Tag Archives: evangelism

My Vertical Neighborhood, by Lynda MacGibbon

My Vertical Neighborhood, by Lynda MacGibbon (InterVarsity Press, 2021)

“When I asked God why I ought to love my neighbors, he sent them, one by one, to answer the question.” [Chapter 17, page 6 in chapter]

Subtitled “How Strangers Became a Community,” My Vertical Neighborhood is a memoir of one Christian’s quest to build friendships and discover practical ways to love the others around her. Instead of diving into activities in her new church, the author wanted to connect with her literal neighbours.

Not surprisingly, the other residents in her Toronto high-rise weren’t overly receptive at first. It took time, prayer, persistence, and God’s provision of a friend to move into the same building and share the efforts. Perhaps also not surprisingly, the relationships began to grow over food.

This isn’t a “neighbourhood evangelism” book. It’s a memoir of intentional relationship-building and developing not just friendship but love among the diverse inhabitants of the building.

Key quote:

“Jesus says loving God, self, and neighbor is foundational to everything else. If we don’t understand and practice these conjoined commandments, it will be harder to obey the rest.” [Chapter 2, page 5 in chapter]

I found the book to be an interesting read. And while I don’t feel any sense of call to push myself as far out of my comfort zone as the author did, I’m pleased that it’s left me more aware of the need to intentionally take the opportunities that come my way. We can all learn to listen more, ask better questions, and take time with the people around us.

I can’t end this review without a shout-out to the cover. Where most encounters revolved around food, aren’t the vertical images of dinner plates and elevator buttons brilliant?

Canadian author Lynda MacGibbon is a former journalist, now working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. For more about the author and her work, visit lyndamacgibbon.com.

[Digital review copy from the public library. This book is available to borrow through Hoopla Digital.]

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The Right Kind of Open-Mindedness

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
Acts 17:11, NLT*

Paul and his associates travelled from town to town, sharing the good news that Messiah had come. Invariable some people were open to their message, but others weren’t just closed to it – they were hostile.

In Berea (after being run out of Thessalonica) Paul and Silas found the right kind of open-mindedness. The people were eager to learn more about God, but they were careful to test this new teaching against the truth of Scripture. They were ready to learn, but guarding themselves against deception and false teaching.

Soon afterward, in  Athens, Paul found a different sort of open-mindedness:

(It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
Acts 17:21, NLT*

These people were open to ideas too, but only for discussion – not for application or for allowing what they heard to change them. It sounds like they viewed all ideas as equal, without investigating for truth.

I suspect that made it easier to get along with everyone else, and it’s what we need to do in many matters, but when it comes to what’s true or false, we need to be like the Bereans in discernment – and like Paul and Silas in teaching the truth in a way that doesn’t attack those who don’t believe it.

God our Creator, All-Wise and True, open our hearts and minds to long for a closer relationship with You, and grow us in Your truth. Protect us from ideas that would divert us from intimacy with You or lead us in wrong paths. Give us a burden to share Jesus with those around us in love and respect, and give them a desire to seek You and to know You.

May we come to the Lord with the attitude Lauren Daigle shares in this song: “Here’s My Heart Lord (Speak What is True)”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Called to Share

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favour on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
1 Corinthians 15:10, NLT*

“Whatever I am now” – Paul said his actions in persecuting the early Christians made him unworthy to be called an apostle.

Clearly, he was an apostle, or as William Barclay described him, an ambassador for Christ. Yes, he came late to the party, and with a terrible history. But when Jesus got Paul’s attention, Paul surrendered and threw his whole heart into spreading the news that the promised Saviour had come.

Paul didn’t dare let his past disqualify him – not when Jesus had personally commissioned him. He didn’t let the unusual circumstances of his calling inflate his opinion of himself or of those who’d served the Lord from the beginning. Nor did he allow his “thorn in the flesh” hold him back – instead he learned to rely on God’s strength. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

He never claimed to have deserved God’s special favour – anything but. Yet he seized what God gave him, and poured out his own life in service to his new Master.

