Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Importance of Being Evangelical

I learned a few things in my first year of ministry. Some of them were things I want to carry on with me, and some things I learned were how not to do things. I would argue that neither lesson was any more valuable than the other, with one major exception.

I had spent an evening talking about servant evangelism and how we should be servants to those around us. I spent a lot of that evening talking about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and making sure that we were doing our part to love our neighbors. I had just finished reading one of Shane Claiborne’s books and was really “feeling it.”

I felt really good about the message that night, my teens had really seemed to receive it well. They were, at least in my opinion, completely tracking with what I was saying. I was letting them know that it was our job to make sure that we were taking care of the people around us. It was one of few moments in that first year I really felt like the ministry was going well.

On the way home from church that Wednesday night, I called one of my adults to chat about the evening. I still do this; I like to hear what other people thought about the time with the youth and make sure that we are all on the same page.
We were not on the same page that evening.

I spoke with my friend, and he told me that the message was good, but he asked me a very important question. He said, “why?” Why should we feed the hungry? Why should we clothe the naked? In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter if we love our neighbors?

I prepared my verbal assault as he was talking. “What do you mean WHY? Jesus told us to love our neighbors.”

I could tell he was wrapping up his critique, and so I was ready to jump in, but he stopped me dead in my tracks. He said, “If they don’t know Jesus, then what difference does it make if they feed the hungry?”

This doesn’t happen to me often, but I was completely speechless.

He was right; I had neglected to tell them that they had to know Christ before any of this was worth anything. If we feed the hungry, but don’t know Christ, then we’re still in the same boat as someone who doesn’t know Christ and doesn’t feed the hungry.

This challenge from my friend was an absolute wake up call for me. Did I stop preaching a social gospel? Absolutely not. I still believe that we need to feed the hungry. I still believe that we need to clothe the naked. I still believe that we need to make sure to do our part to love our neighbors. However, even more than that, I believe that we need to lead people to Christ.

Since that moment, the Sinner’s Prayer has become an integral part of my ministry. I don’t do much without including it. I cannot imagine calling myself an Evangelical and not preaching people to Christ. How can we call ourselves Evangelicals when we don’t present the Sinner’s Prayer every single chance that get?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


A number of years ago, Michael Tait, the frontman for the Newsboys wrote and starred in a Rock Opera called “Hero.” I confess, I’ve never seen or heard Hero. Confession number two: I have no real desire to either.

I watched the first three seasons of the TV Show Heroes. I always enjoyed it, but I quit watching it. I’m not 100% sure why.

The anthem of the summer, for me, was Skillet’s single “Hero.” I still love smashing the drums while I listen to that song. It’s a sweet song, and I thoroughly enjoy turning it up as loud as I can.

I have a tattoo of Superman’s logo on my right arm. He’s the ultimate hero.

In fact, while I was sitting here writing this, my friend walked into my office and started talking to me about VBS this year… It’s called “Hero Headquarters.”

Here’s the simple truth, everyone wants a hero. Those who don’t want a hero want to be a hero. We buy shirts with other people’s names on them. We have posters of heroes from movies. We go see movies about heroes (Iron Man 2 comes out in a couple months).

I am feeling saturated with the idea of heroes. But I have a problem. My heroes all seem to let me down.

For one reason or another, I find myself wanting more when I really get to understand my hero.

My original hero was Dan Marino, and he got so broken down and bad at the end of his career that I could hardly stand to watch him.

I started watching baseball in college and loved Andy Pettite. Then he admits to using performance enhancing drugs.

And so-on and so-forth.

My heroes always seem to let me down.

I find myself screaming with John Cooper, “I need a hero! Save me now!”

I went for a run yesterday, praying to God to help me understand why I face this problem with my heroes. Why can nobody seem to live up to the mantle of Hero?

Then it came to me.

We are, inherently, flawed. We, as humans, are not worthy of being heroes. We do not deserve to be revered. We do not deserve to be followed and mimicked like a hero. So, what am I supposed to do with that information? If we aren’t supposed to have heroes here, then why do we have heroes?

The reality is that there’s only one hero. It’s not Dan Marino. It’s not Jim Tressel. It’s not Andy Pettite or Derek Jeter. It isn’t Dave Ramsey and it’s not Rush Limbaugh. It’s not Barack Obama and it’s not Sarah Palin. It’s not your mom and it’s not your dad.

There is only one hero, his name is Jesus.

“Lord, help me to realize that you’re the only true hero. You’ll never let me down.”