Crossroads Denver Blog–A Place to Connect Online

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Welcome to our Crossroads blog.  Our desire is that this will become a place that you can access any time you’re online to interact with others about a wide range of topics relating to the Christian life. This site will also offer information and news about what is happening at Crossroads Church of Denver.

The idea is to have a place where people can interact and share articles, ideas, information, challenges, comfort and fun.  Our world view on this site of course, will be first and foremost Christian since our primary desire is to be a home away from home for the community of Crossroads Denver.  Our ultimate hope for this site however is that this could be a safe place for individuals from all walks of life and places of origin to come and gather in cyberspace when they are in need of connection, interaction and fellowship.  Please feel free to register your opinions and any desires that you might have for this blog.

In order to comment on a blog you must click on the title of a post that interests you and you will see a reply or comment box appear at the bottom of the thread. A thread is a post plus any comments that have been written in response to that post.  Comments are listed in the order they are received.

When you comment you will be required to leave your e-mail address in order to comment (but don’t worry it will not be made public).  You will have to leave a name in order to post and that name will be posted (but never fear) you can use your real name or a nickname or pseudonym in order to post your comment.

Don’t be shy the only way a blog community is born is if someone takes the risk to be a part.

 

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Where Were You in the Seventies??? My Jesus People Memories and Why Jesus People Reunions Rock On!… By Maryellen Stipe

Tom and Maryellen Stipe During the Jesus Movement

When most people search back through the annals of their memories and remember the life changing passages in their lives they often think back to high school or college.

They remember the schools they attended, the relationships they had there, and the music that played in the background.

But when I think back on my life molding times—I am different.

I’m different because it was not the hallowed halls of an educational institution that profoundly shaped me. I am not without an educational alma-mater but the influence that sent me on my life course did not come from there.

What profoundly formed my life was a spiritual time—a special period of “God history.” And the spiritual environment, the spiritual experiences and the relationships that I tasted then are the elements that make up the indelible imprints of my young adulthood.

I consider myself fortunate to be one of “thousands” of so-called “Jesus freaks”– individuals whose teens and twenties were dominated by no less than Jesus himself. We are an unusual bunch, who when thinking of “where were you in the seventies?” don’t think of a school or a stadium, or even a war, but instead think of three words—The Jesus Movement.

The Jesus Movement was a culture unto itself—a counter-culture expression contrasting a youthful society gone mad. By the grace of God, at a time when evil raised up a banner extolling free sex, drugs and eastern mysticism, the Almighty raised up a standard of His own. To a generation looking for love in all the wrong places God lifted up his Son and His Divine love and thousands including me flocked to Him.

There was never a time before or has there ever been a time since when God moved so dramatically on young people. It was “revival” –and a spiritual Wind moved across a generation whisking tens of thousands into its influence. My life was dramatically changed by that Wind and my choice for a mate, my calling, and my lifestyle were cast in its wake.  I chose to follow Jesus and I have never looked back.

As a result, the story of my youth will never be encapsulated in a yearbook. Instead, the saga of my young years is tied to a dynamic people—the Jesus People—and their culture.

Yes, we had our own culture. We had our own brand of religion, with its own liturgy and a new spiritual jargon. We had our own dress; our own music and we even had our own folk heroes.

It was the music, which was a new type of sacred song that was the most defining element of our “spiritual culture.” And the music was pioneered by an elite group of young minstrels. The band that was at the epicenter of the musical awakening taking place was a group of redeemed “rockers” called Love Song.

The young guys who made up Love Song were unlikely “Levites.” They were not the beneficiaries of a long religious heritage, like the worship leaders of old; instead God drafted them off the street.  They came out of the “hippie” culture they were called to juxtaposition and God gave them inspired songs for the spiritual climate he was creating. They became the “pied pipers” of the movement, calling young participants to follow The Master.

