Evangelism and the Gospel

Today at the Leadership Track Keith Davy, the Campus Ministry’s head of research and development, to talk about our ministry’s evangelism model. Keith has produced a lot of quality stuff over the past decade or more for the campus ministry and also teaches the Intro. to Missions and Evangelism Class for the MA Transformational Leadership Program at Bethel Seminary. I ended up taking that class with a different professor though.

He began by referencing some current ideas and thoughts that I have engaged recently, primarily through blogs and my friend Mike Goldsworthy in particular. I’ve told Mike I’m a smarter person because of him and the way he thinks about church and the ministry. We had a blog discussion on this issue a month or so ago which you can visit here. The topic of that discussion as well as of Keith’s intro today had to do with current views of evangelism. He referenced a book as well as a related blog that you can visit here to get a fuller sense of what the discussion is about. Keith wasn’t attacking such views, but was emphasizing that given the breadth of ideas related to evangelism today it is that much more important that we have a solid theology of evangelism.

In the link to the blog summarizing some thoughts by Scot McKnight that I included here, there is an obvious criticism of an outlined gospel presentation that stresses the responsibility of the individual to repent of their sins to be restored into relationship with God. The criticism is that the presentation at large emphasizes individuality too much as well as “post-death” eternity as opposed to more of a Kingdom paradigm where our embracing of Jesus as King involves so much more than just our eternal destiny. I live in a world in which I can sympathize with both sides. I work in a culture in which the 4-laws in its various forms were produced and are the primary witnessing tool. I am of a personal persuasion that the Kingdom paradigm is more of where it is at in terms of the biblical narrative view of salvation.

I don’t have super clear solutions to some of this tension, but while I am in many ways “emergent” I can’t quite jump on the bandwagon in dumping some of the classical approaches to evangelism wholesale. There is an individualized element to people’s salvation and it does have a lot to do with their eternal destiny. Yet I would agree that the Scriptures do not reinforce an individualized view of the Kingdom and a fire insurance brand of Christian spirituality. This tension is becoming more pronounced in ministry. I think it is a good thing because I’ve never heard more conversations about the gospel and evangelism than I’ve heard in the past couple of years. I think it’s cool and should result in a more transformative message and community for this generation. I just happen to believe that tools are not as much the issue as is the overall assumptions and philosophy of the one who is seeking to communicate the gospel behind the tool. So even modern tools like the 4-laws could still be very fruitful even in various post-modern or post-Christian settings. I also believe we need to find more ways to communicate the message because this generation may only be able to take in the gospel through other non-propositional forms.

We spent most of the morning going through 3 passages: John 1:40-51; Acts 8:26-40 (Ethiopian Eunich); Acts 17:16-34 (Paul at the Areopogus). It was cool looking at the different evangelistic settings and actions and messages even. From these 3 passages and others Keith shared 5 foundational principles for evangelism.

1. Master: Evangelism is first and foremost the work of God.
2. Masses: The audience is the defining context
3. Messengers: Believers are the primary initiators (though not always)
4. Message: The gospel is always about Jesus
5. Methods: Methods vary according to the situation

I found these very helpful. These principles reinforce the significance of God’s role and action, the importance of culture and context to meaning and communication, as well as the importance of the centrality of Christ. I see more and more definitions of the gospel today that do not have Jesus as the focal point or as primary.

Anyway, Keith is a sharp dude and that was the first time I had heard him in person so that was cool. There’s plenty here to keep me wrestling with things for a while. Keith’s got a blog where he engages a lot of stuff related to evangelism and innovation in ministry. You can find it at:

My Coaching Group

To bring a bit more of a personal feel into my descriptions about the leadership track, here’s a picture of the coaching group I’m leading this summer. It may help you visualize some of what I’m doing this summer.

From Left to Right (Brian Cateo – South Carolina Metro Team, Adam Anderson – LA Metro Team, Ryan Cleveland – Central Washington Univ., ME, Nathan Foth – Memphis Metro Team).

We are going into our last week together before our national staff conference commences, but it’s been a good time. I’ve enjoyed all of my times with them individually as well as our group times together. Last Thursday we had an awesome discussion on culture, contextualization in ministry, and about minority experience in a dominant culture. We also ended up getting into a good discussion on centered vs. bounded set approaches to salvation and evangelism. (Some of you Bethel peeps are having Al Glenn flashbacks right now!)

This week I’m busy at work grading book reviews, bible projects that they have worked out (studies on passages that are relevant to a theology of spiritual leadership), and personal development plans. Grading is a weird experience for those of you non-teachers out there.

