That phrase has always irritated me. Some people used to use it as some kind of a back handed compliment. Now it’s the end all be all for a discussion with someone who doesn’t believe in God. In a world that is consumed by doubt yet obsessed with lies at the same time, this paradox causes a problem for Christians wanting to share their faith.
On one hand you are having to fight an uphill battle to counter the thoughts that Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has put in to so many people’s heads as gospel truth. I had a discussion with someone this week who was so totally sure that the Bible had changed over the years….because it just had to have been. After all that’s the statement that really started my fervor for apologetics.
Welcome to the Grand Illusion
The atheist acts as if we are all deluded magic fans. That we watch the stories in scripture unfold and somewhere deep down we don’t believe it. We know we don’t believe it, but we suspend that disbelief just to enjoy the show. Quite the opposite we enjoy the mystery that God is revealing to us because deep down we know that God has revealed Himself through creation. We know this deep down and repress that when we disbelieve.
The problem is, the atheist and the non-Christian no what they believe and why they believe it. That’s the reason that are conversations so often descend to the final answer of, “Well you just have to have faith!”
That one response is more damaging than it seems.
We know the merits of faith and how important it is to have faith. After all you are saved by grace through FAITH. Faith is important. Look throughout scripture at how many times the word faith is used. But make no mistake, the kind of faith that is talked about it reasonable and rational faith. God’s not asking you to believe that the world is flat. God is not asking you to buy in to something that is completely insane or ludicrous. The world will tell you that you are crazy for believing in a resurrected savior.
The reason that they make this claim that you are crazy is because we don’t know how to answer the questions that can be answered.
Starting with the NT I’m going to break down the question, “hasn’t the Bible changed over the years?” that has shaken so many people without need. I’m going to show you that we don’t have “blind faith”, but that are faith in Christ is rational, reasonable, and absolutely necessary.
Psychics and Mediums
If someone asked you afterwards, you could swear that you have no clue how a person could know that much about you. They knew about your grandmother, didn’t they? They knew about the word that she had inscribed on her necklace…wait how did they know about the necklace anyway?
This may be the thought process of someone who leaves a show with a medium. Someone who claims to be able to communicate with the dead. If you don’t know what to look for, then you might get bowled over into believing a lie. The worst part is, you won’t know that it’s a lie. The people you tell about it may not know that it’s a lie or a scam either. This feeling of revelation can change your world or shake the foundations of everything you believe……….
Behind the Curtain
That is, unless you know the truth behind what you’ve just seen or heard.
You would then be able to defend yourself and even tear down the lies. You would be equipped to deal with the junk that is slung at you as “gospel truth” without being afraid to wade into the waters of dialogue. Whether it’s on Facebook or at work or at a friend’s house, you can confidently stand up against the lies that this world throws at you.
A few weeks ago I detailed several of the techniques used by mediums and psychics to con people into believing the lies that they present. You can check out those posts here: Cold Reading and Hot Reading.
If you are watching unaware of what’s going on, you will be bowled over by the “power” that these people have, but if you know what to look for, you can shoot the right holes through their facade and it will fall.
What I’m talking about though is not just for psychics and mediums. What I’m talking about is standing up to any argument or debate that you may feel scared of entering.
If you have been on Facebook lately (I’m guessing if you are reading this than you are on Facebook) the topic of Chick-Fil-A has sparked all kinds of debate and false facts. If you don’t equip yourself and know what to look for, then you are going to get swept up into believing something that is a lie, much like a psychic.
Sifting Through the Bad
There is a lot of bad information out there. There are a lot of Bible verses being used out of context. It’s not okay to sit idly by and watch it happen. There is a way to defend the faith in meekness and love. In fact 1 Peter 3:15 requires us to do so. We are to always be ready give an answer for the hope that is in us in love. It’s okay if you don’t know every answer, but we are to make an effort to learn. Then you will be able to 2 Corinthians 10:5 those arguments.
For instance how would you answer, “Leviticus says you shouldn’t mix two types of threads, how do you justify your polyester blends?”
That’s a tough question at face value, but I assure you the answer is not nearly as difficult as it looks. Stay tuned here to find out the answer.
What is your answer for the Leviticus question above?
When was the last time you were bowled over by a lie?
I don’t quite know how it happened, but a Facebook post about supporting the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A on August 1st spiraled into a massive debate about moral relativism and the existence of Jesus. These two topics are not directly related, but a few Kevin Bacon steps do in fact lead one to another.
