Author Archives: rob.haynes

God May Be Asking For a Witness, Not an Attorney by Rob Haynes

“As a lawyer for God, putting up His case, I was a failure. As a witness for God, telling what He had done for me, I was a success. As in a flash, I saw my calling: I was to be a witness! It was bitter medicine, bitterly and publicly administered, but I took the medicine and found it cured me of illusions. I would not be God’s able lawyer, but I would be a witness to grace.”

E Stanley Jones


I was recently in a coffee shop enjoying the morning and catching up on some reading. At a nearby table were some folks whom I know from the broader Christian community in my town. My acquaintances discussed strategies for convincing a hypothetical non-believer to become a Christian. I was struck by their tone in particular. Their conversation was framed as one in which one might win a great legal battle. They talked about how to get the other person to capitulate in an argument of wit and strategy.

The quote above comes to mind when I think about this incident in the coffee shop. E. Stanley Jones was a missionary to India. He arrived there in 1907 and had a rough start to his ministry there. His attempts to argue for God led to a real crisis of faith and ministry early on. After a careful reconsideration of his approach (and his vocational service), Jones became a significant influence on millions of people, including many world leaders.

He dedicated his life and ministry to conversations of faith with people in one-on-one settings, small groups, and large seminars. He held to six principles of faith-sharing:

  1. Frankness. Jones made sure that his hearers knew that the reason for their gathering was a faith-sharing opportunity.
  2. Humility. He never attached another’s religion in his messages. “If there is an attack in [the message], it must be a positive presentation of Christ. He himself must be the attack.”
  3. Openness. He never shied away from difficult questions, but rather welcomed careful examination and reflection.
  4. Deference. He made sure the others in his conversations felt valued and appreciated.
  5. Christ-Centered. He never shied away from the necessity of faith in Jesus.
  6. Experiential. Jones felt that “Christ must be interpreted in terms of the Christian experience rather than mere argument.”

In our present day and age, it seems like there are many who want to argue. However, maybe God is asking you to be his witness, not his attorney. Jesus told his disciples that they were to be just that: Witnesses. What if your approach to sharing Jesus took on these six principles?

To finish the opening quote from Brother Stanley (as he preferred to be called), he said,

“And I have been a witness – a witness before princes and peasants, before Brahmans and outcastes, before the mighty and the miserable, of what Christ has done for an unworthy recipient. I have found that this is what people want to hear – testimony of what has happened and is happening to you.”

Jones proved to be an effective witness for Christ in the pluralistic society in India of the 20th Century. The pluralistic societies of our day can be reached in much the same way. Everywhere we turn there is someone willing to argue. Yet, this principle remains: people truly want to hear a testimony of what has happened and is happening to you. Giving them that testimony steeped in Brother Stanley’s principles can prove just as effective today.

Where might God be calling you to not be his attorney, but rather his witness?

Have They Heard of Your Faith? by Rob Haynes

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you … Ephesians 1:15-16a


At World Methodist Evangelism, we are committed to helping people show and share the love of Jesus. While that may be easy to say, it is much harder for many people to do. I know several folks who will gladly tell you all about a great movie they saw, a book they read, or a song they heard. However, those same people—though they may be devoted followers of Jesus—may be hesitant to share their strong faith and their love for God’s people. Yet, telling of the wonderful things we’ve learned in Jesus is way more important than the latest movie, book, or song. For many, it can be simply overwhelming to know where to start. I get it. However, that does not mean it is impossible to learn how to begin.

The church in Ephesus learned how to share their faith in Jesus, and it was closely tied to the demonstration of their love for the people in their community. It was so strong, in fact, that Paul heard about it though he was many miles away. Paul had planted this church and was staying in regular contact with them. Well, as best as he could in that day and age. From our contemporary perspective, we may look back at the churches in the Bible as full of Super-Christians. While there were certainly many faithful people, they had their challenges and difficulties. Ephesus was a cosmopolitan community, full of various pagan religions. The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that they were so committed to these pagan deities (and against Jesus) that they rioted at the idea that Paul would suggest they abandoned those deities for the One True God. (see Acts 19)

It was probably not easy to be a Christian in ancient Ephesus at the time of Paul’s letter. The church at Ephesus did not respond with despair and hand wringing. Nor did they huddle up and hide, looking into one another. They practiced a faith in Jesus. Just like in Ephesus, many in the culture today are proclaiming that they will follow the gods of their own design and choosing, rather than the One True God.

The Ephesian church demonstrated a faith in Jesus that was so infectious, it overflowed in their love of the people. Faith moves beyond mere belief. The integrity of our faith is evident in the living out of our beliefs. This is best done when we take seriously the fact that Jesus, the Messiah, calls us to live a transformed life that reflects the Bible’s teachings more and more every day.