Christine just finished her class on the Psalms on Friday so this week will be a little less crazy, though there still is a lot of work to do. I’m looking forward to wrapping all of this up so I can re-engage some of the reading I had started prior to the leadership track.

If you think of it, pray for these 4 guys and for God’s work in their lives and ministry leadership. They’re all quality men who love the Lord and it’s a blessing to be able to come alongside them for a season in their leadership development.

Apple is letting me down

Yesterday my 6 month old macbook died on me. I’m totally bummed. Fortunately I’ve got the service plan, but I’ll be without the mac for about 10 days or so as it’s going to get mailed in for service. My blogging may be slowed down significantly because it just won’t be as convenient for me.

My ipod also crashed about 2 weeks ago and I’m waiting for a replacement courtesy of the service plan, but it’s been slow to arrive.

What’s the Lord trying to show me? Could it be I have an overdependence on technology? Or is it one of the woes that the gospel authors failed to record from Jesus’ teachings – “Woe to those who do not purchase service plans with their technology.”

I’m quite glad I’ve bit the the bullet for these service plans, otherwise I would probably be crying right now.

Our Own Kind of Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July!!

Here’s a couple shots from our celebration today in Fort Collins. There was a staff kid parade that Morgan (and us) participated in, which was fun.

I got the day off from the leadership track, but Christine still had to go to school. She’s taking an elective class right now on the Psalms from Dr. Mark Futato from Reformed Theological Seminary. She’s really enjoying it, though 2 hours at a time is a little rough for her in terms of sitting through class. She would love my seminary intensives!

As fireworks are going on as I write in Fort Collins, we just finished cleaning up a pretty gnarly round of puke as Morgan turned everything she’s ate today loose in her pack n’ play. The color? Red, White, and Blue of course – just like the patriotic jello we ate for dinner tonight. At least we’ve been able to celebrate Old Glory in our own way tonight!

Christine just asked her, “Do you feel sick?” Morgan answered “No, I feel happy.” Go figure.

Happy Fourth of July!

Dr. Pratt&the Lord’s Prayer

Friday, Dr. Richard Pratt from Reformed Theological Seminary came to speak to us. I’ve read bits and pieces from some of his books, but had never seen or heard him in person. He’s an Old Testament Prof. so a lot of staff have taken Old Testament Survey from him out here in Colorado.

He spoke on the Lord’s prayer being a place where our vision of God could be expanded to a place where we as ministry leaders could be sustained through the tough times. He rightly said that evangelicals typically just focus on the last part of the Lord’s prayer (providence, assurance of salvation, forgiveness) and gloss over the beginning that has to do with the Lord’s Fatherhood and Kingdom. Really, these verses are about praying to the King of the universe and not just a big granddaddy in the sky.

He went back to Isaiah 6 and other places to demonstrate that the dominant metaphor in the Scriptures for God is King and that we need to understand the gospels in that light and consider our own lives as being subjects of the one true King. It was very motivating and very right on from my vantage point.

Those first two verses need to become so much more a part of my daily and hourly life with Him:

“Father who art in Heaven
-(connotations of the throne room in Heaven – Is. 6),
Hallowed be thy Name
They Kingdom Come
Thy Will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven.”

From Shoes to Who’s Who

I wanted to highlight two of the speakers we heard late last week in the leadership track as both were really engaging and enjoyable. Neither were explicitly getting after leadership issues, but I think both hit on things that are really crucial for us to remember as we develop as ministry leaders and maybe more importantly, as followers of Christ.

First, the former Mayor of Fort Collins, Colorado came to speak to us. His name is Ray Martinez. He mostly shared about his own journey. He grew up as an orphan in the system for 5 years, was adopted, and started working as a shoe shiner in Fort Collins – shining even the Mayor’s shoes at the time. He eventually got into law enforcement and then when he retired from the force he became Mayor for 6 years and had to stop because of term limits. That story alone is impressive in light of the determination and commitment to overcome all of those challenges. I was very moved to hear that story, but he shared more about his recent journey about trying to find his biological mother. This was a very powerful story, though I won’t recount it here. All I would say is that his story is a must read for anyone who has been orphaned or in the system. He has a couple books out and a new one on this recent journey called Baby Boy – R that people can order from his website http://www.raymartinez.com.

