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“True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In” (James Choung)

James Choung of InterVarsity put together a excellent explanation of the Christian faith. His “four circles” capture, I believe, a more holistic presentation of Jesus’ kingdom message, offering a natural transition to gospel conversations for projects or outreaches that have a good deeds component.

Here are two training documents for use in preparing students to use this method (the second is adapted for students in the southeast):

Explanation of the Big Story explanation-of-the-big-story-southeast-revision.pdf

explanation-of-the-big-story-southeast-revision.pdf

I’ve also included three youtube videos below for introduction to the method and as a training help. The third video illustrates the Southeast Revision.

James does an excellent job responding to criticisms/concerns about this presentation of the gospel at his website. His book, True Story , is also excellent.

Chip recently receive the following prayer letter from B (one of our students/volunteers in a closed country). B writes:

Isaiah 58: “Share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, cover him . . . then shall your light break for like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; . . . you shall call, and the Lord will answer.”

A Dawning Light

For the past 3 months the Lord has laid this passage along with several others like it on my heart. I have realized that I don’t live a lifestyle of helping the orphans, poor, or widowed. In the passage above it says, “Then shall your light break forth.” That is what I want for this place.

We are starting a ministry campaign in our city called the “Isaiah 58 Campaign.” For the next 4 months we will attempt to establish a system that this city can use for years to come in order to care for these people. We will be doing this as part of efforts to reach the 20,000 college students here. Our prayer is that we take the Christian and non-Christian students out and share with them AS we care for the needy, that the light of Christ will break forth here, like the dawning of the sun.

This has already begun!!! Last Friday, I spent 3 hours explaining the gospel to Camaro, a freshman student, in light of the needs of 50 orphans I went to visit. Somehow, the Lord used this simple conversation and the great needs of these orphans, to pierce Camaro’s heart and lead him to starting a relationship with Him.

The Lord isn’t just laying this on the hearts of my team and I, he is also heavily speaking to the hearts of the national leaders in this country. During our national conference, I was given an opportunity to speak about Isaiah 58. I’m excited to see what the Lord will do with this country in light of our humble efforts to care for those that many people over here have forgotten about. Pleas pray for us in this!

That the World might know . . .

B

This past year a friend of the ministry donated 1000 multicolored evangelistic soccer balls. One of our teams found a creative way to use the soccer balls.

We asked five of our Christian students if they would like to go give out soccer balls to some migrant worker families that live near campus. We also invited six non Christian students we met at another campus to go with us just to expose them to a mercy project and hopefully open their hearts to the ideas of mercy, kindness and grace.

Our team of seven, with five Christian students and six non Christian students met up to walk to the migrant housing area. When we arrived it was rainy and very, very muddy. We had to walk through lots of mud which was humbling and caused us all to have even more pity on these people who lived outside in tents and in mud every day. Even as the Christian and non Christian students took their first steps into the area they were shocked at the conditions and many of them said they couldn’t believe people lived this way.

We split up and tried to pair a Christian student from one school with a non-Christian from an- other. As the believing students went out with the non Christian students they demonstrated love and compassion to the migrant families and loved them.

They went up to random people living in tents and asked them if they had any kids that we could give a soccer ball to. That was a good method because when the people saw that we wanted to “bless” their kids they were very receptive to us. We stayed and talked with many people. We found a few Christians and mostly non Christians and were able to give away the soccer balls to the kids.

The non Christian students were amazed at the love that was expressed by us and our students. As the morning went on we saw our Christian students begin to naturally share the gospel and God’s love with the non Christian students as they explained why they wanted to love and care for these people. Those two hours on a Saturday morning were more memorable and impacting for our students than months of Bible Studies and prayer meetings.

source: CCC staff prayer letter

At Steve Sjogren’s Serve site, I found the following helpful skills to tuning in on other’s lives in the context of “good deeds” from a Dr. Savant(?). Savant begins with a typical question asked by our volunteers, students or faculty–though of course we might want to see our friends drawn by the Spirt to repent and believe.

Dr. Savant, I have wanted God to use me in connecting with those far from God but have had little success. I have paid for coffee, done Valentine candy give aways, business blasts, etc. asking God to open doors but have few conversations with those far from God. I am not trying to convert anyone but I am looking for ways to connect with lost people in my community. What do you suggest?  Joe

I often teach by asking questions. Will you ponder some simple questions with me?

1. Are you able to ‘notice’ your way into people’s lives?

In other words, my guess is that as you show them kindness, the ball drops right there. People you show kindness to are surprised, maybe even flabbergasted. Most of the time they are not extroverted enough to engage you. My guess is you are not yet able to connect with them easily by catching on to the initial act of noticing your way forward.

2. Are you clearly describing to people you engage what is going on?

These are not stand alone projects. People need a bit of an explanation. “I pay for people’s coffees – to show them the kindness of God…”
There are dozens of ways to explain the kindness / generosity thing. I recommend you relax. Flow. Say what comes to mind at the moment. Be succinct. Most of all smile – and don’t try to be one bit clever. Trying to be too clever is the greatest impediment to God’s presence touching others.

3. Are you then verbally engaging people in a memorable way?

I do all you have described and after practicing at this have had discovered it is fairly doable to connect with most people. Here’s what I do:

Keep it safe / positive…Keep it focused upon them…Keep it away from closed ended matters… I rarely ask what they do for a living. It is fine to ask what they are studying though.

“Memorable” is simply what comes natural to you in your context. For me or anyone else to tell you exactly what to say, word for word is a bit odd. You do need a jumpstart, but from there you can remove your training wheels lest your bicycling is impeded.

Here are some starting points to ponder.

