Category Archives: Evangelism

What does Jesus’ ascension have to do with you?

the_ascent-content-2-still-4x3In Acts 1:8-11, the ascension of Jesus Christ takes place.  Something special happened as Jesus gave his final instructions and shot off into the clouds.  What was it?  What does this event have to do with you?

When Jesus ascended to heaven, an eternal hand-off from Jesus to the disciples. 3 years of public ministry had come to an end and now it is up to them.  And now it is up to us.  In John 16, Jesus said it would be to the disciples advantage that he would leave…because then…you would get the Holy Spirit.

Let me ask you this – I understand this was a promise for the disciples…but is this a different Holy Spirit? A different source of power than the HS that lives in us?  Are we to be a witness to a different Jesus?  We have the power to be a witness for Jesus in our neighborhood, our community, our workplace..and we as a church are giving to missions, some of us are answering the call to missions to allow the Gospel to go to the ends of the earth.

If a loved one held your hand before they passed, and they gave you final instruction… would you listen? People, this was Jesus’ last instruction before leaving earth.  So church…ARE YOU? Are you being a witness to others?  Your mission is to spread the Gospel, the message of Jesus…He came, He died, He rose again…and He left – and has chosen us to spread Word about Him, His love, and His Salvation.  Will you?

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God saved me, now what?

Before I get to the point…watch this incredible story of a Dad and his son.

You have experienced Amazing Grace if you have salvation.  And you have been given new eyes, a new focus, new meaning…a new life.  You have new sight.  You have been looking at the ground all this time…at this world hoping to find happiness, joy, and fulfillment.  Now, you can look up, and you can SEE.  You have been given new life.  From death to life.

And with these new eyes, How dare we look down on anyone else in the sense that we are any better – No, if anything we should have a better understanding of where they are – and where they could be!  It should break our heart – motivate us to share how they could be rescued, delivered from death to life.

To sum up…you have salvation, NOW WHAT?  Live a life as if you have been given a new life (because you have), and share this new way of living with those that have not experienced it.  LIVE & SHARE!

This is a clip from this sermon.  Clink on the link to hear more.

 

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1 Win is Worth 100 Losses

5366637592_0a193a8fcf_bWin is Worth 100 Losses…Spoken like a true Bills fan.  But there are times in ministry where people fall, deny the truth, or just decide to quit…but I have to remember the victories.  That’s what we have to do, find the victories even among the failures – The spilled milk isn’t what matters…it’s your reaction to it.  The job loss that results in a new dependence on God.  The high school decision that your future self will thank you.

But there is a victory that is greater than all of these, and Jesus does a much better job of bringing the point home in Luke 15:8-10 – READ

Little Background here…

  • Those 10 coins would come as a headband. This was equivalent to a wedding ring of today.  So ladies – you could see why this woman was so desperate to find the coin. 
  • 10 Coins – likely represented all she had – 1/10 of her savings was lost!
  • Another thing – Palestinian homes didn’t typically have LED lighting – in fact, most were quite dark with wooden floorboards where the coin could have easily been lost.

Why would I share this background information?  Well it gives us better understanding of this parable, and the themes within the story.  The overall theme of this parable, and the one before and after it…is the love of the Father searching and finding the Lost.  Here’s what we learn from this passage…

In the Dark…Just as the woman searched in a dark home for the lost coin.  God is searching through a dark world for those that are lost.  They are searching for hope in darkness.  God is the light they need in the dark world.

What was missing?  Part of the BRIDE was missing.  Jesus calls the church His what? (Bride)  This may be a stretch of an application, but we learn two things here:

  1. Christ wants to search for those who could be called His bride
  2. The church should be looking – If this woman told you she lost her coin – would you say “tough luck”? Would you be too busy to help (as we talked about last week)?  Would you be so unloving not to care?

Today, it’s not a coin.  IT’S PEOPLE!  People that can discover what it means to be loved by their Heavenly Father.  You can help them be found by the FATHER!

One Coin?  Not only was it just one coin, but some commentaries say the coin was just worth a day’s wages.  Plus this lady had 9 other coins.  Why search?  Compared to God, we are just little specks on this planet.  We may have several hundred Facebook friends…but there are 7.4 billion people on this planet.  We are just one of many…why would God search for us?  Shows God cares – Psalm 103:8-14 – This is the God we see in Luke 15.  A compassionate, loving, and merciful God – who SEARCHES for lost sinners!

