Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.

This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

What's Your Story Morning Glory?

Photo credit: www.sunset.com I remember this phrase when I was young. It's a variation of asking the simple question, "What's up?" or "What's going on?" I know there are at least two songs with this as a title, but I'm not referring to them.

The morning glory is a climbing vine with beautiful, white, blue, pink, and deep purple blossoms. The blossoms open in the early morning and close as the day moves to evening. I remember my first encounter with their beauty as a young boy at a daycare center.

I still admire their simple beauty and prolific trumpet-like blooms. My favorite is the deep bluish-purple, but they're all beautiful. Just as their trumpet shape suggests, they shout out beauty in the morning.

Each of us has a story, a life story. In Christian circles, we refer to them as testimonies. This comes from the idea of a witness who testifies what they've seen, or their version of an event. Hence, when someone tells the gospel story, it's often referred to as witnessing.

But as mentioned last week, witnessing or personal evangelism doesn't come easy to many of us. So, I introduced a basic outline for becoming an evangelist without really trying. There are three general points in this outline—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep alert for opportunities. Today I want to explore the first point—keep it simple.

Start with what you know—your own life story

All of us have a life story

As a young believer, I remember hearing other people share their testimony at church. Some of these testimonies were so vivid and amazing, it may be feel like I didn't have much of a testimony. My life and conversion seemed boring compared to some of the stories I'd hear.

You don't need to compare or compete with others

This is the first thing we need to get squared away—we all have a valuable story to tell. It doesn't need to compare to sensational ones we might hear, it just needs to be genuine. Isn't that the catch-phrase nowadays, to be genuine and real? Who knows your life story better than you?

Your life story is genuine

Your life story is real. You don't need to embellish it to make it worth hearing, but you do need to be able to share it in a brief, clear way. Here's a basic guide if you're not sure how to do this— Guidelines_life-story

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

Most people worry about how to handle questions or challenges when sharing their faith. Don't worry about what you don't know! Focus on what you do know. The point is not to argue theology or get into debates with people. The point is to share your life story with them.

You don't need to have all the answers. You already know the answer. The answer isn't a doctrine or theological point, but a personal encounter with Jesus. So, just share your own encounter with Jesus. It's unique to you, even if it isn't sensational.

Take a cue from Jesus. When challenged by the Jewish leaders, who tried to find fault with Jesus, He side-stepped their challenge with the truth, or put it back to them with a question of His own (Matthew 21:23-27).

If you want to become more knowledgable in how to answer others, here's a resource you can get— Stand to Reason-Tactics

Engage people

When you gain some confidence to share your faith with others, the next thing to do is engage people in conversation. How? It's really not that hard. Think about the conversations you have throughout a day—at work, at a store, in a restaurant, with a neighbor, and others.

Most of the time you can start a conversation with a few simple questions. How's your day going? Do you have family in this area? Do you like your work? You get the idea. Much of the time you will find people willing to talk and open to sharing something about their own life story.

You can also speak something encouraging to a person. I'm pretty sure there's not excessive encouragement thrown around these days. If anything, there's a lot of cynicism, criticism, and complaining. Encouragement is a welcome break from all of that. It may be a start to a conversation, or starting point to develop a relationship with someone.

Once you engage people in conversation, whether for the first time or as a follow-up to previous conversations, you can look for an open door to share your faith. I'll talk more about that in a later post. But a book that expresses this well is, Just Walk Across the Room, by Bill Hybels.

Find a Bible story that matches

This is something that may take some time to develop, but it's a great way to tie your life to a story in the Bible. The great thing about the Bible is that it is honest. It's not a string of fairly tales, but of real life stories.

Many stories reveal the not-so-pleasant side of people. Other stories show great transformations (as in the Gospels or in Acts). The point is to link a story in the Bible to some part of your own life story. I'll also share more about that in a later post.

Just get started!

The first thing to do is get familiar with your own story. Work on getting it clear in your own heart and mind first. Then, try sharing it with others. You can start with people you know first—like a friend, a spouse, or a co-worker.

Then look for opportunities to engage people in conversation. You don't need to be clever, but you do need to be genuine in your interest in them. People can tell when you're just asking to set up what you want to talk about. So, get others talking about their life, the opportunity will come to share your life story after a while.

We'll look at all this more next week. Until then— What's your story morning glory?

How to Be an Evangelist—Without Really Trying

Photo credit: www.deathtothestockphoto.com/ What comes to mind when you hear the word evangelist? Do you think of a fiery preacher challenging you to "Repent!"? Nowadays that might be more of a caricature than common occurrence.

How about the words personal evangelism? Do you shudder at the thought of going out to witness with gospel tracts?

If the idea of personal evangelism or trying to be an evangelist doesn't appeal to you, keep reading! There is a way to share your faith in a personal, natural and easy way.

Calling, commitment, and a command

I know a young man who has a gift and boldness to engage people in conversation about Jesus and offer to pray for them. I have friends who go into neighborhoods every couple of weeks to knock on doors and share the gospel. A neighbor friend of mine often goes out on a roadside with a placard that reads, "Jesus loves you!"