Faith in Jesus is the humility to see the world as it is and the audacity to believe that God is working, even now, to bring the kingdom inaugurated in Jesus of Nazareth. To do so means that we move confidently in the assurance that God wants to transform us into windows of the Kingdom for others. Which leads us to the second thing Paul mentions: Love for the Saints.

The people of the church in Ephesus were at odds with many of their neighbors. But look at what made the difference: Their love for one another. A love that has that same bold audacity that Christ wants to—and will make—a change in other people. Do the people outside the church—those who would not consider themselves part of the church or a follower of Jesus—know that the church loves them? Or that God loves them?

Who has heard of your faith in Jesus? Or the Love for the People? Who is giving thanks for it? Living in the same fear, operating out of the same panic mindset that we see in the world, does not represent the Body of Christ well. Who wants to give thanks for that? That’s everywhere in the culture today. Rather, the Scriptures point us to something greater: the Mission of the Kingdom of God. That’s a big task, and likely the reason that many feel overwhelmed when sharing their faith. Maybe the solution is in how we view the problem.

In 1939, George Dantzig was a graduate student in California. He was studying statistics with Professor Jerzy Neyman. At the beginning of one class session, Dr. Neyman wrote two examples of unsolvable problems on the blackboard. George happened to arrive late to class that day and mistakenly thought the unsolvable problems were their homework assignment. He wrote them in his notebook and went to work. Eventually George solved both problems. Later, an ecstatic Dr. Neyrnan knocked on George’s door to share the news. A bewildered George apologized, thinking the assignment was overdue. That’s when Dr. Neyman informed George that he had solved two of statistics’ unsolvable problems. “The problems seemed to be a little harder than usual,” George later recalled. George Dantzig went on to earn his PhD in statistics and develop systems that continue to shape our world today in the areas of transportation, energy, and business. But the origin of his impact on the world can be traced back to those two problems and his attitude towards them: In his own words, “If someone had told me they were two famous unsolved problems, I probably wouldn’t have even tried to solve them.”

The beauty of sharing our faith is that it is not an unsolvable problem. Rather, Christ has already provided the solution. In His divine wisdom, he has asked us to be a part of the Mission. He is asking us to come to the problem with available hands, willing hearts, and faith in Him. Let Christ do the rest. Then others will hear of your faith and your love for the saints.

An Empty Chair and Evangelism by Rob Haynes

Let me tell you the story of a young man whom we will call “Victor.” This story catches up with Victor in his early twenties. He had a difficult childhood, and both of his parents had passed by the time he was twenty years old. He had fallen into several destructive habits in his late teens, habits that he continued to practice with gusto. 

Some friends invited him to church, and he decided to go along a few times. On one particular occasion, he became aware of his need for Jesus and responded to an altar call at the end of the service. The lay leader who prayed with him up front was nice and offered “to help him in anyway,” but Victor never saw him again. At his own initiative, Victor later reached out to the youth pastor at the church for direction.

 Victor explained to the youth pastor what had happened in that church service. He told him of a sense that God was calling him to work with teenagers, but he knew he needed to grow in his own faith first. Victor said he needed to put these destructive habits away, but he had no idea where to begin. Could the youth pastor help him? 

The youth pastor said he understood. He gave Victor a thick book to read and told him, when he finished it, to come back and they would talk about it. Victor was still confused. He wanted someone to show him how to live out this new calling that he sensed and wasn’t sure how a book was going to help. He felt intimidated by the book and was too embarrassed to tell the youth pastor about it. He still felt certain of his need for God but was more confused about how to go about it than before.

 This true story illustrates an all too common tale in the church today. However, our spiritual ancestor, Mr. John Wesley, was keenly aware of the need to work to prevent this scenario. 

He cautioned the Methodist preachers that to make people aware of their need for God, but not give them the means to work out that awareness, was a travesty. This is a key reason he developed the Class Meeting. As I have written in this space before, a re-engagement with the Wesleyan pattern of the Class Meeting is key for the future of the Wesleyan/Methodist movement. These weekly small group meetings have produced great fruit for spiritual growth for centuries. While it is easy to think about such groups as a way to disciple those who are already deeply committed to Jesus, they can be excellent tools for evangelism as well.

 By some accounts, around half of all the people who came to follow Jesus in the Methodist Revival of the 1700s in England did so in a Class Meeting. There are some advantages to a Class Meeting for evangelism:

  1. Imagine a scenario where Victor had made his need for Jesus known in a church with Class Meetings. The pastor or lay leader could have put him into a group of believers who could answer his questions about faith, spiritual practices, and the need for Jesus.
  2. People who may be skeptical about faith can see a small group of Jesus followers embodying lives that want more of the Risen Christ in their hearts every day. This sort of living is infectious.
  3. The power of community is paramount, especially these days. Many who become followers of Jesus will lose friends, family connections, and face ridicule and scorn. They need a community which will accept them and their questions as they grow in the Love of Jesus.

