BETA

Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women

Archive for September, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BRIDGING THE GAP IN COMMUNICATING THE GOSPEL

How are we to understand and relate to the lost around us, who increasingly live in a world that is light years apart from ours?

Recently one of my non-Christian friends asked me if I could help him find the famous hymn, "Old Black Joe." He remembered it from his childhood and wanted to get a copy. Somehow I never thought of "Old Black Joe" as a hymn. As humorous as that may seem, it illustrates the gap between the world of the lost and the world of the believer. Some months ago, I was playing golf with several church leaders who casually mentioned they had disassociated themselves from several golfing partners because of their foul language and dirty jokes. They were serious! The longer we follow Christ, the higher the probability of associating less and less with the lost. The result? A decreasing understanding of and effectiveness in reaching the very people whom we are commissioned to win to Christ. What are we to do?

Let me offer two suggestions

:1

1 We need to catch the heartbeat of their culture.

That is, it is essential that we learn to listen to their longings, aspirations, hopes, disappointments and fears. One way to do this is through tuning into their conversation, literature, music, films, what they watch on T. V., their art forms; yes even how they glean their news. While its important to understand their culture – at least in a measure, we would be prudent to keep in mind St. Pauls word of caution, "I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." (Rom. 16:19b)

2 We need to respond appropriately with the message of the Gospel in a manner that communicates to them:

In 1970 my wife and I returned from Asia to the United States to pioneer an outreach among students at an arch conservative university situated in a ranching community in the Southwest. The Viet Nam War was in full force, as was the "Free Speech Movement." After living several years in Asia we felt we were out of touch with the student population. So I resolved to go daily to the campus in order to sit with students and listen to them with my heart…By the hour! And to probe them with questions. All with the intention of getting inside their soul. In effect, I became a student of these students. As a result of tapping into their lives, fruit came out of that campus that reverberated around the world. Understanding their worldview and crafting the delivery of the Gospel in a manner that was relevant to them played a key role in the numerous students who came to Christ and multiplied their lives in others.

Consider Pauls approach on relating to the lost: "Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralizedwhoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christbut I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.") (I Cor. 9:19-23 Msg.)

Question:

Are you willing to compassionately and intentionally work at understanding the heartbeat of your lost friends, without prematurely passing judgment on them? If so, you may be standing on the edge of a ministry among them that is beyond anything you could imagine.

1Key thoughts adapted from Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke, Beyond Foundationalism (Westminister John Knox Press) 2001, p. 159,160

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

HONORING GENE WARR A LIFE THAT IS COUNTING FOR ETERNITY

Some time ago, I received this letter from Jim Kennedy who himself, has an extensive discipling ministry across the U. S. and in various parts of the world. The letter is worthy of careful thought:

"Gene Warr is the friend who led me to Christ in 1969. His example of knowing Christ is what really drew me. My life was empty and purposeless and he sensed that and spoke of the practical reality of faith in Christ and the hope of meaningful existence.

"He was a man of incredible strength and stamina. He swam every day, worked out with exercises and sparred with a punching bag. In WWII, he was a tank commander with General Pattons army in Europe. He hunted nearly everything and never came back empty handed. He spoke at church groups and Christian conferences all over the globe. His first marriage ended in divorce, but he married Irma and they have had a wonderful time together ever since.

"He was always available to me, even though I might be interrupting a million dollar deal. He always took my call. He built his company. He had a vibrant discipling ministry. He witnessed to everything that moved. More than any man I have known he gave life his all. He followed Jesus as his Lord. He was friend to small and great, but always humbly gave credit to God. He has consistently given exactly 50% of his annual income to the Lords work. He has really lived.

"But, now he is suffering Alzheimers and is on a steep curve downward. Yesterday I quoted verses to him and he could occasionally finish the last one or two words. If he tried to get a sentence out, he would stall in the middle and mumble the last part. He is content and characteristically humble, gracious, and grateful. He smiles and looks attentively to everyone who enters although he knows almost no one. He knows when you are praying and helps you along with AMEN, AMEN.

"The point is, that this legend is coming to an end. The message to me is to get on the ball and get it done while there is yet time. A friend once said, "Live in such a way that you are prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moments notice."

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psa. 90:12)

"For the past 25 years, Gene kept a running countdown in his diary of the number of days left until he was 70, his expected Biblical lifespan. When he hit 70, he started counting up the days he was living by Gods Grace. In one sense, he was counting the days, but in practice he was making the days count.

"Are we making the days count? Or merely counting the days. As one gets older, most likely he will make some adjustments in the physical expectations, although we may be more capable than we suspect. I met up with J. Oswald Sanders when he was 83 on a nine-month preaching tour of North America. He casually mentioned he was preaching an average of twice per day with only two days off. When asked how he kept it up, he said, "I believe that whatever the Lord calls me to do, He will supply the ability to do it." Not only did he outlive three wives, he wrote numerous books with a yellow pad and pen."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ANSWERS TO THE USUAL EXCUSES ONE ENCOUNTERES WHEN WITNESSING FOR CHRIST

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I am trying very hard. I believe in myself.

