Category Archives: Friendship

A tension: Only the interested or every person?

There’s a funny exchange in The Princess Bride. (Actually, there’s a lot that’s funny in that cult classic. That’s why it became a Kingsley family favorite when our boys were growing up.)

Fezzik, the giant, is wrestling The Man in Black, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts.

: I just figured out why you give me so much trouble.
The Man in Black: Why is that, do you think?
Fezzik: Well, I haven’t fought just one person for so long. I’ve been specializing in groups. Battling gangs for local charities, that kind of thing.
The Man in Black: Why should that make such a difference?
Fezzik: Well you see, you use different moves when you’re fighting half a dozen people than when you only have to be worried about one.

That’s good to keep in mind as we begin the year. Most of us are busy here at the beginning of the year meeting with and trying to build relationships with as many as we can. Using surveys and other gathering devices, we’re trying to find the most interested students. Rather like Fezzik’s strategy of one on the many.

But we want to help our students understand that the critical event is one believer engaging with a nonbeliever over meaningful spiritual content. Every student is a part of different social networks, or oikos’— where they live, their program of study, where they work, and other associations.

Suppose they don’t find interested students within those social networks. Do they go someplace else for their ministry? No. We want to help them be salt and light in those oikos’.

One place to begin is to map the level of interest of each person in each oikos, using the Missional Map. They will notice that the first step with each person they encounter is building trust.

Next time, I will have some next steps for both the one on many and the one on one.


Charity Toward Those Who Disagree With Us.

When we think about the habits of spiritual leaders, we typically think about the spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important. But there are other habits often overlooked in our leadership development.

I talked about reading last week. Christian biographies, the works of Christian leaders, other aspects of the Christian life, and issues facing the church today are important. But so is reading the Classics, history, science, and other academic disciplines. It broadens our minds and sharpens our thinking.

So, also, is the habit of listening and engaging with those who disagree with us. I find that most Christians today are comfortable only with reading or talking with those whom we agree. We, actually, are better when we seek out, spend time with, and befriend those not like us.

My neighbor of some 15 years voted for the other guy in every election that I’ve known him. His views and values differ from mine. He reads and gets his input from different sources than I do. We don’t shy away from those areas of disagreement, nor do they define our relationship. I consider John one of my very best friends. We run together. We watch each other’s dogs when they are out of town. We share meals together. His friendship is most important to me.

But that hasn’t always been the case. I made some mistakes years ago in thinking I could change his mind and have him see things my way. But I had to learn not to focus on the differences but on those things that bind us together. Family is incredibly important to him. John and his wife are great parents. They take pride in our neighborhood and are respectful of others. They attend a different church and have involved themselves in mission and community development.

All that to say, the differences have sharpened and expanded each of us, but don’t define our friendship.

The ability to befriend those who think differently is not all that is at stake. It’s also how we actually discuss those differences that will either deepen a friendship or lead to one fractured. Listening without responding, hearing the position and the heart behind it without being defensive, and acknowledging the unspoken feelings and perceptions without posturing are all critical to building the relationship.

We naturally want to win. And by the time we arrive at a place of leadership, we’ve usually been right a good part of the time. But in my reading the Gospels, I find that Jesus usually answers a question with a question; and especially, the challenging ones.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wishing to test Jesus about how to inherit eternal life was answered with a question. He gave the right answer and Jesus commended him for it. But the lawyer seeking to justify himself asked another, and that’s when he told this now familiar parable. Jesus ends with another question, which one was his neighbor? Then finally our Lord says, “Go and do likewise.”

I’m struck by what Jesus did not do. He didn’t argue. He didn’t “one up” or blister him with a zinger. He wasn’t cutting or defensive.

How do others receive us? Do we have an edge? Do we need to be right? Can we be charitable with those whom we differ? Do we immerse ourselves in groupthink? Are we afraid of being tainted, or losing control?

At the same time we don’t roll over and play dead. Being confident with our own thoughts and actions while comfortably engaging with those who live and believe differently is a habit of an effective leader.

