ideas and train people in the most effective uses of their time and relationships and remain disobedient to what Jesus modeled for us, and has asked us to do.

We don’t find Jesus giving a training conference with His disciples. He didn’t say, “Come, be trained by me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He said, “Follow me.” And for 3 years, His disciples WATCHED Him do what He did.  In John 20, we find Jesus being very clear on what He expects from His disciples, “As my Father has sent me, even so send I you.” Do what He did.  Go as He went.  He kept it simple and easily reproducible.

Similarly, we read about Paul, and get a glimpse into his training program: go with me and let’s do this! If we boil down what Paul modeled for people like Timothy, Luke, Barnabas, Mark, Silas, etc. we see him share his story, share Jesus, baptize those who believe AND those they bring to faith. We don’t see him extract people for further training. We don’t see him having people read more “how to” books. Share, share, baptize, send. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s how it should be.  He kept it simple and easily reproducible.

I’m challenged this morning to simply ask the question, both of myself and of you, are you being obedient in this simple pattern of obedience? Are you loving God, loving others, and making disciples? If your answer is “No,” the next question is “Why not?” Here’s five simple & easy things you can do in the next week to change that answer to “Yes.”
1) Make a list of people you know who are far from God and pray for that list.
2) Write your story and practice sharing it in 2 minutes: My life before Jesus/How I met Jesus/My life since Jesus. Share it with someone who can help you make it easily understood by people who don’t speak Christianese.
3) Divide your list into groups of 5, and share your story with the first 5 on your list THIS WEEK.
4) With those that are interested in knowing more, share God’s plan to save them through Jesus.
5) With those that decide that want to follow Jesus, help them make their list, write their story, practice with them, and send them out to share. Or, as Johnson & Johnson have often wrote, “Lather, rinse, repeat.”

IT’S SIMPLE! And, honestly, it’s a matter of obedience. So the one simple question to answer is: Will you be obedient? To quote Elwood Blues, “We’re on a mission from God.” Well, at least we should be.