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When Advent is a Plea

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Kate Morrison is curating a series featuring reflections on Advent and Christmas from our 2018 National Gathering workshop and post-Gathering seminar leaders. Over the course of the month, we’ll hear what this season means to them through stories, memories, and favorite traditions – and how they see the themes of Advent connecting with the work of NEXT Church. We invite you to share your own memories and stories on Facebook and Twitter!

Editor’s note: Dave is leading a post-Gathering seminar (a 24-hour opportunity to dig deeper into a topic, new this year!) called “From Text to Sermon: Staying Faithful in a Changed Landscape.” It will take place from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning following the 2018 National Gathering. Learn more and register

by Dave Davis

Advent and Christmas come around every year for the preacher whether you want them to or not! I can’t be the only preacher who finds planning for Advent preaching paralyzing some years. When lectionary preachers get bored with the lectionary, I bet it happens mostly in Advent. When topical preachers struggle to come up with the next series or month of texts for preaching, I bet it happens mostly in Advent. The liturgical themes of the four Sundays of Advent unfold with the familiarity of family tradition. The expected rhythm may tamp down the preacher’s imagination rather than inspire. So the temptation rises to opt for a cantata, a pageant, and lessons and carols, leaving one Sunday in Advent to preach!

candleBut it feels like there is nothing routine about Advent this year. The list of events that contribute to a growing darkness in the soul is all too real. The chaos of the world and the nation stokes a growing sense of wandering in the wilderness. Trying to preserve the peace and unity of the church these days can be like trying to keep a flickering candle lit through a stormy night. For those of us who rise to preach there has to be an urgency to our gospel proclamation of the very promise of God.

Bearing witness to the promise of God as the landscape shifts all around you. That sounds a bit like Advent. For still, a voice cries in the wilderness. And still, a people who walked in darkness have seen great light. And still. A star rises in the east. And still, you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And still, the true light which enlightens everyone, came into the world. And still, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall never overcome it. This year Advent is less of a season and more of a plea.

It is getting harder and harder to preach the gospel, especially in Advent. And it many of our lifetimes, it has never been more important to preach the gospel, especially in Advent. It is the paradox of the preaching office these days; the joy and the challenge, the privilege and the heartache. Maybe the first task for the preacher in an Advent season unlike any other is to experience God’s promise afresh and to pray for the light of life to come smack into all this darkness. Pray that God’s promise of that peaceable kingdom will ever more quickly come. Pray that Isaiah’s promise of a child leading them, and of a shoot that comes forth from the stump of Jesse, and of every valley being lifted up and every mountain made low, and of not hurting or destroying on all of God’s holy mountain, and of God about to do a new thing….that Isaiah’s promise would be fulfilled now. Pray for the Advent light to come.

Advent as a prayer. Advent as a plea. And the preacher crying out, praying for, clinging to the very light of God. Falling, just about helpless, certainly speechless into the promise of God. And then, and only then, daring once again to rise to speak.

Because God has spoken.

Come Lord, Jesus, quickly come.


David A. Davis has served as senior pastor of Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey, since 2000. David earned his Ph.D. in homiletics from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he continues to teach as a visiting lecturer. Before arriving in Princeton, he served for fourteen years as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Blackwood, New Jersey. He is the author of two sermon collections, A Kingdom You Can Taste and Lord, Teach Us to Pray, and his recent sermons are published on the Nassau Church Sermon Journal. He tweets occasionally at @revdavedavis.

You Better Tell Somebody!