These are, of course, just a starting point. The reality is that lines between evangelism and discipleship are often blurry. Many people are discipled in the journey of evangelism, and evangelism takes place during the discipleship process. While the Class Meeting is an important tool for spiritual growth for those who have already made a decision to follow Jesus, it can also be an excellent way to welcome those who are exploring what it means to make a decision to say “yes” to God’s offer of hope and salvation.

One way that members of Class Meetings can remember this intertwined reality of discipleship evangelism is by intentionally leaving an empty chair in the room where they meet each week. An open seat can serve as a prompt to pray for and invite others to join them on the journey of Christian faith.

Though he struggled for a while longer, Victor eventually found a community of faith at a different church. He was baptized and now serves as a pastor. However, these stories don’t always turn out with such a positive ending. Only when the local Christian community answers the call can the narrative turn. Will you look for people like him to show and share the love of Jesus? Will you make room for the people whom God will bring to you? What are the ways, both literally and figuratively, in which you can leave an open seat for conversations about faith?

Not If, But When by Rob Haynes

I live in an area that is susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical weather. Frequently, when my neighbors and I talk about these big storms, you will hear the phrase, “Not if but when the storm comes…” Throughout the year we prepare our homes, our churches, and our businesses to face the wrath of the storms that will eventually come our way. Like millions of other people who live in such areas, we make these plans year after year. Some may say that we should just move away, but aren’t all of us exposed to natural disasters of other types in some way?

In many ways, the Christian life is like this. Even though we may follow Jesus closely, and do exactly what we are told to do, we will still find ourselves in the midst of the storm sometimes. In those storms, Jesus calls us to even deeper expressions of faith. In Matthew 14, we see the record of when Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water of the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm. While the miracle of walking on water is significant, if we take a look at some of the other points in the account, we can see ways that we can follow Christ in the midst of the storms that come our way.

It’s important to embrace the fact that even when we follow Jesus closely, we are not immune from difficulties and trials. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the disciples were caught in a raging storm even though they were doing exactly what they had been instructed to do. In verse 22, we see that Jesus commanded them to cross the Sea of Galilee. These travelers in the boat were not wayward followers. Rather, they were faithful to follow Jesus’ command. Yet, they were still caught in a storm and had been working for hours, straining against the winds and the waves. They were struggling and most likely exhausted. I wonder if they were questioning how they got into such a difficult situation. Did Jesus know what they were getting into? Did he put them in this storm on purpose? 

When the disciples saw Jesus in the storm, they couldn’t quite figure out who he was or what he was doing. Jesus doesn’t condemn them for that. Rather, he tells them to take heart and to not be afraid. He says, “It is I.” Well, at least in many English translations that is what he says. In the Greek text, Jesus says, “I AM.”  By using these words, he echoes the Old Testament record of God’s appearance to Moses. When Moses asks for God’s Name, he simply answers, “I AM.” Jesus is telling the disciples  ‘I am God; you are not alone.’ He doesn’t give them reasons for why they shouldn’t be afraid by saying things like, “I can calm this storm.” Or “I can walk on water.” Rather he tells them that the LORD, the Great I AM is right here. Jesus is saying, “I AM everything you are looking for and everything you need.”

Then comes the apex of the story for many: Peter’s reply is “IF it is you…” In the minds of many people at this time, there was no doubt that God could give someone the ability to walk on water. The question was: Did God give Jesus that ability? Is this God before me? Peter’s request seems to be more like, “If it is you, pick me over everyone else to come out there.” Peter has a habit of wanting to be picked first over the rest. 

Place yourself in the picture for just a moment. Where are you? Are you, like Peter, wanting to get to do the special things? Sometimes, you just have to get out of the boat. Are you sitting in the back of the boat, wishing you had said something? Are you hiding and hoping Jesus doesn’t call you to get out of the boat? Notice once again, that Peter is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing, but the storm is still blowing. Even the boldest acts of obedience do not guarantee the absence of trials and tribulations.

When Peter was walking on the waves to Jesus, he made the mistake of taking his eyes off of the one who had just assured them that I AM. When he focused on the storm he was filled with doubt. This is easy to do in the storms of life. We may doubt that God has called us, that God is with us, that God is looking out for you, or that God knows what he is doing. So, you try to help God out. This passage reminds us that even in the midst of the storm, even in the midst of our doubts, God still has our hand we call out to him. No need to help him out.

