“Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade”
This is one definition of evangelism I just came across. It’s a pretty good one, in certain situations. But what happens if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t want you to teach them, and doesn’t appreciate your attempt to persuade? This approach is fine if someone, or many someones, have asked a question, or otherwise shown their openness to engage with you, and then only if doing so actually answers their question.
In my ministry, that kind of favor, or permission, usually happens AFTER there has been a genuine God-encounter; a healing happens, or someone is powerfully set free from some bondage, or we interpret a dream and the interpretation rocks their world. That’s when they start asking questions: “How are you able to do that?” “How did you know that?” “Why do you do this for free?” “What are you guys all about?” See? Now we have permission. And people will listen. If they are offended by my answers, at least they aren’t offended by my presumption. The truth is, I can’t remember the last time someone got offended. We’re living in a time when people are very much interested in talking about God (“The fields are white…”). They just don’t want to feel he is being shoved down their throats. Having experienced the love and power of God, they WANT to talk about it. Sometimes they come to Christ, right then and there. But they pretty much ALWAYS go away knowing there is a God who knows and loves them, often even if they have not asked any questions.
I love it when that happens. Those are the times I identify with Jesus when he said “I have bread to eat you know not of”. But though I do the work of an evangelist, getting people “saved” is not my first concern. In a real sense, it is not my concern at all.
I notice with some amazement that Jesus demonstrated the power and the love of God without requiring anything of those he served. Even among the “stiff-necked” who had no intention of following him, such as the Galileans in John 4 when he healed the nobleman’s son, he did a miracle and met the need. It used to puzzle me that he would often perform some miracle and then, while he had their attention, fail to lead them in the sinner’s prayer. It’s true that he was continually preaching the good news about the Kingdom, but he DIDN’T REQUIRE ANYTHING OF THEM! This, despite the fact that the people were thronging him, pressing him, crowding him, anything to be in his presence. He had them in the palm of his hand!
And that is what most would-be evangelists today don’t have.
There are two kinds of evangelists out there. There are the ones who preach in churches, or in stadiums for pre-packaged evangelistic rallies. These are “preaching to the choir” for the most part, to people who are already Christians who are there for the show. Many of them bring their friends and neighbors and many of these do “get saved.” All good.
Then there are the street preachers, brave souls who go into the marketplace and shout their version of the “good news” at people. Trouble is, with most of these, nobody ever takes what they are saying as good news. Including me. Or my fellow prophetic evangelists. It doesn’t help that these same street preachers purposely seek us out and will often stand as near to us as they can with their bullhorns and announce to the crowds that we are “of the devil” and leading people astray. As proof of this, they often point to the line of people waiting to talk to us.
Jesus had crowds of people waiting to talk to him too.
They waited, because they knew he had something real to offer them. They wait for us, because they know we have something real too. The street preachers come with nothing to offer – and expect to be heard. They think they are evangelists. They are actually “clouds without rain.” (Jude 1:12)
To do the work of Jesus, you first of all must be genuinely concerned for the people you want to reach, and to be genuinely concerned means to see their real, earthly, flesh-and-blood needs. Meeting those needs has to be your real motivation, out of compassion. When I and my teammates go to minister, we try very hard to do only what we see the Father doing – because that’s what Jesus did. As for their salvation, I personally believe that their “getting saved” is between them and God. My role in that is to make the introduction, to answer their questions, and possibly to lead them to where they want to go if they don’t know how to get their on their own. I am a facilitator.
My definition of evangelism looks something like this: To love my neighbors in truth – to get to know them, to listen to them, to truly “see” them. To be available to them, and to not give up on them – ever.
That is, after all, how God treats me.
