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Expert Opinions and the Truth

Unsplash.com_JApplegate

Unsplash.com_JApplegate

What is it about experts that make us want to hear what they say? Is it their intelligence? Their experience? Their authority or recognition as an expert?

Many years ago I realized a couple things about experts. They are often self-appointed, and too often their expertise is knowledge-based rather than experiential. And, oh yeah, they can be wrong. Sometimes more wrong than they're right.

For example, take the experts in the (Mosaic) Law when Jesus' came. They were wrong, way wrong, but would never admit it. (Mark 2:16-17 GW) They couldn't see past their self-righteousness to see the real need of people, but Jesus did.

I believe we've been held captive by the opinion of experts far too long. (Click to Tweet) For starters, the earth is not flat. Draining someone's blood doesn't get rid of a disease. Humans can travel faster than the speed of sound and run a mile under four minutes.

Experts and Jesus

The experts of Jesus' time, people who should know better than anyone, missed what they were looking for—the Messiah. Why? For one thing, they didn't like who He had as His followers. They also didn't like much of what He did and said.

My definition of arrogance is the resulting combination of pride and ignorance. (Click to Tweet) Sadly, my experience with (so-called) experts has born this out way too often. BTW, I'm no expert.

I can only guess why you would want an expert opinion. The expectation is that an expert will deliver an authoritative and true opinion. But alas, opinions are opinions, regardless of who gives them.

Jesus had real authority and He spoke truth, not opinion, and His view of discipleship was simple and practical. (Click to Tweet)

Jesus had real authority and He spoke truth, not opinion

An expert example

A considerable amount of books, pamphlets, and messages on discipleship have been generated over the years. All try to capture the essence, purpose, and value of discipleship.

One book I can recommend is The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman. It is a classic and well worth the read.

One of the simplest views of Jesus' model of discipleship can be found in Paul's epistle, 2 Timothy in Chapter 2. Here is where I find the essence of discipleship. Not so much a how-to plan, but a process. Discipleship is an ongoing process. It's a way of life.

Discipleship has a beginning but ends when we see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12).

Where do we start?

The foundation for all true discipleship is God's grace—His kindness poured out for all humanity through Jesus.

My child, find your source of strength in the kindness [grace] of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:1 GW)

The foundation for all true discipleship is God's grace

How does the process of discipleship begin?

First, we need to become a disciple and follower of Jesus.

We need to be faithful and consistent in our personal relationship with Jesus, and our relationships with others.

Then we are to pass onto other followers of Jesus what the Lord has worked into our lives. How has Jesus worked His life and truth into your life? This is what we are to share with others.

You’ve heard my message, and it’s been confirmed by many witnesses. Entrust this message to faithful individuals who will be competent to teach others. (2 Tim 2:2 GW)

We need to be faithful and consistent in our personal relationship with Jesus

What is the primary message?

The essential gospel should always be the basis for sharing our faith with others. The essential gospel, as I wrote about in my book, is simply— He (Jesus) came, He died, He rose. Here' one way Paul expressed it—

Always think about Jesus Christ. He was brought back to life and is a descendant of David. This is the Good News that I tell others. (2 Tim 2:8 GW)

The essential gospel is always the basis for sharing our faith with others

How can we be ready?

How can you and I be ready at all times and anywhere to share the gospel in our own words? And how can we share what the Lord has worked into our own lives?

We need to know the truth of God's Word ourselves. How can we share with others what we don't have a firm grasp of ourselves? (Click to Tweet)

Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who isn’t ashamed to teach the word of truth correctly. (2 Tim 2:15 GW)

We need to know the truth of God's Word ourselves

Two essential elements

In a previous post, I asked— What are two essential elements of true discipleship? Discipleship the way Jesus did it needs to be both relational and intentional.

It begins with our own personal relationship with Jesus and continues through personal relationships with others.

Discipleship requires commitment on our part. We need to be intentional and faithful in discipling others, even when the results aren't encouraging (see Matt 15:15-16 NIV). (Click to Tweet)

Discipleship the way Jesus did it needs to be both relational and intentional

How? That brings us back to the beginning—being strong in God's grace (2 Tim 2:1).

Discipleship is an ongoing process, not a task to accomplish. It's an intentional, continuing relationship with Jesus and others. (Click to Tweet) Discipleship is a way of life.

