5 ways to share your faith on Black Friday
Black Friday is when cost conscious consumers storm Walmarts, Targets, Macy’s and more to get deals, deals and more deals. So how do we make sure those who are in shopper’s heaven actually go there someday (bad segue but it had to be done.)
If you happen to be one of the courageous (crazy?) souls who will brave the crowds to save money on Christmas gifts here are 5 ways to share your faith as you do…
1. Be kind when everyone else is being pushy.
If you’re a kind and patient shopper in the midst of push-grab-and-go aggressive shoppers you’ll stand out from the crowd. Even this small act can lead to unexpected Gospel conversations with those around you.
2. Give eye contact, smile and say “hello” to others.
There’s something about being acknowledged and genuinely greeted that can breathe life into a harried, hurried soul. I’ll never forget smiling and greeting a lady at the cash register who was helping me at a busy store. She said, “Thank you for giving me eye contact, smiling and actually acknowledging my existence.” I asked her how often that happened in her store and she said, “Not much. Some people never say a thing and many never give me eye contact…and it’s depressing.” This simple act can be an easy segue into a gospel conversation.
3. Ask questions of other customers when you’re in line waiting to get into the store or purchase items.
Long lines can lead to great conversations. Our simple strategy at Dare 2 Share is “Ask, Admire, Admit”. Ask questions (move from questions about their shopping experience, where they’re from, etc to spiritual questions like “Do you attend church anywhere?” or “Do you have any spiritual traditions you and your family do around the holidays?”, etc.) Admire what you can about what they believe spiritually. And then admit the reason you’re a Christian is that you’re so messed up you needed someone else to save you. More training on how to use Ask, Admire and Admit to initiate Gospel conversations can be found on the free Dare 2 Share app under the “How to share” button.
4. Commiserate with your fellow shoppers, neighbors, friends and others.
Chat about the consumerization of Thanksgiving and Christmas (which everyone can relate to on some level.) Talk about the foolishness of desperate shopping in a mall while some cities are having riots in the streets. Have a conversation about the reality that many in America have missed the real meaning of the holidays (which is short for “holy days” by the way) and use it as a way to bring up the real reason for the season…Jesus!
5. Bring something to leave behind that explains the Gospel in a simple way.
I like to bring Life in 6 Words GOSPEL cards. They have the GOSPEL message typed out on the back and the Life in 6 Words website URL on the front. They are a simple leave behind for cashiers and fellow shoppers. If you don’t have any of those you can download the GOSPEL message here and print out a few sheets to keep in your wallet or purse.
To be honest, I don’t usually go shopping on Black Friday but, if I did, this is how I would share my faith. I may have to brave the crowds tomorrow morning if, for nothing else, to share the good news in the midst of the craziness. But I’m not going at 5, 6 or 7 am. Early afternoon is more my style. I hope people will still be there!
What are some other ways to share your faith on Black Friday?
10 things I’m thankful for…
1. The free gift of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone (“The Gospel!”)
2. My wife and two kids who love Jesus, love each other and love me.
3. The privilege of working with an amazing staff at Dare 2 Share.
4. In spite of her blind spots, I’m thankful to live in a free country where I can worship as I choose.
5. All kinds of food…seriously, food rocks!
6. My health, I have a bad knee but thats about it.
7. Youth leaders who are living and leading THE Cause in their own communities!
8. Living in an age of transportation and technology. No covered wagons or carrier pigeons…we have planes, trains and Twitter!
9. An extended family, all of whom have been transformed by the amazing message of Jesus Christ.
10. The honor of equipping teenagers to share the gospel through Dare 2 Share for the last 20+ years.
What 10 things (or so) are you thankful for?
Only the Gospel can obliterate racism
I’m no stranger to racism. In the 70′s the animosity many of my family members had toward Hispanics in our North Denver neighborhood was palpable. It often boiled over into fights, complete with fists, bats, knives and, yes, at times, guns. My body-building, bad-to-the-bone uncles were ready to deal with “them” anytime, any where and for any reason.