God is not a passive God.  Look at the woman He is compared to…look at all she does to search for the coin.  She gets a light, she sweeps the place, and she diligently searches high and low…she is not going to give up…and neither does God.  2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not willing that any should perish…He wants all that are lost to be found.

The reaction – Do you have the reaction of this woman?  Well, do you?  You have found new life!  You have found forgiveness, hope, & peace – will you go to your friends and neighbors and share it and say…Look what I FOUND!  We search harder for the remote control that we do for lost souls…SHAME ON US!

Look at the joy over “1 sinner who repents”I enjoy watching football.  Well, the NFL season hasn’t started yet, so I can still say that.  But if your team is bad, the NFL draft provides you with fleeting hope…that the guy you get on your team will be the answer.  They MUST have a special talent, and your team is saying – we want them to be part of our team.  On TV – after the team picks the player, they show the guys in upper management…guys in suits giving each other high fives, fist pumping, and cheering…for a game…a game!

Imagine those truly in “upper management”…the angels of God…imagine their excitement over someone joining their team…FOREVER SAVED!  It might go something like this…

RonDiCianni-HeavensBalcony“Hey Gabriel, get over here…look…it’s happening over here in China…a little girl, that’s it and AMEN….YES, she just got saved!  Michael look down there in South Africa…a couple just trusted in our Savior…Wahoo!  Oh…look over there in Columbus, Ohio…a neighbor praying with one of ours…How we celebrating tonight…shooting stars…lightning storm…100,000 angel choir…PARTY FOR THOSE SAVED FOR ETERNITY…YES!!!

Do we have this reaction?

Here is the Model of Evangelism.  Desperate search for the lost and bring them to their proper place – in God’s family – in the safety of the Father’s armsDo we search with desperation?  Do we search?  Do we care?  Do we believe others are worth saving?  The woman didn’t say – “Oh well, lost a coin…I got 9 more…I’m safe.”  We can’t live our lives this way…instead…living each day hoping, praying, and witnessing towards ONE MORE.

My wife is an incredible party planner – especially birthday parties for our kids.  The things she creates, bakes & makes for those parties…amazing.  All that hard work – Why does she do that?  Because she loves our kids and wants them to have joy on their birthday.  Bringing people to Jesus is hard work.  It takes prayer, boldness…sometimes years of conversations, sacrifices, and loving others…BUT in the end it is worth it…to see the joy on someone’s birthday…their spiritual birthday.

Let’s be the best party planners – the party that happens in heaven each time someone trusts Jesus Christ as their Savior.

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How to Climb The Mountain of Righteousness

You are at the base of the tallest mountain in the world.  Let’s say no one has ever made it to the top due to treacherous slopes, dangerous animal habitats, and weather conditions where no human has ever survived.

Yet, with your can-do-it spirit, your Marmot coat, one of those unbreakable water bottles that doesn’t spill, some rope, and a packet of foot warmers…you charge the mountain. All around you, you see others making the same attempt, and all of them are failing miserable. But you still try, and try, and try again.

Oceans-Deep-Daily-Devotional-and-Meditation-on-Psalm-36-6Seems foolish, but this trip up the impossible mountain happens every day for so many people. This impossible mountain is called righteousness. As it says in Psalm 36:6, “Your righteousness is like the highest mountains”…that is, God’s righteousness. We live in a world that is trying to climb the impossible mountain of righteousness, and even though they keep failing to reach the top, they keep trying.

You will never reach the top on your own. But there is hope. Jesus is at the top of the mountain, reaching down with His hand. His hand offering forgiveness, new life, and eternal hope. But, in their hardness of heart, very few look up. Determined to climb the mountain on their own, they never look for help…they fail to see Jesus, their only hope for reaching the top.

Romans 3:23 tells us we all fall short of God’s glory. That is until we trust in Jesus. When we give our life to Jesus, He gives us His righteousness…He takes us right to the top of the mountain and our eternal journey begins.

Will you take His hand? He is reaching for you now. Stop trying to climb the mountain on your own and keep falling…grab His hand, and enjoy the view.

mountainTop

More of this sermon can be heard here.

