Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Ain't the Time for a Sermon

I know I am a bit behind the times when I tell  you I heard Sandi Patty's song, The Bare Stage, for the first time last night.  If you are not familiar, the words express the deep longing and need for God by the performer who has walked off the stage having completed a performance to a rousing crowd. Now the stage is empty except for the lone work light  illuminating the darkness.

The song resonated with those moments after having delivered a sermon.  Emptied,   knowing full well only His presence could fill, no matter how much I got patted on the back for a good sermon at the backdoor.

Last night my mind raced ahead to think of the people in worship on Sunday.  I wonder if Sunday morning is when they will hear that sermon, that Word from God ?  Or will there be enough in the Word preached to remember in the moments after....?

...after notification of the death of a loved one,...after delivery of papers from the other's attorney,...after the doctor confirmed the symptoms with a diagnosis,...after your child reminded you that you might have trained them up in the way they should go, but they have definitely not returned--yet,...after a pink slip lies limp in your stunned, though competent hands,...after a betrayal kisses your face with the hot salt tears, staining your cheeks.

Most of us know the need for God in those moments.  What about after...?

...after that graduation,...that raise,... after that promotion,...after that wedding,... after the birth of that child, or grandchild,...after that mountaintop experience....?

Perhaps these are the moments that preceded Sunday morning sermon attendance.  I am not saying Sunday morning sermons are a waste of time, or that we have to schedule our times in God's presence as Israel did on the Day of Atonement.  Rather, I am yearning, along with Sandi Patty,  where is the sermon, the Word of God, God Himself when the work is over, the accolades have faded, and no one is around to know you were the headliner?  Just one source of light guiding you safely across the barren stage.

That's where sermons belong: like a bag of refreshing trail mix that gives timely energy for the present moment and the hike that lies ahead when we have used up all our stored energy.

I am confident that God will show up in those moments (He keeps His promises and appointments), like he did for Lt. Dan on top of that mast in the movie, Forrest Gump.  What about the sermon, the vehicle, equipping for that moment the listener walks off stage?

The challenge is twofold:  Proclaim the Gospel truth in such a way that the listeners will leave with more than a doggie-bag-ful, ready to nourish when those moments come.   As caring, compassionate Christians, we need to be sensitive to the clues from others who can't wait for Sunday morning's sermon.  They are in need of something more immediate than three points and a poem.  They need a Word couriered intervention from an ambassador like Philip on the desert highway. 

As fellow performers walking across the bare stage after our show is over, let's listen for others standing in the darkness.  Some can't wait for Sunday morning.  Others may not make it into a pew under a steeple next Sunday for whatever reasons.  Listen!  Then see the Presence of God fill that bare stage like He did for Isaiah when he grieved his king's death!  All because God loves them and used you to listen them to that aha! moment!

Want to know more about the kind of listening that makes such a difference as you share the Good News of Jesus?  Contact me at  I'll be listening for you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"First things first"

"How does a person get started in witnessing?"  I get that often from people who are apprehensive and concerned about offending people.  The genius of Story Listening Evangelism is that the witness goes with what the person they are listening to is saying and doing.  That way, there is no offense.

So how do you get started? 

Listen to the first thing a person tells you.  Contained metaphorically, symbolically in those words is what the person is struggling with--their lostness.  Hold what the person says in abeyance.  Do not problem solve the issue(s) that surface.  That is because you will get resistance from the person you are listening to.  Just listen to the next thing the person says to you.

I went to the bank when we lived in New Jersey and said to the young woman who was the teller,"  Hi, how are you?"

"Can't complain," was her reply. 

I came back, "Would you like to?"

"Oh, no body will listen."  Hear the resistance?

So I said, "I would."

You'd thought I had hit her with a bat as surprised as she was.  For you see "can't complain" is an acceptable way to say "hello" in America.  AND it is not a neurological accident.  She was testing the waters to find out if anyone is listening because she did have something she wanted to complain about and people she had already approached turned her down.

With that permission from me she began to tell me her story.

Let me invite you to practice listening for the first thing a person says to you this coming week.  Listen, notice, even write down what they say.  Remember not to problem solve what they say.  Just pay attention to the next thing said.

Send me a sample of what you hear.

Next week we will go to the next step in listening a person into the Kingdom.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

"I'm back!"

These are not the words from a horror movie. They are my own words to you before God to finish what I started and felt called to do for years: Complete the development of Story Listening Evangelism as a new paradigm for believers to share their faith and write the book, too.

Last year after several years of this effort languishing, I realized that my health was in the way of me completing this calling. I would leave work with great intentions of getting home and writing in the evening. When I arrived at home, I was tired, not only from fighting traffic for an hour, but also from the effects of being 140 pounds overweight and diabetic.

I knew that the direction I was going with my health would shorten my life and I would not see my grandchildren grow up, let alone be an influence in their lives. Earlier last year I asked god to give me one more chance like he did Samson. Now I did not ask him to let me take out several thousand people when I go. That is where the comparison ends. I just knew that I had sinned against God by not taking better care of the body He gave me.

Little did I know how He would answer that prayer. I was approved for bariatric surgery but changed my mind because of the risks. My heart doctor said I had no choice. I left his office angry at the situation I knew I was in. Later that day at the internist's office waiting for my flu shot, I saw a poster that answered my prayer as I found a safe and effctive program with a free health coach to guide me back to health. 10 months later I am 75 pounds lighter.  Thanks to the weight loss my blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol have improved. Got a few more pounds to go to goal weight, but I have my health back. The weight loss has improved my energy level. That has helped me lose several thousand pounds of clutter around the house as I realized I needed to pare down for the journey that lies ahead.

So here I am almost finsihed with the declutter of home and body and ready to write and lead workshops on how to listen a person toward the Kingdom instead of just propositioning people with a checklist of do's and don't's.

Will you join me on the journey with this renewed enrgy? the teacher in me promises to teach you how to do Story Listening Evangelism. The listener in me will listen to what you are hearing and saying to the people with whom you are currently sharing faith.

Let me know by your response to these words and an email at Interested in following the weight loss and journey toward optimal health? Check out my blog at

I have become a certified health coach with the same organization that provided the coaching that has saved my life and my health. that web site is at Let me know if I can help you or someone else who struggles with their weight and health. I'd love to pay forward what I have been given.