However, if we only focus on the storm, we will lose sight of Jesus. When storms come your way, do you fret and dwell upon them? Or do you look for other ways that God may be working in the situation? Rather than focus on the rain and the wind blowing all around, the call of the Christ is to focus on the presence of God.

I find it fascinating that it is only when Jesus is in the boat does the storm calm down. Then everyone in the boat worshiped him. This isn’t just praise, but full-fledged worship. They confess, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Those who first proclaimed the Good News of the Risen Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, and through the earth were witness to the storm and to the One who was with them in the storm. What are the storms you are going through? What are the storms you have been through? How can God use those storms, and His presence with you in the midst of them to make a difference in someone else’s life?

Sometimes, showing and sharing the love of Jesus with someone is walking through difficult situations with them. Sometimes it is inviting others to worship Jesus with you in the middle of life’s storms. Or it may be bearing witness to the faithfulness of God’s presence in any storm. Even in the Christian life it is not a matter of if, but of when. May the great I AM find us looking to him in any storm.

Discipling Over Programming by Rob Haynes

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Make Disciples Sooner

I come to you today with a confession: 

I failed to take seriously the command of Jesus to make Disciples. For too long, in my three decades of ministry, I ignored the simple and direct command of Scripture to make disciples who will make disciples. It wasn’t on purpose. I thought I was doing a great job, but I now know that I was woefully deficient. 

Alongside this confession, I am hopeful, more so than ever. I am convinced, more than ever, that our denominational heritage of discipleship in Classes and Bands, the original Wesleyan/Methodist Small Groups, is the answer for the current and future church. However, for nearly thirty years I missed that message. As I said, it was not a sin of commission, rather of omission. Allow me to illustrate.

I began serving in ministry in the mid-1990’s. The prevailing model of ministry at the time was to build great programs. If we built a great program, then many people would come. Some of them might return. They would get involved in another program that might keep them connected to the church. A few of those would go a little deeper and might lead another program. You get the idea: we were taught to program so that we could build a program that would build programs. 

Allow me to brag just a moment: I became good at building programs. I could build something that could get people to come out and even some of them would return. As a youth pastor, I created events for students after football games that attracted hundreds of teenagers. I put together some great mission trips to some cool places. As an associate and lead pastor, I replicated these practices with adults. The names changed, but the methods were the same.  

However, I am not sure I made many disciples. When I look at the mandate of the gospel, I see several things pointing me to make disciples, but nothing about occupying people’s time with programs.

This may seem a little harsh. It may even seem foolhardy to some people. You may be reading this and thinking that I am crazy for not wanting to attract people. However, I have found that if we spend all our time in ministry merely trying to attract people according to the current whims of the culture, then they will merely move along to the next thing that catches their attention.

I was confronted with this reality in a couple of conversations when I was a youth minister.

One day, I ran into Anthony walking into church on a Sunday morning, guitar in hand. Anthony was an influential teenager in our church. He was a talented musician, a leader in his school, and was friendly and outgoing. I asked him if he was coming to the really cool thing that I had planned for next Saturday. I can’t even remember what I had programmed, but it was another way of keeping people busy at the church. His reply cut me to the quick: “I’ll come if I can’t find anything better to do.” Ouch! This was one of the key people I expected to see there! If he wasn’t going to come, I was in trouble.

The second was with some parents of the students in my ministry. On a Sunday morning we were talking in the Sunday School hallway in between the worship hour and the Sunday School hour. They were lamenting that their teenage children were not coming to church. Their conclusion was this: With absolute resolution parents should get their teens out of bed and bring them to church! Then it hit me: of the three or four families standing before me, none of their teens were in church that morning. When I asked why this was, they each sheepishly offered half-hearted excuses of tired children or over-programmed schedules. 

The church, and me as their minister, was not offering anything different than what they were getting anywhere else. I was just putting Jesus’ name on it. Much like retailers competing for market share, I was competing for the attention of teens with forces that grab their attention much better than I could. 

I wish I could tell you that I learned my lesson immediately. Oh, if only. However, I succumbed to the pressures of these forces for several more years in ministry. If you serve in ministry, maybe you have seen it too. It takes on different shapes depending on the place and target age groups. It can look like “Caring Ministry”, “Pastoral Care”, “Age-Level Programming”, “Men’s Breakfast”, or even “Sunday School” and “Small Groups.” 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the church being a center of community activity or with providing fellowship for those who are facing loneliness, isolation, or disenfranchisement. However, we must be cautious not to confuse programmed entertainment with discipleship. And the Church’s primary role is to make DISCIPLES, not to merely entertain those who show up.