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Byron Wade

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, my mother would take me and my two brothers to get haircuts occasionally. We always went to Scottie’s Barbershop, which was owned by Scottie and his brother who was also a barber. Both of them were Jehovah’s Witnesses and from the time you got in the chair until the time you left, all Scottie would do is talk non-stop about Jehovah while cutting your hair. Scottie never proselytized to me but always spoke about how good and awesome Jehovah is and what a difference he made in his own life. Plus, he seemed so happy doing it! I never came close to leaving the Presbyterian Church but his witness was so strong that I still remember it after all these years.

davie-stAs Presbyterians, we are known for a lot of things and evangelism is not one of them. Let’s face it – calling ourselves the “frozen chosen” is not a sure-fire way to get people interested in coming to our churches, much less developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, I believe that we have a God who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the entire world and through the Holy Spirit we can tell others of what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. So how do we go about sharing the story of Christ? Drawing on my personal and communal experiences, I will share a few tidbits:

It starts with YOU – My homiletics professor in seminary always told us if you don’t have passion and excitement about what you are preaching, chances are the congregation will not either. It is the same way with evangelism – you have to have and convey excitement and joy in witnessing to other about Jesus Christ. We may begin by asking ourselves, “what do I believe about Jesus?”, “what is my relationship with Christ?” and “how can I tell others what God has done for me?”

…but not by yourself – Rev. Clinton Marsh, in his book, Evangelism Is…, says “Evangelism is the work of the entire people of God.” Our faith is not formed alone in a vacuum; it is formed by belonging, listening, and learning with others through the Holy Spirit in the community of faith as well. Evangelism is done differently in various ways. Some churches have evangelism committees; others commission individual church leaders for that responsibility. At Davie Street, we believe everyone has a story to share about their faith with others. Specifically, we engage the congregation during our Tuesday midday prayer studies and monthly family night dinners. In both events, members and invited guests discuss current events/issues such as justice, racism, immigration, gun violence, and others in light of what scripture says (or doesn’t say). In most cases participants have a better understanding of the issue and what “says the Lord” so when they go out into the world and encounter others, they can converse and share their faith through stories and examples. This is just one method, but whatever you do, make sure volunteers undergo some evangelism training to help them be able to share their faith in a way that is inviting and non-threatening.

Cast a wide net – In many places, communities and ways are life have changed. We are living in an increasingly diverse world, not to mention one that is moving at a faster and faster pace. This could cause challenges to evangelism as we come in contact with people, cultures and lifestyles to which we are unaccustomed. However the time is ripe to spread the Gospel of Christ. Evangelism today will move us into sharing faith with people who have a different faith or no faith, various races, ethnicities and sexual orientations, and those who have limited time and interest. But your story – and THE story – is still the same.

In the African-American religious and social tradition, we have a saying, “You better tell somebody!” My hope is you will have the faith and confidence to tell somebody the story of who Jesus is, what he has done for you, and how others can find this living water. Amen.


IMG_4166 (1)Byron Wade (@bawade) is the pastor of Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC. A transplant by way of Southern California, he loves football (specifically college football), watching track and field meets, and travelling. He lives in Garner, NC with his wife Regina and teenage son Andrew, and blogs at  “The Word from B” – http://thewordfromb.typepad.com/blog/.

Evangelism as Repair

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Laura Cheifetz

When evangelical is used as an adjective not pertaining to religion or politics, I can identify with it. I can be very evangelical about certain things: eating, sticking to one airline as a frequent flyer, reading books of all sorts, the superiority of the Pacific Northwest, the business model of Costco, the existence of progressive southerners, adopting/rescuing dogs instead of buying from pet stores or unlicensed breeders, giving kids a lot of chances to figure life out, not wearing shoes inside the house… you get the idea.

tsr_4366_webWhen evangelical is used in terms of religion in the U.S., I often want to walk in the other direction.

I get that we are called to be evangelical. We are graced with the gift of having such good news to share. We love a God who loves us and all creation. We follow a Christ who challenges us daily in our lives and faith. We are sustained by a pesky Holy Spirit who will not let us off the hook. We are gifted with imperfectly beloved faith communities. Faith is not what makes life easy. It is what makes life (mostly) bearable. The delight and beauty I find in my faith, and the determination it gives me to face hard days (or weeks, or years) with gritted teeth and fierce love for my fellow travelers on the journey, is very good news.