"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." (Eph. 2:8,9) (See Rom. 3:22-26; 4:5; Eph. 2:5; 1 John 5:10-12)

All religions lead to heaven. All religions are the same.

"Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Jn. 14:6) (See Act. 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:21)

I am not so bad.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) (See Rom. 3:9-19)

There is plenty of time. I will believe in Christ some day.

"You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation." (Psa. 90:5,7) (See Job 7:6,7; 9:25, 26; 14:1,2; 2 Cor. 6:2; Jms. 1:11; 4:14)

I am too bad to be saved.

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Act. 3:19) (See Ex. 34:6,7; Psa. 65:3; 103:10-12; 130:3,4; Isa 1:18)

I have tried but failed

. "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy" (Jude 24) (See 2 Tim 4:18; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:20; Phil. 4:13)

There are many things that I do not understand.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29).

Since God is love, He surely will not punish us.

"Unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Lk. 13:3)

There are many hypocrites in the church.

"So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:12) (See Isa. 58:1,2; Matt. 23; Gal. 2:12,13; 1 Pet. 2:1)

It will cost me too much.

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mk. 4:26,27) (See Matt. 4:8-10; Lk. 9:23,24; Phil. 3:7-10)

There is no God.

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20) (See Psa. 8:3,4 14:1; Rom. 1:18,18, 28)

Jesus is not God.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodThe Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…" (Jn. 1:1, 14a) (See John 1:18; Phil. 2:6; Tit. 2:13)

The Bible was written by men.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16) (See Act. 1:16; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet.. 2:19-21)

1 Adapted from Basics of the Christian Life File One, Malaysia Discipleship Centre, p. 37,38

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR DEVELOPING MATURE, FRUITFUL DISCIPLERS:

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#1 Life Investment

: Discipleship is not a short term program of weeks or months. We tend to think in terms of herding people in mass through prescribed programs, expecting them to pop out the other end "mature" and ready to change the world. No, discipleship is more like a parent investing in a child as he nurtures him through the various stages of growth. "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little childrenWe loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God" (I Thess. 2:7b,8,11,12a) Bringing a person to a healthy level of spiritual maturity where they will consistently bear fruit usually takes 3 5 years.

#2 Transferability

: One of the most challenging tests in the discipling process is to go beyond the first generation. Often the person discipled fails to catch the vision, or feels ill-equipped to replicate it in others. Note Paul, as he urges Timothy to reproduce his experience of being discipled, "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Tim. 2:2b) As a discipler, I must guard against developing in my disciple an unhealthy dependence on me. One way is to view myself more as a guide than a teacher. Another is that from the inception of the discipling relationship I inculcate in him the idea that he is, at some future point to begin discipling another person.

#3 Purposefulness

: Measuring your disciples spiritual progress is difficult at best. If he is practicing the disciplines (consistent intake of Gods word, prayer, etc.), and applying Biblical truth that effects a change in lifestyle, it is reasonable to assume that he is growing. The process of discipling is best served when a prescribed set of materials is generally followed on a reasonably consistent basis. This gives the disciple a sense of progress and direction. It gives him material he in turn can use in discipling others. "The Lord will spell [His truth] out for them again, repeating it over and over in simple words whenever he can" (Isa. 28:13b)

#4 Flexibility

: Jesus metaphor of fishing for men (Matt. 4:19,20) suggests an art form requiring flexibility and creativity. As disciplers, we are co-laboring with the Holy Spirit in bringing this person to spiritual maturity. As such, we need to be sure we are tuned into how the Holy Spirit is currently working in his life. What issues is he grappling with? Where does he need direct help? What role am I to play? It important to bear in mind the fact that we are participating with God in crafting godly people, not religious drones.

#5 Life-on-life

: By its very nature, discipleship is best accomplished (in many cultures) through a fair amount of individualized attention. Paul to the Thessalonians: "We dealt with you one by one, as a father deals with his children, appealing to you by encouragement, as well as by solemn injunctions to live lives worthy ofGod" (I Thess. 2:11b NEB) Paul reminded Timothy of their intensely personal relationship, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance." (2 Tim. 3:10) Thus, it is essential that we engage our disciple at a level of relationship where true authenticity and transparency will transpire, both in his life and in ours, the discipler. The disciple also needs to observe in us a model of what he can become. Jesus, John, and Paul understood the force of example, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his stepsWhoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus didFollow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Pet. 2:21; 1 Jn. 2:6; 1 Cor. 11:1)

1Some of the key ideas in this "Facts" were derived from Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials (Inter-Varsity Press, 1998) Appendage