If we look around us, we’ll see many who appear better equipped to spread the good news about Jesus. But the God who called Paul, and whose grace was enough for him, wants to use us too. He seems to like to work through the unlikely… perhaps because we’re more aware of how much we need to rely on Him?

God our Saviour… our King. Thank You for the privilege of belonging to You. Rekindle our wonder that You saved us, and open our eyes to see the opportunities You give to share You with others. Help us not to think less – or more – of ourselves than we should, but instead to think most about You. Show us how to live for You so others can come to know You as well.

The Newsboys’ song, “Go Glow,” encourages us to share what we’ve received.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Revealing Jesus

I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.
John 1:31, NLT*

John says that Jesus “has revealed God to us.” (John 1:18, NLT*) We who believe in Him are called to reveal Jesus to those around us just as surely as John the Baptist was called to prepare the way. (See Matthew 28:18-20)

Each of us will have a different way of revealing Jesus to the world. John the Baptist called the people en masse to repentance, confronting their sin so they’d be ready to receive salvation.

You and I, unless we’re in some kind of public ministry, are likely called to reveal Jesus one-on-one. That doesn’t mean practicing John’s approach on a smaller scale, pointing out our friends’ sins and calling them to repent.

It means revealing Jesus through our lives, caring for others in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Listening. Seeing. Helping. Encouraging. Yes, it may mean asking honest questions about life choices that don’t honour God, but only as and when He leads.

It’s important to remember that the Jews of John’s day thought they were already serving God. John showed them the gaps. If the people in our lives aren’t interested in following God, what’s the point of us pushing them to obey Him? First they need to discover who He is and why His way matters.

God our Saviour and our one true Hope, You have revealed Yourself to us and drawn us to Yourself. You do the saving, but we have a part to play in showing others how good You are and how practical Your love is. Open our eyes to the opportunities You give us to shine for You, and help us to share what You’ve given us. It’s too good to keep to ourselves.

A song that echoes the challenge is “Live Like That,” by the Sidewalk Prophets.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: LEAP for Faith, by Gary Cox

LEAP for Faith, by Gary Cox (Bryler Publications, 2011)

The Christian life is a journey, which Eugene Peterson has dubbed “a long obedience in the same direction.” Believers need to grow spiritually. We also need to respectfully and responsibly share our faith with family, friends and co-workers. In-their-face agendas build walls, not relationships.

So how do we grow? And how to we encourage those who are spiritually interested but not ready to make a full commitment to a God they’re only beginning to suspect may exist?

Part Bible study, part spiritual workbook and part novel, LEAP for Faith takes a fresh look at these perennial questions.

Canadian author Gary Cox addresses spiritual growth in the form of LEAP: Look and Listen, Explore and Examine, Acknowledge and Accept, Practice and Pray. And as Nick, one of the book’s main characters, says, it’s not a one-time sequence:

“P is both the last and the first step. With prayer you go back to looking and listening for God at work in your life. Seeking to discover what he wants to teach you. It’s a cycle, and each cycle expands your understanding and deepens your relationship with the Lord.” (p. 246)

The book contains 27 short chapters that follow the fictional case study of Troy, a man beginning to wonder about God, and Nick, his Christian friend. Each chapter ends with personal-application discussion questions and with Scripture passages to consider.

For new Christians or those considering the faith, there’s a helpful section at the beginning called “My Bible” that demystifies the process of looking up Scriptural references and offers suggestions on Bible reading and accessible translations.

Older-in-the-faith Christians will find Nick’s gentle model of teaching an encouragement, and the simple but logical LEAP system is easy not only to share but to apply in our personal devotions.

I found it a helpful book, easy to read and to follow. Troy and Nick are fictional examples illustrating how the LEAP process might play out in real life. It would dilute the focus of the book to bring a fully-featured novel into play with subplots, detailed characterization and the traditional conflict and plot arc. Allowing their journey to follow a straight path makes an easier teaching tool.

The only negative I found in the book was the need for more copyediting. My husband and I bought four Bryler Publications books at the same time, and the three we’ve read to date all had editing/formatting errors (one was missing an entire chapter) so I’m thinking this is a publisher issue.

