Gauging Where People Are Spiritually

When your burden to reach the lost becomes deeper, your passion to reach the lost will become greater. I am convinced that people do not share the Gospel on a frequent basis because they simply do not have a burden for where others will spend eternity. Christians all over the world have a direct mandate from Scripture, said by Jesus Himself, to “Go make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19-20)  As simplistic as this sounds, depending on the context and the realistic hardships in that context, this may be at best, difficult. It takes courage to talk about our faith but what we will realize is, more people than not, are open to a conversation if we will simply open our mouth.

So how should the conversation begin? How do I know where to even start? First, I would not begin with the classic line “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” My personal approach is much more relational. Get to know the person, talk about common interests, family, etc. What this does is break down preconceived “religious” barriers. In other words you do not want to come across as a “Bible thumper.” Men, if the co-worker, neighbor, is a lady be sure and involve your wife or connect her with a female small group leader from your church so they can connect. Ladies, the same for you. Second, we must realize that only the Holy Spirit truly knows where one is at. We cannot save and we must not act like we are God, knowing all and being all. We are as human as the person we are in conversation with.

So… to the best of my ability, how do I determine if someone understands the Gospel and is a Christ follower? Asking the following questions can help you in gauging where they are at and help them in taking next steps. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, I encourage you to take these questions and find a Christian you trust and discuss them. Eternity is a big deal.

God: If someone with very little exposure to the local church and the Bible asked you, “Who is God and how do you know He is real…” how would you answer them? Here we have to determine what one thinks about God, whether it is accurate or not. This will help us in determining where their foundation lies.

Sin: What does it mean to commit a sin? What has sin done to our relationship with God? No doubt sin can be a hard thing to talk about. The goal here is not to unveil all of one’s deepest and darkest secrets but, sin is necessary in understanding our need for a Savior. Those who don’t view sin as a big deal will not view the need for a Savior as a big deal. 

Jesus: If someone with very little exposure to the local church and the Bible asked you, “Who is Jesus…” how would you answer them? Why did God send Jesus to us? Jesus is absolutely crucial in the salvation conversation. Understanding Jesus had to come in order for things to be made right, cannot be overlooked or missed. God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit DO NOT operate independently.

Salvation: In your understanding, how does one accept Jesus as their personal LORD and Savior? Has there ever been a time you asked Jesus to be your LORD and Savior? Tell me about that time. Where were you? How old were you? Who was involved in the conversation? Is this a one time decision or can this be done many times? This is where we get to the when, where, who and how. What you are looking for is a time in which a real conversation with a real person occurred. Within this we must determine that the Gospel was clearly and biblically explained, understood and accepted.

Baptism: What is the purpose of baptism? Why should one be baptized? What can baptism not do for you? Baptism is an outward symbol of the work Christ has already accomplished on the inside. Baptism does not have the power to save. A new believer should joyously want to embrace this step with their local faith family.

Spiritual Growth: What is God teaching you right now in your walk with Him? What are you reading in the Word of God right now? This is needed further evidence that Christ is working. Salvation and baptism are not the finish line, it is the beginning.

Click HERE to download the Gauging Where People Are Spiritually tool to help you when you are witnessing or ministering to someone. It can also be found in the Ministry Resources section of the blog.

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Helping Kids Live on Mission

Recently, I blogged about the importance of helping middle school and high school students live on mission. You can find that blog post HERE. It is absolutely vital that teenagers live on mission. With that being said, I believe living on mission needs to begin way before a person enters middle school. In fact, I believe we must be proactive in the area of missional living with younger kids so that when they get older it isn’t such a struggle. There is huge long-term benefit for the family, families to come, and the Kingdom of heaven, in doing this.

I believe we need to lead, equip, and teach elementary aged kids in four concepts so that they have a better understanding of what it means to live on mission for Jesus.

1. Lead kids to understand the why behind the what. As Christ followers, the Gospel drives all we do and all we are about. Kids need to know that yes we are “helping people” but that is not all there is to it. We live on mission by loving people like Jesus loves people. We have the opportunity to tell the greatest story ever told. Our thoughts and actions must speak to the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Kids can and should play a hug role in this. Remember, kids learn best from repetition. We need to constantly remind them of the why behind the what.

