Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What Do I Know?

I have some crazy friends.  Just got off the phone with my best friend, John Crissman.  He said, “Gotta go.  Just drove up on an accident.  Need to call 911 and go pray with some people…” You need people like that in your life.

But wait there’s more crazy people in my life.  A few weeks ago Michael Crouch asked me something in our LTG (Life Transformation Group.  Check it out at www.cmaresources.org ).  I am not sure what we were talking about that led to this, but Michael said, “Do you know anyone who does door-to-door evangelism?”  Seth, our other partner fake-coughs and points at me.  Michael asked, “so when do we go?”

Today, we got our act together and headed out.  Before we left, I gave a few pointers, answered a few questions he had.  Here are some basics.  When you go door-to-door during the day, you won’t meet as many people as on an evening or on a weekend.  You’re trying to get out as many cards with your church info as you can.  And you come back later, evenings or weekends, and people remember that you came by.

Michael asked, “does anyone invite you into their house?”

“not very often.  Usually when they do, they are Christians who are amazed and thankful that there are people out there doing visitation.”

I mentioned that we are also trying to form relationships, to look for ways that the Gospel touches a need in their lives (think Paul in Athens, Acts 17).  I like to ask people if I can pray for them, and if they are cool with it, to pray right there on the spot.  It means a lot to people, and it gives you something to talk about when you come back, because you will go back, right?  RIGHT?  RIGHT!

So. We go out armed with some great cards Debbie Perry made us and a pile of tracts that Phyliis Varnado got for me.  Tracts? you say.  Yes.  “Do they work?” you ask.  My response: I don’t do anything that doesn’t work.  It’s why I go door-to-door.  Because it works.  And I took a vow to do it.  All Methodist pastors take that vow. But that's another story for another time.

We find a lot of people not home.  So we leave a card with church info.  We run into a few people who go to the Christian Church.  I meet Sue Wells’ nephew.  Isn’t it funny how Sue fits into so many of my evangelism stories!?

This was a great day because we got the door shut in our faces by someone who claims atheism.  I was glad that Michael got a little taste of how it goes sometimes.

And the best… we run into Craig Melzer, who flings open the door and angrily asks what we are selling.  I don’t know if it shocked Michael, but I think he was happy I knew Craig and that he was just joking!

I find that Michael is really gifted in keeping conversations going on the front porch!  I mentioned that to him, and he says it’s like a recruiting visit (he is a college coach).  He says you just have to get over the jitters.

Michael watches a little.  Then he says, “I think I have the hang of this, let me try.”  At this point, I have a tear in my eye. How awesome is that—he wants into this evangelism gig bad!  And he does really well.  So I just hand it over to him for the rest of the visits.

At the end, we have the best evangelism visit I remember in a loooooong time.  We knock and a voice hollers, “Come in!”  We open the door and there’s a guy on the couch who is surprised to see us.  “I thought you were my friends!”  I said, “we want to be your friends.”  And he invites us in.

Turns out he is from Saudi Arabia, studying at the university.  He has a soccer jersey on his wall that looks like Borussia Dortmund’s, so I ask about it and it is actually for his favorite team in Saudi.  Michael opens up some conversation about faith and the young man says he is a Muslim.  Michael says he has started reading the Koran, and has finished the first chapter, “The Cow,” and the young man is impressed and happy that we care.  We talk a bit about Jesus in the Koran, and I ask if he has read the “Injeel,” Arabic for the “evangel” or Good News.  He has a little bit.  He mentions that “Christians think Jesus is something like God, but Muslims believe there is only one God.” Michael suggested that he read the New Testament to see what Jesus has to say for Himself.  We encountered what I have heard is a common objection Muslims have—that the New Testament, because of translation has been corrupted.  I think we will be back. And we hope to form a great friendship with this guy.  Michael and I have both been impressed by Muslims’ willingness to talk about serious issues—way more than the average Americans.  I wish, in retrospect, that we had not gotten sidetracked on apologetics issues and had been clear about the Good News.  I think we were blown away that we got invited into a house, and that our new friend was so happy to talk.

