Archives For Evangelism

“I don’t know how to explain this other than that God has chosen now as the time for Ethiopia to receive him.

The things we see and the stories we hear seem to be straight out of the book of Acts.”

One year ago, Seth was a senior at the University of Arkansas. He and a friend had committed to going on STINT to Ethiopia but they had no team, no women committed to go. God worked in incredible ways to raise up 3 women to go with them.

Seth sent us this audio last week and we added pictures (actually Michael Allen, our intern video guru) and showed it at our weekly meeting. 4 guys came up after Cru desiring to go to Ethiopia on summer project.

I’d encourage you to watch and be encouraged by how God is moving in Ethiopia (and pray for him to do the same across Africa).

Some great quotes from this 3 minute video:

  • 25 years ago Ethiopia was a closed, Communist nation. Christianity was illegal.
  • Now Ethiopia is open to the gospel and it is spreading like an unquenchable fire.
  • The harvest is plentiful and the laborers, well, not so much.
  • You can be one of these laborers.
  • Consider coming on STINT when you graduate.
  • Please come and help us

 

This is the 2nd post in the series “Marketing Jesus on the Quad”. Click to read the 1st post.

I know. I don’t like the thought of “marketing Jesus” either.

But in this age, “all communication will be perceived as marketing. All self-presentation, even church advertising, will be perceived as branding. And all outreach will be viewed as sales. There is nothing we can do to change this context.” –  Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

So for simplicity, I’ll use the term “marketing” (my goal is not to split hairs over semantics but to think through how we can better communicate the good news to this generation of college students).

As I’ve chewed on the implications of horizontal marketing for college ministry (see my initial post for an intro), I keep coming back to: we’ve got to figure out what we’re “selling”.

What ideas are we hoping students will spread?

What exactly do we want students to talk about?

We want students to talk about Jesus.

But, there’s really TWO things we want students to talk about:

  • Jesus AND Cru (for the sake of brevity I will use “Cru” throughout, but I really mean “Cru or whatever org/church/ministry you’re a part of”)

Think about it: why don’t we just put up posters on campus that say “Come become a follower of Jesus – 8:30 – Tuesday nights”?

Why is our lead foot often to “sell” Cru? And is that wrong?

 

We are unapologetic in wanting to students to passionately promote Cru.

Because we know that through getting involved in a movement like Cru, students will encounter Christ and join His mission to seek and save the lost.

 

Seth Godin captures this thinking well in his book Tribes. It’s essentially a how-to book on how to create a movement that will change the world. And what is the main ingredient? “Humans need to belong . . . and connect around an idea”.

David Mays has a thorough summary/key quotes from Tribes here

 

A movement like Cru provides the key ingredient that will get over student’s indifference and/or antagonism toward God: belonging.

Getting swept up in a movement of peers who love and wholeheartedly serve Jesus.

Many students need to belong before they believe.

Dallas Willard echoes this in his thoughts on evangelism: “Many people will be drawn in without any special strategy but simply by the health of the people.”

 

Seth Godin poses what I think is THE question for horizontal marketing:

“How can we make it easier for people to talk about what they’re up to and what they care about?”

 

The solutions we’re looking for seem to break down into two categories:

  1. How do we make it easier for them to talk about Jesus?
  2. How do we make it easier for them to talk about Cru?

 

And I think both are legitimate (and two pretty different) things:

  1. We want to help our students learn, especially in a new world of social media, how to easily share with their friends what is most important to them (Jesus).
  2. But we also want to make it easy for students to passionately persuade their lost friends to join a movement of believers (Cru) where they will encounter Jesus.

 

So I would love to take on each of these in separate posts in the next few days in hopes that, together, we can figure out how to better accomplish each.

What are you thoughts? What are we marketing- Jesus or Cru? Is there room for both?

 

Marketing Jesus on the Quad

February 22, 2012 — 5 Comments

“P&G To Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering It’s Free To Advertise On Facebook”headline last week

The new age of marketing is great news for college ministry.