I did not learn this soon enough. I continued to make the mistake of following the whims of my church members. They wanted to be entertained, and to put the church’s name on it. Sure, we talked about the Bible. We talked about Jesus. We enjoyed one another’s company. However, I seldom saw life-changing ministry happening. I blamed many things, but rarely the right thing: My failure to make more and maturing disciples.

So, at this stage in my ministry, I have decided to put all my energies into disciple-making over programming. In the church we planted a few years ago we have made this the key focus of everything we do. This, by no means, reduces the role of mission or evangelism. Rather, just the opposite. Because I do not treat them like a programming audience, it means that I am not solely responsible for mission or evangelism. It means I am learning to walk with people as they discover the Holy Spirit’s desire as to how they should serve in faith sharing with others. The best way I have seen to do this is right in the middle of our heritage as Wesleyans as demonstrated in the Class and Band Meetings. 

Let’s face it: the Church is facing several challenges today, challenges from which the Wesleyan/Methodist movement is not immune. I do not fear for the future of the church. Rather, the global and historical witness of people committed to discipleship gives me hope. 

The GPS/SatNav in my car gives me an important reminder about this hope. When I lose my way, it tells me that it is time to “recalculate” and get back on the road heading the correct direction. It is time to get back on the path to which God has called us: to make disciples, not merely comfortable and entertained church-attenders.

This is my confession. May You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, spare those who confess their faults, restore those who are repentant, and grant that we may hereafter live a godly and righteous life. Amen.

Our King Carries a Towel, Not a Scepter by Rob Haynes

The world watched last September as millions mourned the death of Queen Elizabeth. Subsequently, many watched with great interest as Charles was enthroned as King in May. The pageantry and celebration had not been seen in a generation. As King Charles assumed the throne, he was given the regalia of royalty: a crown, an orb, and a scepter. However, it is the scepter that monarchs have used across centuries and cultures to symbolize power and authority.

What we hold in our hands can say a great deal about who we are and our intentions. If I approach you with a football or with a first aid kit or with a dinner plate, I am conveying different messages. It also may say something about who I am or what skills or authority I possess. While anyone may hold a football or a dinner plate only the king, by rights, may hold the scepter. However, what if a king were to give up his rights to such power in favor of a more peculiar demonstration of power?

John’s gospel gives us a beautiful account of the Thursday night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The final hours that Jesus spent with his disciples is full of rich messages. One of the most beautiful scenes is when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Chapter 13 tells us that Jesus knows that His time is now short. Judas Iscariot has already committed to betraying Jesus. John points out that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands…” (v.3, emphasis mine) This means that Jesus could have set things on a different path. He could have stopped Judas’ plot. He could have thwarted those who sought to take His life. He could have defeated the Romans. The power was in His hands. He could have wielded the scepter that was rightly His.

However, “He took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (v. 4) The Greek word used here that we translate “took off” can also mean “laid down.” The hands that deserved the scepter that rules the universe, laid down his robe—and his life—and picked up a towel that was reserved for the lowest of salves. He took the time to wash the feet of those who would abandon Him in just a matter of hours: including the ones who would return to follow him and the one who set the plans of his death in motion. He deserved the power. He chose peculiarity.

Many parts of our culture today demand that we grab as much power as possible. This power, we are told, comes in the form of political influence, financial gain, or a favored reputation in social circles. Even in parts of the church today people are vying for money, influence, and worldly power. However, none of these are the pattern of Jesus. He knew that the peculiar pattern that His disciples must follow is the pattern of the Cross. In doing so, He would prove that true power comes in the Resurrection.

Modern-day followers of Jesus are called to follow this same peculiar pattern. The Bible’s answer to the challenges in today’s world, and our individual relationships, is not more struggles for power, status, or influence. Rather, the answer is showing one another that our Savior has called us to choose peculiarity over power. We are, of course, called to follow Jesus in holiness and righteousness. Along the way, others will let us down. We, ourselves will fail sometimes. Our response, by Jesus’ example, is the pattern of the Cross. In this pattern, the power of His resurrection is made complete in us.

Many Christians tell me how they long for things to be different. They tell me of their ideas on how to bring about change in the individuals, institutions, and social systems that are marred by the sin of reject God’s teaching. No doubt, our world desperately needs the transformation that comes through Christ’s message of hope, forgiveness, and a call to holiness. At the same time. Jesus’ followers must resist the urge to grab the scepters of power the world dangles before them. These apparitions of power never last. Rather, imagine a world where Jesus’ followers came together to convey His message with the towel of servanthood. People will wonder at our peculiarity. When they do, we should point them to the Cross and watch Jesus’ Resurrection power make them new.

