5 Simple Ways to Teach Anyone About Jesus

Writing a post for SeeJesus ministries, Jill Miller explores practical ways to share the love of Jesus with even those who may seem the most challenged to understand – young children, peoples with disabilities, etc. Jill begins with this conviction:

I believe all of us can learn. We are made in the image of God, and God is limitless. I don’t believe in ceilings where people stop learning. I try to adapt Bible study materials so that people affected by disability can go beyond where they ever have before in studying the Bible.  I didn’t set out to be a writer. I set out to make sure all of “the gang” (as I lovingly call the kids and adults I teach who are affected by disabilities) could learn the Bible.

And follows with 5 helpful suggestions:

  1. Act It Out
  2. Question Your Questions
  3. Tell Your Own Stories
  4. Review, Review, Review
  5. With-It-Ness

To read Jill Miller’s original article, click: 5 Simple Ways to Teach Anyone About Jesus

Evangelical Typecasts

For God and Country

It is interesting. It is even more troubling.  CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke has posted an article to CNN Politics titled 7 Types of Evangelicals: And How They’ll Effect the Presidential Race.  The post is interesting in that it describes differences among those who label themselves “Evangelical”, and creates categories for each.  It is troubling, at least to me, because little to nothing in the post conveys what an actual Evangelical essentially is.

Burke begins with the tired old refrain:

It’s an axiom in American politics, duly repeated every four years: Evangelicals are the country’s biggest and most powerful religious voting bloc, especially during the GOP primaries.

But then he offers something that offers a hint of something fresh:

Like many political axioms, though, it papers over a complex reality.

It is true, Evangelicals are not monolithic.  Evangelicals are individuals who have different ideas about different candidates for office – from both parties.  Many of us are able to see positive characteristics even in candidates with whom we disagree.  Few of us are likely to find any candidate that represents everything we would prefer.  At least not those of us who think for ourselves – as God gifted us (and all humanity) to do. So I appreciate Burke’s explanation to those who do not understand Evangelicalism that we Evangelicals reflect a complex reality.  Our complexity should not be confusing, just diverse.

Evangelicals are diverse in may ways. Some among us believe more water should be used in a baptism than others of us do; and some believe a lower age for that baptism is appropriate (maybe even preferable) than others of us.  Some among us like a little wine or a few beers, others prefer to stick with Iced Tea. Some among us like the excitement and activity of a large church, others among us prefer the intimacy of a small family-like church; most among us are somewhere in between. Some of us prefer newer songs, others the hymns from ages past; some prefer cheerful music, others tunes that set a more reflective tone; most enjoy a mix of all of the above.  Some of us appreciate the connectivity of a denominational affiliation; others, aware that no denomination has the corner on the market of God’s favor, choose to remain organizationally independent.  There are all sorts of ways in which Evangelicals are diverse, different, complex.  But none of these differences has anything to do with what makes us Evangelicals in the first place. Nor does Burke in his attempt to analyze and categorize an Evangelical political landscape.

Burke’s categories are interesting, even somewhat amusing. They are as follows:

  1. Old Guard
  2. Institutional Evangelicals
  3. Entrepreneurial Evangelicals
  4. Arm’s Length Evangelicals
  5. Millennial Evangelicals
  6. Liberal Evangelicals
  7. Cultural Evangelicals

Continue reading

Is This Why We Don’t Engage Our Neighbors?

The Conversation (Brooklyn Art Project)

Here is a challenging perspective and good instruction from Leon Brown, church planter and pastor at Crown & Joy Presbyterian Church in South Richmond, Virginia:

“I fear that one of the reasons we don’t know how to engage non-Christians to talk about Jesus is because we’ve forgotten how to have regular conversations. If the conversation is not about the Bible, a child’s education, church, other forms of ministry, or the occasional sporting event, we don’t have a paradigm for much else. If this is you, here’s a remedy. Spend more time in public places and listen to the discussions that are occurring around you. You’ll begin to notice what’s important to people. Grow in your understanding of those things. Even consider how the word of God speaks to those situations. After some time, it’ll be easier to have ‘common grace’ conversations, and you’ll be prepared to share the word in a natural manner, as the scriptures speak to many, many things.”

