The Stories of Others

January 2, 2008

I was watching a show recently where a part-time character was killed in an auto accident. One of the main characters was responsible for telling the spouse about her husband’s death. The main character commented that until this particular day she didn’t even know the wife (they worked at the same place), but was now the one that brought the news that would make up one of the worst days in the life of the wife. The main character would now be known as the one who told the wife of her husband’s death. She would be “that” person in the wife’s story of her life.

It got me to thinking…what part have I or will I play in the stories of others? When my neighbors tell their life story what part will I play? Will I be the one that showed them what Jesus was like, or will I show them what hypocritical religion was like, or will I even be mentioned at all?

I hope that when others I know, or will come to know, mention me in their stories it will be because in me they saw and experienced the hands, feet, eyes, mouth, and ears of Jesus. Hopefully they will say that I pointed them to the throne of Christ.


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A Definition

September 26, 2007

I recently listened to a sermon by Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village church in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. It was part of a series he was preaching on Ecclesiastes. It was a really good message, and one of the better presentations of the gospel that I’ve heard in quite a while. During part of the message he spoke on what “repentance” meant. Until then I had not really given it much thought. It’s been one of those words that I’ve heard all my life, growing up in church. But after I finished the message I really started to spend some time thinking through the word “repentance” and how I would explain it to a not-yet believer.

So, I’m wondering…how would you define “repentance”, especially to a not-yet believer?

If you’re interested in listening to the message, you can subscribe through iTunes here, or from the Village’s website here. It’s message number 5 in the Ecclesiastes series. Oh, and by the way, here’s Matt’s definition of repentance:

Let me try to explain repentance to you, because I think it’s been done really badly. Like, how many of you have heard this, “Repentance is a military term that means to change from walking one way to walking the other way.” Anybody ever hear it spelled out like this? Well, if that’s the definition of salvation, I’m in a lot of trouble. Because Christ kind of enacted in my heart and woke up my heart, and man, for the last thirteen years, I’ve been turning the other way, taking three or four steps and with my long gangly arms, reaching back there and grabbing stuff. Is it just me? No, liars, you too. So, if the definition of what is required for salvation is to go 180° and walk this way and never touch anything back there again, I’m out. So, what is repentance then? Here’s what I think repentance is: repentance is a sorrow over our sin that creates an earnestness and a ferocity to know Jesus deeply. And when that’s the pursuit, you’re running towards Jesus, this stuff starts fading away.


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On Strategy

July 10, 2007

I read with great interest blogs and sites that deal with issues of strategy and methodology in missions. I appreciate and respect individuals like Guy Muse and David Rogers. They talk about things like MAWL (Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave), or common elements found in CPM’s (Church Planting Movements), or strategies from Wolfgang Simpson’s book Houses That Change the World.

In and of themselves these are all good things to discuss. I’m of the belief that while strategies are good to study, the implementation of them is quite dependent on the geographical location and group of people you are working with. There are things that Guy writes about on his blog that simply wouldn’t work where I’m at. It doesn’t mean that they are bad, they’re just not right in this context. Much of what is written about mission strategy starts with a wrong assumption. The assumption is made that there are those that have either come to faith, or about to come to faith. So the strategy focuses on what to do at the point of conversion so that it can be duplicated such that it leads to a movement. This is why much of what I read about mission strategy doesn’t work for me.

I live in a European context. But I’m not working with Europeans. I’m working with Muslim ethnic minorities. The community is completely closed. They have little to no use in outsiders. If you don’t have a good or service to offer them they want nothing to do with you. To “do life” with them is very difficult…next to impossible in my opinion. Theological discussions will not persuade them. And these people are not coming to faith and are not near coming to faith.

So you can see that I have a hard time taking what others are doing (or not doing) and try to implement it here. I have to find something that works for where I’m at and who I’m trying to reach. And this has led me to a passage I read recently in John 4. The son of a royal official is very ill. The father comes to Jesus asking him to heal his boy. Jesus responds by saying, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe”. In other words, Jesus is saying “look, you won’t believe in me based on what I’m saying, so I’m going to have to show you something miraculous and blow you out of the water in order for you to believe.” And he does just that. He heals the boy and as a result the father and his whole household come to faith (v. 53). This is where I’m at with strategy. I’m not giving up on building relationships with those in my community. In fact, I’m doing just the opposite. But I truly feel that these people will have to see sign and wonders, and will have to have dreams and visions in order to come to faith. I know that God can move anyway he chooses, but it just seems that something is going to have to shake these people to their very foundation before they will look and behold the glory and grace of Jesus Christ.

So now my strategy contains a lot of praying for signs, wonders, dreams, and visions. It may be the only way this community is saved.


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A Little Confused

June 13, 2007

I’m relatively new to the life of being a “missionary”. I’m not new, however, to what it means to “share the gospel”. My hope and prayer is that through building relationships with others they might come to know about the sovereign grace of Christ, that the Holy Spirit will awaken their soul, and that God will call them to Himself.

But how far do you take things in a given conversation when things turn spiritual? In fact, just today a colleague told me that she felt the Holy Spirit was preventing her from taking things deeper in a conversation she was having with a friend.

When is just being a friend and living life with someone not enough? When do you push things deeper, and how do you know that it’s the right time?

Just very simple, basic things I’m working through right now.

UPDATE: After reading through my post I feel that a little clarification is needed. I live in a Western European culture. But I work with Muslims. It’s highly unlikely that someone in this context is going to come to faith through good old fashioned theological debate. The sticking points will always be issues such as the trinity, the incarnate nature of Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection. The point of my post was me asking the question, how often and how deep do I push these things, knowing full well that their witness of my life is more likely to lead them towards Christ than a spiritually deep conversation. And I don’t know that this question has an answer, but it needed to be asked anyway.

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