Two reasons:

  • Advertising is almost completely free
  • It’s highly dependent on peer relationships

Every year we spend less and less on traditional advertising.

When I first came on staff with Cru we would spend hundreds of dollars on a single ad in the School Newspaper. Even as recently as 3 years ago we invested thousands on yard signs, facebook ads, and posters around campus.

Now we almost exclusively do free “advertising” on Facebook and peer-to-peer word of mouth.

This graphic does a great job summarizing this new era of Horizontal Marketing. It’s well worth clicking to read the full infographic (graphic via @mcryanmac who tweeted “This has very interesting implications for how evangelism on campus moves forward”).

“Horizonal marketing means creating a remarkable product and story and setting it up to spread from person to person.” – Seth Godin

 

I want to take a few posts and figure out together what this new era of marketing looks like in College Ministry.

 

Here’s where we’re headed in the next few posts:

1) What are we marketing?

  • Cru (or church or whatever Christian group)
  • or Jesus

2) Applying Horizontal Marketing to College Ministry

  • Using social media for marketing
  • Peer to peer marketing
    • How can we make it easier for students to talk about what they’re up to and what they care about?

 

Let’s get the ball rolling:

What are some implications you see of how we apply Horizontal Marketing in college ministry?

Two GREAT posts I’ve come across on the Motive and Method for Evangelism:

 

The Motive for Evangelism

The first step toward leading people to become evangelists is to lead them to the waters of the Gospel.

If Jesus isn’t good news to us then we’ll never think He’s good news for others

A willingness to speak comes from a heart that is smitten by the only person in the universe worth talking about, and possibly looking foolish for.

When someone becomes a Christian, we make a big deal about it. We announce it on Sundays. . .we announce it on the web . . . we talk about it constantly. Many Christians report never having seen someone become a Christian before coming to our church. It is extremely encouraging for them to see something supernatural like someone “gittin saved.”

In celebrating someone’s conversion, we are celebrating evangelism. People need to know, especially in the Bible Belt, where Christianity is a cultural relic, that the Holy Spirit is alive and well, making disciples and building God’s Kingdom, and that they themselves can be a part of it. This celebration has awakened many to tell others about Jesus for the first time in their lives. Literally, evangelism begets evangelists.

Click to read the entire article.

Application for us (on this last part): at our weekly meeting we’ve started showing weekly videos of students experiencing life change).

 

The Method of Evangelism

Why you need to learn and memorize a clear way of explaining the gospel. A good apologetic on why you should learn a gospel tract (among other things).

A friend suddenly says to you, “Okay, tell me what this Christianity stuff is all about.” What would you say? Could you explain the gospel clearly in that moment?

Here’s the deal: if you think when the moment finally comes and your friend is ready to listen, that the gospel will flow “instinctively” and smoothly off your lips because, after all, you’ve been a Christian for years, you are wrong! It will come out of your mouth and fall on the floor in a muddled mess.

To be effective witnesses we must work at being able to take what we know in our heads and hearts and clearly express it out of our mouths.

Similar thinking (that’s verbalized in this article) has led me in recent years to a newfound love for the Knowing God Personally tract.

Strongly encourage you to read the entire article.

HT to @pablonunez for tweeting about this article – hooray for Twitter!

 

What are your takeaways from these two articles?

 

photo courtesy of . SantiMB .

The Christian bloggers haven’t been this worked up since Rob Bell’s Love Wins.

The critiques have been pouring in on the very popular video “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” (you can watch it below).

Mega-blogger Justin Taylor tweeted this good perspective:

  • in 6 days 12 million people have watched @JeffuhsonBethke’s “Why I hate religion” video.
  • In 10 months 650,000 watched the Love Wins trailer.