Culturally Literate Evangelism

Abstract Modern Landscape

Jonathan Dodson offers an astute assessment of the cultural landscape and some practical suggestions about how this effects the way we as Christians ought to engage in evangelistic efforts.  What Dodson offers refelcts the best of contextual ministry: The message should not change, but understanding those to whom we are speaking, knowing their needs and desires, shapes the way we present the message of the gospel.  ~ WDG


Cultural shifts have resulted in the collapse of Christendom, an official or unofficial relationship people have with their country and its civil religion. In America, moral views typically associated with Christianity have been replaced by more progressive views associated with libertarianism on marriage, sexuality, and gender.

In addition to loosening the American moral fabric, the collapse of Christendom has left behind a rubble of theological understanding. As the dust settles, we can no longer assume that people know what words like Christ, sin, faith, and God mean. For many, these words may no longer carry their original biblical meaning. We need to become culturally literate in order to be evangelistically fluent. If we don’t, the gospel gets lost in translation.

In secular culture people may actually hear us saying teacher for Christ, bad deeds for sin, wishful thinking for faith, or moldable deity for God. Today, it is a mistake to assume theological literacy. If we are to move forward, the Church must develop its ability to listen to new questions people are asking and learn how to translate the gospel into words and concepts that speak to the heart.

The Need for Cultural Literacy

Consider the need for cultural literacy in this story. A church planter in my city planted little wire signs in grassy medians around the city that read “RepentAustin.org.” I’ll admit it’s a pretty gutsy and confrontational tactic, but Jesus did call people to “repent and believe.” Yet, as I thought about this evangelistic approach, a major objection came to mind. These signs did not take into account contemporary understandings associated with the word “repent.” They conjure up images of judgmental people, filled with hatred toward “sinners,” who self-righteously speak words of condemnation. Instead of intriguing people, it probably elicited disinterest and, perhaps, unduly promoted a distorted view of the Gospel.

What makes this way of presenting the Gospel distorted? First, it does not call attention to Jesus — it focuses on a person’s need to change before they even get to hear about Jesus and what He has done. Second, there are strong cultural memories associated with the word, especially in the South, that are connected with a return to good, moral living — again, a response that has nothing to do with Jesus and what he has done. Many youths, when they hear the word “repent,” associate it with things like: stop listening to secular music, stop sleeping with your girlfriend, and start going to Church. This kind of repentance does not involve turning away from trusting in yourself to trust the Savior. It is simply a switch in lifestyles, secular to Christian. You can alter your behavior without altering your savior.

People adopt the trappings of faith—the religious habits, attempts at moral living, even a new Christianized culture that entails wearing a purity ring and listening to Christian music. But this cultural repentance is not a true turning to Christ; it is a turning to Christianity, to a religious subculture.

Slowing Down to Understand

To be effective in our new cultural landscape, we will have to slow down long enough to understand what people hear and how they speak in order to communicate the gospel in intelligible ways. This involves listening to what people think in order to communicate meaningfully what God thinks. This doesn’t require a PhD in Bible or theology. It requires love: sacrificing our time, tweaking our crammed schedules, putting away our canned responses, and actually conversing with people.

People don’t just need to hear a thirty-second gospel presentation. They need to understand why the Gospel is worth believing. To do this, we must learn their language and know their stories. We need to become “culturally literate in order to be gospel fluent, communicating the gospel in words and idioms that make sense to the people we talk to.


Jonathan Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, The Unbelievable Gospel, andRaised? Twitter: @Jonathan_Dodson

Why Do People Find the Gospel Unbelieveable?

Why do people find the gospel unbelievable?  That’s the question Jonathan Dodson askes.

There is a sense in which people find the gospel unbelievable because it is incredibly good news that boggles the imagination.  And yet I suspect that it is probably not this that makes much evangelistic desire and effort unfruitful.

Dodson offers his thoughts, which have to do with both the substance and the presentation.  Give him a couple minutes, and consider if what he suggests has any merit.

Honest Answer to Honest Questions, and Open Dialogue Wherever Possible

Dialog & Discuss

Boyce College professor, Denny Burk, has posted an interesting warning about a common tactic employed by some with theological agendas – especially those with liberalizing theological agendas.  His post is titled:  Should Churches “Dialogue” About Sexuality?

Having read through it a couple of times I find myself appreciating Burk’s concern.  Burk notes that many a subtle debate may begin with a seemingly reasonable appeal:

“…with the liberals calling for more dialogue about the issue.”