But throughout my childhood, the evangelicals surrounding me were not sharing good news. They were narrow-minded, judgmental, anti-science, anti-woman, and supremely self-righteous. For a mainline Protestant double pastors’ kid who was pro-science, feminist, and eager to experience as much as possible, this was an incompatible worldview.

I will be eternally grateful for my first call: a position working with Asian American young adults and pastors, which necessitated I work with evangelicals. It was my first sustained exposure to evangelicals who are people of color, and I was able to see how many evangelicals did not align with the stereotypes I carried based on the experience I had growing up.

We are all evangelists, whether or not we like it. Whatever we are committed to, with words or actions, will be the news we share. Some people are evangelicals for a political cause. Some people are evangelicals for a brand (loyalists to a company named for a fruit, or adherents to a form of exercise that takes place in a “box,” I’m looking at you).

What is our evangelism?

We Christians are called to evangelize, but too many of us have been implicated in creation-destroying materialistic consumption borne of prosperity and dominion theology, war, conquest, colonialism, genocide, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and sexism, and racism. We aren’t equipped to share good news without grappling honestly with the death-dealing legacies of Christians.

What is our evangelism if we are not always repenting for and seeking repair of the damage due to all the terrible things Christians have espoused throughout the years? I’m sure it’s possible to ask this question of people of other religions, but sin is not relative. It is ours to reckon with.

Not every Christian shares equally in this legacy, of course. Many Christian churches and traditions, even in the U.S., exist in defiance of racism, colonialism, homophobia, or misogyny, with a bias toward liberation. But most of us have, at some point, participated in a faith tradition that has been translated into not-so-good-news.

Evangelism requires us to live in dissonance: proclaiming good news while being humble enough to work to repair the damage done by violent, triumphalist, intolerant twistings of the gospel.

The news is so very beautiful, and the damage is great. This is our space for proclamation. Will you sit in it with me?


Laura CheifetzLaura Mariko Cheifetz serves as Vice President of Church & Public Relations and editor of These Days at the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. She has served with the Forum for Theological Exploration and at McCormick Theological Seminary. She grew up a double pastors’ kid in the Pacific Northwest and holds an MBA from North Park University and an MDiv from McCormick Theological Seminary. For fun, she watches television, reads fiction, delves into post-colonial feminism and critical race theory, and rages against the system of which, she is clear, she is a part. Laura blogs very occasionally at http://churchrelations.blogspot.com and tweets at @lmcheifetz . 

Understanding the “Good News”

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Katherine Kussmaul

The Jesus I encounter in Scripture is relational, personal and engages in one-on-one (or small group) interactions in which “Good News” is embodied, experienced and then shared with others. Evangelism, as I experience it in Scripture, begins as an internal experience and becomes an external experience as individuals narrate their own experience of “Good News.”  We must experience “Good News” in a meaningful, intimate way. We must first understand “Good News” through personal experience. And then we can begin the relational process of evangelism: sharing the “Good News” with others.

tsr_4405_webWho are we? We are private, hidden people. We are individualistic, cautionary and afraid. We juggle the balls of “Who knows what?” “Who is trustworthy?” “What can I say?” and “What would THEY do if they knew I…..?”  And in doing this, we fabricate an artificial assurance, a false pretense that proclaims invincible strength, fierce individualism, water-tight certainty and wide-open authenticity while also denying a fundamental truth: we are fragile, we need each other, we exist in ambiguity (life is ambiguous; not everything is decent and very little is in-order) and we live in fear that who we are is not okay, not acceptable, not enough. A fundamental truth that, when acknowledged and addressed, can lead to more genuine living and authentic evangelism (sharing “Good News”) that really does make a difference.

We toss around the phrase “Good News.” We charge each other to “spread the Good News” but I believe we do not know what this “Good News” actually is. We, as an institution, do everything in our power not to define “Good News” – to keep “Good News” impersonal and distant. We buy into a system that thrives on vague generalities when Jesus models particular encounters. We reinforce and extend a system that leans on ambiguity when Jesus teaches authentic living marked by genuine relationships.

