Tag Archives: evangelism

15 Minutes for Jesus

I’m jumping to the chase here, I HATE the ’15 Minutes for Jesus’ mantra.

The idea, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is that if you could spend just ’15 minutes’ of your time when you wake up, at lunch, or when you’re going to bed in quiet reflection/prayer/reading the Bible your life will be better. I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea, I’m just saying I hate the emphasis on it.

GUILT TRIP!

First of all, besides being totally sad and pathetic; asking people the question ‘Can’t you spare 15 minutes for Jesus?’ really is a total guilt trip.

“I know I went to a public university and took a ‘secular’ job; but are you really going to try and make me feel bad for watching SportsCenter, too?”

Guess what? Some people seriously HATE reading and some people can’t sit still or quietly; it is against their nature to do those things. And while I’m all for challenging ourselves to step outside of our personality traits and ‘natural’ lifestyle, I don’t think that guilt is a healthy way to go about it.

Yeah, it’s really important to know what the Bible says, but if teachers are changing the presentation of math, science, history, and language arts to meet diverse learning needs… shouldn’t the Church be open to it as well? What’s wrong with Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter?

Lowering God’s Standards

Second, What ever happened to “…at all times, pray!”? Isn’t the ’15 Minutes’ thing severely reducing the standards the Bible has set?

In The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton argues that worship goes beyond singing and services, “It also includes the enactment of God’s love and justice, mercy and kindness in the world,” “Worship can encompass every dimension of our lives.”

I would argue much the same about prayer, Bible reading, and reflection. They don’t stop at the bottom of a cup of coffee, or at the amen, or even when you drift lazily into sleep. They encompass every dimension of our lives.

Prayer at it’s most basic level is communication with God. Considering non-verbal communication between human beings, how much more so are we communicating with God non-verbally? I don’t need my eyes closed, hands folded, or even a specific state of mind to be praying… I just need open communication.

If we take the Holy Spirit seriously, our mere existence is communication with God. The fact that we wrestle with doing the right thing is evidence enough of prayer. Where we fail (and why people advocate ’15 Minutes for Jesus’) is because we suck at doing the right thing. We suck at doing what God tells us.

Total Cop Out

Which leads me to my third reason for hating the ’15 Minutes for Jesus’ mantra… it’s a cop out.

It’s what we do to cover our butts because we don’t always do the right thing. Romans 2 says that it is the “doers” of the law, not the “hearers” that will be justified in God’s eyes. We don’t need more time meditating on loving our neighbor, we need more time DOING it. I think we would be much better served thinking of creative ways to love our neighbor and encouraging one another to take those actions.

Could 15 minutes set apart for God help us take those actions? Sure. Is it efficient? Probably not. Is it necessary? Not at all. So let’s quit it with the guilt trip, realize how hopelessly enveloped by God we already are, and think of something better to say.

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When Jesus spreads too quickly

As a kid I loved throwing dried up birch bark, leaves, and pine branches in the fire. The flame would turn a blinding orange-yellow, the heat would flare up in my face, and the boring logs would be consumed from my view… for a few seconds.

And shortly after the flame quieted, there the logs would still be.

As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of a solid oak log. It doesn’t flare up like dried kindling, but it does last for a few hours. It’s an efficient burner and the coals it produces will last until the next morning; from which a new fire can be lit.

Christianity is a lot like a fire.

There are plenty of momentary joys and celebrations, but the deep seeded, persevering beauty is of greatest importance.

It is for this reason that when Jesus gave his great commission he did not say, “Go and make believers…” he said, “Go and make disciples!”

Evangelism is a strong suit for most western Christians. We have been taught to be bold in our faith with both words and actions, but we have not been taught how to be efficient, steady, or consistent. When we tell or show others who Jesus is we so often stop short of discipleship and settle for belief.

We are reaching for kindling, when the world needs oaks of righteousness.

Just yesterday I received a new book, Red-Letter Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. I’m only half way through the first chapter, but Shane has made an incredible point. He says, “…our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live.”

Jesus came to SHOW  us how to live. He is the “author and perfecter” of our faith.

Sure, he taught a lot about theology and belief, but it was how he lived that really changed the world.

In this age of immediacy and political disparity Christians have become exceedingly whiny. Like infants that lack object permanence, when a flare up of something bad happens Christians freak out and turn to selfish instinct instead of patiently awaiting the return to shalom that God has promised.

Too many Christians are burning up quickly and floating away like ash.

We need more oaks of righteousness. We need more discipleship. We need less emphasis on right belief and more emphasis on right living. We need smaller churches and more diverse communities. These are the steps for producing coals that will light a new generation, a new fire.

Kindling has its purpose but so do  slow burning logs.