Tom Stipe preaching in “Tent” at Calvary Chapel during the Jesus Movement

As I said, we also had our own folk heroes, these were teens that God raised up from amongst us to take the forefront leading the new sacred gatherings we were initiating. Jesus music concerts were one of the staples of the spiritual life of the Jesus People and they were almost always punctuated by the messages of young evangelists.  I married one of these evangelists/folk heroes and nearly forty years later we are still making disciples.

I never went to one of my high school or college reunions, but through the years I have attended several “Jesus People Reunions.”  These events are extremely popular because they help true “Jesus People” to remember the happenings that for most of us eclipsed everything else in our young lives. We have a chance at these gatherings to sing the old songs, to raise our hands in the same holy ways and to consider once again the spiritual truths that have always been so important.

These reunions, while misunderstood by many, are immensely clear in their importance to those who actually lived through the Jesus Movement. They are meaningful and bring to our remembrance the sacred times that carved out our personalities and determined our futures. At these events we have an opportunity to savor the spiritual essence of a time gone by while we worship the Savior who’s always the same and who we will always love!

On September 15th at 6:30, Crossroads Church of Denver will host the Love Song Reunion Tour with Chuck Smith; also on hand will be hundreds of Jesus People who actually lived through that incredible time in history. I will be there with my husband Tom Stipe. Tom and I moved to Denver in 1976 to plant a Jesus Movement type church in Colorado. We were on staff with Chuck Smith from 1970 until 1976 and during that time Tom was the staff evangelist in charge of the Saturday Night Maranatha Concerts.

We invite you to come and join us for what we are sure will be a life-changing concert with Love Song and Chuck Smith. If you are a Christian who dates back to the Jesus Movement days please come ready to be part of a heart warming reunion and if you are one who wants to just come and check out what you have heard about this incredible band please feel welcomed. I am sure no one will go away without experiencing a blessing and a dose of God’s love. God’s love in abundance was one of the hallmarks of the Jesus Movement and it’s the same yesterday, today and forever!

For a taste of the time, I’ve included the following excerpt from an article from a local newspaper of the period. This posting is a part of just one of the many articles that I have collected that reported on the spiritual happenings in the tent that Calvary Chapel called home during the Jesus Movement. This particular piece is one of my favorites because it captures the preaching of my husband Tom Stipe.

Sunday March 31, 1974 Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram (from article “Jesus on Campus”)

Tom Stipe, the folk hero of Calvary Chapel comes on after the large, youthful congregation has warmed up with an hour of moving ballads interspersed with deep-bass, hand-clapping Jesus rock from the musicians of Love Song, one of the chapel’s nationally known rock groups. He’s wearing faded jeans, a blue work shirt and tousled, shoulder length hair. Stipe is a showman, but he mocks his own showmanship, dropping into a Southern preacher drawl that delights the teenagers.

“Now when ah got saved, ah wasn’t falling into the depths,” he drawls. “Ah was into the whole party thing in pursuit of fun—you know the kinda guy who is driving around at three in the morning to see it anybody is still awake…” Laughter rocks the light-flooded chapel.  It’s Saturday night and it’s the biggest Jesus show around. For local high school and college students, it’s the Southland’s religious mecca.  They come driving down to South Santa Ana from as far as the San Fernando Valley and San Diego.

“Now, everybody thinks they can get more from Pier One in Newport Beach than from Jesus Christ,” Stipe preaches. “They think they can get more action on Long Beach Boulevard or Pacific Coast Highway than from the Lord…Before I got saved I always thought that if you became a Christian, you’d become like a stone, You know,” he says, dropping into a deep, moronic voice. “duh I am a Christian.” And people would just roll you around. (Roars of laughter). Well let me tell you what it’s really like…”

More Toxic Than Chernobyl by Tom Stipe

I am one of those fortunate guys that experience a unique blessing everyday. It’s not the companionship of a faithful dog or a trustworthy pickup truck that starts every morning. It’s my wife telling me she loves me at least once a day. She apparently means it because whenever I challenge her sincerity with an “Oh, come on” or some such refrain she just restates the oft spoken phrase. I’ve actually come to enjoy it…. thrive on it to be perfectly honest.

