Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.

Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

A Dilemma



A growing number of people in North America and Europe have no background or understanding of Christianity.

One reason could be the great influx of immigrants from many nations. But an increasing segment of Western society has grown unengaged and uninterested in Christianity, which is the result of a shift in culture.

America’s culture is becoming both post-modern and post-Christian. Europe and Canada have preceded the US in this cultural shift, but America is not far behind.

The church cannot stop this cultural shift, nor can they ignore it. Some will argue this point, but denying or resisting this shift only brings insulation and isolation from people the church wants to reach.[i]

Adjustment needed

Christian believers need to understand this cultural change, and make necessary adjustments to address it. More and more new believers, responding to the gospel and God’s invitation into His Kingdom, come into churches with a limited understanding of Christianity—its beliefs, practices, terminology, and expected lifestyle.

How can Christian believers communicate to people so they hear the truth and respond to Jesus? This is an important question to answer.

Christians need to have a much more global view of the world around them and of God's kingdom. Billions of people in the world—yes, billions![ii]have never heard the gospel or even the name of Jesus once in their lives, or in their own language.

A rapidly growing Muslim population throughout the world appears closed to the gospel, even though the Koran speaks of Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) as a prophet.[iii] Again I ask, how can believers convey the gospel so they can hear it?

The problem of Christianese

Many people lack a frame of reference for understanding the words, terms, and biblical references used by Christian believers. Collectively, these words become foreign language to nonbelievers and new believers. It’s called Christianese—a specialized dialect of English.[iv]

Special words and terms are common in most fields of study. They're called field-dependent terms—words and phrases with specific meanings within a certain field, or a subculture.

Various branches of the sciences, academics and education, politics, and even subcultures like street gangs, have their own lingo—a language specific to their field of reference. Christianity, with its field of study called theology, is no different.

A language of its own

Christians often use specific words and terms with meanings understood within the church—or so they think. My experience as a pastor and cross-cultural missionary tells me differently.

Many Christian believers can't explain these specialized words and terms in plain English so a nonbeliever could understand. This helps make the gospel a mystery to people.

Christian clichés and what I call Bible talk,[v] used outside their field of reference (the church), are unfamiliar and difficult to understand.

Subtitle interpretation needed

I've traveled to many places in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. I know the feeling of hearing a foreign language and not understanding what’s being said. It’s similar to being in a movie with subtitles, but you can’t see and read the subtitles because you’re one of the characters in the movie!

In some conversations and settings, I'm expected to respond. Though I want to, I can’t. This is the predicament Christians put nonbelievers in, and even new believers uninitiated to Christianese. To be fair, most believers don’t realize they do this.

Two issues are at work here. One is the lack of understanding on the part of the nonbeliever or new believer, who doesn’t understand this language.

The second issue is with the believer who uses Christianese, yet doesn’t understand the terms themselves. This is revealed when a person attempts to explain what they say in non-Christian words but can’t.

Experience—the great teacher

Over the years I stumbled upon a simple test of someone’s understanding of Christian terms and theology. If a person can put Christian and Biblical words in his or her own words, then they understand them. If not, they don't.

There's a simple way of communicating Christianese to unbelievers and new believers alike. I use the acronym IYOW—In Your Own Words—to describe the process. It seems simple, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

I didn’t discover this through extensive research, but in much humbler ways.

Learning curve

As a pastor, I’m responsible to feed the sheep, that is, teach the Bible—its doctrine and practice—to help God’s people grow spiritually. I founded a church in Southern California’s high desert in 1978, with my wife and three children, ages newborn to five years. Our fourth child came a few years after the church started.

My older children would hear things in Sunday school and church services, which prompted questions. They often asked dad (me) these questions at inopportune times. It seemed much easier to teach adults than children, or so I thought.

With adults I could use all the Christian theological terms without explaining them. But when my children asked me to explain these same things, I found myself unable to explain them in simple, clear words. More than a few times my oldest daughter would ask simple, heartfelt questions on our way to a church service. “Dad, how can God be one and still be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?”

As a pastor, my mind was filled with things to do before the service began, as well as on my message. I was not prepared to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to my sweet, elementary-aged daughter in a simple, clear manner.

