Monday, December 26, 2011

Our New Fishing Pole

In my last post I told you I would share the details of our updated fishing rod--a shiny new tool for evangelism. John and I had the opportunity this year to make several visits to a parenting program in Jacksonville in north Florida. At one point we even thought God might be calling us to move there and work with them in some capacity.  Much to our relief, it has recently become apparent that's not the case.  Instead we plan to start the same type of program here in southern Florida where it's also very much needed.

John spent a week in California this fall learning to teach the very curriculum that spawned the Jacksonville program over ten years ago.  Without modifying any of the pillars that make it the time-tested and effective course that it is, we have molded it to fit our personalities by drawing from experiences with our own children and the work we've done with other parents.  We are almost ready to unveil the finished product--our detailed plans to serve the community by strengthening parenting skills.  In the meantime, we're praying for success.  To our knowledge, there is nothing like it in our area.  For that matter in most states, help for parents of wayward kids is generally limited to those whose children have already committed crimes. We want to intervene before that happens.

So how is this a tool for evangelism?  It usually takes months or even years for people to warm up to us enough to really trust that we're not selling anything.  Then we can invite them into a Bible study, but that's a lot of time invested only to find out that most of them aren't at all interested in spiritual matters.  John discovered that the parents at the meetings in Jacksonville were much more open to the  discussion of God's existence and involvement in this world.  They know they're in need and are open to help on any level.  That's why medical missions are so successful.  Those missionary/doctors meet a perceived need before they introduce Jesus who is what's really needed.  We're not doctors, but we can offer healing to broken families.

John has been talking to the schools and law enforcement agencies while I have been putting together a Web site for information and registration purposes.  I'll share that address with you after a few final touches, then I would love your feedback.

We're going to need your prayers and support, because, while we see our new approach like the fishing rod at the top of this post, we understand that in reality it's probably more like this:

When we give God our best effort, isn't it a bit like a six year old making a drawing for his dad?  It's not valuable in and of itself but to that dad, it's priceless.  Should he decide to, he could frame it with pure gold.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gone Fishing

I know, I know, it's been a while since I've posted, and some of you have been asking what's going on. We've been out fishing. It's not that I haven't had the time to report on the details. Oh sure, I'm busy like the rest of you, but I do limit my schedule to a manageable pace and can't really use that as an excuse. It's also not that we haven't had anything to report. The things we are experiencing here have me bursting at the seams to share over a cup of coffee with anyone who will listen. The problem is, the Internet is not a cup of coffee, and sharing the intimate details of a person's life on a blog doesn't seem like a good idea, especially if those people are your friends.

You see, if we were ministers at a mainstream church, like we have been in the past, we might report something like attendance numbers and event schedules. Instead, when we're reporting on a small house church, the details are too personal to share. You may not know who we're talking about but our members do and they also read this blog--an issue we didn't face to the same degree doing mission work in Brazil. Suffice it to say that we meet with these people, not only on a weekly basis, but often on a daily basis. Our goal is to teach and disciple them into a deeper relationship with each other and ultimately with Jesus. We are seeing stronger marriages, better relationships with kids, and even healthier lifestyles. We celebrate together, grieve with each other, and often just hang out with one another. This is the family that God intended his church to be.

Now that you're beginning to see my dilemma, I will assure you that the reporting doesn't end here. In fact, you may be in for some more regular communication if we can come up with a new approach. I say "we" because I need your help. Feedback from you is going to help me not only deliver information that you find interesting, but it will also keep us encouraged--a commodity that is scarce to people who do what we do for a living, endeavor to introduce Jesus to a largely narcissistic society. We do thank those of you who comment in person or through e-mail. We would appreciate all of you getting involved in the discussion on some level.

We're not much on reporting numbers, as relationships are hard to quantify, but there is one number I would like to report. It's fifty, and it's where I lost count when I tried to remember the individuals we have invested in over the past two years. We don't knock on doors and we don't pass out flyers, so it takes some time to actually get to know a person well enough to share the gospel with or at least to invite into a discussion/study of the gospel. This stint of our missionary journeys has me wondering if there's been a study done on this sort of thing. I mean, our experience has shown that four out of fifty people in south Florida who are invited to hear the gospel actually listen and respond by following Jesus.

Don't worry, as discouraging as these statistics are, we don't plan to give up. We're looking for the next fifty and we're not going to forget the forty-seven who have said no. Sure, there's something to shaking the dust off your feet and moving on as Jesus told his disciples to do, but we're not burning any bridges. We care about these people and hope they one day take an interest in a relationship with God and in living the life they were created to live. It wasn't that long ago--about sixteen years--that we were in the dark about the meaning of life, muddling through, trying to make our own way. We thought Christians were stupid, crazy people recruiting for a cult. Knowing what we know now, we're willing to look like stupid, crazy cult members in order to offer the treasure we know as Jesus to anyone who has ears to hear and a heart to accept.

Lately, we've been evaluating our effectiveness. Could we catch more fish if we moved to another pond or used a different fishing rod? We're not too keen on moving... again. And we don't necessarily feel like we need to... yet. So we're switching to a different rod. I'll tell you more about that in my next post.