I’ve discovered that being loved sort of gets me through the day. It silences the many voices of those that don’t exactly share my wife’s feelings for me. Her love is part of the necessary infrastructure that supports and nurtures my very existence.

I’ve also known a few men whose wives have confessed that they actually hate their husbands. There are some really unhappy wives out there. They’ve snarled that they are appalled at the sight and smell of their husbands. Angry spouses so filled with contempt that they can’t stand the thought of intimacy with such a beast. Now those are some unfortunate dudes. Those marriages and families are doomed without some serious help. Resolving such hateful feelings is critical to the survival of such families.

HATE: verb; to express or feel extreme enmity, to find distasteful, Synonyms- detest, abhor, abominate or loathe.

Sounds like ugly stuff.  Marriages and families thrive on love and die in an environment of animosity. The family of God is no different.

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11 (NKJV)

My understanding is that stumbling around in the dark is a bad thing. As old as I am I still have “night lights” everywhere in my house. If the grand kids leave a toy on the floor my big toe will find it in the dark. There seems to be a direct connection between light and less foot pain in my life. It’s a lot easier finding my way around the house with the lights on.

Walking in darkness paints a picture of blindness.

Being blind, while tragic, is not the end of the world. A blind person normally learns to compensate for his or her disability.  My wife’s grandfather was blinded when he was struck by a Chicago Tribune truck in the 1930’s. He was a well-known racehorse trainer with connections around the country. I always respected his ability to travel around America with white stick in hand, independently carrying on with his life. How he lit his own cigarettes by himself and counted out his own money. How he found his way to the bus stations and trains that took him around to racetracks everywhere. While I admired his courage and tenacity that didn’t mean I wanted to be blind.

I believe that today, the Church of Jesus Christ, on many fronts, is living a life compensating for its blindness due to hate. I have watched entire movements and groups stridently promoting their own traditions, prejudices and hatreds while striving to find their own way to success. They carefully juxtapose themselves against the “other guy” thinking that divisiveness will bolster their popularity, individuality and significance. There is so much division, hatred and strife over the most insignificant issues that the heavens are darkened by our inability to love each other. And we call that fellowship?

Many Christians can’t seem to see and appreciate the diversity that makes up God’s family. They are blind to the fact that we are all on the same side as brothers and sisters in Christ in the fight against evil. When did our brothers become our enemy anyway? And how many times can we offset all that Jesus said about unity by repeating over and over …“How can two walk together unless they agree?”

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 (NKJV)

Who would want to join a family of killers? Too many pastors are finding out the answer to that question with shrinking churches after they join the bandwagon of brother bashing. And too many preachers that I know are offering up eternal life in their Sunday sermonizing while crafting special attacks against other believers who don’t line up with their unique interpretations of scripture.

Then there are the self-appointed “Discernment Ministries.”  Those online wanna-be “apologists” who produce more vitriol and poison than the Chernobyl disaster. While establishing dubious doctrinal criteria by which all are to be judged, these so-called discernment “ministries” condemn to hell some of America’s finest leaders and authors.

They are dispensing a commodity that may as well be labeled POISON and exposure to toxic substances can be lethal.

Did you know that for every photograph that you’ve seen of the Russian Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown there is a dead photographer? Not one photojournalist survived the massive exposure to radioactivity while capturing images. And likewise, people die spiritually when exposed to hateful, toxic “Christians.”

He who does not love his brother abides in death. 1 John 3:14 (NKJV)

I don’t think I can fully appreciate the gravity of this verse but I’m pretty sure it’s “all” bad. To abide means to “live” there. And death, well you know dead…means dead. I can’t imagine waking up every morning and considering which fellow believers I’m going to destroy before the coffee gets cold. I think the so-called, “Discernment” crowd needs the clarity to determine who is actually in God’s family and treat them as such. If not they will continue to administer toxicity and death to people God loves.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)

Apparently the Apostle John was pretty serious about this subject. He just couldn’t leave it alone. So far we’ve got dead, blind, murdering liars who live on Dead Street and don’t love God. This is a litany of things no one should ever want to be, but apparently can be.