Let Each Generation Tell by Rob Haynes

“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” Psalm 145:4

I became a Christian in my twenties. I was attending a large-membership church at that time, and I was recruited to help as a teacher’s assistant with the children’s Vacation Bible School that summer. I was intimidated by the idea of leading children. In the nearly thirty years since then, I have heard that same hesitation among people of various ages and Christian maturity. Yet, sharing with children can be easier than you think. First, let’s look at some Scriptural direction and the Wesleyan history of faith-sharing with children. We will then look at an idea on how you can tell the Good News of Jesus to children with a few simple items.

In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses commands the people to remember the instructions of the Lord and tells them to pass it on to their children and grandchildren. This instruction still applies to us today and should provide encouragement for us to share and show the love of Jesus to God’s children of all ages.

Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations includes people of all ages. It is not just limited to adults, or even teens, but also includes children. The Scriptures are clear that children need the love and forgiveness that Jesus offers. This is seen, among other places, in Matthew 19 when Jesus welcomes the children into his teaching ministry and tells the disciples that they should follow his example.

John Wesley understood the vital role that ministry to children has in the mission of the Kingdom of God. He demonstrated this in his work to start schools, like the Kingswood School. He instructed the leaders of the Methodist revival to teach the children and show others the importance of ministry to children. When some protested (like I did early on) and said they did not feel like they were gifted to teach children, his response was to “pray earnestly for the gift and use the means for it.” He went on to tell them to reach out to children and their parents alike, to teach them on every occasion, and give parents the tools to raise their children in the wisdom and admonishment of the Lord.

Long before modern researchers told us that most children set their religious preferences by age twelve, Mr. Wesley was telling Methodist leaders the same thing. He understood that instructing children at this critical age was vital to the ministry. He affirmed Martin Luther’s assertion that a revival never lasts longer than one generation.

Sharing the story of salvation can begin with something simple like a Wordless Book that you can make on your own. Each page of the book is a solid color with no written words. Arrange colored paper in the following order and tell the Gospel story using these colors as a guide.

  1. GOLD is for God’s perfection—God created the Heavens and the Earth in perfect love and grace. God wants us to be with him and in constant relationship with him. When God created the Garden in perfection, he warned Adam and Eve not to do things that would hurt themselves and others.
  2. BLACK is the mark of sin—Because of the things we do that break God’s laws, our relationship with God is broken. It needs fixing. There are things that we do that separate us from God, others, and ourselves. The Bible calls these “sins”. All of us have sinned, and our hearts need to be made clean. We cannot make our own hearts clean; only God can do that.
  3. RED represents Jesus’ sacrifice—The Bible tells us that there is punishment for sin. Jesus, God’s One and Only Son, took the punishment for our sins so that we would not have to face the punishment we deserve. Instead of us being punished for our sins, Jesus died on the cross so that all the wrong things we have done can be forgiven.
  4. WHITE is the purity that Jesus offers—This means that our hearts can be made clean. Jesus does not force this on us, but we must ask God to forgive us. When we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and invite him into our hearts to turn away from sin, he will wash us as white as snow.
  5. GREEN is for growth—The Bible says that we should continue to learn to love Jesus more deeply every day and share his love with others. We are to read God’s Word, pray, worship, serve, and obey for the rest of our lives.
  6. GOLD is for eternal life—Scripture tells us that Heaven is very real and that we can work with God to bring God’s Kingdom on Earth. It also tells us that Jesus has made a heavenly home for all who love and serve him. This is open to everyone.

This is only a starting point to begin a discussion with the children. It can also be adapted in any number of ways; for example, you can make bracelets with children that contain beads of each color. As the children wear the bracelets, they can be reminded of the story of salvation. By using this simple color pattern, the book can be adapted to any language and in a variety of cultures.

I encourage you to put together a wordless storybook or bracelet with some children in your life. Maybe they are children you have met in your neighborhood, your church community, or the local park. Pray that God would open your eyes to those who need to hear it. Then let yourself be used to tell the children of God’s mighty acts as you proclaim his power.

Teens having a conversation.

BLESSing the Teens in Your Life by Rob Haynes

Early on in my walk with Jesus, I felt a strong call to minister to youth and young adults. I earned a degree in education, in part, to be the best Bible Study teacher that I could be. I crafted lessons with textbook precision. However, the professors at the university did not fully prepare me for the complexities of the spiritual journeys of the young adults in the ministries where I served. What they needed was not just my well-crafted lesson plans, but someone who could share with them in the journey of discipleship.