It was a racist reality all across North Denver at the time. We lived in a neighborhood that teamed with racial hatred (going both ways.) Mexicans hated whites and whites hated Mexicans. The Italians who lived about 10 blocks North of us were their own entity. In the 70′s North Denver was a truly segregated part of the city and we lived right smack dab in the middle of what many considered a Mexican neighborhood.
My five uncles and mom (the only girl in the group) would grab bats, brass knuckles or steak knives when they saw gang members they hated trolling our neighborhood. They would rush outside and meet them in the alley beside our house, the lot behind it or the street in front of it and handle their bloody business.
Once my Uncle Richard jumped in the window of a car full of guys who were driving by slowly and taunting my family. He literally jumped through the driver’s side open window and started punching away. The car wrecked a half block down the street and my uncles (and mom) caught up to the scene. They pulled these guys out and started wailing away until the cops finally showed up and broke it up.
Although I was a little kid at the time I remember witnessing true violence and sensing the deep racial hatred that flowed down the streets of North Denver at the time.
But I also witnessed something that changed my life. A church in the suburbs reached out to the city and one by one reached my family members for Jesus. And there was something about this church, although it was located in the primarily white city of Arvada it was comprised of a surprisingly large percentage of Latinos.
Soon my rough and tumble uncles were worshipping side-by-side with a members of a race they formerly hated. Instead of throwing fists they were handing out gospel tracts together. Instead of yelling racist epithets in each other’s faces they were singing worship songs by each other’s sides.
I’m not saying that racism was completely obliterated in one fell swoop when my family members put their faith in Jesus. But the power of the gospel began to strip it away in large layers.
Witnessing the transformation of my family as a child convinced me that only the gospel can obliterate racism. Because only the gospel can conquer evil in the human heart.
The roots of racism lie in a twice-bitten piece of forbidden fruit. From the fall of Adam and Eve “my” has ruled the day… “my stuff”, “my life” and “my people.”
Racial tensions have been the rule, not the exception throughout human history. What’s happening right now in Ferguson is a microcosm of the racial prejudices that have saturated humanity since the beginning of time.
And the ultimate solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, one strikes at the root.”
Racism at its core is a sin problem. And this kind of spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. That solution is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died to break the power of all sin (including racism) and unite his people as one body. As Galatians 3:28 reminds us, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
My friend Derwin Gray reminded me that we often stop too short when reading Ephesians 2:8-10. Most of us are familiar with these classic verses but are we familiar with what comes after them? Check out Ephesians 2:8-16,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)–remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
If Jesus can break down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile he can break down the dividing wall of hostility between any races. This should be the inevitable result of the Gospel as demonstrated through the church. For more on this check out Derwin’s powerful blog on the church’s central role in this whole situation.
I’ve seen the Gospel obliterate racism in my family, break down the dividing wall of hostility between races and unite us all as one in Jesus. It is this same Gospel that can lay the groundwork for transformation in Ferguson and every community boiling over (or just simmering) with racism.
Of course we need systemic change. We need communication between cops and the community. We need to address the injustices in the justice system and make sure everyone gets a fair shake. But all of these are merely leaves compared to the root issue. And the root issue of sin can only be obliterated by the power of what Jesus did on the cross when he payed the price for our sins with his blood and paved the way for unity through his resurrection.
My 5 encouragements to the Christians of St Louis and Ferguson
I’m sitting here with my family waiting for the decision from the Grand Jury in St.Louis to be announced and am anticipating, along with the rest of America, the potential protests (and in the worst case, riots) that could follow a decision not to indict the officer in question. To be honest, I don’t know all of the details of the shooting and have heard differing opinions from various news channels (CNN vs. Fox) about who or what is to blame.
I have personal connections to this particular area of St. Louis. My Aunt Diane works as a public school teacher in Ferguson and she and her family live in Florissant, just a short seven minute drive away from ground zero. In addition I have had the privilege of doing training conferences in the city of St.Louis since 1998 and have grown to know and love many of the churches and youth leaders in the area. We have many dear friends, prayer partners and financial supporters who live in, around or near St. Louis.
Over the years I’ve had the honor of equipping tens of thousands of youth leaders and teenagers through our Dare 2 Share conferences. Last year we trained almost 5,000 teenagers right in downtown St.Louis and witnessed God do amazing things.