Every self-respecting evangelical I know would like to see a revival in our time. It would be an outpouring of God’s love so vast that multitudes of people are swept into the Kingdom of God as new converts to Jesus. In my opinion, that’s not going to happen any time soon due to the current state of mind harbored by many churches and movements today.

We used to sing “Love, love, love, love…Christians this is your call.”

And we used to mean it!

As Good As It Gets–A Message To Baby Boom Christians By Tom Stipe

I can still remember my sixth grade graduation and the theme of the principle’s final speech to my fidgety throng. His words sting a little now as I think back, something having to do with, “You have your whole lives ahead of you.”

Three short years later, my Junior High ceremony featured a similar oration; it was a dissertation aimed at pointing out to me, “my bright future just waiting to be lived.”

And then finally came my High School graduation with over 900 again fidgety fellow students enduring the same declaration, “You have your whole lives ahead of you,” this time with the underlying current of–“You better make something of yourselves.”

These pontifications could all be summed up with a “don’t be a loser” subheading.

Some of us went on to college, where we were launched toward the fate of the Young Upward Mobility Professionals or “yuppies” as we were called.  It seemed to me that “yuppiedom” was an approach to life that was based on a philosophy that demanded nothing less than success in any life pursuit or venture.

Before long, the more highly motivated among us began to take their place in the world, hammering out a living in the “post-hippy” landscape of the 70’s and 80’s. The infants born during the post WWII baby boom were adults now. The inventors of rock n’ roll were all grown up, focused and “large and in charge.” There were 78 million of us.

The so-called, “Rock Generation” was the largest people group to ever move through a society. We wrote our own music, made our own movies and owned the arts.  We had the largest selection of the opposite sex to choose our spouses from—more than any other generation that had come before us.  Someone compared us to a cultural “pig in a python.”

We didn’t blend with culture–we were the culture.

With perfectionism and obsession, we used our youth and sheer numbers to build things. We built empires, industries, companies, businesses and more. With careful adherence to details, we invented our own sports, hobbies and manufactured the original equipment to enjoy them.  In the youthful culture that we were establishing; health and fitness rose to the top of our priority lists. We invented “jogging” and “leg warmers.”

Gratefully somewhere near the beginning of all of this, our all-wise God inserted a spiritual revival that the media dubbed the “Jesus Movement.” It was a “spiritual revolution” where many “pre-yuppie” young people found faith in God through Jesus Christ. I was one of the lucky ones who experienced God during the Jesus “deluge” of the era.  We were true believers on the front end of a generation bent on changing the world.

Faith became mixed with the Rock Generations gathering speed, hurdling us toward our future. For many, faith became inextricably connected to the materialism and the exploding economy of the era. This was a strange and sometimes unfortunate combination for young people of faith. We were facing the complexities of life coming at us at the speed of sound.

Jump ahead four decades.

The “rockers” now face their sixties and a new generation has taken their place.

It’s a techno society that many of us may never fully understand. The majority of  “50 and 60 somethings” only receive and make calls on those little “super” computers called cell phones. My thumbs are just too old to “text.”

We are about to enjoy the financial promises of the “seniors discount” and dealing with relentless mail from the AARP. We are engaging in conversations with others our age about every physical malady we possess and surprisingly enough enjoying it.

The economy that waits for our retirement is frightening and unpredictable like a pet lion waiting in the backyard…”Here kitty, kitty.”

Our children have grown to be adults and are making their own decisions with or without our approval. They may never own houses as nice as the ones they grew up in. We, on the other hand, always expected to exceed our parent’s success, but then that was the “yuppie” mantra–“onward and upward.”

Now that 40 years have gone by, the “boomers” have either succeeded or failed in the relentless pursuit of “upward mobility” and success.

We have lived life for better or for worse and are pausing to grade our progress like approaching the end of a semester. It is more than a little threatening. The finish line is in sight and the race has nearly been run.  Now it seems that the only thing left is the inevitable looming question, “How did we do”?

