Altar Call Before Protocol

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Reinhard Bonnke

*I originally shared this story on my blog four years ago, but this is an updated version I have not posted before. I have been very moved by Reinhard Bonnke’s example of faith, integrity, and winning souls. I had the chance to host him when he was speaking at Bethany in 2011. It was an amazing experience spending time with someone who is so legendary in Heaven. After that, I read his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire. In this post, I give just one example of how he has inspired me to point people to Jesus whenever I can. For context, at the time this story takes place I had just begun a job working in sales after a year and a half working in retail, and before that seven years in ministry.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Transitioning from retail to my role at a technology company brought about some considerable changes to my daily life. The new position gave me a regular schedule. I was now able to get more involved in church as a leader. It also provided the chance to meet some interesting people.

As part of my job, I attended a networking event called “Around the Table.” I went to many different networking meetings in hopes of generating sales during this time, but this one was different. Instead of meeting at an office or restaurant, everyone taking part gathered in various community leaders’ homes for dinner and discussion. The area chamber of commerce hosted the event, and they decided the house where you would attend, not by who you knew, but by which topics you were interested in discussing. I read through a list of questions that determined where I would have dinner. The one that jumped out at me the most was, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

That question stopped me in my tracks. I had not seriously considered it before. I had stepped out of my comfort zone by taking time away from working in ministry, but so far, it had felt mostly like a failure. It was a question that was painful for me to answer. So why not attend a dinner party with a bunch of high powered strangers and discuss it with them?

I was happy to have Amy with me that night. She dazzled everyone with her charm. She is an elegant, timeless, and beautiful. I’m not just saying that because I will get major points for putting this in my blog. She is the kind of beauty that makes you look twice. She has big bright eyes and thick dark hair. She carries herself with confidence, and I knew she would shine at that business dinner. People probably liked me more because she was there.

About the same time I was hired at my technology job, Amy was asked to work at the church we were attending. The position was to assist with their non-profit organization, HP Serve. I couldn’t think of any better ending to this crazy experiment than to end up working at our new church together.

Instead, it was Amy working closely with the church through the non-profit as I continued to be a fish out of church. Amy is extremely talented. It makes sense why they would want her on staff, but it just seemed like another reminder that my dream of being in ministry was on an indefinite hiatus.

Feeling Out of Place

At dinner, Amy told every business leader about her work to help underprivileged and disadvantaged youth through HP Serve. She had everyone interested in finding out how they could get involved. They didn’t know part of her job included fundraising, which she seemed to be doing an effecting job doing as my plus one. All for Jesus, right? I enjoyed connecting and meeting some fascinating people as well, but I felt a little insecure. Amy had all the exciting things to talk about. I was just a salesperson at a dinner attended by people much higher up on the business food chain.

When it was time to eat, high powered business owners, CEO’s, and influential people in our community all sat around the table with Amy and me. I found it difficult to relate to a group of people who had accomplished amazing things in business. One person shared they had just spent Thanksgiving in New York City watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with iconic giant balloons floating by their hotel room. I wanted to contribute to the conversation, I really did, but then I remembered some words of wisdom someone once passed onto me, “You can be silent, and people may think you are an idiot, or you can open your mouth, and remove all doubt.”

By this point, I was two years away from the ministry world I had left. I had pizza experience and could tell them how to layer the cheese just right so that the bubbly goo baked to perfection. I could share hacks for their iPhones to make the battery last longer, or which data plan would allow them to have cheaper rates while they were in Paris. But it felt like too much time had passed since I mattered as a leader in the community.

Altar Call Before Protocol

I was silent for most of the evening until they got to the point in the dinner party where they asked that question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” As soon as the discussion began, a phrase popped into my mind, “Altar call before protocol.”

In his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, Reinhard Bonnke mentioned God speaking this same phrase to him over and over again as he was brought before presidents, rulers, and dignitaries throughout his ministry. I believe God had brought this to my remembrance to give a little bit of confidence for what would happen next.

It was clear that God wanted me to share the gospel with these 25 strangers, and I had no idea how I was going to do that. I was so intimidated by these people that I had hardly said a word the entire night. Then before I had time to put together a game plan, the host turned to me and asked, “Josh, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

I started with a philosophical quote in an attempt to engage the room. “Blaise Pascal says that ‘there is a God-shaped void in the heart of every man, and the only thing that can fill it is God Himself.’ If I knew I couldn’t fail, then I would spend the rest of my life helping people fill that void by connecting them to God.”

The room stared blankly at me. I need to unpack that a little, or they would think a crazy person had been invited to their fancy party.

“I would do this through writing books that show how God really is, and not how we perceive Him to be through religious filters.” Heads start to nod, and I take it a step further by sharing some of my journey to believe again with them.