As the summer outreaches fast approach, I embark on added adventure, as if four days of hitchhiking in Iceland, followed by five weeks of traipsing around Wales and England aren’t adventure enough. In addition to connecting with dear friends I’ve met in all of those places, Phil and I will attempt to add our own Light and Love to that of others at three festivals, the same ones we reconnoitered last year; Burning Nest (in Wales), How The Light Gets In (also in Wales), and the summer solstice festival at Stonehenge. Back in the states, there is the Wild Goose festival in North Carolina, the month-long Haunted Happenings here in Salem, as well as a few scattered events here and there.
The “added adventure” I mentioned is that, since I’ll be raveling so much, I’m moving out of my apartment. Why spend money on rent if I’m not going to be there? My brother Greg has graciously agreed to store my stuff, and both my brothers (Jeff is my other brother) have room for me when I’m not traveling. Dear friends in Essex, MA have also let me know I am welcome to stay at their place indefinitely, and I am blessed by others who have made similar offers.
So. I’ll be couch surfing. This greatly adds to my immediate “to do” list, but it’s all manageable (I think!).
My family, of course, especially my mother, thinks I’m nuts, so that’s one thing, at least, that will remain the same. Wouldn’t want to ruin my image. And as contrary to sound reasoning as this may seem, it really is consistent with my developing understanding of who I really am (yes, at sixty years old, I’m finally figuring that out).
Arthur Burk has done a tremendous amount of work in the last twenty-plus years in learning about, and teaching, what he has come to call the redemptive gifts. These are the Romans 12 gifts. Burk describes the behavioral characteristics that accompany each of these gifts, among other things. His teachings on the redemptive gifts has been tremendously helpful to me in my ministry as I have been able to identify people’s gifts and, as a result, help them understand what makes them tick, who God has made them to be, how they fit and function with the Body of Christ, etc. It is probably the single most valuable thing I’ve studied with regards to ministry.** It has also been a huge help to me personally. I’ve been able to ascertain that I am a redemptive prophet and the behavioral characteristics that go along with it not only help me accept who and what I am, it has been a huge relief to find out that I am not flawed. I was designed this way.
“This way” includes, among other things, two things that have made my life difficult on one hand, but have also been a blessing when I have been able to indulge them properly and with wisdom. They are, my urgent need for a great deal of alone time, and a seemingly compulsive need for a frequent change of scenery. Both these characteristics have caused me trouble when I’ve indulged them compulsively. I’ve had to exercise some restraint and to mature in the meeting of these two needs to avoid hurting others and making a mess of my own life. At times, I’ve felt guilty for what I assumed was selfishness and immaturity for these feelings, and very often, I WAS selfish and immature in getting those needs met. Understanding that there is a reason God made me this way is now proving to be very helpful and liberating in using these characteristics in order to complement (and implement) my life’s purpose, which is serving others through missions.
So, at the end of April, I will be a wanderer. I’ll be Bilbo Baggins. The thought excites me and gives me butterflies in my stomach. I don’t think for one minute it will all be pleasant and easy. But, funny as it may sound, I know I’ll feel as much at “home” as I maybe ever have. The idea of “home” being a place of firm roots has always made me uneasy (and consequently made me feel flawed). That uneasiness can be a curse if I allow it to be. It’s a burden in any case, but so is an established home a burden. It’s just a matter of the type of burdens one is designed to carry. An ass and an ox carry loads differently. Feel free to decide which one I am. My friends will not find it necessary to hesitate.
Stay tuned. My adventure is changing. It should at least result in some decent stories!
*My mother didn’t actually say that, to me anyway. But I know she thought it!
**I consider Burk’s teachings on redemptive gifts to be a real life treasure – the missing key, with the potential to change the relatively formless entity that is the Body of Christ into – finally – the fully functional, every member participating community we’ve always known it should be. I am currently studying the subject with the hope of helping local communities realize these gifts.
Yesterday I wrote a blog listing the various crazy festival outreaches I’ll be ministering at in 2016. It is crazy ministry with other crazy ministers ministering to crazy people. It is great fun and I love it. All of those outreaches, except one, are pretty much a sure thing. I’ve done all of them in the past, so they’re not an unknown quantity. Only one is in question, and that one is Burning Man.