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Book Review: Follow Me

Book Review:  Follow Me by David Plattfollow-me

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro. Maybe it is a habit from your high school days of skipping the introduction of your book report book, so you could read the entire book by the next day…but I would suggest to break that habit with this book. Francis Chan provides a powerful testimony in this introduction that you do not want to miss.

Storyteller Extraordinaire. This dude can tell a story. One of the best storytellers I have read. He takes you into the story and you do not want to leave. Using personal stories and illustrations, these stories are powerful enough to make this book come alive.

Preach it! You can tell Platt is a preacher. His one-liners throughout the book give you chuckles and also elbows to your sides. Also, there were times where you can almost hear the pulpit being thumped (in a positive way) as he brings it! Chapter 7 is an example where you want to scream “you tell ‘em” or “amen”.

The Bad:

He, not he. You may think this is nitpicking, but not for me. When referencing the Creator God, you must capitalize the pronouns referring to Him. See how I just did it there. In this book, grammatically correct or not, it needs to be done.

The Grade: A. Seriously, you will love Jesus more after reading this book. It is some powerful and motivating material. If you are not motivated to share Jesus with others more after reading this book, you either need to check your spiritual hearth, or check your physical pulse! I strongly recommend this book to rejuvenate your love for the Gospel and your desire to share it with others.

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6 Tips for a Successful Easter Egg Hunt

Last year, I wrote how to plan an Easter Egg Hunt for the community.  This time, I’d like to follow-up with six quick tips to help you have a successful hunt.  Feel free to comment with ideas you have…Easter_0000_Egg-hunt

Gospel-Driven. I put this first for a reason. I believe these events can be an opportunity for Jesus to be shared. I’m not suggesting a 4 act play on the story of Easter, but a simple object lesson that would be enjoyable for the kids and their parents.

Church Effort. Listen, the idea of a community Easter egg hunt seems pretty overwhelming to do by yourself…so don’t. Allow it to be a church effort. Encourage your church each year to donate the candy and eggs.

Sunny Bunny Eggs. Even though we support this event mostly with donations, I would suggest purchasing a base amount from Sunny Bunny Eggs for two reasons. One, it helps ease your mind that at least you will have some eggs if donations go awry. Second, it is a great organization that supports those with mental disabilities.

Divide the Ages. Too often, I see Easter egg hunts that are not divided by age and the older kids run over the little ones, like Bigfoot over cars at a monster truck rally. Splitting up the ages is always appreciated by the parents.

Bounce House. Book it right now. Book two if you can. Trust me on this one.

Teen Leadership Opportunity. Our student leaders plan and administrate this entire event. You heard me. They recruit volunteers, plan the games, contact the bounce house people, and even give the lesson. Never underestimate what teenagers can do for their community for God’s glory.

 

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Mocking Evangelism

What’s wrong with me, I’m currently reading a book called “Questioning Evangelism”, and I’m about to blog about Mocking Evangelism. Before you start throwing stones at your computer, let me straighten things out here. Questioning Evangelism is a book about using questions in evangelism. And I’m not encouraging mocking evangelism, but the use of Mock Evangelism events.
Mock Evangelism events are a staged event where students can practice sharing the Gospel with those they know and trust. How is it done? Well, let me help you explain by answering 3 Questions: Why, Where, & Who?evangelism4

Why? Maybe your youth ministry is different, but I’m entering my 3rd year in my current ministry, and when I polled the high schoolers, very few have ever led anyone to the Gospel. So I wanted them to learn how to do it in a “safe environment”. So the Mock Event allows the students to practice their gospel presentations with familiar faces before they go out and share with strangers.
Where? My goal is to make it real as possible. One time I set the gym up like a lunchroom, another was a park, and last year was the streets of Chicago. Also sounds are effective. So, in that lunchroom setting, I was the principal and would give announcements from the sound system. Or for a mission trip to Chicago, I showed slides with sights and sounds of downtown Chicago.
Who? In the past, I’ve mentioned the importance of intergenerational ministry.  Well, here is one way to accomplish bridging the generations together. Each time, I invite several adult small groups to come and participate. For the student lunch room, I had adults dress up like cheerleaders, athletes, or in goth costumes. For the park, one guy was passed out on a bench, another was painting portraits, and another was playing catch with his kids. BEST PART: Gave permission to adults to “step out” of character when needed and instruct or encourage the teen. Say things like “Here’s what you can say here” when they get stuck or “that was really good, keep going”. This is a real opportunity for natural discipleship/mentoring to take place.

