Posted by: pastortomvabeach | April 7, 2014

Thought for the Week April 13, 2014

Let me begin today by humbly asking your forgiveness for the opening paragraph of last week’s “thought”. For all whose hearts stopped briefly upon reading that April Fool joke, my wife rebuked me, saying that I was lying. Technically, I guess she is correct, but I did tell on myself in the next paragraph. So if I caused anyone any grief, even for a moment, I apologize. But you have to admit it was a good one! I can’t ever remember doing an April Fool joke thing so that was my first attempt at something like that. Probably will be my last, too!

I hope that most of you were able to be here on April 6, when our dear brother David (Faouzi) Arzouni was here speaking. I can’t remember when I’ve been so moved by testimonies of God’s mighty power and saving grace. In addition to the testimonies of changed lives, he shared three simple principles of evangelism that work in the gospel resistant areas in which he ministers but are just the right means to reach the gospel resistant unchurched friends that live all around us. I want to give those to you again because I believe they will work if enough of us begin to employ them in our everyday relationships with the unchurched.

The first idea is essential because of the perception most unchurched people today carry about Christians. We are portrayed and viewed as unloving, bigoted, homophobic, right-wing extremists who want to condemn people for everything. So before we do anything else, we have to work hard to change that perception, at least among those people we know and meet. How do we do that? By really acting in loving ways to everyone regardless of whom they are or what they do. Do you know it is possible to befriend and love someone whose life is following practices which God would dislike and with which we disagree? We can love and respect people as those God created and loves. Most of the unbelieving world never gets to see a real Christian who has the love of Jesus in them. Let’s try to be the ones who change that perception.

Let me illustrate this. It is commonly known in restaurant circles that the Sunday after-church crowd (Christians) are the worst tippers around. I was once told by a Christian server that pastors are the worst of the bunch. Since that time I’ve been on a one-man crusade to change that perception. When I eat out, I always leave a note for the server saying how grateful I was for their help, cheerfulness, and/or professional manner. I write it on the back of my business card and add. “God bless you”! Then I leave a tip that is more than the accepted minimum, usually a lot more. We can do that sort of thing with the wrong perceptions of Christians in our relationships with people every day. Don’t just say God bless you or I’ll pray for you. Do something to show your concern or love; some act of kindness to go with it. Let’s get the word around town – those Christians over there, they’re really Christ followers!

The next idea was quite novel to me. Faouzi said that instead of witnessing we should practice “with”-nessing. The concept is that you have to spend enough time with people, letting them get to know you so that you gain credibility, so you can witness. If we find and spend time with unchurched friends, there will come a time where they need spiritual help, advice, prayer, etc.. and, because you and I have been there with them in other times in life, they will turn to us and trust what we have to say. I am asking the Lord to show me who, in my circle of unchurched acquaintances, I can make a closer friend and “with’-ness to. How about you?

Finally, Faouzi said that we must understand that we have to win them to ourselves before we will win them to Christ. This really follows the first two ideas pretty closely. We win people to ourselves by loving them, by meeting them at their point of need, by being there when other people might run away.

My wife experienced how this works with a lady from work. She and another Christian lady would spend time with this lady. They often talked about the Lord in her presence. This lady didn’t drive and had very limited means and would ask Lilia to drive her to get groceries or doctor’s appointments, etc. In almost every case, Lilia was there to help. After a couple of years of this friendship and after even wondering if she was being overly helpful, the lady turned her life over to Christ telling Lilia that she’d had other friends over the years and all of them would help her once or twice but when they found out she needed help a lot, they would disappear, stop answering their phones, or find reasons not to help. Lilia and the other Christian lady, on the other hand, didn’t stop, they didn’t refuse, they helped even when it was inconvenient. She said if this is what real Christians do, I want to be part of that.

What do you think? I thjnk these ideas are something all of us can do, if we just will, and, if we do, we may see God begin to unfold His mercy in greater ways to the unchurched people we know. Will you commit to try this? 1) Do what you can to change the perception of who Christians are. 2) Practice “with”-nessing with some unchurched people. 3) Work at winning them to yourself first. I’m going to try to make this happen in my life. What about you? Just a thought.

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