Theology in Practice

SomeTime – Exploring Through Discussion

Exploring the Faith Journeys of Your Friends Through Discussion

Imagine eating at Chipotle and enjoying a meaningful and significant conversation about the gospel with a friend who does not yet know Jesus. No tricks. No surprises. No awkwardness. Isn’t that what we want? Aren’t those the kinds of conversations we long to have with our friends?

SomeTime is a CoJourners experience—a time dedicated to exploring the spiritual backstories of our friends. During this experience you will be asking friends, “Sometime, I’d like to hear about your spiritual journey… would you be up for that?” And, during this conversation or the next, you will ask if you can meet to hear his or her story.

Some of you will want to use a conversation tool like Life in the City, Soularium, Your Story, The Gospel on a Napkin or Perspective to explore your friend’s journey. Others of you will prefer not to use any tools. For those of you who prefer to explore purely through dialogue, without the aid of conversation tools, here are some helpful tips!

Seeking to Understand—Your First Priority

Your first priority is to simply understand your friend’s experiences. Focus. Listen. Ask questions. It’s that easy. There is no pressure to do or say anything. Simply listen! Put yourself in your friend’s story. See what your friend sees. Feel what your friend feels. Experience your friend’s life through the stories he or she is sharing.

If you don’t understand something, ask further questions. And if you disagree with what your friend is saying, your first step is to seek to understand. (This is not a time to debate.)

Learning to be a good listener is one of the most important skills you can learn. Listening keeps the door open for future conversations. For your friends, the experience of feeling listened to and understood can be incredibly powerful.

Important Note: Before you explore the spiritual backstories of your friends, reflect on your own! (For some helpful questions, check out: http://cityleadershipnetworks.com

 

Listening Tips…

  • Focus – Give your undivided attention.  (Remember it’s not about you!)
  • Invite – Invite them to share more.  (“Tell me more about…”)
  • Ask – Ask permission to go beyond.  (“Can I ask you about…?”)

SomeTime

An Easy Approach…

Explore Past Experiences :: Where they’ve been

What was your religious background as a child?

What have you tried in your spiritual journey since?

Explore Present Attitudes ::  Where they are

Where are you now in your spiritual journey?

How has your search left you feeling?

Explore Future Direction :: Where they are going

Do you think you are moving toward God, away from God, or staying about the same?

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your desire to know God personally?

Preparing Your Personal Story

Every time we tell our story (our testimony) we give honor and glory to God, and He is pleased with that. Why?

Well, our story is actually the story of how God rescued us . . . saved us. It’s our eye-witness (or “I-witness”) account of how our lives have changed. It’s the story of His pursuit of a lost soul (you!) and the dramatic rescue to tear you from the clutches of your mortal enemy and bring you safely into His eternal kingdom. It’s the stuff movies are made of.

And that retelling of your redemption highlights His character. That’s what we call “glorifying God:” it’s giving Him the credit and acknowledging His work.

We like to think that because it’s our story, we don’t have to put any effort into telling it. We were there when it happened, and we’re living it now. But it’s easy to get jumbled up, flustered, off the point, and onto a tangent that can distract, bore, annoy, or confuse your listener. We want to glorify God and be listener – friendly. That’s why a little planning and practice are so valuable.

There are five basic parts to “Your Story:” the opening, your life before Christ, how you came to Christ, your life after Christ, and the closing. You should be able to talk through all five parts clearly and succinctly within 3-5 minutes. Let’s take a look at how to put it together, section by section.

  1. The Opening. Identify a theme. What did your life revolve around that God used to help bring you to Him? Try to illustrate your theme with a word picture that your audience can identify with.
  2. Your Life Before Christ. You want to paint a picture of what your life was like before you came to Christ, but don’t dwell on how bad you used to be or glory in past sin. Share only the details that relate to your theme, and give enough detail to show your need for Christ. This is not the time to give your resume.
  3. How You Came to Christ. Ah, this is it. Make sure you speak in such a way that the person you are talking with, and anyone who overhears you, can understand how you became a Christian, and how they can become a Christian, too. Give only the details that are important to communicate why and how you became a Christian. As you begin to work on it, consider what your life was like before you trusted Christ or you really began to see change. This is an educational aspect to your story, so that even if your listener is not interested right now, s/he’ll be able to make that decision down the road because you’ve equipped them with the right information.
  4. Your Life After Christ. Share some of the changes that Christ has made in your life as they relate to your theme. Emphasize the changes in your character, attitude, and perspective, not just the mere changes in behavior. And be realistic. We will struggle as Christians. Life is far from perfect, isn’t it? But what makes it different for you now? Be honest, and God will use your personal experience regardless of how “unspectacular” you may think it is.
  5. The Closing. Close it out with a summary statement that ties your story together according to your theme. You could close with a verse, but only if it’s meaningful and relates to the story you’ve just told.

