Archives For Challenging

It’s amazing how transferable kindness outreach is. To reach out with God’s love in a practical way – to bring the Good News to skeptics – can be pulled off in any culture – even Scandinavia. Go figure.

We gave out hundreds of waffles in Norway. Waffles you ask? In Norway that’s the draw. When a Norwegian gets a waffle they feel incredibly loved!

What’s the “Waffle factor” in your neck of the woods?

The famous Burning Man Festival is happening right now in the desert north of Reno right now. About 50,000 people from all over the world are gathered together to celebrate – uh, all sorts of things. If you ask them, they will give lots of different answers as to why they are gathered together, but one thing is for sure, BM is a great place to connect with people who are in search of a spiritual connection.

As you watch the news footage about Burning Man on Labor Day, the lessons below might put things in better perspective.

There are two of the little known facts that people generally don’t know about me.

A. A few years ago I went with a team of friends to serve folks at Burning Man, and

B. I was a guest on the Jerry Springer Show. (Yes, you can see the episode on YouTube, but I’ll save the story for another article.)

Here are a few lessons I learned at the Burning Man festival when I was there with a team a couple of years ago.

1. Being around extreme people tends to beat negative religion out of a judgmental person like me.

We will not be effective in outreach as long as we carry around judgmental attitudes towards not-yet Believers. Pretty much all of us have some measure of a judgmental attitude, it’s just that we are in denial of that truth.

As far as outreach goes, it’s vital that we break free from the grip of negative, judgmental attitudes. When I use the “R” word, I’m referring to human attempts at making something spiritual happen without the power or presence of God. That kind of religion is common, but it is something God hates, something that people outside the Church hate and above all, something God despises.

Extreme people are a gift to Believers. God will bring Burning Man people into your life – not literally mind you – but those he will use to reshape you. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself and only hang out with those who think, look like you, drive cars like you and who work where you work.

2. We need big hearts for others if we hope to be successful in outreach.

You will never get a heart for others while you are stuck at home just thinking thoughts or reading books. Change happens when you get around others.

3. To be successful in outreach we need to destroy ridiculous myths we carry about regarding “Those kinds of people.”

Perhaps in all of our lives, there are some we categorize as ones who are impossible for God to reach. We think of them as “Those kinds of people.” They may be people who have wronged us, or maybe they have even done something wrong to all of America. We may feel obligated to dislike them.

As my friends and I drove up to the entrance gate of the BM event I was rubbing my eyes a bit like Mr. Magoo (if you have seen those cartoons of the nearsighted man on TV Land). I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was real. It was a scene that resembled what I imagined Woodstock would have been like only a few steps beyond that event. People sported fluorescent wigs and crazy get ups beyond that even.

I had always had categories in my mind – that there were “easy to reach” people, then there were the “hard to reach” ones. People at events like Burning Man were in the latter category because of what seemed to be their wild ways. But surprisingly, when I actually got around them, I quickly discovered they were super nice, very approachable, and in many ways, easier to reach out to than middle-class people I’d been reaching out to for decades in the suburbs across America. Go figure!

It was important that I just stop judging them, open my heart, talk to them, and most of all, listen to them. As my inner chatter stopped a bit he began to speak to me about his love for them.

4. To effectively connect with not-yet Believers, I have to be myself, with no attempts at looking any different than I really am.

In other words, I couldn’t have been anyone other than myself and gotten away with it. Folks at BM have a highly developed BS detector – even more sensitive than most others in the general culture.

Being myself is a high value for me, and probably for you as well. When I drove through the gates at BM I realized that this was not a place where you could fake it for a minute and get away with it.

As well as being transparent, the question was whether I was willing to be a little flexible and join in on the fun. Either you wore a neon wig or you didn’t! (Hey what’s wrong with that! You might look good in one yourself. “All things to all people…”)

5. To walk powerfully in outreach we need to be stirred with love for those outside of Christ.

God will give you a heart for others if you are open to being touched. Just ask him for his heart. He is in the business of touching hearts with his passion for others. Warning: His heart is sometimes offensive to your sensibilities and background.

6. Outreach – especially the practical kind – can connect with radical not-yet Believers more than church folks think is possible.