Burning Man is my favorite festival. It is wild, it’s in the desert, it’s raucous, hours from anywhere, with amazing examples of self-expression. It also the most demanding. It’s demanding physically, emotionally, and demands a lot of money to do. A person going to Burning Man can expect to spend a minimum of a thousand dollars. But the festival goers are hungry for spiritual reality…
As of yet, I don’t have a team committed to going this year. I went alone last year, and I absolutely loved it, as I always have. It remains to be seen whether I’ll go alone this year. If I cannot put together a team, it will likely be my last year.
So this is pretty much a last minute call for a team. Have you ever thought of going to minister there? If so, let me know right away, and also go and check out the Burning Man website as soon as possible. Sign up for the newsletter (this is crucial) called “The Jackrabbit Speaks”. Look at their list of Important Dates and the ticket page.
God bless you. It’s not easy to get in, it’s not easy to get there, it’s not easy to Be there. But it sure is fun.
I’m looking for Special Forces kinds of people!
My first organized outreach of the year has just ended and planning is busily happening for the rest of 2016.
From April 29 – May 1 I will be in Raleigh again for https://onetribefestnc.com, which will take place at the same fairground as the BMSE I just returned from, and with the same extraordinary team. My airfare for that event has been graciously provided by a supporter, for which I’m very grateful!
From May 25 – 31, I’ll be with a team in Port Talbot, Wales, for Burning Nest , which is a festival in the tradition of Burning Man. This is a fairly new festival on which we had a big impact last year. This year, we expect to have a MUCH bigger impact. We will have a larger and very capable team operating in high levels of prophetic ministry. One thing I’m excited about doing there is to train and release other festival goers (called “Burners”) to bless their fellow Burners during the festival, thereby building on the camaraderie and brotherhood that all such festivals depend on. That is really part of the point of the festival, and I hope to make that more directed, focused and agape-ish. Yeah, that’s a word. Really! (No, not really. I made it up) (http://www.burningnest.co.uk/#event-details-1-1 Burn)
Running concurrently with Nest is How The Light Gets In (https://howthelightgetsin.iai.tv), a philosophy festival in Hay-on-Wye, also in Wales. Phil will be taking a small team there and will be running some events called “cigars and philosophy”, which is exactly what it sounds like and which Phil has used with great effect at Burning Man and other places. These dialogical events always lead to talking about God, and that’s what we’re all about!
Next is the Solstice festival at Stonehenge . This starts a few days prior to the solstice at a campground a few miles away from the stones. We are very excited to have seven people from the States joining us this year, and possibly a few from the UK as well. Last year, Phil and I were busy the entire night of the solstice, Phil engaging in dialogue about philosophy and religion and me interpreting dreams and doing some other prophetic ministry, including some healing. (http://www.stonehengecampsite.co.uk/solstice_festival)
We return to the states after the solstice and head to Hot Springs, NC for the Wild Goose (festivalhttp://wildgoosefestival.org). This is a Christian festival with a very liberal focus, which we welcome, but one of our objectives is to be a somewhat more conservative Christian voice (We don’t consider ourselves to be strictly conservative by any stretch. We’re pretty hard to categorize. We don’t even know what we are). I’ve had the pleasure to see people there who were wavering in their commitment to Christ make a renewed commitment, and this is very satisfying.
Burning Man is next (http://burningman.org). This will be the seventh year for our team (my sixth year). I hope to take a larger team and so to have a larger impact. This is one of the more strenuous events, requiring a huge amount of resources, financial, physical, and otherwise. I’m planning to do a Go Fund Me campaign to replace our dome which we were using for a communal kitchen area and hospitality area and which was destroyed by high wind last year.
Then it’s time for Haunted Happenings (http://hauntedhappenings.org), the month-long Halloween celebration here in Salem, MA. This probably requires as much resources as all the others combined, but the impact is huge and the number of people reached is commensurate. We’re upping the game on every level on this one this year. We have far more people committed. This means LOTS more prep work and planning, but the month long event should be more relaxed and smooth (we hope!)