With a big smile (yes, practice your smile – non-smilers look like they are up to something – if it is not natural that’s okay – you can get over that…I should know – I did! Ask my mom! I spent my first 18 years being pretty darn serious… ) ask them their name. EVERYONE loves to hear their name! They can’t hear their name often enough. Once you’ve spoken it, repeat it. Upon leaving, use their name again, and say, “See you again before long (their name here).”

On the topic of their name, comment on the meaning of their name if you are familiar with that. Or how your favorite aunt has the same name – that reminds you of her gentleness… I do this very often. People love to hear this.

Ask where they got their tattoos. A fairly large percentage of people under age 35 have visible tatts now. By engaging with people about them, the meaning of them, you are showing them personal attention. This is good!

Comment on their great haircut – then ask where they get their hair cut – that you have been looking for a great place / your child / spouse has been looking for a place to get a great cut.

Lastly, sometimes we cannot see in ourselves how we come across to others well. As you can see in the cartoon image of me I have fuzzy hair and a walrus mustache. Some think I look smart (ask Mrs. Savant to get the real story on that!) I can intimidate people apparently though I wasn’t aware of that for years. For each of us we need friends who love us enough they will tell us the true truth about us – how others see us – that we can walk free from the things that ensnare us and keep us stuck.

Dr. Savant

Several weeks ago, Marrty Dormish (Staff STINT–Barcelona) suggested a different way of thinking. He encouraged missional team leaders (staff, faculty, volunteers) to experiment with brainstorming about ways the university (community college, etc. ) could to be a blessing, to extend the rule and reign of God on their campus and in their surrounding communities.

Marrty suggests that we start believing that “resources exist on every college campus to help transform, restore and heal the cities and towns in which these institutions of higher learning exist.”

I was reading Scot McKnight’s excellent book, “The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others” in which he mentioned the Anglican churches in Singapore who have developed an integrated ministry of reaching into their surrounding community. Trying to avoid the so-frequent “division of labor” into evangelism or social action, these churches are dirtying their hands in help. Their outreach ministry is called SHOW: Softening Hearts and Opening Windows where everyone learns that a broad and integrated ministry is the heart of following Jesus.

I think their four step strategy (to which I’ve added one) might serve as a model for some experimental thinking on the part of our missional teams. What if missional teams approach a campus (either staffed or non-staffed) and initiated the following?

  • Pray for the community corporately and privately
  • Profile the surrounding community to discover real needs
  • Prepare leaders/volunteers to share the story verbally
  • Pursue projects of both kindness and penetration
  • Partner with others –Christians or non-Christian–to maximize impact for the kingdom

— jay

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Anytime believers engage in good deeds in the Name of Christ, the goal is always that people would see something of the glory of God and be stirred within to praise Him. But almost without exception, when believers do good things in Jesus’ Name, their motives, their source of strength and power, or the significance of the deeds are misunderstood, and observers do not praise the God of the Bible.

Therefore, when believers help the needy in the Name of Christ, their good deeds require an explanation that leads people to glorify God. Usually, the best way to explain our good deeds is to share the Gospel or some portion of Gospel truth.

For example, in Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man who had been lame from birth. When people who knew him saw him walking, they were amazed. But they misunderstood the good deed Peter had done. They thought that Peter and John had healed the lame man by their own power. So Peter responds, “…why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” Peter immediately explains the healing by explaining the Gospel. The flow of Peter’s explanation is, Jesus Christ is God’s Son and Servant, He died unjustly on a cross, He was raised from the dead, and it is faith in the resurrected Jesus that has healed this man. Peter’s explanation climaxes in an awesome invitation: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you …”

In Acts 14, the same thing happens. When Paul and Barnabus heal a lame man in Lystra, the crowds who saw what Paul did for this man totally misinterpreted the event and assumed that Paul and Barnabus must be gods. They actually thought Paul was Hermes and that Barnabus was Zeus, and the priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to sacrifice to them! Paul and Barnabus are understandably alarmed and begin shouting to the crowd that they are not gods but simply men who preach the gospel so that they may turn from the worship of false gods to the living God.

Good deeds are often misinterpreted in our time as well.
While helping a Thai villager rebuild his home after the tsunami last year, he said to me, “Your god is going to give you a lot of merit.” Because he naturally interpreted my good deeds through his Buddhist world view, he assumed that my motive for helping him was to make merit with my god and build good karma. This opened a door of opportunity. I explained that God does not give merit but something better. The Thai villager was shocked – so shocked that he was primed to listen to me talk about the awesome grace of God in Christ Jesus.
So, as we engage in good deeds of any kind in the Name of Christ, we have to explain our motives, the source of our strength, and make connections to the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. The best way to do this is to talk about Jesus and the Gospel of our salvation. Our prayer as we engage in good deeds is always that people see what a glorious Savior Jesus is, and glorify the Father who sent Him.
— Chip Scivicque

Todd Hunter wrote the following response to the new book, “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters” (David Kinnaman, Gabe Lyons)

Effectiveness in evangelism depends now on “the Christianity” of Christians. Thus we need a new story to tell. We need a version of the Gospel that naturally and routinely affects our actual life—not just our death and afterlife. It is clear from Jesus and the major writers of the New Testament that life has always been the focus of the authentic Gospel. . . .
When I put the research of Kinnaman together with the Gospel as explained by those writers I come up with two key thoughts.

First, we need to change our evangelistic question. Instead “if you died tonight do you know where you would go” we should ask “if you know you were going to live tomorrow, how would you decide how to do life? What story would you embody? Who would you follow?”
Second, when asked what does it mean to be a Christian, I now answer “it means that in our actual lives—the events and people of our daily routines—we are the cooperative friends of Jesus, seeking to live constant lives of creative goodness through the power of the Holy Spirit…and we do this for the sake of others”.

Excerpted from Todd’s Article: The Next Wave