Ar Draugi un Ģimenes plānu

Mūsu draugi un ģimenes mūs zina vislabāk. Tie var būt nežēlīgi godīgi. Viņi zina reālo mums–stiprās un vājās puses. Tas bija pat taisnība Jēzu. Just to apskatīt pirmo brīnumu, ko viņš jebkad veiktais:

Trīs dienas vēlāk tur bija kāzas ciematā Kānas Galilejā. Jēzus’ māte bija tur. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jēzus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.”

Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.

She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim.

“Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did.

When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”

This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11 (The Message)

Sometimes our biggest leaps in growth as we endeavor to become more outward focus will occur when we stop, look and listen to how those closest to us perceive us. Recently my father was in town and he took my brother and I out for a steak dinner at an expensive restaurant. Over an after-dinner drink and cigar, my father and brother, agnostic on their best days and pagans on their worst, expressed something that broke my heart:

“You know, I thought this church thing would be just a fad with you. I am glad you stuck with it, it has made you a better person in the long run. What I still don’t get about you and all this God stuff, is why you seem to love strangers more than your own flesh and blood.”

Pārsteigt. I was dumbfounded. How do you respond to such a brutal observation? They were right and I knew it as both of them proceeded to tell me how it made them and the rest of the family feel when I seemed more concerned with serving and loving others rather than my own family. It was a type of intervention that could only be done by men smoking cigars. It was heart-wrenching, but quite true. I had slipped out into the dangerous rapids of the OUTFLOW lifestyle and did not realize it. I was grasping onto flotsam and jetsam of this world, any that passed by, rather than taking hold of things of value.

It has long been a secret torment to me that I have had smashing success at evangelism with people I don’t know, meanwhile just about my entire family resist all forms of God and despise anything religious. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I would never lay a guilt trip on anyone about their ownership over their family’s salvation. Faktiski, I guess I am just thinking aloud here as I write this. I mean, if you are a regular reader of Serve! magazine, chances are you are an expert at servant evangelism. That raises a question though. How good are you at serving those closest to you? This month we are going to pause and consider this. There will not be any articles from me in this issue. Instead I am calling on wiser voices to address a serious need. How do you serve your friends and family–the people that know you best?

Here is what I do know. The bible passage above can be very helpful in this. Look at the interaction between Jesus and his mom. Maybe I am reading more into than is actually there, but I see two things in the subtext of the passage:

  • 1) Jesus seemed a bit perturbed at his mother being pushy and telling how and when do ministry.
  • 2) His mom did indeed know best. It was a very powerful miracle and seemed to solidify his disciples from a ragtag band of loose cannons into a cohesive team

So what can we learn from our families and the experience of serving them? Read the rest of this issue to learn from some of the best voices on the topic!

Home For Christmas Camey Gravley

Parker

Atpakaļ vasarā, Mūsu jaunākais dēls, Parker notiek misijas braucienu uz Aidaho. Mūsu 11 gadus vecais dēls nevar gaidīt, lai iet daļu par Jēzu. Es zināju, ka, bez šaubām, Man bija iet ar viņu. Nebūt "eksperts" uz lauka tā runāt, bet, lai kalpotu līdzās viņam. Shortly after I decided to go, my husband, and two other sons jumped on board. It was our first time away together as a family in several years. I also knew my husband was going to hear clearly from God while in the mountains. And sure enough… his cell phone rang while on a mountain in Utah. While floating in the Payette River in Idaho during what seemed like some free time, God told me to get out of the boat. While in the water, I heard clearly that we moving. Today I write this from a much different place than in my previous articles for SERVE e’zine.

For many years our family had been praying for the next place and individuals we would serve. My husband and I already had planted deep within us a love for this place and these people long before we knew the details. In 2005, when we gave away or sold almost everything we were blessed to call ours, we weren’t sure how long that part of the journey was going to last. While we wouldn’t trade a moment of taking care of my parents and serving that town and community – not even the ones that hurt like heck, we knew we wouldn’t be walking in the outflow in staying. God saw to it that every detail was taken care -that included my mom marrying again and no longer needing us to live with her. So, back during Labor Day weekend, we filled up a moving truck and with tears and yet much excitement, made our way here. In the truck were many gifts that God saw to it were ours to take freely.

We are now in a tiny town in the panhandle area of Texas. My husband is the pastor of a church here. And I am no longer a paid staff member of a church but am able to stay at home without also being a caregiver for my parent(s) while inside her walls. This is a house that happens to be located directly across the street from our physical church building. And while this house is not necessarily ours in a sense that it belongs to the church -it is very much our home. And for the first time in many years, this mom can welcome her sons to invite friends over any time. It is not uncommon to find a teenage boy whose last name is not ours – opening our frig to get some sweet tea or checking out our dining room table to see what goodies I’ve baked up in the kitchen we’re having a blast in or sitting down to eat with us.