In early November I’ll be in Lyons Falls NY at the Health and Wellness weekend (http://hersle.com/events/1416189/health-and-wellness-at-the-edge-hotel). I work alone at this one and have seen very deep healing happen. One of the other vendors there, after doing healing encounters with her two years in a row, called me a “spiritual chiropractor”, LOL. She even wrote that on my sign.
Are you interested in participating in any of these? This ministry is not for everyone, but if you think it may be for you, let me know. If you Would like to participate but can’t go, consider donating. Thanks!
Last weekend, 2/26/16 – 2/28/16, I was ministering at the Raleigh, NC, Body Mind & Spirit Expo. This was my third time ministering at this New Age event. It was here, in 2012, that I first met Kelly Williams and Papy Fisher who have become dear friends and highly valued fellow ministers. I was invited by them to join the absolutely amazing team, made up mostly of young adults, that they have been training and nurturing for several years.
We had anywhere from eight to twelve people ministering at any given time and often had up to twenty five people waiting in line for ministry. Most of them, of course, were New Age adherents who were nonetheless willing to talk about God (even Jesus) IF THEY DON’T SENSE ANY JUDGEMENTALISM FROM YOU! which is how we have trained ourselves to speak. It’s also important to NOT use “churchy” language (we call it “Christianese”) and this has also been our emphasis.
This being in the bible belt, we always have lots of Christians come through. Now, one might be tempted to judge them for coming to a New Age event, but we understand that these people are hungry for real, tangible spirituality, and that is why they come. Others have begun to incorporate different spiritual practices into their lives. We talk to each of these about Jesus and arrange dialogue between them and Jesus. He always responds! These are life changing moments and we have turned not a few back to faith in Christ.
As for the non-Christians (or, as we like to call them, “pre-believers”), several got saved! Yup! Made genuine commitments to Christ! Many more encountered God and found Him to be an actual loving person who cares about the things they care about. At least one got delivered from a spirit of fear and had that broken off her bloodline. Others had painful emotional wounds healed.
Here are a few of the things that they wrote in our journals (I removed the names and the little drawings of hearts, etc):
“Wow! Thanks so much for your gifts that you shared with me regarding my dream. You’re the best! Thanks.”
“I really had an eye opening experience and thank you.”
“Thank you Bob and Conny for telling me what I’ve so desperately needed to hear! “
“Papy and Cheryl, thank you so very much for giving me some tools to put the thought of positivity first, and put the darkness in my wake.
“I appreciate your energy and blessings and I promise to keep them close to me always. “
“Dream Interpretation. Thank you for the insightful dream interpretation you gave me. I am not overreaching to call it life changing! My own interpretation set me on a course that required a lot of change – but I now understand, not in the right way. Now I can make the changes in myself that will be most helpful. Thank you also for freely (literally) giving of your time to help others and your kind words of support. May the loving energy you have shown be returned to you tenfold!”
“I received a spiritual blessing from Dennis and Maggie. They gave me great insight on how to strengthen my marriage. I wish you all luck and great success in life! Peace and blessings.”
“I received the wonderful Spirit of God to help heal me. I felt lovely tingling and eventually free of pain. Thank you! God of Goodness and Miracles!!”
“Thank you for freeing me from my fear and giving me the guidance to pass it on to my daughter.”
“The information and beautiful words of compassion I heard today were exactly what I needed and afforded me clarity I had previously lacked. God bless.”
We have many such outreaches planned for this year (and every year). If you think this kind of ministry is valuable and would like to see it continue, please consider a donation. All of us ministering at these events pay to do so out of our own pockets. We believe in it that much. Thanks!
Well, once again, I’ve procrastinated and am late in starting to plan for Burning Man 2016. Every year, on the way home from Burning Man, I tell myself, the time to start planning for next year is now. I have yet to heed my very wise counsel.