So either we have not experienced “Good News” or we have, but are super-saturated in ecclesial privacy messages: “Don’t talk about it”, “Don’t boast about it”, or more likely “Don’t push the church to endorse ‘Good News’ because the church is not ready to embrace what ‘Good News’ requires.” We keep “Good News” EXTERNAL – vaguely defined and vitally important but detached from our actual lives. Using the words “Good News” keeps us comfortable but ultimately the words become empty “church words” that further distance the church from the people with whom we long to connect.

So what IS “Good News”? “Good News” is connected to God’s love, commitment and promise: God’s love which accepts and cherishes us exactly as we are, God’s commitment to keep “breaking into our tombs” (think about what God does in John 20:19 – coming into a locked room to stand among the disciples), and God’s promise to stick with us: no matter where, no matter when, no matter what. THIS is Good News. And THIS Good News must be something we “get” deep in our heart, at a gut level – it must be INTERNAL.

So what should/could we, as denominational leaders, as women and men seeking to share Good News actually do? We have to STOP being denominational and institutional leaders. We have to START reclaiming our core identity as children of God: women, men, youth, children created in the image of God. We have to be authentic, genuine and honest. We have to be vulnerable enough – with ourselves and a handful of carefully selected others – to acknowledge the masked and hidden areas of our own lives: addiction (to substances, behaviors, control/power, even work), abuse (physical, sexual, mental, emotional, financial), eating disorders, anxiety, depression (relational, situational, post-partum, as part of bi-polar), invisible medical conditions, infertility, pregnancy loss, PTSD, estrangement, relational malaise, sexual orientation, gender identity, difficult relationships, infidelity, betrayal, job insecurity, professional doubt, this list goes on and on…

Having acknowledged these areas, we need to open ourselves to a complete, genuine, integrated experience of Good News – a deep-down experience in which we come face-to-face with the reality that God loves US exactly as we are (un-masked, no-longer-hidden and fully-revealed), God “breaks in” to be with US in our sealed-off tombs and God sticks with US: no matter where, no matter when, no matter what.

We need to have that INTERNAL experience. We need to take risks, be authentic, look into our shadows and face into our fear, shame and embarrassment. This is how we come to understand Good News. With that internal, gut-level understanding, we can then identify appropriate ways to talk about that experience, acknowledge these aspects of our core selves and share the Good News that “God loves me – even the ‘me’ I hide.”

And then we have to start creating spaces in which we, as communities, begin to cultivate and share these embodied Good News experiences, in which we talk less about abundant life and more about authentic life, in which we proclaim Good News that really matters, that changes lives, that focuses less on our institution and more on God’s incarnation which ultimately reveals one thing: God’s unconditional love for all creation, for all people – for you and me – exactly as (and who) we are.

Thanks be to God.


katherine kussmaulKatherine is the pastor of Saint Giles Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to this call, she has served congregations in Urbana, Illinois, Cary, North Carolina and Leeds, England. She enjoys preaching, teaching, pastoral care and opportunities to nurture spiritual development through conversation and reflection. She lives on the grounds of a plant nursery where she kills her own plants, cheers for her Pittsburgh Steelers and spends huge chunks of every day with her pup, Dibley.

“Evangelism. Evangelical. Evangelist.” All are Good News!

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Chris Montovino

Since when did sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ become a combination of four letter words for God’s people? Sadly, I think these words stemming from the Greek have gotten a bad rap. Too often they are either associated with angry street corner evangelists pronouncing fire and brimstone upon the weary “heathen” or entangled in someone’s political ideology. When Jesus came to share his Good News, I can hardly imagine that he had either of those ideas in mind. So what did Jesus mean and how can we as a Church reclaim these words as both Good News for us and worthy of our sharing with the world at large?

5F7649370BIn Luke 10:27, Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets, saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”

First, love God. We can do that without lots of explanation. Ok, check!