In the 1997 movie, “As Good As It Gets” starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, there is a memorable scene in which Nicholson’s character reinforces the film’s title. Leaving his psychiatrists office, Melvin Udall (Nicholson) passes through a waiting area filled with sullen, self-absorbed patients; then he pauses and asks, “What if this is as good as it gets?” It is a question that he leaves hanging in the air with no obvious answer as he leaves.

What about us? What if this is it? Jesus hasn’t returned yet, although things are looking pretty good for that these days. Life goes on. The future that was ahead of us has arrived. The married life we dreamed of has come and–in some cases–gone.

The perfect children we wanted to raise perfectly are all grown up and are as imperfect as we are. What we set out to be–after the graduation speeches we endured–we have become–or not. The home schooled graduated in their own living rooms and are now enrolled in the real school of life. What if this is as good as it gets?

And what about that Christian life we picked up along the way…

After 40 years of evangelism declaring what God was going to do–“for us”–with little teaching about endurance and trial by fire–we are spoiled “little evangelical” boomers. We are not able to face trouble.

Woefully, it is true, that our pastors and leaders may not have prepared us boomers for the realities of suffering. Pastors have gotten preoccupied with keeping people instead of equipping them and as a result many older believers are not ready to deal with the decline that comes with aging.

We don’t know how to manage failure at life or love. The Jesus, we simply added to our lifestyles, may never have been the “Lord of the Life”–we’ve lived up until now. It could be that the trek through life that defined our generation has turned us into a bunch of self-seeking consumers attempting to buy happiness and fulfillment.

When we can’t get the good life by our own efforts we try to extract it out of other people. With no more rungs to climb on the ladder of success we find ourselves in many cases lonely, miserable and certainly not at the top of our game.

We have enough “barely used” recreational equipment in the garage to support an Olympic team and enough other “stuff” to supply a small country. We don’t listen to music in the car anymore; instead we listen to talk shows.

Many people are disappointed with their lives these days and sometimes these disappointed people blame God for their woes. They often abandon Him and His church.

Remember that piece about faith? You know that often ignored relationship with Jesus that you brought along for this long ride?

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matt 7:24-25 (NKJV)

Where have you built your life? What happens when the floods come?  The “Rock Generation” needs to determine which “Rock” they want to identify with—while paying attention to what the next verse has to say about the ultimate goal in life.

It seems that we all know about heaven but what about NOW?

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 1 Tim 6:6-8 (NKJV)

I believe contentment is the next great goal for us graying “yuppies” because the “Y” in that euphemism is gone and the “U” and the “P” aren’t doing all that well either.

Great gain is being content to love God with all your heart, mind and soul.  It is being content to serve Him with the time, energy and money that you have left on this earth.  It means living peacefully exhibiting a grateful heart for what you have and trusting in Him with what you don’t have. Former “rockers” that we are, we must rise up–proving the Rolling Stones wrong–and “get some satisfaction”.

The “Rock Generation” has had a good run on life and while we may not be ready to drop dead yet–we are facing transitions. We baby boomers have adult children, fading parents, retirement issues, declining health and huge financial challenges. We are redefining marriage in the empty nest and the list of life changes that we will need to survive this transition grows.

In the wake of all this–the bottom line is–we need JESUS more than ever!

And we need fellow believers more than ever. Church membership is proving to be more important to us now, than ever before, because–to be blunt–the need to belong expands at this stage of life.

My point is–albeit slightly different than the point of the movie–if this is truly as good as it gets, we as aging “boomers” still have Jesus, the family of God and each other. And I, for one, can live with that!

It Could Have Been Worse by Tom Stipe

We were packing our final articles of clothing that evening for a morning flight that would take our group on a tour to Israel. We had planned it for a year. Maryellen and I are seasoned tour teachers and we were ready to go. I was already snoozing and Maryellen was about to zip her bag closed when the phone rang with a call that every parent dreads…“Is this Tom Stipe, the father of Brett Thomas Stipe…‘Yes’…Your son has been in an accident, he was hit by an SUV while riding his bicycle…” If you have never received that kind of call, as a parent you probably have imagined the horror of it and I hope it never happens to you.

