Monday, April 16, 2007

What's in a Name?

This is a short blog to let you know that I changed the name of the Story Listening Evangelism (SLE) Blog that I have called up to this moment: Kingdom Come. Kingdom Come from the Lord's prayer is my fervent prayer: to make a difference in the lives of people through the Kingdom being on earth as it is in heaven. At the same time I have been captivated by a statement Susan Scott makes in her book, Fierce Conversations. She said the role of a leader is to engineer epiphanies in the lives of the people they lead. That is what SLE is all about, helping people have aha! moments in their lives--at the intersection of God's story of redemption and the lost person's own story.

Tomorrow I will share a synthesis of Principle 3 from Scott's book and SLE when I write about how a witness needs to be fully present with the person to whom he or she is witnessing. That can happen when we, as witnesses, listen more than we proposition.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Unmasking Makes Evangelism Real

Last week I synthesized Susan Scott's first principle of a fierce conversation into an evangelistic setting: Master the courage to interrogate reality. Essentially, the witness needs to inquire into and value the reality in a lost person's life. This week I move to principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. This is basically Scott's definition of a fierce conversation.

Both the witness and the lost person benefit in the evangelistic conversation when each in turn take their masks off and be real with each other before God. The witness unmasks as he or she is aware of the beliefs that are shaping the witness shared. More than the content of God's great story of salvation, the beliefs extend to what the witness believes about his or her own abilities in the conversation. What the witness believes about the lost person is also important. If the witness does not believe the lost person is a person worthy of God's salvation, obviously, that will impact the conversation. If the witness or the lost person is carrying around an incredible amount of personal pain, either may resort to abstract language, rapidly changing the subject, or telling their own story instead of staying on track with the witness.

The witness needs to create a safe enough atmosphere for the lost person to take off his or her mask as be real in the conversation, too. Letting the lost person know that it is safe to have questions, doubts, concerns, and even anger toward God, the church, or groups of believers is OK.

In her book for business and life, Scott encourages fierce conversationalists to write their own stump speech, just like a politician does. It needs to be brief, to the point, memorized, and told often. The witness needs to create a stump speech for his or her evangelistic efforts, answering these questions: Who am I as a witness? Where am I going in my witness with lost people? Why am I going there? Who is going with me?

Fro me, as a witness, I am fulfilling the Great Commission. In the spirit of the Greek participle of Matthew 28: 19, "As I go, I share the Gospel with those in my path." That is the value of a Story Listening Evangelism approach to witnessing. The tools are there for any occasion, for any person, to equip the witness to adjust the conversation to meet the spiritual needs of the unique individual God is seeking to save.

Where am I going in my witness? I am going to stay sensitive to the story that unfolds from the lost person and to the story of God that surfaces in the conversation.

Why am I approaching evangelism this way? Because it honors the lost person and provides room for the Holy Spirit to do the work of salvation.

Who is going with me? I hope you, the reader, is going with me. I hope business people who struggle with being politically correct in dealing with clients and colleagues will discover the effectiveness and respect that comes from this form of witnessing. I hope the person who has never led a person to the Lord is coming along, discovering that the process can be learned and followed by anyone willing to listen and care for lost people. I hope that people who want to be on the cutting-edge of the Kingdom will come with me on this journey to make evangelism real and fierce.

What mask do you need to take off in order to be a fierce witness? What beliefs mobilize your witness? What beliefs get in the way of your attempts to share your faith with a lost person?
What witnessing conversation are you avoiding with someone right now?

I invite you with the skills and tools of Story Listening Evangelism to show up in someone's life today, without your mask!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Evangelism Goes Fierce©

What if evangelism were practiced fiercely? No, I do not mean witnessing to people without regard for their feelings. That does not mean turn or burn tactics. Instead, I believe that if witnesses incorporate the principles of Susan Scott's book, Fierce Conversations, their efforts at sharing their faith with others will be enhanced. Every reference to fierce in this and future blogs is based on my understanding of Scott’s work, and my synthesis and application of her seven principles of a fierce conversation to Story Listening Evangelism (SLE).

According to Scott, fierce is honest, robust, intense, full of passion, power, and integrity. It is bold, courageous, and unbridled, untamed. Fierce is not blood-letting or telling other people off. That sounds biblical to me when the apostles in the Book of Acts were instructed to wait for boldness to come over them before they fulfilled the great commission. Fierce adds a boldness to witnessing.

Fierce informs our evangelistic efforts as it reminds us that Christianity is fundamentally an extended conversation with God. Sharing Christian faith with another person is also an extended conversation. Somehow we got in our minds that an evangelistic encounter is a one-time experience, an all or nothing offer to be accepted or refused in a moment's time. I like what Susan says at this point. “While no single conversation is guaranteed to change a person or situation, any single conversation can." Witnesses should be encouraged by that. Any one of our evangelistic efforts might lead to a person’s accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. More likely, several conversations may need to take place for that to happen. In fact, fierce is informative on this as Scott quotes David Whyte who says, "The conversation is the relationship." SLE is committed to teaching witnesses how to build relationships with lost person through conversations and listening for not only the lost person’s story, but also God’s story that is moving toward the salvation of the lost person.