Second, love our neighbor as ourself. Hmm. That one especially is tricky today in an age of disconnection. People come and people go. Our neighborhoods these days are often just a collection of disjointed homes, where we eat, sleep, and wake up and do the same 365 days a year with little to no real life sharing with those who live next door. In all honesty, I can successfully avoid eye contact with said neighbors by raising my garage door, backing my car out of the garage, heading off to work in a location beyond my neighborhood, returning home at the end of the day, pulling into my garage, lowering the garage door, and retreating to my private fenced in backyard oasis.

But how can we love our neighbor if we don’t share life with them? How can we share life with them if we don’t cross paths with them? How can we cross paths with them if we don’t even know who they are?  

Let me propose a simple suggestion: become an evangelist!  

We live in a cul-de-sac and have a big porch that spans the front. From our porch swing, where we love to sit on summer days, we are able to make intentional contact with our neighbors as they come and go. Hey Steve! How’s Austin? Hey Greg! Catch anything? Hey Lisa! How’s the job search? Hey Dale! How’s your mom?

Over the past eleven years, we have shared a lot of life with our neighbors. There are annual cul-de-sac BBQs, Easter egg hunts, Halloween gatherings, and Christmas parties. There have been times when we have been there for them. And there were many times when they were there for us like extended family.

We have said goodbye to some and welcomed others. We’ve laughed with them. We’ve cried with them. We’ve ticked some off. We’ve said sorry many times. We’ve also prayed with some of them and on occasion got to share our faith with them.  

We had no agenda in our neighborhood but love our neighbors in the way Jesus commanded us to love them and be the Good News that Jesus wanted us to share.   

How? Through the lives we’ve shared with these folks, our neighbors. And when we share life with people that we love, we naturally share what is most important to us which is our faith. It may not be presented as four spiritual law.  It may not result in a “decision” for Jesus that we can count. It may not even make them new church folk. But in the process of really loving our neighbors the Gospel gets lived out before our very eyes.  

Now that’s Good News!  


chrisRev. Chris Montovino has served as head of staff at Cascades Presbyterian Church in Vancouver since 2005.  He has been married to Karen for 20 years and has four active children high school through elementary school.  His passions include outback hiking, fly fishing, and volunteering with the Camas High School Young Life Program.  He hopes to be finished this year with his Doctor of Ministry degree in The Missional Church through Fuller Theological Seminary.

Sharing What’s Important

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Amy Miracle

Sharing that which is important to me with the people who are important to me is a big part of my life. That’s why I am always talking about my favorite podcasts. That’s why I gave so many of my friends the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast CD for Christmas. 

broad street ohioFor me that is what evangelism is all about. Sharing the most important thing in my life with anyone who will listen. Except that’s not quite true. Like the congregation I serve, I am reserved, worried about looking foolish and uninterested in being the center of attention. And yet I wake up every day with a burning passion to invite people into conversations about God and invite them to become a part of the life of the church of Jesus Christ. 

At Broad Street, the church where I am very, very fortunate to serve, I handle this tension in the following way. I talk about evangelism a lot. I encourage others to talk about it. We have periodic “Seasons of Invitation” when we encourage our folks to invite their people to church. Most importantly, we challenge people to articulate what it has meant for them to be a part of the life of the church and then share that understanding with others. 

Here is one Broad Street-er’s thoughts on the subject. He’s a husband, father of two young kids, who spoke to the congregation during one of our seasons of invitation.  This is how he concluded his words. 

“Broad Street Presbyterian is a gift. It is a gift to its community, to those it serves, and maybe most of all, to its congregation. It thoughtfully puts faith into action, faces up to the challenges of spirituality and Christianity without fear, and is a great place to spend Sunday morning. This church is a gift that deserves to be given to others who don’t yet know it is here.

It is an uncomfortable thing, inviting someone to church. I’m still working up the nerve myself. As I do, when I have doubts, I think about my own story, about what my life would have been had I not received that gift of an invitation. About all that has happened to me and in me and how much the poorer I’d be if I’d never set foot in this building. And that there are others in our community, amongst my friends and family, who deserve this gift, who may not yet know it, but belong in – and will thrive in – this church.