Extra: Be Creative. Use sounds, people of your church, PowerPoint, decorations. Make it real, so when you do take your students out, they will be as ready as they can be. Cater to your Trip. For example: I knew part of the Chicago trip would be to invite people from their homes. So I had “actors” in side rooms ready to answer the door. The teens had no idea who they would meet on the other side. Hilarious! But it gave them experience of what they would face on the trip, and in real life.

Hopefully you can see the value of Mock Evangelism Events, particularly in the mission trip training process. However, I’ve used these events concluding series on the importance of sharing the Gospel. Please, don’t allow this event to be a replacement for the real thing, but as a training ground for your students to be sent out as missionaries in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and around the world.

 

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Evangelism Resources

In a previous blog on Evangelism, I mentioned the value of setting students up for Evangelism success.  Now, before I move on, let me just clarify.  There is no A + B = Angels Rejoicing in Heaven.  In other words, God is in charge, and it is up the Spirit of God moving in the heart of that individual.  A teen could have a perfect Gospel presentation, and the person listening could still say no thanks.

That being said, it is important you give your students the tools to succeed in evangelism.  One was mentioned here, giving you the website for the wordless bracelets and 4 points bracelets.  These are so valuable because you do not need to bring any materials, simply wear the bracelet for a visual presentation.  It’s like having a PowerPoint presentation on your arm.

share-Jesus-on-TwitterHere are 5 resources that I have used or have had recommended to me are the following:

  1. The Mission Ball – A soccer ball with the Gospel?  Many mission trips will have a language barrier.  This tool can break the ice, and with soccer being a universal sport language, this could be your ticket to a Gospel conversation.  Their website describes it as “simply a soccer ball covered with Biblical text. It includes the 10 Commandments, God’s simple plan of Salvation, and selected Scripture.”
  2. May I Ask You a Question Tracts – These come in multiple languages and are simple to use.  Many people who have used these tracts call them simple, clear, and effective.
  3. Solarium – Are you a visual person like me?  These tracts provide a visual presentation, by presenting the Gospel through pictures.  A tool developed by Campus Crusade, and is described on their website as 50, 4×6 original photographic images and 5 simple questions that allow you to enter and explore the lives of people around you.  Soularium is designed to create a space for authentic dialogue with people about their life and spiritual journey. It’s perfect to use with students, neighbors, co-workers, friends and family – people of all ages!”
  4. EE – 2 Diagnostic Questions – Use these questions to begin Gospel conversation:  1. Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven, or is that something you would say you’re still working on?  2.   Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”  What would you say?
  5. eCube – This cube designed Gospel presentation is great for child evangelism.  It’s easy to learn and use, and is a fun way to present the Good News.  This valuable resource also comes in a kids version.

So there you have it.  Help your students share Jesus with these five resources.  Set your students up for success.  Five fun ways to share the Gospel, which will re-energize the passion for the lost in your teens and provide learnable ways to share Jesus with others.

What about you?  What evangelism resources have you used in your ministries that have worked with teenagers?  Share in the comments section, and help others share Jesus more effectively.

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Evangelism Series – Mission Trips

Mission Trips.  What comes to your mind?  I can sum up my experience with these trips in two words:  life-changing and once-in-a-lifetime.  That’s right, I set the bar pretty high, but let me explain what I mean.

In presenting these trips to teens and parents each year, these are the two words I continue to come back to over and over.  Life-Changing.  It is rare that I see a teen, who has gone through training with the proper attitude and teachable spirit and that does not experience some type of spiritual life change (Barna Research agrees).  Once-in-a-lifetime.  How could I make such a claim?  Well, ask your parents, how often do you get to go to camps to serve for a week as an adult?  How often do you take international trips to Japan or Mexico?  Well, when you put it like that…I guess these trips are really Once-in-a-lifetime.evangelism3

So what about Evangelism?  How do you prepare the students to evangelize?  What tools have helped them feel equipped and ready to share the Gospel?  Here are steps to preparing your teens for evangelism for a mission trip.

