Recently in church we talked about a 24-hour day in the life of Jesus (Mark 1, Luke 4). He taught in the synagogue and cast a demon out in the morning, healed Peter’s mother-in-law that afternoon, then as the sun was setting healed people who came from all over the village who were sick and demon possessed, and then got up early the next morning to pray. Once the disciples woke up, they went looking for him, with a makes-complete-sense idea. “Come on back, Jesus. Everybody is looking for you here.”[Read more…] about “…other towns, too.
“Is that normal?”
I get that question often when I send out letters after overseas trips. People who have been worshipping spirits or who grew up in cultures with ideologies and theologies very different from Christianity hear a couple stories and their families accept Christ, get into small churches, and start telling other people new things about the Jesus they are learning about. Yes, it is normal.
After seeing this repeated over and over and over in as diverse settings, backgrounds, and people groups as we have, I know the stories we share about what happens in other countries happen because of the people who are doing things—their willingness to speak, go, do, try. Storying methods are simply a communication style they are using. Way more important is the believers’ stepping into other peoples’ searching.[Read more…] about “Is that normal?”
Searching and Celebrating
We’ve all done it. That frantic search for ten minutes for the smallest stupidest thing. Why we have to find that one pen I was using (even though there are twenty others available) is a mystery, an insane obsession. But I must…it will not defeat me! When we do, we hold it proudly aloft, announcing to the world “I found it!”, expecting to be acknowledged for this superhuman feat which saved civilization from an apocalyptic demise. Of course, nobody really cares.
I shared this with a roomful of Ugandans and they laughed. It seems this type of hunting is a global reality, and when I shared the “nobody else cares” there was a lot of elbowing each other.
After a few wives stopped bruising their husbands’ ribs, I shared the stories in Luke 15, the only time Jesus told back-to-back-to-back stories that had the same pattern and message. A search for a lost sheep, a lost coin sought, a lost son looked longingly for. Imagine how frantic we look for a fifty-cent pen, then how determined a shepherd climbs hills and peers into bushes, how a woman tosses her house looking.
If we obsessively search for such things, imagine how intense God hunts for people. He has been looking far longer and far more intensely, turning the house of man inside out, like a dog getting the scent of an animal and not letting creeks or thorns or hills stop its hunt![Read more…] about Searching and Celebrating
Where Would Jesus Go
“I’ve never been to church, love.” Skye calls everybody love. She’s a twenty-six year old military wife who works at the coffee shop I basically lived at during my PhD writing. Since this virus has almost shut them down, I sneak out every now and then to give the shop some business. And since there’s no customers, I’ve been able to have longer conversations with the folks who work there, like Skye.
It’s given me a lot of chances to live what I think is the answer to a simple question, “If Jesus came to our city today, where would he go and who would he enjoy spending time with?” (OK, so I’ve modified it a bit…“If Jesus lived in our city today and was under stay-at-home orders, where would he go when he couldn’t stand being inside anymore?”) In the gospels it’s impossible to miss how often Jesus went directly to where irreligious people were, and how many of them really liked being around him. So I figured if Jesus were in our city these past two months, he’d sneak out to the coffee shop.[Read more…] about Where Would Jesus Go
Distance doesn’t matter
It was 4 AM and I heard these dreaded words. “Continue on south for 559 miles.”
Last Saturday I visited my son at his college. Forty-eight hours later I pulled in the driveway back home before my other kids left the house for school and then I went to the office. It’s been six weeks since we dropped our boy off at college. He’s in the film program and loves his editing and shooting and script writing classes. He’s not burned anything yet that I know of in the apartment. He’s doing well. There were a few hard things going on with each of us, though, and we both just needed to see each other, if for no other reason than we’re father and son.
The only thing keeping us from that was fourteen hours of monotonous interstate. Distance doesn’t change the fact that I’m his dad, even if that distance is half of the USA. When my son needs me, I’m coming to him. So I sat in the truck and headed south…[Read more…] about Distance doesn’t matter
Different Ways of Handling Pain
Pain management. I was online looking up some medical stuff and saw this phrase more than once. From the very little that zipped past my eyes, I saw the words “patient-centered” quite often. I know there is a lot more to this than my grossly simplistic and naïve understanding, but those two phrases – pain management and patient-centered – stuck out to me.
