Friday, October 24, 2014

Anyone?

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy
of commons.wikimedia.org, picture by Alekjds
This is a third post on our impressions from the Fall Exponential 2014 conference.  What we've seen in previous posts is the idea that discipleship starts at the initial evangelical contact.  And that we want to share Christ in an attractive way, but realizing it's Christ winning the souls, not our cleverness.  And, although it wasn't worded that way, the underlying concept is that we serve those we evangelize, disciple, counsel, and pastor.

Our illustration is the Cross overseeing a connection between two people.  That might be a Christian and a non-believer or it might be between two Christians. Pastor Sergio De la Mora said something we didn't include, last time.  But it makes an excellent starting point for today's post.  He said that an act of evangelism or discipleship begins with conversation, progresses to conviction, and results in conversion.  He didn't say it, but the truth is that we might not see the kind of conviction and conversion that we might want or expect, but they are there, nonetheless.


This is where I need to throw in a little personal clarification, because the next two speakers I'm going to highlight are women.  I'm in a ministry that doesn't believe that women ought to be pastors, but can be leaders, particularly those teaching women and children.  To a point I agree.  But, there are some women (including the two I'm going to highlight today) who have more Biblical content than some men I know.  So, if they're called by God and a portion of the Body to pastor, I'm not going to argue with God on that one.  And I'm going to call them by the title appropriate to their recognized position where they're called.  Out of honor to them honoring God.

Jodi Hickerson was one of the day two speakers.  She's a teaching pastor at Mission church in Ventura, CA.

She had some highlights that brought some things home.  The first was that our local church shouldn't be a church for everyone, but for anyone.  We don't want what we do to be such a group experience that people don't feel like they're noticed and cared for as a person.  And, if Christ is present, we're not going to be so exclusive that we're the ones who limit who can be or want to be there.

When I say "we", that's the whole church.  The pastor should have trained his flock in Truth so that they're all welcoming to the whole spectrum of humanity.  The ghetto church shouldn't have a problem welcoming someone better dressed or educated than the rest of the congregation.  And the church in a more affluent area should be able to openly welcome a homeless person or a financially struggling single mom.  At least those things should ideally happen.  Unfortunately, human nature often gets in the way.  But good Biblical teaching can push a lot of that wrong thinking aside.

Jodi said something else that, as I'm writing this, seems to be the foundation of the preceding thought.  I took it down pretty close to verbatim, so I'm going to put it in quotes, as her words.  She stated that "God is unafraid to meet us in our mess.".  That's one of those "Wow!" statements. Think about it.  Jesus came to earth as one of us.  He hung out with us.  He sacrificed Himself for us.  It didn't matter what level of society it was, Jesus was there.  It didn't matter what level of sin people were caught up in, Jesus dealt with it.  It is His example that says the church can't be exclusive or impersonal.  She added, “Jesus doesn’t just make people better; He makes people new.”.  That, too, is a compelling thought.

Pastor Hickerson made another point that could go with what we've already shared from her.  Or it could be a standalone point, on its own.  She said that reaching out takes as much faith on our part as those being reached need in order to connect with our message.  There are two aspects to that. We have to have an expectation of the Lord that He will guide situations to the best possible result, no matter how much or how little circumstances match up with our expectations and desires.  At the same time, those with whom we share Christ must be drawn into an expectation greater than themselves.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The other woman in the daytime session was Major Danielle Strickland.  She's a Major in the Canadian Salvation Army, along with being an accomplished evangelist, author, and speaker.  I had heard her on the webcast from the Spring Exponential East. and was looking forward to hearing her speak again.  Danielle is one of those speakers who keep it simple, but interesting.  And, in the process, she manages to jettison the denominational junk that would hinder her message.  As a result, what she shares is fully usable whether you're Pentecostal or conservative.

Major Strickland had two points to make, that boiled down to one reality.  Both were very nicely illustrated by a travel anecdote, from her own experience.  She told of being seated on an airplane, next to a Muslim woman dressed in a burka.  The two got into a conversation, some of which was comparing both religions and evangelical from both sides.  But it was a friendly conversation rather than rabidly confrontational.  And the two became friendly.  As a result, the Muslim woman asked Danielle if she'd like to see her face.  The answer, of course was yes and she removed her burka long enough for Major Strickland to see that this was a beautiful young lady.

If you understand anything about conservative Islam, a woman showing her face to an infidel just isn't done.  So, there was a real connection made, even through the evangelism.  She asked, "Would you like to see my face?".  But, before that, she asked another question.  Both had shared their background and Danielle had shared that she is a Major in the Salvation Army and very evangelical. That brought up the question from the Muslim woman: "Am I a person or a project to you?".  She wanted to know whether the evangelization was because Danielle was interested in her as a person or was she being evangelized because that's what Salvation Army members and evangelists do, no matter who is in front of them or what their story might be.

What this woman needed to see was that there was personal contact.  That she, as an individual, meant something.  That led to her initiating the personal contact of showing her face.  We all crave that personal connection.  It's what we get from God.  It's what we need to show toward God.  And it's what we need to give to others, believers and non-believers alike.  

We need to aim at developing relationships where we get the "Would you like to see my face?" question.  We need to give people a level of trust and comfortability in us where they know they can share the hidden part of their lives without rejection and without worrying that it will be spread around.  Which goes back to Pastor De la Mora's point, at the beginning og the post.  Everything starts with personal conversation.  If all goes well, that can bring in conviction.  And that leads to some form of conversion.

Remember that Matthew 22:37-40 tells us we're supposed to be personal, both to God and to those around us.  Indeed, love is as personal as we can get.  Jesus says that's the foundation of the Commandments.  Which makes it the foundation of our faith.

In line with that, I'll share one more Major Strickland quote:

“Mercy and Justice, we can go shallow or we can go deep. Jesus always calls us to go deep!“

There's still more from the conference.  We'll share more on Monday.  But this ought to give us some food for thought over the weekend.  Do we love enough to accept anyone instead of everyone?  And are we personal enough that people see we care and are willing to share their hidden places with us?

No comments:

Post a Comment