The reality is, it challenged me, and this changed my whole approach to teaching.

On the job training

My experience in the Philippines, as a teacher of pastors, leaders, and Bible School students, confirmed the importance of this, while teaching in an environment where English was a second language, but Christianity was familiar.

The Philippines is often proclaimed as the only Christian nation in Asia, so students used Christian terms frequently. But, I realized many of the students didn’t have a full understanding of these words and phrases. I got a partial clue early on, while settling into Filipino culture.

Slow to learn

We were part of a little barrio church with many small children, where some of the worship songs were sung in English. One Sunday morning, during greeting time, I started speaking to one of the children. My wife said, “They don’t understand what you’re saying.” I replied, “But they’re singing the songs in English, aren’t they?”

Because I was a bit slow on the uptake, my wife explained that they sang in English because that's how they learned the songs. The children didn’t know what the words meant. Similarly, I could speak a little of their dialect, but didn’t understand the language beyond a few familiar words and phrases.

No more coded language

When people use certain words and terms, and quote Scripture texts, it does not mean they have a clear grasp of what they are saying. Although it may seem clear to the speaker, unless the person can explain these same things in simple words, what’s spoken sounds like a secret code language to the uninitiated.

As Christian believers, we need to speak in simple, clear, non-Christianese words.

What's your experience with using or not understanding Christianese?

This post follows an earlier one called— The Search to Know God

It is another excerpt from my book, which is available in paperback and as an e-book (see sidebar).

[i] There are many books and articles written on post-modern, post-Christian trends, here are some ones I’ve read and recommend— The End of the World as We Know It, C Smith Jr. (2001 WaterBrook Press); Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, by DA Carson (2005 Zondervan). Online articles— http://goo.gl/emWyu | http://goo.gl/yVFBo

[ii] With the world population hitting seven (7) billion at the end of 2011, statistics fluctuate for numbering the billions of unreached and least reached peoples in the world. However, there are organizations dedicated to researching this (see the following links). Joshua Project— http://www.joshuaproject.net/index.php| Operation World— http://www.operationworld.org/| US Center for World Mission— http://www.uscwm.org/

[iii] Isa al Masih is the anglicized term for the Arab name/title of Jesus the Messiah or Jesus (the) Christ. The Koran (the anglicized spelling for Quran or Qur’an) is Islam’s book of sacred writings. Muslims are followers of Islam and the prophet, Mohammed.

[iv] Here are some websites devoted to Christianese— http://dictionaryofchristianese.com/ | http://goo.gl/nssqu| http://goo.gl/aKFDV| http://www.internetevangelismday.com/jargon.php| http://goo.gl/2Y1Bp (also see “Christianese_glossary” in the Glossary)

[v] Christianese comes in many forms—common clichés, Bible references or words from familiar Bible texts, and theological terms (more academic). I call these Bible talk because they are based on words and phrases in the Bible, or in reference to texts in the Bible.


Getting Beyond "John 3:16"

john316sign When we hear something over and over, we tune it out at some level. It becomes too familiar, or we tune it out because we don't want to hear it.

This is what children do with their parents. "Are you listening to what I'm telling you?" Uh, that would be no! When we hear an ad or announcement repeated ad nauseam, we tune it out as a means of self-preservation.

Perhaps this is why people are indifferent to the good news of God's redemption. They either tune it out because it's redundant and repetitive, or they just don't want to hear it. Then again, it could be something quite different.

Signs of the times

Christian believers and non-believers alike, tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes. This is especially true for quoting Scripture references. The ubiquitous signs at sporting events are more of an irritant than inspiration.

[bctt tweet="People tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes"]

Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel? They don't. Only those familiar with these references know what they mean. Are sports fans suppose to have their Bibles handy to look up these references?

For me, this is spiritual laziness. It is useless effort. It doesn't communicate the truth of Scripture. (Want to know I really feel?...lol)

[bctt tweet="Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel?"]

Tuning in

If a believer is genuinely concerned about lost souls hearing the truth of the gospel, then they need to communicate it well. How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?

I'm a believer of reading and hearing God's Word (the Bible) in different versions. It helps me see and hear the truth in a fresh way and in different wording. It keeps me from tuning out what I think I already know.

