title basics

basics-01THE BASIC IDEA

 

THE GREAT MAJORITY OF THOSE WHO HAVE JOINED
 THE ADVENTIST CHURCH OVER THE YEARS DID SO 
BECAUSE OF FRIENDSHIP WITH CHURCH MEMBERS. 

So what can we do for society as it is now?
How can we be savvy missionaries where we are?


There are some exciting new ideas behind LIFEdevelopment, but in fact they are
not new - the principles date back to Jesus. Remember the demon-possessed man who
was healed in the graveyard? Jesus' parting advice to him was:


"Go home to your friends and tell

them what wonderful things
the
 Lord has done for you." Mark 5:19


This text is the inspiration for the Journey of Transformation: LIFEdevelopment discipleship pathway.


COMMUNITY - "GO HOME"

This newly-saved man wanted to spend his time with Jesus and the disciples – living
in a religious environment. But Jesus sent him home!

Surprisingly, believers who spend most of their lives with secular people are more likely
to build their church than those living in a 'holy huddle'. The great majority of those who
have joined the Adventist Church over the years did so because of relationships with
church members. Most new Adventists are either relatives, friends, neighbours or work
colleagues of Adventists. Which means we need to become much more intentional in
utilising this friendship approach in our witnessing.

 

basic2Let's remind ourselves what the gospel says:

1. Humans are created for community.

As far back as Eden, God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone' (Genesis 2:18).
Studies show a functional relationship makes you less likely to die from cancer, heartdisease, suicide and even from accidents. In British mental hospitals admission rates per 100,000 of population were: 257 for married men, 663 for single men, 752 for widowed men and 1,959 for divorced men.* And so many of us are alone. Europe is more individualistic than traditional societies, but the breakdown of the village and the extended family has come with a price - loneliness.
A study by the London School of Economics found the happiest country in the world was Bangladesh!* One of the world's poorest countries, its people are so connected to their family and tribe that they are never lonely. Nelson Mandela quoted the old Zulu proverb, "Umntu ngumntu ngabantu" – a person is a person because of other people.


2. Sin put cracks in community.

Originally Adam and Eve had perfect community with God and each other. But then they sinned, and from then on the story shows blaming, fighting, murder, separation and warped relationships (Genesis 3:50).

3. Jesus re-established community.

He didn't save the world by remote control from the comfort of heaven, mailing a book or a video. He came personally. 'The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we experienced His glory… full of grace and truth' (John 1:14).

Aside from His sacrificial death and brilliant teachings, His major gift to the world was a community – the church. His Apostles' first duty was to 'be with Him', learning by personal association and influence. Then He sent them out to influence others (Mark 3:13-15).


4. Our task is to invite people to community with God and each other.

God has given us 'the ministry of reconciliation' and 'the message of reconciliation' (2 Corinthians 5:18,19). The ministry, treating people with Christ-like care, forgiveness, and respect, sets people up to understand the message of reconciliation with God through the gospel.

basics-03CONNECT - "YOUR FRIEND"

Quick question: write down the names of your 5 closest friends.

How many of them are Adventists or Christians?
If you've been in the church for 5 years or more, the odds are that all 5 are church friends.
That is no doubt supportive, but it doesn't give you much chance to do what Jesus said –
go to your unbelieving friends and tell them your story.

Adventists have traditionally encouraged their converts to make friends in the church, and that is vital. The Adventist education system has allowed children to grow up with fellow-believers as classmates and teachers, which has many advantages, but it has at times made us rather insular. It is possible to attend Adventist schools from kindergarten to Masters degree,
to work for the church, to socialise with church friends – and never be close to people
who are not Adventists! Scary!


Admittedly, some who study and work outside church circles have lost their faith and
become 'worldly', but many more have found their faith grows stronger as it is challenged
in the real world, and that they become better able to communicate it.


Question: What was the first action of Jesus' public ministry? A miracle? A sermon?
A big committee? No, attending a party! (See John 2:1-11)


"The example of Christ in linking Himself with the interests of humanity should be followed
by all believers,"
writes Ellen White of this story.* "We should not seclude ourselves from
others. In order to reach all classes, we must meet them where they are."

