Category Archives: mission
I consider that the life of the Christian should exhibit a dispersive nature. Anywhere that we go is a place that we are sent intentionally. Sentness forms our identity. Below are some thoughts on that.
I know of a Christian who struggles in social settings.
This seems counterintuitive. Evangelism is a basic tenet of his faith, and he feels exhausted just thinking about it! Maybe it’s because the word evangelism draws up for him caricatures of open-air street preaching. Or maybe because he would rather get to know and enjoy his neighbors before trying to proselytize them from a distance, as it often feels like. Whatever it is, that particular trigger of emotional exhaustion doesn’t travel alone. It is sometimes coupled with shame. Shame of not being naturally adept at something so essential to Christianity. And it certainly is essential…Jesus told His followers to speak about Him. And what Christian wouldn’t want to speak about Jesus? But it’s the speaking part that’s troubling!
It’s difficult for him to talk to strangers in a superficial environment, without a particular gift for social interaction.
Now, evangelism is one of the most thrilling, life-giving experiences a Christian can have. But evangelism, as the church has come to know it, feels much like peddling products door-to-door, or making cold calls to sell insurance. Now, you may think, “This guy is just ashamed of the gospel!” But I want you to think about that for a moment. Are you ashamed of having insurance just because you would never sell it door-to-door? Are you opposed to businesses everywhere just because you hate making or receiving cold-calls? Of course not. You can promote your insurance company while at the same time disdaining the way some insurance salesman treat you at the front door when they try to make a sale. (This is all hypothetically speaking, of course…I’ve never been approached by a door-to-door insurance salesman). There might be a few people who are wired to make “cold calls” in evangelism and great at doing it. But others ask, “Wait, people still do that?” Exactly. This is his perception of “evangelism” as it is often caricatured. And it’s an awkward feeling he will never escape. You see, he’s the pastor of an evangelical church. And evangelicals can sometimes hold a parochial definition of how evangelizing is supposed to go down. By the way, that guy is me.
But it’s not just me. Probably half of my congregation are introverts.
There are some very common misunderstandings about introverts that have made evangelism seem very untouchable. One is that introverts are shy and anti-social. You can see how this might affect our view of an introverted evangelist: “It’s a misnomer.”
But introversion and extraversion have less to do with a person’s identity, and more to do with how they choose to recharge. Susan Cain, famous for her 3 minute TED talk on the power of introversion, offers a simple definition in her book, Quiet:
Today’s psychologists tend to agree…introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well. Introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book. Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes, and cranking up the stereo (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, 11)
An introvert might be very adept to social interaction, but also need a proportionate amount of time to “recharge” in solitude. Whereas, an extrovert can read books, yet need to recharge by being around people. Think of how this affects evangelism. Maybe extroverts are generally more comfortable with “evangelistic” activities (like passing out tracks at the Farmer’s Market), because they are energized through interaction with groups of people.
Either way, no character trait should keep us from heralding the gospel.
I cannot say, “I’m not going to talk about Jesus with them because it’s out of my comfort zone as an introvert.” However, evangelism does seem monopolized by the extroverted ideal. And that’s not ok. While it may work well for the outgoing type, those who are more introspective need their own working model. We’ve all been trained over the decades to see effective evangelism through certain caricatures, i.e., street preacher, the altar-call giver, the stadium evangelist, and the person who talks a lot but never asks questions. There is nothing wrong with any of these caricatures, per se, but they aren’t all that there is to evangelism.
Again, this doesn’t mean those with introverted tendencies hate talking about Jesus. I would hate for you to misconstrued this post as a cop-out. Christians love Jesus. Introverts just don’t always like evangelizing on the same terms that are normally appreciated by our extroverted brothers and sisters. Nor is it always as effective, since we have differing gifts. God doesn’t assimilate our personalities into some universal ideal; the doctrine of Union with Christ teaches us that the image of God in us is being restored by His indwelling presence. That means we are being restored to the original luster of who God intended us to be. I would think that this includes our personality quirks. The question is not whether introverts should evangelize, but in what way? If an extrovert, who may love the thrill involved in, say, street-preaching, can evangelize in that way and be true to who God made them, how should introverts be evangelizing in a way that is faithful to Christ, and utilizes their gifts as well? That’s a question worth pursuing.