I believe that the teenagers and youth leaders in and around St Louis are in a unique position of influence. They can leverage social media, conversations and prayer to set the temperature with their peers, parents and churches. And, because the average teenager has about 400 online and face-to-face friends they can have a huge impact.
With this as a backdrop here are my five encouragements to the Christians, youth leaders and teenagers of Ferguson and St.Louis:
1. Pray now, pray hard and pray with others.
Teenagers and youth leaders (and every believer for that matter) should use this as an excuse to gather together and pray for peace. The only thing greater than the hatred of man is the power of God. When we leverage God’s power through prayer we can watch Him heal divides in ways we never anticipated.
2. Use water, not kerosene.
These types of fiery situations can either be blown up through hateful words (posted online or spoken in person) or put out through words of love and peace. As Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, “A gentle answer deflects anger,but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Use water, not kerosene with your words as you talk with friends and strangers.
3. Obliterate racism in your own heart first.
Since the dispersion of the human race into human races at the Tower of Babel we have all had a propensity to think our race is the best (whatever race we happen to be.) For thousands of years we have been divided into Team White, Team Brown, Team Black, etc. As a result wars and riots have erupted in every culture ever since. Racism, at its core, is a sin issue, not just a cultural one…and sin can only be fully and finally obliterated through the blood of Jesus.
My challenge to you is, no matter what your race, refuse to knee jerk to only view this through your own biased lenses. Listen deeply, judge justly and love everyone…no matter what.
The unfolding events in Ferguson prove there is still a very deep and very wide racial divide in America. And it can only be healed through the exponentially deeper and wider love of Jesus.
4. Be a healer, not a hater.
Obliterate racism in your own heart first and then in your community. Engage in conversations with those of other races, build friendships with them and overcome evil with good.
As Ephesians 2:14-16 reminds us, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
As my buddy Derwin Gray wrote, “In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile. But God birthed a group of people on the planet who He recreated in His eternal Son Jesus to transcend this racial hostility, injustice, and oppression. He did this by means of Jesus’ death on the cross so that our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
If God can heal the racial divide between Jew and Gentile he can heal the divide between black and white.
5. Use this as an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with others.
There has never been a greater injustice than the death of Jesus Christ. He never sinned, always loved and brought healing where others brought hate…and he was crucified for it. Jesus relates to injustice in ways none of us ever could. But through the injustice of Jesus’ death we have access to forgiveness, hope and eternal life.
Jesus unjust death gives us just cause to love everyone. He did and, through his power, we can. And the best way we can love others is to offer them the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
This terrible situation is both a temptation and an opportunity. It’s a temptation if we give into the racism latent in our depraved hearts. It’s an opportunity if we say “yes” to the Holy Spirit by bringing hope where there is hate. This horrific situation is a huge opportunity for believers in Ferguson, St.Louis and the rest of America to engage in Gospel conversations that can change the situation. As Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil one strikes at the root.” Only the gospel can strike at the root.
Let us all be praying for the believers in and around St Louis and Ferguson to be beacons of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. And may the youth leaders and teenagers lead the way.
10 things I’ve learned from being in 10 car wrecks
Last Friday I got into my 10th car wreck while driving. The picture above shows the damage. A neighbor’s Ford F150 ran into my car at a stop sign and that was that. I guess the magic number 10 makes me an expert of sorts on car wrecks. So, let me give you a crash course on the 10 things I’ve learned from being in 10 car wrecks:
1. Ice on the road is slick. I know, “Duh!” But most of my car wrecks have happened with some sort of ice and/or snow on the ground. I’m a Colorado kid after all and snow is part of the driving deal in our great and snowy state.
2. Tread on your tires is good. Bald tires lead to dented fenders. Take it from me.
3. Don’t reach for Red Vines that have fallen under your seat while you are driving. This happened to me once and, yes, I wrecked. But, let me say this, Red Vines are delicious.
4. If you happen to borrow your Father-in-law’s brand new New Yorker on a snowy day you should probably ask him first. And, yes, I wrecked it in a seven car pile up on the highway. When he asked me, “How’s your car?” I gulped and said, “It’s fine, not a scratch…I borrowed your New Yorker.” Thank the Lord he is a godly man. He just said, “Oh my.”
