StartLeading: Questions Lead to Transformation by Jason Gaboury

Here’s a story that might make you think, “I never have experiences like that.”  Or worse, “I’ll never have an experience like that.” Read the story, though. It demonstrates the power of the gospel, God’s persistent love, and hope for transformation. Diane, InterVarsity’s staffworker at CUNY-Lehman College writes:

Today, I ran into a student that I met last semester named Brianna. She told me that she had a really rough summer and didn’t believe in God. This was a change. Last semester, she was curious about Jesus but didn’t get connected to one of our groups. I asked her what happened during the summer. She said she’d tell me later and walked away. I didn’t know if she’d come back but she did!

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Brianna told me stories involving lots of alcohol and a boyfriend that she admitted she was using to feel loved. I asked to share a story from John 4 with her.  She identified with the Samaritan woman.

Then I asked if she knew the core message of the Christian faith. She said no.  So I shared the gospel with her using my New World app on my phone.  I emphasized many times that Jesus loves her and asked her to identify where she is in relationship to him.  She said she experiences the brokenness of the world and has not turned toward God for transformation.

So I asked if she’d like to follow Jesus & she said yes!

After we prayed she had a huge smile on her face.  One of our new members came over to high-five/hug her. It was awesome! I asked her to go to church with me on Sunday and she said yes.

While every story is unique, “the spirit blows where it will” (Jn 3), I believe that all of us who are willing to start leading can have experiences like this one. So what’s the key skill?

Asking.

Read the story again.  Notice how Diane asks Brianna questions. “What happened?”  “Can I share?”  “Where are you?”  “Would you like to follow Jesus?”  “Will you come to church with me?”

Too often we think of leadership (and evangelism) as having answers.  Diane asked questions.  Jesus asked questions.  Great leaders become practiced at “making the ask.”

How are you at asking?  Think through a leadership or outreach conversation you’ve had in the last week.  Who asked most of the questions? What can you do in your next leadership or outreach conversation to increase the number of asks that you make?

Share some of the questions you intend to ask at your next leadership or evangelistic conversation in the comments section. 

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Foundations: To Everyone – Jason Gaboury

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone … (Romans 1:16)

By the light of their cell phones, student leaders at one of the Chico State students spray painted t-shirts with the slogan, “IV — ask me”.  The InterVarsity chapter was not permitted by the university to participate in events designed to engage new students, so these leaders devised a way to meet students.

Chico

Chico State is just one of ten chapters in the 23-campus Cal State system that has denied InterVarsity chapters recognition and access. Closer to home, students at SUNY-Buffalo have encountered similar oppostion.  Campuses in New England, Tennessee, Florida, and Maine face similar challenges.

At the heart of the conflict is a cultural and legal conflict about inclusion.  InterVarsity is accused (sometimes virulently) of excluding students because we believe that it’s important for a Christian mission to be led by Christians.  (There is a certain logical inconsistency in being excluded from campus life and told, “You can’t be on campus because you exclude people.” But that is a topic for another day.)

Can Romans 1:16 help us with campus access?

Paul says that his gospel is God’s power… to everyone.  Consider this for a moment.  Paul was a first century Jew raised with the doctrine of election and trained in the Pharisaic hope of national liberation for Israel.  Here he says that his good news is for everyone.  This transformation of Paul’s worldview is so significant that it’s possible to argue from it (and some have) for the resurrection of Jesus.

Our gospel is to (and for) everyone.  No one is excluded from the grace of this good news.  No one is beyond the scope of God’s intended freedom.

We in InterVarsity love the whole campus.  Our chapters are to and for the whole campus.  Our proclamation does not conform to the categories of this cultural moment.  Our proclamation is good news, power, and true freedom for all people in this cultural moment.

Lord have mercy on us if we ever lose sight of this truth.  In the meantime, let’s pray for our sisters and brothers doing ministry on campuses that deny access.  And let’s learn from their courage and creativity.

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Foundations: Where does the power come from? — Jason Gaboury

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith… (Romans 1:16)

Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, established a daily ½ hour prayer meeting for his organization.  Every day at 11:00 the whole office stops work, gathers in the conference room, and prays.  When asked about this Gary responds, “We had to ask ourselves a question, ‘What power do we really believe is going to set people free?’”

on buttonOn campus, what power do we really believe is going to set people free?  Is it our great proxe stations, or our winning personalities?  Is it our campus strategy, or our excellent program?  Or is it something else?

Paul says that the gospel is the power of God.  Paul’s expectation for fruitful ministry (that I may reap some harvest among you…v14) is not ultimately tied to his skill as a messenger, but the message itself.  What is this message?  Paul’s gospel is the announcement that Jesus the messiah is risen from the dead and is lord of the world.  (v1-4)  As Paul is faithful to announce this gospel, he knows and expects that God will act through him to, “bring about the obedience of faith… (v5)”

What implications does this have for us on campus?

