Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"I knew what you wanted to say."

Did you ever wish you had an interpreter? If you have taken a vacation in a country where English is a foreign   language you probably have. Even the simplest thing needs charade like antics to become clear. But the worst is when you know a little of the language and think you have a bead on what you need to say and how you believe they will reply.
I tried to get bug spray in Rome and by the time Pam and I had finally found someone who guessed the the right word from our "looks like" "sounds like" communication we were in stitches and the sales lady was laughing with us, or, at us - that is still unclear.
One our new missionary doctors who took great pride in his language learning repeatedly gave a man pepto bismal because the man said he was "wafa mudumbo wangu" only to find that while mudumbo was stomach the actual sentence was not, "I am sick in my belly" but "my pregnant wife is sick." 
I believe one of the biggest mistakes we can make is believing that communication styles have changed but meanings have not. Even the simple changes from "bad" being terrible to "bad" being incredible signal the danger. Given that communication is less than 30% verbal then everything from our posture to our location becomes a giant opportunity to miscommunicate. The real problem is not that we miscommunicate but that we only get one chance to communicate with most guests and if that is a miscommunication we have lost the opportunity to open their eyes to the savior we so desperately want them to get to know.
The care with which we are approaching the face lift of the property and building along with the effort we are making to clarify our vision and what a win would look like with that vision is more than warranted. Because we are dealing with an eternal outcome for those we touch we cannot afford to take any shortcuts or overlook any information that would inform our efforts.
My first interpreter used the three sentences I spoke on the subject of the wise and foolish man to preach a short sermon that ended with 6 decisions. As we walked away from that village I told Watson, "I didn't say all that.' To which he replied, "Yes, but I knew what you wanted to say."
I have spent the last 55 years of my life wanting to say the right thing that will bring people to Jesus. May our present efforts, as difficult as they are, be for that very purpose.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What are you doing with it?

Dave Peters told me about a friend of his who leads a rather large Bible Study who often asks, "How many here are saved?" Most hands go up and stay up till he asks the second question, "What are you doing with it?" George Barna confirms this lack of out reach by followers of Jesus in a list he calls "10 Stops on the Journey of Transformation". Taking a person from no relationship with Jesus to Spiritual Transformation his first five stops on this journey are  
1.   Ignorance of sin:  Non-believing people don't even realize that sin exists in their lives.
2.   Indifference to sin:  Non-believing people grow to understand the concept of sin but are indifferent to it.  They don't know they should be concerned about it and do something about it.
3.   Concern for sin:  Non-believing people become concerned that sin exists in their lives.  They begin to search for the answer to the question, "What should I do about this sin?"
4.   Understand a Need for Forgiveness:  Their concern for sin becomes a need to be forgiven by Someone capable of forgiving sin.  They find Jesus to be the only One capable of this forgiveness.
5.   Embrace Grace & A Need to Grow in Faith:  This is the point of salvation.  They recieve grace and begin to grow as a follower of Jesus Christ.
An interesting statistical note to his study is that 89% of all Christians in the USA never get beyond stop 5.  They never grow or develop beyond the point of salvation.
Certainly we need to take into account the people who come to LHCC just beginning their journey and that is our focus at this time. However, we are not going to be able to guide them if we, the followers, do not move through the next five stops.
1.   Spiritual Discontent:  After salvation and an understanding of God's grace, the nice, comfortable, safe Christianity that is typically taught no longer satisfies.  They long for more and are discontent with a faith that doesn't challenge and change them or other people.
2.   Brokenness:  They begin to realize that they cannot change the world on their own.  They need God, His power and the rest of His people to do it and are broken by their limitations and inadequacies.
3.   Surrender & Submission:  As their brokenness takes it's toll on them they throw their hands in the air and cry out "I surrender"!  In the Church of God, this is the point which we used to call being "sanctified".  Surrendering all of who we are, our will, our desires, our lives to God and His purposes.
4.   Profound Love for God:  Having surrendered and submitted to God's will, love and grace, a deep, intimate and profound love for Him develops.
5.   Profound Love for Other People:  It is only after understanding and receiving God's amazing grace and love that we can extend that love to others!  This is God's mission in the world!  For all people to know, receive and share the love of God through Jesus Christ!
  Everyone in the body has to fulfill their gifting for us to be successful. As we consider how to become a church the unchurched want to attend let us also consider how we become a church where the churched want to contribute to bringing those not yet following Jesus to meet Him.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Learn for yourself not off bumpers

There are two schools of thought on how to learn. One is to read and study and the other is to try and try again. The adage, "experience is the best teacher" is the response of those who prefer the latter while the former is pretty self explanatory. "You can't do what you don't know."
My fellow toddler learned how to brush his own teeth by himself before I did. The fact that he could not reach the sink did not deter him - after all there was a bowl of water just toddler height in his home. I guess you could say, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" in his case, especially since his mother sterilized   everything he touched up to that time. I, on the other hand, would not get on an escalator until I had watched my younger sister safely make her way to the top with out being thrown off, "caution is the better part of valor" I always thought. She got the praise and I got the ridicule because she - evidently - believed "no guts no glory."
All this to say we don't find wisdom in catch phrases, but in the understanding of God’s mission.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
Both make great quotes. One seems to favor co-dependence as a spiritual service while the other warns against becoming a slave to the generous person. Truth is found in reading the whole Word of God so you can put any quote in the correct context.
Certainly we can learn to live as God wants us to live from others who are proficient in teaching but it would be wise to have some of our own knowledge to add to the teaching. Reading the Bible is not just a spiritual discipline it is the best way for us to become wise in the way to live as God has always wanted His Creation to live.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24