  1. Train ‘Em.  Before I even start.  You must require each student to commit to mission training.  This training should last several months, and attendance is required.  (2 absences – extra assignment, 3 absences – meeting with parents, 4 absences – dismissal from team.  (Here are some previous article on mission training- here, here, and here)
  2. Can I Get a Witness?  You guys know this generation.  It thrives on community, relationships…while previous generations were centered on knowledge and facts…this generation seeks connections and a cause.  Well, that’s what a testimony can bring.  So, as part of your mission trip training, teach them how to give their testimony.  Both kinds of testimony – the obvious one and the most precious – when they gave their life to Jesus Christ.  But there is another – the testimony of what God is doing in their life now.  TEACH them how to develop these testimonies.  Have them write them out.  Have them share them with the group, with family, with friends…publicly in church or with in conversation with unsaved family & friends.
  3. Fool’s Gospel.  Make sure you are on the same page on what is the true Gospel.  There is some confusion as to what the Gospel is out there.  Guess what?  The Gospel is not giving to the poor, the Gospel is not helping your community…those are things that can lead people to the Gospel or can show the love that is in the Gospel…but not the Gospel.  The Gospel in a nutshell, is the Good News that Jesus, God’s only Son, who did not sin, died a painful death on the cross, to pay the penalty of sin, and provides forgiveness & eternal life in heaven for all those that repent and trust in Him.  It is not what we have done, but is all about what God has done in the finished work of Jesus…Our students need to know this.
  4. Tools For Success.  It is important we do not set our teens up for failure.  So, it is important we give them the tools to succeed.  For example – Wordless Bracelets, E3 Bands (My favorite), or 4points.  Have students wear these AND teach them how to use them.  Provide training on each color, what it represents, verses of support, and illustrations.  Practice within the group.  These bracelets have been so effective – I’ve had some of my students use them at children’s ministry events this year.  They set up a table and make the bracelets & share the Gospel with them.  All because they were given the TOOLS to succeed.  I don’t want these teens on the mission trip fishing with no bait on the hook.  With nothing to fall back on when they get nervous.
  5. Leave it to the Pro’s.  Bring in a professional.  If you are going to work with kids on the trip, bring in your children’s director (that may be you, I know) or an experienced Sunday school teacher, or someone with a teaching background.  Bring the generations together and allow that teacher to teach your students how to present the Gospel to kids.  (Intergenerational Ministry ).  Maybe you are going into a different culture.  Bring someone with that culture experience to teach them how they can be more effective with Gospel conversations.  (Example: Spanish Teacher from Community College)

Disclaimer:  Make sure your students are evangelizing at home too, and not just on the mission trips.  Remind them that every step they take is on the mission field.

 

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Evangelism Events – Part 2

As promised, here are 50 events that I have participated in over the years.  Some are outdated, some went very well, some were flops…After reading the list.  Feel free to comment about some of the events that you have done over the years!

1. Where’s Waldo
2. Mall Masquerade
3. Clue
4. Diamond Smugglers
5. Video Scavenger Hunt
6. “Make your own video” night
7. Parent Appreciation Night
8. Coffee House
9. Talent Show
10. K-Nine/Matt-Ball
11. Dodgeball
12. Capture-the-flag
13. Frisbee golf
14. Monopoly – LIFESIZE
15. Open Gym
16. Sardines
17. Bigger & Better
18. Mafia
19. 4 on the couch
20. Board Game Night
21.  Amazing Race
22. Survivor
23.  Bunko
24.  Mystery Dinner
25.  Director’s Cut – Make your own movie
26. Fear Factor
27.  Miniature Golf
28.  Bowling
29.  Laser Tag
30.  Prom Night (Alternative to dancing)
31.  Disco Night (milkshakes, blob movie)
32.  5th Quarter Party
33.  Guys/Girls Nights
34.  Back to School Night/Church Picnic
35.  Theme/Water Park
36.  Word of Life SuperBowl
37. Widow/Singles Valentine Dinner
38. Camping Trip
39.  Basketball/Dodgeball Marathon
40. Teens Involved
41.  Attend a Sports Game
42.  Olympics
43.  Winter Retreat
44.  WinterJam
45.  Fall Retreat
46. Super Bowl Party
47.  Small Group Day
48.  Camp
49.  Ice Skate/Roller Skate
50.  Turkey Bowl
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