ISSUE 67 Table Talk: A Resource for Getting People Talking Third Place Ministry Street Artist: Painting a Greater Picture of Jesus More Than a Game Life After Being an Evangelist
IN THIS ISSUE
From the Director
Thank you to all who contributed to the Crossover Easter Appeal. The appeal is the primary funding source for the ministry of Crossover. Your support and the support of your local Baptist church helps Crossover to continue our ministry of inspiring and equipping local churches in reaching their communities for Jesus. At Crossover we have given ourselves the task of assisting churches through three streams: church planting, church revitalisation and evangelism. This edition of PRAC includes articles dealing with evangelism. Most of the articles arose from the inaugural Emerging Evangelists conference in Melbourne in August last year. The articles range from a sports stadium through to a suburban local church, from a street artist through to a gym owner. They provide interesting and stimulating insights into the different shape that God conversations can take. There is also a link to a very accessible and user-friendly pre-evangelism tool called “Table Talk” which aims to help move the conversation toward God. Given the success of last year’s Emerging Evangelists conference we are planning a similar 2-day gathering this year in October. If you are interested in nominating someone, including yourself, please contact us at email@example.com. I trust you will find this edition of PRAC helpful as we partner to share the good news of Jesus with our local communities.
Keith Jobberns Director Crossover Australia
Follow us crossoveronline.com.au facebook.com/crossoveroz twitter.com/crossoveroz youtube.com/crossoveraustralia
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A Resource For Getting People Talking Evangelism in the Australian context is especially difficult given the reticence of Australians to openly talk about spirituality. Churches do underestimate the huge step people need to take in order to go from having no spiritual interest, to doing one of the popular evangelistic courses. We expect that people will come into our environment (many of whom never darken the door of a church), listen to us the ‘experts’, and then make a decision to believe what we believe. Many are keen to do this because they are spiritually hungry and keen for answers. Many do not make that step because it’s simply a step too far. We don’t seem to have resources that cater for people who need to start a few steps back. The Ugly Duckling Company specialises in resources for pre and pre-pre evangelism. I road tested one resource in particular called Table Talk which gets you engaged in meaningful conversation in a social setting about things in life that really matter. The aim of Table Talk is to provide a safe place for people to begin to have these kinds of conversations about the important questions in life. The hope is that as you get together over six sessions, conversations will flourish and relationships will be built and strengthened. British based Director Paul Griffiths writes that “everyone has heard of the Alpha Course - but in Europe today there are a lot of people still not yet ready to come that close to a church. We have to be ready to go to where they are, in places like the pub. We have to talk about issues they are concerned about, like sports and sex. And we have to start with questions, not just answers.”
By Stan Fetting The game starts as someone picks up a card and poses the question to the group. At any point in the game someone at the table can pick up another card and pose that question to the group. Games normally last between 30 and 45 minutes and people answer between 4 or 5 questions. I road tested the resource in a small group made up of people of varying degrees of faith, from committed Christians to those who are exploring Christianity. I found it hard to get through the amount of questions in the guide simply because the conversation around the questions flowed freely enough for us not to move on but to stick to the topic and listen to everyone speak. For Christians it’s a great exercise in learning to listen and appreciate the value of what questions can unlock, rather than seeing the evangelistic encounter as one where we have a presentation and audience who we need to convince. For non-Christians Table Talk is excellent because it provides an opportunity to talk about meaningful topics in a safe and social small group environment where trust can be built up and they can be valued for their opinion and listened to. To my mind activities like this build not just trust but credibility. Because of that I would feel comfortable asking a Table Talk group to take a next step and do something like an Alpha Course or a Puzzling Questions course (offered by The Ugly Duckling Company). The Table Talk resource is available now in a diverse range: TT for friends, blokes, Easter, 10-11 year olds, 11-14 year olds, 14-16 year olds, 16-18 year olds, uni students, armed forces, and for Christmas. In development is TT for Grandparents. Find out more at:
www.table-talk.org and www.theuglyducklingcompany.com
In every game of Table Talk there are six big questions. To play the game six to eight people gather around a table. One of those present reads the two-minute introduction to that session’s big questions. Once the introduction has been read, 16 question cards (which relate to the big question) are placed facing up on the table.
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By Stan Fetting
, LAST YEAR MY WIFE AND I MADE THE RISKIEST DECISION WE VE EVER MADE. , WE, VE MADE RISKY DECISIONS BEFORE, MOVING TO AUSTRALIA WAS ONE OF THEM. IT S NO SMALL THING TO UPROOT YOUR LIFE FROM ONE SIDE OF THE WORLD TO ENTER INTO UNKNOWN TERRITORY. HOWEVER, LAST YEAR WE DECIDED TO PUT IT ALL ON THE LINE AND ENTER INTO THE WORLD OF THIRD PLACE MINISTRY VENTURES.
