Saturday, 21 November 2015

Effective Evangelizing

OK, so I've been thinking. Again.

You may have heard this example of a number of blindfolded people examining an elephant – one the trunk, one an ear, one a leg, etc., and each coming up with a different answer as to what it is. This is supposed to be an argument for the idea that no one can have an exclusive lock on the truth; that everyone’s idea of truth is equally valid; that many paths lead to God, and therefore all religions are equally valid.

First of all, it occurs to me that it’s a self-defeating example. It disproves itself, because it, in itself, requires that the observer, us, see the whole picture – see that there is a truth - see that it is indeed an elephant, and that a number of points of view can actually miss the truth. So this example actually illustrates that there can be an ultimate truth, but that various points of view can be wrong about it.

Is Christianity the ultimate truth? Well, we’re not to that point yet. That’s where we invite, saying, “Come and see.” This is exactly what Alpha, done properly, does. This is the heart of Alpha. In Alpha, people receive good Christian teaching, but in a non-threatening context. It  is 7 to 10 weeks over which people develop relationships as they learn about the Christian faith, ask any question or express any opinion without threat, intimidation or condemnation.

But here's another thought, from my former pastor and friend Terry... (Wait, that didn't come out right. He is my former pastor - I hope he is still my friend... especially after this...) But here is what he gave me...

What if the elephant could speak up and say, “Hey everybody, remove your blindfolds, I’m an Elephant!”

Because that’s what God has done.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son… (Hebrews 1: 1a)
He has revealed Himself fully and finally in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one." (John 10:30) He said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

But people need to hear it from God Himself, and only God Himself can change a mind or a heart. I believe the key to evangelizing in these times and in this current generation is to engage in a narrative, not to hold up authority; to discuss, not lecture. Scripture can be used in two ways. We can confront with, "The Bible says!" Or we can engage, with, “Here is what the Bible says. What do you think?"

Want to reach someone for Christ? Invite them to Alpha.



Wednesday, 18 November 2015

How Encouraging!

Last night my wife and I attended a fundraising supper at Harry Ainlay High School in support of Young Life. We were served by a group of 30 or 40 terrific young people from that club in that school, and heard testimonies from people, who are now adults, of how Young Life had changed their lives.

Then this morning I received an email form a woman who had coordinated an Alpha Youth Film Series in a high school, with some amazing and encouraging Alpha Feedback stats.

Among them:
  • BEFORE ALPHA: 18% of respondents said they were Active Christians or Christians on Fire; 60% said they were Christian but not active.
  • AFTER ALPHA: 60% of respondents said they were Active Christians or Christians on Fire; 25% said they were Christian but not active.
  • BEFORE ALPHA: 23% of respondents said they did not believe in God or were spiritual but not religious.
  • AFTER ALPHA: 10% of respondents said they did not believe in God, were spiritual but not religious, or were not yet Christians, but wanted to know more.

The world and our culture seems to be marching resolutely in a completely different direction from what we, as Christians, might say is compatible with our faith. And it seems to me that young people today stand in danger, perhaps more than ever, of being caught up by this misdirected throng.

It must take a great deal of personal courage to resist. But I believe this courage can be found in the knowledge that any young person is not alone; that there are others who share their same beliefs and values. We just have to find a way to bring these kids from a sense of moral and spiritual isolation, to the knowledge that they are not alone in how they think and feel. Both Young Life and Alpha, among other organizations I'm sure, can do this by giving students a safe and encouraging place among their peers where they can realize they are, "not the only one."


That's for starters. Then we progress from there to introducing other young people to a right way of living - to a knowledge that a relationship with God is the greatest they can ever know; that He will be with them in whatever they are going through, and that He will never leave them or forsake them.

With your prayers and support we can make a difference; for a young person, or for society.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Way Down South (Alberta, That Is)

Church for the unchurched - what makes our guests feel welcome?

My latest trip was a fast blast through Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Calgary, in that order. I had a lunch appointment with Pastor John Albiston of the Victory Church in Lethbridge, so I was up at 5:30 and out of the house by 6:30. I dialed the church address in to my Garmin and it told me I should be there by 11:39. However, because I take some liberties with the speed limit, I was able to make up about 40 minutes on the trip. Victory Lethbridge is, to my mind, a wonderful success story and an example, perhaps, from which many other churches might take at least some lessons. They are very intentional in everything they do. They examine every aspect of their church, every area of their building and every portion of their Sunday services, asking themselves, "Will this be an attraction to new people, or will it put them off?" They even went so far as to replace all the tiles in their building with carpet to make it seem warmer and more inviting. Four years ago they averaged 200 people on a Sunday; now they have 1100.

From lunch with Pastor John I visited Westside Community Church and Park Meadows Baptist; both of whom are running, have run or are planning to run Alpha as a program in their churches.

From there it was a visit to Third Day Worship Centre to line up a future interview session on Hope TV for myself and Shaila Visser, Alpha's National Director. If everything falls into place, this interview should be recorded in late January and air sometime in March, 2016.

After my afternoon appointments in Lethbridge it was off to Medicine Hat for the night and several appointments next day. I was looking forward to my meetings in, "The Hat" because  I discovered that two pastors from Alpha churches in other cities have moved there. One, Pastor Lyle Berg from Lloydminster and about whom I previously blogged here, is now at First Assembly in Medicine Hat. His church is running two Alpha's, and he is very enthusiastic to take a leadership position in the local church community in the upcoming Global Media Campaign featuring Bear Grylls. I even recruited him as a coach for the area.

From there it was a first-time meeting with Dave Maneschyn Lead Pastor at Bridge Church, a young, growing and pretty hip church being mentored, in a sense, by the above mentioned Pastor John at Victory Lethbridge. Very encouraging... and they are running Alpha.

The other pastor now in Medicine Hat is Jamie McDonald, formerly of Sylvan Lake, now at Hillcrest Church, one of the largest in the city. Lunch with Pastor Jamie at Tim's.

Next was a meeting at St Barnabas, an Anglican parish established in 1884. Formerly pastored by the somewhat famous Gene Packwood, their new Rector, Dustin Resch, I learned, is having to leave and head back to Saskatchewan after only a few months.

One more stop, in Calgary at McKenzie Towne Church in Calgary with Pastor Brad Moffat. (Have I ever told you how I wince when people add an 'e' to the end of a neighbourhood word like 'towne' or 'pointe'? Well, in this case I can't blame the church - it was the city who named the area.)

I had hoped to meet the Anglican Bishop of Calgary, Bp Greg Kerr-Wilson, but then, as in all my tries, have been unable to connect with him.

So... back to the Edmonton area, drop off my rental car (a pretty quick Dodge Charger, by the way), pick up my own beater, and in to the city to help set up church for a memorial service. When I say whirlwind, I mean whirlwind.