2. Teach kids the 10-10-10 principle: Missional living can take place 10 steps down the road, 10 minutes down the road, and 10 hours down the road. You don’t have to be in a “jungle in Africa” to live on mission. Kids need to be reminded that people 10 steps away, 10 minutes away, and 10 hours away, all need Jesus. From the kids they run around with on the playground, to the kids they only see on the refrigerator that their family prays for, the mission is the same, show them Jesus. Be the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and dying world. What is important to remember is that no matter the location, the mission is the same.

3. Help kids and families experience missional living together. It is a powerful picture of the church being the church when dad, mom, grandparents, and the next generation are all living on mission together. Dads and moms must be in the habit of telling their kids how they are living on mission while showing them as well. This can involve things such as praying together, serving a family in need, and inviting another family in the neighborhood to come to church with you. Deuteronomy 6:7b (HCSB) says “talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I pray that families live this out faithfully, starting with mine.

4. Equip kids to embrace that missional living is something Christ followers are continually about. Missional living does not have an “off and on switch.” Whether we are at school, on the ball friend, at a dance recital, at a birthday party, or at church, we are always to be a light in a dark world. A simple way of living this out is praying, “Lord use us to bring Your name glory today” before leaving for the day. Kids are as much the church as their parents are. Parents, before you go to bed at night, pray over your kids. Pray that they would love Jesus more than anything else.

Psalm 78:6a (HCSB), “…so that a future generation — children yet to be born — might know…”

Helping Students Live on Mission

What we live for will determine the things we will want to accomplish and achieve in this life. For many teenagers, unfortunately, the here and now is all that matters. Life is all about who notices me and what I can get out if it. Many teenagers put their faith in things that won’t last, things that aren’t eternal. The only remedy for this is an encounter with the Living God.

With this being said, as a pastor to students and families, I have also personally seen students that are absolutely on fire for the cause of Christ. They want to know Jesus and have depth in their faith. They ask tough questions and desire real answers. They seek to make Jesus famous in the little things and the big things. They are genuine Jesus followers and want their family, friends, circle of influence, and the world to know it.

Whether we have teenagers living in our home or we work with teenagers in some capacity, we must capitalize on these God-glorfying students as they desire to live out their faith. Their passion has a purpose and its to make the name of Jesus famous. In order to do this I believe there are four things that we need to constantly be reminding the next generation of Christ followers.

Missional living must be internal before it can be external. If students are going to make an eternal impact it must first make a personal impact on them. We speak and live from our passions not our obligations. When Jesus has transforms the heart, actions will soon follow. Matthew 6:21 reminds us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Missional living is counter-cultural. Following Jesus and making His name famous is difficult to say the least in this day and age. Believing in absolute truth is seen as being narrow minded and arrogant. Again, this world lives completely for the here and now. Living for Jesus and eternal impact is all about being a part of something that is bigger than your own self. When Jesus looked at a group of common men and said “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18-22) it was an invitation to come and sacrifice the ordinary for extraordinary. This came with sacrifice and trails but also with  great eternal reward.

Missional living is not a program or an event, it is a way of life. Missional living should not have a “show up at this time and we will do this” approach to it. Yes, mission trips, service projects, outreach efforts, and the like are all very much a part of living on mission, but it is not the end all of it. Missional living is a lifestyle that is lived. It should come naturally and not forced. The local church equips the body of Christ, including the next generation, to know what missional living is, how to live on mission, and then model it in what we do on a week to week basis. Students learn best when they see the desired outcome not just when they are told it.

Missional living means reaching your neighbor and the nations. Some when they hear the term “missions” have the whole “jungle in Africa” image come to mind. This is very much a part of missions but there is so much more to it. We must reach our neighbors and the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For many all we would have to do is walk across the street and we would be able to accomplish both. We must help students remember that living on mission includes the conversations with the person who has the locker next to them at school, the way they display their faith on the field and in the locker room, the things they text to their friends, the jokes they laugh at, and so on. Every single believer in Jesus Christ is a missionary.