Unfortunately, the pressure from these over-the-top caricatures, and the shame attached to introversion in the church have inundated a large portion of gifted, caring, spirit-filled men and women in our church, and rendered them outsiders. (See Adam McHugh’s, Introverts in the Church) But it ought not be this way.
Jon Tyson wrote a great article last week called, Driven vs. Called, where he revealed two ways we find motivation to serve. One is from a sense of calling, where God directs us to do something; the other is drive, which Tyson identifies as the pressures of ministry. The latter is steeped in a high view of our own merit, a low view of Christ’s work in us, and will end up draining the most well-meaning Christian. But there’s another motivation that confronts divine calling. It’s need.
A need-driven person is driven by anything urgent.
A lot of urgencies are menial, tedious things, such as crisis management, pressing needs in the community, issues that other people want you to champion, even answering email, replying to texts, and making important phone calls. Many of these things are necessary, but as Stephen Covey brilliantly suggested, they are pressing, and this is what makes them so difficult—they are the needs that demand the most attention. And because they demand attention, they sometimes steal attention from those things which are most important, though not always urgent.
What’s necessary often comes at the expense of what’s important.
Important things can include vision, passions, preventative measures, forward-movement, planning, and in this case, calling: those things we know God has led us to do, not more or less.
My dad and I once had to tear out an entire yard of ivy. The garden used to be beautiful—full of other plant life, but now, it’s just an enclave of overbearing vines. My dad explained that this ivy might look nice in a potted plant, but once it lays down roots it will quickly take over. After that, you’re done growing anything else—it’s simply a matter of maintaining the problem. That’s kind of what it’s like to be need driven. You say yes to so many urgent needs, that you have no time to spend for the things that are most important; it’s simply a matter of maintaining the problems.
The Scriptures are replete with people who were overwhelmed by urgent needs.
But instead of learning from them, we use their stories to bury ourselves further in the pressure to be better (i.e., more productive) Christians! For example, we read of all the radical things that happen from Genesis to Revelation, and think that a faithful Christian life should include all said things. But not even Jesus did everything. For example, he was called, not to the Gentiles, but specifically to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24)—even though Jesus’ mission was a part of God’s redemptive plan for the Gentiles. Even the things that Jesus did, were not always done. For example, Jesus didn’t heal everyone. Why not? Because He said that he came to do “the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34; 6:38). Jesus was call-driven. He got his call from His Father. And in the grand scope of the Biblical story, we see that Jesus wasn’t being heartless; he was committed to that which mattered most. And eventually, his obedience would offer salvation and redemption to everyone with needs.
How does this slice of God’s redemptive plan, as seen in Jesus ministry, shape our practice? First, consider a few things.
1. We have union with Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to live like him.
A part of that enablement comes, albeit counterintuitively, when we focus, not on what we need to get done, but on what has been done for us in Jesus. The Gospel, then, becomes the motivation we need to do what we are called to, and to not do everything life demands of us. Why?
2. Because we trust in the sovereignty of God to handle the universe and it’s overwhelming needs.
God’s satisfaction in us through Christ frees us from the pressures of doing everything; and in moments of self-doubt, we can continually fall back on those things we must to do, not those things we should do.
Our union with Christ allows us to enter into the freedom of being call-driven, and frees us from the pressures of answering every need. Eventually, every real need will be met in Jesus. We are called to be faithful.
My close friend is a pastor of a church in Boston. He wrote a short blog about the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon.
As we mourn this moment, we do so with a hope that a Kingdom is arriving—a Kingdom that will right all wrongs, and turn all our sorrows into dancing. Until then, we look for ways to help others grieve with a hope beyond themselves.
You can find the full post here. Read it. Weep for brothers and sisters you’ve never met. Be unified with them in prayer. Maranatha.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ASV)
I want to give you an apology for the unannounced lull in blogging. Some of you got my blog posts in your email several time a week, and I have been dark for a month (maybe more??). To say the least, this season has been tumultuous, though highly enjoyable for me, my family, and my church.
For one, Britt Merrick, has taken a leave of absence as the pastor of vision and preaching at Reality.