When I have something that hurts or is obviously more than what a good nap and a bottle of ibuprofen can handle, I want to get rid of the pain, not manage it. I want a doctor who specializes in getting rid of these pains to do his thing that he’s good at and tell me what I need to do. In other words I want doctor directed diagnosis and treatment that I’m supposed to follow.[Read more…] about Different Ways of Handling Pain
“Let the Church be…”
Three weeks ago my son called. “Dad, um, the Durango…” Ends up our faithful family transportation finally decided to blow a rod or two while hehad it at college. Not his fault, just timing of an old vehicle deciding to die. So with the Durango gone and my old Mazda pickup likely headed to university next year, we decided to replace both with one vehicle.
Fast forward to sitting down with the car dealer as we finalize the details of purchasing a good used truck. Of course he’s trying to get me to buy add-on plans. “Well, sir, with this protection plan, if you get stains on the seats or floor, just bring it over and we’ll clean them up.” “Jeff, that’s ok. I’ll pass. It’s a truck.”
“Understood. But with this plan, you know how you get those scuffs on the side when somebody’s door whacks into your car? With this plan, you bring the truck back here, we buff them out and it’s good as new.” “No thanks, Jeff. It’s a truck.”[Read more…] about “Let the Church be…”
OT stories with Muslims
Recently I got this email after a seminar. I cleaned up my reply and post, hoping it helps others see some of the thinking that goes into choosing stories to share with our friends.
Hi Tim, I was following up with you on my question I had for you at Perspectives. I’m sorry I could not stay and hear the answer that evening. I had asked what five stories would you pick to share, starting with the old testament to the new to share the gospel. The reason I ask about bringing in the Old Testament is because i think it would be more effective to Muslim’s. I would love to know your thoughts. Thank you for your time and ministry.
Hey Amanda. Thanks for writing me about this. Here’s my quick thoughts. Would be more than glad to talk more if you want.
I completely agree in many situations with bringing in OT stories with Muslims, for a few reasons.
1. Common names and background (even if details are different) builds trust with Muslims as we talk about the stories. We’re not combating them. It also as builds credibility for God as you walk through stories about Him.
2. Many Muslims haven’t ever talked about OT people that Christians believe with Christians and think we only want to
talk about Jesus with them.
3. The Koran says that the Book (Bible) is to be known. While they believe that we have corrupted the Bible, by finding a more comfortable ground to talk with them on (OT) we invite them into some “softer” areas of discussion before we talk about Christ, which can be more tense.
4. A friend once told me after he shared the Jesus Film with dozens of villages that he felt he was “giving them dessert before giving them a meal”. How can you understand the gospel without understanding why the gospel had to be?
But what 5 stories would I share? That’s a tough one b/c of all the variables. Not to make it too analytical, but you have to consider how devout and how cultural Muslim are they, what are their views of Christians, of the Bible, how do they view Jesus, what is your relationship with them, and others probably.
But I’d think of using a story set along the theme of promise.
- God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9, 17:1-8).
- God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7).
- Isaiah 52-53.
Then a story about Jesus having authority to forgive sins and heal such as the paralytic lowered through the roof (Mark 2) or maybe Zacchaeus (Luke 19) b/c Jesus says this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham, tying it to the earlier story.
Then I’d condense the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection (a lot to put together) into one longer story. This ties all three OT stories together.
Then end with Jesus time with the disciples before his ascension, which gives you the reason you are sharing this story with your friend in the first place, because the prophet Jesus who was the Son of God said to obey him is to tell others about him.
These could sound a bit dry since the first three are all prophesy sections, but you could add some context around the promises to make it more living.
Or take 2 or 3 stories from David’s life instead of Abraham and Isaiah. The theme of promise still fits, but you front load the stories with some non-conflict ones about a common person, David. Maybe 1) David as King, 2) David and Bathsheba, 3) Nathan confronting David. Shows that even great king David was a sinner like all of us and needed God’s grace, which leads to Jesus.
These are just thoughts. I would hesitate to give you a prescribed list because the goal isn’t to just share stories that are redemptive, but to have the person engage in these stories.
Having said all that, I also would recommend Carl Medearis book “Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships”. I agree with a lot of what he says about when talking to Muslims, keep it on Jesus rather than trying to use a lot of OT, for example. You can share five stories about Jesus very effectively, breaching the barrier they have to his deity and sonship. In some ways it can be much more natural because you are talking about a common figure both religions and discovering truth and differences. This isn’t confrontation, it’s journeying together.