If you haven’t been following it, Chick-Fil-A’s President and COO, Dan Cathy, made a statement supporting traditional marriage. Normally no one would bat an eye for a company stating their stance on a “culture war” issue, but this time a company came out in with a Biblical world view, and the world isn’t happy. It’s to be expected when you make a stand as a Christian. You should expect backlash and resistance. The thing is, you have two response options.
You can bury your head in the sand and hope no one brings the topic up in your presence so you can avoid confrontation all together.
The other option is to proactively equip yourself with the tools necessary to engage people with the message of Jesus.
Make no mistake, the first option is without a doubt the easiest thing we can do as followers of Christ. It’s easy to ask Jesus to save you and forgive you…and sit on the sidelines. Let’s face it we don’t want to have to stand up to criticism. We might not know the answers. Unfortunately, that’s not an excuse. We can’t stand before God one day and say, “God I was scared of the risk so I just buried my talent in the sand.” If you want to find out the result of this response, check out Matthew 25.
I don’t want God to be disappointed in me. I want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
One of my favorite parables is when Jesus feeds the 5000. The only person who thought, “I might get hungry today” was a small boy. He brought 5 loaves of barley bread (a shabby bread by the world’s standards) and two fish. What he did though changed my life.
He didn’t offer Jesus 3 loaves and 1 fish. He didn’t say, “Here Jesus you can have what I have left over.”
He gave Jesus everything.
The world may not look at it as much, but look at what God did because the boy gave his everything.
Everything he had he gave to Jesus to use and bless thousands. God has called all of us to be like that little boy. We are called to give God our everything and hold nothing back. If we start to live our life in a way that says daily, “God I’m giving you my everything” this world will take notice.
Matthew 5:14 says let your light shine bright enough where people take notice. God wants us to put the time in necessary to effectively reach the world for Christ out of love. We can’t attack or harass people who don’t believe like us. We have to approach them in love.
Some of the answers on the Facebook post kinda sadden me because they tend to have a, “You’ll find out you were wrong when you’re burning in Hell” attitude.
We are called to love others. We are called to give God our everything. That involves putting the time in studying and learning how to approach the arguments and apply 2 Corinthians 10:5 to them.
When is the last time you gave God your everything?
What did it cost you?
In the School
Get in your student’s schools with your speaker/band before the event for a 45 minute assembly at each school. This step is imperative. On the day of the event, or the day before, get your speaker/band in the schools. When you are negotiating with your speaker or band, talk with them about the possibility of getting into your communities schools. Most speakers and bands will be willing to do this, because they have hearts for evangelism.
Have the assemblies be FREE for the students, and invite all of the students. Get in the middle schools, the high schools, as many as you can. If you have a lot of schools in your area, you may have to consider going to multi-day events, because you can’t expect your speaker and band to do more than two school assemblies in a day and still be prepared to put on an amazing event at night. Another option would be to send your artist (speaker) to one school while simultaneously having your band go to another school.
Nothing builds interest in students’ minds more than actually seeing the people that you have been promoting. The number one benefit of a school assembly is that you start to build trust early with the students in the community. Think about it from their perspective. They are getting a FREE break from class to go see some crazy stuff. With the band, they get to see a free concert. With an artist such as an illusionist, BMX team, skateboarder, etc., they get to see something they have maybe never seen before. Think about this: some of these kids have never seen the world outside of their small community. You bring in something they’ve never seen before, and they want to see more of it, so they come to your event that night. At the event, they hear the Gospel.
Most bands and speakers have a public school friendly positive message they can share with the students during the assembly: ie. Make good choices, stay in school, don’t do drugs etc.
From the stage your speaker or band needs to make your event sound like it’s the only thing in town. Instill the idea that there isn’t a lot that goes on in town, but tonight is something different. Tonight you are going to see something that you have never seen before. Basically, make the students feel like they will be missing out if they don’t come to the event. Naturally there should already be a buzz created through social media, word of mouth, posters, banners, ads. etc. When you start mentioning the name of the event during the school assembly, it jogs the memory of the students who have seen it on Facebook, Twitter, bulletin boards, sidewalks etc. This makes the event larger in scale and scope, and instills its importance in the minds of the audience.