5. Avoiding a car wreck in front of you doesn’t mean you won’t get hit from the back. Skidding down a steep hill on black ice and bald tires (see points #1 and #2) I honked the horn on my little Plymouth Champ until the truck in front of me at the light pulled forward so I wouldn’t hit him. Then BAM!!! I got hit from behind by a Camaro! Not a good driving day (but at least it wasn’t technically my fault!)
6. When there are no stop signs in a small town the car to the right has the right of way. Being from the city I had no idea about this rural rule. While driving in Holyoke, Colorado I got T-Boned at an intersection by a girl driving 45 mph. I was grateful that I happened to be the car on the right and that my trip to the ER was quick and easy (It was just a big bump on the side of my head, not a concussion!)
7. Your wife is usually right about dangerous situations on the highway. Her, “Please don’t go on the highway. It’s too slick. There’s black ice.” Me, “We’ll be fine.” 60 minutes later the car we were driving was a crumpled mess and I got the “I told you so” look from my wife.
8. Traffic light poles don’t move when you hit them. A police officer was sitting right there as my witness.
9. If there is ice on the ground of a parking lot don’t turn in to park in a space too quickly. Wham! Bam! Sorry about your bumper man!
10. It’s not technically a hit and run if you hit them and they run. Yes, that happened. While talking to my friend Mark I failed to look at the stopped car in front of me and plowed into her bumper. I crushed it pretty good. She just waved at me and drove off. I figured she must have not had insurance and my car was totally fine. No harm. No foul. No ticket.
These are 10 things I’ve learned from being in 10 car wrecks. Anyone need a ride? I’m driving!
10 things I would tell you as a first time visitor to your church
As a “traveling evangelist” I’ve had the privilege of preaching in churches from coast to coast. And, until I have the microphone on over my ear, most people have no clue that I’ll be the preacher that day, so most treat me like a first time visitor. Over the course of many years of visiting churches I have had great experiences as a guest along with some not-so-great ones.
And, lately, my trips to new churches have accelerated in my own city. I hate to use the term “church shopping” but that’s what we’ve been doing as a family for the last several months. The church we’ve been attending as a family for several years is a great one but it’s a 35 minute drive away. So my wife and I decided in September to start looking for a home church in the Arvada area. All the churches we have visited so far have been pretty good.
As a result of my visits to churches over the last several years and, with my family, over the last few months, I did notice some things about how first time visitors must feel when they walk into a brand new church.
Speaking as a visitor, here are some suggestions I would give to pastors when it comes to creating a context that is just the right amount of welcoming.
1. Equip your parking lot team to wave us in with a smile.
The last church we visited was a true blessing. Although it was their very first service as a church they seemed like old pros. The silver-haired parking attendant in the orange vest waved our car in, pointed to the space where we should park and chatted it up with me and my family when we got out of the car. From square one we felt welcome.
2. Have people greet us at the door and offer to answer our questions.
It takes more than just smiling faces and handshakes. Walking into a new church with kids hanging on both arms can feel overwhelming. We don’t know where the kids go, where the bathrooms are or even where the church auditorium is. In most of these churches I felt a bit like cattle, meandering toward the right meadow, instead of gently being shepherded by the greeters to our proper destination.
A question like, “May I answer any questions for you?” could go a long way to making a wide-eyed family feel welcomed.
3. Put up dummy-proof signs that are easy to read and understand.
Just this last month I was preaching at a church in Houston I had never been to before. From the time I pulled in I knew exactly where I should park. The signs were big, clear and designed for first time visitors.
Visiting a church creates a certain amount of tension, a low level angst if you will. Good signs, both inside and outside the church, help alleviate that a bit. The last thing you want to do visiting a new church is to screw it up by parking in the wrong space or walking in the wrong door or whatever.
