“How Do They ‘Hear’ Without Someone to Proclaim?”

Can I impress you that guilt is the poorest of motivators for people to seek the help and healing Jesus offers? Too often this is the message that those ‘outside’ the four walls of our church building ‘hear’. It may not even be what the church is communicating or trying to communicate but it is what is ‘heard’.

Jesus says he does not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). The Adversary is the one who condemns, and he needs no help! The Gospel is the good news of God’s love and invitation to a lost and hurting humanity. It is this love and invitation that marks a fruitful presentation of the Gospel.

I see people who draw near because of their pain. They are all too aware of the wreckage that has become their life. They often hesitate from true repentance because they fear facing this wreckage and reliving the pain! They cannot bear to look at it one more time. Life has become an exercise in avoiding or numbing these events and feelings.

If we have not communicated by word and deed, the love of God, our friends will not feel safe enough. The idea of bringing all that hides in the darkness into the light is beyond daunting if there is no hope of acceptance and forgiveness.

Such ‘word and deed communication’ is vital if we are to succeed in fruitful Christian life. We spend too little time examining what we are communicating. I think we need to pause often and ask, “What are we saying to the world around?” Perhaps we could even ask folks outside our church family what they are ‘hearing’ from us.

Is our energy geared toward this declaration and demonstration of God’s love, in Christ? Do our services and programs tell the good news and equip people to live it out?

Too often I see people come with all their painful baggage. It is hidden away in darkness. They come looking for relief, but the proper groundwork has not yet been done. Like the hard packed soil in Jesus’ parable, they are resistant from real hope and change. Much work needs to be done to prepare this ‘soil’. This is not the work of the desperate person in pain. It is the groundbreaking work of the Church as it demonstrates tangibly the love of God in Christ.

I think I know, a bit, what Jesus felt as he saw the rich young ruler walk away. I see people come only to go. They go back to the darkness rather than bring those actions and feeling into the light. They do not yet feel safe enough to revisit that vile past. Who could blame them? Until we effectively demonstrate God’s inviting love, only the bravest will come.

I do not think we can be satisfied with that ‘harvest’. I believe that the world is still ‘white unto harvest’ if together we can share and show the love of God in Christ to the world. This may require considerable repentance but we of the Church can safely do so because we have received the love of God through faith in Jesus.

My $0.02 worth!

Clowning Around

It was the 150th year of the Diocese and each church was to host the ‘Sesquicentennial Cross’. The church we belonged to, at that time, had the cross on a Sunday which meant we got an Archbishop thrown in with the deal. These were the waning days of the ‘March for Jesus’ movement and so we sang and marched the cross around the block all the while singing Graham Kendrick songs. Along the way I engaged in conversation with a guy who was obviously curious about our activities. I told him and invited him to finish the rest of the walk with us and join our festive service. Surprisingly, he joined us! Early in the service, as the Archbishop plunked on his mitre, he whispered to me, “This church is so cool, you even have clowns!”

This incident is on my mind as I contemplate yet another procession with a cross. Our church is planning to walk with a cross this Good Friday. The plan is to walk by the mall across the street and around the block. I always feel a bit foolish on these ventures. I feel like there are many other ways I might be more effective in witnessing to Christ, and perhaps there are! This though is one way and I have decided to join the throng. I can be involved in other methods of evangelism every other day, but this is a unique opportunity to feel foolish which I cannot pass up.

Fools and clowns are my heroes. In olden times they were the truth tellers. Fools could say in jest the things that others dared not voice. Paul describes himself as “A Fool for Christ”. We misunderstand this because our knowledge of fools and foolishness is quite different than previously.

One of my favourite Saints is Francis who saw himself as “God’s Troubadour” very much in the image of a fool. His namesake the Bishop of Rome has just returned from a Francis-like trip to the Middle East. Like the original he sued for peace and understanding. Such calls for peace in this bellicose world seem foolish and destined to little success, yet the world has seen an example of “a more excellent way”. This is no failure!

On Good Friday, I predict, I will feel foolish. I will wonder about the potential of these efforts to nudge a single heart or mind. I will know though that my fellow sojourners and I will have the opportunity to be fools. Perhaps the great cloud of witnesses will look at us and say, “This church is so cool, you even have clowns!”

The truth is that the cross is always foolishness to the world and Jesus says that if like the bronze serpent in the wilderness, he is lifted up, that he will draw men and women, boys, and girls! I cannot give up an opportunity to be a part of that and I cannot let the chance to be a fool pass me by.  

