Friday, March 30, 2012

CPM last day of the beginning

I don't know what to say.

Today we met a Christian who initially told us he was a Muslim, but once inside said he was a follower of Jesus who feared for his life. We met with the young Mum I mentioned a couple of days ago, who told us she had prayed the prayer, and "really meant it." She has started reading the New Testament we left her, beginning at the contents page! We followed up with the guy with MS, who became a Christian just over a week ago, and talked about baptism - he's thinking it over. We hope some of his friends will come along. In any other phase of my ministry this would have been an exceptional day, but in CPM fortnight, it has been fairly typical.

Words are inadequate to sum up the past two weeks. My understanding of evangelism in New Zealand has been transformed. My practice of evangelism will never be the same. I know there are lost people who will be denied the opportunity of receiving Jesus tomorrow or next week or ever because we hide in our church buildings and programmes and irrelevancies, and leave the nation's doors to the Mormons and JWs. We build arguments and theologies which absolve us from the responsibility of telling people about Jesus, and sharing our stories, and offering them the chance to also know him. We employ professionals to do these things for us, though the tragic truth is that many of these too have lost confidence in the Gospel. I know these things because to my shame I have shared in them.

But with God it is never too late. The adventure has begun, and the birth process complete.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

CPM second Thursday

There's a Chinese guy in the Community we call home, whom we've been sharing Jesus with in recent weeks - a deep thinking guy who asks endless questions. We just found out that he wrote and prayed his own prayer of commitment on Sunday! In this current atmosphere of Godly activity, I guess he was finally drawn in!

One of our teams met a young Mum at the first door they knocked on with anybody in, and before long another baby Christian was born. We know it isn't always like this, but at the moment God's glory is abundantly present in Avondale!

One of the key concepts of CPM is the "person of peace" (Luke 10). This is the vital person who will welcome you, and be a gate-keeper in the locality. I have previously mentioned Michael, a young guy who recommitted his life to Jesus, though we had intended to speak with his Mum! We met her again yesterday, and it was an astonishing time. She readily welcomed Monika and I, along with Tim, into her home, and although we had not met her prior to this visit, within a few minutes she was telling us her story, a story so moving, deep, profound and intimate that she has only told it to 3 other people in the past 20 years. It was a story of immeasurable darkness, but eventually one of great and abiding hope.

When we explained the "person of peace" concept, and gently suggested that she might be just that person, she put her head in her hands. She explained that she had been in Avondale for 14 years, longing to serve God, but not knowing what to do, and had consistently prayed that God would move her or use her. Now, finally, this beautiful lady has the answer to her prayers. God was powerfully present, and we await with enormous expectancy to see how that home will impact the wider community.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CPM mythbusters

Yes I know we've been doing this for less than two weeks, but we have learnt some important lessons already. As I reflect on the past ten days, I am deeply sorry for buying in to some of the myths about New Zealand as a context for evangelism. So today we are going to do a little myth-busting.

Myth 1 - "New Zealand is a very hard ground for evangelists." I frequently ask church leaders about recent converts, and receive a response of embarrassed silence more often than not. But our experience knocking on doors, with no previous contact, has been quite different. Many people are not only interested, they are desperate to hear the good news of Jesus.

Myth 2 - "Nobody takes the Bible seriously, so we need a different starting point." One of the keys for us has been to open the Bible as soon as we can, and invite people to read it for themselves. Rarely, if ever, have people suggested that the Bible is irrelevant.

Myth 3 - "Effective evangelism can only take place after a long period of building friendships." But the reality is that even when friendships have been built, we are ill-equipped and unprepared to share the Gospel. In any case, we have learnt that door-knocking can be relational, as many people have commented on how we listen to their opinions, and are genuinely interested in them.

Myth 4 - "We have to invest time 'earning the right to witness' before we can share Jesus." But Jesus repeatedly modelled just the opposite, engaging total strangers in deeply personal and spiritual conversations. We have found time and time again that God has already prepared hearts and minds, so that by the time we meet people they are more than ready to respond.