LEAP for Faith can be used in private study or in a six-week group setting. Additional resources and videos for groups and group leaders are available on the LEAP for Faith website. The first two chapters are available for preview here.

[Review copy from my personal library. Disclosure: the author is a personal friend.]

Review: More Questions than Answers, by Eleanor Shepherd

More Questions than Answers: Sharing Faith by Listening, by Eleanor Shepherd (Resource Publications (a division of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010)

No matter  how secure our faith, we all have questions, issues, things we don’t fully understand.

In More Questions than Answers, Eleanor Shepherd reminds us that honesty about these very things is the beginning of a journey that benefits us as well as the friends with whom we walk.

“When walking with our friends, we encourage them to explore faith with us. We admit that our knowledge of faith is incomplete, but it is growing. We want them to join us as together we test our spirituality and meet for ourselves the ultimate truth, Jesus Christ. We call our journey together spiritual accompaniment.” p. xvii

Spiritual accompaniment is unconditional friendship. Our non-Christian friend is not a project to be discarded if she doesn’t come to believe as we do. Nor is our Christian friend to be set aside if he doesn’t grow as fast as we’d like.

We benefit personally from accompanying others. We learn not to be threatened by questions we can’t answer—God doesn’t vanish in a puff of smoke if we can’t explain Him. Our faith doesn’t vanish either. By honestly and prayerfully facing them, we grow deeper in our faith.

More Questions than Answers is divided into three sections:

The Listening Process addresses the art of listening. It includes basics of psychology, counselling etc, but always at lay-person’s level.

Discovering and Sharing Faith teaches how to go about spiritual accompaniment, illustrated by personal examples. It warns of the obstacles we may face.

Finally, The Source reminds us to listen to and rely on God. There is a short Bible study to develop our spiritual listening skills, and a shorter “Gospel in a nutshell” to help us answer when a friend asks how to become a Christian.

This is a book for Christians who want to be more valuable spiritually in the lives of those around them. It isn’t evangelism-by-the-numbers; it’s investment in the lives of those God gives us.

I appreciate books like this that emphasize faith conversations rather than confrontation, and that teach us to value the whole person.

Canadian author Eleanor Shepherd is a retired Salvation Army Officer now serving with Opportunity International Canada in Quebec. You can catch up with Eleanor at her blog. She also contributes to the Canadian Authors Who are Christian blog.

[Book source: my personal library. A version of this review first appeared in Faith Today Magazine, Jan/Feb 2011.]

Friday Friends: Janice Keats

Janice Keats is a Canadian author and poet. She’s also a photographer, blogger and a full-time worker with the Salvation Army.

Janet: Welcome, Janice, and thanks for stopping by. You self-published Poems of Inspiration and Occasion as well as your Bible study, Covering The Bases, then chose to go the traditional publishing route with your third, A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism. What prompted the change?

Janice: With my first two books I was eager to see them printed and I knew that the traditional publishing route takes time. I really wanted to seek a publisher for this book, firstly because of the satisfaction and accomplishment that is associated with it.

It’s a good feeling knowing that I have accomplished what I have set out to do. (Although it had taken 3 major attempts of searching the right publisher and then sending out queries and waiting for their responses.) So in this case it was a period of 4 years.

Secondly, I was ready and prepared for the task, I guess I could say that I have matured and have grown as a writer in recent years.

Thirdly, a writer has a far greater advantage of promotion with traditional route than the self-publishing method. Meaning it would be found on numerous websites etc.

I’ve learned a lot about promotion however, with my self-published books. In fact, I have applied those skills with my latest book.

Janet: Tell us a bit about A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism. Why did you write this book?

Janice: It really is because of my personal faith experience. I struggled so much with the need to make a decision for Christ that my heart literally ached. I didn’t have a church background.

When I became a Christian, I experienced a complete transformation. I was so overjoyed of the genuine peace and I knew that Jesus was real so I had to share it with people. It wasn’t the direct approach as some may think, it was a simple explanation of how Jesus changed my life. (My personal faith story is detailed on my blog).

I became involved in Bible studies and later facilitated many groups. As a result, I developed my own material. In the book, I have detailed how to create a personal faith story by following a few easy steps and writing it out. Also, I have included charts for the reader to keep progress of his/her faith as well as outreach suggestions.