Diet of Devotions

Our family has been sharing devotions at breakfast time since the very beginning. Our children were raised on a steady diet of bible and prayers alongside their Cheerios. Linda and I continue this blessed tradition. The particular ‘Devotional’ we are currently using has been focussed, the last few days, on the issue of assurance (that is knowing that we know that we are Children of God).

We chatted afterwards about the fact that this has not been a pressing issue for either of us for as far back as we could remember. That we do not struggle with this idea of assurance is based on two things: experience and memory. These two things are emphasized again and again through Scripture. The great deeds of God , in history, the actual experiences of the People of God are recounted and memorialized for future remembrance. The Passover and the Lord’s Supper are apt examples.

It is the same in our lives. We have all faced challenges in life. God has seen us through them. When we recall his faithfulness, we are strengthened to face the next challenge. This week I heard a preacher tell of a member of his congregation who faced a painful death due to brain cancer. He spoke of the man’s faith and dignity. He spoke of the fellow’s gratitude to God in the midst of the pain. The man recalled God’s faithfulness and so faced even painful death with a calm assurance.

It is a tragedy to waste our painful experiences. Let us recall them, even the bitter ones, and know that God has and is seeing us through.

Remembering past pain can be a delicate thing! As someone who for many years suffered with PTSD I know that painful reliving of the past is much different than recollection which brings assurance. I am tremendously grateful that I no longer live ‘there’ and that I can recall, and recount God’s presence help and comfort.

The greatest moment in history to recall is the Resurrection of Jesus. As the Gaither’s have long told us, we “can face uncertain days, because He lives!”

Pain and sorrow, and yes even death, are inevitable. We might wish it were not so, but facts are stubborn things. Blessed are those who can weather life’s storms knowing that God who brought you this far will not fail. It is just not in his nature!

I highly recommend a scheduled daily devotional. There are many wonderful books and guides for every age and stage. We spend the last moments of our devotional time praying together for the upcoming events of our day, our nuclear and extended family, and our neighbours. These prayers help set up our day for ‘the living’. These times correct the course mistakes of yesterday and put us on track to spending a good day with God and one another. This is a long habit and a fruitful one.


I was ‘looking in the rear-view mirror’ this week, as I recalled days travelling all over the Diocese of Brandon with my friends Bishop Malcolm Harding and Agnes Flam. We were trekking to each church in this sprawling area as a part of Malcolm’s farewell tour. He wanted to have an evangelistic event in every local during his last year of episcopacy.

One of my roles was to gather everyone in a great circle to listen to each other. I asked the gathering to gaze into their own rear-view mirror and identify the one person without whom they would not be who they are. Sometimes it is difficult to get people to share in such gatherings, but this was a topic that folks found easy. People spoke about parents, teachers, grandparents, pastors, and friends.

Afterwards I would sum up the conversation, pointing out that quite ordinary people had been used in extraordinary ways to touch our lives and affect our eternal trajectory. I would ask people to aspire to do the same. I would invite people to pray for God’s strength and guidance for a ministry of influence on children, grandchildren, neighbours, and friends. It would often be a late night before we were through praying with people about their personal ministry of evangelism. Those were memorable days!

As I look in my rear-view, I see Miss Crump (yes that was her real name). To my young eyes she was incredibly old, though I do not know how old she really was. She was wheelchair bound in the late 50’s and early 60’s, long before mobility rights were a thing. Each Sunday as we stomped our way down the stairs to Sunday School, she was magically already there. I do not recall a word she said but as I gaze through my mirror into the distant recesses of my life, I know that but for her I would not be who I am today. It could not have been easy to descend into the basement of that church and wrangle a boisterous bunch of boys (Sunday Schools were full in those ancient days!). She had a host of legitimate excuses and yet for the love of God and children she persevered. Though she had great personal wealth she humbly served! I did not know at the time the impact she was having, and she likely did not either. Perhaps she knows now. I hope so.

I think this is a valuable exercise for each of us. It stirs us to thanksgiving for those God placed in our lives and it can inspire us to emulate them. Sometimes the challenge of being like Christ is so daunting we despair but we can certainly aspire to be like those frail humans that we find looming so large in our rear-view mirror.

I never got to tell Miss Crump of the difference she made but I thank God at every remembrance of her. Perhaps the one you see in the rear-view mirror is still alive, if so please tell them. You can make a difference in their life as they made in yours. Best of all, though, pas it on! You have it in you to be such an evangelist. Your creator put it in you, and He is calling it out of you. Evangelism is really not the daunting task you have imagined it. Pray that one day someone you meet today will recall you in their own rear-view.