HELPFUL HINTS

  1. Write the way you speak—make the testimony yours.
  2. Choose a theme and carry it throughout the testimony.
  3. Don’t be overly negative or positive. Be truthful.
  4. Don’t criticize or name any church, denomination, organization, etc.
  5. Time limit should be 3 minutes.
  6. Practice it over and over until it becomes natural.

Compassion, Justice and The Gospel

why gospel conversations are needed for the well-being of our cities!

Many churches and gospel city movements are tackling urban issues with prayer and well-being initiatives (reading tutors for at-risk children, creating jobs, rescuing women from sex-slavery, creating new families from foster care to adoption).  Yet, an increasing number of leaders have seen the need to bring good and effective evangelism thought, tools and motivation into city movements. There is a need to engage in polite, wise, conversational evangelism while we rub shoulders with others who pursue well-being issues with us. Our gospel city movements must be faithful to both good works and good news, between showing and telling the gospel.

As our culture becomes distant from its Judeo-Christian roots, old forms of evangelism can create an obstacle to the gospel. We should be aware that most of our information seems irrelevant to a postmodern-background non-believer.  And, sadly, too many Christians have lost their vision to share the Gospel for fear of being labeled narrow-minded and out-of-date.

If evangelism is to play the major role that Jesus has assigned it to play, we will have to, as leaders, pay attention to these things: 1) Motivation; 2) Equipping people to be confident; 3) Sensitivity to the cultural realities of our day; 4) Having tools that help people find and know Jesus.

Words and concepts that center and motivate gospel movements today are words like: well-being, unity, justice and compassion. As I‘ve studied these words in the Bible, new motivation has revived me.  I’ve been aligned & corrected as well.

Let’s look at two passages.

1 The first has to do with the works and compassion of Jesus. John 2:11 and John 20:30, 31 are bookends. They suggest that signs – miracles and all works of compassion, love, justice and ministry in general – done in the name of Jesus Christ are for three purposes: 1) To show the splendor of Jesus, 2) That others “may believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of God” and 3) That, in “believing, all might find life in His name.”  The life and well-being we seek for all in our cities hinges on their relationship to the Gospel, and on us both telling and demonstrating the Gospel in everything we do.

The end of all prayers, works and aims is that others may know Jesus intimately and follow Him in glad surrender! So, in compassionate ministry we are to manifest something about Jesus. In other words; we lift Jesus up and share how He changed us – we openly share His Gospel.

2 The second passage has to do with justice.  In Jeremiah, God exhorts us to execute justice very strongly. Here are some examples: Jer 21:12: “O house of David, thus says the Lord: ‘Administer justice every morning; And deliver the person who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish it, because of the evil of their deeds.’” Jer 22:3: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor…’”

Justice here seems to be the protection of the weaker members of society from oppression by those more powerful. These are strong words against oppressing the weak and marginalized. Certainly I have never felt like an oppressor, but Jeremiah brings a heightened look at what it means to oppress.

An oppressor is anyone who exercises their power in either a cruel or neglectful way – causing people around them to be pushed down or remain down, preventing them from a life that flourishes.

Justice in this case implies that those entrusted with resources and means must protect the weak and marginalized from wrong, delivering them from whoever or whatever oppresses them.

As followers of Christ, we are people of resources and means. We have the Holy Spirit inside us. We’ve been seated with Christ in the heavens and entrusted with the Gospel. It is incumbent upon us to engage all marginalized, including those bound and blinded by Satan and under the wrath of God, not yet set free from sin and shame by the Gospel.  If Satan is the greatest oppressor, we are bound to set people free with the truth of the Gospel.  See John 8:31-47.

There are millions of people in our cities that walk in shame, experience the pain of rejection, have no hope and feel unloved.  They don’t know how much their Creator loves them and what God has done for them to forgive, relieve and restore them. They don’t know the life of peace, fullness and community that Jesus died to give them.

The greatest injustice ever known to mankind will be when the Church was reticent to share the Gospel and work to transfer people out of darkness, idolatry and bondage to a spiritual enemy.

We must extend the ministry of Jesus to all in the city – that all be made new, being changed by Jesus, and that life in the city would be renewed! By His grace and in the power of His Spirit we advance His mission: to preach the gospel, to mend the brokenhearted, to comfort those who mourn and renew cities (see Isaiah 61:1-11).  Jesus quoted from this passage in His first sermon (see Luke 4:14-18).  By turning to this passage, Jesus shows us what is at the heart of His ministry.  It’s as though this passage in Isaiah reveals the job description of the Messiah.  In studying it we come to one key conclusion: Jesus wants to radically change people from head to toe. Look at Isaiah 61:1-4.

