The other week I was attending the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. I attend Annual Conference every year that it is within driving distance because I get to catch up with people that I might not see any other time during the year. I get to develop relationships with friends from California, Arizona, Michigan, Maryland, and even spend time with friends from the Lancaster area. Annual Conference gives me a chance to tell our story, network with various individuals and their churches, share with people how they can support Veritas in moving forward, as well as share any wisdom or insight I might have to others considering church planting or who are in the middle of church planting themselves.
One of the joys of this particular Annual Conference was that I got to catch up with Jeremy Ashworth and John Neff, who are some of the people involved with the E3 Ministry Group, According to their website www.e3ministrygroup.com E3 Ministry group is a creative and innovative coaches and consultants with a passion for bringing a renewed vitality and revitalization to congregations. Our customized solutions and “hands-on” personalized guidance reinforce the process as we recognize that each congregation is uniquely created by God.
Jeremy just released a book with Fred Bernhard entitled Outrageous and Courageous which according to the description in the back of the book is all about making friends and sharing faith. Or what we in the church call relational evangelism. Now when I say the word evangelism, what comes to mind? Immediately my mind goes to street corners, bull horns, tracts, and turn or born tactics. But is that what we are talking about? I can share with you two experiences in my past where I did street evangelism and honestly I never want to do that again. But because we have a bad experience with evangelism, do we swing the pendulum all the way to the other side and say we let our actions speak for us. I know many within Veritas who know they should share their faith but the "models" they have been given aren't helpful, bring up painful memories, and so it leaves us stuck. That is exactly where Outrageous and Courageous comes in. It's for people who know that our service needs to go hand in hand with our sharing about Jesus using our words. That evangelism and service aren't on opposite sides of the spectrum but the opposite sides of the same coin.
There is much to be commended in this book, especially if you flinch everytime you hear someone use the word evangelism. This is for those who have done the street evangelism and found it troublesome. This book is for those who would consider themselves evangelist by nature. It's for those who wouldn't be caught dead by called an evangelist. It is for each and every follower of Jesus whether you struggle with evangelism or not. I highly recommend picking up a copy and reading it.
There are several things that challenged me the most and some where actually just almost a side point that seemed almost off the cuff.
As a Church planter I was challenged with this statement, "We know a church planter who specializes in starting congregations from the ground up who says from experience that church planters can and should make contact with at least thirty unchurched people every day." My first question is How? And I'm not an introvert who isn't shy to talk with people. How would I meet 30 unchurched people every day? This is an area where I need to spend time working on and developing in my life.
The next two things that challenged me the most related to Jeremy taking a break from writing to go live out what he was talking about.
First, there was the story of the moving van. Jeremy says this, "As I write this chapter, a U-Haul truck has appeared just a few door down from our home. I've been looking out my window, watching the family. I've not been asked to help, but how would they know to ask me? It's late And it's hot outside. But the family looks a bit understaffed at the moment, and after all, I am writing a book on loving your neighbor. I'm going to go out on a limb (in faith?) and interpret the U-Haul as a cosmic invitation. Hold on. I"ll be right back."
Secondly, there was the story of his son. "At this very moment, I am typing these words, my toddler son has appeared at my feet. He's holding his new truck. He speaks no words, but he knows what he's doing. He is looking at me. he wants to play, and his very presence is an invitation. I'll be right back."
These two stories probably made the most impact on me as one who works from home and sometimes, to be honest, sees my neighbors and my kids as sometimes in the way of me fulfilling the mission that God has called me to. Boy I am so dumb and broken. My kids and my neighbors are the mission that God has called me to. And if I miss that, I miss everything. Lord help me to be about the mission of discipling my own kids and my neighbors, and be about building your kingdom and not my kingdom.
So if nothing else stands out, maybe this will. Go out and play with your kids. Go out and invite a neighbor to dinner or a whole neighborhood to a picnic. Build friends. And share your faith in the process.