With my husband being the new pastor here, we received several invites for Thanksgiving. Invites from where we moved from came in as well even if it meant a quick trip. But my husband and I knew we were to stay at home. And for the first time in the 20 years we’ve been married, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day together in our home with our sons. We laughed. We played games. We ate pie for breakfast instead of waiting for whatever other guests to arrive and lunch had been devoured. I even wore my sweats and didn’t have on a stitch of makeup. We were simply chilled to the max and napped for hours. It was a very different Thanksgiving Day indeed for the 5 of us.

We are blessed in the fact that all three of our sons are not only Christ-followers but get what living in the outflow really is. But there are times when it is okay to say no. Jā, even for a new pastor and his family. And at 6:00 p.m. the doorbell rang. It was a teenage boy who has been spending much time at our home. Our sons could have said, “Send him away.” Instead, he was welcomed in like every other day. He sat on the couch with my husband and I while we were watching the movie CARS with Parker. And in a moment of sheer comfort he said, “Your house is the safest place for me to be.” This Wednesday night, he said he would be across the street with us too. Remember? Across the street from our home is where the physical church building is. Showing us yet again, one can serve their family in the outflow and catch others up in the wave of God’s love and kindness.

Now that the Christmas season is upon us, may we be reminded that in training up a child – sometimes the parents can learn a lesson or two along the way. Our family looks forward to the “Parsonage Open House” we’re having on December 20th. We’re baking up goodies not only for our own church peeps but will also be taking some along with baskets of food and everyday items to neighbors here in our new community. No doubt our favorite Christmas already! And December hasn’t even officially started yet!

We are praying for you daily as you seek His Kingdom first! Remember – those closest to you are paying attention even when you’ve taken your makeup off. And may you be home for Christmas!

Camey Gravely
Camey

Camey Gravley is an Unashamed Christ-follower and Lifestyle missionary. Her passion is to help others notice God in the moments of every day life and living. Prayer of dangerous prayers too! It is her pleasure to serve others out of the outflow of God’s love!

Seši jautājumi par Doing Outreach mazākās pilsētās Steve Sjögren

Small TownsEs nesen biju New England jomā neatrodas ASV. Man ir pondering nesen unikālās aspektus dara ministrijas mazākās iedzīvotāju jomās, piemēram, ka. Ir daudzi aspekti, darot vērienu, kas ir universāla – as we step out to serve others we are going to find that people are pretty much the same everywhere. At the same time, there are unique features present when we are aiming at people in these areas. What do we need to keep in mind as we reach out in to rural people?

There are six basic questions we must be answer well before we are able to deeply connect with smaller communities. These are the pressing questions we will be asked when we approach the small town audience.

“Are you here to stay?” People will ask if you are doing something that is just going to be a “ship passing in the night” or if you are going to commit yourself to this area. You will be dinged effectiveness points if you come across as someone who is doing things in order to just connect initially but not at a deeper level. It is important that you connect with people in a way that is going to be perceived as lasting and deep versus light and passing. We tell our community we are here to stay partly by the atmosphere we create when we are doing outreaches. Each time you go out to do SE you have the opportunity to tell people “We are planning on living the rest of our lives in this town. We love this place!” We communicate this message in a variety of ways. At a practical level, put on your “friendly face” and you will do well at connecting with the small town audience.

“Do you love me or are you just trying to build your church through me?” If people think you are trying to use them as building blocks of your church they are less likely to warm up to you. You will be evaluated by how you connect with others. Most people who live in smaller towns feel a sense of pride about what they have accomplished in making a living for themselves in that context. There is a sense of accomplishment in these people you won’t find among urban dwellers. If you honor that sense of smaller town USA you will come across as a friend, an ally in the fight for meaning.

“How do you treat people?” In the smaller town context the way we connect with people will be under the microscope more than when we are in a larger context. The good news about doing servant evangelism in a smaller context is that people will take more notice to the way you connect with your city. Tas ir, there is the possibility that you will make an even more enduring impact upon people than if you were merely connecting with people in a larger city. In big cities we are doing virtual stranger-to-stranger outreach. In small towns we are connecting with people who likely consider themselves friends or at least acquaintances.