4. Don’t point us out in the service.
Speaking of angst, when it comes to welcoming the visitors, my wife and I could feel the blood draining from our faces when we thought the announcement givers at these various churches were going to have us stand and recognize us as visitors (thank the Lord none of them ever did!) I don’t know whose idea it was to have visitors stand in a service to be “welcomed” in the first place but, whoever you are, it was a bad idea. We don’t want to be pointed out. We don’t want to wear a special colored name tag. We just want to check your church out and talk to friendly people along the way who make us feel welcome.
5. Give the gospel clearly enough for us to understand and believe.
Okay, okay, I have already put my faith in Jesus (along with the rest of my family) but I listened to every service with the ears of a lost person. I asked myself, “If I were to come to this service as an unbeliever would I hear the gospel clearly enough to understand the gospel.” In most churches there were brief overviews of the gospel but I would say it was only in one church where the gospel was clearly and completely given in a way that unbelievers could easily understand and put their faith in Jesus. This doesn’t require an “altar call” but it does require a call from the altar for unbelievers to put their trust in Jesus based on his finished work on the cross for the salvation of their souls.
6. Have a check in system for kids that is hastle-free and quick.
Most of these churches we visited had a quick process for checking in our kids. Some were really quick. Others made us fill out semi-extensive information. Yes, I know this is a must for legal reasons but I would encourage children’s ministries to make it as quick and painless as possible for newcomers.
Think about it. If it’s your first time at a church you usually show up a few minutes before the service time is scheduled to start. But if it takes 10 minutes to check in your kids you will miss the opening of the service and risk feeling like you are interrupting. All this can make visitors feel uneasy.
7. Beware weird Christian things.
Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of weird Christian happenings in churches across America. And, because I was new to most of these churches, I witnessed them from a visitor’s vantage point. I’ve seen leaping, leotard-clad, banner-waving dancers flood the aisles during worship. I literally had no idea what was taking place and could only imagine what an unbeliever would be thinking if it was their first time in church. More recently I watched a lady awkwardly jerk and move (dancing?) across the back of the auditorium during the service. The people around me tried to ignore her but it was hard for us, as visitors, to look away. In other churches I’ve heard incessant “ameners” who say “amen!” about anything and everything (even during announcements and at the parts of the sermon where a hearty amen doesn’t make sense!) I’ve heard church leaders close the service in prayer and go WAAAAAYYYYY long trying to impress the audience with their use of the old English language. Dost thou knowest what I meanest?
Beware of weird Christian things. I know we’re not of this earth but we need to make sure that we’re not doing things in our services to perpetuate stereotypes that make Christians look needlessly kookie.
8. Give visitors a pass on the offering plate.
The last church we went to asked the visitors NOT to give anything in the offering plate except a completed information card (name, address, phone number, e-mail, etc.) The pastor reassured the visitors that giving was for their regular attendees only. This gave us a pass when the offering went by. Another way some churches did this was by not passing the plate at all. Some had offering boxes at the exits that church members could put their gifts into on the way out of the service.
9. Don’t get too aggressive with the church follow up e-mails.
Okay, I know this can be a sensitive one because we definitely want to follow up with newcomers. But one church I visited literally was relentlessly sending me e-mails, almost daily! That’s way too much. Nobody wants spam from a church, either at their annual potluck or in their e-mail box.
10. Call us after, ask about our experience at the church and invite us back.
Not one time at all my church visits was I ever called and invited back personally. That seems weird to me. In every church we registered our kids and wrote down our names and phone numbers as first time visitors. But not one time were we called and followed up. A phone call is more personal than an e-mail. A simple phone call would go a long way in making me think about coming back a second time.
Hopefully these 10 things will help you create a more welcoming church environment for 1st time visitors.
How to recapture the hearts, souls and minds of the teenagers in our churches
Ny former Youth Ministry professor at Colorado Christian University, RJ Koerper, used to say to our college class, “Everyone is looking for security and significance. Both are found in Jesus.”
And this is exactly what teenagers are looking for in their own lives. Many are looking for security in temporary human relationships. They look to friends (including online ones) and family to fill the gap in their souls. But this is not enough. Only a relationship with God can fully fill the abyss of hopelessness that is in the center of every human heart. As Blaise Pascal once said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
When it comes to significance too many teenagers (including Christian ones) are looking to sports accomplishments, academic prowess or social acceptance to create their sense of self-worth. But God gives us the ultimate reason for living: to bring Him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and to tell his story (Acts 1:8.)