I admire my friends for their commitment and calling. I've done similar things, but it is not my personal calling. My oldest son and I traveled to Scotland on an evangelistic outreach many years ago. It was a great time of ministry, and it helped confirm that I am not an evangelist.

I'm called to disciple people.

And yet, what is called the Great Commission (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8) is not an optional suggestion, it is a command. The apostle Paul told Timothy to, "...do the work of an evangelist...." (2 Tim 4:5 NKJV).

So, there is a responsibility for every believer to share their faith with others. Even when it's not our calling, we can commit to do something, even when it doesn't come easily.

But, if evangelism is not your thing, here are some thoughts on how to be an evangelist without really trying.

Keep it simple

  • Start with what you know—your own life story
  • Don't worry about what you don't know
  • Stick to what you know and engage people at that point
  • Find a story in the Bible that relates to your own life story

Keep it personal

  • Engage people by asking them about themselves
  • Find a common point of interest or connection as you talk with people
  • Think of a story that connects with the person's life you have engaged to talk
  • Use plain and simple words and avoid using Christianese

Keep alert for opportunities

  • Look for opportunities in everyday life
  • Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible
  • Pray and trust God for opportunities to engage people in conversation
  • Follow up with the people with whom you share your faith

Give it a try

Over the next few weeks, I hope to dig into each of these thoughts in more depth. The broad view of it can be summed up in these three admonitions—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep open and be ready.

I've posted on this general idea of sharing your faith before, but want to be more instructive with these new posts.

Here are a couple of posts I hope will be helpful to you—

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith?

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith? (Part 2)

How Does Your Story Connect with God's Story?

Tell me what you think—

What are your experiences with sharing your faith?

What are the challenges you've faced with sharing your faith?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

Spiritual Laborers

Photo credit: getwallpapers.net Agrarian economies still dominate a good part of the world. Planting and harvesting are important times of the year. They impact the livelihood of many people, and how good the harvest is, or isn't, impacts everyone.

Our economy in America is more diverse. In years past, we were considered an industrial economy with an agrarian backbone. But now, technology and its counterparts created an industry of its own. Most Americans only see the effect of a good or bad harvest when it affects food prices. Unless you live in a part of the country where agriculture is king, you probably don't know when harvest time is.

Jesus' followers knew when harvest time was and what that meant—hard work. (continue reading)

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's blog called Spiritual Laborers (click the link for the rest of this devotional)


Next week I'll continue the study in Proverbs

Speaking of Jesus

Photo credit: www.dvdactive.com It's not often I win anything in a contest. For one thing, I don't enter them but occasionally. As they say, "you can't win if you don't enter."

I casually entered some type of drawing  for a book through a missions newsletter. One day I received a book in the mail that I didn't remember ordering. It reminds me of the dad in "A Christmas Story" who won a lower tier prize and was beyond excitement about it. "Amazing! I won something!"

I won something I wasn't expecting. The bigger surprise was my delight in reading the book.

The book and the author


The book is called, "Speaking of Jesus," and is written by Carl Medearis. He is an expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations. His expertise comes from experience as a missionary on the field in Lebanon for twelve years, and he continues to work with international leaders to promote cultural, political, and religious dialogue in the Middle East (taken from the back cover of the book).

The book was sent by the author in a manila-colored envelope with his return address. Since I didn't know the author, nor remember why I received the book, I contacted him. I set it aside until I could commit to reading it through.

I'm glad I read it. It was refreshing. (Click to Tweet) The author expresses many things I'm in complete agreement about regarding Jesus and Christianity.

As with other books and blog posts I've read on this subject, the author challenges the use of Christian terminology (Christianese), and the representation of Christianity, in general. Much of it I agree with, though at times, it seems a bit overboard to me. Perhaps I'm just not that dogmatic about it... yet.

But I am passionate about not using Christianese and focusing on Jesus rather than theology. Here, I am in complete agreement with the author, as you might gather from some of my own posts.

It's all about Jesus

The chapter titled "Unfair Advantage" sums up what I like most about the book. Carl tells the story of his involvement with an interfaith dialogue in his hometown of Colorado Springs, CO. He portrays himself as someone who doesn't quite fit on the panel.

When asked, "How do you get to heaven?" His answer was, "Well, it's Jesus. He didn't start a new religion.... Believing in Him and following Him is the way. He takes us to heaven, not a religion." I couldn't agree more.

Carl does a great job of bringing the reader back to the central issue, over and over. Jesus. It's refreshing to see this point made in so many ways without being redundant. He does this with stories from his own experience, and is honest about his own shortcomings.

The book begins with what is missing from typical presentations of the gospel. I'm big on this, as anyone who's read my posts and my book (The Mystery of the Gospel) will know.

Carl tells of a discussion with students in a missions school of a large church. He asked them "what is the gospel?" After about five minutes of responses, and some moments of silence, one student asked, "How come none of us mentioned Jesus?" Carl's response. "Exactly."

I've had similar experiences in classrooms and small group discussions. This is a real issue with Christian believers in America. A big issue.