Then, citing conservative writer Rod Dreher:

Ah, the old “conversation starter” or “dialogue” trick. Any time you see a progressive member of your church try this, you must understand that this is the wedge that they will use to pry the orthodox out. The “conversation” will be one-sided, and will not end until the orthodox have surrendered or left, because the progressives will never, ever take “no” for an answer.

While I am not one who is overly concerned about debate, or about being drawn into compromised theology, I have seen this tactic employed.  (For the sake of fairness, I must admit that I have seen the technique attempted by both those on the theological left, and by some on the far right.  It just seems that those on the far right are more likely to quckly show their hand, their agenda.)  So I agree with Burk, we need to be mindful of this, and encourage the people in our churches– or at least our church leaders – to be mindful of this ploy.

However, what Burk is addressing is not the biggest challenge to the church I serve.  Our congregation is pretty well rooted in sound theology and conservatism.  (NOTE: These are not always the same thing, especially when the conservatism is more political than theological.)  For most of our members it is not difficult to get them to accept the authority of God’s Word on any particular subject.  Our  commitment to deep, rich, historic, orthodoxy is one of the primary reasons they are part of the church.  And while we have many who are doing inspiring works throughout our community, it is far more a concern whether we can get some of the others to love and engage their neighbors – most of whom are likely to differ with us on any number of social issues – than it is whether they will be susceptible to trendy Spirits of the Age.

So while I appreciate Burk’s wisdom, I believe we also need to prepare people to “dialogue”.

Dialogue is how we engage people, without requiring that they agree with us as a precondition of  being welcome in our church or wanted as a friend.  Dialogue is one way we are able to express and cultivate love for our neighbors.  Dialogue may be the only way for some to hear what God has to say about a particular subject, as we appropriately bring our understanding of the Word into the conversations. Dialogue about issues in which we (at least) initially differ may be the means by which some hear the gospel for the first time – as the gospel does apply in some manner to all matters.

No doubt some readers will be uncomfortable with my call to dialogue with unbelievers and with theological compromisers (- which usually qualifies them as unbelievers).  But I am convinced that somewhere, somehow, we need to cultivate environments that encourage dialogue – and we must do this for the sake of the gospel.

I don’t feel alone in this thought. It is what Francis Schaeffer called for a couple generations ago.  In his Two Contents, Two Realities, the second content was: Honest Answers to Honest Questions.

I agree that we must be wise, and that there are times when conversation should be cut off – such as when it is apparent that the “dialogue” is not honest but rather a cloak over a subversive agenda. This is what Burk has in view, and so it is why I appreciate his thoughts.  But, just so there is no mistaking Burk’s counsel as an invitation for Evangelicals to hide out in the fortress of the church, I also feel compelled to contend for genuine dialogue, since it is the only way we will have opportunity to hear Honest Questions from our culture to which we may offer Honest Answers from God’s Word.

Noah: And The Last Days

Days before the release of Russell Crowe’s banal motion picture, another Noah film was released.  This one by Ray Comfort.  In this short film (30 minutes) Comfort probes people on the street about their views, and about the consistency of their views and their practices.  Through them he probes us.  Comfort also runs through the signs of the Last Days.

Thought provoking.

Check out:  NoahtheMovie.com

Pursuing Prodigals

Return of the Prodigal (Rembrandt)

by Barry York

Many Christian parents have had the sad experience of seeing a covenant child grow up and wander from the faith.  To see one whom you joyfully brought into the world, baptized in the name of the Triune God, sacrificed in love to nurture and provide for, and trained to love Christ and His church, grow up only to reject his inheritance for the pottage of this world is a tragedy whose grief is carried daily by godly parents.

If the Apostle John said that he had no greater joy than seeing his children walking with the Lord (III John 4), then certainly there is no greater sadness that to see a young person walk away from Him.

Without going into all the questions this issue raises in such areas as parental guilt and responsibility, church discipline, election, etc., what exactly should be the response of parents and those in fellowship with them that are thrust into this unwanted situation of having a prodigal? It begins with taking hope in knowing that the story of the Bible is one of God pursuing His wayward people.  Just recently the words of Isaiah 29:22-24 were brought to my attention.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: “Jacob shall no more be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale. For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

What a wonderful promise God makes here and other places in Scripture!  Through generations of time He has been faithful to redeem straying covenant children.  So how do we actively lay hold of this promise?  Here are some suggestions.