St. Ignatius had the Latin motto: “Ad majorem dei gloriam inque hominem salutem” which means “For the greater glory of God and salvation of humanity.” That statement can be repurposed by Protestants to become our motto and inspire the next generation.
Have you ever wondered why the church is losing so many teenagers, especially older ones? Sure teenagers are busy today (jobs, schoolwork, pre-college courses, etc) but they’ll make time for what matters to them. And, to be honest, the appeal of dodgeball games, pizza parties and 20 minute chats about basic spiritual stuff loses its luster after awhile. “Been there done that” is pretty much what any Christian teenager could say after a semester’s worth of typical youth group programming.
But give these same teenagers a place and the space to unpack who they are in Jesus (security) and the core of life’s biggest questions (where do we come from? who is God? why am I here? etc) combined with a mission that matters (saving teenagers from the hell they are headed to and going through) then you have a recipe for revival and a reason to come back every week.
Teenagers are leaving the church because many churches have left their core mission and exchanged it for something less than optimal, unable to keep our teenagers focused on Jesus and his mission.
This is why we at Dare 2 Share call this mission THE Cause. It is the greatest cause on the planet, to rescue the lost through the gospel and redeem this broken generation through the message and mission of Jesus.
I encourage you to bring your teenagers to The Fearless Tour where they will get a strong dose of the twin realities of their security and significance in Christ. Based on the book of Ephesians, your teenagers will be immersed in God’s unimaginable love for them and the unimaginable mission He has for them.
First encounter evangelism VS. Relational evangelism (which is better?)
Which is better sharing Jesus with someone as soon as you meet them (first encounter evangelism) or sharing Jesus in the context of an already established relationship? Before you knee jerk an answer consider one underestimated factor…the situation.
If I’m on a plane, in a shopping mall or meet someone at a restaurant and get into a conversation there’s a good chance I’ll never see that person again. This may be my only opportunity to share Jesus with them. So, if the Lord opens the door to a spiritual conversation, I want to walk right through it.
On the other hand, if I move into a new neighborhood I may want to think twice about baking cookies for all our neighbors and delivering them door to door with a “God has a wonderful plan for your life” speech. In this particular situation I most likely have a little more time to get to know my neighbors and bring up the message of Jesus in a more relational way.
But there are a few things we should keep in mind when doing either kind of evangelism:
First of all, we need to do both brands of evangelism as relationally as possible. When Jesus did “first encounter evangelism” with the woman at the well he took time to build a relational bridge by asking her for a drink of water. A Jewish rabbi talking to a Samaritan woman was unheard of in this era because there was extreme prejudice against these half-Jewish, half-Gentile people. But within seconds Jesus demolished the racist stereo-type and reached out to this desperate woman with his message of hope and forgiveness.
In the same way we can begin a conversation with others, ask great questions, listen deeply and then gently steer the conversation toward Jesus. By the way, the free Dare 2 Share mobile app has simple ideas for you to learn how to do this. This is a learned art that I’m still learning because my penchant is just to bring it up. But God is teaching me the power of asking questions and listening first. It breaks down walls and opens up real conversations. That’s the goal right? Not just a robotic evangelistic presentation but an authentic Gospel conversation!
Secondly, we should gently bring Jesus up early on in the context of every relationship. I’ve seen people make the mistake of just waiting and waiting and waiting to bring Jesus up to their neighbors, co-workers, classmates, family and friends and, when they finally do, it seems awkward, out-of-the-blue and, in many ways, disingenuous. To mitigate this awkwardness we can leave breadcrumbs by letting them know we are followers of Jesus early in the relationship. Maybe that means we tell them we go to church at such-and-such a place or share part of our salvation story. Whatever breadcrumb you choose to drop it can lead them to a full on gospel conversation with you at the right time.