This is so that he can completely devote his time and energy towards his daughter, Daisy Love, who is fighting through her third round of cancer in as many years. They have moved to Israel to seek temporary treatment. I love calling this man my pastor, who would put the well-being of his family above any other person, and even more proud of him for raising many people to step in to places of leadership. In this season, I will be filling in for him as the full-time interim pastor for preaching at Reality Santa Barbara. You can hear more of his announcement about this here:
Second, our beloved college ministry, Adorn, will be coming to a close at August 24.
Adorn has been an invigorating, refreshing, Christ-exalting journey, and it has changed my life for the better. You can hear the full explanation behind why we are transitioning during this move of God, and the fruitful testimony of what Christ has accomplished through Adorn in the last few years here:
In addition to these, Brianna and I will be bringing a daughter into the world on August 28!
All of this change is happening at once, and so my blog has taken a sad, but appropriate backseat. I will still continue to break from blogging due to the ongoing transitions, and until I can fully devote myself to writing, posting, researching, studying, and commenting. I am a blogging nerd, and I want to do it well, if at all. Now for the good news (depending on who you are)…
I plan on writing again in mid-September, and with a reinvigorated focus.
For the past few years, this blog has been actively engaged with and focused on Millennials—that generation born between 1980 and 2000—being on mission in Santa Barbara, CA. I have a deepening passion for my generation, and when I come back, you can expect that I will still preach, communicate, and write to them. But I will also be widening the focus of this blog to include the whole church in Santa Barbara, which aligns with my heart to see all generations maturing in their faith together, and gives me a chance to speak more about two things I also love: Christ and His church.
Until then, I am going dark, and I would love your prayers.
In addition to preparing my heart and life for my daughter, wife, Reality, and the transition from Adorn, I will also be prayerfully renewing my focus on the blog content that will again live here, so that when I return in a month, we can hit the ground running for the glory of God and the gladness of his people in him. If you subscribe to the blog, you will know when all of this happens!
Thank you for your readership, dialog, comments, and overall good spirits. I will see you very soon :-)
Adorn made a bittersweet announcement last weekend.
After four wonderful years of gathering together with college students in Carpinteria, Adorn has run her course. God is bringing us all through a wonderful, and needed transition. In this sermon, I give a full length explanation in words that I cannot imitate in a simple blog post. If you want to know more, you can view it here:
Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section.
Thank you for all of your prayers!
In my last post, I shared how Christians have their own tribal language which can become a barrier when speaking to people outside the church.
A simple way to avert this might be by getting out of the church building.
Christians are called beyond the “gate” of their church subculture, and into the lives of outsiders on a regular basis, anyway. In fact, our mission involves interacting with people outside the church (John 17:15-16), and we see this reflected in the lives of the early followers of Jesus, as well as Jesus himself.
- Paul “went outside the gate to a riverside” before happening by a group of spiritually hungry people (Acts 16:12).
- Jesus had an urge to “pass through Samaria” where he met a spiritually broken woman (John 4:4).
Now, God’s mission can’t always be systematized. But sometimes it helps to break it down in our minds so that we aren’t overwhelmed by the grandeur of it all. If you read the context given in the two examples above, you’ll find a bit of a pattern that I think works really well in practice…
- Be intentional (Don’t go anywhere, aimlessly. Seek the Spirit for where He would have you be)
- Take initiative (Don’t expect opportunities to come to your doorstep. Engage! Seek others!)
- Expend yourself (Commit to that place/area/community/scene once you discover it)
(adapted from “Operation Lydia: Mission” by Chris Lazo)
Christians have their own way of speaking to each other.
I was recently communicating the gospel worldview in a Christian church service, and used an illustration to describe the implications of following Jesus. I thought it was a great illustration–I tend to use metaphors and stories that are dramatic–and several Christians pointed out that the illustration was very convicting and effective for them. Christians respond well to certain phrases and one-liners. We use slogans that reflect where we are at in our faith, and they make sense to us.
I don’t think we realize how foreign we sound to people outside the church. I certainly did not.
