Vertical Church

I read this on James MacDonald’s Vertical Church blog:
Evangelism Breakthrough Starts Here

My mom, who went to heaven in July 2010, was the most effective personal evangelist I have ever known. It was extremely common during my childhood to see my mother sitting at the kitchen table with her Bible open in earnest conversation with another mom who lived on our street. Some of these were friends, some became friends, and some remained friends though they did not respond to the gospel. I have never sensed my mother’s friendship was a bargaining chip in evangelism. She found the biblical balance between influence and boldness. My mom led to Christ a woman named Shirley, who lived to the north of our house and now resides in heaven; in the two houses directly across the street, she reached Judy and Marg and a fourth woman (whose name escapes me) who lived behind us. What’s more incredible is that even after moving three times since those days in the 1970s, she continued to influence each of these women for Christ. They remained friends until my mom died, and the three still living were all at her memorial service. But what of the woman to the south and the other neighbor women who had equal opportunity to hear my mother’s bold witness but refused it?
When Harvest started, I wanted our people to experience success in personal evangelism and thought a lot about the women my mother reached versus those who refused the very same messenger with the very same message using the very same bold method. Hidden inside the stories of the women who responded to her compelling witness for Christ are stories that shatter their apparent similarity, revealing what God was doing to ready their hearts. In each instance where my mom was able to win and disciple a woman for Christ, there was an overarching life issue that ripened that woman’s heart to the good news of Jesus. Understanding that difference is the key to effective evangelistic ministry in a Vertical Church.
Same Lesson, Different Location and Time
Lest you think I built our entire evangelistic ministry on my mom’s witness pattern, let me show it to you in Scripture, and then how we seek to implement it in our Vertical Church. What did Jesus mean when He exhorted every future evangelist? “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are already ripe for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life” (John 4:35-36). Please don’t miss what Jesus is saying about the people He wants you and your church to get the good news to.
Stop saying the harvest is months away; it’s today.
All around us this moment are people ripe to the gospel.
Look past the preference of who you want saved and locate those God has ripened.
I can reap now where others have sown, if I look for the ripe fruit.
Gathering ripe fruit is reaping souls for eternal life.
In Vertical Church, we seek to adopt the most biblical language possible. In evangelism, we refer to people ready to respond to the gospel now as red apples; they are ripe to the gospel. For that reason we refer to people not yet ready as green apples. If you take that thinking out of John 4:34–38 and into Jesus’s interactions with people, it changes the way you see the Gospels and gospel work today. Jesus Christ constantly cut through the crowd filled with green apples to focus His energy on the red ones already ripe for His message. He left a crowd of green apples to talk with Zacchaeus, the lone red one. He turned to the desperate woman with the issue of blood even though surrounded by masses. He stopped for the centurion determined to see his daughter healed, He embraced the woman shamed by her sin whom the crowds despised, He talked at great length with Nicodemus who longed for more than his formulaic religiosity. In every instance Jesus invested in the ripe red apples, those with strong readiness abandon the life they knew for something better. Repeatedly Christ even explained His rationale: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), “Those who are well have no need of a physician” (Matthew 9:12), and there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Jesus gave time without limit to the red apples He met, but would hardly give the time of day to the green apples. Without insulting those not yet ripe, Christ did refuse them. When the rich, young ruler came to Jesus, he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). How many churches in our day would have that guy’s name on a card or serving as an usher in a matter of minutes? “He seems so interested, so passionate, so hungry for the things of God.” But Jesus used the law to elicit his prideful assertion that he was not sinful: “All these things I have kept from my youth up; what do I lack?” Christ responded to him, “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor” (Luke 18:21-22). Why did Jesus say this? Not because divesting his wealth would gain him eternal life, but because his refusal to do so revealed his unreadiness for a God other than the god of his possessions.
This revealing of a green apple’s unripeness was common with Christ. In the closing verses of Luke 9, Jesus had three quick encounters with green apples as He walked down a road. Two expressed a desire to follow Christ; the third He invited. In each instance Christ responded in a way that revealed the person’s unripeness: “You’re not ready to follow me, I don’t have a place to lay my head down,” “Leave the dead to bury their own dead,” “Followers don’t look back; you’re unfit” (Luke 9:57-62). Too shallow, too superficial, too slow, in each instance Christ turned the green apple away. But when people become aware of personal sin, open to complete life change, humbled enough to see their needs, they are ripe, red, and ready for a gospel witness. Those are the ones Christ sought out.
Excerpted from Vertical Church.

