Friday, February 27, 2009

Lessons Learned

I was recently at a conference of evangelists who are working with Muslim peoples. I learned a lot from my colleagues and I thought I would get some of these ideas down in blog form- before I forget them and have to relearn them over again in the distant future. I should start off by saying that I have long known that one of the coolest aspects of my job is the great people I get to meet and work with. This conference underlined that fact with a big black magic marker. From the first presentation to the last there was one great continuing testimony to the love and grace of our God. It was quite overwhelming.

As I sat in my seat on day one of the conference I did not know what to expect. I thought, 'If this is going to be all about methodology and how we should all do it 'this way' then I will be very disappointed.' The first guy got up and began talking about how he uses a six story story-set to share the gospel. I teared up and sat transfixed in my seat. Not because he had led so many to faith but because God had asked me to create a six story story-set in 1998. I decided to do it, tasked it to some teammates who created a 20 story story-set and because it was too big and awkward we never used it. Now, God was speaking again. DO IT! Since I have been back I pulled out six stories and have shared them several times already. It is a really great way to share the truth!

For those of you not familiar with the idea of storying the concept is really quite simple. If you want to communicate to the average Westerner then you need to share a step by step logical formula. So, the Gospel becomes the 'Four Spiritual Laws.' There is nothing wrong with that. It just makes no sense whatsoever to a Muslim. As one former Muslim once said, 'We have spaghetti brains.' I am glad I didn't say that. So, what makes sense to the 'spaghetti' brain? Stories. You can start with Adam and Eve if you want- chronological is not that important- and you can emphasis how man has sinned and God has provided salvation. The concept of the sacrifice is throughout the Scriptures starting when God slew the beast to make clothes for Adam and Eve- pointedly, to cover their shame. Anyway, as you may have figured out I am a bit of a story teller anyway so I love this approach.

But this approach is more important than a simple methodology. As I was sitting at lunch one day I was telling a story of how we were interacting in a village when the guy across the table interrupted, 'Hang on, I didn't hear the Gospel in what you just said.' 'Excuse me?', I replied. 'The Gospel. What you said was truth and it was good but the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. Only the Gospel can change people. You can tell some good stories, and you can give out a lot of truth, but you will not see changed lives until you proclaim the Gospel.' Wow. I have thought a lot about that. How many times have I told parables, or OT stories, or simple sayings from Scripture and yet never got around to proclaiming Jesus' death and resurrection. Well, sometimes you don't know if people are ready to hear that yet. We have tried many methods to 'filter' people to determine who is ready to hear the Gospel. A big lesson learned from this conference for me is that we find out who is ready to hear the Gospel by telling the Gospel! I have already put this into practice in my work here in Gondor and I can tell you it is very exciting and empowering.

Here are some other lessons learned in no particular order:
1. Go where you are invited (from Luke 10). We have ignored this one to our own peril more than once.
2. Spend the night. The vast majority of decisions for Christ happen after 10pm. They should spend the night at your house and you at theirs. If not then you don't really know each other. This is important for evangelism and discipleship.
3. Churches don't start Churches, Apostles do. I really appreciate the emphasis these days of Churches becoming more involved but it is Apostles who are sent out from the Churches who start Churches. Churches serious about getting into the Great Commission need to find, train, and support the men and women that God has called to go out and cross barriers to start Churches.
4. Find a national partner with a vision bigger than yours.
5. Fervent, desparate, 'ugly' prayer has proceeded every significant movement of people. We asked them what they meant by ugly prayer and they replied that they spent hours before God crying out to Him on behalf of their people, bemoaning the injustice and misery that they lived in apart from Him.
6. Scripture memory is essential. I know the Word really well but the guys who are seeing the most people transformed in their ministries know bucket loads of scripture and it comes out of their mouths in paragraphs concerning whatever we are talking about. I have some work to do here, how about you!
7. Stay with the Person of Peace. This is an old idea but still a good one. God is working with someone in your community: find him and stay with him.

Well, there is more but that is enough for now. I will continue to digest what I learned from this excellent conference and I will try and be obedient to God to do all He is calling me to do. Oh, in case I have not made it plain one other thing this conference has made plain is this: Great numbers of Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Rejoice!

3 comments:

Dienekes said...

Strider,

Thanks for this post. I have much to learn. Probably more questions later, but here are a couple now.

From your experience or what you learned at the conference, how do you balance the story-set approach you mentioned with "getting to the Gospel"? Can you flesh out how this plays out?

Do you use each story to bridge to the Gospel every time?

Do you present all the stories consecutively, or give the hearers some time to process each story before telling another?

Do you feel like you've failed if you part ways having given them Adam and Eve but not the Gospel?

Strider said...

Good questions: this is probably a whole nuther post. But briefly, I share the Adam and Eve story and depending on what they are interested in or what our relationship is already I may go on to Cain and Able or I may go straight to Jesus sacrifice. If they are not interested then that is how a filter works. I leave the relationship open for them to come back to me but I move on looking for someone who wants to go deeper. The way I tell the story of Adam and Eve I get a lot of Gospel out there at once. Emphasizing the cost of sin, the love of God, and His sacrifice to cover our shame in an introductory story ain't bad! But obviously, much more needs to be said, so as I said, it is a filter. If the Spirit is working we can go deeper, if not, move on.
As for how much at once there is often value in giving one or two stories, having discussion and then giving them time to reflect before moving on. In my personal experience however, giving them time to reflect results in giving them time to get out of conviction more often than getting more convicted. But others have had different results- maybe they pray harder!

GuyMuse said...

Sounds like it was a fruitful conference. You write ...sometimes you don't know if people are ready to hear that yet. In our own context, we always start with a 2-3 minute personal testimony. If the response is positive, we ask them if it would be alright to share with them the Gospel. We assume if they have shown interest in a life changed by the Gospel, they are likely to be interested in getting "the rest of the story" of how they too can find life.