Janet: The word ‘evangelism’ has picked up a taint from some of the methods people have used, but the need to tell others what Jesus has done for us—and how much He loves them—is key to the Christian life. How would you define it in terms people would understand today?

Janice: Sometimes I wonder if I should have used the word ‘evangelism’ because I had already encountered an obstacle. I contacted one particular magazine in hopes of submitting a piece from my book and was told that evangelism doesn’t sell. Wow, I was floored. How can someone make a judgement like that without knowing what the book is about?

It’s true, the word evangelism may be tainted but since God’s Word doesn’t change that doesn’t mean we can’t try different methods. We have to keep trying new methods of exposing the Gospel message.

Perhaps back in the day, there may have been more of a force of persuasion among the body of Christ but just as technology changes, so too, the church makes adjustments.

What the world needs to know is how much God loves them. Who will share the message? Who will go? And…who will teach? I will go Lord. I gave Him my life and I will listen to God’s direction as far as I am able.

This subject is my passion. I don’t necessarily need to use the word, ‘evangelism’ as long as I am willing to share my faith. The journey is with Jesus to His heart – the heart of evangelism.

Janet: I’m sure you have many chances to share your faith in your work with the Salvation Army. You have a helpful page on your blog for people who want to learn how to tell their own faith story. What would you say to someone who freezes at the thought of sharing their faith?

Janice: I would tell them that they have a faith story to share. They don’t have to prepare a mental script at all. I could freeze at the thought of that.

In my experience, I’ve been challenged with, “How did Jesus change your life? or What difference does Jesus make?”

I always begin with the old me, what my life was like before, and then share the new me, my new-found joy! There has to be a difference. It is possible that a person may not know exactly where they are in their faith. Sometimes Christians grow cold and weak in their walk with God. In my book, there is a chart which helps the reader understand where he/she stands in his/her faith.

Janet: What has reader response been like for A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism?

Janice: It’s been great so far. I have heard from a Bible study group who has purchased my latest book and I received a testimonial from the leader saying that they are growing spiritually. They originally had a timeline of studying one chapter each week but they decided not to rush it because the group was opening up and sharing with one another. One lady said that she could now share her faith without being fearful. Another reader said that she now has a heart for the lost and this book was stirring something within her. That’s great news! I was so excited to hear those comments.

I was most excited when I saw my book in a retail store recently. I was browsing around a Christian store while on vacation this summer and looked up to see my book on the top shelf. It’s the only one my eyes were fixed on: my book. It was as if all the other books became shadows. A friend took some photos of me with the book. It was meant for me to see it, I’m sure. Out of courtesy, I wrote a thank you note to the manager for stocking my book.

Janet: Even one encouraging response can mean so much. And how cool to be surprised by your book on a store shelf! What got you started writing?

Janice: The first piece I wrote was a poem entitled, Where is He? It was my personal thoughts on God as I was searching for Him. Believe it or not I hadn’t written or had any interest in writing before that time. I was at the age of 30.

My poetry writing took off and as a result I published my poetry book. From there it was my Bible study material. As my writing career began to take shape I decided to study Creative Writing, which was a two-year program.

It’s hard to believe that all this was taking place after my decision to follow God. It goes to prove that His plan for my life was playing out.

Janet: It’s amazing to see His plans unfold as we grow in Him! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Janice: My favourite Scripture verse is Psalm 20:4, which says, “May He give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” That Scripture verse stood out to me in church one morning and I thought about all my desires that I wanted to achieve.

I love the songs, “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Rescue the Perishing”. I have a different version of “Rescue the Perishing” than the traditional one you see in hymnbooks. It’s on a praise and worship CD that has a contemporary slant.

Janet: I’m sure you have a few more book projects in the works. Any you’d like to tell us about?

Janice: I’m working on a devotional book as well as another Bible study book on the subject of church wounds, which is sensitive, but I’m going to do it. Also, I am half way through recording an audio book of my poetry and half way through another book I am co-writing.