She balances this by arguing that Jesus did not make alcohol, and that believers should not
party stupidly or 'give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our
presence'.
But then:
"Let them see that our religion does not make us unsympathetic. We should never give the
world the false impression that Christians are a gloomy, unhappy people...' 'Social power,
sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour..."



There are good reasons to hothouse young plants, but eventually they mature and must
be planted out, or else they will become pot-bound and fruitless.
Where do you see yourself right now? We'll talk later about how you might plant yourself out.

basics-4TELL YOUR STORY - "AND TELL THEM"

Notice Jesus didn't say to go home and argue. He told the man to tell his personal story. That is a brilliant strategy for postmodern times. As we've seen, most people suspect grand Truth-claims, but they are looking for real, everyday, usable truths from people they know and trust. They will listen respectfully and open-mindedly to your experience if you tell it humbly and honestly. That is how your story can sneak past the border guards of postmodern prejudice.

So what can you tell them? 

Maybe you can't say, 'I was a homeless drug addict and I prayed -- and look, now I own a multi-national company'.

You don't have to dazzle them with some amazing miracle or 'health-wealth gospel'. Just tell them what your spiritual life does for you. How it gives you hope, peace, motivation to love, strength to forgive, a fortress to hide in during disasters, a party in your soul even when you're under stress, a 'peace that passes understanding'.

Reality check: Jason and Lara* had been trying to witness to their friends Dale and Nathan. But Jason and Lara had a horror year – his IT business failed in the dotcom dive, and she received a diagnosis of breast cancer in her early 30s. Some Christians told them, 'You should pray more,' others asked whether they'd been offering God a faithful tithe! Amid all the trauma, Jason and Lara were worried whether this would be a bad witness to Dale and Nathan. Jason complained to his pastor, 'What will this couple think of Christianity now that our lives are such failures?' The pastor kept in regular contact, listening, praying with them. He encouraged them to be honest with their friends. Lara's later tests showed she was clear, but the couple still struggled financially to start again.

Cut to a year later. Dale and Nathan were baptised at Jason and Lara's Seventh-Day Adventist church. The pastor asked Dale what had influenced her to become a Christian and she said, "Watching Jason and Lara go through colossal disasters last year without totally falling to pieces.” Yeah', said Nathan, "That showed me their faith was real. It was crash-tested."

 

basics-05It's safe to be honest with our secular friends about our struggles, and how God helps us spiritually. We don't have to pretend we live on cloud nine with a song of praise always on our sanctified lips. They will see that as the fantasyland of advertising, not real life. But they will respect our spiritual experience if we can explain it in ordinary words without clichés, sales tricks or exaggeration.

WHAT DO I SAY? 

THE HEALING MODEL

When I first became a Christian, I tried telling a friend at university that I'd just been saved. She looked at me strangely and asked, "Saved from what?" I said, "From sin."
She looked puzzled and said, "What's sin?" I listed a few of my favourites.
She said, "Why would you want to be saved from them?"  'Um…' Good question. No doubt I followed up with a bad answer. I felt like an idiot, and looked for a better way to say it. And I've found one – talking about healing. Secular people understand that. They're interested in being healthy, whole people. I don't mean you have to say something dramatically impressive like, 'I was cured of cancer twice!!!' (Hey, if you were cured the first time…?) There's more to healing than baffling the doctors.

Most people accept that we're damaged by faulty relationships. Christians can speak in these terms:

relationship with others
relationship with myself
relationship with nature
relationship with God

Christians believe all these to have been damaged by 'the Fall', and the teaching of Jesus is about restoring all of them. It's interesting to read that Jesus spent more time healing than preaching. Healing was His main model of what His teaching does to a person. In fact the word Jesus used for 'save' also means 'heal'.

Sozo = save (of Christian salvation), rescue, cure, make well.*

Even if that's all Greek to you, you can still talk about God healing your guilt, worry or revenge.

So that's the basic idea.

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