Tickets usually go on sale in January, but there’s no word yet on that as the Burning Man org fights with greedy politicians who want to choke dollars from the burning goose. In any case, time is short for drawing a team together, which is the reason for this blog post. It is part of our larger vision to plant churches at festivals. There are what may be considered to be churches already planted at this one, including ours. We want to not only maintain that, but expand its creativity and increase its influence.
So who wants to go? We’re looking for reasonably healthy, independent, creative crazy people with ideas. We want people who can not only help us with our crazy ideas, but who might be able to come up with some crazy ideas of their own, if not this year, then in subsequent years. In other words, we want to draw attention at Burning Man. And in fact, we have. They kind of know who we are there.
Here are some of the things we have done at Burning Man:
We’ve built interactive art projects. We hope to build another one this year. Maybe you have an idea for an art project of your own.
We’ve done dream interpretation and healing in our camp. One year, we did a sort of good cop/bad cop thing, in which Phil did some hilarious card reading which always contained bad news for the person getting the reading, and then I would give a real blessing to the person with words of knowledge, giving them good news. Entertainment/drama which blesses can be very powerful and keep you very busy.
We have done dream interpretation and healing at Center Camp. There is space there for performance arts. I’d really like to see people doing something like that there.
We’ve hobnobbed with other Burners on art cars, in their camps, etc., to expand our impact so as to be a blessing to this community.
Going to Burning Man is not easy. The environment is harsh (it’s a desert). It’s expensive. Figure about $1,000 plus your travel expenses. And you’ll need a week or more of your time. And there will be preparations as a team member between now and then. But not only will you change lives there, your contribution will be spread much wider than the barren desert of Nevada. And you’ll be changed too. Burning Man will change you. I’ve found the change to be absolutely amazing. So will you.
E-mail me at email@example.com, or reach me via Facebook.
We are already (already!? We shoulda started this last year!) putting together our 2016 calendar and are looking for team members. We need to immediately (if not sooner!) get some folks to join us for Burning Nest, Port Talbot, Wales, May 25-31. We established a strong presence there last year. If you’re following our weird adventures, you may already know that our vision is to plant churches at transformational festivals.
Festival missions is not for everyone. Being immersed in counter culture gatherings can be a shock for many Christians. But if you’re comfortable around weird people – it helps if you’re a little weird yourself! this might be just the thing for you. The only requirement is the ability to love these entirely lovable folks.
The next batch of tickets goes on sale later this month (January), so please respond immediately! Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or FB message me.
Well, Burning Man 2015 is over. Up until now, I’ve taken that mission a year at a time. There have always been so many unknowns, so much expense and so much work and planning involved that one step at a time seemed to be the best approach. The destruction of the dome in the almost unrelenting high winds is largely the catalyst that has got me thinking more long term about my future there. The dome was really useful on a lot of levels – as kitchen space, a place to hang out, and a place to offer hospitality to others, which often resulted in ministry happening right in our camp in an informal approach (though the ministry was often quite deep).
I went alone this year. That also made me aware of my need to plan and make decisions.
So the dome needs to be replaced with…something. With what? It depends. I don’t expect to go alone again, but last year it was just three of us and the year before, just four. The little 20′ PVC dome was great for us. But what if we want to take a larger team?
So the main thing I need to know, upon which how to plan depends, is, can we get a team to go, and how big of a team?
So this is a preliminary call for team members. We need reasonably healthy people, including some who are good with building and tools. No ministry experience is necessary. We will train you. It isn’t even necessary that you be a Christian. If you want to be a part and contribute to what we’re doing, we have stuff for you to do. We need people who can embody the Ten Principles of Burning Man (Look them up. Self reliance is one of them).