Myth 5 - "Door-knocking is outdated and ineffective." I would probably have agreed two weeks ago, but we have seen numerous people respond positively, who would otherwise have had little or no opportunity to hear and respond to the Good News. If anyone knows a better way of meeting these folk, please let me know.

Myth 6 - "The streets are hostile and dangerous." We haven't had any serious abuse, let alone felt threatened.

Myth 7 - "Evangelism is for experts only." I think all our team members have been involved in someone coming to faith, many for the first time. The whole point is that the process is simple enough for new Christians to immediately be able to share their faith with friends.

Myth 8 - "People are not willing to commit to anything." One of the things we ask is that people commit to meeting with a trainer every week, so they can learn how to tell their story, share the Gospel, and learn more from the Bible. As a consequence we already have a number of groups established, and new believers are keen to invite friends, and become trainers themselves.

Myth 9 - "Faith is considered to be a private matter." Absolute nonsense. By far the majority of people are willing to tell us what they believe, even when they know are Christians and they aren't! We have found many people to be spiritually hungry, and keen to engage with us.

Myth 10 - "Don't mention sin." People out there do know the concept of sin, and the majority are aware of their own sinfulness and need for forgiveness. By avoiding the issue, we are denying them the opportunity to experience the freedom from sin which only a relationship with Christ can bring. (On the other hand, many Christians need to understand the depth and absolute nature of the forgiveness which God extends to us, and stop harking back to past sins and failures. We are not "sinners saved by grace," but "saints who sometimes sin.")

We need to thoroughly reconsider our approach to evangelism, and for me, that includes repenting of taking on wrong opinions and attitudes uncritically, because they have relieved me of the responsibility of telling people about Jesus. The Great Commission still applies!

Monday, March 26, 2012

CPM second Tuesday

A simply stunning day. I will try to be brief!

We met an amazing group of born again Ethiopians, who were warm to our approach and keen to get together again - imagine an Ethiopian stream of CPM in New Zealand, certainly has a book of Acts ring to it!

John from Fiji spent a couple of hours with an amazing Fijian lady - "Nana", who is effectively opening her home as a community centre for street/gang kids, with God resourcing her. In an area with a high rate of burglaries, her home has remained untouched. She is a radiant Christian.

This afternoon we found the closest we have come to an English style council estate. Terraced houses, rubbish, every house with similar doors, dubious characters hanging around. But what a place where God has been busy preparing hearts. We chatted with two young guys in their early 20s - one a Christian, but struggling with alcohol, and the other not yet a Christian, but listened intently as we shared our stories, and grappled intelligently with the Gospel message as he read the Bible. He kept the Bible, promised to read it, and we will visit again on Thursday. Then we met a young lady who, like so many, has had contact with the Mormons and JWs. Again she responded really positively, and quietly read over the prayer of commitment. Did she actually pray it? Well we'll find out on Thursday! Then we met a Maori granddad, had been a hard-drinking drug abuser, but has straightened his life out, and is spiritually open, He wasn't ready to dive into the Bible, but promised to read "the Case for Easter" book we will take him. Add in the lovely Maori lady who is obviously the street matriarch, who was responsive and open and who welcomed our offer to visit again, and it was a great afternoon.

Our other team was following up in an area we previously visited. A twenty year old Niuean guy became a Christian for the first time, with great joy and urgency. He was almost literally waiting for us! You will hopefully recall Michael who recommitted his life to Jesus yesterday - we only met him by "accident" as we were hoping to meet his Mum. Well today we met her, and she was ecstatic, having been praying for her son for a long time. He had immediately told her what had happened, and she commented that he was a changed young man! Should we expect anything less? She also said he'd been busy texting his friends inviting them along when we meet next Monday. We were almost angels in disguise, arriving in direct and specific answer to prayer.

As we gathered to debrief, I think it is fair to say that there was a deep sense of awe and wonder among us. We have started to all speak out prayers together, because time is short and the needs are urgent - and today the praise concert was loud and heartfelt.

Reading through this, it all sounds too easy, but it is nevertheless my genuine account of what I understood to have happened today.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

CPM second Monday

Let me tell you about a few of the people we came across today. We had a young lady, born in Russia, who was very close to accepting Jesus last week, but before committing herself wanted to meet us in community - so she came along to Kodesh today and spent a few hours with us, during team training time. She is coming back on Thursday.