“How do you see the future?” People who live in smaller communities see the future in a unique way. It is common that they view what will take place in the future through the lens of staying put in the current community. That is different than the way people in larger communities see things. Since they have typically lived in the larger context all their lives the notion of city or town size as a flexible factor in evaluating moves. Most who live in a smaller community have committed themselves to the notion that they will persevere in staying in a smaller setting. When we are doing outreach in these settings it is important that we convey that we are going to be here for the duration. Those in smaller communities will plainly ask what we plan to do if we grow as a congregation. The fear is that growth will compromise the quality of the church. If we do grow as a church it is important that we convey that are going to continue to hold strongly to the value of putting people first. We don’t plan to change.

“How do you relate to money?” Money is viewed a bit differently in smaller contexts. Servant evangelism is all about doing things for free. This important concept will have even more impact in smaller towns than in bigger cities. People are generally impressed with the notion of serving for free. When we serve for free in small towns we have the opportunity to literally amaze people.

When doing servant evangelism we sometimes are approached by people who attempt to pay us for our gift or services. We generally make it a point that we never accept these attempts at giving back to us. We are going to be approached more often in smaller towns by people who wish to give to us when we serve. I recommend you have a standard response to those who are flabbergasted at our project. It is good to spin people a bit with our projects. It isn’t good to leave them overly frustrated. One possible response to those who are blown away is to recommend they give to one of the children’s sponsorship programs that are typically seen on TV on Sunday evenings.

“Are there projects that work especially well smaller settings?” Jā, there are projects that work well in a smaller context. In general, anything that can impart the value of the individual will help get you better mileage. Doing give away projects is a hit no matter where you are located, but this approach seems to work better in larger cities. In a smaller context it is important that we convey to people that we are in the business of serving. Projects that allow us to connect with the value of the individual will make a bigger impression.

Some projects that connect well include:

* free carwashes (I would stay away from the dollar carwash in a small town setting – that is a bit over the top and might come across with too much pizzazz),windshield washingis an amazing project that can touch a lot of people in a relatively short time

* restroom cleaning teams(stick to gas stations, restaurants and fast food joints and other public venues)

* feeding parking meters(make sure you are able to actually feed parking meters – you may need to attach a quarter to your outreach card and place that next to the drivers handle)

* shoveling snow

* giving away deicer to residents(provide a one gallon plastic milk container that is cut away – then return to fill the salt or deicer every couple of weeks)

* window washing at homes and businesses.

The best is yet to come! God is on the move in small settings. If you live in a rural setting you might find that you have special blessings resting upon your outreach efforts. There are unique challenges that accompany a focused outreach in a smaller context. It is not impossible to be effective in this setting. My advice to you is to take heart. It is encouraging to learn the ropes and then to reach out with effectiveness. In some ways it is easier to reach out to a smaller town. Once you have paid your dues, so to speak, you will find it is in fact easier to reach out in this context versus a larger city. You will find it is possible to create an atmosphere that will grow to envelop your entire town. In a smaller setting it is possible to set attainable outreach goals that will see you touch every person in town more than once. Ultimately the name of the game in outreach is your ability to connect with many in a repeated fashion.

New Look At The Harvest

What's Gone Wrong With The HarvestIn 1975 James F. Engel uzrakstīja grāmatu ar nosaukumu:

Kas ir nogājis greizi ar Harvest?

Tas bija domāts, lai iegūtu uzmanību, ka baznīcas un iedunkāt tos jaunu domāšanas. The main thrust of his writing was to convince us that evangelism should not be thought of as simply sharing the gospel. It is not effective to simply make the same broad-based message and spread it repeatedly. No matter how innovative that approach might be, it simply will not work the same way every time. Evangelism should be constantly evolving. What is the definition of insanity? Oh yeah, it is doing the same thing, the same way, and expecting a different result.

Engel introduced us to a type of classification scale to keep in mind as we observe the people we encounter. This scale is not intended to stereotype folks as much as it is to simply remind us not everyone is at the same stage of readiness to receive the gospel message:

Engel Scale Of Evangelistic Readiness

For the person who already believes there is a God and is aware of their separation from God, the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ is refreshing. However, for the person who doubts the existence of God or for the folks that have such little awareness of God that those three letters are really just an adjective you throw before a more profane word (yes they are out there–I have met them) the presentation of the gospel in merely a verbal form will fall on deaf ears, or even worse, become an obstacle to receiving his love.

If we picture people on a continuum from –10 which represents atheism, to –6 which might represent an open minded agnostic, to –1 which represents a seeker and on to +1, a new believer, un +5 as a person well on their way to spiritual maturity, then effective evangelistic activities (for –10 to –1) and effective discipleship activities (for +1 to +10) will depend on where the person is along the continuum. To effectively reach out to people, we must adapt our approach to where they are in their readiness.

