Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Spiritual Conversations - My Paradigm Shift

Over the last twenty-five years I have seen a paradigm shift in evangelism. Here are a few of my observations:

1. Event to Process - I think the confusion between the event of conversion and the process of evangelism was generated by the majority of evangelism training being centered around leading someone in a prayer of repentance...while little was offered on identifying the steps a person takes in moving towards or away from Christ. In the mid-80's I discovered Dr. James F. Engel and his Engel's scale.pdf , along with Willow Creek's Seven Step Outreach Strategy. The combination of these ideas helped me make the shift from event focused evangelism to more of a process oriented approach. People consider faith over a stretch of time. God uses all sorts of conversations, events, movie clips, songs...to draw people to Himself. In many ways it is better to think of God courting or wooing people to himself...too often it looks like he is hijacking or mugging them [through us]. Viewing yourself and what you do as part of a long string of events God is bringing into persons life. When they are ready, don't worry...it will be an UNSTOPPABLE moment.

2. Combative to Attractive - Most of the evangelism training I experienced in school and in seminars was apologetically driven. Don't get me wrong, it is biblical to be prepared. Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (I Peter 3:15) Yet all too often I missed the two key concepts around this phrase 1) Lordship - “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." Making sure that my life aligns with Christ through personal purity, through confession of all known sin and being filled with the Holy Spirit turns controversial information into transformational truth. 2) Rapport - "But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Peter 3:15-16) Rapport is that emotional bond or friendly relationship between people based on mutual respect, trust and care. Lordship and rapport are the keys to save us from being combative and more attractive in spiritual conversations. Study Jesus' interactions with people. The only times he was combative was with the religious elite who distracted people from the truth of God. (Matthew 23; Luke 19:45-46) Here is a question to ponder: When was Jesus ever combative with anyone but the Pharisees?

3. Monolog to Dialog - There has been a profound shift moving from giving a memorized sales pitch to a meaningful two-way conversation. In my early days of ministry I was driven by decision theology (we had to report something to our superiors.) But, Jesus said "go make disciples" not "go make decisions!" Monologs are like decision based theology, they are neat and tidy. Dialogs are like disciple making, they are messy and unpredictable. Learning to see God at work in the messes is challenging and exciting. Monologs take a little practice and can come across as impersonal. Dialogs take faith, patience and love. Saying "I don't know" is fine, and liberating. Tell people what you do know..."Let me tell you what Jesus has done in me..."

4. Short-term to Long-term - A short-term mentality works through this type of sequence: 1) Presentation 2) Decision 3) Assimilation. A long-term mentality operates with this sequence in mind: 1) Belonging 2) Believing 3) Becoming. On an individual and corporate level the church is learning to love and accept people where they are at on their journey along with providing opportunities and experiences to engage with Christians and explore the implications of Christ's teachings. George Hunter III writes, "Effective communicators do not try to do all the communicating. They know that faith is 'more caught than taught', that a person's meaningful involvement can do its own communicating, and that involvement helps people discover the faith for themselves..." This meaningful involvement takes time and persevering love. There was a season in our church plant with lifechurch where several people came to faith through their engagement in our set-up team. It was a place in our church where they could make an instant impact and rub shoulders with other people of faith. Our top 10 list will take a decade or perhaps a lifetime, but will need to walk the long road of love and deny our american fixation on quick fixes and immediate gratification to see things happen.

5. Every day hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands come to be rescued by God. It is happening all the time. Ask God to simply insert you into the flow of this reality. Look for moments to love and opportunities to tell stories or ask questions. Remember: God has no back-up plan for this, He is trusting us to walk this path with Him. And he believes in you FAR MORE than you believe in Him!



blogger templates | Make Money Online