1.    Center our Hope
I love and value the work we’re doing to improve our outreach.  We need to be constantly improving our strategies, plans, and programs.  We can’t just dust off last year’s NSO and hope for a better result.  And yet, our hope must not be centered in our activities but in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What do we really believe is going to set people free on campus?  If we really believe it is the gospel, what implications would that have?  What would we change? 

2.    Clarify our Message
Too often I hear students sharing the gospel in ways that are unclear.  If the gospel is the power of God for salvation, then we need to get crystal clear about this message.  How do we teach students to share this message?  How do we coach them so that they can share it clearly, concisely, and compellingly? 

3.    Call People to Faith
“Would you like to become a follower of Jesus today?”  This is a powerful question that is under-utilized.  In Romans 1 Paul describes his ministry to call the Gentiles to the obedience of faith, and then immediately adds, “including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”  Paul does not simply communicate the gospel he calls for a response.  What would it look like if every time we shared the good news of the gospel we called people to faith? 

Question: When have you experienced power & boldness in your witness? What was its source?

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Foundations: What makes you ashamed? – Jason Gaboury

John looked at me puzzled, “I never would have guessed that you were a Christian.” I smiled, assuming that was a good thing. He paused. “I’m not sure that’s a good thing. If you really believe that stuff aren’t you supposed to tell heathens like me?”

I’d been ashamed of the gospel, and my friend John could tell.

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Shame isn’t always bad. A sense of shame is a necessary restraint against negative or destructive behaviors. A healthy sense of shame can strengthen the will to do what’s right in the face of temptation.

But on campus shame is used in unhealthy ways. The social cues send a clear message: “Keep your Christian faith to yourself.” Do a quick word association of evangelical Christian on campus and you find some interesting associations: close-minded, homophobic, judgmental, repressed, backwards, dumb.

We have to come to grips with shame if we are going to be serious about witness on campus. What can we learn from Paul in Romans 1 to help us to not be ashamed?

Reflections on Romans

Paul mentions the gospel of Jesus Christ 3 times in the first 16 verses of Romans 1. Here are some observations of Paul’s presentation of the gospel.

Good News, not Good Advice: Paul does not present the gospel as a private spirituality for people who are into that sort of thing.  He describes the gospel as an event that happened. “Jesus Christ… descended from David… risen from the dead.” (1-4) There are, of course, personal implications that follow from this announcement, but it is an announcement of an event that happened not of a personal or private experience.

No one is ashamed to talk about the news. Perhaps we need to be reminded that the gospel we proclaim on campus is good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (and his call to repentance and faith) — not good advice fitting awkwardly into the smorgasbord of campus life.

Announcing gospel as worship/service: Is worship simply singing songs?  Is service simply being kind or doing good deeds? Paul sees his announcement of the resurrection of Jesus as the primary means of his worship and service to God (v. 9).

What would it look like if our communities saw the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection as the primary means of our worship and service to God? How would it change our witness if we saw evangelism as the primary vehicle of our worship?

Word, Deed, & Power: Paul longs to share the gospel in Rome so that he might see a harvest. (v13) He doesn’t hope to see a harvest. He expects one.  Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because he knows that this good news is spoken in words, modeled with deeds, and demonstrated in power.

What are we expecting?  How are we praying?  Are we moving onto campus with expectant hope?  Do we have faith to pray for healings, for powerful signs to accompany our witness?  Do we expect the gospel to go forward through our words, in our deeds, and by the power of the spirit? Rome was decidedly more hostile to Paul’s announcement than the campus is to ours, but he expected a harvest nevertheless.

Unashamed

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we? Paul isn’t ashamed because he recognizes the gospel as good news. Our campus needs good news.  It longs for wholeness even as it further fragments itself.  We have hope and wholeness because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says. Are we?  We can’t stop our witness to the university without stopping our worship to God.  If we are willing to see our witness as our worshipm, and our worship as a witness, it would change our ministry. Paul saw his life and ministry that way.  So can we.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Paul says.  Are we? The announcement of the gospel in the New Testament comes with signs of God’s power.  (People coming to faith, healing, signs of repentance, etc.)  Years ago we used to talk about sharing the gospel in word and deed.  We’ve changed that to say, we share the gospel in word, deed, and power.  Yes, train students to articulate the good news in words.  Yes, develop students as women and men of integrity who say ‘yes’ to Jesus in every sphere of their lives.  Yes, expect God to move powerfully as we faithfully to proclaim his good news.

Question: How could you model bold confidence in the Gospel’s power today? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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