A Tale of Two Messengers


A messenger service hired Rob and Rich, two good friends who had a much in common in life. The messenger service was peerless, and Rob and Rich both realized how blessed they were to have new positions with the company.

What made the messenger service so successful was its training. The corporate guide the company president created was lauded in the industry. In addition, the company president outfitted each worker with the best tools available, ones he had perfected himself, and workers who fully embraced the guide, training, and tools became the best messengers in the world.

In time, both Rob and Rich ascended to the top of their class during their training. Rob, in particular, was enthralled by the corporate guide and prided himself on the fact that he had memorized it. Rich also knew the guide well.

The day came for graduation and their first courier assignment. Rob and Rich’s supervisor called them both into his office.

“Rob, I need you to go to 717 Sycamore Street and deliver these architectural blueprints for the new elementary school to Mr. Zacchaeus at Jonas Brothers & Associates,” the supervisor said.

Rob stood in place whispering to himself.

“Rob,” the supervisor said, “son, did you hear me?”

The whispering continued, so the supervisor went over to the newly charged messenger and repeated his instructions. Nothing.  Unnerved, he bent closer to hear what Rob was whispering to himself. The words were well known to the supervisor: the step by step instructions of the corporate guide.

“Son?” the supervisor asked.

No reply.

Frustrated, the supervisor turned to Rich and said, “What’s with your friend?”

Rich turned to Rob and said, “Hey, Rob, we’re getting our instructions. Pay attention.”

“Everything I need to know to do my job is in the corporate guide,” Rob answered, as if waking up.

“Yes, it can fully equip you to be a fantastic messenger,” Rich acknowledged.

“‘A good messenger never diverts from the optimum path to delivery,’ Entry 172a,” Rob replied.

“That’s true,” Rich said, “but our supervisor is trying to tell you where that delivery goes.”

“He is? Where?”

“717 Sycamore Street,  blueprints for the new elementary school, Mr. Zacchaeus at Jonas Brothers & Associates,” Rich said.

Rob went back to whispering entries from the guide.

“Rob?” Rich asked.

“There’s no entry for that in the guide,” Rob said, exasperation creeping into his voice.

Rich replied, “But we can’t do our job if we don’t take the rules of the guide and use them together with with what our supervisor tells us.”

“How do we know we can trust him?” Rob asked.

“He represents the company president—”

“—and I wrote the guide together with him and with his son,” the supervisor said. “Can’t you recognize that voice of authority? Now, do you want to hear me out on this specific job or not?”

Once again, Rob went back to reciting the guide as if the supervisor were not present. “‘Treat each recipient with respect,’ Entry 202d. ‘Always maintain a smiling face and extend your hand warmly to whomever greets you,’ Entry 202e.”

The supervisor turned to Rich. “You got my instructions, son?”

“Yes, sir, Jonas Brothers.”

“Good. Thank you for listening. Make me proud.”

It was said on that day that no one delivered a package more effectively than Rich did those blueprints. In the course of his time with the company, he received numerous Employee of the Month honors, became the personal assistant to the supervisor, and received the most generous retirement in the company’s history.

Of Rob it was said that he gave excellent tours of the company headquarters. And no one could stump him on the contents of the corporate guide. But he never made a single delivery.

Five Steps to Transform Your Church in Seven Months, Guaranteed


Did that title grab your attention? Good. Because I mean it.

Rather than add some pointless setup here, I’ll go right into it:

1. Stop the sermons.

Most people can’t remember one point of the three-point sermon they heard last week. Many pastors couldn’t deliver a transformational sermon if the lives of their flock depended on it (and sadly, that is probably the case). I’ll go so far as to say that the average sermon given on an average Sunday doesn’t change the average American pew-sitter one iota. While that’s a crying shame— and shouldn’t be the case—I suspect it is.

So maybe it’s time to pack away the sermons for seven months. Discipleship is a long-haul reality, and no one will have his or her spiritual life derailed for want of seven months of so-so sermonizing.

Besides, we’re going to substitute something guaranteed to change lives.

2. Find a good orator—or three.

We put our best musicians in front of the church, right? Let’s find two or three people in our church who truly grasp the English language and can breathe life into words. This is both a gift and a talent. We should encourage those who speak the language with gusto and life. (Leaders, you are making it a priority to identify, encourage, and utilize the giftings of people in your church, aren’t you? And the best speaker in the church may not be you—or any of the other leaders.)

3. Open the Bible.

Remember the Bible? In some churches it seems as if hardly anyone does, despite its being the word of God. We’re going to open it and see what it says.