We have the greatest story to tell, the story of Jesus Christ. The next generation has the incredible opportunity to make an eternal impact. All believers do. We must come together and live on mission for this cause of Christ!

Acts 1:8 (HCSB), “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Student Ministry, Evangelism, and the Sovereignty of God

Recently, I took an evangelism class in seminary. One of the books we read was J.I. Packers’ Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Within this we unpacked God’s and humanity’s role in reaching the lost for Christ. No matter where you end up theologically on things like the sovereignty of God, total depravity, and the doctrine of election, the bottom line is this: you are in an intimate relationship with the Savior of the world or you are not.

As a result of this class I continued the evaluation process of what was already heavy on my heart: are we really reaching this generation for the cause of Christ? Are lost students in our doors on a weekly basis? Are we waiting for students to come to us or are we actively seeking them out?

I firmly believe in all three of these things: student ministry within the context of the local church, evangelizing the lost, and the sovereignty of God. For clarification purposes, the sovereignty of God can best be understood through the lenses of Isaiah 46:10, Colossians 1:17, and Acts 17:28.

When thinking and processing these three things strategically the following thoughts (with Scripture passages) came to mind…

1. Students and families need to be boldly reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 28:19-20, “19Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Ephesians 2:1-5, “1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”

Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

2. Christ following students are called to reach others with the only true source of hope there is- Jesus Christ.
John 14:6, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human.

Matthew 5:14-16, “14You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

3. Students are often nervous about sharing their faith; the sovereignty of God provides needed confidence in the work of Christ in and around them.
Ephesians 1:11-12, “11We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.”

 
4. We must help students and families understand that Christ alone changes hearts, minds, and ultimately saves. Christ is the Savior; we are privileged to be the vessel.
Revelation 7:10, “And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 2 Timothy 2:10, “This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”

Scripture passages taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

Dear Christ Following College Student…

Dear Christ Following College Student,

I want you to know that as your brother in Christ I’m praying for you. The season of life you’re in right now is so crucial to the upcoming years of your life. It probably seems that every time you turn the corner there is another decision to be made. It probably also seems there is another temptation knocking at your door. Remember, as a Christ follower the Holy Spirit resides in you. Don’t lose sight of this, lean on this, and fully embrace this. He, being fully God, resides in you to bring about conviction, discernment, and encouragement. He loves you.

You may be thinking right now, “I’m not sure what to do. This all seems like so much at once.” Rest easy in Proverbs 2:6 which teaches that wisdom comes from the LORD. He gives us understanding.  A wise person once told me that sometimes it’s what you don’t do that makes the difference. Share your faith with that classmate that you know is lost. Be the vessel Christ created you to be.

As a college pastor I hear stories from lots of university students. Some of them make me laugh, some of them break my heart. In this season of life it’s so important that you find time to be in the Word every day. Maybe this is a struggle for you with everything else going on right now. In Scripture you find the God that created you and what He is like. You will find exactly who He is and how He dealt with situations and people. You will find how He resisted temptation. You will find stories of other Christ followers. Some that made great decisions and some that made poor decisions. So much clarity can come from these times in the Word. Please don’t replace intimate time with Jesus each and every day. When you are reading Scripture pray this simple prayer, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening.”

My desire is that you will earnestly pray through decisions and worship and serve with a local body of believers. You need to be a part of the local church now, more than ever. Christ instituted the church for a reason. Don’t only be a part of the local church, be the local church.

Remember, you’re not always going to “get it right” but keep on in your pursuit of holiness. Hebrews 13:5 teaches us that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. I end this letter to you with the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 (HCSB), “{5} Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; {6} think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Your Brother in Christ.

7 Things I Would Say to a Christ-Following Student Entering College

University students all across the nation began their fall semesters within the last couple of weeks. For some of these students they did this for the very first time. They left emotional parents, high school, and life routines they have always known, to embark on the college journey. As a college minister, I have seven pieces of advice that I would share with a young man or young lady calling themselves a Christian as they are entering college.

1. Find a local church family to be in community with. Let me start off by saying I love campus ministries. They play a huge purpose-filled role in the life a college student. Some college students however, connect only with a campus ministry and never plug-in with a local church family. Find a church home away from home where you can serve, worship, and fellowship in. Make sure it’s a Bible-believing, doctrinal sound church, with a heart for missions.