The Grace and Truth Paradox chapter 8 (pages 71-77)

Alcorn begins the chapter writing about John chapter 2. In that chapter Jesus turned water into wine. This was an act of grace. This was all for fun. But then, total truth. Jesus then makes a whip to drive people out of the temple courts who were selling things at prices that equaled extortion. John 2 has a demonstration of grace and truth.
On page 73 Alcorn writes: “we have redefined Christlike to mean ‘nice.’ By that definition Christ wasn’t always Christlike. He confronted people with sin, raised His voice, threw tables, and called people snakes, blind hypocrites, and whitewashed tombs. If we don’t talk about sin and hell because we want to be nice, we’re trying to be nicer than Jesus, who spoke a great deal about both.” (page 73)
Some other points I wanted to share:
• “We imagine that hell is out of proportion to our offenses precisely because we don’t grasp how serious they are. God’s grace faces hell’s reality straight on, offering full deliverance. Denying hell takes the wind out of grace’s sales. If there’s no eternal hell, the stakes of redemption are vastly lowered. What exactly did Jesus die to rescue us from?
• A rescue is only as dramatic and consequential as the fate from which someone is rescued.” (page 75)
He also writes
• “One out of five women having an abortion in America claim to be born-again Christians. Yet pastors tell me, ‘I don’t talk about abortion because it will make our people feel guilty, since many have had abortions.’ Isn’t that exactly why we should talk about it’?
o “our silence isn’t grace—it’s cruelty.” (page 76)
• Eph 4:15: speak the truth in love. (page 77)
• Share the truth; then offer him grace and help. (page 77 about helping a friend share Christ with his father who is dying.)
• In a spirit of grace, love people enough to share the truth. (page 77)

I thought this chapter has some great points, what do you think?
have a blessed week!

This comes from Dr. Tennent’s blog.

Reflections on the Embassy Attacks
Thursday, September 13th, 2012

In recent days we have seen multiple attacks on American embassies or consulates in the Middle East, including those in Lybia, Egypt, and Yemen. Dating back to the Iranian revolution in the 1970’s we have become accustomed to seeing this kind of violence expressed against America. In watching the news of these recent attacks, and in light of our recent memory of the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, I was reminded of a book by Bertrand Russell which I read years ago entitled, The Conquest of Happiness.

In that book he makes a very important observation about life. At one point he is discussing work and why humans spend so much time working. He argued that work is, in part, based on the desire to build or construct something. He is not merely referring to carpenters or skilled laborers who physically build things. He makes the larger point that integral to the human fulfillment is the desire to do constructive things with our lives – building a family, building a business, building an institution, building a movement, building a bridge, and so forth. He then goes on to argue that construction is, therefore, inherently more satisfying than destruction.

When you destroy something like tearing down the gates of an embassy, killing someone, turning cars over and lighting them on fire, the fulfillment in that kind of activity is fleeting and quickly subsides. Constructive work, on the other hand, provides an ongoing sense of fulfillment and peace. In fact, the deepest constructive work is never fully complete, so we have that ongoing sense of building, improving, making things better, and so forth. With destruction, there is no such lasting sense of accomplishment. Osama bin Laden came to symbolize one of the greatest acts of destruction in modern times. However, he was not fulfilled by it. He ended his life alone in a walled compound, spending his days with a sense of defeat and looking at pornography.

Those who march on embassies, kill ambassadors, burn buildings and turn cars upside down cannot avoid the fact that if their message is to be compelling and bring long term fulfillment they must demonstrate what they will construct once all the destruction is complete. What is their long-term vision for life, for society, for the world? The work of destruction is far easier than the harder work of construction.

Christianity, in the end, is not about destruction. Ultimately, it is the greatest construction project in the universe. The vision of Christianity is the in-breaking of the kingdom of God which is about reconciliation, peace, healing and the power of God’s love to overcome evil.

So, in the midst of a world of destruction and burning cars in the streets, keep on building, keep on constructing. Let your capacity to love this world be greater than any force which unleashes hatred on the world. Let your forgiveness be greater than any force of bitterness. Remember, the cross is the greatest intersection of the world’s hatred and God’s love. The resurrection is God constructing once again. The Risen Lord defeats death. Construction, in the end, always trumps destruction.

Thanks be to God.