Friday, May 2, 2014

Exponentially Reaching Out

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In case you missed it, our May devotional is out.  Fourteen daily readings to think with God.  It's titled "Garnet's Fire" and subtitled "Aflame for God".  You can order it for your Kindle, here:

I actually forget how I fully connected to to the Exponential conference, but I ended up watching much of the conference online.  I know, when I found out I could watch, I was attracted by being able to catch Matt Chandler, Andy Stanley, Tim Keller, and Bill Hybels (among others) in one spot.  And there were some things that got my attention. Some by names I didn't recognize but will now be looking for.  The conference was subtitled "Rethinking Evangelism" and was about reaching people with the Gospel.  I missed a couple of the early sessions, but what I did catch of the conference had some really great "take aways".  One of the first I saw was Danielle Strickland. That's her picture illustrating this post.  Let's talk some more about her, after the break.

Danielle is a mom, a wife, a church planter, and an officer in the Salvation Army, Canada.  And she made me regret not taking notes.  But she made a really interesting point that I think will stick with me forever.

While the overall theme of the conference was "Rethinking Evangelism", each section of several sessions was titled "Rethinking ______".  Mrs Strickland was one of the speakers for the section that was also titled "Rethinking Evangelism".  Her talk was humorous, but to the point.  Her focus was on how we shouldn't miss anyone in our outreaches.  Not having notes, I can't say that I recall the passages and illustrations she used to make her point, but let's look at a couple of our own. Because the point is still valid and still sticks.

Matthew 8:28-32 (KJV)  And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.  And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?  And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.  So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.  And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. 

When we think of the beginning of that passage, was Jesus then fully God, but in a human package?  Or fully human with a slight assist from His Godhood.  Or was Jesus completely human only, with His Godhood coming into play later?  We don't really know.  But, without the protection of divinity, that might not be the place anyone would want to be, as those two charged out of the tombs.  Instead of getting away, Jesus delivered them of their demons.

How about the cripple at the pool?  He'd been there for years, unsuccessfully waiting for the right moments to be dipped in to be healed.  Since he had no one to help him, he'd obviously been ignored all that time.  And along comes Jesus, who walks right over to him, shares the Gospel, and heals him.

What about the woman caught in adultery?  She was about to be stoned and all Jesus did was write on the ground.  The crowd disappeared.  And the woman was ready for the source of condemnation to shift from the crowd to Jesus.  Instead, He told her that she was already forgiven in eternity past, the result of a plan to be fully played out in her lifetime on the Cross.  She was fully, gloriously converted by that.

But let's picture ourselves in such a story.  So, there I was, going into downtown Baltimore.  I've been part of several different inner city outreaches, over the years.  The primary contact is by knocking on doors.  But in between the streets spanned by rowhomes are parallel alleys.  In warmer weather, there'd be addicts hanging out toward one end or another of the alley, hoping for a fix or to cadge some money to get a fix.  I was on my way, with Pastor Ed Gonda, to visit some people on North Collington Street we'd been discipling.  We saw a couple of those addicts sitting on the ground, near the end of one of those alleys.  And Pastor Ed stopped to talk to them.  To share that we loved them because Jesus does.  I don't recall them saying anything that necessarily left me with the idea that they received salvation that day.  But they were impressed by the fact that two "normal" people didn't ignore them and just walk by.

Danielle's wording for it, at the conference, was that Jesus was a person who sees.  He sees the tax collector, the leper, the prostitute, the cripple, the people crazy from being demonized, the adulteress.  All the people that the rest of society ignores are right in the center of Jesus' radar. Because no one is unimportant in the kingdom of God.  That was Mrs. Strickland's point about evangelism.  That was Pastor Ed's living example in downtown Baltimore.  And that's what the conference reminded me about.

People will know whether we care about them or are just adding notches to our salvation gunbelt. We may be the only Jesus they see.  Do they see someone interested in the number of souls we've won?  Or do they see a person interested in them and their concerns?

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