“Not too long ago, I was a pastor on staff at a church. Then I felt God leading me to make a change. As a result, I ended up working in retail sales for a year and a half before working where I am now. I had to move out of my house and had to sell most of my belongings. Now that I am on the other side of the pulpit, I have had the chance to see things differently. During this time, I began to realize that I did not have a healthy way of relating to God, church life, or others. My old perspective was based on what I could do for God, instead of what God has already done for me. I want to write things that will encourage those who are down and out or feel away from God, that will help them find their way again.”

Throughout the night, people were commenting on how if they knew they couldn’t fail, then they would try and bring about positive social change. Everyone had a long list of what they thought would be the right fix. All of their ideas were admirable and selfless, but they left out the most significant force for change the world has ever known. While I had their attention, I felt it was an excellent opportunity to use that conversation to springboard into what I thought God most wanted me to say that night. “Altar call before protocol,” as Reinhard Bonnke would say.

“Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,’ and the love of God is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. It is our best hope for the troubles our city faces. While improvements in education, law enforcement, and health care are all needed and essential, that is not what is going to change our community. Only the gospel can do that.”

Ah, That’s Nice…

Throughout the evening, after someone shared for a moment, everyone would say something like, “Ah that’s so nice. You should do that!” then move on. That’s not what happened after I shared. Instead, the owner of the home we were in, who happened to be a top executive in a Fortune 500 company, said, “Wait a second, I don’t want to move on just yet. Let’s go back to what Josh was saying. Tell us more!”

I continued, “What I have learned is that many people do not understand the gospel. The good news is not that we can get to God, but that He has already come to us in Jesus. The Bible says that He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. Our part is not to go out and earn the right to have Him come to our house. It’s just to open the door in faith and ask him to come and sit at the table, and join us for dinner.”

After a few “amens” from the room, the host said, “You need to get to writing! That is a message people need to hear.” 

Throughout the rest of the evening, God was front and center and came up throughout our discussions. It was a fun time, and I was encouraged that God used me to share the gospel with people who I probably would have never had the chance to reach from a microphone at church.

I felt like a fish out of water that night, but I was making a difference. It is not only the preacher with the microphone that can make a difference for the Kingdom of God. That alone will never be enough. While that is needed, we also need people outside of the walls of the church, unafraid to be who God made them to be, even if there is not already a model for that. Maybe that is you?

Crossing the Line

4 Questions that show you have gone from honest to harsh

How do we know when sharing truth has needlessly moved from bold compassion to insensitive confrontation? We have to be able to honest without being harsh. In my previous post I talked about sharing our opinion without burning bridges. Today I would like to explore how to know when we have crossed that line. Here are four questions to ask that show if we have gone from apologetics to just annoying.

Am I correcting or embracing?

Correcting before disarming undermines our influence. When it becomes about being right instead of using our influence to help others we need to change gears. We don’t want to correct people we want to influence them. If we want to walk with someone to a new destination then we should probably start with an embrace, or at least a handshake, instead of a finger in their face.

Am I invading or inviting?

We need to make sure people actually want to hear what we have to say before we say it. If not, we are just wasting everyone’s time. Getting things off our chest is about us. Doing this sacrifices our leadership collateral. Blowing off some steam online alienates others from the very truth we want to give them.

Am I building walls or bridges?

Walls divide and protect while bridges connect and protect. We shouldn’t live in a world without either. We just need to be wise in how we use them. One way we build walls in a wrong way is by making ultimatums. This forces people to accept everything we say without us seeking to understand the other side. Ultimatums divide but they don’t protect. A bridge allows people to take one step at a time until we are walking side by side.

Am I leading by example?

Sometimes it seems we can actually see people winding up at the beginning of an online post before delivering their fastball of truth. They got it over the plate but it came by so fast that no one could hit it. We should make sure are goal is to influence and not just attack. We must be careful we are not lashing out at those we want to learn from us.

How can we set an example of disarming that is easy to follow? Slow down before we post. Ask ourselves if we have left room for the small but all to often case we are not right. If we can’t walk a statement back if we are wrong then maybe it needs to be rephrased. Considered that there may be more to the story that we haven’t discovered yet. 

Lines in the sand

We need to do what Jesus did and extend truth with grace. He drew a different kind of line in the sand. His lines caused people to put down their stones and change their ways. In the same way we should also kneel down to where people are instead of only expecting them to climb up to our platform of truth.

I hope these two posts help us influence others instead of being isolated from them. Social media can be a great tool. Following these steps may help us use our online platforms to work for us instead of against us.

For more thoughts on this subject check out Chris Hodges’s book The Daniel Dilemma.

 

Bridges of Opinion

4 ways to share truth without burning bridges

I recently read a post on social media that was right but wasn’t very friendly. I wondered if the thought would have gotten more traction if it would have been shared with a smile. When we are right but don’t present our truth in a right way we alienate ourselves. This not only discourages us but also keeps our solutions from those who need them most.