So please join us in these coming weeks and invite someone – or better still someones – you care about. They will be grateful for it. They will thank you for it.”

What he said.

 


Amy Miracle Head ShotAmy Miracle earned a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She served as associate pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado, and senior pastor and head of staff at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, Iowa before coming to Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008 as  pastor and head of staff.

I Love to Tell the Story

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Andrew Kukla is curating reflections on being evangelical in the church. Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it?  How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Hope Italiano Lee

I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11 years when I heard my first “Jack Tale.”  Jack tales are a tradition in Appalachian folklore. I’m not from Appalachia, but the director of the summer camp that I grew up in was from the hills of Kentucky and he could tell one mean Jack Tale after another with passion and energy and imagination. These stories were so engaging, so compelling, that week after week, summer after summer, hundreds of kids would quiet themselves down, sit still as stones, and listen to Jack’s latest adventure. It’s been a good 20 years since I last heard one of those Jack Tales,  but I know them so well that even today I could recite one after another by heart. And I do just that, for my children, the next generation, all the time.  

story kirkwoodCompelling stories take residence in the heart and soul and, after a period of time, become very much part of a living, breathing body. Evangelism is simply telling the greatest story ever told. Evangelism is telling the story of how God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall never die but have everlasting life. Evangelism is telling how God’s story met up with your story and changed your world en route to transforming the whole world. Evangelism is helping others to know and to share their story and to help them see where their story intersects with God’s story.

Down here at the beach, we love to tell the story of The Well. The Well is a place where each week the story of God is faithfully proclaimed to all generations with hospitality, community, and joy. We started The Well about a year and a half ago, looking to the scriptures to guide us to create a place where all, but especially those who didn’t think they were included in the “all,” would find welcome and hope. It’s a place of teaching as we go – teaching grace by demonstration, teaching sacraments by active engagement,  teaching scripture by asking difficult questions, and being honest about the hard places.  An amazing thing happens when you make Jesus the main focus – people come closer. They want to hear the story, not just any story, but the story of a God who loves them to the ends of the earth, even when the rest of the world has told them that they are unlovable.

Recently, we held a small memorial service within a regular Sunday service at The Well. Dennis, the precious man who died was one of the first people to be a part of this special place. He had epilepsy and we were within walking distance of his home. Every Sunday he would come early, greet people and remind them how much Christ loves them, and how glad he was that they were there to celebrate that love together. He embodied a Christ-like grace that was reflective of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well – the encounter which drives our ministry. When Dennis died, we were looking at his emergency contact information and we discovered that The Well family was his emergency contact. So it seemed obvious to all of The Well family that we should give witness to the resurrection right there at our weekly gathering spot and celebrate Dennis’ home-going with the same joy he gave to us as he made The Well a home for so many.

The Well is a place filled with stories just like that. Every person who comes in those doors carries with them stories of pain, hurt, frustration, disillusionment, and sometimes betrayal. And what they find is not a program, not a strategy, not the latest and greatest in fog machines, drum pits, or laser light shows. They find God’s old story of love, sacrifice, grace, and life, told with passion, imagination, and energy to a new generation looking to find a story that will forever change their story. The storytellers are people who speak from a place of authentic transformation of the heart, the place where the best stories come from.

Followers of Christ are called to be winsome story tellers, who will tell God’s story through their story wherever they go because to do otherwise would betray their heart.  We trust in the work of the Holy Spirit and so we tell our story to open doors, to share a living faith, and to allow drops of grace to cover the people whom God so deeply loves.

“I love to tell the story. ‘Twill be my theme in glory. To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love!”   


hope leeHope Lee is the Lead Pastor of the Kirkwood Church and The Well in Bradenton, Florida. She is a highly sought after speaker for evangelism and church growth conferences all over the United States and serves as an Evangelism Coach for the national offices of the PC(USA).  You can find her on the web at www.biggreenchurch.org or @PastorHope  or at the beach with her husband and 3 amazing kids!