The book's value and purpose

I see the value and purpose of the book as a big poke. Not in the eye, but in the heart.

There are some things that are likely to offend some, well, many. But that's a good thing. We need to be shaken at times.

Christian believers need to consider what they believe and why they believe it. (Click to Tweet) This won't happen without a fresh processing of what is often too familiar, but not well understood.

Some of my favorite chapter titles are— "What's Missing in This Gospel?", "Unfair Advantage," "Speak of Jesus... Not about Jesus," "You're Under Arrest... for Speaking Christianese," and "Gays, Liberals, and Muslims." That last one should catch your attention, and its content may surprise you.


The book kills some sacred cows that American Christians hold dear. It stirs things up about matters of faith and belief. Even the subtitle sounds almost sacrilegious, "the art of not-evangelism."

Carl takes an honest look at how we (Christians) go about evangelism and portraying Christianity. I hope you'll read it, ponder it, and allow him and what he says to move you towards speaking of Jesus in a way that attracts others to following Him.

After all, it is all about Jesus and following Him! (Click to Tweet)


Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith?


Evangelism. What does this word bring to mind? Typically, most people think of street preachers, revival tents or mass crusades, and handing out gospel tracts.

But the most effective means of evangelism, since the time of Jesus till now, is personal evangelism. One on one (or two or three), relational, intentional sharing of God’s Story—the gospel—in a personal way.

Some people are called to be preachers, whether on a street corner or in an auditorium. Others are quite bold and confident in approaching people in any circumstance for the sole purpose of sharing their faith.

But not everyone is like this. I’m not.

My personal observation

Even though I’ve preached in church pulpits, public outreaches, on the radio, and handed out tracts on the street, evangelism is not what I'm inclined to do.

Many people are not equipped, nor called to traditional public evangelism, but we are all called to be ready to share the hope we have within us—Jesus—and our relationship with Him (1 Peter 3:15).

The hindrance for many of us sharing our faith is timidity and lack of confidence, but the key is focusing on building relationship. (Click to Tweet)

The typical focus is on the mechanics of how it should be done, or the content of what needs to be said. But when we look at the example of Jesus in the Gospels, we see a very tailored, personal approach. He shows more interest in the person rather than the methodology or agenda of “getting them saved.”

This past week I shared on the topic of evangelism and biblical storying at the nearby YWAM base. I encouraged them to consider how each of their life stories connects with God's Story. Also, how they can use biblical storying to share their faith with others. Some of what I shared follows, and I hope it will help you in sharing your faith with others.

Jesus' example

Compare Jesus example to the more common approach of monopolizing a conversation with a prepared spiel, in an attempt to convince people they are sinners.

We see Jesus' example early on when He was in the temple among the Jewish leaders and rabbis (Luke 2:41-50). Jesus is found “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He isn’t preaching to them, but listening and asking questions.

Further along in the gospel narrative, we find Jesus engaging people with stories and wise sayings called parables. He often used questions when challenged by the Jewish leaders, asked questions of the crowds of people when He taught them, and used questions when explained things and to exhort His disciples in private.

Jesus engaged people from all backgrounds and stations of life. He seemed to tailor His interaction with people to their level and state in life. He treated those with questionable backgrounds and character with unexpected dignity. He rubbed shoulders and ate with prostitutes, drunks, unethical business people, political agitators, and the like. And His band of followers included uneducated fisherman and tax collectors (renegade IRS-agent types) to mention a few.

His tactics were different from anyone expected, which included His followers and the Jewish spiritual leaders. His tactics were different from what is customarily seen today. Different than what is found in most evangelism training programs and books on evangelism, let alone stereotypical evangelists, whether well-known or not.

Learning from Jesus' example

How can we learn from Jesus' example? It just might make sharing our faith with others easier, and more fruitful. (Click to Tweet)

People, worldwide, know they are sinners in some way or another, or at least that they are less than perfect. Most people, throughout the world, are lonely and often feel less than important. When someone shows interest in them and is willing to listen to their story, they take notice.

I have found this true traveling nationally and internationally on planes, and in airports, and other situations. People want to tell their story. One reason people seek out a counselor or therapist, even social networking, is to find someone who will listen to their story.

This can be the starting point for personal evangelism. Simply ask a person about himself or herself. Who are they? What do they do in life? Just show interest in them. Genuine interest.

This builds rapport, the beginning of a relationship. It establishes interest and even a sense of trust. It builds a bridge that makes it possible to share your own story, and the greatest story—God’s story.

It requires more than patience, it requires genuineness. Most people are perceptive enough to know when you are listening to them, or just listening for an opportunity to break in and say something.

Once you hear a person’s story, you have an opportunity to share your own story, your life story of faith. (Click to Tweet)

This isn’t a complicated or new approach. In fact, it takes place many times a day, often without any intention. It just happens.

Wouldn't it be nice if sharing your faith just happened in a natural way? (Click to Tweet)

I want to tell you a true life story of just that, but it's another story for another day.

Until then, think over what I've shared so far, and maybe take some time to look at how Jesus engaged people with the truth of His story—God's story.

In a couple of days, I'll post the follow-up to this... stay tuned!