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Over the last few years I’ve spent time covering the innovative and creative ways in which people are reaching out across our movement of churches. I was especially impacted by a story I covered about the Soul Food Espresso café in Adelaide. I found interviewing Evan Johnson fascinating, as he told the story of risk and faith in an attempt to place ministry at the heart of a local community in a small shopping centre in Redwood Park. As time has gone by I’ve had a growing feeling of unease: surrounded by so many examples of faith and creativity what was I going to do? I could continue to hang around people who are making new tracks, or try myself. I felt the call to join the latter.
THIRD PLACE THEORY The sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term ‘third place’ in his book ‘The Great Good Place’. He identified that in modern suburban societies time is primarily spent in home and work places. In contrast, third places offer a neutral public space for a community to connect and establish bonds. Third places, he said, “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work”. Third place ministries have enabled Christians to venture beyond the walls of the church and establish themselves at the heart of communities. Typically, Christians have used the spread of coffee culture to place themselves at the heart of local communities. Inside the walls of churches playgroups are an excellent example of a valuable third place for parents. My third place experiment had its origins whilst pastoring my last church. Along with a few other committed believers we started a runners and walkers club. The idea was to create a place where we could provide a third place in our community; where we could provide an important community service and build genuine relationships with people, in the context of engaging in something of mutual enjoyment. This grew to become one of the largest running clubs in Brisbane and is now an independent sporting club managed by community members. The club continues to grow from strength to strength each year. Through my role as president and coach I became more involved in the community and the locus of my ministry began to pull in this direction.
FAITH & RISK An opportunity arose a year ago with the establishment of a new shopping centre in my neighbourhood. Whilst running past an advertising sign one Saturday morning my fellow runners urged me to take the plunge on a long held ambition to open a gym. A long faith-stretching year of exploring possibilities followed until, with great trepidation, we eventually opened the doors to our own 24/7 gym on February 8 this year and began trading. I now juggle working part time with Crossover and part time as a fitness
trainer, running coach and business owner. Life is more complex than ever before, with more risk than ever before, demanding more faith than ever imagined. This is the riskiest thing we have ever done as a married couple and it has forced us to learn new skills quickly. The shopping centre that our gym is located in has given our area a village centre. Previously residents travelled to other ‘villages’ where shopping centres were located. Our centre has a supermarket, medical centre, dentist, vet, hairdresser, coffee shop, bakery, take away and of course a gym. I now know hundreds more people from my local community than ever before, I can’t go anywhere without bumping into familiar faces. Now that the business side of things is launched comes the key question of what third place evangelism ministry really looks like for me.
LISTENING NOT TALKING The most profound change I’ve found is that for me evangelism is no longer about my having a packaged and persuasive message for an audience. The earliest years of my ministry life were spent in Campus Crusade for Christ, where proclamation was the name of the game. As a youth and schools evangelist I found myself standing up in front of large groups of people on a daily basis delivering an evangelistic message. As a pastor, getting people to sit passively inside church and listen to long monologues was relatively easy in a church setting, it happens week in week out (and the audience always come back). For me now, it’s about asking questions and taking an interest in the lives and stories of others first; rather than having a message to deliver to an ‘audience’. The finely crafted evangelistic talks have been put aside as they have no ready audience in my current context. This is a critical difference, and it’s taken me too long in life to realise. In the Australian context I believe questions trump presentations. Questions suggest that you take an interest in the other person rather than an interest in them hearing your message. Questions suggest that you are interested in what others believe rather than just getting them to believe what you do. The membership of my gym is a broad range of people who have fascinating stories and interesting lives. People range from a double Olympian through to people with terminal illnesses, people of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and people who identify as gay and lesbian. I’m learning not to make assumptions about people’s beliefs or experiences in relation to Christianity but rather to ask. For many I’m the only Christian (and Baptist minister) they will encounter; and for many others certainly not the first. This kind of ministry is ministry for the long haul. Trust takes a long while to build and a short time to lose. Sensitivity and genuineness are essential.