In other words they might only be ready for a free Coke and a smile.

Remember it can take 12 to 20 nudges before folks make their way on the road to the kingdom. Just like people are different, so are the paths they are on. The nudges have to be adapted to the people. It is quite an irony that some of the first disciples were fishermen. There is a segment of society that understands adaptation. Ever been to a bait and tackle shop. Even a road side stand has more than one type of bait, hook, net, etc. If you want to see a real eye popping array, visit a store on Port Aransas, Walkers Cay or in Islamoroda.

People are as diverse as fish. God designed the kingdom that way. Rather than constantly train how to deliver the gospel, we need to train folks to be more in tune with the people they are connecting with. We need to train people how to observe and listen–not talk. Talk is cheap. That is why GO AND DO churches tend to thrive more than COME AND SEE churches.

Why is this?

The COME AND SEE CHURCH is entirely too committed to the investment in the place they want you to come and see. They have to be. They operated under the premise of “if we build it they will come,” and brick, mortar, glass and steel is not cheap. It is difficult to adapt once you lay down pegs. You can talk all you want about moving the tent pegs a bit further out, but the reality is the tent fabric will only stretch so far–move the pegs out too far and all you do is rip the tent. Having a good base camp is not bad, as long as you also invest in the gear you need beyond the tent for a variety of purposes. There is nothing wrong with having a great tent–just don’t expect it to also work well for cooking and starting campfires.

Meanwhile the “go and do” church is designed to adapt. You “can’t go and do” immersed fully in the community without adapting, even if the adaptation was not intended. You become relevant in a given situation because you have to just to survive.

habanero peppersWhen Jesus walked the earth, the region he was in was an agrarian based society. The gospels are filled to the brim with metaphors and similes that folks with dirt under their nails, from working the land, understood. I think there are a few layers of revelation that are lost on those of us that only harvest processed food. That is why I always have a garden. You learn a great deal when you get dirt under your nails on a regular basis. I had a bumper crop of tomatoes, jalapenos, and habaneros, so if you are in the Cincinnati area, stop by and try my homemade salsa! We can also have a chat about the harvest and adaptations you might need to make on your back forty.

Take a gander at the cover of the issue this month. This is not the “Harvest” Jesus was speaking of. We can’t make the “crops” we are called to tend as Christ followers into nifty little pegs that fit the same slots. We are designed with unique talents and communication skills because we are going to encounter people that are very different. There is no cookie cutter approach to evangelism that will work any longer.

There is nothing wrong with the harvest. It is the harvester that needs to be fixed.

Plānošanas Brīvdienu Outreaches

Ir vairākas reizes kalendārā gada laikā, kad Jēzus sekotājiem ir unikāla iespēja savienot punktus starp Dieva sirdi un sirdis ļaudis hurting cilvēku mūsu sabiedrībā. Ziemassvētku sezona ir iespējams, lielākais no tiem laikiem. Savā ziņā, mums gandrīz ir negodīgas priekšrocības, because even skeptics are overwhelmed by all of the holiday endorphins and excitement. We can clearly target what people are hungry for, if we slow down just long enough to listen to what is on their hearts. We are here at Christmas to work in tandem with God’s Spirit as the time of the season allows us to get in touch with people in unique ways. The opportunities that lie before us are immense if we are willing to be focused.

Wrapping Presents
This is one of the most powerful ways you can serve a person during this time of the year. It is powerful because you are able to engage in a genuine conversation with them as you wrap their gift. More times than not, they will ask you why you are doing this for them. That curiosity will provide a natural opportunity for evangelism. With that said, it is easy to get caught up in the physical action of present wrapping. We need to take care not to forget the spiritual aspect of serving them. It is always best to slow things down a bit. Take ample advantage of the opportunity to share God’s love.

Wrapping Presents – Large Scale Project
There are several pointers to keep in mind if you are doing this as a larger scale event. You will need to begin recruiting a fairly large volunteer force—don’t procrastinate—start vision-casting now! The key to this outreach will be the personnel you have gathered together. They must be enthused and on the same page. You are looking for the people that are excitement catalysts in your church. These folks thrive on the energy and joy of the season. Start gathering materials now! Don’t put this off. Order plenty of what you will need. Keep in mind you don’t want to frustrate your volunteer force. The name of the game here is to have “More than plenty” so people will not have to twiddle their thumbs waiting on restocking when they could be serving the public and having divine conversations. Start praying now! We will be connecting with people who are not yet connected with us nor are they connected with the God of heaven and earth. They are in immense spiritual need, no matter what walk of life they come from. We are his representatives. We are not only wrapping presents – we are spiritual ambassadors. We need to blend the spiritual act of praying with the physical act of serving. If we get out of sync with our serving we cease to be effective in our activity. We are merely chasing our tails.