Continue reading

10 Questions to Ask at a Christmas Gathering

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Do you have any Chrstmas gatherings to attend this holiday season?  My thanks to Don Whitney for suggesting the following questions to spruce up the conversation, especially at church:

  1. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
  2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
  3. What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
  4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
  5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
  6. What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
  7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
  8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
  9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
  10. Why do you think Jesus came to earth?

Lost Art of Discipleship

Sometimes we need to face up to difficult questions. Michael Horton, in his book The Gospel Commission, asks some really tough ones that every church, every church leader, every church member needs to ask themselves:

Instead of reaching the lost, are we losing the reached? Or are those reared in our own churches being truly reached in the first place? Do they know what they believe and why they believe it? Are we making disciples even of our own members – our own children – much less the Nations?

I honestly wonder if making disciples is even really the goal of many Christians or churches.  Some are apathetic and/or complacent. Some seem to think taking the time to instruct people in sound doctrine (what we must believe about God and Man) somehow gets in the way with mission.  Some are so contented in their own activity and busyness for the Lord that they sense no need to spend time with the Lord. And many seem to be satisfied with sheer increase in numbers.

Perhaps the task of making disciples seems daunting.  But Jesus gave good news to those who are willing to reclaim this priority:

  • All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18, 20)
  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8)

He provides his authority, his power, and his presence to all who endeavor to make disciples.

When Helping Hurts

With the re-emergence of ministries of mercy by Evangelicals have also come definite challenges.  I am delighted that this trend of compassion continues on the upswing. But I am also aware of both the theological and practical dilemmas that inevitably face anyone who is engaged in such outreach.

The video above in an interview with two highly qualified mercy ministry experts, Brian Fikkert and Steven Corbett. I don’t know much about Corbett, but it was my privilege to get to know Brian when he was establishing the Chalmers Center.  (Brian’s son was also on my daughters first soccer team. )  And Brian, along with a few of his colleagues, were instrumental in helping the church I then served to develop our ministry among the poor in Walker County Georgia.

In the video Fikkert and Corbett discuss the premiss behind their excellent, must-read, book: When Helping Hurts.  They address practical and philosophical dimensions of such issues as cultivationg dependency, etc.

Can Mission Become an Idol?

“There is a first-rate commitment to a second-rate mission.” That is what Roger, a leader in global church planting, said as he looked at the rock climbers ascending a cliff in the Alps. Many of us called into ministry feel the same way. Rather than giving our lives to climbing a rock, building a business, or amassing a fortune, we are committed to what really matters; a first-rate mission – advancing the Gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ.

But what if we’re wrong?

Roger spent decades serving Christ by planting churches on four continents. But after reflecting on his labors for the kingdom of God, his confession surprised many of us. “I’ve given most of my energy to a second-rate mission as well,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. Church planting is important. But someday that mission will end. My first calling is to live with God. That must be my first commitment.”

What Roger articulated was a temptation that many of us in ministry face. To put it simply, many church leaders unknowingly replace the transcendent vitality of a life with God for the ego satisfaction they derive from a life for God. Before exploring how this shift occurs in church leaders, let me take a step or two backwards and explain how I have seen this tendency within the Christian college students I’ve worked with in recent years.

Is impact everything?

The students I meet with often worry about what awaits them after graduation. This is a reasonable concern for any young adult, but for many of them the worry extends far beyond finding a job with benefits. They fixate, and some obsess, about “making a difference in the world.” They fear living lives of insignificance. They worry about not achieving the right things, or not enough of the right things. Behind all of this is the belief that their value is determined by what they achieve. I’ve learned that when a student asks me, “What should I do with my life?” what he or she really wants to know is, “How can I prove that I am valuable?”

When we come believe that our faith is primarily about what we can do for God in the world, it is like throwing gasoline on our fear of insignificance. The resulting fire may be presented to others as a godly ambition, a holy desire to see God’s mission advance–the kind of drive evident in the Apostle Paul’s life. But when these flames are fueled by fear they reveal none of the peace, joy, or love displayed by Paul and rooted in the Spirit. Instead the relentless drive to prove our worth can quickly become destructive.

Sometimes the people who fear insignificance the most are driven to accomplish the greatest things. As a result they are highly praised within Christian communities for their good works. This temporarily soothes their fear until the next goal can be achieved. But there is a dark side to this drivenness. Gordon MacDonald calls it “missionalism.” It is “the belief that the worth of one’s life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective.”

Continue reading