The one thing that stood out to me besides God’s grace and capacity to redeem all things was Ray’s emphasis that one moment of leadership – where we are stepping out to influence for the sake of the well-being of others for a genuinely good purpose – can make all the difference in the world. He had a couple stories from his police career that illustrated that powerfully. Sometimes I can get casual about my day and forget that God can accomplish divine and powerful encounters through some of the most basic or routine encounters we have. I want to see the possibilities of all my interactions and not take them for granted. Ray was a great example of someone who maintains that expectation that God is at work around every corner.

The second speaker was Dr. Richard Pratt from Reformed Theological Seminary, but I’ll touch on him tomorrow since it’s late and I’m tired.

Leaders at Risk

One of the cool things about the leadership track that I’m serving at right now is the breadth and exposure we’re getting to so many quality leaders and insights. Late last week we heard from Marc Rutter, the national director in the campus ministry of Human Resources and Leadership Development. He gave a talk on “Leaders at Risk”. I’ve heard it at least twice before, but it is a sobering message to be reminded of how so many leaders have been derailed in their ministries because of character issues. His talk came as a result of a joint study of fallen leaders between him, Dr. Henry Cloud, and others. They identified 6 main profiles of ministry leaders who were at risk for some sort of major moral failure (sexual, moral…).

They are as follows with some rough notes I made describing each one:

  1. Narcissistic Star Who Rises: selfish, gifted, talented, idealized by others because of gifting, successful so ministry becomes their measure, go all bad if confronted on character issues, success is more important that
  2. Narcissistic Star Who Doesn’t Rise: selfish, not coachable, see themselves as not needing to learn and grow, like 1 they tend to fall in moral area
  3. No Boundaries Person: put things at risk because they don’t say no to themselves and others
  4. Floaters: don’t do bad things, they don’t do much at all, gravitate to place of low accountability, itinerate complainers; look for a lateral move if someone moves in; allergic to authority
  5. Irresponsible Person: just don’t do any work and aren’t productive;
  6. Authority Problem: out to do destructive things to ministry, black and white thinkers, they’re never wrong

I would say all of us can either relate to one of these profiles in some way or know some one who does. It really reemphasized the importance to me of doing the hard work of character formation in our relationships with the Lord so that our scope of ministry does not outgrow our walks with the Lord.

If you want more info on leaders at risk or are intrigued let me know and I can send you more of my notes from that time.

Pinata Softball

Joe Priola is demonstrating his perfect pinata swing. He didn’t keep this one in play, but I bet that form could net a lot of candy on Cinco de Mayo.

Despite Joe’s best efforts to hit the ball about 500 feet (which he almost did a couple times if not for a light pole), we couldn’t pull off the second game of our double-header tonight. I was stoked to take a break from compiling 360 degree feedback and play some ball, but playing two games in this kind of heat was pretty intense.

Somehow I became the shortstop on this team. I thought those days were about 5 years and 30 lbs. behind me. I had a lot of anxiety going into the doubleheader since I wasn’t tested in the first game. Games 2 & 3 provided a great challenge and I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to make about 12 or so putouts in the two games tonight, especially since I couldn’t get any of my line drives to drop in for hits.

It was fun to have a competitive game with a little drama. Though self-umpiring did lead to some controversy, we had our chances to win that second game and couldn’t make it happen. Brad pitched great both games, but we came up short with the bats and had a few key defensive miscues at bad times. It was fun though. Tonight we went out with the families of the other guys to get to know them. There’s a bunch from the northwest and from south carolina so it was fun getting to know them a bit more.

Now, off to ice my arm, knees, and ankles.

Photo: Jason Sorge demonstrating how much he pays attention to base coaching. Spud should get a bullhorn.

Family Trip to Urgent Care

Because we don’t have a primary care physician and all three of us were fairly sick we took a family trick to urgent care here in Fort Collins. Bronchitis, ear infections, sinus infections, and a few other things were diagnosed and we got on the necessary medications and antibiotics to start the road to recovery.

Because this was a three hour endeavor, Morgan overcame her deep fear of doctor’s to spontaneously begin serving as the urgent care host/receptionist. She got up in the chair at the table on the right and started pretending to type on a computer. Unprompted, she asked a nurse walking by, “Can I help you?” Then she turned to us and asked, “What’s the problem?” And then in the middle of my attempted response she yelled, “Next!”

She was really funny and provided relief to the dozen or so deathly ill in the lobby, but it amazes me how much she absorbs when she is in these environments. She certainly has been in enough Dr.’s offices to pick up the receptionist “cliches.”

Future Career?

Leadership Formation & Development Within Systems and Organizations