In Old Testament society, when grief was unbearable, people threw ashes on their heads. Jesus wants to replace dark ashes with jewels; to adorn us with a crown of beauty! Oils were poured all over the body on special occasions. The oil of gladness reflects a good mood (Ps 45:7) – and it was forbidden to be used in times of public grief (see 2 Samuel 14:2).  Clothes that expressed joy replaced the heavy burden of a depressed soul. This picture shows that when Jesus changes a life, everything changes!

The job of an ambassador of Christ is to show the world the Savior, and that His ways and truth help us discover a better way to live.  Let’s be reminded as the Body of Christ that we are His temple, the actual presence of God in this world, to let Jesus minister through us, as He did while on earth Himself – and be His ambassadors and witnesses (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Acts 1:8, John 15:26, 27).

Bible study

Our prayer is that the following Bible study will help renew your motivation for the proclamation side of the mission of Jesus.

The job of an ambassador of Christ is to show the world the Savior and that His ways and truth help us discover a better way to live!  Let’s be reminded as the Body of Christ that we are His temple, the actual presence of God in this world, to let Jesus minister through us, as He did while on earth Himself – and be His ambassadors and witnesses (2 Cor. 5:18-21, Acts 1:8, John 15:26, 27).

  1. Read the following passages and make observations regarding the need for proclamation of the Gospel. What do these verses say about sharing the Gospel?  Share your insights with others in your group.
    • Compare John 10:16 and John 17:20-24
    • Romans 10:9-17
    • Compare Acts 4:4, 12 with Isaiah 45:22
    • I John 1:1-4
    • Galatians 1:3 and Colossians 1:13
    • 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2
    • 2 Corinthians 2:1-5
    • Ephesians 1:13
    • Colossians 1:5, 6
    • Revelation 5:9, 10
  2. What are the purposes of all works in John 20:30, 31? What kind of life is found in Jesus?
  3. What is the aim of our unity in Acts 15:9, 11, 14, 17?
  4. What is true of those who are living without Christ?
    • Acts 26:15-18
    • Romans 3:9-19
    • Romans 8:7, 8
    • 1 Corinthians 2:14
    • Ephesians 2:3-5
    • Ephesians 4:17, 18
  1. What is the attitude of the laborer of Christ in these passages? Romans 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 8
  2. Mark 4:1-12; Matthew 13:1-23. What are the implications of Matthew 13:18?
  3. What it true of those who oppose the proclamation of the Gospel in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16?
  4. What do you notice about God’s heart in Isaiah 45:22? Finish this sentence – “To enjoy life as it is meant to be enjoyed, …
  5. What does mankind, the entire human race, need according to 1 Timothy 2:5, 6? See 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9 also.

Barriers to Evangelism

Excerpts from CoJourners by Keith Davy.

With all kinds of biblical motivation for personal evangelism, we still come crashing into another reality. Sharing your faith with another person is scary and terrifying, or at least it can be. But look closer at those fears. What do they stem from?

Many of our fears are tied to social or relational risk. We don’t want to offend someone or do damage to a relationship. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to feel (or make someone else feel) uncomfortable or awkward.

But fear is also tied to our uncertainty of what to do and how to do it. The fear of failure is commonly identified as a barrier to our witness. Many sincere believers openly admit that they don’t know what to say or how to say it, at least in a way that is helpful and relationally appropriate. Similar is the fear of being asked questions one cannot answer. Or doing something inappropriate or ineffective.

The fear of relational risk and the uncertainty of what to do and how to do it are powerful forces inhibiting even the most motivated and best of intentions when it comes to sharing one’s faith.  The reluctance generated by these internal fears and uncertainties are then compounded by our lack of relational involvement with others outside the faith and by the busyness that fills our lives (and in some cases, ministries.)

Then add to the mix the counter currents of our culture and we become overwhelmed. Pervasive pluralism and relativism, with their sister value of tolerance, create a climate that is perceived (or assumed) to be hostile to faith-sharing.  Reports of the general attitude expressed in studies regarding the perceptions of Christians heighten the tension even more. For example, Kinnamon and Lyons (in unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters, 2012) begin their book with the bold declaration, “Christians have an image problem.” That is not just a perception. That is the conclusion of their extensive research.

The unChristian research uncovered the perception among young “outsiders” that Christians are “insincere and only interested in converting others.” Only one-third of young outsiders believe that Christians genuinely care about them (34 percent).

Not exactly the perception we want to reinforce, now is it?

But you see the dilemma. We do want people to come to Christ. But we don’t want to be perceived as (or worse yet, actually be) uncaring about a person.

There is a path forward. There are ways to appropriately engage others in significant gospel conversations, ways to navigate the cultural resistance and avoid many of the potholes in the path. There are ways that lead to some of the most relationally rewarding, personally exciting, spiritually exhilarating experiences in the Christian life, and they happen as you are sharing your faith.

Pick up a copy of CoJourners for some real help. See http://crustore.org/search-results