So you want to make disciples

What does it mean to be on mission for God? Evangelicals are asking this question more often in a culture that seems increasingly inhospitable to Christian witness. So words like missional and incarnational are all the rage, driving people to think holistically (another buzz word) about their presence in a particular local community. These discussions are good because they help equip God’s people to fulfill the Great Commission in our time. And yet I wonder if we often complicate the task of making disciples. Sometimes our evangelism language is so stilted and academic that it paralyzes everyday Chris-tians from utilizing what may be their most important asset: their own God-given personalities. This is because we’ve often reduced evangelism to a single transaction: communicating some gospel-themed material to another person and asking for a decision. So we try something ungraceful, like shoving a tract into the hand of an unsuspecting train rider,...

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No, you can’t have it all now: How we preach a prosperity gospel without even knowing it

If you were to ask most Christians, you’d find many consider the prosperity gospel to be an unbiblical teaching offered by religious hucksters. But there’s a subtle way in which a similar message creeps into our theologically sound churches—a back-door heresy perhaps more damaging than the promise of a bigger house or fatter bank account. It is the prosperity gospel of instant life change. I often heard a version of this during testimony time in the otherwise fundamentalist church where I grew up. Some former alcoholic would stand up and say something like, “I was hungover on Saturday, and by Monday I had taken my last drink.” I have to admit testimonies like this still move me emotionally. I’m stirred because I really do believe in the power of the gospel to regenerate a person’s life. Christ is in the business of changing us, but we too often communicate a message that...

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Loving Jesus means you’re commanded to love fellow believers–all of them

I’m not a big bumper sticker guy, but I couldn’t help noticing the one proudly displayed on my new neighbor’s car. When I first saw it, I was excited because it said, “JESUS LOVES YOU” in large capital letters. Great! I thought. A Christian has moved in next to me. I imagined early morning Bible studies, perhaps even attending church together, exchanging prayer lists, or swapping casserole recipes for church potlucks. But the rest of the bumper sticker gave me pause. In fine print, under the “JESUS LOVES YOU,” was a cryptic second line: “But everyone else thinks you’re a jerk.” My neighbor is not a theologian. I’m not even sure he is a follower of Christ. But those simple lines gave me some good insight into a phenomenon that unfortunately plagues the evangelical. We think it’s acceptable to love Jesus and hate His followers. The last few years have seen...

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Book of Wishes: The reason we long for more

It arrived every November, wrapped in cellophane, its pages filled with new possibilities. On the cover, a dreamy holiday image, pulling your heart into the season and beckoning you to indulge in hours of wish making. It’s hard to overestimate the sheer joy the Sears Wish Book brought to my young heart. Before Amazon and Apple. Before Walmart and Black Friday. Before Facebook and Google. Every year, I waited with anticipation and longing for the day this catalog would come. A savvy wisher would ignore the advice on the front page, which warned shoppers against skipping to other sections and “missing out” on possible gems like Garfield piggy banks, board games, and Chicago Bears pajamas nestled among the cheesy sweaters, cheap jewelry, and knife sets. The gems, every child knew, were found in only one place—the toy section. Full immersion in the Wish Book took days, not hours. A young boy had to...

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