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The Misinterpreted Anointing: We can’t stop serving the poor

Jesus didn’t always make sense to his disciples.

At the end of Matthew 25 he tells them that the people who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven with him are those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the imprisoned. Then while they are eating dinner a few days later a woman pours an entire jar of expensive perfume on Jesus.

The disciples totally freak out asking, “How much food, how much water, how many clothes could we have purchased for the hungry, thirsty, or naked with the money spent on that perfume!?”

It is in response to this that Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you.”

Personally, I think and feel that many members of the Church use Jesus’ words here to not take care of the poor in the way that the rest of the Bible commands us to. I feel like Christians today use this verse as a qualifier for hoarding their own wealth and possessions in the same way that they used Paul (speaking to slave owners) to justify having slaves in the 17 and 1800s.

Let me be clear in saying THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ INTENT!

Jesus precedes, “The poor you will always have with you,” with, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.” Which makes sense when we look back at Matthew 25, “…just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me…”

You see, it wasn’t JUST taking care of the poor and needy that got the sheep into heaven. It was because they were serving the King; just like the woman with the perfume.

When Jesus rebuked the disciples he didn’t mean for them to STOP serving the poor and needy; his intention was to say, “Don’t judge the way others use their gifts to serve me. Don’t you serve out of self-righteousness. Don’t make your service something to be measured. Let it be pure. Do it as though you were doing it for me! Don’t make it a competition between each other.”

Scriptures say the world will have unbelievers  until the day of judgment when every knee will bow, but the Church still spends millions, billions, and trillions of dollars trying to fulfill the Great Commission by ‘winning souls’ for Jesus. Why don’t we attack poverty with the same resolve, energy, and commitment that we put into evangelizing?

Just because the poor will always be with us, doesn’t mean we can stop serving them.

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New wine into old wine skins

Jesus uses this metaphor in the middle of Mark chapter 2. I honestly never really understood it until a few days ago.

In a discussion with a friend I argued that Jesus often breaks the Mosaic law to prove a point. Like most Christians upon hearing such a claim, my friend quoted Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, “I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”

Immediately I thought that it was a stupid argument because in Mark 2 alone Jesus and his disciples break at LEAST four Mosaic laws… (claiming to be God, communing with sinners, disregarding the fasting laws, and working on the Sabbath).

However, I stand corrected, because Jesus did not come to abolish or even break the Mosaic law… he came to burst it open and expose its blood and guts!

Jesus came to ‘fulfill’ the law… to fill it to its fullest.

I like to think of the Mosaic law as the bottle in which God fed an infant humanity. We were force-fed one way to live life. Compare it to the way we force-feed babies one kind of food. It sounds bad, but really infants shouldn’t be exposed to much else besides water and milk, but as they grow other drinks become more accessible and more enjoyable.

The same can be said of how we relate to God.

As we grow and experience more things we become better acquainted to who God is, what God wants, and how we are supposed to interact with him.

Jesus (the physical representation of God) fills the Mosaic law so full that it ends up breaking itself trying to contain him.

Jesus is the new wine that is bursting the old wine skins open.

While this may seem scary or counterproductive to the covenant Abraham made with God, it does allow for greater freedom for the expression of love to both God and to other people (the blood and guts of the law).

  • If we aren’t required to pray a certain way, then we may express ourselves more honestly
  • If we aren’t required to Sabbath a certain day, our rest habits may serve our life schedule more appropriately/productively
  • If we aren’t required to kill adulterers, there is more freedom to extend forgiveness
  • If we aren’t required to pay our tithe to a corrupt Church, our funds may better serve the needy
  • When women are allowed to be in leadership, our Churches are filled with a more diverse and representative voice
  • When we are allowed to commune with those unlike us, we evangelize wordlessly and without confrontation

When the old wine skins are ‘burst’ in this manner, God’s love is able to be experienced on a whole new level by all sorts of new people.

This video is a good visual representation. Notice how the pieces of the balloon burst everywhere leaving just the water… like the love of God. Acting as a “flood” like the man says. Floods are scary, but they also fertilize dry and barren land. Let’s not be scared of living lives that ‘burst’ the law open.

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Lest we forget

I’ve been trying to write something witty, biting, and sarcastic. Something to convict the heart (yours or my own) with a combination of snobbery and know-it-all-ness.

I don’t mean it in a bad way; it is just one of the most effective methods I use in pitting my self-confidence against my self-doubt.

I failed… multiple times. So let me cut to the chase brutally, honestly, and perhaps slightly judgmentally.

I am unsatisfied with the surface level celebration of Easter and Christmas. It’s enough to rank them at the bottom of my “favorite holiday list” (we’re talking dead last). Is a mention on our twitter or facebook really what Jesus takes as thankfulness?