We met a Maori lady last week, just as she was about to go out, so we arranged to meet with her and a Christian neighbour today. We had a great hour with them both, sharing Bible verses, and the Gospel. They were keen for us to go back each week - so we have our first group!

Two team members met Michael because his Mum wasn't home! He asked if they would share with him instead, and before long he was recommitting his life to Jesus. He readily agreed for us to return next week to train him to tell his story and Jesus' story, then asked if he could invite some friends! We have our second group!

We found a lovely Fijian Christian lady, and asked whether she would perhaps be host to a group - and then discovered that her next two neighbours were also interested in Jesus - potentially a third group. The really exciting bit comes when these group members start leading their own groups, and training others to lead groups...

We have encountered many people who have been influenced and confused by Mormons and/or Jehovah's Witnesses. One lady is in her 70s, and we have visited with her a few times. She is warm and receptive but the battle for her spirit is apparent and real.

One of the guys who came to faith last week has not been receptive since - we think someone has suggested to him that he needs to be careful of us, as they have perhaps been hurt by previous experiences. While this is disappointing, we know that what God has planted in his life will not go to waste.

We visited the local Police station last Friday, and asked them which were the worst streets in Avondale, so armed with our list we knocked on more doors, and once again found many people receptive as God had prepared them for our visit. No street in this nation is so dark that the light of Christ cannot penetrate.

So, at close of play today
- we have loads of follow up to do, and some groups established already
- we have some ill team members
- we have encountered many people who have been confused by the false teaching of cults and sects (so our Gospel message needs to be clear and simple
- we have a number of folk who are nominal Christians but who have no assurance of salvation - these folk also need an opportunity to give their lives to Jesus

So loads for you to get praying about, please.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

CPM weekend special!

No proper blog today, but a couple of awesome things I need to tell you!

Firstly, in the T4T (Training 4 Trainers) book, it poses the question, "can CPMs emerge in a churched or post-churched culture such as North America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe or Latin America?" The answer of course is "yes", but the point is that little old New Zealand gets a mention!

Secondly, a text I received from one of the team this morning, "I am buzzing. Had the courage to approach a Chinese guy who has been coming to church for a while, and led him to commitment in a church pew. Wow!"

Can't express how excited I am about the week ahead!

Friday, March 23, 2012

CPM day 5

I'll start with a quote from one of our Gap students. "Day 5 of door to door evangelising - so good. It's crazy the number of people who don't know the basics of the Gospel - who have had misconceptions or believed lies their whole lives. What an incredible experience it is to be able to bring light & truth into those situations! Saw one person almost come to faith today, will catch up with her again on monday. God is so good!" Ever heard an 18 year old write that about door-knocking before? I certainly haven't.

As promised an update on the guy who became a Christian on Tuesday. He told us a little more about his background - only two convictions, for firearms and drugs! We talked about he could tell others his story, including his messed up past, but then how he met Jesus, and how his life has already changed significantly since then. He was so excited to think that in telling his story he could help others. We took him through the Gospel presentation again, so hopefully he can share that with others. Then we did a simple Bible study based on Zacchaeus' encounter with Jesus, in the process teaching him how to study the Bible for himself - remember we are not just looking for new followers of Jesus, or to start new groups, but we are seeking to start a new church planting movement - which requires new believers to share faith, lead groups and train others! Our new believer said he had been reading the Bible, and promised to pray for us until we meet again next Friday! One key thing he said, "I listen to you two because you listen to me." Relational door-knocking is possible.

Two other pairs had amazing days. One led a Maori lady to faith in Jesus, while the other had a great time with as young lady of Russian descent, who was incredibly close to receiving Jesus as her Lord and Saviour, but decided she needed to know us better! So she is coming to spend Monday in our community - our StreetHope strapline is "Come and see" and she will do just that.

