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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Crossing a Threshold of Getting Old - For Me, it's Catfishing

Manti T'eo: Catfished!!
(tiny disclaimer: this is a non-spiritual post)

It took me a while, but I plunged into Facebook. I never set-up a twitter account but I managed to familiarize myself with tweets and hashtags. While I have friends who try persistently to get me to watch ABC's "Modern Family" (thanks Jeremy & Sheena), I at least have a basic grasp on the characters and plot line while understanding the show's appeal. Plus, apparently, I bear resemblance to one of the characters - Sweet Moses, I hope it's not Al Bundy!!

But this week, still wading in the waters of my mid-30s, I officially crossed a threshold of Old-ness by going from slipping out of touch to completely losing touch with a major development of this next generation - Catfishing

An American College Football player, Notre Dame's Manti T'eo, unveiled a story and his heart during the early part of his team's run to play for the national championship this past season - namely, that his grandmother passed away on September 12th and then his girlfriend died of leukemia within a couple days. He went from being one of the best players in the country to a national story to a team and then national inspiration. His was the college football story of 2012 - overcoming a double dose of personal tragedy to lead his team to the highest pinnacle. These circumstances no doubt aided him ing getting  nominated for football's highest honor, the Heisman trophy.

Except, his girlfriend wasn't real. Te'o was the apparent victim of a hoax known as "catfishing." "Catfishing" occurs when a person, pretending to be someone they are not, lures an unsuspecting person into an online relationship - usually romantic and usually done not for financial gain but for unapologetic, twisted 'enjoyment.' In this case, a random woman's picture was used, a name was created, a backstory composed, and a death was staged. Phone calls were made and three different persons impersonated his supposed girlfriend (two of them male!). So Te'o, it seems, was completely duped. It's not sure for how long. 
Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, filmakers
featured in MTV's Catfish: The TV Show

This phenomenon of "catfishing" is so popular that there was a movie made about it in 2010 and has been a popular MTV reality show (episodes of which were re-run a LOT this past week I noticed). 

I still can't believe that it's possible to plunge oneself in an online relationship spanning two to three years and never discover the lie. I'm typing this and I still can't believe it. But speaking with others younger than me, they get it. That's when, last night in fact, Katie and I discovered - we have crossed a threshold. For other generations, it was leaving behind 8-tracks, others the advent of the personal computer, some was the passing of leg-warmers (really??!!), then the arrival of the internet. For me: It's Catfishing. I simply don't understand how one could live that dichotomous of a life - one in a present, physical universe and another almost totally unaffected one in cyberspace. I get avatars and online gaming. But to fall in love with someone online and not see them for three years?! I can't imagine infusing a cyber identity into my real identity like that.

I am genuinely curious: What was or is your Threshold of Getting Old? 
  • Instant Messaging?
  • Twitter?
  • Fashion Trend?
  • Surprising shift in Musical Tastes? (I still can't figure out why neither Rich Mullins nor Toad the Wet Sprocket remain popular??)
  • Future: Jet-packs replacing automobiles as our regular mode of transportation?  (My oldest son's dream by the way...I've let him know his father hopes to live in a world where jet-pack production overtakes the Prius...and that he will be personally disappointed in him with anything less).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Found People Find People: Tips for Finding a Hearing (Part I)

Under the Big Top on Sunday Mornings, our Sunrise Fellowship is working through a series entitled - Answers without Compromise: Sharing the Gospel in ways that answer people's most immediate needs without compromising its message. The goal is to, as best as possible in sermon format, to share how one might use the gospel message to answer very relevant, contemporary questions of friends, neighbors, co-workers in a conversational setting. People are rarely bringing up God anymore with their questions (even to question his existence or character) - but that doesn't mean their question does not relate to God. In fact, I believe that the handful of main questions/life obstacles people seem to mention are directly addressed by the God's gospel message.

My hope with the blog is, following each message, to provide a few tips for creatively yet boldly and accurately sharing the gospel as presented the previous Sunday. So for example, this past Sunday's message explored the question of suffering: Why is my life so hard? And even harder for others? I intentionally utilized certain strategies and wisdom when approaching this question. 

Tip #1: Be Prepared to Cross the Border. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the World are different. But Christians often talk to people as if they speak the language of God's Kingdom. Even though Jesus used analogies about His own Kingdom that were agriculturally-relevant to the time (see Mustard seed, different types soils, Fig Tree), relationally-relevant to the time(see Prodigal Son, the persistent friend) and economically-relevant to the time (see Shrewd manager, Tenants). 