Spring Coaching Tips

Noticing Your Way Into Spiritual Conversations.

Our Student LINC and Coaching Center team reads a book every semester. There have been some memorable books and some not so much. Some helped us with our personal development or devotional life; others help us better equip those we coach. (I devoted my Coaching Tips last summer to some of those we particularly liked. Here is the last with the whole list at the bottom.)

This semester, we are reading God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally, by Doug Pollock. Most of us had read it before, but this time we are trying to take away specific coaching points for our leaders.

I believe our ministry does a much better job of training in ministry mode evangelism than natural mode. But if most of those involved in our ministries graduate and they don’t know how to begin spiritual conversations with their friends, have we set them up for frustration? It seems that we need to place a greater emphasis on natural mode in order to better prepare them for a lifetime of ministry.

One powerful tool students can use in their day to day lives, both while still involved on campus with us, and after graduation, is what Pollock calls, “noticing your way into Gospel conversations.” Chapter 3 in God Space.

He explains it like this.
“ ‘Go and notice others; then come back and share what you saw that maybe you hadn’t noticed before.” [This comes from Jim Henderson, founder of Doable Evangelism.] …noticing is a prerequisite to caring about others and serving them in tangible ways that smuggle the gospel into their hearts.

“Not only does noticing cause us to care for others, but it builds natural bridges to spiritual conversations. The Apostle Paul modeled this for us when he said, ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship…’ (Acts 17:22b-23a, italics mine)…

“The simple act of noticing enables us to connect with others in authentic ways that pave the way for spiritual conversations to happen naturally…” P. 38.

Chris and I were in San Antonio recently. We were encouraged to visit Magnolia Pancake Haus. It was a great breakfast. Our server, Dean, was very attentive and carried himself with a bit more professionalism than most servers. We asked him if he was a student. He asked why. I explained what we had noticed about him. He said that as a matter of fact, he was planning on attending culinary school and eventually wanted to manage his own restaurant. Now we didn’t get any further in conversation as the restaurant was full and he was busy. But he appreciated our complements and I could see how “noticing” started the conversation in a natural way.

Pollock suggests trying a faith experiment. Go with some friends to a place where Christians might not frequent. “Prayerfully consider what you see and hear. Gather with your friends afterward, and share what you noticed, what you felt, what disturbed you, what you felt God was showing you. Talk about what you learned—and how to respond to it—as a community.” P. 42.

If you see God do something significant in noticing your way into a spiritual conversation, would you let me know? I think this could be a valuable tool for helping train others to be lifelong laborers for Christ.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016


Balancing Relationships

Years ago when Chris and I were in Rhode Island, our church there ran an interesting campaign. Signs were up all around the church, “It’s February. But March is Coming.” It called attention to the dreary days of winter and anticipated the message of Easter.

About this time of the semester you may be feeling a bit tired.

Ministry is great. It is a privilege to be involved in sharing the Gospel; leading people to Christ, helping them grow in a relationship with the Lord, and imparting vision to leaders. But ministry can be tiring. We often forget the physical toll spiritual activity exacts on us.

Some people can be particularly draining, even if the weather isn’t depressing. If you are an introvert, like I am, you may feel it more acutely. That’s why it is important for us to have people in our lives that build into us while we are giving out.

I recall a conference speaker a few years ago talking about leading for the long haul. Among other things, he addressed balancing our relationships. He mentioned five types of people that Gordon MacDonald talks about in Restoring Your Spiritual Passion.

1. Very resourceful people. VRP. These ignite your passion.
2. Very important people. VIP. These share your passion.
3. Very trainable people. VTP. These catch your passion.
4. Very nice people. VNP. These enjoy your passion.
5. Very draining people. VDP. These sap your passion.

Many have referred to these five types of people. If you google “very draining people”, most entries reference these.

Those above the line, VRPs and VIPs, put energy into our lives. Those below take energy out. Most of us in ministry spend most of our time with those below the line. That’s natural, but we need to have some in our lives who ignite and share our passion to fill our tanks as we minister.