Strategy
Our role is to serve them all and let God sort them out. In the past people have suggested that we should only seek to serve the marginalized, but I would argue that their definition of poverty, may be too narrow. The beauty of wrapping gifts a shopping mall or department store is that you will encounter people with diverse socio-economic status, but they all have spiritual and emotional needs. That is what we are really seeking to touch. Do not get bogged down by skill. Even if you are all thumbs, chances are you are still doing the person a tremendous service. In fact I have had people take over the wrapping from me as I simply hand them the supplies and hold down flaps and strings while they do elaborate wrapping. What this is really about is the conversation you share while the gift is being wrapped. You don’t have to be a highly skilled craft person to do this activity. We can all engage in the simple sharing line of “We are here to wrap your present as a part of XYZ Community Church to show you some love this Christmas. Make sure you remind folks: “We are not a part of the mall / store personnel – we pay for this ourselves in order to show God’s love in a practical way to the community. Our intent is to give God’s love, not just talk about it.” Some simple chatter will do the trick until the other person clicks in with some acknowledgement of what you are saying. They will either engage with you or they will change the subject. Many will want to chat a bit. Keep in mind you will be planting a seed of generosity in the hearts of the majority of people we come in contact with. This will be one of many seeds that person will need to come in contact along their trek prior to their conversion to Jesus. We all have a unique path into a love relationship with Jesus. Very rarely was it a sudden conversion. Our part as his followers is to tell our story along the way between now and then to as many as possible. In wrapping presents we get plenty of chances to share our story and his story at the same time.

It should be noted that if you don’t have the resources or volunteers to do this at a mall or large department store, a smaller discount store with a limited schedule could be a perfect starting location for your group. You can always work towards the goal of broadening this event in future years. People will join up in your outreaches for many reasons, but they will stay for one main reason – because they enjoyed working with the people. You need to work with the shift leaders present to make sure you are not frustrating the people present in any way if that is at all possible. I recommend the primary leaders of this be connected with, be brought coffee while the shifts are going on, be asked in a jovial way, “Are we having fun yet?” – engaging ways of connecting the dots with the team by various levels of interactive approaches to show care to all involved.

Liquor Store Outreach?
As Jesus often demonstrated, we need to hang out with the sinners. The name of the game is, “We are here to connect with people who don’t go to church.” This is always the objective to keep in front of you. The object is not to serve churchy people. For the most part those folks already understand the notion of God’s love. I ran into a group who had latched onto the giftwrapping concept last season, but they got the application pretty much backwards. They set up shop in front of a Christian book store. I suggested they move across the parking lot to a liquor store. They laughed heartily at the suggestion. I didn’t laugh. I wasn’t kidding. Not in the least. Another pastor friend was present when this conversation took place. He chimed in. “Yes, that’s a very good idea. If you are after the head tilt with this project you really need to switch locations. I did an outreach like this a few years ago when I was working for a Church in California and we set up the outreach in front of a liquor store. One guy came in planning to just buy some booze and other supplies for a party, including a last minute gift—the ultimate one stop shopping. Not only was he converted by this radical love he certainly wasn’t shopping for, this guy became a member of the church and over time became one of its most influential leaders!”

Keep in mind not everyone that shops at a liquor store has drinking problem—we are wise to not generalize. We are also wise to go to places that have historically been cast off by the church culture in general. Once again: “serve them all, let God sort them out!” A liquor store may be prime real estate for holding a small, outdoor gift-wrapping outreach. Make sure you clearly explain your intent and the point of the outreach with the owner / manager of the store prior to doing the outreach. This conversation is key to the success of the outreach making it or not.

The Taste of Christmas
Here is a quick and easy outreach you can put together as either a business blast kindness event, or a take-home kit for you to give to church members as the exit from weekend services. The materials are easy to gather: 1) A bulk supply of Ziploc snack size baggies 2) Well crafted connect cards with a holiday design 3) High quality Christmas candy.

Candy Canes are always welcomed it seems. If you really want to make a dent inpeople’s lives, purchase different colored candy canes other than the standard red and white colors. Apparently there are now even exotic fruit flavors available in neon colors, but with the traditional shape. Make sure you have some chocolate. This is crucial. Hershey’s makes a seasonal version of Kisses that are decorated in green foil or red foil. There is actually a large variety of seasonal candy that you will find on display starting in early November. You are going for a mix that is attractive in appearance and flavor. The connect card is the anchor. In fact we have a few new fantastic designs available now at Kindness Resources LLC. The name of the game is to give away as many of these as possible with a small connect card inserted into the Ziplock bag. One candy cane, a few pieces of candy is all you need for each bag to make a small effective touch. If you purchase in bulk you can keep your cost efficiency to between $0.07 to $0.12 per touch!