Reclaiming Evangelism and Living Audacious Faith

by Andrew Kukla

In the church we dance around inconvenient truths. Among the gifts of NEXT Church is its willingness to talk about truths we avoid and a resistance to worrying about labels. One such label is “Evangelical.” We often talk as if some followers of Christ are evangelicals and some are not. But evangelical is not the opposite of progressive. The Gospels are evangelical. Jesus’ mission is evangelical. He comes to bring GOOD NEWS! Not for good news’ sake but for the sake of people. We don’t build walls around good news and get happy when someone manages to overcome the obstacles and find it; we go out with intentionality to connect the good news and liberation to those in need of it. And we all need it! Following in the way of Jesus Christ is necessarily evangelical. The very birthright of the Church is our calling as “sent-ones” (apostles) who bear good news in the world.  

tsr_5594_webWe have been claimed by good news.  

We share good news.  

We ARE good news…at least I hope we have some good news to offer the world.

In the midst of conversation about declining mainline churches, there are entire bookshelves dedicated to self-help for churches in decline. In a recent conversation with seminary president David Lose and a bunch of great church leaders, we talked about living in the “age of discretion.” In this age, everything is about choices we get to make. And in the great mathematics of time and energy, far too often people don’t see the practices of the Church as offering enough to them to be worth the choice. We can decry that as consumerist church life, but as I see it we haven’t been a place of abundant life. If we had been, the choice would be clear. We have discerning people; we just haven’t made it easy to discern that the church is place with overflowing good news to share. In fear of evangelical fervor, have we become lukewarm?

A bell tolls and I read my mail and here is what find:  

“And to the angel of the (Presbyterian) church (in the USA) write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  (Revelation 3:14-16)

We have good theology. Well-written sermons. And generally… good will. But we are neither cold nor hot, and far too many people are quite fine spitting us out with little perceived loss to their lives and the life of the world.  

Friends: We could use a little evangelical fervor! We need to be a Church that has come alive! We have good news, don’t we? We have dedicated our lives to something, haven’t we? Does Jesus matter? I sure hope so; but have we made that clear in our daily lives?  

Have we connected our congregations to resurrection life? Have we taught them how to talk about it? How to live it? How to connect others to that life-giving, life-abundant power?

In his great work The Training of the Twelve, A. B. Bruce talks about rulers of the Sanhedrin marveling at the audacious faith of Jesus’ disciples, now become apostles. They had become people of strong nerve who risked failure in change and were not easily daunted—and people of rare moral courage, “till at length they could do what was right, heedless of human criticism, without effort, almost without thought.”

This was Church come alive. A church with the evangelical fervor of having been set free to dare great things in Christ’s name. And they knew that they needed to give other people this same gift they had received. This needed to be shared. They were claimed by the God of liberating good news and sent to share that with the world one connection at a time. I do not imagine that we are any less called than they, or tasked with any less important mission. We are the Body of Christ and, through the power of the One who calls us, we are capable of exactly this audacious and radical faith. Amazing things are happening all around us: God is doing a new thing; do we not perceive it? We need to figure out how to talk about abundant life and connect our neighbors to the God who is liberating love. We need to be re-claimed by evangelism!

Join me this month as we invite a great group of modern-day apostles to reflect on being evangelical in the Church and daring to connect ever larger circles of communities to life-giving audacious faith!


a kuklaAndrew Kukla is a pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. He is a graduate from The College of William and Mary and twice from Columbia Theological Seminary because he is slow on the uptake. He is constantly taught grace, curiosity, and wonder by his wife and four children… and patience, oh so much patience. In what free time is left he serves as the President of the Board at CATCH, Inc which seeks to end homeless in Idaho for through Housing-First solutions, advocates for people as a faith-leader at the Idaho State Capitol, and is begrudging becoming a runner in the foothills of Idaho in order to be heart healthy. He blogs at incoherently at https://akukla.wordpress.com/ and is rarely on twitter but pretends as @awkukla.