“I love you so much Jesus and am so thankful for your death that I am going to force feed my ‘future Heaven’ theology down the throats of anyone who will look at my profile.”

Are you kidding me? That’s the best we’ve got? We might as well GTFO.

Here’s a stat for you… 99% of people who read this won’t repost it; and it isn’t because it’s a picture of “white Jesus” hugging a blond little boy. It’s because people don’t like being told they are wrong.

Guess what? We’re wrong!

As Christians our “most used” evangelizing technique is telling people that Jesus loves them so much that he died so they could live sinless (might as well be “fun-less”) and forever.

Holy crap is that corny.

Living forever is really the number one thing we offer people outside of Christianity..? That’s believable. You know what a miracle is? That Christianity is even still around with a selling point like that.

“Give us your money, give up what you love, and spend more time engaging in group think.”

Eff that noise. I want the Christianity that Jesus lived and taught. I want what he preached in Nazareth, in the Sermon on the Mount, and when he forgave the people as they drove nails, whips, and swords into him.

It was LITERALLY a damned dirty mess (Deut 21:23 and Gal 3:13).

God is no “conjurer of cheap tricks.” There is nothing magical about salvation. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes so much sweat, blood, and tears that we often cannot see the road under our own feet and may even collapse because of it.

And that’s ok; because even Jesus needed Simon to help him out.

If we are TRULY grateful for the sacrifice made for us, then we will in turn make the SAME sacrifice on behalf of others. Putting our priorities (evangelism, “soul-winning”, and the growth of our churches) second and God’s priorities (honesty, integrity, humility, mercy, justice, and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE) first.

I wrote this a week ago on Easter morning. I’ve had a week to calm myself, but still feel the need to publish it. Please, wait for my next post before you pass judgment on me as an angry and flagrant heathen. I promise it will be more centered and organized.

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‘Great Commission’ or ‘Great Misunderstanding’

Jesus’ final instruction to the disciples was to “Go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

My question is, when did this command (to make disciples) become more important than the teaching itself? After all, who are we to teach anyone if we ourselves do not follow the teaching we are supposed to use to MAKE disciples?

There is no doubt in my mind that spreading the message of Christ to all nations is of utmost importance to our (Christian) faith. However, I have grown frustrated over how we have compromised it. It seems to me that we have watered down or perhaps completely changed/neglected Jesus’ message for the sake of making Christianity more appealing or more easily understood.

Have we not read that God’s peace surpasses all human understanding!? Why then do we try to boil grace down to a formula? A prayer? A list of talking points? A political ideology? A set of practices that if properly observed, will makes us “better” in some way?

Haven’t we read about the backwards nature of God’s Kingdom?

It is in God’s Kingdom that the last will be made first and the first will be made last.

The weak will be made strong.

The foolish will shame the wise.

Jesus will hand over his own Kingdom to the poor for the price of nothing.

Mourners will be comforted.

People who are persecuted for Christ’s sake will be BLESSED! (these last three are in Matthew 5: the Beatitudes)

When did St. Francis’ evangelism take a back seat to booklets with “3 essential steps to knowing Jesus”? I’ll tell you when… ALWAYS! Humanity has ALWAYS been scared to live the way that God asks us to.

We all know about Adam and Eve and our own shortcommings, but Leviticus 25 explains another command, the Year of Jubilee. Read it if you have time, but if you want it quick and dirty… the Jubilee was a year when all fields were left unworked and unharvested, all debts were canceled, all slaves were set free, and all the land was redistributed equally among the people. This celebration was to take place as an act of worship, thanksgiving, love towards fellow man, and trust in the Lord; to use physical actions to witness and bless the unbelievers around Israel.

There is no record of a Jubilee ever being celebrated. Israel didn’t actually trust God enough to obey the commanded teaching.

When Jesus starts his ministry he begins by quoting Isaiah 61 and declaring the Year of the Lord’s Favor, Jubilee. In addition to the Jubilee he will be bringing good news to the poor, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, and setting the oppressed free.

That was Jesus’ thesis statement for the essay that is his life. Everything he says and does throughout the rest of the gospels is in relation to that statement.

Now ask yourself, how much of that does my Church do? How much of that do I do? Does this statement guide all of my words and actions?

If our ideas about evangelism do not start in these words from Christ, then we need to refocus our efforts. Yes, God has been working with imperfection all along, but how much stronger would our witness be if we actually lived this? If we actually took care of each other? If we actually shared, healed, and freed people? If we actually loved one another as we love ourselves?

From now on, let’s not compromise the teaching for the command because I believe that if we live the teaching the command will come naturally.

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