Black Friday Outreach
Some daring people / churches have the courage to take on enormous crowds that gather for shopping specials the day after Thanksgiving. This outreach needs to be done in connection with the store that is willing to allow you to do something spectacular directly in front of their location. I have neverheard of a store that wasn’t anything less than tickled at the offer of having a Black Friday outreach done in front of their location. I have on occasion heard of stores where they pay for part or all of the outreach materials so long as the people from the local church manned the labor aspect of the outreach. This is actually easy to do. Think of any nice touch to get the attention of a frenzied shopper:

  • Free Coffee/Hot Chocolate (check out the cool back pack dispenser)
  • Free Battery Packs
  • Free Ribbon
  • Free Scotch Tape
  • Free Wrapping Paper Kits
  • Free “Pop Up” Bows
  • Shopping Cart Valet Service
  • Umbrella Outreach
  • Windshield Cleaning Patrol

Final Thoughts
This season, make sure that you remember that people are hungry for relationship. The holidays remind us we are more ill-equipped for relationships than at any other times of the year. We get around those who are perhaps challenging to us, yet they are the ones we love. We are hungry to see progress made in relationships, but we don’t know how to make progress without being driven crazy at the same time. This is a time of year when people are in some ways the most open to a “Big God” encounter. There is a sort of collective verbal outcry that goes very much like this:

Dear God, if you are real and if you answer prayers, please hear mine. I ask that you would change my family and make us more loving toward one another. Amen.”

It is also important to remember that people are in a hurry. Nearly everyone is on a short emotional fuse. Thus, we must be mindful of the tendency on the parts of everyone to be a bit odd about things in general. If it is ever appropriate to proceed with caution now is the time of year for those words to be taken to heart.

We should also make sure that we invest time and energy on retail employees. Given the current economy, this holiday season is predicted to see a record number of new seasonal part-time employees hit the work force. For many this grim reality of a second or third job will be a shock to their system. They will be in as much need for kindness as they will the extra funds they hope to gain by adding ten to twenty hours onto their already exhausting hours of employment just to make ends meet or to gather extra holiday cash. Our hope is to scatter our seeds at the Christmas season in order to see a return to our love language throughout the rest of the year. During the final part of the calendar year we may end up seeing a return that is greater than all the other weeks and months we go out and serve folks. Faktiski, I think it will pale by comparison. Let’s make the most of what we have before us. Let’s connect the dots and see what God is up to right around us. That will happen as we serve with all our hearts and lay caution aside.

Spoks, Goblins, un Demons?

Happy Halloween! Yeah, tu mani uzklausīja, Es teicu, ka H-vārdu. Kā es augt “briedums” (tiem no jums, kas mani pazīst apstāties snickering) Es nevaru palīdzēt, bet atskatīties un izvērtēt manu dažādām atbildēm uz šo lielāko perplexing svētku pa gadiem. I have run the gamet between handing out tracks instead of candy to hiding deep in my house with all the lights off and the doors locked, to organizing my church’s alternative “Harvest Party” to what I now feel is the best response for all Christians:

SERVE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD!

I am not pulling any punches here folks. Life is too short. Recently I was approached by a brother in Christ to volunteer at the “Hell House” that his church is hosting. Acīmredzot, if I got the gist right, they intend to literally scare the HELL out of people. The plan is to have a “christian-themed” haunted house of sorts that shows the horrors of abortion, drunk driving, premarital sex as rape, and the rampant crime and drug use of urban areas. Now don’t get me me wrong these are all important issues that need to be addressed by the church, but I simply can’t wrap my head around this approach. Is this type of boom and doom delivery, Holy Spirit with a shotgun approach ever effective? I want to keep an open mind, so please do write me if you have success with such an event, but I just don’t see it working in my community. Maybe I am wrong, but it just seems to be devoid of both common sense and Godliness to purposely plan to offend and scare people into the kingdom.

The thing was, he tried to sell me on this notion by calling it “spiritual warfare” and joing the ranks of the front line to gain territory in kingdom. I am a older believer and he was making me uncomfortable with his demeanor. I can only imagine the way such an aggressive evangelistic posture would be interpretted by the unchurched–his targetted demographic.

