A guy named Pete

Yesterday I took my wife on a coffee date. Our daughter was baby sitting so we decided to take advantage of a couple of hours to date. So Starbucks it was. Jeana got Cinnamon Dulche Latte. Tall. I got the same but a Grande. When we do a mini date like this we usually turn it into a staff meeting. We talk life, ministry, and dreams. In between we surf the net. It’s all guilt free. So we are sitting together enjoying each other and lattes when an unexpected thing happened.

Pete.

Pete was sitting close to us. He had two iPhones and an iPad. He was wired up. He was in town from Midland, Texas, to ride on the trails of Ruidoso. We have a good bike community here in Ruidoso. I can’t remember how the conversation started. I think he asked if we were from Ruidoso. We told him we were and had lived here almost six years now. We started the usual superficial chit chat that we would with anyone interested in talking. Jeana and I are conversationalists. Love people. It comes easy for us. As we talked there came point where I realized “this is a real conversation. Pay close attention.”

As we talked I realized there was an open door. So I asked the question that works in any culture these days. I asked Pete this:

“What is your faith story?”

He went on to tell us his story. He stated he believed in Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. Etc. Then he ended the list with God. He believed in God. He had been in Alcoholics Anonymous. He knew of twelve steps like an expert would know them. He had obviously experienced them. When he stopped, I shared very simply and conversationally my own faith story. I whittled my story to the needed. I weaved 1 Cor 15:3-4 into my story. It says,

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures ….”

I spoke much of life change and hope.

His story was different, but he did state be believed in Jesus Christ in a saving way. I could have pushed him, but did not want to “question” his faith when he had given a faith answer. His analogies of Santa and Easter Bunny were odd, but his point what not them but that he actually believed in Jesus Christ. I’ve never heard a story like his.

When we left one amazing thing is that he hugged us like we were family. It was moving. It was a divine appointment. It was a God conversation. I’m so glad I was listening to the Spirit of God.

I’m glad I got to meet Pete. I hope you run into a Pete soon. Open up a conversation. Eternity waits. You could be the one to reap a harvest or sow the seed for a future harvest. I told him he needed a church family and need to be sharing his story with others.

Here are a few things you and I should consider each day of our lives.

Principles for Creating Spiritual Conversations

People have a story and want to share it. I’m rarely surprised when I ask the questions, “what is your life story and where are you in your journey with God?” People love to answer. No one asks people about themselves. I always start a small group with these two questions. Knowing people first is more important than teaching them.

We live in a story culture before a propositional culture. Western Culture used to have a built in entry point to faith conversations based on knowledge of and some respect of God. That is no longer the case. We used to be able to ask, “If you died today would you go to heaven or hell?” Or “In your personal opinion what do you understand that it takes for a person to go to heaven?” Those are still useful questions in the apologetic side of evangelism, but those questions have moved to the second and third conversations. There are exceptions, but not many. The new key question is “what is your faith story?” It works. It’s non threatening. It opens the door.

Sharing your story with a gospel scripture is the new gospel presentation. As I said above, I shared my story from a gospel centered angle. You can do the same thing. That is what the Apostle Paul did in Acts 22 and 26.

Why you cannot steal second base in spiritual maturity

I’ve just returned from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I got together with two pastors and a giant in ministry.Stealing Second I got to meet John Burton though a friend of mine who is committed to making disciples in one on one relationships. I’ve long been committed to small groups, but I’ve not always done well with discipling one on one. It’s not that I’m not equipped to do it. It’s the fact that I can manage people and groups easier in groups. I love those small groups. I’m committed to them. But I’ve realized from John Burton that “you can’t steal second base.” When I heard John say this I was like “what?” He answered me and explained what he meant.

What John was saying is this ….

There are some rules in spiritual growth that cannot be rushed through.
We often want results right away. In church life we want growth and success and we want it now. Numbers are important to God. Numbers are people. They show us effectiveness at some level. But there is a danger. In our rush for success numerically we forget spiritual success comes from maturity. There is no lasting abiding fruit when we try to rush through what is supposed to mature through time and process. In other words, you cannot steal second base. You cannot rush spiritual maturity. There are laws that govern spiritual growth. Jesus took three years with 12 men and a few other women. He did not rush. He took His time. And it paid off.