[bctt tweet="How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?"]

I found this helpful while teaching in the Philippines where English is a second language. Language is often a barrier to understanding, especially going from one distinct language to another. But obstacles exist within the language that's most familiar to us.

Often, certain words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all. Here is where we need to learn to communicate the truth of God in a simple and clear way.

[bctt tweet="Certain Bible words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all"]

Making it simple and clear

How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? Here are some suggestions I've found helpful while teaching in the US and in cross-cultural settings.

[bctt tweet="How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well?"]

I'll give you an example in my next post, so stay tuned!

Give it a try yourself!


Missing the Obvious

Photo credit: http://radicalart.info/kinetics/gravity/Drop/MotionLawExperiments.html Some things are as plain as day and easy to grasp.

We've all experienced the effect of gravity, either by dropping something or something falling on us. But understanding what causes the force of gravity requires some knowledge of physics, and yet is still a theoretical mystery.

Understanding truth, theological or biblical truth, is similar. A certain level of understanding is plain and obvious, but a fuller understanding may elude us.

 An encounter with Jesus

On the same day Jesus rose from the dead, two of His followers travelled from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles away. As they walked, they tried to sort out everything that had taken place.

Jesus came along and joined them as they talked with each other, but they didn’t realize it was Him. “You seem so absorbed with what you’re discussing. What are you so concerned about and why do you look so sad?” Jesus asked.

The two halted and Cleopas said, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened recently?!” Jesus simply replied, “What happened?”

They answered with amazement, “All that’s gone on with Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet working powerful miracles, and who spoke the truth with real authority! He was highly favored by God and the people respected Him, but our ruling priests and leaders had Him arrested and insisted He be put to death. So He was crucified, but we had believed He was the One who would deliver and restore our nation, Israel.

It’s been three days now, since all this took place. But today we were shocked to hear some of the women, also His followers, had gone to His tomb and found it empty! When they returned from the tomb, they said they had seen angels who told the women Jesus was alive! Some of His apostles also went to His tomb, but found it empty just as they said, and didn’t see Jesus.”

Then Jesus spoke sternly to them, “You are thinking like little children, unable to believe everything spoken through the Prophets. Isn’t it clear the Messiah needed to suffer all these things before His glorious reign?”

Then Jesus explained how the Law and the Prophets pointed to all of this, and gave them understanding of the Scriptures that spoke of Him as the Messiah. (Luke 24:13-27 paraphrased*)

[*This paraphrase is taken from my bookThe Mystery of the Gospel]

Heard but not understood

This dialogue between Jesus and two of His followers is revealing.

Jesus told His followers what was going to happen to Him before it took place, on more than one occasion (Matt 16:21). These two disciples retell what Jesus told them, though they didn't realize they were talking to Him.

They heard. They believed in Jesus. Yet, they only believed at a certain level. They didn't comprehend what they were told and heard.

Is this not you and me?

As Christian believers, we may hear the truth and believe it, until something happens counter to our understanding of it. This was the case of these two followers.

So, why does this happen? Why do we miss the obvious more times than we'd like to admit?

The simple answer is because we are human, not divine. We are more familiar with this world than the Kingdom of God.

This sets us up for disappointment when it comes to spiritual truth. Why? Because we often have misconceptions based on false expectations of our own.

Some simple things seen in this story

  • The disciples retold the gospel message, but didn't fully understand it (Luke 24:19-24)
  • Jesus rebukes them for not believing and understanding what they were told (Luke 24:25)
  • Jesus explains what happened to Him as He told them before (Luke 24:26-27)
  • It was through personal revelation that the disciples understood the truth (Luke 24:30-32)

How can we stop missing the obvious?

