Archives For Observations

There are probably more in your church who’ve experienced loss than you  realize. At a time of festivity, some in your congregation are struggling. The “Holidays” are no holiday for them. It’s a time of pushing emotional hot buttons.

If you want to minister to a large percentage of your folks, figure out a way to convey some practical thoughts that will make an adjustment. Send an email, weekly ezine, or just build these into the end of a message…

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How to Increase Your Reach

September 5, 2012 — 2 Comments

God has placed in your heart and mine a desire to reach out beyond ourselves. The problem is often that we don’t know how to begin to pull that off. Many times we have tried this or that “Program” in an attempt to touch those around us. I’m not talking about outreach necessarily, but connecting in all of our relationships.

Here are some thoughts I’ve been pondering lately about how to grow in relationships in general.

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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.

By now we’ve all heard the salacious details that were brought out in the Jerry Sandusky trial for sex abuse. He was found guilty on 43 counts with a likely sentence of over 60 years. Formal sentencing to take place in a few weeks. At age 63 he’s seen his last day of freedom.

Reports tell that there was great joy and cheering coming from the crowds that were camped out in front of the courthouse. I read a number of quotes from the crowd making it clear these folks were out for blood. One guy said that hanging was too good for this former coach. There was a general sense of outrage in the community beyond those directly involved. No quote came from a victim or a victim’s family.

So where am I going with all of this you might ask. In not way do I think that we ought to go light on a monster like this guy. He has caused irreparable damage to dozens of child-men who will perhaps never be the same after what they endured at his hands. But there is an even greater tragedy here that no one has picked up on yet. Almost certainly an even greater monster sexually abused Jerry Sandusky.

It is well-known, based on generations of patterns lived out before us, and more recent extensive research in our lifetimes, that this sort of abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Abusers were abused. Those who molest nearly always were infected by the horrendous, demonic pattern of someone who attacked them earlier. Count on it, Jerry Sandusky started out as a victim. Clearly, absolutely, Sandusky is 110% responsible for his monstrous ways. In no way was he forced to do what he did. He could have and should have sought therapy for his brokenness along the way. He choose to give in to his inclinations. This is a no brainer case. Yet having stated that, there remains the fact that someone ultimately knocked over a big domino decades ago that in turn knocked over Jerry Sandusky’s domino and he in turn has knocked over dozens of innocent dominos. Victims attack victims attack victims. To quote Sonny and Cher, “And the beat goes on.” It’s satanic through and through – perhaps the greatest example of the way the Enemy of our souls does his worst, most destructive work.

This is a time to mourn Jerry Sandusky and all the dominos that have fallen both directions. What’s called for is a life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit. Therapy, yes, but in the end only a face-to-face transformation will set anyone free.

God have mercy on us all.

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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.

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