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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Wait to Share the Gospel

This is how it happened… or maybe I should go back just a bit…
I cringe, I hate it, makes me puke whenever someone says you should wait before you share the Gospel with someone.  Inevitably, they say “it’s all about relationship.” Or if they want to double down, they say, “St Francis said you should preach the Gospel, use words only if necessary.” First, don’t slander Francis by suggesting he would ever say that, beause he didn’t.  And second, hardly anyone TALKED about Jesus more than Francis!
So yesterday was one of those days where I was very distracted by a lot of things that had to get done but were not hugely important.  The urgent was crowding out the important.  On top of that, it was a hard day to be a pastor and a dad—a lot of pain going around.  About 11:30 I said to myself I better spend some real time in the Word and in prayer, or this day will get out of control.
About 3 o’clock, same thing.  So I cut thru the hospital on the way to church.  I felt like I wanted to sit at a bench outside the hospital.  I have never sat there before or thought about it, so why today?  I opened the Bible, was reading Psalm 34.  I was struck by the title, “When David pretended to be insane before Abimelech.”  A few minutes later out comes a guy pushing an IV pole.  There are many other places to sit, but he made a bee-line for me.  He asked, “are you a pastor?”
He proceeded to ask for prayer.  I asked him if he was a believer in Jesus.  No, but he needed prayer.  I told him more than prayer he needed salvation in Jesus’ name.  He proceeded to tell me a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t just confess to people.  Under 5 minutes after the conversation started, I had shared with him the wonderful love, forgiveness and sacrifice of Jesus for him, and he believed in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. “I haven’t felt peace like this before,” he said.
So there you go.  God gives everyone divine appointments like this.  You need to be ready because people are waiting for you to tell them the Good News!!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

VBS Update

I think I am supposed to give a decent update on VBS.  But I am worn out from all the awesomeness and I am not quite sure what to say.  So let me leave at this for now:

36 kids gave their lives to Christ at VBS yesterday.  God rained down blessings.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

VBS is almost over.  Maybe I should wait until tomorrow to write about it.  But I can’t.  It has been an amazing 4 days.  I don’t really want it to end tomorrow.  I know, I know, the volunteers will be spent.  They have really poured it out… working on decorations, crafts, writing and performing, music, singing, dancing, telling the story, playing games, cooking and preparing snacks, registering, being in the classes with the kids, being a listening ear… what haven’t they done?

I simply do not think there is an adequate way to thank them.  What could we say or do?  The amount of time, effort, and love has blown me away.

The crazy thing is, I get to run around and be crazy and soak it all in and sing and shout and answer serious questions about Jesus.  I put in the least but I get to have the most.  What a gift.  What a church to be a part of! You give us a place.  Money. You let your pastor take about 2 weeks helping and hanging out at VBS.  And then you pour out such creative energy!  I realized this VBS that I talk a lot about how cool it is that we write our own VBS, but there is no way it can happen without so many people who are so talented and dedicated.  Jessie has done an amazing job cultivating volunteers and casting a vision with energy that WE CAN DO THIS!

Tomorrow, I get to share Jesus plainly with kids who have been immersed in the Word all week long.  Will you pray with me that hearts are ready to respond?

After VBS today, my son John, Mike Adams and Michael Crouch went out and did some door to door evangelism before it rained.  Mike caught a huge bass when he was done visiting houses, while he waited for me and Michael.  We had a divine appointment… I’ll write about it later… but can you imagine? VBS and door to door evangelism in one day?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rollin With The Syndicate

I’d like to tell you about a great time we had today.  A few weeks ago, my evangelism study group decided to get out of the books and hit the streets.  We were looking to do some evangelism in ways that could really benefit our ministries, help hold each other accountable, and just make sure that we were really getting after it.

So we are making a circuit of our towns—Frenchburg, Salyersville, Morehead, and Camargo.  7 of us hit Salyersville—me, my son John, Mike Adams, Taylor Wilson, Jacob Wilson, Matt Ellis, and Andrew Donner, the pastor of Salyersville.

We met for breakfast and then we hit a neighborhood behind the parsonage.  With 7 of us, we really made short work.  Matt Ellis and I worked a section, and it was a good day, on a bunch of levels.  What ends up happening on a weekday is that you find a lot of people not home, and that’s ok… because part of what you are doing is getting the word out about your church and its services.  You can come back later of an evening or weekend and catch them at home, and they have already had some contact.

But you also find some people at home.  Three visits stick out.  We met a woman from the Church of Christ.  She was very happy that we were out talking to people about Jesus.  I find that happens quite a bit—Christians are happy to bless you in the work.  And I hope they are inspired to give it a try, to get out there and witness!

We walked up to a guy reading on a porch.  We saw pretty quick he had a Bible and a commentary out.  He is a Baptist Sunday School teacher, very committed to building up a small church in the country.  We had a good laugh because he thought we were Mormons. “Never been so glad to see some Methodists,” he said.  He offered us some cold water bottles.  It was getting hot.  He had a horse in his front yard.  It grazes a little in his yard then goes up to a cousin’s house and then to another house before it goes to the barn to sleep.  Ah, life in a country town.

I have to talk up Matt Ellis a little bit.  He took most of the visits and did a great job.  He wasn’t done when we left Salyersville.  He was still witnessing at a gas station when we stopped for drinks in West Liberty!  I have to say that some good ministry happened there with Matt, too.  I was able to tell him one of the secrets of evangelism.  One of my best buds Steve McKinney, if he hears me whining or complaining asks, “have you told anyone about Jesus today?”  It’s good advice, because as soon as my feet hit the street I’m a brand new man, telling people how good Jesus is to forgive us.  I get to pray for people who have it worse than me and at any rate I realize the Lord has been pretty good to me.  There will be a lot of hard fighting, but I’ve read the back of the book and we win. Pretty soon, my grievances and resentments are gone, and even my real sorrows fade away.

The visit that was the most important: we met a guy who told us that he had been hurt badly on  the job, showed us some wicked scars from surgery, and told us he lived in constant pain.  I was immediately transported to India, where I saw so many worn out bodies and heard so many stories of healings.  Why don’t we see it?  Probably because we don’t believe it, don’t know how badly we need it.  So we prayed right there for him fervently.  I am still praying that Andrew may get to visit him and hear a marvelous testimony of healing and the power of the presence of the Lord in our suffering.

The other two teams have their own stories to tell.  I think we are going to see a lot of fruit from this thing we’re doing.  I’m calling us “The Syndicate.”  If I am dreaming, we will expand this to a big team of other pastors and lay people and we will go out and hit the streets and country roads and byways.  How cool would it be if we prayed each other up and got together with our teams in each others’ towns and just blitzed it?! If 15 or 20 people handed out 100 flyers, tracts and door hangers, praying for the needs of people and sharing the Good News of Jesus?  I might be getting close to showing a critical mass of people that door-to-door evangelism is not weird or useless.