Janet: Church wounds… that’s a touchy one indeed, but where there are wounds, there’s the need of healing. Too many times we ignore church wounds and hope they’ll go away. With all this on your plate, what’s your favourite creative outlet for renewing your mental energy? And what do you like to do to get away from it all?

Janice: I love to create things. When I know I need a break, I will deliberately take time out to make various crafts. I enjoy creating photo stationery and sewing and country crafts. I also make bookmarks using my poetry. I had better get those craft containers out.

As a getaway, I love to walk along a shoreline or just sit beside the water’s edge and listen to the sound of waves rolling in and splashing. There’s nothing like nature. My husband and I have done a lot of traveling on motorcycle around Nova Scotia and we have seen many beautiful shorelines. I also listen to my nature CD’s and the nature radio station.

Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?

Janice: When a piece comes together easily it excites me. When I prepare a devotional, God always provides me with the needed Scripture, and I sometimes say aloud, “that’s amazing, God!”

I enjoy getting ideas from everyday life. Many people give me devotional and story ideas. Oh no, I just had another idea!

Janet: What do you like least?

Janice: Editing and polishing, and trying very diligently to reduce a piece of writing to fit a publisher’s guideline of word counts. I dislike cutting out good sentences. I’m so glad there are editors out there who know their craft.

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Janice: My husband and children are very supportive and encouraging. I send many of my articles to my daughters for critiquing. My husband created the layout for my poetry book. Oddly enough, he doesn’t read much of my work, perhaps because we have separate computers. I have a cousin who is a professional scriptwriter; her name is Gail Collins, just for the record.  When we get together the majority of the conversation is about writing.

The writing life can be somewhat lonely, as you know. Very few of my family members knew of my writing stint when I was employed with a newspaper. I’m so glad I am a member of a writer’s group and an online group.

Janet: Connecting with other writers can make all the difference. Another thing we’re told to do is to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Janice: I am finally getting to read The Shack. I am about one quarter way through so far. Don’t tell me about it! I may be the only person who hasn’t read it yet. The writing is superb.

I have several books on the subject of Revival. I want to know about how God works in that way. I have a favourite new author, Mark Hitchcock. I have read What on Earth is Going On? and Seven Signs of the End Times. There are a few more of his books I would like to purchase.

Janet: I know there’s controversy over The Shack, but all I can say is it blessed me more than most books do.What are you listening to?

Janice: During my 45-minute commute to work I listen to praise and worship music and the Christian radio station. Of course I enjoy all types of music but I don’t really have a favourite Christian artist, I usually purchase any praise and worship compilation CD. I also enjoy iWorship DVDs.

When I attend a live performance I love to hear vocal groups, or at least a singer who has back up vocalists. I just love harmonies. Of course, I enjoy listening to my daughters’ singing and my son’s band. On my 45-minute journey home from my work place I listen to the 70’s music. What a contrast, but you know, I am an avid music lover and listener. I usually win at guessing the songs that are played on the radio.

Janet:Your daughters’ singing and your son’s band… tell us more!

Janice: My son, Troy, is the drummer for Grounded. They are a Christian rock band and quite powerful for only a 3-piece band. They have been performing for a few years and is gradually getting a number of bookings. My son-in-law, Kurtis, is the lead singer and Matt is the bass player.

As a matter of fact the band is the backup band for my daughters. The Keats (my daughters, Sharlene and Jolene) have been performing for several years and have been working really hard professionally as country performers. They are on the way, I believe. They have recently been selected to perform at the Rising Star Showcase during Canadian Country Music Week in Edmonton on September 9th. My husband and I will be attending the events.

Janet: There’s a lot of talent in your family! I hope The Keats get a great reception in Edmonton. One last question, just for fun: what’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever done?

Janice: I attended a morning church service with my daughters in Moncton a few years ago. We went early because they had to practise their duet. The choir director came out from her office carrying choir gowns. She gave each of us one. She asked what part I sang, I didn’t know so I secretly asked my daughter and she replied, “alto”.

The director slid me in the line with the rest of the altos and before I knew it I marched out with the choir and took my place. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to protest. I enjoy singing but I’m not exactly in the public eye. With no practise or preparation I sang along, sometimes mouthing the words. I have never been invited back to sing. Is that a surprise?