Thirdly, realize that the advantage of relational evangelism is the ability to disciple those you lead to Jesus. It is very difficult to effectively follow up and disciple the strangers you lead to Jesus on the street, in the plane or at the restaurant. I personally shared Jesus with about 5,000 people by the time I graduated from high school. Yes, I tried to follow many of them up by getting the names and phone numbers of those I led to Jesus to invite out to church or youth group. And, sadly, I can count on one hand the number of those who were willing to come out to church with me or meet later on. Does this mean they were not genuinely converted? No! It means that we had no established relationship so it was difficult. The advantage of relational evangelism is the ability to follow up new believers so that we can help them grow in Jesus. With relational evangelism we can make disciples and not merely converts.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of either brand of evangelism. Sure it’s easier to disciple someone you lead to Christ in the context of a relationship but the seeds you sow with a stranger can spring to life as well. The Holy Spirit can bring other believers into the lives of those random strangers you brought to Jesus and help them grow in Christ and get connected to a local congregation. If you think about it Jesus didn’t disciple the woman at the well, Philip didn’t disciple the Ethiopian Eunuch and Paul didn’t disciple the Philippian jailer. They did what they could and then they trusted the Holy Spirit to do his job…because he always does.
I’ll never forget Kevin. He was drunk at a mall with a couple of buddies. I shared Jesus with him but he was too drunk to really have a conversation. So I left him with a More than Carpenter book by Josh McDowell to read when we sobered up. He did and put his faith in Jesus. I didn’t find out until a decade later when he figured out it was “the Dare 2 Share guy” who talked to him that day. Today Kevin actively shares his faith and carries several More than a Carpenter books in his car to give to people he encounters along the way.
To be honest, I think that evangelism should be the way that we live and breathe. We need to constantly reflect the message of hope to those around us with our lives and our lips. We need to be good news people living good news lives while sharing the good news message.
Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He was reminding them that the epicenter of this spiritual encounter with him should first impact our closest relationships (our “Jerusalem.”) It should impact our friends, family, neighbors, classmates, teammates and co-workers. But then it should reverberate out to “Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Let’s do both first encounter and relational evangelism depending on the situation. Let’s be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and push for the right mixture of relational and relentless in every conversation. As we do, we’ll witness God transform lives and advance his kingdom in amazing ways.
13 ways NOT to share your faith this Halloween
1. Dress up like Hanz and Franz and yell at the children who come to your door to “If your spiritual diet is like your physical diet no wonder you are headed for hell” (in your best Austrian accent!)
2. Pass out Tootsie rolls and fake $20 bills (the ones that are really gospel tracts in disguise.) The Tootsie rolls are fine but when kids realize that the $20 bill is fake they will teepee your house with real toilet paper.
3. Throw pocket New Testaments at kids from behind the bushes trying to make it into the top of their candy bags.
4. Give kids the choice between Angel food cake and Deviled eggs to see where they are at spiritually.
5. Put a “Happy Halloween, now REPENT!” sign in your front window.
6. Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
7. Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
8. Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
9. Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins”
10. Dress up like a mime and wordlessly act out the gospel before you give the scared and confused little kids at your door a measly gum ball.
11. Bobbing for Bibles.
12. Answer your door as a TV Preacher and tell the kids if they give you all their candy God will pay them back a hundred fold.
13. Toothpaste, dental floss and Life in 6 Words books (again, don’t be that house!)
Okay, all joking aside. Remember that Halloween is like door-to-door evangelism in reverse! They come to YOUR door!!!
Here’s what we’re doing at our house to reach out: LOTS of GOOD CANDY + Life in 6 Words cards + seeking to get to engage parents and teenagers in conversation!
What are you doing to reach out this Halloween?
*Reposted (and adjusted a bit) from a blog I wrote last year!
5 things you can do make your youth talk better
Have you ever given a youth group talk that just stunk? I have and it’s not a pleasant experience. Unlike adults, teenagers won’t pretend to be interested or attentive. They will literally roll their eyes, start talking to the person next to them or just text away about the lameness of your talk (or something else), while you flail for their attention five feet in front of them.
As one who has been preaching to teenagers for more than a quarter of a century I have come to learn some key elements of what it takes to prepare a killer youth talk. Here are they are…
1. Soak the whole process in prayer.
Ask God for the passage, the points and the practical applications. Wrestle with him over the illustrations, transitions and conclusion. God will give you just the right verses and just the right way to deliver the points if you approach him with just the right amount of persistence, humility and faith (James 5:16.)