I tried to calmly disuade him. He wasn’t having any of it. I think he walked away looking at me as a coward, afraid to wage war against the enemy. It really got me thinking about this whole notion of warfare. As believers, we have access to an incredible array of weapons to use when warring with darkness. I just happen to think we can skip the racks holding the lances, pikes, and maces.



I would rather pick from the shelves that hold the toilet brushes, grābekļi, buckets and sponges. Nothing irks me more than being around people that see a demon lurking at every turn and want to blame whatever is going on wrong at their church on spiritual warfare. These same good-intentioned folks will then use that as some excuse to begin, as Rick Joyner often describes, “shouting down devils and throwing hatchets at the moon.” All this type of behavior generally results in is getting a severe headache from the hatchet blade landing back on your forehead. You might as well be spitting in a fan.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of room for intense intercession, the pulling down of strongholds, and yes, at times, full-scale deliverance. The Kingdom is a strange place. It is both physical and spiritual. You need to battle in the heavens AND here on the ground. What I want to introduce you to is something that transcends traditional spiritual warfare.

It is called it servant warfare:

Pray while you work!

The problem with most forms of what many call spiritual warfare is that it is primarily based on big tent revival models. Gone wrong it can generate more fear and mysticism than is healthy. When it becomes insular it can become downright toxic to your church. Rather than mostly spin your wheels with hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo from a folding chair in the basement of a church, do something proactive–SERVE!

Look at the model Jesus demonstrated. He was out and about serving people even as he “warred in the heavens.” It is a balanced blend of practical action and prayer that is the most effective weapon to use against our enemy. By the way, permit me one comical observation; have you ever noticed that the spiritual warfare mystics will actually esteem Satan? They give him an honor that is undeserved when they mix in the drama. They almost remind me of the characters in a Harry Potter novel with their constant “those followers of the name that can not be named” nonsense. It isn’t lost on me that they probably never even sniffed at J.K. Rowling novel, to understand what I am saying here. While they were protesting and condemning the books, I was handing out drinks, candy and bookmarks to people that stood in line at midnight at bookstores to get the newest edition.

See, the majority of what people label as spiritual warfare tends to be based in human emotion. It is nothing short of melodrama. I am sorry if I am stepping on toes here, but life is simply too short to pull punches on this topic.

If you really believe you are under some form of spiritual attack, what better way to fight back than to get the all powerful sword of the Holy Spirit in your hands: a toilet brush!

That’s right, I said it. I am not trying to be vulgar, or irreverent. I am very serious. Pray in tongues while you swirl your brush in the porcelain pits of the worst dens of iniquity in your city. Have a problem in your city with adult bookstores and strip clubs? Don’t make a public protest rally with hand-painted signs and lame cheers. Vietā, quietly go and offer to clean the restrooms of these places and do it with a smile on your face. You name the evil that may be lurking in your town, and I will find you a service outreach for the purveyors of that evil. See vile sinners need Jesus just as much as you do, and what better way is there to demonstrate the kingdom to these folks than to lay down all your nonsense and show them real life sacrificial love? This Halloween I intend to get out of my house, turn the lights on, perhaps sit at the end of my driveway with a nice comfortable fire in the mobile fireplace and have fresh steaming cider for the adults and the best candy in the neighborhood for the kids. I plan to make my home a little taste of heaven on earth on Halloween and offer an alternative to rebuke and evangelical outrage: KINDNESS! Will you join me?

Iziet dumbing Down Evaņģēlija Donald Miller

Mans draugs Greg un man ir runāt diezgan daudz par to, ko tas nozīmē sekot Jēzum. Greg neuzskatu sevi par kādu, kas uzņemas Jēzu nopietni, bet viņš atzīst, kam jautājumus. Man nebija formula, lai viņš saprastu, kā kristiešu pārveides darbus, but I told him that many years ago, when I was a child, I had heard about Jesus and found the idea of Him compelling, then much later, while reading the Gospels, came to believe I wanted to follow Him. This changed things in my life, I said, because it involved giving up everything and choosing to go into a relationship with Him.

Greg told me he had seen a pamphlet with four or five ideas on it, ideas such as man was a sinner, sin separated man from God, and Christ died to absolve the separation. He asked me if this was what I believed, and I told him, essentially, that it was. “Those would be the facts of the story,” I said, “but that isn’t the story.”

“Those are the ideas, but it isn’t the narrative,” Greg stated rhetorically.

“Yes,” I told him.

Earlier that same year I had a conversation with my friend Omar, who is a student at a local college. For his humanities class, Omar was assigned to read the majority of the Bible. He asked to meet with me for coffee, and when we sat down he put a Bible on the table as well as a pamphlet containing the same five or six ideas Greg had mentioned. He opened the pamphlet, read the ideas and asked if these concepts were important to the central message of Christianity. I told Omar they were critical; that, basically, this was the gospel of Jesus, the backbone of Christian faith. Omar then opened his Bible and asked, “If these ideas are so important, why aren’t they in this book?”

