Archives For Evangelism

A Tale of Two Leaders

Charles Kiser —  September 27, 2018 — Leave a comment

Mega Vs. Movement

Leader #1

  • He was probably the most famous religious leader in the 18th century
  • Newspapers called him a marvel of the age; he was a golden tongue golden boy
  • He was a brilliant orator – he grew up in the theater – and in his prime famous actors publicly expressed envy at the way he captured audiences
  • People compared him to David, Moses and called him the second morning star of a second Reformation
  • He went on preaching tours in England and the American colonies; ignited the Great Awakening in the American colonies
  • During one preaching tour in America he ended up preaching the gospel to nearly half the population in the American colonies
  • He would stand on the steps outside and 20,000 people would show up to hear him preach
  • In fact, he was one of the first to do “open air” preaching – namely outside of a church building – and the reason he did was because many of the lower class members wouldn’t come into a church building
  • Hundreds of thousands came to faith through his preaching
  • It’s estimated that in his lifetime he preached more than 18,000 times to 10 million people

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ShockEarlier this month I heard Chris and Stacie Hatchett give a presentation on parenting. One of my takeaways from their talk was being a “shock-proof” parent. Shock-proof parents are those who play it cool when ridiculous or even offensive words come out of their kids’ mouths. I instantly realized how often my own reactions to such comments take the form of shock: “WHAT did you say?” “You did WHAT?” “EXCUSE ME MISTER?!?”

The Hatchetts make the great point that if we are shocked by every crude or inappropriate thing our kids say, they’ll be less and less likely over time to share openly with us. They will stop trusting us. We will cease to be a safe person with whom they can share.

Instead when we hear those kinds of things from our kids we should say – with a chill face, “Oh, really? Tell me about that.” And then gently instruct them after we have sought first to understand.

Being shock-proof is not only a great skill for parenting; it also has great application for living on mission.

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In the last post, I described a gap we’ve discovered in our relationships with non-Christians. In summary, we have focused on helping our friends belong with us to the neglect of helping them believe with us.

Ken Primrose from Norman Community Church introduced me to a concept he calls “The Fringe” that I’ve found very helpful for discerning how to bridge the gap in our community.

The Fringe is the social space between the Christian community and those who are not part of it.

In this process, there are three basic stages of relationship for a non-Christian on their journey to Christ and into Christian community. People certainly come to faith in other ways. The Fringe seems particularly helpful for communities who work out of a “belong then believe” paradigm and want to be intentional about it.

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When I got into church planting, I wanted to do evangelism differently.

Most of the churches I’ve been a part of had a “believe then belong” paradigm for evangelism. In other words, after a person believes in the gospel and gives their life to Jesus then they can belong to the church – that is, participate in ministry, be a full-fledged member of the community, etc.

Even if this paradigm isn’t voiced in churches, non-Christian newcomers can sense it. One doesn’t fully belong until one becomes a Christian. Which makes sense to a certain degree – it is a Christian community, after all.

Practically speaking, evangelistic Bible studies are the front door of interaction with non-Christians in this paradigm. A couple years ago one Christian participant of Storyline observed all the non-Christians hanging out with us at parties and gatherings and asked me why we didn’t have more Bible studies going on with them. She had grown up in the “believe then belong” paradigm.

I was, however, smitten with an alternative paradigm to evangelism – “belong then believe” – articulated by people like George Hunter, Brian McLaren, Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas. Non-Christians come to faith by belonging first to a community of believers – participating in ministry, knowing others deeply and being known deeply – and then discover that in the midst of it all they believe!

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Storyline presented $1000 to Pam and Randy Cope, directors of Touch A Life, this weekend at our worship gathering. I’m so proud of the many people in the Storyline Community who gave generously for it to happen.

I’m so glad we engage in God’s mission in the context of community. I’m thankful today for mentors in mission who have provided encouragement and counsel to me for the task of church planting.

Like Mission Alive, our church planting resource organization. I’m encouraged and challenged every month in our Church Planter Forums.

And Harold Shank, my church planting coach, who listens often to my struggles and worries and offers deep wisdom.

And Tim Lewis, an elder and staff person with South MacArthur Church (our primary partnering church). I look forward to my monthly breakfasts with him.

And Ryan and Claudia Porche, who with great flexibility work with my “on the fly” style of ministry.

And my wife, who – even while making great personal sacrifices for church planting – reminds me that we’re supposed to be doing what we’re doing.

And as of late, an unexpected blog mentor named David Fitch, whose posts have strengthened me and offered affirmation that we’re not crazy for seeking to be the church the way we are. Plus he had great instincts for naming a church (the church he planted is called Life on the Vine Christian Community).

For a good article of Fitch’s that I’ve appreciated, click here, where he debates the contention that missional churches don’t produce converts.

I believe that much of what we’re doing in the Storyline Community — though in Dallas, TX we may be — tracks with the kind of post-Christian realities of which Fitch speaks.

For you church planters who are reading and need a good dose of encouragement from Fitch about seeking financial sustainability in missional church planting, click here. You might even bookmark it and return to it from time to time, particularly after budget meetings! Okay, so that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Feel free to leave a comment on how Fitch’s articles encouraged or challenged you.