Sharing faith with teens can be a scary thing for some adults. Many times, it feels like there are walls between adults and teens. However, like people of any age, teens desire an authentic relationship with someone who genuinely cares about them. They want the adults around them to be themselves, while seeking to understand the struggles they are experiencing. When approached this way, many young adults are open to hearing about how Jesus can help them, at the very least, make sense of an increasingly complex world. It is easy to say that, but sometimes much more difficult to do. So, where do you begin? The familiar BLESS acronym can be a great place to start.

B is for “Begin with Prayer.” Every attempt at reaching out to someone else in the Name of Jesus should begin with prayer. We know that the Holy Spirit is already at work in the life of the other person and in the situation you will enter with that person. Pray that God will open the hearts and spiritual eyes of everyone involved.

L is for “Listen.” As the saying goes, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Listening to someone in love and compassion is one of the best ways to show care and concern. Genuine listening shows people that they are not a project to be completed or something to be fixed. Rather, it shows that you truly want to be a part of their lives.

E is for “Eat.” There is something profound about sharing a meal with someone else. It opens doors of conversation, makes emotional connections, and builds community. Invite teens and their friends to share a meal with you and make some of their favorite foods. Be sure to sit with them during the meal and show them that you care enough to be in close proximity with them. You may be surprised at the deep connections that can be made over something as simple as sharing a meal.

S is for “Serve.” When you have been a part of someone’s life in a prayerful manner, listening to their heart, and sharing meals with them you will begin to see areas in which you can serve them. Maybe it is providing supplies for school, an outfit for an interview, or a ride when parents are unavailable. It may be something as simple as showing up for a game, recital, or presentation. Never underestimate the power of your service in the Name of the Lord. God will use it in mighty ways.

S is for “Share.” When God opens doors, share the story of Jesus and how he has worked in your life. It would be a shame to shy away from sharing the Good News of the gospel now that you have built a strong relationship with these young adults. When you have followed these other steps, you are likely to discover new points of connection with the teens in your life. As you share your faith, a good place to start are those areas where your story connects with theirs. Tell them what Jesus has done in your life in a natural and authentic way. Then, let God use it. It doesn’t have to be forced. Remember that God is much more invested in the lives of every person with whom you share your faith. He will bring the return on that investment in His wisdom and timing.

BLESS is a great way to guide your ministry with teens. Please hear me: I am not discounting the need to carefully prepare quality lessons for youth and young adults. We need to honor God and the people in our ministry with the best we can offer. At the same time, we cannot hide behind the proverbial classroom podium. Authentic faith-sharing means walking alongside others as they ask questions. Jesus shows us this in his teaching to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 32): “They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’” In the same way, walk the road with teens and talk with them, opening the Scriptures to them. As you BLESS them, may the Lord set their hearts on fire.

Questions and Doubts Can be Keys to Evangelism by Rob Haynes

When I talk to some Christians about sharing their faith with others, they seem scared or even threatened. Often their concern is that someone may resist their efforts at evangelism and ask them questions they cannot immediately answer. However, in Scripture we see that God is not afraid of peoples’ doubts. The account of the Resurrected Jesus’ interaction with Thomas in John 20:24-29 is but one example that tells us that God welcomes those who have questions.

Researchers tell us that, in many parts of the world, the numbers of non-religious people is on the rise.  People in this group would not readily label themselves as “religious” yet many of them are open to spiritual conversations. Years ago, I worked in a business where I had a co-worker named Bill who did not consider himself “religious.” He would rather spend time outdoors on a Sunday morning rather than in a Christian church. Over time, I learned that Bill had an interest in spiritual things when he started talking about “Bob.” Bob, you see, was the name he decided to give to God. In a bit of rebellion against the religious establishment, he chose this name rather than “God” or “Jesus.” But I learned that he and I held some of the same beliefs about God, as revealed in Jesus. This points to an important point when sharing faith with people who question or doubt: faith-sharing is often a dialogue of questions and answers on both sides.

Sometimes we will share our faith with others, and they will answer with skepticism and doubt. This is no reason to be afraid or to withdraw from the relationship. Rather, we can approach these as open doors to longer conversations and allow God to shape both us and the other person. When we are sharing faith and someone approaches us with questions and doubts, we need not be concerned with having all the correct answers. We can look at it as a chance to learn more about the other person, about God, and about how God is working in both of us.

Maybe you know someone like my old co-worker Bill. If you seek out ways to share your faith you will certainly meet people like Bill before too long. When you do, I encourage you to use purposeful conversations like these to help understand the other person. Pray that the Holy Spirit gives you the wisdom to answer with the Truth of the Gospel. As you do so, I want to offer three questions that may guide your conversations as you talk about Jesus.