So after one week, three new followers of Jesus, numerous interested people to follow up, many more positive conversations, and an exhilarated but exhausted team of door-knockers.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

CPM day four

No converts today - so it was a waste of time, right? No!
One of the great things about the T4T process is that when we knock on doors, rather than expecting to bring everyone we meet to faith, what we are doing is looking for the people in whose lives God has already been working. We don't have to persuade them or win an argument - they are ready - like the Ethiopian Official in Acts 8. They often need to have the Gospel simply explained to them, and gently told how to respond to Jesus - but like my friend of yesterday, there is a clear sense that God has already been working significantly in their hearts. Do you see how that takes the pressure off us as we knock on doors?

One of the hardest people groups we have encountered are those who have experienced nominal Christianity. They have seen people going though the religious motions, but know nothing of the transforming love and power of Christ. "I tried that already and it did nothing for me." In effect they have been inoculated against the Gospel. I can't help but wonder if our emphasis on 'Friendship Evangelism' is doing the same. We make friends, but avoid sharing the Gospel in order to allow the friendship to develop naturally. They know we are Christians, but the last thing we want to do is to push Jesus on them. So we wait. And as we wait, they know we are followers of Jesus, they may even see us pray before a meal, or spot a Bible lying around - but we deny them the opportunity to experience the transforming love and power of Jesus, for now, and perhaps in doing so harden their very hearts we are hoping to soften. What do you think?

Thanks to all of you who have emailed words of encouragement - every one has been shared with the team. Nothing I have ever done with Church Army, here in New Zealand or back in UK, has provoked so much response. God is on the move, and people sense it. Many evangelists and Christians are longing to find out how we can share faith effectively, and disciple new believers, and see a movement spread, and maybe, just maybe, this is a significant part of the "how" for New Zealand.

I am excited as today we catch up with the guy who made a commitment to Jesus on Wednesday - I'll let you know how it goes. Any suggestions as to how we baptise a guy in a wheelchair?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CPM day three

Today's update is intensely personal. After a later start, and a training session, we headed out after lunch. Excited and more confident, we followed up two positive visits from yesterday. The first lady wasn't in, and the second lady, though she happily chatted with us for a while, when it came to it wasn't really interested in the God stuff. Deflated, we went back to the car and prayed. Anything was better than facing more rejection and failure knocking on doors.

What helped in this case was accountability - we'd be reporting back to the rest of the group! So with no expectations we trudged to the next door. It was opened by a guy in a wheelchair, carrying the physical scars of a life ruined by excessive drug-taking, further crushed by the onset of MS. He had explored a number of religions, and was happy when we offered to give a simple explanation of the basics of the Christian faith. He read the Bible verses, and responded to our questions in such a way as assured us he had understood.

So, "are you a sinner?" "Oh yes!"

"Do you want forgiveness for your sins?" "Of course I do."

"Do you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose again?" "I know He did."

(Can it be this easy?)

"Are you willing to surrender your life to Christ?" "I certainly am."

Wow, last question - "are you ready to invite Jesus into your heart and into your life?" "Yes, I am."

"No, this isn't a decision to make quickly, this is the biggest decision anyone can make - are you sure?...okay, well read this prayer quietly, and think if it expresses what you really want to say to God." He read quietly, then read it out loud. We suggested that having read it to himself, he could say it again as a prayer to God. He protested that he'd already done that - so with great joy we rejoiced with the angels in heaven in celebrating the salvation of a sinner.

We prayed for him, handed him a Bible, and agreed to return in two days time.

In two and a half years as National Director in New Zealand, I have not been involved in seeing a single person come to faith in Jesus. After two days of knocking on doors, I have - and I was not alone among our reduced team of 6 today. In just a few hours we have shared Jesus with a number of people, prayed with many more, lead two people to faith in Jesus, and have over 10 people to follow up on. I feel deeply thrilled, and humbled, and will go door knocking tomorrow with a little less trepidation and a lot more genuine expectation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CPM day two