It’s all in the Name
One thing that I definitely recommend from personal experience is that you name your event something that is “Public School Friendly.” What does that even mean? We were promoting an event in Arkansas last year that had the word “God” in the title. Some places this wouldn’t be a problem at all, but one administrator refused to allow the event’s name to be mentioned at all. She said that we were not allowed to use the event’s name because it said God (if you look at any legal precedent by the way, she was way out of line, but you don’t step on the toes of the ones who allow you in).So from that I gathered– if students don’t know the name of the event….then how are they going to show up. Make it something catchy, not corny. Seriously. Not corny.
I love doing outreach events. God has given me a passion for evangelism. It gets me excited when students tell me they accepted Christ after one of my events. Last year, I did an outreach event in Texas that still resonates with me. Several dozen people accepted Christ that night, but what stood out most was a teenage girl who came up to me after the show. She said, “Bryan, tonight was the first time I’ve ever prayed before in my life. I gave my life to Jesus.”
I do want to emphasize that if you are going all out on an Outreach Event, then you should invest in a professional speaker who has a heart for evangelism. One of the easiest mistakes you can do is give in to the temptation to be the speaker. This is not a sleight against your ability, but as a youth minister, your focus needs to be on planning the event, getting students there, and organizing the details. You shouldn’t have to worry about speaking as well. As ministers, we sometimes like to put too much on our own plates, and try to do everything, when it would be best for us to give up a little control and share the load.
When it comes to the Outreach event, you should bathe your decisions in prayer. From the smallest decisions to the biggies like “God, who has the right message and delivery for my event?” This is the most important part of your event–how the Gospel will be presented to the students.
I would suggest:
1. Ask to see a speaker’s statement of faith
2. Ask to see a video of the speaker sharing the Gospel. Here is a presentation cut from a show I did.
The idea of a unique speaker/artist is something that really breaks down walls in the lives of the students in your community.
3. Make sure you hire an artist who shares the Gospel in their show. You would be surprised at how many Christian artists don’t have a Gospel element to their show. These guys would be great for entertaining, but you want someone who does it all. In my opinion, God has called me to evangelism first and to entertainment second. If I didn’t share the Gospel in my show, then I would be wasting what God has given me.
If you are doing an outreach event where your audience is primarily people who are not involved in church, then think about bringing in a unique speaker. That’s one of the things about our ministry that catches people’s attention. Karla and I have performed in places and have had people accept Christ who would never enter the door of the church, but they will happily go and see a “magic show.”
I have learned that students have to trust you before they are willing to listen to you. You can get up and talk until you are blue in the face, but if they don’t trust you, then you are wasting everyone’s time. The walls and barriers in these students lives are strong, but not unbreakable. God takes the gifts and abilities of unique artists and uses them to tear these walls down and open the ears and hearts of the audience.
I can speak from personal experience on this. Students will see me perform illusions and mentalism. I win them over, because they enjoy the show and relate to me, which causes them to want to trust me. This allows them to be very receptive to the Gospel because they want to hear what I have to say.
That one’s of the most rewarding thing about doing the type of ministry that I do, is to see people who have never heard the Gospel before accept Christ. It’s hard to fathom sometimes that there are people in America who know nothing about Jesus or the Bible, other than what they see on Comedy Central.
My personal preference is that if you are going to bring in a unique speaker, then it is best to skip the band all together, unless you do follow the tips laid out in yesterday’s band blog. Most artists’ shows are stand alone acts. Their shows have the drive and the draw to keep the attention and accomplish the goals of building trust and sharing the Gospel.
However in the event that you have a speaker and a band, here are a few tips.
From my perspective, the transition between band and speaker can break an event and lose audience attention.
My show is high energy. One of the biggest struggles sometimes is shifting the energy back up after a band that ends their set on a slow praise and worship song. Don’t get me wrong there is a place for worship music, but the energy shift shouldn’t be a jarring change that can be felt. The entire event needs to be a flow, from the moment doors open to the moment the lights go out and the doors are locked.
A second tip is to have a speaker whose technical aspects are self contained. For example, in my show-the only job for your sound guy is to make sure my mic is loud enough and there is no feedback. He gets an easy job as far as sound cues, because we control all of our music cues from backstage. We like to make everyone’s load as light as possible in relation to our show.
This was a long post, but it is something I am passionate about–seeing people come to know Christ. Matthew 28:19-20
This week, I’m exploring youth outreach events and ways they could be improved. All along, you must be bathing your event in prayer. In addition to prayer, we have to completely invest ourselves in the event if we want others to take the event as seriously as we do.
