Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Fishing With Clyde

The first disciples Jesus called were fishermen.  It is important to note that when He called them, He called them to evangelism: "I will make you fishers of men."  You'd think I would get tired of saying this over and over that each Christian is called to verbally share their faith.  Naw. Never gonna happen!

I learn a lot about evangelism from fishing.  The metaphor of fishing, as Jesus uses it, is loaded with tips and tactics.  Sunday afternoon, I went fishing with Clyde Chandler, first time we had fished together, first time he had gone to this great creek I have been loving to wade fish ever since Mike Adams first showed me the place. It was one of the best times I have ever had fishing.  There was this day on the Gulf when we caught so many sharks and mackerel that I was giving away slabs of meat for days.  There was a day three years ago on this same creek where the action was so fast and furious, I almost felt guilty for catching so many fish.  And then there was Sunday with Clyde.  I was glad because I was worried maybe I oversold Clyde on the awesomeness of  the fishing... and what if we got skunked?  Sometimes it happens.  You catch no fish. Jesus tries to prepare His disciples for the times when you get nowhere no matter how hard you try.  Fishermen don't give up when that happens. That's the key.  I am not sure if Mike and I have ever been skunked on this creek.  I mean, I am sure we have, but it is blocked out of my mind!  Fishing is so good and so fun I am right back in it.  To be honest there have been days when Mike and I just got nowhere.  It was hot.  caught nothing and one of us just hollers how much we hate fishing and we are giving up and never going back... but net week there we are again because we just know there are fish!!!  This is totally how Jesus is trying to get you to think about evangelism!! There are people who have never heard the Word of salvation.  Some days they just never bite no matter how much you throw it out there!  But a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work, and all I can tell you is even when I get skunked sharing Christ, it is still awesome to talk about Him and do His work!

Ok, ok, ok, so what about fishing with Clyde?  What did I learn about evangelism thru this awesome day of fishing?

First, just get out there and do it!  Clyde and I have been talking about this for a while.  Time to quit talking and finally do it!

Second, Get that line in the water.  The real lesson that day was you have to cast everywhere because sometimes you will catch fish where you never have!  But you just have to start!  Where I like to jump in at, we almost never catch fish.  But we started early with some tiny largemouth bass.  Nothing worth writing home about, but, hey, we were at least catching something!

Third, keep trying different things and see what works. You don't always know what they will bite on from day to day.  Clyde tried a few different lures, caught a lot of fish with a small grub and also with a swimmer bait.  I was getting little fish with something called a Ned Rig, with a worm-looking thing in "PB&J" colors.  Just catching little things, until in a long deep pool I caught a slob of a bluegill, the defensive linemen of bluegill actually; fish was almost as wide as it was long.  Then my lure got caught on a rock and getting it back messed up the hook... and that's when...

Fourth, you just never know where or how you will catch them.  I put on another Ned Rig.  Tired of small fish I wondered if maybe the big boys might like something else, maybe in a sickly green color?  We were casting all over, toward the banks, along the edges of riffles, under logs (and at this point let me say Clyde can retrieve lures that seem impossibly tangled up in trees.  No clue how he does that...)  Then we came to a small pool, maybe 20 feet long by 4 feet wide.  5 feet deep.  We were in calf-deep water casting into it, to the other bank, where a foot below the water a rock ledge ran the length of the pool.  Rock bass started hitting hard.  I caught 7 in maybe 10 minutes.  Clyde was hitting em that fast, too.  We had found the honey hole.   I have never caught fish here before.  Not one.  And now, they were going nuts.

In fishing, there is a euphoria that kicks in when you are really catching them.  The euphoria is the exact opposite of the despair you have when you catch nothing.  You totally block out the days you got skunked.  but when the bite is hot, you think crazy stuff like: "we can't go home.  we have to stay here and keep fishing."  or, "I am here because my caveman ancestors were such great fishermen and I carry on the noble tradition in my superior genes."  And then you get cocky.  At some point, Clyde said, "Now that we have been catching a lot, we really need to set our goals high and catch the big ones."  And occasionally, you can back up all that talk!  There in that little pool, where we probably had already caught 15 fish in 15 minutes, Clyde and I both landed giant smallmouth.  One of the things I was looking forward to, moving to Kentucky from the Gulf Coast 25 years ago, was fishing for smallmouth.  Has not disappointed.