Janet: At least they didn’t put you on the spot for a solo! Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Janice. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

To learn more or for information on ordering her books, visit Janice Keats’ website. A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism is also available through your local bookstore as well as the usual online ones. Janice’s blog is The Master’s Path, and she also posts monthly at InScribe Writers Online. You can read my review of A Journey to the Heart of Evangelism here.

Review: Majesty in Motion, by Stewart Brown

Majesty in Motion: Creating an Encouragement Culture in all Your Relationships, by Stewart Brown, D. Min. (Word Alive Press, 2009)

I suppose while Jesus lived in Palestine in human form, those around Him truly saw the majesty of God in motion. Until He comes again, Christians have the responsibility of modeling God to those around us. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to live in us and empower us, but too many times we fail.

In Majesty in Motion, Stewart Brown has provided a helpful, practical resource to overcome that failure. The encouragement culture he calls us to isn’t one of superficial compliments, but a lifestyle of building others up toward their God-given potential. It’s rooted and strengthened in prayer.

Seeing others as God sees them, affirming their value and investing time in their lives, is to treat them as Jesus would—to display God’s majesty in motion.

Stewart writes,

To be encouraged is to experience the transformative power of God, which gives you the courage to be and act according to God’s eternal purpose for your life.” (p. xiv)

As such, we need both to encourage ourselves in the Lord and to encourage others in Him.

This type of encouragement is intentional. It comes from prayerful intimacy with God and an awareness of the needs of others. And as the title makes clear, it’s about relationships, not religion or human effort.

The book asserts that encouragement has three parts: strengthening the heart, coming alongside to help, and inspiring to move forward:

Real, authentic encouragement—the attitude and heart that reflects the greatness of God through the warm, caring filter of God’s grace—is meant to be constantly active in the lives of every follower of Jesus.” (p. 19)

If we accept encouragement as our mission, we need to be equipped to deliver it. Part two of Majesty in Motion highlights three vital elements that God’s encouragers must develop: joy, patience, and an imitation of Jesus’ example.

As well as looking at the life of encouragement and the foundation required in each Christian’s life, the book also addresses the intentionality and the practice of encouragement. We have the why and the how, with practical details and clear examples. Each chapter comes with questions and suggestions for individuals and groups, and there are appendices of extra material for encouragement partners and church greeters.

There is a huge amount of truth packed into this 200-page book, and it’s easy to digest and understand. Application will take work and personal discipline, but the benefits are worth the cost.

I was personally challenged by the repeated call for a solid, personal confidence in God. It makes perfect sense: if you’re not securely trusting God in your own spirit, how can you help others? We must first learn to encourage ourselves in God, like an airline passenger donning her own oxygen mask before helping the child beside her.

David’s friend Jonathan helped him find strength in God when he was in danger from King Saul. Later, by himself David found strength in God when his men were ready to turn on him. Both are needed.

Majesty in Motion sets high goals that are achievable with diligence, and challenges readers to make that effort. It’s on my list of books that I wish every Christian could read.

Stewart Brown, D. Min, is a Canadian pastor, speaker and author currently serving in Alberta. Majesty in Motion follows the theme of his popular speaking engagements. Click here to read more about Majesty in Motion.  You can check out Stewart’s recent interview on 100 Huntley Street (Stewart Brown interview, 1/2 and Stewart Brown interview 2/2) or visit his website, One Heart Ministries, to learn more about his ministry.

Majesty in Motion won a 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Award (for work published in 2009) in the Book: Relationship category, and was a finalist in the Book: Christian Living category.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Hungry for God

…your faith in God has become known everywhere…. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:8b, 9b, 10, NIV*

Last week I noticed that the Thessalonians received the gospel with power, the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5) In verse six, Paul adds more to this: “you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

Their work, endurance, love and hope after turning to God have become known not just locally in Macedonia and Achaia but “everywhere”. When God gets a hold of people, news travels.

The section of the story quoted in the opening made me stop and think today. These are obviously people who had been hungry for God. They hadn’t known who He is or how to find Him, and their idol worship was all the culture offered. If they’d been satisfied with it, they wouldn’t have jumped ship.