4. For that Sunday, have an orator read one book of the New Testament in its entirety before the assembled church.

Okay, so a few of those longer books may need to be split into two readings, but considering the length of the average sermon in an Evangelical church, it’s doable for most of the books.

5. Repeat for all 27 books of the New Testament.

Now enjoy the positive transformation. Your church WILL be changed.

I’m not kidding.

We’ve got our heads in the sand if we think that most Christians have experienced the Scriptures this way. Fact is, the way we Americans teach and read the Bible is a piecemeal shambles. We approach it in such microscopic bits that most Christians have no idea how it fits together. We have no vision for the wholeness of the Scriptures. Bible with crossIt’s why the Bible-reading plan I advocate reinforces repetitive reading of entire books. Simply put, most Christians have never read the New Testament books as they were meant to be read.

We’re also fooling ourselves if we think that most Christians have read the entirety of the New Testament. Nearly half of all college graduates, once they step out of those ivy-covered halls, will never again read a book all the way through. This is especially true of men. For those who didn’t graduate from college, it’s certainly worse. And no, I don’t believe the Bible gets a pass on that lack. Given how little Scripture is read in the average church on Sunday, most Christians may otherwise never hear the entirety of the books that forge the backbone of all we are supposed to know and grasp.

We get all huffy about interpretation and so on, but do we trust the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to deliver on their promise to transform lives? Faith comes by hearing the word of God, right?

How then can this plan not be an EPIC WIN for your church—or for every church in North America?

I say we start this Sunday.

Because the system we have in place for transmitting the Scriptures to people in the pews simply is not working.

And because the Word of God doesn’t need our additions to work miracles in the lives of those who hear it.

All we have to do is believe that is true.

Do you?

Finding Yourself in the Gospel Story


Words of lifeOne of the realities God is impressing on me this year is the poor state of evangelism in this country. It’s as if Christians in America have forgotten the Great Commission, the mandate of our Lord to share the Gospel with the lost of the world.

More and more, I realize we modern Christians face have distanced ourselves from the story of the Gospel. It’s not that we don’t know the Gospel enough to share it. Most of us do. Instead, our problem is our inability to see ourselves as a part of that story.

A quick visit to any three Christian blogs will inevitably bring up mentions of the closed state of the canon. Some people, in fact, seem to base their entire theology on the fact of the closed canon rather than the person of the living Christ. Don’t get me wrong; there are no new books of the Bible being written. I fully support that the canon is closed.

However, I just as fully believe that God never stopped speaking. His voice continues to go out. That voice brings transformation because it is active, especially in the lives of those who learn the secret of abiding in Christ. Our God is a living entity who does not stand mute.

And this brings me to the Gospel.

What Jesus has done as evidenced by the Gospel is well known and indisputable. What I believe we tend to forget is what Jesus is still doing. He still changes lives. In this way, the Gospel perpetually lives, like a story continually being written—because the truth of the Gospel story has not come to an end.

We Christians today persist as an isolated, self-centered lot. Few of us see our individual lives as part of anything larger than ourselves, much less part of the narrative of God’s redemptive story. Yet our lives and what Jesus has done in them are no different than those of the patriarchs and saints of yore.  The reality of Jesus Christ meeting Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus centuries ago is no more valid that Jesus Christ meeting you or me on our own figurative Damascus road. We have our own Gospel story to tell, our own encounter with the Lord of the Universe, and our story matters to God as much as Saul of Tarsus’s does.

Because we have forgotten this, we have forfeited an important piece of what we share with the lost. Yet what is more powerful than telling a lost person our own story of how Jesus took us from darkness into light? We fret about somehow failing to string together the elements of the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, the Bridge Illustration, lessons from Evangelism Explosion, our Topical Memory System passages, or whatever evangelism technique we feel deficient in, when what God desires most from us is that we can share with another person what Jesus did for us in taking us from death to life. We may remember the Gospel, but we have failed to see ourselves in it.

Many out there feel the world is winding down, and it may be. It is not hard to see the day coming when no one can work. In light of this, I offer this word: You will never know the Scriptures perfectly unless you memorize the entire Bible, and by the time you do, you probably will not have had the chance to talk with anyone about Christ. What you can do, though, is use the Scriptures you do know in conjunction with your own story of how Jesus saved you.

Stories change lives. Your changed life is a story. All of this is wrapped up in the greatest story of all, the Gospel. If you are in Christ, you are living that story with every breath you take.

If that story matters to God, then I’m sure He wants you to share it with others. And there is no better time to share it than today.