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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Commitment


So I wrote this last week.  Sorry I did not post it then.
It’s been a killer week so far.

I rebuilt Mondays because they had become a depressing time sink of no real plan, just catching up and doing whatever came along.  So Mondays is now discipleship, evangelism and Bible study.

Yesterday was awesome because first thing I met with three university professors who want to do evangelism training. Well, alright!

I had some awesome testimonies in a noon discipleship group about listening to God and then being in the right place because of it, as well as some heavy prayer cover from those guys.

Evening discipleship group was awesome for some more prayer cover and then some great words about how God has dealt with us!

Today I met with a guy, Michael, who usually does evangelism with me on Mondays, but he ran a marathon on Sunday and was thinking we should go Tuesday because he might want to rest. Whatever, dude.  We spent some time working on our elevator pitch testimonies.  There was a lot of creative energy.  We talked about writing a book called “World’s Worst Evangelists,” where we only talk about the times we screwed it up or nothing happened, just so people will know it’s not an amazing train of awesome conversions on every street corner.

He tells me this great story.  He was coming back from the marathon and stopped to get gas and lunch.  He saw a homeless guy sitting on the curb.  He felt God tell him to go witness to the guy.  So he drives by and asks the guy if he wants to get lunch.  He can tell the fellow is high, and it takes him a while to process what was going on and to work out if it’s safe.  Michael admits it must have seemed pretty sketchy—skinny white kid in a black neighborhood asking a dude to get in his car.

They go to McDonald’s and Michael tries to share Christ with him, but the guy is so high he just can’t really talk without a long delay.  Michael takes him back to the gas station and drops him off.

Here’s the thing.  This is a win.  God knows Michael will obey, without worrying about whether it will be “successful.” God knows He has his man.  But I think one day someone is going to share Christ with this guy, or he will need some help and he will remember a guy tried to help him in Jesus’ name.  Michael is is a link in this guy’s conversion chain (what's a conversion chain?).  I pray that the other people God sends to talk to him will also obey sincerely and promptly.

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

SoCal


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.