To continue my running analogy, we haven't quite had a birth yet, but I can see the baby's head!
Let me start by setting the scene. One of the things that attracted me to Jesus as a young adult making life-impacting decisions was the promise that following Jesus would be an adventure. I fail to see that in the lives of most Christians and churches I encounter, but that is their loss...and this door knocking lark has helped me recapture some of that sense of adventure. Each drive, gate, door holds unknown terrors, joys, surprises, as we encounter another lump of raw humanity.
I probably need to confess that I'm not a natural door-knocking type -I wasn't as an 18 year old in East Hull, and I'm certainly not as a 50 year old in West Auckland. I'm clumsy in light conversation, and to be honest, pretty socially inept. I'd not unduly worry about preaching to a crowd, but chatting without script to random, unpredictable people - no thanks! So let's be straight - I can't do this. Which gives me every confidence, because it means I can do it, as it becomes a "God or drown" situation. So far, God has kept me from drowning.
And so to Tuesday, the weatherman was wrong, it didn't rain as predicted, so we went out and about. First the nicer streets, then we targeted a street with a fair degree of notoriety. Overall, absolutely awesome. Please don't waste your time sending me a list of reasons why knocking on doors is old fashioned, out of date, inappropriate and all that - I could return to you a longer list! I could tell story after story of real flesh and blood people we met today, with whom we shared our stories, and shared the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus. I could tell of those we prayed for, for healing but most often, for the blessing of the peace of Jesus. I could tell you of those who heard for the first time ever of a God who loves them, died for them and longs to share in their live, as Lord and Saviour. And my response would be to say that we have no right to deny these people the opportunity to hear, experience and respond to the love of Jesus. If there is a better way, show me. But until then, we'll keep on door-knocking.
Tomorrow I'll tell you of the people we met, and the response of our brave young door-knockers to their maiden act of midwifery.

Monday, March 19, 2012

CPM day one

So today we awoke expecting to knock on numerous doors, welcome our first converts, disciple and train them, and see in all of this the first shoots of a Church Planting Movement. But, it rained.
I feel the way I imagine a heavily pregnant first time mother feels - a strange mix of incredible excitement and paralysing terror. There is a sense that we are in at beginning of an adventure the like of which none of us have experienced before. But due to the weather, delivery day has been delayed by 24 hours!
We have of course been busy - solid training from 9.15am to after 5pm. How to connect with people, share our own stories (in 3 minutes), explain the Gospel, and invite someone into a new relationship with Jesus - including practising our newly learnt skills. We had modelled to us the kind of gatherings the new churches will hold, and went through some of the initial training.
I was excited to see some of the participants already working out how what they were hearing and experiencing may work in their home contexts. They have grasped that we are not just planting churches, but launching a church planting movement. If the flipping rain stops.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

CPM?

Tim Scheuer will be arriving in Auckland in just a few hours.

Martin Morgan, National Director of Church Army in Australia, writes
“How will we reverse the trend of Churches decreasing, declining and dying in this nation? How will we see real impact by reaching people who are currently not part of any Christian community, group or congregation?

My friend and fellow worker with Church Army Australia, Tim Scheuer, heads up our Church Planting Movements arm. He has eagerly been telling us about the T4T approach in reaching new people outside existing churches with the Gospel of Jesus, to allow them to trust in him. This is really a very simple focus on training other trainers to train others in simple multiplication of new groups of believers.

T4T has come from the experience of the Chinese American missionary, Ying Kai, working in China in the eary 2000′s. He saw the simple and rapid multiplication of groups of new believers through the simple methods

It all seems quite simple- and in one sense that is what makes me less cynical than I am of other methods that are spruiked as “The Solution”. This just focusses on clear next actions with a focus on presenting the Gospel and encouraging an expectation of multiplication from day 1 in the life of a new group of believers. It has a healthy expectation that the Gospel message works! It is the sort of missional practice that we see in the initial growth of the Gospel. I think it is exactly what Australia needs.

I’m very eager to see the principles of direct Evangelism and multiplication take off in Australia. I’m sure we will see more Evangelists trained and more new believers come to follow Jesus. We have started to see that happen- and I am praying for more.”

I would echo those sentiments for New Zealand. Having read through most of a book about the T4T approach, I am incredibly excited about Tim’s visit, and would encourage any of you who can, to come and catch something of what Tim offers. We will be based in Kodesh, and will start each day at 9am – even if you can only be with us for a day, it will still be worthwhile. I will attempt to update my blog each day for the next two weeks keeping you up to date with the events of the day!