Fifth lesson: if it is working, keep doing more of it.  Once I switched to the sickly green colored ned rig z-man lure, I did not change. I didn't have time to even if I wanted to!  You ask, "if you were catching so many fish, why would you want to?"  Well, Church, it's because in evangelism, a huge barrier is wanting it our way.  We have a whole set or preferences and prejudices that keep us from doing effective evangelism.

We do not want to go door-to-door.

We do not want to go that part of town.  We want people who are more like us.

We do not want to have to make a verbal proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  "I will just let my actions speak."

We go into it thinking the fish should like the bait we are using.  We want to do things the way we are comfortable with, and sadly, this has meant that most churches have no evangelism plan or goals!  My evangelism professor, Bob Tuttle, used to say that he really did not like it that door-to-door evangelism works.  He wanted something more elegant, more "theologically sophisticated." But it works.  So do more of it!

Over the past few weeks, my other fishing buddies Mike and Shawn have seen giant muskie prowling our little creek.  They saw one guy catch a 44 inch muskie that was trying to eat the trout the fellow had caught!  Clyde and I saw lots of gar swimming around. So there are more and bigger fish than we have ever caught!  Jesus was on to something when He used fishing as a metaphor for evangelism.  Just go fish. Keep at it.  Sooner or later you will start catching. You don't always know how or why.  Just do it. And as you try all different kinds of ways to catch the fish, go with what is working when it is fast and furious!

Clyde and I will be back at it soon.  One day we will catch a muskie.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spiritual Biographies

Many years ago, Elsworth Kalas spoke on the importance of reading biographies and biographical preaching. I think he is right; biographies, particularly of ministers, have been hugely important in my growth. Biographies show us how people in the past thought and acted, for good and bad. I suspect that if there is a biography about someone, he or she was interesting, courageous, or visionary in ways that are worth learning and thinking about.

In the past two years, I have read biographies of Asbury, John Newton, John Hus, William Tyndale, and the one I am reading now is Martyn Lloyd-Jones. My all-time favorite, though, is John Nelson, an early Methodist preacher. John Wesley's Journal, while not a biography, has truly been a school and guide to me.

In the Lloyd-Jones biography, I am marking up pages right and left. One thing I just read sticks out. Immediately after WWII, he spoke on ecumenical unity: "if we united all denominations and added all the powers which each has together, even that would not create spiritual life. The burial of many bodies in the same cemetery does not lead to ressurrection."

Not long after, he spoke on the causes of church decline: " the churches lost their significance and power because the authority of the Bible had been undermined and...[churches] had become too politically minded... we had stressed the social aspect for the past fifty years and men had turned their backs on us"
Interestingly, when I asked Elsworth Kalas why he thought Methodism was in such decline, he said pretty much the same thing. Speaking of a biography, one on Elsworth Kalas would be a great idea!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Evangelism, etc

It has been an interesting few weeks. The highlights:

I mope a lot when people you work with leave the church. I should be happy--and I am-- but I think what if the 30 or so names I pray for in the front of my Bible were all in one place? What a dream team! Or is it that since they are in a whole bunch of places, there is a much greater expansion of the Kingdom than if we all stayed together?

Two evangelists moved away in the past year. But a new guy stepped up...who will be leaving in December...

There is nothing better than working a neighborhood on a crisp Fall day with another guy who loves going door to door. It is great to talk about Jesus to people and to pray with them for their needs. A close friend, whenever I complain, will ask, "have you told anyone about Jesus today?" Because when I tell about what He has done for me, I am blessed to remember and I forget my troubles, or they are put in their proper perspective.

I think it is time to get the band back together with so many people who have gone door to door with me... and to really blitz this town!!

Our worship service Sunday was...hit by the Holy Spirit. When you say that, we often think of something very boisterous or highly charged. The worship music was sublime. We were ready. I was preaching on the power of the Word, using William Tyndale as an example of how we should not take having a bible to read for granted. I went a direction I did not intend, confessing to not heeding the Bible as much as I needed to, not amending my life as I ought, not trusting its promises over my fears and worries. I called people to commit to hearing and doing... and the altar was packed.

I came across something in Neil Cole's excellent book, "Cultivating a Life For God," about Life Transformation Groups, which we use in our church. He says that the accountability questions need to have one "that holds the group members accountable to openly sharing a testimony of Christ's goodness with others. It should be something that goes beyond living as an example but also includes a verbal witness" (66). This leapt out at me because so often church members default to "letting my example speak" rather than imitating Jesus in verbal proclamation and invitation to discipleship.

Jesus has been good to me.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Imitation of Christ

What if you did ministry the way Jesus does in the Gospel of Mark (Mark, bc it is quick and stripped down)?