I don't know of any short cuts to stop missing the obvious with biblical truth. But, here are a couple things I've learned from this story that might help—

  • Read and reread the scripture you're studying in different versions—observe it again from different views
  • Learn to put biblical truth in your own words (IYOW) [reading other versions will help]— by doing this you will process (purposely think about) what you are reading
  • Go back to what you know already (see Luke 24:30-32 & John 6:5-12; 35-40)
  • Pray! Ask God to reveal things to you by His Spirit

[If you'd like to read more about this, consider buying my book, or downloading it as an e-book]


Here's another take on this story and the topic of this post— click on this link– http://goo.gl/g4L2fo and scroll down to the link titled– "The Doubters on the Road to Emmaus") — It's a chapter from the book Unfollowers, written by a writer whose blog I follow— http://edcyzewski.com/my-books/

Speaking of Jesus

Photo credit: www.dvdactive.com It's not often I win anything in a contest. For one thing, I don't enter them but occasionally. As they say, "you can't win if you don't enter."

I casually entered some type of drawing  for a book through a missions newsletter. One day I received a book in the mail that I didn't remember ordering. It reminds me of the dad in "A Christmas Story" who won a lower tier prize and was beyond excitement about it. "Amazing! I won something!"

I won something I wasn't expecting. The bigger surprise was my delight in reading the book.

The book and the author


The book is called, "Speaking of Jesus," and is written by Carl Medearis. He is an expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations. His expertise comes from experience as a missionary on the field in Lebanon for twelve years, and he continues to work with international leaders to promote cultural, political, and religious dialogue in the Middle East (taken from the back cover of the book).

The book was sent by the author in a manila-colored envelope with his return address. Since I didn't know the author, nor remember why I received the book, I contacted him. I set it aside until I could commit to reading it through.

I'm glad I read it. It was refreshing. (Click to Tweet) The author expresses many things I'm in complete agreement about regarding Jesus and Christianity.

As with other books and blog posts I've read on this subject, the author challenges the use of Christian terminology (Christianese), and the representation of Christianity, in general. Much of it I agree with, though at times, it seems a bit overboard to me. Perhaps I'm just not that dogmatic about it... yet.

But I am passionate about not using Christianese and focusing on Jesus rather than theology. Here, I am in complete agreement with the author, as you might gather from some of my own posts.

It's all about Jesus

The chapter titled "Unfair Advantage" sums up what I like most about the book. Carl tells the story of his involvement with an interfaith dialogue in his hometown of Colorado Springs, CO. He portrays himself as someone who doesn't quite fit on the panel.

When asked, "How do you get to heaven?" His answer was, "Well, it's Jesus. He didn't start a new religion.... Believing in Him and following Him is the way. He takes us to heaven, not a religion." I couldn't agree more.

Carl does a great job of bringing the reader back to the central issue, over and over. Jesus. It's refreshing to see this point made in so many ways without being redundant. He does this with stories from his own experience, and is honest about his own shortcomings.

The book begins with what is missing from typical presentations of the gospel. I'm big on this, as anyone who's read my posts and my book (The Mystery of the Gospel) will know.

Carl tells of a discussion with students in a missions school of a large church. He asked them "what is the gospel?" After about five minutes of responses, and some moments of silence, one student asked, "How come none of us mentioned Jesus?" Carl's response. "Exactly."

I've had similar experiences in classrooms and small group discussions. This is a real issue with Christian believers in America. A big issue.

The book's value and purpose

I see the value and purpose of the book as a big poke. Not in the eye, but in the heart.

There are some things that are likely to offend some, well, many. But that's a good thing. We need to be shaken at times.

Christian believers need to consider what they believe and why they believe it. (Click to Tweet) This won't happen without a fresh processing of what is often too familiar, but not well understood.

Some of my favorite chapter titles are— "What's Missing in This Gospel?", "Unfair Advantage," "Speak of Jesus... Not about Jesus," "You're Under Arrest... for Speaking Christianese," and "Gays, Liberals, and Muslims." That last one should catch your attention, and its content may surprise you.


The book kills some sacred cows that American Christians hold dear. It stirs things up about matters of faith and belief. Even the subtitle sounds almost sacrilegious, "the art of not-evangelism."

Carl takes an honest look at how we (Christians) go about evangelism and portraying Christianity. I hope you'll read it, ponder it, and allow him and what he says to move you towards speaking of Jesus in a way that attracts others to following Him.

After all, it is all about Jesus and following Him! (Click to Tweet)


Need Some Help on Sharing Your Faith? (part 2)

©word-strong/tkbeyond 2013 Several years ago I escorted a couple young missionaries from our Bible College in the Philippines to Thailand. These two young women were graduates, and were called as missionaries to Thailand.