2. Be sure you have a daily plan for reading God’s Word. As a university student, the word “busy” is an understatement. Students have class schedules, work schedules, weekends they go home and come back, practices and games for athletes, club meetings, and the list goes on and on. In the midst of all this, time spent in God’s Word can get lost. As Christ followers, our spiritual development hugely weighs on the time we spend in God’s Word. If we want to hear from God we must be in His Word.

3. Be good stewards of time and money. Most college students would say they struggle with not having enough time or money. In regards to time management it’ s huge for a college student to be on a system. Block out times in which you will study for each class you are in. Block out times in which you will read God’s Word. Block out times for R&R. Block out times for hanging out with friends. As far as money goes… yeah I didn’t have much in college either. But what little money I did have I didn’t spend very wisely. Both of these aspects (time management and money) are much easier said than done. I’m still working on them but the key is to be getting better at them each and every day.

4. Spend quality time with mentor figures. There is something to be said about spending time with people who have “been there and done that.” Personally, I still spend time with people who have been in ministry much longer than I have. In this time I ask questions, listen, learn, pray, and take in constructive criticism. There is huge value in this. College students…please have these people in your life.

5. Spend quality time praying through decisions. The college years are full of decisions; some of these decisions are life long decisions. “What should I major in?” “Who will I date?” “Will I go to grad school or take that full-time job opportunity?” “Where is God leading me?” All these questions I have heard from countless college students. Spend hours and hours on your knees when making decisions that will impact your future.

6. Choose your friends wisely. Initially, this statement may sound “elementary” or like something you would say to a middle school or high school student. However, this is huge for college students. As the old saying goes, “you are who you hang out with.” I have seen too many “God-fearing” students step on a college campus and get lost. I’m not referencing getting lost trying to find a class (which I have seen and is pretty funny) but lost in life and faith. College students… who are you allowing to influence your life?

7. LOVE and enjoy the college years. This really is a very exciting time in your life. Go to sporting events and paint up your face. Go on an international mission trip. Eat cold pizza from the night before (just kidding I would not suggest doing that!). Go to a restaurant with a group of friends that gives free dessert to college students. Enjoy yourself because this really is one of the most special times in your life. In the midst of the enjoyment, make wise decisions. Reflect Jesus in all you do, bring Him glory!

Four Priorities in Student Ministry

Lord willing we are about to enter a new year. With this brings fresh starts, plans, and directions. In student ministry it’s a huge task to plan out the most important aspects that you target in your ministry for the year. This is the case because there are many areas that are important to the life of a student ministry. As I was thinking about what should be some main priorities four things came to mind…

 1. Spiritual growth. There has to be visible evidence that students, families, and volunteers are growing in their walk with the Lord. Student ministries need to have a healthy balance between fun and growth but we must never sacrifice growth for fun. Jesus’ last earthly command was for His disciples to make disciples of others. May this be true of student ministries all over this nation and “to the ends of the earth.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

2. Ministry to parents.  Parents must be informed, involved, and influential in the student ministry. Parents bring a unique perspective to what you do as a student ministry. They are the people who spend the most time with the teenagers that make up student ministries all over the world. The local church must partner with and resource them in raising spiritual champions for Christ.

3. Ministry to leaders. Too many student ministries don’t thrive because they don’t raise and nurture leaders. Leaders are student pastors, parents, volunteers, and especially the students themselves. Teenagers must lead among their peers and have ownership in the student ministry. Developing lead teams is a great way to make this a reality.

4. Engaging culture. I believe the best way to engage the culture is to serve the culture. Allow the culture to see the body of Christ being the hands and feet of Jesus. Too many churches view culture as the enemy. Culture is not the enemy but rather our greatest mission field. There can be great teachable moments for teenagers when we allow them to serve in the world they know best.

 As a final reminder: student ministry is relationships. For spiritual growth, ministry to parents, ministry to leaders, and engaging culture to occur there must be relationship. That starts with a passionate, thriving relationship with Jesus. He is our foundation and where we must start and end.