First thing you'd do: tell someone to repent, that they can be forgiven of sins.

Second thing you'd do: call some disciples from people who respond to the first thing

Third thing you'd do: teach the Word.

Fourth thing you'd do: cast out demons.

Fifth thing you'd do: spend a lot of time with your disciples

Sixth thing you'd do: heal the sick

Seventh thing you'd do: find a solitary place to pray

Eighth thing you'd do: keep preaching the Gospel (see first thing)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

When Christians Get Together

I got to spend some time with two of my favorite people—Scott Wilson and Mark Wilson, not related.

Scott and I have known each other since middle school—in Germany.  That’s a long story!  We did not see each other for about 15 years, but reconnected in seminary.  He is also a United Methodist pastor in Kentucky.  It seems I find out something new about him and his testimony every time we meet.  This one really got me because we have such a similar experience.  Both of us had a power encounter with God at 16 years of age—but neither of us gave our lives to Christ at that time.  But when we did give our lives to Christ, we both experienced that the very next day we were called into ministry.

Mark Wilson told us a story that is so gratifying to an evangelist heart.  He planted a church in Virginia Beach.  As part of his weekly routine, he would eat at a particular restaurant and would witness to one of the waitresses.  Her heart was touched, but she would not give her life to Christ.  Mark left that church.

One day, someone he knew was visiting family in Virginia Beach and went to church.  A woman got up and was giving thanks for a guy who constantly witnessed to her.  She had finally accepted Christ and said, “If anyone knows Mark Wilson, tell him how thankful I am!”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sharing the Gospel

I want to honor the memory of a fellow, and not make it seem like he an object of evangelism in this post.  Ric Collis was the son of long-time church members, but had not lived in Morehead for decades.  He gave the church the biggest gift I have ever known someone to give.

A few weeks ago I found out he had terminal cancer.  He himself had only found out a few weeks before.  There was nothing to be done, except maybe some palliative care.  I called him and he was remarkably calm about it.  there were some tests to be done, to see what could be done to slow the disease, but he would die from it.

A few days after that call, his best friend and my church member Jim called and said it was progressing very rapidly.  I decided that I could not wait until some business took me to Louisville, it was now.

A lot conspired to keep me back, especially the threat of weather.  People were well-meaning, but I needed to go, and what else is 4 wheel drive for if not nasty weather?  As I drove up, the Lord placed Acts 10 on my heart, Peter at Cornelius' house.  I knew it was because Ric had grown up in a believers' house but had not professed faith in Christ, and was a generous person... much like Cornelius.

In the hospital, we spent some time reminiscing... and then we had to get down to business, sharing Christ.  Jim and I emphasized that salvation is about faith in Jesus.  Because of grace God does not hold our sins against us if we repent and believe in Jesus.  But that is hard to believe!  The lawyer in Ric wondered how God could leave all our sins on the table like that. I told Ric that I felt God wanted me to share from Acts 10.  By verse 4, the tears were flowing.  And yes I read almost the whole chapter!  At verse 43, salvation came.  Ric clasped our hands and we prayed for him to receive Christ, to have peace in his final days.

He died 5 days later.  He is home.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Let Me Say it Again: Don't Wait to Share the Gospel

I suppose if I could convince the average Christian of one thing, it would be that there are people just waiting to hear the Good News, to hear a word of hope, to have someone pray with them-- they are ready with an open door to the Gospel.

I was thinking about my first real evangelism visits in the first church I served.  I have told the story many times. It has many layers, some that keep cropping up that I did not realize at the time!

Basically, I was at a loss for what to do, young pastor, first appointment.  I remembered of course the many times my mentor Howard Willen would take me with him on visits.  And I had a powerful word from God, "Every house to the county line is mine." Of course, He has them all, everywhere, but it seems He was pushing me to get to work where I was.  So I started at the first house as you leave the city limits on the way to my little church, 12 miles away.  The first few houses people weren't home, and one lady went to the Christian Church.  I made it up a hill to a beautiful farm house. I knocked.  A man answered and when I told him who I was, he said he was glad I cam and ushered me in to see his wife.  She was in great grief and distress over the anniversary of her son's death in the army. We had a great time of prayer (I still wasn't sure what I was doing!) But that first day of visiting opened a relationship with this family, their two grown children, a son-in-law and granddaughter, all coming to Christ.

It  happens so many times!  Not always, but often enough, someone has just been waiting to hear about Jesus!  I have learned to not worry about whether I will be received, but rather have come to pray and expect that God is sending me somewhere He has prepared.