They grew up in very simple and poor homes (by American standards). They weren't highly educated, but did well in their studies and ministry at our school. I helped get them settled in Thailand with the American missionary who oversaw their internship.

[This is the second part (follow-up) post of an earlier post this week.]

I knew this missionary from previous ministry trips to Thailand, and through relationship with others in ministry. He had several years ministry experience within Thailand and was fluent in the Thai language (a complex and tonal language).

He briefed them on what life would be like in Thailand, the challenges they would face within the culture and with the language. They would begin with at least six months to a year in language school. He also made it clear they would not be able to do much in the way of sharing their faith. This proved to be partly accurate.

A real-life example

It was a big adjustment for these young Filipino women. They had not lived on their own and away from their families. They experienced the sense of isolation all missionaries encounter living in a foreign country. But Filipinos, by nature, are very social beings. They are gifted (I believe by God in a strategic sense) to learn other languages and adapt to other cultures easily.

In the small sparsely furnished apartment they lived in, they began to build relationships. Soon they offered to pray for the landlord and her family. In a fairly short time, they led one of their neighbors into a personal relationship with the Lord. They had developed great favor with the Thai people they lived among.

This is no small thing within Thailand, a staunchly Buddhist nation. In fact, to be Thai is to be Buddhist. Many Thais who hear the Gospel are open and responsive, but afraid they will be giving up their Thai identity if they are no longer Buddhist.

Following Jesus' example

Consider how this took place. These young women reached out in friendship to the Thai people they were living among. Since they were learning the language, they did a lot of listening and asking questions. It sounds like what we read about Jesus as a young man in the temple (Luke 2:41-50).

Too often, what is simple and almost effortless is unappreciated or discounted because of its simplicity. (Click to Tweet) I believe personal, intentional evangelism is one of those things.

Sharing your faith in this simple manner requires no extensive training or education. It requires a willing heart and an interest in others, including their eternal destiny. A knowledge of your own life story, and of God’s story, is also important.

It is helpful to have a sense of how to share your own life story in a simple, brief and genuine way. (Click to Tweet) **

This would take some thought, maybe writing a few things out to be ready to share it with others when opportunity comes.

Knowing God’s story is gained by reading through the Gospels and becoming familiar with God’s story of redemption for humanity. Of course, knowing God’s story can be developed further, but it’s not a requirement to share the Gospel in a simple and genuine way.


The hardest part is to just do it

Being ready and willing is important, but at some point there is the step of actually engaging someone in conversation that requires action on our part.

It's much easier to learn to engage people in conversation without the pressure of having an agenda to “save them.” (Click to Tweet)

Showing interest in others is the first step. Just as the young women did in Thailand, adapt your approach to the people you want to engage in conversation. This requires observation. Get to know them as they are, and relate to them in a way that best connects for them.

It also coincides with the first step of the basic call of discipleship, “If anyone would come after me, let him (her) deny himself...” (Matt 16:24). In other words, learn to be more interested in others than yourself.

Look beyond your own agenda or scheme of sharing your faith. Engage people at their level of faith (or lack of it), and their life experience.

Sharing your faith is not complicated, it's simple. (Click to Tweet)

Here's a summary—

  • Know God's story and be able to tell it in your own simple words (IYOW)
  • Build relationship with others– get to know them as a person
  • Be genuine
  • Keep your own life story short and simple
  • Be ready for whatever opportunities come to share your faith

** Here is a simple outline for sharing your own life story (testimony)— Guidelines-Pers Testimony_2013

If this post (parts 1 & 2) have been helpful, please share it with others.

You can use the share buttons at the bottom of this post, or copy and paste the link into your own post or comment on the social media of your choice. Thanks for reading (and sharing)!

How Does Someone "Accept Christ?"

Photo credit: http://tw.gs/Q6t0ix We live in an exceptional time. If you're not sure how to do something, just ask! Nearly endless online help is available to guide you through car trouble, DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, romance, and even religious concerns.

Is there online help for becoming a Christian? Sure! Of course there is, this is the 21st Century!