We raced our way to the trauma center where I found my son lying in the Surgical ICU bleeding profusely out of his right ear with fresh abrasions covering most of his face. Over his right eye was an impact wound that the surgeons were preparing to stitch closed. The CT scan showed bleeding on the brain that they deemed “not critical.” My first thought as a typical non-medical civilian was, “How can a brain bleed not be critical?” The scan showed a skull fracture that ran from the base of his skull through his middle ear thus the bleeding and the discovery of hearing loss.

Then I heard it for the first time–from somewhere behind me–in the hustle of medical staff, “It could have been so much worse.” I was stunned by the statement that I had heard applied to so many other people in the past.  But I was game for the journey into the land of Oz…“He cudda and then it shudda and you know it cudda been worse.”

Indeed, I pondered the newly introduced non-realities. Yes, he could have died. He could have had many broken bones but didn’t. He could have injured his spine but was spared. He could have had internal bleeding but no such sign. He could have had serious brain damage instead of a “brain injury.” It could have been a lot of things but instead it was what it was…just really horribly bad.

During the next five days, four of which were in the SICU, we heard “It could’ve been worse,” a hundred times. “Some people never leave this hospital” we were reminded again and again. After a while and with considerable guilt, I made a decision about all the imagined scenarios meant to make us feel better. I determined that trying to live in that mindset for comfort was really an act of blind gratitude and not faith.  It was a false Neverland of what might have been. A mysterious LaLa Land of “there-there” that distracted me from the obvious truth…what is, is really, really BAD in and of itself and that is what I have to take to God.

It was not someone else’s bad or worse but my own set of reactions to real time suffering. The Bible calls these feelings “lament” and there’s even a book in the Good Book that bears that name, Lamentations. This is the real time, current, actual, in front of your eyes panic and fear at the sight of a loved one suffering and facing life altering consequences. “It could have been worse” does nothing for me at that point because it is NOT what is. What is, is what we take to God in a panic of prayer, nothing more, nothing less. The rest is religious decoration.

David bares his soul to God in Psalm 55,

My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me. 6 So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Psalms 55:4-6 (NKJV)

Praise the Lord, it could have been worse” is a fine place to visit for thanksgiving, prayer, praise, thought’s of angelic protection, the imaginings of spiritual warfare and all of the rest. Where you live in the moment I’m describing, however–is, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God have mercy”–and that is where honesty and authenticity with God meet.

The tendency for people, especially Christians, is to try too hard to say the right spiritual thing. “You lost an arm but at least you have another one”….”Look, your son is eating his Jello this morning in the ICU, Praise God.” Or in another personal example “Your granddaughter has Down Syndrome but at least she has the very best kind.” While well meaning, many believers don’t understand the many different levels of lament and sorrow. We are so accustomed to surface communication in the church today that “I just don’t know what to say” turns into saying something dumb albeit spiritual.” We need to go deeper than the shallow “Christianese” language that dominates the landscape of believers and their fellowship of suffering (more to come on that).

A lesson can be learned from Jeremiah,

“For these things I weep; My eye, my eye overflows with water; Because the comforter, who should restore my life, Is far from me. My children are desolate because the enemy prevailed.” Lam. 1:16 (NKJV)

This may not be theologically true but it is how Jeremiah felt at that moment of pain and abandonment. If my faith in the sovereignty of God is supposed to be a fast acting opiate, meant to mood alter me through the hurt and outrage of the moment, then that drug will have to wait. I will eventually become the “Romans 8:28 boy”, I’m supposed to be.  But for now the fear, worry, anger and the host of other parental emotions must flow freely, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”… reminds me, “LIFE… is not a fly over“!