Shortly after the gathering, a millennial, who was not a Christian or a church-member, approached me with a different response than what I was expecting. She shared with me that my illustration, and the things I said, were confusing and traumatic for her. It made her feel shamed, not convicted. Some of my phrases were foreign to her, kind of the way inside-jokes feel to an outsider who hasn’t been around long enough, and my passion only added to this, coming across condescendingly. She felt that I was looking down on her. Now, this girl was very humble, and gracious in her approach. She never accused me, and spoke in a way that was disarming and conversational. I never felt like she was complaining or attacking me in any way. But it was still a great surprise to me! I had no idea that I was coming across as judgmental. I apologized to her very quickly.
I have posted several blogs on the problem of Christianese (see reader comments!), why we should care what other’s think, that we must make our beliefs comprehensible, and how to speak in everyone’s language, because those outside of our church culture don’t understand the way Christians speak. This experience brought it even closer to home, and humbled me. What made it even more alarming was that the part of my teaching most Christians commented positively on, and that I was most proud of, produced the opposite experience for someone who does not regularly hang out with Christians. I failed to explain a simple truth in a way that she could understand, in fact, I communicated in a way that gave her the wrong impression of the gospel.
Our lingo can get lost in translation with other “tribes”
I was unaware of this happening because I am so deeply immersed in a church culture that I don’t know how foreign my words are to many people outside of the church. And apparently, lots of my friends talk the same way too, because afterwards, we give each other high-fives over something profound that was said, while others may have no clue what I meant. We can be great at explaining the gospel to each other, but not to those who have never heard it before. I’m really glad that girl spoke up, and was so nice about it. Not only did I get the opportunity to clarify myself, but I also got to understand her worldview, and dialog with her about Jesus and the church.
But now I wonder…how often do I speak in Christianese without even realizing it?
There are a few animated videos explaining a missional church. Some very popular videos have pitted the gathered church against missional churches, which is an unnecessary bifurcation—the church gathers and scatters.
This vid is short and unpolished, but so far, is my favorite, because it’s spot on.
I wrote a blog last year on apologetics, arguing that our culture requires a sacrificial love to persuade people more than a tenacious manhandling of reason and rhetoric. This blog post acknowledges the need for apologetics, when spoken well. As Conan O’Brien would say, “It’s all in the delivery.”
I have the joy of teaching Scripture to a group of Millennials at Adorn who lend me their ear every Friday night. But I can’t just explain the meaning of Scripture passages, I got to unpack life as a young adult in Southern California, with all its baggage, drama, and delicate navigation. So while I study the first century context of the Bible, I also diagnose my culture and age group, and like a physician, get a bit more clarity on where to apply the salve of the Gospel. You know what I learned very quickly? Millennials don’t speak in three-point propositions. No one does.
Apologetics can be problematic if we only want to regurgitate what we learned form a book or classroom, since they are little more than reasoned arguments to justify a belief in something; they make for as much excitement as a field-trip to the DMV. Likewise, if someone was struggling with the reliability of the New Testament, it will probably not be very effective for you to overwhelm them with a bunch of technical facts straight out of the pike about extant Greek manuscripts, Canon formulation, and the science behind Textual Criticism. They would shut down in thirty seconds, and perhaps, leave you for the DMV. You see, factoids are interesting when you are on a personal journey to find them. But if you must first be persuaded to care, you need more than dry propositions. Why?
We don’t process information in bullet points very well; we process in story form.
Think about this. We don’t sit around coffee shops browsing our car manuals. We watch movies, and YouTube videos, read novels and magazines; we get inspired at news blurbs portraying the heroic deed of some kid and her puppy: because we love narratives, and we live in one. That’s why I rarely stop a good sermon illustration just to bombard my listeners with twelve boring points on the transmission of the Masoretic text or the top ten evidences that demand a verdict….unless I can take them into the unfolding story of how the transmission of Scripture happened. But if I can draw them into a scene where the aroma of the Masoretic papyrus circles the room, and they can watch the ink dry, well…then we have a sermon.
How do you use apologetics in story form?
First, let’s change the terms a bit. Let’s exchange the word “story” for “worldview.” A worldview is the lens by which we all make sense of the individual scenes in our life. Some world-views are good, and some are bad, but most world-views are a combination of good and bad.
I want to introduce you to presuppositional apologetics.
I just got back from a prayer tour for Reality Boston. The tour was represented by Reality’s from L.A., Stockton, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, and Ventura. Below are the blog posts narrating the trip through words, videos, and imagery. Enjoy!
Breathe in the city; exhale in prayer.