leading the world to Christ starts at your local Applebee’s

server

i don’t post here much anymore. only when i feel like i really have something to say.

so sue me.

as some of you know, i recently left full-time ministry and am trying to find my place in the world outside of being a full-time, professional Christian.

and for right now, that means i work as a server at our neighborhood Applebee’s. and, much to my surprise, i really love it.

last week, i had the opportunity to serve a local minister. he is well-respected in the circles i used to run in, having grown several small churches to mega-church status. i knew him, but he didn’t know me.

and, after serving him lunch…he still doesn’t know me. in fact, he didn’t even look up at me. or acknowledge me. or say anything to me.

the irony: he and his friend spent the better part of an hour at my table talking about how to lead the world to Jesus.

all i could think to myself was: “how are we going to lead anybody, let alone the world, to Jesus, if we can’t even give the guy who serves us our lunch the time of day?”

it starts in our neighborhood. or our neighborhood bar and grill.

(now, i am not mad at this man. he meant no ill will towards me at all. he wasn’t trying to make it in to my blog. he’s a good…no, a great man.)

can we all agree to keep our eyes open to the opportunities right in front of us? can we start thinking a little smaller, perhaps? can we stop overlooking the hurt and lost and broken among us every day?

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2 things to remember about college students and evangelism

i interviewed a veteran campus minister years ago, when i was just a newbie in the field. i was writing an article from the slant of “new guys asks old guy how things in campus ministry have changed.” i asked him to share how he personally had gone about sharing the truth of Jesus with college students over his four decades of campus ministry. this is what he said:

“when i get in an elevator, a student will ask me if i am going down. i always respond, ‘not when i die.'”

that story makes me think of this hilarious SportsCenter commercial:

now, this man led thousands to Christ during his lifetime. and so he was not saying that his preferred method of evangelism is “cute sayings in the elevator evangelism” like one would say “real life evangelism” or “sequential evangelism” or “the celtic way of evangelism” (all titles found at Amazon).

i’ve thought about his answer a lot over the 7 years or so since i wrote that article. if we are called to make disciples, we in college ministry must constantly be thinking about how we ourselves approach evangelism and how we equip our students to fulfill their mission of making disciples.

here are two things we must keep in mind.

1 // it’s all about relationship.

i hate when followers of Jesus use fear tactics to scare people into the Kingdom. the whole “if you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” line of reasoning is very frustrating to me. it communicates that Jesus is nothing more than a “get out of hell free” card and that being a Christian is all about what he can give you and not so much about what you can give him.

this approach undermines the relationship we can have with Jesus. imagine you came to my birthday party bearing gifts for me. i reach out to you when you arrive, but only to snatch the gifts away from you. i don’t really care that you’re at my party or that you desire a relationship with me; i only care about what you brought me.

yeah, it’s kind of like that.

(please don’t hear what i’m not saying. talking about heaven and hell and judgment and eternity are all vitally important. but if Jesus is simply an eternal fire insurance policy, i’m afraid we’ve missed the point.)

we must lead people to Jesus. and we must train those people to lead other people to Jesus. and not just his gifts.

2 // it’s all about relationship.

yeah, you’re reading that right. two main points; the same, but different.

the old adage rings true for college students: they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. that’s why “elevator evangelism” doesn’t work today. authentic relationship is the incubator where an eventual faith takes root. 

people are not projects. and neither is evangelism a task we check off our list. gone are the days, i think, of “large event” evangelism. smaller groups and one-on-one relationships is where the good stuff happens. we must think small; one who comes to faith leads another, who leads another. by thinking small, we impact big.

that’s how Jesus did it.

question for you: what do you think? how did you come to faith? how can we create better environments for healthier relationships in which the gospel can be declared and demonstrated?

Eats with Sinners

Evangelism “strategies” and “tools” seem to be everywhere.

They have changed over the course of time. Back in the day, you could actually go door-to-door and have a decent conversation with somebody about faith. Then, when that stopped working, we started handing out tracts. Quite a bit less personal, especially if you just left them on your table at the restaurant for your waitress or on the back of the toilet in the stall. With the age of technology, we have created new ways to engage in “electronic evangelism” and creating dialogue through pictures.

None of these are bad things. But, I tend to  grow nervous around methods and tools.

If you look at the way Jesus connected with people who needed to hear the good news, it seemed to be much simpler.

He used food.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'” (Luke 15:2)

Could sharing the gospel be as easy as eating together? Could we really earn the opportunity to share our faith as we develop a relationship with someone over food? Could the sacred event of a meal be the fertile grounds in which the seeds of faith are planted?

Jesus thought so.

And so does Arron Chambers. His new book is appropriately titled Eats with Sinners. (website / Amazon) In the book, Arron dives deep into the “ingredients” necessary to effectively share your faith. Each chapter covers an ingredient, such as integrity, grace, intimacy, urgency, and vision.

Arron writes practically, but that doesn’t mean what he writes is easy. As I read (and re-read) this book, I found myself very challenged. Arron encourages intentional relationships that are moving towards an opportunity to share the gospel. I don’t have many relationships with non-Christians. And the ones I do have are surely not intentional.

I found Arron’s book to be so valuable that we have adopted, at the Christian Campus House, the theme of evangelism for this spring semester. We plan on looking at each of the ingredients as shared by Arron over the course of the next few months. Our students have a nervous energy about them. Nervous because we are talking about evangelism, and that always gives us the jitters. But energy, because this isn’t the same kind of evangelism most of us have experienced.

I bought each of my student leaders a copy of Eats with Sinners. Our first meeting night, I also asked if there were any other students interested in having their own copy of the book…and I ordered 17 more the next day!

And so…if you haven’t snagged your copy of Eats with Sinners yet, I recommend you do so. We are buying them up and left and right here in northwest Missouri. You best hurry if you want your own copy.

Free Catalyst Tickets and the Gospel

So, here is the scoop.

One week from this morning, I will be flying out of the KC for the ATL. Once I get to the ATL, I will secure me a compact rental car and head for the Catalyst Conference.

In case you haven’t yet heard, I have partnered with the Christian Standard to bring you live-blogging through the pre-conference Labs and all 10 of the main sessions…as well as bringing you some other social media goodies throughout the conference.

With that in mind, if you haven’t yet…you should subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter.

I’m excited.

This all started when I got news that I had won a ticket to Catalyst.

I hadn’t planned on attending prior to my big win. I had wanted to, but didn’t have the extra bones to make it work. To stay home would have cost me nothing.

And then I won a “free” ticket. A few weeks later, my “free” ticket has cost me around $400 in the form of airline tickets, rental cars, and hotel rooms.

Is this not exactly like the Gospel?

It’s free…but it will cost you everything.