To cross the border into another's world you must speak seeker-sensibly. Our Sunday Morning services are not seeker-driven or even seeker-sensitive in priority because the primary purpose of corporate gatherings, as modeled in Acts, is for the strengthening and equipping of believers. So even this series is primarily for equipping believers to go out and share their faith. But while not seeker-driven or seeker-sensitive, as a church we need to be seeker-sensible. We must be thinking about how to explain truth from the Bible in ways that make sense to someone who has never read one. 

Let me give you a few examples from Sunday that I would suggest using in real conversations. I talked about both the act and disease of sin as two of the three reasons that the Bible gives for why life is hard. It's okay to use "sin" and we should as it is the chief reason Jesus needed to die. However, we need to define it. So I define sin as "that Big "No" in our heart that says: I will do a better job running my own life than any authority, especially God" and then connected that back to Genesis 3 where the key idea that Eve (and then Adam) bought into was being her own god. Instead of using the "sinful nature" as a concept, I used a "hereditary disease" that is passed down through a kind of spiritual DNA. Still accurate, but people understand the concept - its danger and pervasiveness - of a hereditary disease like alcoholism better than they do "the sin nature" or "original sin." People will graciously shake their heads but even I still barely understand it and I've got some sort of diploma.  A second example is instead of saying "salvation" or inviting people to "get saved," I termed it this way: "You can trust Jesus to make you right again with God and to run your life." I do this because people understand alienation in relationships and usually have bosses. Only if someone nearly drowned will they immediately relate to any kind of life "saver" or "getting saved."

Consider preparing for a couple more: How would you explain the term "resurrection" or "rose from the dead"? What about "church"? Take time to consider and define for people who don't know the Bible.

To cross the border you have to know what's on the other side. I do not mean that you need to indulge in the ways of the world (does planning to watch Anchorman 2 count?). Only that we should be relating with enough lost people to understand the culture and life in which they live. The Apostle Paul did this. Just a couple weeks ago we looked at Paul's sharing the gospel message in a culturally-relevant way with the people of Athens (Acts 17:16-34). While doing so he quotes a pop song and then a popular local poet to get across a spiritually relevant and still truthful point (v.28). My attempt to do this on Sunday was explain a few typical responses to the hardness of life: (1) "Stuff" Happens (usually using a different word); (2) At least my life isn't as bad as _______; (3) I try not to think about it -- and then proceeded to talk about the advantages but ultimate failings of each approach to the hardness of life. This is how real people talk. Likewise before we sang for worship, I tried to be cognizant of the fact that people brought folks to church who may have never been to church before, especially this past Sunday. So I simply said: "For many of you, the only time you get to sing in public as an adult is a "Happy Birthday to you" for an office birthday party or at a drunken Karaoke Bar. But when you trust Jesus, we are told we get to sing to Him. It's an awesome privilege and sounds far better than a Karaoke Bar." Now we've reached over into their world and invited them into the Kingdom of God.

Tip #2: Take time to read the Bible with them. This will require asking their permission for some extended time, as I attempted to demonstrate on Sunday: "Would you mind if we take a few minutes to read about this in the Bible?" But opening the Bible does a few things: (1) Exposes them to words that are more certain and powerful than your own (see the promise of Isaiah 55:10-11); (2) Demonstrates that the changes, the love, and "something different" about your life is caused not by a philosophy or set of ideas but some objective standard outside of yourself. I find people actually walk away with more respect for what you've said when you take time to show its origins in the Bible; (3) Bible Words usually stick with people AND they can later look up or Google a Bible passage online (and they can't always later find or Google you when they have questions...unless you are famous...or have your own youtube channel).

Tip #3: Be prepared to pop the question. Be ready to ask them if they want to respond by trusting their life to Jesus. Don't anxiously qualify it, wait for their answer. If they say, "no" or "not right now," you can follow-up tactfully and ask if you can speak again at a later point. But the answer is always "No" if you never ask. I'll never forget asking this of a student I had just met, he responded yes, and is still walking with the Lord today. You never know!

All of this, it goes without saying, should be done in the context of a building a relationship of love so that you are sharing with a lost person the love of Christ in both word and deed.