How do we share truth without burning bridges? There are probably many ways, but here are four that came to me.

Disarm

We disarm people with humility. By stating the obvious like, we don’t know everything, we could be wrong, and that we are just presenting one way of seeing things, we cause people to put down their defenses. When we make big statement and don’t give room for the perspective of others we only get both sides more entrenched in what they already believe.

Build a bridge

Making dogmatic statements or targeting certain groups with identifiable phraseology is like firing shots over the bow. People aren’t going to come out to listen in this situation. They are going to duck and cover, or fire back.

Making “we” instead of “you” statements says we are in this together. This builds the bridge to their understanding. So does owning our part of past mistakes. It is easier for people to join us by crossing a bridge that we extended than it is to climb down and then up the cliffs of our different opinions.

Invite people over

We need to make sure we have earned the right to instruct the group of people we want to influence. A social media account doesn’t magically make us an expert. Acknowledging that by inviting people to be part of a conversation instead of just asking them to “like” our bold statements grows our influence more than a single post ever could.

One way to do this it to ask sincere questions. Judgmental questioning that casts blame doesn’t help. This just points out how others are on what we see as the wrong side. It doesn’t invite them over to what we believe is the right side.

Embrace them

Abraham Lincoln is famous for preserving the Union. His life also shows that he was able to build a team of rivals instead of like minded friends to lead our nation. He was once accused of treating his enemies too kindly. He responded by saying, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” When was the last time you “destroyed” an enemy in this way?

We should be careful not to take positions that make it impossible to embrace people if they do come to our side. When someone lashes out respond with grace. Billy Hornsby said that anytime we back someone into a corner we should be wiling to let them out. Give room for there to be people different than you on your side of an argument. If not, there won’t be room for anyone to make their way over from the other side. Once they do make sure you embrace them.

This is only part one of two on sharing truth without burning bridges. In my next post I am going to talk about how to know when you have crossed the line from apologetics to just plain annoying. Subscribe and not only will you be the first to know when the post is out, but I will also give you a free gift.

For more thoughts on this subject check out Chris Hodges’s book The Daniel Dilemma.

 

Make Friends Not Points

3 Benefits of Connecting before Correcting

In my last post I shared how a battle for an armrest turned into an opportunity to share my faith. While this was happening I was actually reading the book The Daniel Dilemma by my pastor Chris Hodges.

After getting off the plane I would later come to the chapter “Connecting before Correcting”. In it Pastor Chris begins with a story of another uncomfortable encounter on a plane. Eventually the door opened for him to share the gospel. I thought this was pretty interesting considering how similar the story was to my own and that it took place I was reading this very book.

This chapter ended up being one of my favorites from The Daniel Dilemma. Here are some of highlights.

Highlights from The Daniel Dilemma

As followers of Jesus we have real hope. And we’re called to share it. But how we share it makes a difference.

Sharing your faith is all about relationship, not being right or slick presentations.

We’re not trying to prove we’re right. We’re just trying to be effective.

Jesus connected with people before he corrected them.

People don’t care what you know; first, they want to know that you care.

We have to earn someone’s respect before we can build a relationship. And we have to have relationship before we can have influence.

Evangelism is not telling people what they should do; it’s telling them what happen in you.

I used to feel a lot of pressure when it came time to share my faith but also didn’t want things to get awkward. Eventually that changed when I shifted my perspective from convincing people I was right to valuing people in my community. Instead of trying to make a point I began focusing on making friends. If we do a good job of that eventually the other person will ask about the things we care about and talking about our faith will happen naturally.

Three Ways This Helped Me Share My Faith

Takes the Pressure Off

When we put all this pressure on ourselves things get weird and the other person can sense this. We stop being authentic and it turns people off. Sometimes we even put pressure on people to hear our point which actually takes away from it.

Sets Other Believers Up for Success

Even if you don’t get to “close the deal” you can still set the next Christian that person encounters up for success. When you genuinely care about others because they are people and not just a potential convert or worse, someone on the other team, then they are more likely to hear out the next Christian they meet.

Surprise Teacher

Listening may be our most effective tool in evangelism. I am often surprise by what I am able to learn from those in the past I only saw as someone I wanted to teach. Sometimes you don’t know what you need to share until you have first listened to someone else share. Not every person you meet is someone God wants you teach. Sometimes God brings people into our lives he wants to teach us.

Stand Firm & Love Well

I was so excited to hear that Pastor Chris was writing a book on how to stand firm and love well in a culture of comprise. I love how he is always able to balance loving people in a relevant way and sharing God’s truth. If that sounds like something you would be interested in than I recommend checking out The Daniel Dilemma for your self.

What were your favorite parts of The Daniel Dilemma?

Do you have a favorite airplane story?

What happens when we get connecting and correcting turned around in relationships and in ministry on a larger scale?