 

Several differences in the two firestorms:

  • Love Wins was an internal fight among Christians.
  • Why I Hate Religion has reached viral status among the broader world.
  • Love Wins was justifiably critiqued. It’s pretty much heresy.
  • The Why I hate religion but love Jesus video is not flawless in its wording but it’s a great attempt at evangelism

 

Tullian Tchividjian responds to the critics with, I think, a very helpful correction that’s well worth the read.

I’ve found that in college ministry our main battle is definitely what Tullian writes: that the gospel is “going to have to be distinguished from religion because “religion” is what most people outside the church think Christianity is all about—rules and . . . cleaning yourself up and politics . . . and self-salvation”

 

Cru’s “Changing Evangelism” research project found an interesting pattern among most non-Christians:

“They are convinced they’ve already heard.

Regardless of how we adapt our evangelistic approaches, it is significant to know that our audience thinks they’ve already heard the message of Jesus (even if, in fact, they haven’t).

We found that 31 of 34 unbelievers we interviewed felt that they’d already heard the message of Jesus . . .

When in fact, most needed someone to correct misconceptions they had about God.

Many New Believers expressed having had misconceptions and a lack of understanding about what it meant to be a Christian. In fact, though many New Believers grew up around Christianity, they would say that they’d never really heard a clear presentation of the gospel before college.”

 

I have found that when you talk to most college students about Jesus they will immediately think you are talking about religion and they will dismiss you out of hand (and won’t hear anything you’re saying). On our campus, one of our chief goals in evangelism is to contrast religion with the gospel (a la Tim Keller: “there are three ways to approach God: Religion, Irreligion, and the Gospel; which makes me think – what does Keller think about all this fuss?? and how come people are lining up to criticize this video when no one has taken on Keller for his use of “religion” as the word to represent a moralistic approach to God).

 

I think the “Why I hate religion” video, while not perfect, definitely creates tension to where a person might for the first time think:

“Maybe I don’t really understand Christianity and the gospel.”

And that’s a great place to start.

 

To be fair, I have tremendous respect for guys like Kevin Deyoung and others who have criticized the video. And Kevin, et al, have some valid (though I’d say relatively minor) quibbles.

And you should definitely read Kevin Deyoung’s post where Jeff Bethke, the creator of the “I hate religion” video writes to Kevin to thank him (with incredible humility) for his loving critique:

“If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly. . . thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder”

 

But one commenter on Tullian’s post says it well:

“This young man should have received a pat on the back, instead he got thrown under the bus by a lot of people who should have known better. Props to him for boldly speaking about Christ in a public medium. Not to mention taking all of the criticism in a humble, teachable way.”

 

As the saying goes: No one has ever built a monument to a critic.

Or to paraphrase another of my favorite sayings: I like the way Jeff is sharing the gospel better than the way they’re not (not saying they don’t share their faith. There just seems to be far more concern for semantics than passion for the lost).

He made a very well produced video that obviously connected with a lot of people (presumably a lot of whom were non-Christians) and created tension on a critical issue, hopefully awakening many to the fact that they really do not understand the amazing news of the gospel.

 

What are your thoughts?

How do you get through to students/others who hear “religion” when you say “Jesus”?

 

 

Teaching How to Fish

January 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

A conversation I had this summer with my brother-in-law:

Me: “How was fishing this morning?”

Brother-in-law: “Um, it was fun in a different way. It was a lot of work.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Brother in law:

“Well, I never got to fish. I took a friend and his kids out fishing.

They’d never been fishing before so I spent the whole time baiting their hooks, netting their fish they caught, retrieving fishing poles the kids dropped overboard. So it wasn’t fun per se. More rewarding than fun- but so fun to see their faces as they caught their first fish.”

What a great metaphor for ministry.

I told my team that story and we used it all fall: “Remember, teach students how to fish even if it means that you don’t get to fish much yourself.”

 

I’m convinced that staff’s primary job is not to do ministry but to equip others to do ministry.