Two thoughts come to mind.

  1. Even while you are at the height of busyness in the semester, why not consider who might be a possible VRP or VIP, imparting energy to you. They may be in your church. They may be friends or mentors. Taking steps now to fill your tank will help you give out over the long haul.
  2. Which type of person are you to your teammates? Is there a possibility that you drain some more than you impart to them? An honest assessment helps to know areas of personal growth.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Top Ten Myths About Sharing Your Faith.

Our Student LINC team is reading God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally by Doug Pollock. Most of us had read it before. But we are discussing to help us better equip our leaders in natural mode evangelism.

Last week during our staff meeting, one coach, Chris West, led a devotion from Colossians 4:1-6. We had a great discussion on what an open door is for the message. Chris told me afterward that since we were going over chapter 3 of God Space, “Noticing Your Way Into Spiritual Conversations”, the Colossians passage could help with our equipping.

He also referenced a resource that he’s used for years in training students at Dartmouth, at conferences, and with his student leaders over a distance. I thought you might find this helpful.

Top Ten Myths About Sharing Your Faith.

  1. It’s my responsibility to convert people.  We are only responsible for what we can do, not what others do.  Our responsibility is simply to take the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.  We don’t have to push!
  2. We can witness without words.  By definition a witness is “one who testifies.” As Christians our lives need to be consistent with our words but they are not a substitute for them.
  3. We must “earn the right to be heard”.  Partially true. While there is merit in the idea of gaining a hearing, the notion of “earning the right to be heard” can also put Christians on their heels.  Do Hollywood producers call you to ask if you might be offended by the scenes and themes of their upcoming movie?  Do your professors distort Christian ideas and qualify their lectures with an apology?  All around us people are making bold assertions about what is right and true.  We have the TRUTH.  We are called to declare it tactfully and assertively.
  4. My friends already know what I believe.  If your friends did understand what you believe and why you believe it, then there’s a good chance they would believe it too.  It’s better to ask than assume.  You’ll soon discover that people around you have all sorts of false ideas about God and what it means to be a Christian.
  5. People’s beliefs about God are based on reason.  We often assume others have thought about their spiritual beliefs to the extent we have.  Many people believe what they do more for emotional reasons or convenience.   People often believe what they WANT to believe — what makes them feel good.  This is especially true among “postmoderns,” who commonly think,  “Whatever you believe about God is fine and true for you, but it’s not for me.” Sometimes you might even succeed in answering a person’s intellectual objections only to find they still resist.  We need to lovingly discern “smoke screens” and find the core issues that keep a person away from God.
  6. People aren’t interested.  To the contrary, there is overwhelming interest in discussing the substantive questions of life.  Nobody likes to be pushed but there is strong interest in discussing spiritual ideas.  By experience we’re seeing that many students are tired of shallow conversation and heavy-hand of political correctness that makes it taboo to talk about God.
  7. I must have all the answers“When I came to you brothers I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know  nothing while I was among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness, fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on man’s wisdom but on God’s power.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-5  Nuff said.
  8. I must have a close long-term relationship with someone before I can share the gospel with him.  While this helps, the gospel’s inherent power is not bound by our personal connections.  God might sovereignly bring people across our path for even a brief time, so that we would share the message of Christ with them.  Remember the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch?  (Acts 8:26-40)  Sharing the gospel is a supernatural action that requires supernatural power.  That’s why the disciples were told to wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be God’s witnesses.  (Acts 1:8)  That power is available to every believer!  Considering the scope of Jesus’ mission to reach the whole world, we can’t afford to wait to develop a close personal relationship with everyone before presenting the message.
  9. I must wait for people to come up to me, ask me why my life is so different, and ask me to tell them about Christ.  Jesus said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17  Fishing for men requires initiative on the fisherman’s part, not the fish!  Sharing Christ with others is an active endeavor, not a passive one.
  10. Sharing your faith is inherently confrontational.  Most people are uncomfortable with interpersonal confrontation.  Sharing your faith should be a conversation not a confrontation. Yes, there is a very real battle taking place in the spiritual realm, but on a personal level, people need to know that we genuinely care about them.  We need to develop the art of asking good questions and listening.  See Luke 2:46-47  The principles in this passage are excellent – very insightful with regard to our personal witness.  If someone is clearly uncomfortable discussing God then we should back off.  Whoever said that the same social rules that apply in “normal life” don’t apply in personal evangelism?
  • 10a Bonus.  I must tell a person everything I know about God in every situation.  Not every opportunity to share the message is equal.  In some cases you’ll have just a minute to talk, ask a question, share an idea, or simply listen.  Make the most of it and relax.   (Col 4:5)  Try to discern how much a person is ready to hear.  Jesus Himself said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” John 16:12  Even with His disciples he did not feel compelled to unload everything at once.