As we walked back to the church, Michael gave me some grief: “I thought you said we wouldn’t get invited in to anyone’s house.”

So in a few weeks, Michael and I will hit the same streets again one evening or on a weekend, hopefully to talk with pray for, and hopefully get the chance to share the Gospel with some of the people in our town!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First, I want to thank the folks who come across this blog and email me about evangelism.  It is always good to talk to you.

Two Sundays ago, a young man came to the church for the first time.  At the end of the service, he came forward to give his life to Christ.

The simple reason: I asked.  I suppose altar calls are out of favor.  If you are wondering how to help people know Jesus, present the Gospel clearly and ask them if they want to receive the free gift of salvation offered in Jesus.

But there is always more to it, especially that the Holy Spirit works to bring people to the point where they can hear the Word.

In this particular case, the young man was not intending to come to church.  But he woke up with the real sense that he needed to go to church.  He came to our Methodist Church because during a difficult time in his childhood, he spent some time at the Methodist Home for Children.

If you go back and look at this post you can see a little bit about the importance of many ways the Gospel was at work in people's lives before they accept Christ.  In this case, one of them was a mission agency of our church.

Stop and pray for someone you want to share the Gospel with. Then be amazed at how quickly God opens that door!

Saturday, October 8, 2016


There’s a lot to say about my recent trip to California.   I went to do a wedding for two friends, Jake and T’Nique.  And then National Discipleship Forum and The Exponential Conference.  The wedding was in Goleta, CA, right outside Santa Barbara.

Jake was a kid who started coming to the Rock (the church I was at in Lexington) because his bandmates/roommates lived around the corner.  Jake and our whole family hit it off.  It just clicked.  Anyway, Jake is a great drummer and he moved out to play in LA, and pays the rent with his rock.  He met T’NIque out there.  I got to meet her two years ago, at a burger joint in North Hollywood.  I was so  happy to get to hang out with them.  When they asked me to do their wedding… of course!

I had a bit of downtime Friday and Saturday to look around.  The thing about the Southern California coast is that it is perfect.  4,000-ft mountains almost on the shore.  I often meditate on why we take things for granted.  I have tried very hard not to take anything in Morehead for granted, especially not the beautiful scenery—hills, forest, streams.  But it’s so easy to take things for granted.  I remember thinking, “if I l lived in Goleta (or anywhere on the coast) I would be on the beach all the time” Probably not true.  Definitely not true.  But when you are a visitor and in awe, you wonder why everyone is going about  their business, not paying attention to the mountains and the ocean…

So I spent the early mornings on the pier, praying and reading Scripture.  I drove up into the mountains.  In less than half an hour, I was about 3000 feet up, looking back at the Pacific, coming across microclimates where thick stands of trees filled the air with some fragrance that I can’t identify (some kind of bay?) that is a smell I remember that always said we were close to my great-aunt’s house. {she is kind of a vegetarian but loves me so much she was the first person to introduce me to chili dogs…)  I stumbled across some Chumash tribe cave paintings.

The wedding was awesome.  Rehearsal, too.  Meeting the bride and groom’s friends and family.  Jake’s sister and brother in law are heavily involved in small groups at a church plant in Indiana.  His parents—so good to meet them after so many years of knowing him and hearing about them.  T’Nique’s dad is a Raiders fan, and I am too, from before I was born (long story).  One of John and Joe’s teachers from Lexington was there! She lives in LA now, too.  Three people from the Rock moved to LA to follow their dreams.

Jake and T’Nique wanted me to share a word from the Bible.  So cool because there were people from all kinds of backgrounds.  So I got to share the Gospel (tears in my eyes as I write this because I can’t believe that God even lets me preach) and people came up to me after and thanked me, and I was fielding spiritual questions at the bar.