“But the Scripture references are right here,” I said curiously, showing Omar that the verses were printed next to each idea.

“I see that,” he said. “But in the Bible they aren’t concise like they are in this pamphlet. They are spread out all over the book.”

“But this pamphlet is a summation of the ideas,” I clarified.

“Right,” Omar continued, “but it seems like, if these ideas are that critical, God would have taken the time to make bullet points out of them. Vietā, He put some of them here and some of them there. And half the time, when Jesus is talking, He is speaking entirely in parables. It is hard to believe that whatever it is He is talking about can be summed up this simply.”

Omar’s point is well taken. And while the ideas presented in these pamphlets are certainly true, it struck me how simply we had begun to explain the ideas, not only how simply, but how nonrelationally, how propositionally. I don’t mean any of this to fault the pamphlets at all. Tracts such as the ones Omar and Greg encountered have been powerful tools in helping people understand the beauty of the message of Christ. Millions, perhaps, have come to know Jesus through these efficient presentations of the Gospel. But I did begin to wonder if there were better ways of explaining it than these pamphlets. Galu galā, the pamphlets have been around for only the last 50 years or so (along with our formulaic presentation of the Gospel), and the church has shrunk, not grown, in Western countries in which these tools have been used. But the greater trouble with these reduced ideas is that modern evangelical culture is so accustomed to this summation that it is difficult for us to see the Gospel as anything other than a list of true statements with which a person must agree.

It makes me wonder if, because of this reduced version of the claims of Christ, we believe the Gospel is easy to understand, a simple mental exercise, not the least bit mysterious. And if you think about it, a person has a more difficult time explaining romantic love, for instance, or beauty, or the Trinity, than the gospel of Jesus. John would open his gospel by presenting the idea that God is the Word and Jesus is the Word and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Not exactly bullet points for easy consumption. Perhaps our reduction of these ideas has caused us to miss something.

Biblically, you are hard-pressed to find theological ideas divorced from their relational context. There are, essentially, three dominant metaphors describing our relationship with God: sheep to a shepherd, child to a father, and bride to a bridegroom. The idea of Christ’s disciples being His mother and father and brothers and sisters is also presented. Faktiski, few places in Scripture speak to the Christian conversion experience through any method other than relational metaphor.

To a culture that believes they “go to heaven” based on whether or not they are morally pure, or whether they understand some theological ideas, or they are very spiritual, Jesus is completely unnecessary. At best, He is an afterthought, a technicality by which we become morally pure, or a subject of which we know, or a founding father of our woo-woo spirituality.

In a culture that worships science, relational propositions will always be left out of arguments attempting to surface truth. We believe, quite simply, that unless we can chart something, it doesn’t exist. And you can’t chart relationships. Furthermore, in our attempts to make relational propositions look like chartable realities, all beauty and mystery is lost. And so when times get hard, when reality knocks us on our butts, mathematical propositions are unable to comfort our failing hearts. How many people have walked away from faith because their systematic theology proved unable to answer the deep longings and questions of the soul? What we need here, truly, is faith in a Being, not a list of ideas.

And one should not think our current method of interpreting Scripture has an ancient legacy. The modern view of Scripture originated in an age of industrial revolution when corporations were becoming more important than family (the husband, for the first time, left the home and joined Corporate America, building cars instead of families), and productivity was more important than relationships. “How can God help me get what I want?” was the idea, not, “Who is God, and how can I know Him?”

Imagine a pamphlet explaining the gospel of Jesus that said something like this:

You are the bride to the Bridegroom, and the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ. You must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood to know Him, and your union with Him will make you one, and your oneness with Him will allow you to be identified with Him, His purity allowing God to interact with you, and because of this you will be with Him in eternity, sitting at His side and enjoying His companionship, which will be more fulfilling than an earthly husband or an earthly bride. All you must do to engage God is be willing to leave everything behind, be willing to walk away from your identity, and embrace joyfully the trials and tribulations, the torture and perhaps martyrdom that will come upon you for being a child of God in a broken world working out its own redemption in empty pursuits.

Though it sounds absurd, this is a much more accurate summation of the gospel of Jesus than the bullet points we like to consider when we think about Christ’s message to humanity.


Donald MillerDonald Miller says the message of God is more than a 3-step program.

This article is adapted from the newly revised Searching for God Knows What (Thomas Nelson, 2010).