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When Lifestyle Evangelism is Non-Evangelism  

Years ago, an older brother in the faith took me aside and discipled me in something called lifestyle evangelism.   The concept is something of a reaction to older forms of evangelism.  Like preaching on a street corner.  Or shoving a gospel tract into somebody’s hands.  Incidentally, I’m not suggesting that either of those is wrong—or even bad. 

But the idea behind lifestyle evangelism is that we—quote—“earn the right to be heard” by virtue of the life that we live.  And there’s something to that.  When it comes to sharing Christ with my neighbors, I’ve worked hard at first being a good neighbor—as in loaning them tools, or helping take in their trash cans.  No point in sharing Jesus if I won’t share my stuff. 

Lifestyle evangelism underscores that making disciples is a process. Conversion is rarely instant.  So far so good. 

My problem with lifestyle evangelism is that there is now statistical evidence that many of us end our witness with good deeds.  But that’s only the starting point.  Those good deeds are intended to lead to conversations.  Conversations about Christ. 

Yet George Barna can show us reams of surveys that show most of us never get to the talk.  Maybe it’s because we’re scared.  Or maybe it’s because we’re ashamed.  Or maybe we’ve forgotten that despite the manicured lawn and shared interest in the Chicago Bears, that neighbor over the fence—apart from a saving relationship with Jesus—really will spend eternity burning in hell.

At some point it comes down to words.  Bible words.  It has to.  Or it’s not really evangelism.  Could I challenge you?  Keep on doing those nice things for your neighbors.  But don’t forget the kindest act of all: sharing Jesus verbally. To ignore that is to be the worst kind of neighbor.

 
Busy Being Busy  

With flu season approaching, lots of folks are thinking about getting immunized. I just got the flu shot myself. It's only too bad that you and I couldn't also get immunized from busy-ness.  You say, “What do you mean by that?”   In my observation, busy-ness has moved beyond the status of a cultural norm to become part of who we are.

Think for a minute how the conversation went the last time you asked a friend “How are things going?”    Chances are she or he said, “I'm busy.  Really busy”   And I don't doubt that a lot of us are.  We work longer hours....we own more things...we book more social events...we have more single parents.  Many of us are busier.  But the problem is two-fold.  First, some of us are just plain doing too much—so much we have very limited time for personal ministry...or going to prayer meeting...or teaching Sunday School.   

Second—and this is truly insidious--those of us that AREN'T quite as busy, feel absolutely compelled to claim we are.    We wear our busy-ness like a second skin.  Without it we feel naked. It is as if we now define worth by a sense of busy-ness.   That is, if we're busy—the assumption is we're contributing to our church, or to society as a whole.  And conversely, if we're NOT busy, we somehow deserve less sympathy...or we possess less value as persons.

But is that the Jesus way?  Absolutely not.  1 John 2 reminds us “whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”  And how did Jesus walk?   For the most part, leisurely.  With time for friends.  Time for small talk.  Time for ministry.  Time for playing with little kids—and blessing them.

The only way Jesus COULD have had all that time was by not jamming up His schedule ahead of time. 

How unlike you and me.

You know, Jesus will not hand out rewards based on crowded calendars.  It's time to unplug.  Time to get un-busy.

 
Smile!  

Scowls are in.

Smiles are out.

Have you noticed?

Take a look at most any current Christian artist album cover or website with a photo. Chances are he or she isn’t smiling.

As we have in so many other ways, the Christian subculture has mimicked secular culture. 

Not many bother to ask why do the recording artists on secular albums scowl?  Sure, there’s a certain “coolness” factor.  It’s hip to look unhappy—go figure.  But there are other reasons as well.  Secular artists scowl because they have little to smile about.  It’s a culture of hopelessness and materialism that never satisfies.  That--and a growing gruesome preoccupation with death.

So again I ask, why must popular Christian artists—brothers and sisters who are following Christ—follow the world in their facial expressions?

I’m not suggesting every Christian needs to run around with a goofy grin 24 hours a day.  But shouldn’t the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit affect even the look on our face?

Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face. 

Consider that objective research has shown again and again that people think better of you—are more open to your message—if you smile.  Think of it!  They’d be more likely to be more interested in the gospel if we share that gospel wear a smile—or at least a pleasant look. 

So us average every-day Christian folks—we need to relearn to smile.  As for all you recording artists and wannabees out there: Leave the business of “glum” to the world.  Go ahead.  Crack a smile.

Again, I’m not advocating a shallow silliness or plastic pleasantry.  But would it really kill album or online sales if artists just looked into the camera and smiled?

As someone much bolder than I once said, “If you have Jesus in your heart…kindly notify your face.”

 
  

Time out for a confession.  I think iPads are incredibly cool.  So cool that I really want one.  Probably want one a little too much for Christ-like comfort. 

But so far, I haven't bought one.  And I wish I could tell you it was for deeply spiritual reasons.   However, that would be a lie.

I think iPads are incredibly functional—truly practical—graphically gorgeous.  But I don't own one.  And the high price tag isn't the real reason. 

The truth is, though I'm definitely a techno fan, I haven't yet bought an iPad because I'm weary.  I'm weary of reaching out and grabbing the latest techno tool that will finally usher in the—quote—ultimate solution...only to find out that it's been replaced with something faster and shinier.

Seems like just yesterday I bought my netbook—and it was going to be the “ultimate solution.”   I'm weary of the feeling that I'm—quote--behind the times because I don't have a front-facing camera on a tablet device.   I'm weary of the incredibly brief span that will define my purchase as current and useful...before marketing gurus tempt me to covet the new.

But most of all, I'm weary of owning still one more “item.”    Having one more charger to keep track of.  One more gadget to plug into the wall at night. One more cord to keep untangled, one more thing that will demand to be updated...  only to be outdated—the weariest whammy of them all.   

I would not for a moment pretend to pass judgment on those that are right now enjoying their iPads...and those that plan to.  Maybe I'll break down myself and take the plunge someday.

Yet the words of Jesus ought at some point to frame our thinking: “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of things.”   And Christ's desire to place the “least of these” in the care of you and me ought to somehow temper our appetite for techno. 

Weary of the abundance of things...I'm Jon Gauger, and those are my thoughts.

 
Get The Memo!  

For several years now, I've wondered about them—those bumpy little pads or tiles that cities across America have installed at nearly every intersection. . 

Doesn't take a genius to figure that those bumpy tiles—usually a pinkish clay color--are being installed to help the visually impaired.  And it makes sense.  Walking more than three miles a day, my experience is that cars sometimes come dangerously close to sidewalk intersections. So I welcome this assistance for the visually impaired.

Yet...the cynic in me asks, “Why all of a sudden have municipalities taken up this task?  Why the feverish pace?  Did city fathers across America suddenly wake up to this urgent concern? 

Pardon my cynicism, but I submit this is more about cash than kindness.  Somewhere, somebody issued a memo that said UNLESS you install those little bumpy pads, you will no longer get government grants of any kind.  Or...”Unless you put ‘em in, we'll sue the britches off you!”

But if cities all across America could unite behind such a massive effort all because of a memo about physical blindness....what about the dangers of spiritual blindness?

Why aren't Christians just as vocal on every street corner… warning of spiritual danger? Of rejecting Christ?  (We’re strangely quiet, you know).  Do we lack the information?  Or do we lack conviction?  We need to “Get the memo!”  Jesus is still the only way to God.  The flames of Hell are still forever.  

It's time to get bold in our warning.  We need to get the memo!  Spiritual danger is REAL danger.  So why are we followers of Jesus so silent about that danger?  Why aren’t we just as committed to warning the spiritually blind as we are the physically blind?

 
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