COMMUNITY PASTOR As a trainer I find a lot of similarities with being a pastor. A gym is a place where many people are looking for transformation; physical redemption so to speak. Doctors and family members have referred some of my clients to me, as they are in danger of serious consequences from their poor health. Many are ‘self referred’. Others are recovering from traumatic accidents or surgery. For many, getting down to the root of their situation is more important than prescribing exercise. Many feel judged because of their body shape and how much they differ from the idealised standards carried in the perception of many. Often I feel more like a counsellor than a trainer. These are all opportunities to help people transform their lives. I have been able to make connection with members who are also believers and share my vision with them of the greater purpose of the gym for me
WHAT ABOUT JESUS? I am keenly aware that mere presence is not enough. At some point, in order for people to gain an understanding of the Gospel, it does need to be articulated. People need to understand the call of Jesus to follow him. I think the danger of third place ministry is that it’s easy to lose the balance between incarnation and proclamation. It’s not enough that people think I’m a ‘nice guy’ or a good trainer. Hopefully, at some point, the dialogue can arrive at the person of Jesus and the possibility of the most important life transformation that can occur for them. Third place ministries enable us to rub shoulders with people who would not normally darken the doors of a church, and establish relationships that enable us to be invited onto that sacred ground that Australians find so hard to even contemplate themselves: that inner sanctum where matters of the spirit are considered and decisions about God are made or suppressed. Where anger and bitterness about hypocrisy may be harboured, where memories of negative encounters with Christians may linger, but also where the undeniable longing for something to fill the spiritual vacuum exists. Invitations to stand on that ground don’t come easily or often, which is why so much evangelism falls on deaf ears, because it assumes a right to enter that privileged place uninvited. When that trust is won and open hearts are connected to open ears, all the hard work and consistency is worth it. Credibility and trust are the fertile grounds upon which evangelism in the Australian context flourishes best. Stan Fetting is Operations Director for Crossover Australia and Owner/Operator of a 24/7 gym in Brisbane. He enjoys running marathons in his spare time. PRAC WINTER 2014 | 04
By Josh Routley
My lecturer told us that when the fast food chain KFC expanded its growth into the Chinese market, they tried to carry over their slogan of ‘finger licking good’ but to their shock the equivalent translation in Chinese was ‘eat your fingers off’! I have wondered at times as I’m biting into a wicked wing, that it tastes a bit suspicious. Now I know why! It was a great reminder to me about the cultural gap between the USA and China. I find there is a great big gap in my life, of being a bible college student and pastoral youth worker, and being a street artist. It’s quite a juggling act to try and marry up the culture and attitudes of the church, and the culture and attitudes of street art. I have been surprised by the ways I’ve found Christ in the street art scene. Here are a few things I’m working through, and a few things I have found that were encouraging to me. I appreciate the street artist who questions the norm, and challenges others in fun and creative ways to take a step back and to look at their life. They challenge consumerism; the rat race of western culture; treating possessions greater than human relationships. The cool thing is that I see Jesus spreading the same message, but in a slightly different form! I guess this is where I see the biggest gap and what I’m in the process of trying to bridge. Some of the message of the gospel and the message of a lot of street artists aren’t too far apart (except for the whole Jesus thing, which us Christian artists are trying to work on telling them about!). I think a lot of people see a gang territorial tag or graffiti piece over a business sign, and see it as no more than an angry act of vandalism, which can definitely be the case at times. I think far too often all street art is categorised into this ‘angry act of vandalism’, but for a whole bunch of street artists that’s definitely not the case. It’s similar to the way that Muslims get categorised by many westerners as all being terrorist bombers, which simply isn’t the case. Some people do graffiti as a pure act of vandalism. Others do street art as a means of release of creative expression; as a refined art and as their craft; or for a way of temporary fame (getting their name out there); others as a political statement; and others as a social statement. A lot of the modern street artists do it to colour the grey concrete jungle, to make the ordinary fun and interesting! So there are many motivations and reasons for street artists to do their work. I think we need to approach it a bit like Jesus approached foul language. He didn’t so much approach the words they were saying as much as he did the intent and heart behind the words. I must add that I have Christian street artist mates 05 | PRAC WINTER 2014
that don’t have a problem with writing a message on the walls of an abandoned warehouse, or a thought provoking piece on a dark alley which is only covering a wall of mould and dirty bricks. I personally have chosen not to do any illegal work as I know a lot of the youth in my church look up to me in my role. I need to set a good example for them. Whilst I know I may have good intentions, they might not see that and merely see me doing ‘vandalism’. So I need to tread carefully. I feel I need to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, which to me are buildings, walls and all. As for creativity, colour and artistic creation, all those belong to the Lord. Thus I should be giving them all back to him as a sacrifice, as he is the giver of the gift. If I can challenge people’s lifestyle and way of living to a more godly one, then I think I should, because if I didn’t I would feel like I was burying my talent in the ground, instead of using it for the master’s gain. I get plenty of opportunities to put my work in exhibitions, galleries, pubs, cafes, mural work, commission pieces and free walls (places created by local councils for people to do street art). But by far the way I have seen God most at work in the street art culture in my home town is not by Christian artists writing John 3:16 on walls, but by letting our lives be our message. I did a paid, government sponsored, collaborative piece with a quite well known graffiti artist in my town. He discovered some differences between my life and his. I explained how I was a Jesus follower; that I try to live in God’s kindness and grace, and try to reflect that to others around me. I really got a chance to share my story and how God’s the centre now. He told me that he’d done a collaboration with another artist that was a Christian, who apparently just did a massive, fluoro picture of Jesus. It didn’t seem like he talked much to this guy at all, and left not only a pretty strange piece on the wall, but a strange taste in this guy’s mouth of what it was to be a follower of Jesus. I hope that when my friend finished that job with me, that he knew something about Jesus. I tried to be kind to people who might be rejected, being generous with what I had, to encourage the good in people, helping other artists for free, not asking for payment but blessing people, trying to bring hope to hopeless situations. I really hope that the month I spent with him painted a picture of Jesus Christ far greater than any paint on canvas, or aerosol on a wall could ever do. My daily challenge is not just to paint a fluoro Jesus, say I’m a Christian and be distant to people, but to be close to people through the thick and thin, show Jesus’ love, and pray that one day they might choose to follow too! As a street artist Josh Routley is known by the name ‘No Hoper’ because Jesus came for the no hopers (Mark 2:17).