God knew the people were searching for Him, and He sent Paul, Silas and Timothy. Remember how clearly He directed Paul into the region of Macedonia?

He knows the people in our lives who are searching for Him now. This passage reminds me not to judge or make assumptions based on someone’s behaviour. Yes, maybe they’re purposely defying Him. But more likely, they’re getting by the best they can and reaching for Him in ways only His Spirit can see.

Father, my own perceptions can blind me to what You’re doing. Please help me see what You see in the people around me. You love each one, and You know when someone needs a touch or a word. Help me share the hope and the joy that only You can give. Thank You for the freedom Jesus bought for us.

Todd Agnew’s song, “On a Corner in Memphis,” helps us take a better look at some of the unlikely searchers (and some of the folks in church who aren’t searching, but that’s another story!) Todd is my favourite solo artist. His lyrics and passionate delivery frequently stretch me past my ordinary musical comfort zone. This one’s more country than you’d usually see in my playlist, but I’ve really connected with it. It’s from his album, Better Questions.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Review: More Ready Than You Realize, by Brian D. McLaren

More Ready Than You Realize, by Brian D. McLaren (Zondervan, 2002, 2006)

Brian McLaren’s aim with More Ready Than You Realize is to remind us that “evangelism” isn’t a dirty word, despite the negative connotations it’s acquired over the years. He also wants to demystify it and show us that, as the title suggests, we’re more ready to get involved than we realize.

He explains, “Good evangelism is the process of being friendly without discrimination and influencing all of one’s friends toward better living, through good deeds and good conversations. For a Christian… [it] means engaging in these conversations in the spirit and example of Christ. … Evangelism in the style of Jesus; evangelism that flows like a dance.” (p. 17)

The book tells the story of his spiritual friendship with April, a young woman considering faith. On one level, it’s an easy read. The conversations pull readers in, and we keep turning pages to see what happens. It’s also a book that requires thought as we apply what he says to our own lives.

A key premise is that Christians need to communicate our faith in a way that those around us will understand. Language, worldviews, even styles of communication have changed significantly in recent years as we’ve moved into the postmodern era.

The word “postmodern” itself raises a barrier to me, yet it’s assumed to be part of the reader’s understanding. Worse is “modern,” which I always thought meant “contemporary or up-to-date”. “Trendy,” even. But these are buzz-words of the new culture and so they’re used.

For me, this is a strong reminder of how important it is that I don’t bombard non-Christians or spiritual folk with Christian jargon. Dr. McLaren illustrates how these holy buzz-words will either be meaningless or mean something far different than intended.

More Ready Than You Realize is a helpful book and despite my struggle with the terminology its message resonated with me (oops, is that another buzz-word?).

The Bible tells us we’re to be ambassadors for Christ, that we’re to be involved in God’s work of reconciliation.

Dr. McLaren encourages us to “engage in spiritual friendship… see evangelism as relational dance rather than conceptual conquest, process rather than event, mutual learning rather than sales pitch…” and I find that far more attractive than some of the previous approaches. (In fairness to some of those modes, the book does point out the different cultures in which they began, so we see how they may have  been designed to best meet the needs of the times.)

Integral to this message is the belief that the individuals we befriend (or who befriend us) are of great value, whatever their ultimate decision about God and however long it takes them to make one.

Dr. McLaren challenges us to value the relationships more than the results, and he reminds us that the goal isn’t conversion. The goal is people (ourselves included) loving and serving God and growing in relationship with Him and with each other. The results are up to Him. Our job is simply to serve.

I’d recommend this book to Christians and to those who want to understand them, with the warning that if philosophical language is not your thing, the book may challenge you. The message is clear, and Brian McLaren is an appealing narrator. He speaks to readers as he did to April: openly, non-threatening, and genuinely interested. I look forward to reading some of his other books.

More Ready Than You Realize includes a seven-part Bible study on what it means to be a disciple and to develop others. You can find reviews, a sample chapter and interviews here.  To learn more about Brian D. McLaren, his other books and his ministry, check out his website.

Book source: my personal library