I looked up a well-known Christian phrase and found more information than I wanted. It included varying and even opposing thoughts. I'll spare you all that, though you could explore it yourself if you're so inclined.

One of the earliest questions I remember during the Jesus Movement (late 60's through early 70's) was, "Do you want to accept Christ into your heart?" Many variations of the phrase exist, such as, "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" But I don't want to travel down the path of examining all these related phrases. It's a long one.

I'm more interested in finding ways to explain and communicate common Christian phrases and Christianese into simple and clear words. Or, as I like to express it, IYOWin your own words.

Here's what I put in the glossary at the end of my book, "The Mystery of the Gospel"—

Believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior by faith, usually by saying a prayer of confession and trust (also called the Sinner's Prayer). [Common Christianese Terms, page 205]

As with many words and phrases, other terms and expressions are associated with the idea of "receiving Christ." But how does a person put such a popularized phrase IYOW?

I won't give a sure-fire bullet list of steps, but I'll give a brief walk through of the process I use.

What does it mean?

First, I need to understand the intent of the term used, whether it's a word, phrase, or cliché. This requires some thought. For me, asking questions helps me process things.

Where did this term come from? Is it (or something similar) found in the Bible? If so, how and where is it used? If not, how was it coined? And most importantly, what idea, thought, or truth is it supposed to convey?

You would need to adjust the questions to fit the term or cliché used, but the idea is to explore the meaning for yourself.

Put it in your own words (IYOW)

Then I need to come up with a non cliché version in my own words (IYOW). This is not as easy as it sounds, but it is vital.

You'll want to avoid making it a technical definition. The goal is to make it clear and interesting, not obscure and boring. Keep who you want to explain it to in mind, or else, they'll be indifferent and uninterested. You don't want to hear, "What are you talking about?"

More and more people have less and less knowledge about the Bible, Jesus, church, and Christianity in general. Even though they are familiar with certain terms, they often don't understand them.

Give it a try

Lastly, you need to try it out. Make the effort to ask or answer a person in simple, non-religious sounding words. It will take some practice, but most people will appreciate your effort. I've had people within the church and outside of it tell me so.

Also, try to avoid answering people's questions with Bible verses. If you need to refer to a Bible verse, put that IYOW too. And give some frame of reference (context) to the verse. But please, don't bore them with lengthy exegetical explanations and definitions of Greek words. It will not help your effort to make things simple and clear.

So, how would I explain "accepting Christ?"

First of all, I try not to use terms like these, even among Christians who are familiar with them. It's how I practice putting things in my own words (IYOW).

Generally, I want to talk with them about having a personal relationship with God, and how Jesus, His only Son, is the personal link to that relationship. It is by having faith, a confidence in Jesus being who He said He was in the Bible. If they ask about what Jesus said, then I need to be ready to tell them—in my own words.

So, I want to convey the idea that what a person "accepts" is the freedom from sin that Jesus' death and resurrection brings into a person's life, spiritually. Depending on how the conversation goes I'll give more insight as they ask for it. I don't want to overwhelm them with too much information at one time, nor push to "close the deal" by getting them to pray right away.

Now you try it!


Here's some resources you may want to check out related to "Accepting Christ" and Christianese (just click on the link or copy and paste it into your browser)

How do I accept Jesus as my Savior? — http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=how_do_i_accept_jesus_as_my_savior_article




"Have You Been Born Again?"

Image credit: compuinfoto / 123RF Stock Photo Back in the 1980's, I saw a news account of a group touting a new method of resetting a person's consciousness.

The person was to climb into a hot tub and close the lid, naked I believe. Then the person would be submersed under the water representing their mother's womb, though I'm not sure what instructions were given for when to breathe. (lol)

At some point their consciousness of the past would be cleared and they would come out of the tub. It was to be a new start in life and they were proclaimed as "born again." I'm not kidding, I really did see this on a news program. Where? In Southern California, of course!

The term born again

Charles Colson, legal counsel to former President Nixon, wrote his book Born Again in the previous decade. It tells his story of spiritual rebirth following his imprisonment. It's a clear, compelling book that I recommend.