  1. What do you mean by…? Ask the other person to clarify the terms they are using. You may find that the two of you are not even using the same terms. When you think of “God” what are you thinking of? The other person may be defining God in a completely different way. Clarifying these assumptions right away will help you. You can offer a scriptural outlook to the person to correct misunderstandings.
  2. Where did you learn that..? Find out what the other person is using as their source of information. This will give you some good talking points. Unsurprisingly, my colleague Bill got his information from a variety of sources, some of which were more reliable than others. By offering lessons from the Bible about Jesus, I was able to share with Bill what I knew to be true.
  3. Have you ever considered…? You can offer a counterpoint in a way that is non-confrontational. This allows you to hear the other person’s concerns and questions. You do not have to come up with an immediate answer to their challenges. Rather, this allows you time to formulate an answer. Has there ever been a time when you walked away from an encounter and thought later, “I wish I had said…” A response like “have you considered” allows you time to go back to other person at a later time and say, “You know, I was thinking about our conversation last week. Have you considered…?” This also shows that you value the person and the relationship enough to keep it in your mind when you are apart.

This line of discussion requires us to be in regular dialogue with others of various states of spiritual growth. It means that we should seek out relationships with others who may not be Christians. For some of us, that is uncomfortable. But take courage! We know that God is already working in that person’s life, already calling them to a relationship with Him. That means that when we listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting we will know when to speak and what to say. This certainly takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Jesus shows us a purposeful, loving conversation with those who express doubts about faith can have a powerful impact. These conversations begin, and are maintained by, working on intentional relationships with others. Where is God leading you to such relationships and conversations?

Why Share Your Faith by Rob Haynes

Why share your faith? The Father uses your fallout

Evangelism has gotten a bad name over the last few years. For more reasons than we have time to go into in this article, “The ‘E’ Word” is a problem for many people in some parts of the world. Recent polls show that younger generations of Christians in many parts of the world are grappling with not just how to share their faith, but whether or not they should do so at all.

Yet, Scripture provides clear commands for Christians to share the story of how Jesus has made a difference in their lives. Jesus himself told his followers that the plan for spreading the Good News included them—in their success, their failures, and everything in between. What, then, is the answer? What if we looked at Evangelism not as a program or strategy, but as an overflow of what God has done in our lives? Let me see if I can illustrate.

Several years ago, why wife and I were traveling on a road trip with our preschool-aged son. We were driving down the highway as a thunderstorm approached. We were startled by a bolt of lightning as it hit the edge of the road a few hundred meters in front of us. The noise and bright light shocked us all. However, what really surprised us was what happened after the ground strike. The lightning bolt made a hole in the ground at the side of the road.  As we approached the place where the lightning hit, the dirt from the newly created hole had flown in the air and now rained down on our car. It was the fallout of the strike, and it fell on us as we went by.

When talking about why we share our faith, that lightning strike and the resulting fallout might be helpful. The story of the New Testament church is that the people were startled by an unexpected and cataclysmic event. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus shook the world. It came upon them with the same surprise, and brilliance, of a lightning strike. The miraculous events around the birth of the church at Pentecost and throughout the Book of Acts are like a fallout that continued to rain down upon all those that were near it.

However, the strikes, and the fallout, did not stop there. This pattern is repeated every day in the lives of women and men who put their faith in Christ. Its effects find their way to any who put their trust in the Risen Lord today.

But why share this with others? Why not let God strike them with their own lightning bolts? God could do that. Yet, in another divine mystery, God has chosen to use Christ followers to share the Good News of the gospel. We are reminded of this joy and privilege in 1 Peter 2:9: “[Y]ou are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

God has created in every one of us a desire to know Him and His purposes for our lives. Followers of Jesus share their faith in Christ with others because the Holy Spirit has pierced the darkness in their own lives with God’s wonderful light. This truth should be shared far and wide. The Bible tells us that it should not remain a private opinion. In sharing this truth, we give others the opportunity to know the truth for themselves, and about themselves. They can know themselves more deeply because they will discover who they are in Christ.

Lightning comes in all types: A bolt that hits near us or maybe a flash of light in a distant cloud that illuminates a dark night. Some Christians can tell the story of their decision to follow Jesus in a way that looks more like a nearby lightening strike. Others would recall a story of a slow process, like flashes of lightening in clouds on the horizon. Either way, the result is the same: the Light of Christ has shone into the darkness and that Light has made all the difference.

After we encountered that lightning strike on the highway and the results of it, our young son, who had seen the whole thing unfold, said in a loud voice, “Do it again, Daddy!” When we share our faith like this, we want to ask our Heavenly Father to “Do it again!” Why share your faith? Simply because Christ has chosen His followers to share their own experience with the Light, and the resulting positive fallout, of what He has done in them. As you look for ways to share your faith, that’s a good prayer to begin: “Do it again, Daddy!”