But the problem is that most staff go into full time ministry to fish not to make fishers of men.

 

If you’re interested you can read more thoughts here on how staff’s job is to get more people on the playing field (and how empowered leadership is what Millennials crave). [Update: apparently that linked post no longer exists. I’ll work on getting it back up]

 

What that’s looked like for us:

  • In the midst of a crazy first week of following up thousands of contacts, Jon (one of our senior staff) spent his first day of follow up with 4 new Community Group leaders walking through how to call contacts and what to do during follow up. He “lost” a valuable afternoon of follow up but was able to equip and mobilize 4 students to pursue freshmen.
  • Staff never share their faith alone. Staff Success in evangelism= sharing the gospel while a student leader watches/learns.

 

What has “Teaching How to Fish” looked like for you and your team?

 

photo courtesy of Tassava

Part 2 of a discussion on doing more ministry online.
Read Part 1 (and the great discussion in the comments) here.

Think about what you would say to a brand new staff on your college campus:

“Here’s what you need to think through in order to be effective in doing ministry online . . .”

 

When it comes to doing college ministry online, there at least three different areas to think through:

  1. How does your ministry as a whole interact online with students (Facebook page, website, ministry Twitter account, etc)?
  2. How does your ministry interact beyond your local focus (generate/share resources with others, etc)?
  3. How does each staff do ministry online?

I’m passionate about all three.

But for this post, lets just focus on the third.

 

This is something I know many of us have wrestled with over the last few years and,

I’d love for us (tapping into the wisdom of the crowd) to compile a set of guiding principles on how to do (more) college ministry online.

I’ll get us started with a few:

1) Make it easy/quick for yourself to interact with students online:

  • Get on Facebook AND Twitter
  • Follow/Friend as many students on Twitter and Facebook as possible
  • Get a smart phone – I do 90% of my connecting with students online in just 5 minute gaps during my day, in between appointments or sitting at a stop light.

2) Only do online ministry during cold hours

  • I can’t say it any better than Andrew Wise in his comments on the previous post:

“It seems to me that a face to face interaction would be the best kind of ministry. So, given a limited number of hours, I’m going to fill as many of those hours as I can with face to face ministry. Judging by my experiences in the past, I am not going to be able to fill up all of those hours for various reasons (before lunch is usually no good, students in class, etc…). In those hours, perhaps I could be figuring out better ways to be an online ministry presence. I would not use hot hours (by definition the hours when students are most likely to meet face to face) for online ministry unless something doesn’t go as planned and I can’t fill those hours.”

3) Use social media to move toward or reinforce face to face ministry.

“The best way to take advantage of social media is to be savvy about using social media to move toward or reinforce face to face ministry” – Andrew Wise

 

Do you agree or disagree with those first few? What would you change?

How would you finish the sentence: “Here’s what you need to think through in order to be effective in online (and on-campus) ministry . . .”

What guiding principles would you add to the list?

 

photo courtesy of x-ray delta one

Continuing our series on Focus in Discipleship. Read Tim Norman’s first two posts in the series: What We Talk about, They Talk About (the most viewed post I’ve ever had on my blog!) and 5 Things We Want Every Student to Experience.

Based on this idea of exposing your team to great leaders, I asked Dan Allan (Cru director in St. Louis) to come spend two days with our team and students (and speak at our weekly meeting). It’s been phenomenal.

Dan’s focus in discipleship is two-fold:

We must delight ourselves in Jesus and His gospel

From Dan: “We talk about what we like. I like Cardinal baseball so I read about it. I talk about it. I don’t know everything there is to know, but I engage in conversations all the time. This is the environment for multiplication. We must feed them the gospel in such a manner that they are captivated by Christ and talk of Him everywhere.”

 

We must persist in sharing our faith

“One of our great challenges is getting out of the coffee shops and back into the student unions to meet with students and do evangelism during our appointments.