Nothing against hot tubs, but Colson is more on target with what Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of John, when he told the Jewish leader Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. (John 3:1-10)

The term born again has been misconstrued and misused often. My story of the hot tub is a clear example. When Jesus uses this term Nicodemus is puzzled by the idea of being born twice, as many of us might be.

I've heard complicated and technical explanations, but they aren't much help for non-believers or even young believers.

Jesus gives His explanation

So how does Jesus explain it? He uses natural and simple words, and reinforces what He says as one simple truth. For me, I need to read and reread what Jesus says until I can see the simple truth with God's Spirit as my guide.

Two words form this simple expression of born again. The idea of being born isn't complicated, my grandkids can grasp that. New life comes as a result of birth, whether it's a person or an animal. So the first word doesn't require much explanation.

But the second word isn't as simple as it looks. The word again, as it's translated in most common versions, doesn't mean repeat or replicate. Nicodemus, a learned leader of the Jews, struggled with this expression. But Jesus pressed on and repeated what He said in different words to express what He meant.

Jesus talked to Nicodemus about life in God's kingdom. It is spiritual in nature, so a person needs a spiritual birth, different from the natural, physical birth all humanity experiences. This spiritual birth comes from God. It's from above. The basic meaning of the second word again is literally from above or anew.

How can we understand this term?

How does Jesus explain this to Nicodemus? He uses an illustration from nature and speaks of the wind which is invisible. We can't see it but we see the effect of its action. Then Jesus says, "That's the way it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 GW)

It helps to look at Jesus' words as reinforcement of one simple truth, rather than many details to be analyzed. Rereading through John 3:3-8 in other versions and translations will help with the process of seeing the simple truth Jesus intended.

Making it simple to understand

Here's the process I use. First, I read and reread the full Bible text where the word or phrase is found. Then I look for the simple and natural meaning intended by whoever spoke or wrote it. When I gain more insight, I write out (or speak) it in my own words (IYOW). Try it. If you have a simpler way, go for it.

Here's my attempt— God's kingdom is spiritual in nature, so I need a spiritual nature to see it and enter it. I can't cause this spiritual birth myself, but I can receive it from God by faith.

How would you tell someone who is a non-believer what it means to be born again?

I bet someone out there in web-land can do a better and simpler job than I did. Give it a try. Put your IYOW version in the comment section. I look forward to seeing your creativity!

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."


Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?


I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.

For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/

The Search

©CCCM – the Tent

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.

This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression in those days. Young people popularized the Jesus Movement, including those known as hippies who joined the developing counterculture of the 1960s.

A spiritual vacuum

A spiritual vacuum existed in those days. For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era.

Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[i]

In my own search for truth as a youth, I sampled wisdom from various religions and philosophies that surrounded me in abundance and diversity.

Raised in a nominally Christian home, even confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve, I found my Christian moorings too weak to keep me from drifting into varied experiences, philosophies, and religious encounters. These encounters brought plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I had developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that time.

Through it all, I was coming to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a certain church in Southern California, which later became a mega church within the Jesus Movement.[ii]

Thrown out

I attended an evening service where a very young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he gave an invitation to “accept Christ.”[iii]I wasn’t ready to do this.

After the service, I began asking many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible answer-man of sorts—I continued asking my questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

Each time he quoted a Scripture in response to my many questions, I could hear a round of “amen’s” and some cheering, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, how would you then tell me how you truly know God?”

He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

The wrong way

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord. I continued reading the Bible and praying, but didn’t give up the other activities and experiences that were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.

My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, leaving the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend, I went on a search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6).

I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices.

Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I had considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold.

This text showed me I was on the wrong path that led to destruction. I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God.

A changed life

My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living.

I began to give up old habits of my previous lifestyle and developed new ones. On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom.

I had closed the door on my old life as a new door opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God.

I began serving the Lord[iv] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I became full-time volunteers who oversaw the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

A better way

Years later, I’ve often wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual commitment of my life to Jesus could have been shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel.

For many people, Jesus is only a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon.

Is this possible? Absolutely!

[i] The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— Barna article. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here is a link to an article about MTD

[ii] The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[iii] “Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] “Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”

This is another excerpt from my book— The Mystery of the Gospel