So, before I confuse you any further, I hope you’re seeing that there is no one prescribed good way to share stories with Muslims. It totally depends on the person you’re friending. Some will feel more comfortable beginning with a common footing in the OT and you can approach areas of redemption progressively. Others you’ll feel more comfortable talking about solely Jesus and making a loving case for your friend to think about.
Lost vs Unreached
A couple days ago I had a conversation with a friend about unreached people groups and why people sometimes just have a hard time with that concept. I wanted to share three of the basic important issues for the Church to consider that we talked about.
First, there is a critical difference between “lost” and “unreached” peoples. Obviously each group has people that don’t know Christ in it. The lost group is one where the gospel is present now, but isn’t well received by the majority. The unreached group is one where the gospel is not yet. We don’t stop doing ministry to people lost people groups in order to go to unreached people groups, but putting aside not yet places by placing them in the same category as is present now places would be wrong thinking. They have different and strategic issues to consider on how to minister within.
Second, there is a biblical command to go to those peoples. The Great Commission wasn’t the Great Suggestion, but we treat it often with the same attitude we have with those black and white signs with numbers on them along the road. “I understand why they say 65 and I agree with it one hundred percent. But we know they don’t really mean for us to drive that.” In the last things we have recorded that Jesus said we don’t have much room to pick and choose if he really meant it or was it something flippant he said as if he were casually leaving someone’s house after dinner. When Jesus says in Mt 28, “Go make disciples of all nations (ethne – people),” it means, well, all. Acts 1:8 isn’t an either/or, but a both/and. If we as a church don’t have that aspect in our missions engagement, we need to honestly ask if we are being obedient.
Third, semantics can be a real hang-up. Some people just don’t like the phrase “unreached people groups” because it’s a jump-on-the-bandwagon thing. I’ve also been told that it’s inaccurate terminology. “If there’s a church there, technically it is no longer unreached.” (Once somebody actually said to me, “They keep calling this group unreached, but we’ve sent missionaries there. I think they are trying to sensationalize it so they can get more funding.”) If wording is a problem, use different words. Call them hard to reach, least-reached, frontier people groups, hidden peoples, beyond-the-church’s-touch people, it doesn’t really matter. I like the definition of an unreached people group given in Operation World (962; 2010).
An ethnolinguistic people group among whom there is no viable indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people without outside (cross-cultural) assistance.
The real presence of unreached people groups should cause a dissonance in us, either a holy restlessness as we join in what God is doing that is outside of our norm, or a holy discomfort as we wrestle with imbalances, obedience, or our historical thinking.
BMP Connections: Yesterday I had an hour phone call planning to go to train believers in a Muslim part of Africa that hasn’t known peace for decades. Storying is one way that we can help establish churches in this area. Are we bragging, saying we “get it” while others don’t? No way! We are simply one of the parts of the larger Body that gets to focus on these places. The Church can’t ignore either the local unchurhed, the lost, or the unreached. There are other places we could go that have people who need Christ that would be a lot safer, we’d be more warmly received, have internet access, and eat better food. But as part of the Church, this is a place where we (all of us, the Church) need to be going.
After 2,000 years there remain billions of people who today could not hear about Jesus if they screamed at the top of their lungs for somebody to tell them. There is a reason the gospel hasn’t gotten into these hard to reach places – they’re hard to reach. As you’re praying with us, you’re engaging in taking the gospel into some of them because God is inviting us to join Him there.
“My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard.” Romans 15:20, NLT
2010 brought with it some trials but also some wonderful opportunities for growth, both professionally and personally.
Here are the highlights for BMP:
– Approximately 300 people were trained in Storying- a simple way to share God’s Word
– Four trips were taken: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, and two trips to India
– Africans trained in Benin going to train Church Planters in Togo
– Kids with Muslim background in Benin trained to share stories with friends at school
– Pastor at our training is now sharing Stories on radio in Benin
– Pastor Joseph, after his life being spared, went on to share the method’s taught by Tim to a conference of 650 people
– 50 People have been saved in a VooDoo area and a new Church started
– Took on first staff member: Operations Director, Amanda MacLeod
We have a lot in the works for 2011 and would love your continued support in prayer and any other ways the Lord may lead you!