Stealing second is cheating in the spiritual life.
When we steal second base we try to get maturity that we have not earned. We cheat the process. Weather in groups or in one on one disciple making, doing it too fast is cheating. There is a process that must be followed. There are implications from cheating in pursuing spiritual maturity.

  • Rushed maturity can put disciples in leadership positions they are not really ready to handle.
  • Rushed maturity leads to an example that makes others think they can do the same.
  • Rushed maturity results in spoiled spiritual fruit because it was rushed to harvest.

Advancing forward to second base is best when someone else gets you there.
As stated above, Jesus took His twelve through a process of life for three years. He had three special ones that He spent even more time with – can you name them? Peter, James and John. And in a span of three years, we know Jesus spent a good deal of time with each of the twelve. He knew them He knew there personalities, gifts and passions. Yes, He even knew their weaknesses. Yet at the end of the training He commissioned them. He placed them in task and history in ways He could only know. He placed them into the body of Christ, each in his own unique way for a special impact. Jesus is the One who got them forward in life and effective in their call to ministry. Jesus was the reason for their success.

You cannot steal second base in the game of spiritual life. Stop trying to steal second. Commit to the work that advances people to the next step in spiritual maturity.

An appeal to live above the color line.

I’m writing today for a couple of reasons. One is that I took the #My500Words challenge by Jeff Goins. I’m want to hone my discipline to write. Second, if I’m writing today, I’m writing about race. Baltimore was under curfew last night. There were riots after the funeral of Freddie Grey. Both situations are sad.

Freddie Gray’s story is yet another sad story of Black man dying at the hands of the police. Horrible. But the riots are sad too. I’m glad I wasn’t in Baltimore last night. What a mess.

How many more stories like this will we see this year? I’m not sure but things are nasty right now.

I want to ask you to do something. Stop living beneath the color barrier. Rise above the color barrier. Stop looking at people based on color. It’s hard. It won’t be easy. You will lose friends and make family mad when you do, but do it. Live above color. Stop making excuses for racial attitudes and racism. Stop making excuses for the Police. Stop judging. Stop thinking all Blacks do things we think they do and stop thinking all Whites do what you think they do.

Stop living in slavery. There comes a time when we have to be free. In our culture, the issue we face that is the scourge of American culture, is the issue of race.

Not every situation will get fixed. Sin is in every person alive. As much as we want everyone to get on board, it won’t happen. Even if we legislated issues of race to the point that racism or racial attitudes were against the law, those sins would still appear. It’s sad. But it’s true. How long will we wait for people to act right? I don’t know about other people. But what I can do is control myself. I do not have to get up in the morning and make excuses for racial animosity, the Police, or for the rioters. At some point all the excuse making is embarrassing. But what do we do? We post videos where rioting did not have the Army called in as a way to justify behavior or explain what we already know, and nothing changes. Or we post a quote like this:

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” MLK

I get the truth of that quote. I understand it. But remember this, it was only one of his quotes. But remember this one too.

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only the external physical violence but also internal of the spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” MLK

I’m asking you to live above color.

One good thing about my home is we are bi-racial. We are blended white and black.

It confounds the Black and Whites. They don’t know what to do with the Stoddards. We are not in the normal design of man and culture, but we are designed by God.

We live above culture.

Not every Black is anti white. And not all whites are racist against blacks.

If we are content with riots because of injustice and retreat because of riots, then let’s do nothing. If you want to live like a free man or free woman, then ignore the way our culture deals with race. I’m not saying we should not fight the fight for justice. I am not saying we should retreat into our own lives with no concern for race issues. What I am saying is there comes a time when you say to God and yourself, “I’m living above color. I don’t have to be like everyone else.”

We cannot beat 21st century problems with 1950s methods. We are free men and women. It’s embarrassing for us to keep living like we are segregated.

If white, get a black friend. If black, you need a white friend. Model what you want in the world. Live above color. It’s time for those of us who are plain tired of the racial separation in this nation to rise up. Live above color, not matter what anyone says.