Scott's definition of a fierce conversation is, "when a person comes out from behind himself or herself into the conversation and makes it real." It is interesting that she says when a conversation is real, the change takes place before the conversation as ended. Sounds like when we have a genuine conversation with a lost person, the work of the Holy Spirit does its transforming work even before our conversation is ended.

So how does a person begin to add fierceness to his or her evangelistic conversations? Scott would say that would begin by listening to ourselves first. She uses the concept of a stump speech. Just like a politician gives a stump speech about who he is, where he is going, how he is going to get their, and who he is taking with him, a witness needs to prepare his own stump speech. That means before a person engages in a fierce evangelistic conversation with a lost person, that person needs to have engaged in a conversation with himself and with his God. It must be said that before a witness can lead a person to God, that person needs to have been led to God himself. And that person needs to know where they are going in their witness to the lost person. That means a witness needs to have confidence in who they are as a person of faith.

The first principle of a fierce conversation is: Master the courage to interrogate reality. Master means it takes practice, and more practice. Courage says it all. Scott says that a planned conversation is a failed conversation. If you try, like a chess player to out maneuver the lost person even before you begin the conversation, the conversation will fail. If you plan a conversation with a tack and a script, it is likely to fail. It takes courage to show up in a conversation and meet the lost person exactly where he or she is at that moment in time, without a script, equipped only with a living faith and a sincere desire to hear and experience the lost person’s story.

Seems like we have been trained in the past in evangelism that there is only a single reality and that is: all lost people are alike. Adding fierce to our witness challenges us to discover the current reality in the lost person's life. That means asking questions. In fact Scott encourages practitioners of fierce conversations to not make any declarative statements until late in the conversation. That means no declarative statements until both the witness and the lost person agreed on the shape of the current reality in the lost person's life. While this fierce approach to witnessing may seem a little weak and passive on the surface, this very first principle calls for a vigorous interrogation of reality. That means that the witness does not accept what Scott calls in business the corporate nod. The corporate nod comes when a person merely agrees with the person for the sake of getting off the hook of explaining himself or herself. Sometimes lost people nod their head and don't really understand what coming to faith is all about. Sometimes lost people nod their heads just to get the witness off their hands. Here is where the witness asks the lost person to tell us what their nod means.

Mastering the courage to interrogate reality also challenges the witness to listen for the lost person's belief systems. Lost people have beliefs, too. And witnesses have beliefs that sometimes can get in the way of sharing faith. Are there people we do not believe God can save? Do people have to believe in God the same way we do in order to become a follower of Jesus Christ?

Scott talks about a military term called ground truth. Ground truth is what is actually happening in the field compared to what's span is being said is the official truth. Sometimes a witness will say one thing and believe another. Sometimes a lost person will not come clean up front about what they really believe. Ground truth in witnessing is revealed in the behavior of the witness as well as the lost person. How a person behaves reflects their current reality. For the witness, we're not talking about what other people believe, what our denomination says, or what we hope to believe in the future. Rather, our behavior reveals our current beliefs.

Interrogating reality also involves bringing up the undiscussables. What is it that the lost person has not had opportunity to voice to another person? Perhaps they haven't had an opportunity like the father with the epileptic boy who said to Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”
I remember visiting a man in the hospital in North Carolina. Practicing story listening evangelism with him, for the first time in his life he was able to bring up a subject that he thought he could not talk about. And when he did, it was not hard to see the transformation taking place, especially on his face. When he shared with me something he'd been afraid of talking about since he was a child, there was an incredible release of energy and tears flowing down his cheeks.

The challenge I have in using fierce evangelistically is the premise that no one owns all the truth. That is true for us as human individuals. I agree with that. The challenge is there are competing religious truths and our world. As a Christian, I believe that the full and final revelation of God is found in Jesus Christ. At the same time, I do not understand or know all the truth that there is found in Jesus Christ. You can call me a slow learner, or there is a lot left for me to learn. At this point the discussion could regress to a conversation of world religions and conflicting truths. I'll leave that for another day. Instead, I want to explore what Scott would call an ensconced witness. A witness who has all the answers will close the door to faith for a person who is genuinely seeking a relationship with God. If the lost person is ensconced in their refusal to hear God’s offer of salvation, then the witness can ask the lost person what their ensconcedness means.

The value of fierce at this point is for me to be able to share as much truth as I have appropriated about God in my life and to listen for the truth in the lost person's story. As you explore the amount of truth from God in the lost person's story, a good question to ask might be, "What is currently impossible to understand or accept in your current faith that if it were possible, it would change everything?"

That summarizes my synthesis of fierce and story listing evangelism to this point. Just like fierce is a way of life, so is evangelism. Evangelism is an extended conversation with the lost person, one conversation at a time. The lost person may come to faith in one conversation, or after many. Story listening evangelism is enhanced by Scott's concept of fierce when the witness masters the courage to interrogate the lost person's reality.

In the coming weeks, I invite you to join me in an ongoing fierce conversation about story listening evangelism and how it can be empowered by the principles of fierce conversations as espoused by Susan Scott. Next week we will look at Principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real. We will look at the challenges a witness has in taking off his or her mask and being real in the evangelistic conversation.

P.S. I think you will find it interesting to read about Susan Scott’s own faith journey. You will find that in the October 2006 newsletter on her web site at Let me know what you think!