As someone once said, “We must learn to speak to God about people before we speak to people about God.” As DL Moody once said, “Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach but only how to pray.” Effective preaching starts with effective praying.
Before I preach I tie my shoes. It forces me to my knees one last time. While on my knees I not only tie my shoes but pray once again that God fills me with the Holy Spirit and uses this sermon to change the lives of the teenagers I’m about to preach to in the next few minutes. From beginning to end prayer fuels the process.
2. Find an opening illustration that seizes their attention.
There are openers that tap teens on the shoulder and there are ones that pin them to the wall. I choose the latter. Ask any speech teacher and he/she will tell you that you either win or lose the audience in the first few minutes (and maybe seconds) of your talk. This is especially true of teenagers. That’s why you must craft and re-craft your opening illustration until you are confident it will grab their attention and set your first few minutes with them on a trajectory of transformation.
Jesus was a master at this. He used stories and sayings that riveted his audience in a way that no rabbi ever had. As Matthew 7:28,29 tells us, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribe.” From his opening to his conclusion Jesus seized the attention of his audiences. If we want to be like Jesus then we must learn to do the same.
3. Use one primary passage and drive it home.
Expository preaching is like a rifle shot. Topical preaching is like a shotgun blast. Both will get the job done, but one’s a little messier. That’s why I love the type of youth talks that lean in on one passage (instead of ten) to communicate God’s Word to teenagers. Too often the topical, multi-passage approach gets sloppy when it comes to exegesis and is less impacting as a result.
It takes a skilled expositor to effectively navigate multiple passages, exegete them accurately and communicate them effectively without playing some kind of games with the text. It can be done but it takes a lot more work and is fraught with danger if the youth communicator is not well trained.
That’s why I usually encourage youth leaders to dive into one primary passage in their youth talks. Of course they can and should refer to other verses along the way. But the most impacting youth talks I’ve heard have had one primary passage that was driven home from beginning to end (2 Timothy 2:15.)
As Spurgeon said, “I always find that I can preach best when I can manage to lie a-soak in my text. I like to get a text and know its meaning and bearings, and so on; and then, after I have bathed in it, I delight to lie down in it and let it soak into me.” Let’s soak in a text of Scripture, let it soak into us and then help our teenagers “cannonball” into it’s refreshing, transformative waters!
4. Gospelize it.
Whatever you are speaking on take it to the cross. From sexual purity to self-image to media choices every subject becomes clearer in the light of the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. We need to relentlessly share the gospel with Christian teenagers because it is the key to the Christian life (1 Corinthians 1:18.) We must relentlessly give the gospel to unreached teenagers because it is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16.)
If you think about it the entire Bible is gospelized. As Colossians 2:16-17 reminds us, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” The Old Testament is the shadow of Jesus and the New Testament is the reality of Jesus. So whether you’re preaching about the shadow or the One who casts it you are preaching about Jesus.
Here’s another way to think about it: The Old Testament points to the person of Jesus. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus. The Epistles explain the theology of Jesus. And the book of Revelation proclaims the victory of Jesus!
Genesis through Revelation is all about Jesus and his good news. Our talks should reflect the same thing! So gospelize them!
5. Challenge teenagers to act on what they’ve learned and show them how.
As James 1:22-25 reminds us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
Effective youth talks lift up a mirror for the audience to look into, exposes them to the mess in the mirror and offers a comb, toothbrush and washcloth to do something about it.
If you’re teaching on the importance of spending time in God’s Word challenge them to commit to a regular quiet time. If you’re talking on confession take a few minutes of silence for them to confess their sins to God. If you’re talking on the urgency of evangelism give them the 48 hour challenge to begin a gospel conversation with one person within two days.
But also give them a practical way to put it into practice. In a quiet time talk recommend a devotional for them to read daily. In a confession talk have them memorize 1 John 1:9 and meditate on it that week. If you’re talk is on evangelism have them download the Dare 2 Share app and watch the videos before they begin their gospel conversations.
These are 5 elements to preparing effective youth talks. What are some more?