Getting Personal

James-Sawvee-EJ_Thai
James-Sawvee-EJ_Thai

A drastic difference exists between western and asian culture when it comes to personal interaction. Actually, this difference exists with most of the rest of the world (MOTROW) and western culture. Westerners like plenty of space, whereas much of the world will get right in your face, enough so that you can smell their breath, and they yours.

Time and tasks are the priority of westerners, while most other cultures value people and events. Events are important because people are involved, and events mark important milestones in people's lives. As westerners, we're more about getting the job done, making the most of our time, and putting off vacations and sleep to do so.

In the Philippines, a very social culture, people will sit outside in the evening to greet one another and visit. When's the last time you saw a front porch filled with people sitting, watching, and available for a visit?

Keep it personal

An important element in sharing your faith is to keep it personal. This is contrary to our tendency to not get too personal. But keep in mind, sharing your faith is always about relationship—relationship with God. When it gets focused on theology, the discussion easily turns into a debate rather than knowing the Lord.

Our theology needs to be sound, but this is rarely a good place to start sharing your faith. People who have no background in the Bible won't be able to relate, and those with some background often want to talk about their perception of the truth.

Narratives compose much of the Bible's writings. These stories reveal God's interaction with people, and people's life stories as they intersect with God. It's at this point, this intersection, that we gain insight on sharing our faith with others.

Everyone's got a story

When we engage people by asking them about themselves, we open a door of opportunity. This needs to be done with a genuine interest in people, not just a means to an end. We're not a salesperson hawking our wares.

I like getting to know people. Asking questions is an effective way to find who a person is, but be careful to not make it like an investigation. It's not about rattling off a bunch of questions to get some facts about a person. The goal is to hear their story, and everyone has a story to tell.

People will tell their story to someone interested in hearing it. Think of all the reality-based programs that fill television, YouTube, magazines, and blogs. It's obvious that people want to know the stories of other people. And so, this creates an opportunity to share our faith and our own life story.

Make connection

What interests you? My interests are varied and broad, but there's only a few things I'm passionate about. You'll know what those are when you engage me in them—I'll get animated in my talking.

I'm a fairly public person, but my wife is not. She doesn't feel the need to comment on everything like I do. But when the subject of children or grandchildren comes up, it touches a vital part of her heart. Her life and work has focused on her love of children, not just her own, but children in general. She still works in a preschool with babies and toddlers, and loves it.

So, we want to find a common point of interest or connection when talking with people. But again, it needs to be a genuine interest in them as a person, not just a way for us to talk.

A fitting story

When I engage people in conversation, I try to listen for a common thread in their story. Often I'll get some insight into a person's life, even when it's a light conversation. I make a point to listen carefully. Sometimes this provides a reference point for future conversations. I also look for similarities to my own experience in life.

The more familiar I become with the narratives in the Bible, the more I see how these stories mirror the lives of people around me. These narratives run the gamut of emotions and events people experience in every day life.

As you engage a person in conversation, pay attention to details in their life. If you're open and receptive, God will help you see how that person's life connects with someone in the Bible. When you realize a particular story fits a person, then you can share it with them. After all, it's a story, and we all love stories.

Ayele-story_OmoVillage
Ayele-story_OmoVillage

Keep it simple

On one of my travels in ministry overseas, I was teaching a small church in a remote village in Ethiopia. The fellow believer who was my guide and interpreter would take what I said and put it into their own dialect, which was different than the written materials we used.

As I taught, I realized that some of it was too western and unknown for them to understand, or even be interpreted in a clear way. So, I began to use stories in the Bible as a means of instruction. They engaged well with these stories, and conceptual truth became real to them.

Christians often speak in a foreign language when we share our faith. This is referred to as Christianese. When we use Bible wording and theological terms, people don't understand it. I make a point of saying things in non-Christianese. In other words, I use plain and simple words, and avoid quoting Bible verses to people.

More and more people have little to no knowledge of what the Bible says, and don't see it as more authoritative than any other book. This is the reality of our times and if we ignore it, people will ignore us and what we want to share with them. So, ditch the Bible-talk and use other words for Christian terms. Connect with people and share your faith in words and ways they will hear.

Next week I plan to complete this series of posts on sharing our faith. Until then, share your thoughts with me...

How have you connected with other people and their life stories?

What's Your Story Morning Glory?

Photo credit: www.sunset.com
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/
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!