Do We Still Need to Share Our Faith? By Tom Stipe

As we begin this fresh study of the Book of Acts together it has become abundantly clear this early church document is made up of a sequence of personal confrontations. Over and over again we see encounters between parties of one belief and those of another; the challenge of the claims of Christ presented to one group or individual after another. Each story is different, but the mission is the same. The man at the temple gate, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Simon the Sorcerer, Lydia, the philosophers on Mars Hill, the silversmiths of Ephesus and so on are all narratives about Christians spreading their testimony of faith in Christ. Story after story reports believers sharing and demonstrating their belief in the resurrected Christ.

Today, one poll after another seems to indicate Christians are becoming more passive about presenting their beliefs. Only 33% of born-again evangelicals consider it their responsibility to share their faith! During the 80’s there was no net new evangelism, meaning that nationwide there were just enough new conversions to replace Christians that died during that entire decade. The 90’s gave us “political correctness” and moral relativism. The first decade of the 2000’s tagged believers as backward, bigoted religious fanatics who need to keep their mouths shut. Many have bought into the propaganda, feeling they need to apologize for believing in Jesus. However, Christians everywhere still need to evaluate this important dynamic called Evangelism.

The world says, “Mind your own business,” and claims modern progressive thinking accepts every religion as true. It’s socially unacceptable and politically incorrect to “impose” your beliefs on someone. Truth is relative to the individual. Right and wrong is simply a product of personal preference. Then this same mindset complains when they see an otherwise normal citizen witness a rape, child kidnapping, theft or murder and prefer to “not get involved.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) He also says Christians are “a light unto the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel. They put it on a candle stick so that it gives light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15) These strong statements of truth identify us with the Great Commission given to the disciples!

In today’s society, we cannot afford to be silent and without an opinion! There is too much at stake, and the question remains: Are you the light or the lampshade? Your friends, family and fellow humans have to deal with the claims of Christ, or they’re threatened with no relationship with their Creator forever.s If those claims are never presented, then there is a tragedy in the making. Paul reveals his value for communicating his message with cold honesty, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the gentiles.” (Acts 18:6b) Paul understood it was the responsibility of the hearer to decide the truth of his message, but it was clearly his responsibility to present it. He seems to have taken an Old Testament commission into his New Testament ministry philosophy. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezekiel 3:17-19)

Jesus gave His commission clearly in the closing words of Matthew with a resounding… “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Sometimes believers are confused about what the Great Commission means to them. We don’t know where to begin in an average conversation about faith. We’re not sure how to defend our faith, especially with the growing cultural disdain for Christians and frequent attacks on the values we represent. There is a great deal of fear associated with “witnessing” for Christ, and I think we have to face it with courage and boldness that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Whether in casual conversation, deep discussion or open debate, we need to be willing to give the Holy Spirit a chance to be upon us and our words. To remain silent out of fear or general disregard is no longer acceptable. Compassion and care of this world is a driving force we share with God Himself, and He sent His Son and the power of the Holy Spirit to express it. Whether it is with those closest to you, strangers on a plane, visitors to your home or divine appointments during the course of a day, we have to decide how much of the Commission we share with Jesus… and how much Jesus we share with others. It may be time for us to hang up the bushel, to take the lampshade off, and go about the business of being the light of the world.

PUTTING IT INTO ACTION:

1.  Read- Truth taken in is the only way truth can come out.

2.  Blog- There are many Christian websites where open discussion can sharpen your thinking without the fears associated with face-to-face encounters. We’ll call it “training” for the faint of heart.

3.  Write out your testimony- You may never read it to anybody, but it will help you organize your thoughts into words and may even jog some descriptive memories. I don’t care if you think your story is boring. Do it!

4.  Take note of people God has been dealing with- No one comes unless they are drawn by the Father. You can recognize the Holy Spirit’s activity in someone’s life! This may take some discernment, but scripture does say, “Seek the better gifts.”

5.  Be available- Let God know you are up for the task and let Him use you. Be willing to let Him interrupt your daily schedule with an opportunity to reach out to someone… and then follow through with it.

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