Why not ask your leaders to look at Colossians 4:1-6 and ask them what an open door is for the message. Then ask what might hinder them in sharing their faith. You now have 10, actually 11, possible things and some responses.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

I’m listening to you.

During these first several weeks of the campus year we are actively following up surveys and developing relationships with freshmen. How well we do in involving freshmen during this time determines what our movements will look like in the next few years.

It is important that our students develop in relational and conversational evangelism skills.

A few years ago, I was given a copy of Chad Young’s book Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony, Superficial World. Authenticity speaks to the foundational truths of the Christian life.

In chapter 10, “Just Talkin’ about Jesus.”, Chad describes relational and conversational evangelism. First, he talks about our getting to know those we are seeking to share with. Then he talks about how to share the Good News.

Chad begins with three ideas from Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism.

  • Declaring the gospel
  • Defending the gospel
  • Dialoguing the gospel

This third one, dialoguing the gospel, is the focus here, “the skill of giving and taking, bouncing ideas back and forth, and most importantly, listening.”

Chad writes,
“While a lot of books have been written on declaring the gospel and defending the gospel, the art of asking good questions and dialoguing the gospel are often neglected and difficult to master. It takes time to cultivate love, caring, and trust, which lead to deeper conversations. The best place to learn how to have an evangelistic conversation is to study the conversations Jesus had in the four Gospels. In the NIV New Testament, Jesus asks 252 questions in eight-five chapters—that’s almost three questions per chapter!

One of the most powerful pictures of Jesus using conversational evangelism is in Luke 24, right after his still-secret resurrection. At this point in time, the good news of Jesus didn’t seem too good to his followers. Their leader had been crucified, and they had been scattered.

On the day of the resurrection, two of them were walking along a road toward a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were having a conversation about everything that had happened to Jesus. As they were walking and talking, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, but they were kept from recognizing him.

Jesus ask them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stopped and looked at him sadly. One of them asked him.” Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things which have happened there in these days?”

Jesus asked, “What things?”

They then told Jesus about all of the things that had happened and that the tomb was empty earlier that morning. Jesus continued to walk and talk with them, and they invited him to stay with them for the night and have dinner. Jesus accepted the invitation, and at dinnertime their eyes were opened so they could recognize who he was. He then immediately vanished from their sight.

…As the two men were walking on a road during their spiritual journey, Jesus joined them and traveled alongside them. He connected with them so deeply they urged him to stay, and then he shared his good news.”
(pp. 153,154)

When we help our staff, students, faculty and volunteers learn how to engage in conversational evangelism we counteract how our culture views Christians.

Related tips.

Fall Coaching Tips


Last week a couple of us met with a pastor of a local church planning to implement Prayer/Care/Share with his congregation. Lots of organizations use the strategy. And we do too.

One simple approach is to devote two weeks for each, prayer two weeks, care two weeks, and outreach two weeks. You could even use the six weeks to build up to some campus wide outreach.

Obviously, there are lots of tools you could use, but here are a few ideas for training your students.




So if you are looking for a something to rally everyone in your movements toward outreach around simple actions, you may want to think about Prayer/Care/Share.

Fall Coaching Tips

Summer Tip Series