Then it was on to Orange County to get ready for the Discipleship Forum and Exponential conference.  Sunday, I hit Mariners Church for service.  Blown away.  Then I went to catch a late lunch with my cousin Joey.  I took the Coast highway from Long Beach to Laguna Beach, and headed to Costa Mesa where my hotel was. The Pacific Coast Highway is always a highlight of my trips to Cali.  Then I picked up Mike Adams and he had to have In N Out immediately or he was going to die.

The Conference was pretty good.  The best speakers are the ones who don’t boast about their church but just drop Gospel truth.  It always takes me a few weeks to figure out what happens at Exponential.  So much material, encouragement, information. You can’t imagine how inspiring it is to be around 2500 people who think the whole world is going to be baptized tomorrow.  I spent most of the breakouts sessions writing and processing and talking to people I don’t see much.

Last day, Mike and I headed to Newport beach at 6 to catch sunrise.  We thought maybe we’d be there in solitude.  Nope.  Surfers were already in the water.  I thought, alright! These dudes are living it up, getting in some surfing before the day starts.  So cool that 8 dolphins were swimming just outside the breakers.  Mike and I had some huge prayer and some huge Holy Spirit action as the sun came up.  A lot of it for me was reflecting on the surfers.  We will get up for what we love.  These dudes are up to surf.  Early morning is a huge free time for almost everyone.  But will we get up for the Word or Life Transformation Group?

I get why people surf.  Or maybe I should say what I love about the coast is the relentless pounding of the surf.  In all the Germanic languages, the word for “time” is the word for “tide.”  I think it is a recognition that it does not stop, it keeps rolling.  There is an elemental force, something mysterious, at work in the tide.  And the wide expanse of the ocean at once inspires us to wonder how do I get on it? where would I end up? and also draws us into a sense that things could be very different than they are.  I remember a huge, mystical moment of God-consciousness that happened to me at Big Sur.  I was sitting on the beach watching the sunset.  The sun appeared to be resting on the water, casting a cone of light onto the black-green water, and I just wanted to walk on to it.  I don’t know how I knew but I knew it was God calling to me.

The funny thing is, there on Newport beach, in the midst of the perfect California morning, all Mike and I were really digging into with God was the discipleship movement in Eastern Kentucky.  We are such freaks—a huge conference for planting churches where every Macklemore haircut hipster thinks he is planting the next mega church—and we’re just trying to start churches in towns that everyone has forgotten about, trusting that if we can give our lives to it, we can see a hundred or more churches that would have more believers than any single church we could plant.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Revival in the Ministry

Hey... one of you posted a comment on a blog from a few weeks back, and I did not "approve" it because I have not been here in a while.  Sorry!  Thanks for the comment, and I will try to address it in a while, if I can!

What I want to do today is give you another nugget from "Words to Winners of Souls," Robert Coleman's compilation of some words from Horatius Bonar.

"It is easier to speak and write about revival than to set about it.  There is so much rubbish to be swept out; so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with; so many old habits to be overcome; so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with; so much ministerial routine to be broken through; and so much crucifixion, both of self and the world, to be undergone....

"So thought a minister of the 17th century; for after lamenting the evils both of his life and ministry, he thus resolves to set about their renewal:

1. In imitation of Christ and His apostles, and to get good done, I purpose to rise timely every morning

2. To prepare as soon as I am up some work to be done, and how that I do it, and to engage my heart in it, and in the evening to call myself to account, and to mourn over my failings

3. To spend a competent portion of every day in prayer, reading, meditating, spiritual exercises, morning, midday, and evening and before I go to bed.

4, Once a month either in the middle or the end of it, I keep a day of humiliation for the public condition, for the Lord's people and their sad condition, for the raising up of the work and the people of God

5. I spend, besides this, one day for my private condition in conflicting with spiritual evils, and to get my heart more holy, or to get some special exercise accomplished, once in six months

6. I spend every week, once, four hours, over and above my daily portion, in private prayer for some special causes relating to myself or others

7. To spend some time on Saturday, towards night, for preparation for the Sabath

8. To spend six or seven days together, once a year, when I have greatest convenience, wholly and only on spiritual accounts

Thursday, July 21, 2016

You Need an Evangelism Study Group

I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out: you need an evangelism study group.  I have done them in various ways, mostly short-term kinds of training. But I never really got long-term and systematic about it until the past year.