Beyond Burning Man
But Burning Man is not the only thing we do. We have a vision to plant churches at festivals. I’ve written about why this is important in other blog posts, but in a nutshell (a) the world is being changed at these festivals and (b) festival goers are spiritual seekers and are open to spiritual discussions. We potentially established churches at three festivals in the UK this past summer.
So we hope to build a pool of people who are interested in participating in this vision. You may have been part of some leader’s vision in the past where you basically were locked into what that leader’s vision was, but our methodology is different. We want people to join us, and support the vision with their own vision, creativity, and ideas.
If this interests you, we’d like to hear from you. Here is a link where you can get on a list to receive e-mails. You can also follow this blog. I also have a FB page by the same name, My Foolish Mission.
Even if you feel you can’t travel to these festivals, there is a LOT you may be able to do: You can pray! You can help get the word out. There may be things that need to be built, costumes to make, etc. Words of encouragement are really helpful! Don’t hesitate to get in touch!
It was a routine encounter in just about every way. A woman sat before me, troubled by anxiety (I don’t remember what the issue was. I never do). I said, “Let’s ask God what He has to say about it. Do you have a belief in God?”
“I believer there’s something”, she said.
“Are you ok with calling this ‘something’ God?”
So I had her ask God questions about whatever she was troubled by and listen for the answers. And God answered her. He almost always does. Actually, I think He always does, but sometimes people can’t hear.
The answers brought her great relief. It always amuses me that at this stage of the encounter, the person receiving ministry doesn’t think it strange that God is speaking to them, even though they are usually doubtful He will. So, as I’m in the habit of doing, I asked her, “Do you realize you’ve just had a two way conversation with your Creator?”
“God spoke to you because He loves you. And He is more eager to speak with us than we often are to speak with Him”.
Now she knows that “something” is a person with a voice, and that He cares for her. She encountered Him herself. My only role is as a facilitator. No advice. No sales pitch. No clever entreaties. Just her and God, having their own conversation, and I get to be a fly on the wall.
I love this ministry.
“The evangelical church is contributing to the political and social polarization in the nation instead of acting as peacemaker. The church’s responsibility is to be for the political sphere (and the culture) what it cannot be for itself. The church is not to hold those on the left in contempt, neither is it to be co-dependent on those on the right, but rather it is to provide moral/ethical guidance for the whole of the political sphere.”*
Reading this made me happy. Although I tend toward social conservatism, I’ve long been uncomfortable with the evangelical attitude that God is the champion of the political right, that conservatism equals godliness. Lately, I’ve been even more disturbed by the near panic of the Christian right and their insistence on preserving a culture which benefits themselves and their preferred lifestyle. As Christians, we aren’t supposed to be spending our lives making ourselves comfortable. That idea is absolutely antithetical to anything Jesus and the New Testament writers either said or modeled. And yet, the proponents of Christendom have never had a problem justifying such a life.
Once the above quote had sunk in a little, I did kick back against it a little, thinking, this is true, but the same can be said for progressive Christianity. And I believe that applies. But evangelicalism’s jingoism has been running on fumes for much longer and is more entrenched (in a rut, in other words). And for myself and most of those I minister with, we are either evangelical or from evangelical backgrounds, and I have no doubt this is where the cleanup needs to start. Progressive Christianity is at least partly a reaction to evangelical churchianity, and as such, they’re entitled to it.
We can either be missional or we can serve ourselves. Not both. If we want to be missional, we can’t insist the culture conform to our preferences, which were never anything like a perfect reflection of God’s Kingdom anyway. Instead, we need to allow the culture to inform us about how to serve them – in other words, be Christ to them – in a way that’s meaningful to them. It’s no good trying to provide someone with a sense of identity when they haven’t eaten in two days, and it’s no good talking about the hereafter if they’re outraged about the social injustices they see all around them.
“Jesus is waiting for the local church to join him in the culture. Christ is not waiting for the culture to join him at church.”*
Good things are happening! Let’s pay attention so we don’t miss anything!
* From “Following Jesus To Burning Man”, Kerry D. McRoberts