It’s the thing we’re tempted to talk about a lot, but when it comes to doing it, we don’t do it. As staff, we need to go share our faith with students.

I prefer “filtered” evangelism through a friend’s network of relationships, but we want to share our faith however God opens the doors.”

Dan and his team aim for shorter content during their appointments so that they have time to share the gospel at least once every two times they meet with a student.

On a side note, it’s Dan’s aim to take his staff guys out sharing EVERY time he meets with them (Confession: something I NEVER do).

 


I love the simplicity and focus of this. I love the Gospel focus. It meshes with this idea of what “Going Deep” means.

Dan and his team are intentionally narrow in focus. They fight the temptation of “Getting Too Fancy”.

Dan- “We are simple. Our systems have to be simple in order to be reproducible by students and volunteers.”

What do you think about Dan’s two things?
How do you keep focus in discipleship?


This is part 2 of a guest series on Focus in Discipleship by Tim Norman. To catch up, read his first post: What We Talk, They Talk About.

Today – Tim Norman’s thoughts on 5 Things We Want Every Student to Experience.

For those of you who just want to get the highlights, I’ll list Tim’s 5 Experiences in brief at the top and then you can read the description of each one further below:

In an earlier post, I talked about the need for focus in personal discipleship. I operate under that premise that I have limited time with a person to help them forward in their relationship with God. For the vast majority of students I will sit down in a one-on-one setting fewer than 10 times. Some, I will only get together with a few times. What will I talk about during those times?

I’ll share with you five things that our ministry team wanted every first-year student to experience during their involvement with us. This was our attempt to answer the question, if a freshman has been involved with us what can I assume that have experienced? These are experiences and exposure to content. They are not necessarily the values and convictions we wanted people to hold. That would be a slightly different list.

  1. Share the gospel with the person using the Knowing God Personally booklet.
  2. Share with the person about the role of the Holy Spirit in their life.
  3. Talk with them about having a personal time reading God’s Word.
  4. Talk with them about sexual purity and God’s desire for them.
  5. Give them an opportunity to see the gospel shared with another person.

So, many things we offer students could easily experience somewhere else. But, friends, modeling conversations that share the gospel is one of our distinct contributions.

[Note: This was the key insight for me as CCC staff- There’s a lot of places students can get this stuff but we are one of the only places where they will get this: a chance (and training) to share their faith. They feel like they should share their faith (but no one told me how) – so they’re loaded up with guilt. We say, not just “do it” but “let’s do it together”.]

Those are five things I wanted our students to experience. Perhaps, I’m assuming others. I know that I wanted people to go to church or get connected with the movement. But, honestly, I so rarely saw people that were not getting that invitation that I didn’t feel it necessary to beat that drum. I’d love to hear from you.

What key experiences do you aim to give those who come in to your movement?

 

Here’s a fuller description of each of the 5 from Tim:

1) Share the gospel with the person using the Knowing God Personally booklet.

We want people to experience the joy and freedom of knowing God through his gracious provision for us. Some students come to our movements as believers in Christ. Some are non-believers. Some are make-believers. I found that I didn’t want to assume that just because someone had come to a Christian event that they were a believer.

Last year, I talked to a freshman defensive lineman who came out to the first few FCA meetings of the year. When I asked if Anthony would like to get together to talk about how to grow in a relationship with God, he eagerly said yes. When I sat down with him, I started walking through the Knowing God Personally booklet assuming that he already believed it. Why else would a NCAA Division I athlete show up to a Christian meeting the first few weeks of the school year? To my surprise, Anthony said, “I’ve never heard this. I just thought that I should give this religion stuff a look.” A few weeks later, Anthony trusted Christ. Don’t assume that because people come to a Christian meeting they know what it means to have a relationship with God. They may be just like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and be seeking to see Jesus.