An evangelism study group, in my burgeoning understanding, is about training and learning, models and methods, but it is really about encouragement and accountability.

I have heard Robert Coleman say, and Jimmy Rose say that evangelism is an internal struggle: you have to decide, will I really obey Jesus on this stuff, to go and tell others?  Will I go down the street, door to door?  Will I speak up about the Lord?  Will I tell someone else about the peace I have found? Will I obey my Lord's Great Commission to go and make disciples?  You have to have a convert before you can have a disciple, so evangelism is key.

Our group started out with a modified form of T4T, or "Training for Trainers." Check it out: here
We wanted to be able to present the Gospel quickly and effectively, and enable anyone who responds to be taught quickly how to share it as well.

we also looked at situations we faced, what we did, what we could have done.

The real power, though, has come from weekly sitting down and reporting.  Did we talk to the people we listed and prayed for?  If not, why not?  We kind of pound on each other about wimping out or finding the usual excuses (not the right time, didn't feel comfortable bringing it up, they might think we are weird, we have known them for a while and never said anything, etc).  Pretty soon, the message is clear: quit the group or start talking to people about Jesus.  And once you start doing it regularly, you find it's easier than you think.  That's where we have seen the results.  As we can testify that no one yelled at us, or that maybe it was awkward but w pushed through to where it was no longer as awkward... we have started feeling much more bold and confident to share the god news of Jesus with neighbors and even strangers.

You need an evangelism study group.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Call to Repentance

In 1994, the Billy Graham Center put out a book edited by Robert Coleman.  Dr. Coleman gathered some powerful words from a legendary preacher, Horatius Bonar, on evangelism.  He called it Words to Winners of Souls.  I have been greatly blessed by it.  A few days ago, I was reading it (been reading it slowly, because it really is a lot to absorb) and was blessed and convicted.

Bonar recounts that in 1651, the Church of Scotland made a confession of ministerial sin, acknowledging that the sins of the nation and God’s judgment upon it fell on their feet.  Elsewhere, someone has noted that the Methodists of England, in a period of decline, acknowledged their failings and developed a plan.  See Chris Ritter’s summary of it here

Bonar suggested that those who would be soul-winners need to repent.  He laid out, based on the Scottish confession, some sins to repent of:

1.       We have been unfaithful. “The fear of man and the love of his applause have often made us afraid.  We have been unfaithful to our own souls, to our flocks, and to our brethren: unfaithful in the pulpit, in visiting, in discipline, in the church…. Instead of the particularization of the sin reproved, there has been the vague allusion. Instead of the bold reproof, there has been the feeble disapproval.”

2.       We have been carnal and unspiritual “The tone of our life has been low and earthly.  Associating too much and too infinitely with the world, we have in a great measure become assimilated to its ways.”

3.       We have been selfish.  “We have shrunk from toil, from difficulty… We have been worldly and covetous.  We have not presented ourselves unto God as ‘living sacrifices’ laying ourselves, our substances, our faculties, our all, upon His altar.  We seem altogether to have lost sight of that self-sacrificing principle on which even as Christians, but much more as ministers, we are called upon to act.”

4.       We have been slothful. “Precious hours and days have been wasted in sloth, in company, in pleasure, in idle or desultory reading [tv, social media, video games], that might have been devoted to the closet or the study or the pulpit or the meeting!”

5.       We have been cold.  I think particularly of my own sense that if we do not share the Gospel to perishing sinners, we are cold, heartless, and ruthless.

6.       We have been timid. “Fear has often led us to smooth down or generalize truths… we have shrunk from reproving, rebuking and exhorting with all long-suffering and doctrine. We have feared to alienate friends or awaken the wrath of enemies.”

7.       We have been wanting in solemnity. We lack the seriousness demanded byt the task, as shown to us Methodists by Wesley or Nelson or Asbury.

