What My Granddaughter is Teaching Me about Evangelism

My friends warned me. “Once you hold that little girl,” they said, “your whole world will change.” I guess I believed them…sort of. In reality, I had no idea what would happen to me the first moments I held my granddaughter.

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My whole world changed. From that moment on, everything became about Mackenzie. How is she? What’s she doing? Send me a picture! Got a video? I have videos of Mackenzie eating, waving her arms, sitting in a chair, laughing, crying, dancing, and singing. I even have videos of Mackenzie doing nothing at all. I am simply fascinated by all things Mackenzie!

Here’s something else I’ve discovered. No matter where the conversation begins—world peace, terrorism, the economy, politics—I can bring the dialogue around to a place where showing you a picture of Mackenzie is the next natural thing to do. I can turn any conversation into a conversation about my granddaughter. It’s the most natural thing to do.

Which made me start thinking about evangelism. Now, hang on for just a moment. I know saying the “E word” sends everyone running for the hills—believers and non-believers alike. Believers run because they don’t want to be part of a time-consuming, guilt-based, ineffective outreach to their friends. Unbelievers run because every time a church has an evangelistic emphasis, they feel like they have targets on their backs.

What happened to evangelism? Well, this is where my granddaughter comes in. Though she’s only a one-year-old, Mackenzie has become the fascination of my life. I love sitting on the floor with her watching her figure things out. I love watching her crawl up the stairs all by herself and the careful attention she gives each one of her stuffed animals. The more I’m around her, the easier it is to tell other people about her.

There…did you see it? The more I’m around Mackenzie, the easier it is to talk about her.

This why I think evangelism is so hard for most people. They aren’t around Jesus enough to have anything to say about Him. Sure, Christians believe in prayer, but it’s been years since most Christians have had a conversation with Jesus. It’s been longer than that since most of us were studying the Word—really studying—not just reading slowly. No wonder we can’t think of anything to say about Jesus. It’s been so long since we’ve talked to Him.

The most common mistake we make about evangelism is we believe it’s outwardly focused. Evangelism means going OUT and finding people who don’t know about Jesus. We’ll do this for a few days, and then we’ll wear out because we’re trying to go out in our own strength.

Evangelism’s first move is inward; it’s deeper. The more we get to know Christ, the more we learn of Him, and the more we grow to love Him, the easier it is to find things to say about Him.

Evangelism isn’t the outward movement of Christians, but the outward flowing of Christ in us and through us to the world around us. The more we’re around Jesus, the easier it is to talk about Him.

The first move of evangelism is not out, but in. Not away, but closer. Evangelism is the natural overflow of the Spirit’s work within us. The closer you get to Christ, the more people you’ll reach.

It’s simple. The more you’re around Jesus, the easier it will be to talk about Him. Mackenzie taught me that.

If we’re confident of our vision, why aren’t we getting more done?

For the last couple of years, vision has been the all the rage in every part of our lives. Everybody and everything has a vision statement. Our businesses have vision statements. Our churches have vision statements. Every community organization and family has vision statements now. Not to be left out, each and every person has their own, individually crafted vision statement.

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They are cross-stitched and framed on our refrigerators. Scrolling across our computers as screensavers and pinned up on our bulletin boards, our vision statements glare down on us.

So, if we’re all confident of our visions, why isn’t more getting done?

Because vision statements aren’t enough.

Not only that, there is a “vision” fatigue among most people. If you want to hear your people groan, announce a meeting to work on your group’s visions statement. If you ask most people, they’ll tell you that vision statements are a waste of time.

It’s not that they’re a waste of time, it’s just that they’re not enough. More is needed.

Let me explain it this way. A vision statement is an agreed upon destination. This is the moment everyone in the car agrees to go to a certain restaurant. Great! Now what?