One of the things that can really make or break your event is bringing in the wrong speaker/band or combination of the two. There are several factors that are important to note.
Some event planners have the idea that you must have a band and a speaker, and that you cannot break that mold. Depending on your event and your speaker, having a band and speaker can be too much at times. If a band does a 45 minute set, and then you bring in a speaker to perform and speak for 50 minutes, plus 15 minutes of announcements and prizes, you might be stretching the interest of the students. There are strategies to make a band and speaker combo work, but it is a fine line that needs to be paid attention to.
When bringing in a band for an outreach event, you have to think differently than an ordinary Wednesday night worship session. You have students coming in who have never been to church before. Think about this for a second, most of them have been exposed to a concert, but many of them have no exposure to a praise and worship set. Put yourself in that mindset. If you knew nothing about church, but you go to an event where people are singing slow songs together with their eyes closed and hands raised, it might freak somebody out. That kind of activity has no parallel in the secular world to prepare them for.
1. MEET EXPECTATIONS
While there is definitely a time and a place for worship sessions, when inviting the community we need to meet them where they are so they are more apt to listen to the Gospel. It shouldn’t be bait and switch; we need to be transparent. We can’t promise students a rock concert and then give them something drastically not.
2. HIGH ENERGY BAND
Invest in a band that has energy. Yes, your Wednesday night worship band might be the next David Crowder band, but for the outreach event to top all outreach events, you need to bring in a band that serves full time in the ministry/entertainment business. High Energy is the key. The idea is that if you are bringing a band in, they need to be dynamic. If they are doing original songs, or even covers, it needs to be a set that appeals to everyone. The important thing is to keep the energy high.
3. TECHNICAL ASPECTS
A band who is in the ministry full time will be able to sound check, set up, and tear down in an effective, time conscious manner. Hire the band that has a heart to meet people where they are, yet still share music that glorifies God. There are a lot of good bands out there that have a heart for ministry. If you need ideas, shoot me a message, and I can suggest several to you.
If you are going to host a band and a speaker, then the transition between band and speaker is absolutely key. It’s at this point that you can really lose people. If there is no reason or perceived reason for the audience to stick around, (I mean they just saw a band right?) they will leave. I suggest that while the band scratches their stage, you need a speaker who can simultaneously prepare for his set. I would suggest that while this transition takes place, then the host emcee do a couple of giveaways, but save the last mega item for the end of the night. This transition period between band and speaker should take a maximum of five minutes. We can transition in under two minutes. The idea is that both the speaker and the band have sound checked before the event and everything is ready to go.
Tomorrow, I focus on the speaker, as this is the portion of the event that I have the most experience with. I am excited about sharing my insight with you. Until then–
What experiences have you had in the past?
What could have been better? Worse?
This week, we are exploring ways to improve outreach events. As a minister to students, you already devote a great deal of time to networking with your students, but you want to create an outreach event that engages new students as well as your regulars.
What are some ways we can get students involved who might not usually come to “church”? There are many different facets of an event that have to come together to make an outreach event successful. Yes, often to host a successful outreach event, money is often involved, and so often youth ministry seems to get the short end of the church budget. However, don’t worry if you do have a smaller budget. There is always the possibility, if you really are serious about reaching your community in a huge way, of sharing the costs with other youth groups. Several churches can work together to see that the Gospel is shared in a clear way to people in your community who may never have heard what Christ has done for them.
What are some points of the outreach event that you might invest in? You don’t have to do all of these simultaneously for your event to be successful, but here are some ideas to improve your event.
If you feed them, they will come. Sometimes this proves true for a regular Wednesday night service. Teenagers like free food. Pizza.
Gift cards-restaurants, itunes, etc. are always a good starter. If you really want to bring in a crowd, then consider having several smaller giveaways in addition to a monster giveaway item (ie. ipad, tv, playstation, ipod, or xbox, etc.)
Some people may take the idea of give-aways as a bad thing. They may say that we shouldn’t have to “pay people” to come to church, but in all reality we have to meet people where they are. Does it really matter what the person’s incentive for coming is if he/she hears the Gospel? If someone comes to know Christ even though they came just to win a prize, then you have done your job.
The event should be high energy and upbeat in a loving environment. Tomorrow we will go into this with further detail. As an entertainer/speaker, I have done a lot of events and have seen a lot of events that do this well, but I have also seen events that fall short in this most important area. We want our focus on the event to be on sharing the Gospel.