8.       We have preached ourselves, not Christ. “We have preached too often so as to exalt ourselves and not Christ; so as to draw men’s eyes to ourselves instead of fixing them on Him and His Cross”

9.       We have used words of man’s wisdom.  We have acted “as if by well-studied, well-polished, well-reasoned discourses, we could so gild and beautify the Cross as to make no longer repulsive, but irresistibly attractive to the carnal eye.”

10.   We have not fully preached a free Gospel.  That is, we have not preached that we are saved by grace through faith ALONE, insisting on the sinner’s immediate repentance and turning to God.

11.   We have not duly studied and honored the word of God. “We have given a greater prominence to man’s writings, man’s opinions, man’s systems in our studies than to the WORD.”

12.   We have not been men of prayer. “We have allowed business or study or active labor to interfere with our closet hours.”

13.   We have not honored the spirit of God. “We have grieved Him by the dishonor done to His person as the third person of the Trinity.”

14.   We have had little of the mind of Christ. “We have had little of the grace, the compassion, the lowliness, the meekness of God’s eternal Son. His weeping over Jerusalem is a feeling in which we have but little heartfelt sympathy. His seeking of the lost is little imitated by us.”

I am  praying that the United Methodist Church, if only in Kentucky, could adopt this confession and repentance and get back down to the business of conversion and discipleship.  One of the things Robert Coleman has said has really stuck with me and revitalized my own faith-sharing is that "evangelism is an internal struggle."  That is, do I love Jesus enough to obey Him and go where He says go and speak what He says to speak?  At least I can repent and get up and move forward!


Friday, June 10, 2016

Baling Hay and Saving Souls

Today was good, long day.  Winding down watching the NBA Finals with Joseph.

After the last day of VBS, we went out and helped Charlie Derrickson and his grandsons bale hay.  Johnny keeps his calves at Charlie's farm, so it's kind of like rent.  It was a really good time for Johnny to see what it's like to bale hay.  May be the first kid who has never complained about it... It was, strangely enough, a great way to cap off a great day.  The hot work burned off some energy.  Doing something really productive on top of an amazingly productive Bible School just seemed perfect.

Bible School... you have no idea if you weren't there! We have been dissatisfied with the VBS packages put out by various publishers.  Dave Sheffel has been asking for a few years that we just write our own. We wanted something that had more evangelism, more discipleship, more spiritual formation.  I have to say, as soon as we started working on it, I was stoked.  The ideas for crafts and skits and content was so energizing. To sit around the table with Jessie, Dave, Peggy Fannin, Mike Breeze, Adam Foster and Emily Neal was a highlight of any week we did it.  I looked forward to the energy and excitement.  We settled on Jonah, and we were going to intentionally, every day, share the Gospel with the kids.  My contribution was I wanted slime to throw at the kids to remind them of the whale's belly.  Really, just any excuse to have slime!

Doing this set our people free to do the best work they have ever done.  It was an amazing bible school for start to finish. Drew and Mary Ellen McNeill did a great job leading an awesome worship that taught kids lots of Scripture. It was like a vision of how we could do awesome worship with families and help kids know Scripture and Jesus... 85% of people make a profession of faith between the ages of 4 and 14!!!

I think we made some great strides in meeting young families.  And then there was a Chinese woman, who has only been in the country for a week.  She brought her son. Anyway, I had one last Chinese Bible and gave it to her.  She ended up sitting on a couch in the lobby, and did not put it down for three hours.

I may blog a little bit more about some the specifics of VBS this year, but here is what I really want to get to.  I got a chance to ask the kids to give their hearts to Christ.  And it was so easy.  All I had to do was walk them thru the 5 points, one of which was the theme of each day.  They had sung the theme, watched a video about the theme, had a bible story time about the theme, did crafts about the theme, and journalled about the theme in a reflection time.  16 kids gave their lives to Christ today!!  We should do VBS all the time!!!

I had more people tell me they wished it wasn't over.  Three youth volunteers said, "we should do it just like this next year."

16 kids gave their lives to Christ today!!!