Also, I want people to know that what we are excited about as a movement is Jesus and what he does in our lives through the gospel. Too easily we can preach the gospel of Cru or the gospel of our church and not the gospel of Jesus. What I mean is that we meet a student and we tell them how great Cru is, how great the worship is at our church, how great our small groups are, etc. But, I want people to know, we’re pretty excited about Jesus; he’s a big deal to us. Such a big deal that we talk to others about him.

But, what about someone that you are confident is already a believer? I still say share the gospel with them. I grew up in a church that fervently talked about the importance of sharing the gospel with others. They exhorted me to share Christ with someone every week or 60 times in 60 days. I always signed the dotted line saying that I would do it. But, I never saw anyone else do it. To someone whom you know to already be a believer, say “I know you may already know this, but I’d love to share it with you with the goal that God would use you to influence others.” Also, it helps clarify what we are about to others.

2) Share with the person about the role of the Holy Spirit in their life.

I’ve done this a number of ways, including the Satisfied? booklet, a couple of basic Bible studies that are part of the Life Concept Series, or just walking through passages like Galatians 5 or 1 Corinthians 2. Ultimately, I want people to grasp that the truth expressed in the following statement from the Satisfied? booklet:

“The essence of the Christian life is what God does in and through us, not what we do for God. Christ’s life is reproduced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be directed and empowered by Him.”

3) Talk with them about having a personal time reading God’s Word.

I’ve written about this on my blog, The Exchange.

4) Talk with them about sexual purity and God’s desire for them.

I will write more about how I go about this in a future post.  The issue of sexual purity is as pressing today as it was in the first-century Greco-Roman world in which the epistles in the New Testament were written.

Many people have never heard what God desires for them in the area of purity or their understanding of how to go about it is littered with misconceptions. I came to a place where I assumed that the people I knew were struggling with this area of life until I knew otherwise.

5) Give them an opportunity to see the gospel shared with another person.

I want people to experience the joy of being used by God in his plan of bringing the world to himself. I want to help people get over the misconceptions and fears they have of sharing their faith with others.

Several years ago, I was meeting with a freshman named Jared. After we had sat down a handful of times, we began talking about God’s desire to use Jared to reach others with the gospel. I could see that Jared wanted to share his faith. One afternoon Jared and I shot some pool in his lobby and walked up to his room.  When we got up to his room, his roommate was unpacking his bag from the day. I knew from Jared that his roommate most likely wasn’t yet a believer. I took the opportunity to ask his roommate a few questions and share the gospel with him. Jared jumped in the conversation a few times. That may have been the first time he was able to share his faith, but it wasn’t the last.

I would have given anything as a high school student or a young college student for someone to model for me what it looked like to share the gospel. I wanted others to know Christ, and I had a desire to be used by God. But I wasn’t certain what to do in a conversation. My conversations ranged from heated arguments to monotonous soliloquies.



photo courtesy of kylesteed

 

“The Critical question for our generation – and for every generation – is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding NO?”
– John Piper – God is the Gospel



Very challenging thoughts from John Piper.  Especially as it relates to the good news that we proclaim. When we share our faith, what is the good news that we are offering? Fire insurance? Salvation from pain/suffering? A few more:

“Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate?”

“Readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus . . . and being change into his likeness”

Download and read the book in its entirety for free in this PDF (don’t you love John Piper and Desiring God’s generosity??).


The question I have: what does this look like in real life (for me, talking to college students)- If you just knock on a guy’s dorm room and tell him, I have the best news imaginable, you can spend your eternity gazing upon Jesus . . . how do you think that will go? ?

What do you think: In our presentation of the gospel, how do we preach Christ alone while still appealing to uninterested college students?

I think Piper gives us a hint:

Unintelligible good news is not even news, let alone good. . . When the gospel is proclaimed, it must be explained. . . How have we dishonored the King? What is the price that has to be paid? [and why?]”

What have you seen be effective in proclaiming Christ while explaining a sometimes unintelligible (to postmodern college students) good news?