We found it fairly easy to connect with folks at BM. We reached out a couple of ways – the water give away as already mentioned and something pretty different that fit the BM crowd – Biblical Dream Interpretation. We saw some amazing responses. In a future entry I’ll blog about that unique outreach.

7. The Holy Spirit is strongly at work in the lives of not-yet Believers around us, no matter how they appear on the surface.

In addition to serving BM people, we followed that up with a simple question – “May I pray for you for ten seconds?” Many at BM had a different version of the spiritual world than us, but we brought them the Kingdom’s presence as we prayed for them – for ten seconds. Jesus prayed for less than ten seconds most of the time and amazing things happened.

7.5 Outreach is big fun!

We learned this important lesson. We gave ourselves permission to have fun as we loved and served others. One thing is super clear when you drive onto the grounds of BM – everyone there has come to play!

At a place like this you can’t take yourself too seriously. How often in life will you sit on a toilet only to notice later that your backside is completely covered in blue from the body painted person who went in before you. Hello! That was another blow to the remnant of negative religion in me.

We experienced the favor of God at this festival. We crossed paths with the founder of Burning Man and ended up hanging out with him. He liked us and, though I’m not sure he fully understood what we were doing in serving people with God’s love, he really loved our idea. We ended up hanging out with him for a while and in the end he asked one of our team guys to be on a regional board for him.

I’m not sure I’d recommend going to Burning Man willy nilly unless you feel called to serve and minister to people. If you do end up there, one thing’s for sure – God will “Mess” with your heart and mind and it will be difficult to be the same again. As it turns out that was something I desperately needed.

A friend of mine wrote a couple of popular books but those came out a ten or so years ago. He was with a pastor who happened to be on the phone telling someone he was with this author. The guy on the other line said he thought this author had died since he hadn’t come out with any new books lately! This author is actually not that old, but when we aren’t in the public view consistently people can come to some dark conclusions.

That incident got me thinking about our life messages.

Our lives come down to messages – sometimes expressed and sometimes tragically not spoken by the time we finish life. You are a unique expression of the life of God and he wants to life his unique life through you – through your life message.

Perhaps you already understand your life message – then further hone it. A life of clarity is a life of effectiveness.

Lean into it. Don’t wobble. Don’t give in to being diffused. Be a laser. LIfe is always going to try to pull you away from your uncompromising focus.

Walk out your message as you call upon the power of the Spirit. “You can do all things…”

One of these days my author friend really will die – his books really will come to an end. Your life will be said and done before long as well. I don’t wish that upon you, mind you, but let’s face reality. We only have so much time to devote to our life’s message. Now is the time to go for it.

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After spending a few months working on my last book project I’m excited it is done and moving quickly toward publication.

After doing this a few times I’ve figured out that writing a book is doable once you have the basic plan nailed down, but getting to that point can be a challenge.

The sub-title is “Ten things I learned about God when I died.” There were lots of lessons I picked up on when I went through my NDE. I could have shared twenty lessons, but we capped it off at an even ten. I share a lot of details about what happened to me in the injury and the trauma I experienced after the injury in the months and years following – all stuff that was never made public until now. There has been a lot of pain I’ve had to deal with and forgiveness I’ve had to deal with and to seek from other others who have had “ought” with me.

I’ll share more about the emotional end of things I went through as i wrote this. Suffice it to say, this stirred up a lot of deeply stored up stuff in me I wasn’t aware was there as I recalled what I went through.

I hope you’ll help me talk this up in the coming months leading up to its release.

As you make loving others the priority of your church’s life all other goals that are important and biblical, tend to fall into place fairly spontaneously. It works that way with discipleship, prayer – other biblical values that are worth pursuing.

If you make those other goals the focus, as important as they are, they are not likely to materialize in your midst as a congregation. You can try to teach them into existence and to a degree that will help, but in the end God’s presence is required for success.

If you make it your aim to become a praying church it is unlikely you will ever get there unless you reach out to love others. But as you reach out you will learn to pray along the way.

If you make it your aim to become a loving church, one thing is for sure – you’ll never get there by simply trying to become more loving or by preaching about love.

Get lost in loving others beyond your borders and see what God builds. God’s Spirit will come upon your congregation in a profound way. You will be known for your love for one another.

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