How are you going to get there? Every vision needs a strategy. We’re going to this restaurant, and we’re going to walk down this street to the street where the restaurant is located. Now everyone knows where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

But that’s still not enough. Each person needs to know how to connect with the process: How do I as an individual engage the larger group to get to the restaurant? Meet the group at this time, and we’ll walk there together. Great! Now we’re getting somewhere.

Everyone on our teams need to 1. Know where we’re going (Vision) and 2. How we’re getting there (strategy) and 3. How to engage in the process (tactic).

Vision statements are vital, and yes, everyone needs one. But it’s only the beginning of the process, not the end.

I Think It’s Time to Rethink How We’re Thinking about Abortion

This past Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a series of Texas laws restricting the operation of abortion clinics. Here’s the short version: Texas law required abortion clinics to meet the standards of stand-alone surgery centers and doctors performing the abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Most clinics in Texas were unable to comply with the new requirements and a lot of them closed. Because access to abortions was limited by the smaller number of clinics, lawsuits followed.

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On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down those laws ruling that these laws did, in fact, unlawfully restrict a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

The point of my writing is not to debate whether or not the ruling was right or wrong. There have been enough experts and pundits doing that. I don’t want to go back and talk again about whether or not Roe v. Wade is correct.

What I’d like to do is talk to the church about:

  1. Where we are now, and;
  2. What we can do to move forward.

So, where are we? First, like it or not, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. In some form or another, it has survived numerous challenges, and given the make up of the court, will likely survive any challenges in the future. Certainly if Hillary Clinton is elected president, any judges she appoints will be vetted and shown to be supporters of Roe V. Wade.

For that reason—and several others—I really don’t think we’ll be successful in continuing to legally challenge the law as it stands. I’m not a lawyer, and I know there are those who consider it their calling to try and find a way to change the law. I’m not saying that we don’t continue to challenge the law.

I know abortion is a complicated issue. I’m not talking about abortions where the mother’s health is in question or the result of rape or incest. These issues need to be addressed in different ways. I’m talking about abortion as post-conception birth control. This is the vast majority of abortions in America.

I am saying, as a pastor, I believe it’s time for the church to address the issue in a different way.

How do we do that?

First, we need to be mindful of how we talk about abortion. On any given Sunday, our congregations will have women in attendance who have had an abortion. There will be men there who in some way participated in an abortion. You will have women who are considering an abortion. Like it or not, with very few exceptions, people dealing with this issue will be attending our worship services.

And what they most need to hear is a word of grace. I know, we’re called to speak the truth, but we’re called to speak it in love. I’m not sure we get that last part across. Yes, I’m pro-life. Yes, I want every mother to choose to have her child, but that’s not reality. Reality is broken, ugly, and filled with guilt and remorse. Grace is the only thing that gets us through.

Second, we need to be sure women in this situation knows there’s a way out. That’s why our church is so excited to be in partnership with Hope Clinic for Women in Nashville (www.hopeclinicforwomen.org). Hope Clinic offers the full range of medical care, counseling, and support needed for any woman or couple experiencing a crisis pregnancy. It’s not enough to be against abortion. We have to stand for life. We’ve worked very closely with Renee Rizzo and her team toward several happy endings to stories that didn’t necessarily start out so happily.

Third, churches must become centers of adoption and foster parenting. Too many times, we’ve been accused of being pro-life until the child is born. We have to make sure we put the same energy into children and mothers after the child is born as we do before they’re born. What shows the power and love of God more than adoption? A child is given a name and a chance with a family who is called by God to love that child for His sake.

Here’s the brutal truth: The world doesn’t care for the woman or her child. They’re simply pawns in a political argument. The church has to be different. We have to be part of the loving solution. Christ calls us to be more for the sake of the “least of these.”

I may be wrong. Perhaps Roe V. Wade will be overturned. I don’t think it will be, but it might. Until then, the church must address this issue with an opened arm of grace and a love that just won’t quit. This is a tough issue…and Christ followers are just going to be have to be tougher in love.