Monday, January 7, 2013

SCC in 2013: A Year for Found People to Find People

(Disclaimer: The following post is primarily for my peeps in Sunrise Community Church)

With everything that is in me I want to share that personal evangelism is what the Holy Spirit continues to impress on my heart for 2013 - namely, for us to grow as a church body to the next level in both breadth and depth it will be primarily through brave and faithful persons such as yourself not only building relationships with pre-Christians (most of you excel at that!) but to take the courageous next step across that bridge you've built with friends, neighbors, & co-workers to share a message of good/freakin' awesome news - a.k.a the gospel. 

This is why we build relational bridges - you earn the right to share the gospel with someone and you grow to love them enough to share the key to eternal life with them. 

Somebody in the church steps up. And it's not just me, by the way, who senses this call to GO OUT and share the love of Christ in word and deed - it's people in the church stepping up to God's call. People like my friend Sean Glidden. Last year, the elders and I prayed SCC would be blessed with the opportunity to embark on our church's first ever missions trip. Just as with praise and worship, we prayed God would call someone to step up (and we see what happened there - Lisa Welman stepped up and now we have three worship leaders!). Sean approached me toward the tail end of last year excited about a calling to reach the lost locally and abroad through missions. Lord willing, we will embark on our first missions trip this year with the help of his organization and mobilization. Sean and Kacey may even start up a Missions-based Community Group!! (To be continued...) 

Over the coming four weeks, we will spend Sunday Mornings equipping and preparing you to creatively share the gospel. I say creatively because, as we discussed on Sunday, pre-Christians are no longer asking the same questions they once did 25 or even 10 years ago. God does not factor into their questions - at least as far as they know. In actuality, I've discovered most people's immediate questions pertaining to life, though they contain no mention of God, are in fact answered by God's gospel message. If you ask a person, like I did over the past six months (a little side experiment): "Take God out of it for a moment - what's the biggest obstacle in your life right now?", you might be surprised how the gospel provides both a framework for understanding that obstacle and a solution to it.

So get ready for Answers without Compromise: Sharing the gospel in ways that answer people's most immediate questions without compromising its message... Okay, so you may only remember the first part. No worries. Here are those most immediate questions:

  • Jan13: Why is life so hard for me?  (Suffering)
  • Jan20: Who is going to pay?  (Justice)
  • Jan27: How can I live confidently without Ego, yet humbly without Eeyore? (Humble Confidence)
  • Feb3: How can my emotional & physical needs be met while I meet them in others? (Red-Hot Romance)


How it will "work." My goal with each message will be to, as best as can be done in sermon-form, make it as conversational as possible - as if I'm having a conversation with a pre-Christian about their question. So I will be trying to explain concepts about Jesus, His good news, and life from a biblical perspective in seeker-sensible ways that someone who has no clue about any of above can understand. Please also note: I'm going to get right into the conversation, which means I won't be pausing to explain to Christians why I've decided to, for example, share directly from Isaiah 53 at one moment but only summarized Sin & Satan from Genesis 3 at another. However, I am certainly open to any questions (or suggestions) afterward re: why I said x, y, or z. My hope is that you can jot down an outline of the points made, the Scripture utilized, and a story/moment/illustration that "grabs you" so that you can re-use them when you share.  

How you can prepare starting today:

  • Pray. Pray for any and every pre-Christian in Cayman who comes to mind that the Holy Spirit would begin to pursue their hearts. Pray that you and your fellow brothers and sisters in SCC would have the courage to invite friends to hear the gospel message answer their most immediate question. Pray against the enemy's desire to block this message from reaching ears that need to hear it. Pray for my explanations of the message from God's Word - I need help! Pray that this effort would extend beyond Jan 2013 and that we will use what we've learned going forward. Pray that lost people would be found as they trust Jesus as God of their life who can forever forgive their rebellion.
  • Wherever you are and with whatever you have nearby, jot down the names of 2-3 friends, co-workers or neighbors who immediately come to mind as you read the above questions. Now, invite them and offer to pick them up!
  • Print out a flyer that one of our church members has worked on and voluntarily paid to have posted this whole week in the Cayman Compass. Post at your work bulletin board or hand to a friend. If the jpeg of the flyer pasted below isn't high quality enough, you can obtain a better image by emailing me at ryan@sunrise.ky. 

You were once lost but now are found. It's time for found people to find people!