By Anthony Palmieri
It’s a Saturday morning and like thousands of kids around the country competing in some type of sporting activity, a young 16 year old basketball fanatic arrives at Lakeside Recreation Centre. He loves playing there; the facilities are great, the service is excellent, the competition is organised and well run. He plays at other venues during the week, but there is something different about this place. You see this facility is run by a church. He is not overly interested in religious things and has no real understanding about Christianity; in fact, the only Christian he knows of is the fictional “Simpsons” cartoon character, Ned Flanders. That was until he started playing basketball at Lakeside. Lakeside is a unique church serving the community through a Recreation Centre. More than 6000 people a week use and benefit from the range of sporting programs. In 1986, nineteen people started a church in the southern suburbs of Perth. The church met in various public buildings and the church grew rapidly. From the beginning, the thread that bound the church together was the deep desire to reach out to the community. With this passion for outreach, in 1992 the church opened the Lakeside Recreation Centre. But why sport? Why build a Recreation Centre? Almost two thirds (65%) of Australians participate in sport and around 85% regularly watch sport of some type. So if you want to connect with people, sport is a great place to start. Part of our Missional strategy is to run a great facility, which the community can enjoy and benefit from. Yes, we strive to be Christian in vision, mission, ethos and practical operation, but the facility is there for the whole community to use and enjoy. Lakeside has a voice in the local community and is recognised as playing a very positive role in the development of the whole person. We are regularly approached by local government and schools to assist in areas of need, as well as for advice and input into enhancing our community. In turn we have been able to break down many common misconceptions and misunderstandings of Christianity. I hear you say, yes that’s great but what about “evangelism” and “outreach”. As we have a voice in our community, we are therefore allowed to speak into people’s lives. We should not underestimate the value of this. Lakeside’s ministries are focused in and through the facility. The very nature of Lakeside is that it’s a meeting point, a third place, a hub where people connect and their lives cross over; whether on the basketball court, in the Time Out coffee lounge or gathering on a Sunday morning for worship. We endeavour to make the Centre a place where the so called sacred and the secular meet and cross on a daily basis.
We do this through staff members who run the Centre; stadium chaplains who float around the facility developing relationships and looking for opportunities to connect and meet needs; team chaplains and Christian coaches who are a positive influence as well as providing pastoral care. We have a Community Pastor whose primary role is to minister to the 6000 people who walk through the door each week. We encourage all our church attending people to be plugged into the facility whether it is using the weights room or playing on a sporting team. It’s really all about Christians hanging out with non-Christians. All of the people who are filling these roles are trained to be looking for opportunities to turn community contact into faith conversations. There is a myth out there that Australians are not interested in spiritual conversations; we have found this not to be the case. It is common to see a staff member or a stadium chaplain praying with someone in the coffee shop. In times of need and crisis, we constantly see people with no church connection come to Lakeside for guidance and direction. Along with this we resist the temptation to have a “cookie cutter” approach to traditional church ministries such as youth, children, men, women and seniors. Rather, we ask the question, how do we do these ministries in the context of the Rec Centre? This means some of these traditional church ministries will look different – we’re fine with that. Our latest initiative - a direct consequence of attending Crossover’s Emerging Evangelist conference - was to recognise and train people with the gift of evangelism. We are now in the process of identifying who they are. The idea is to train them and help them grow in their gifting, as well give them a forum to meet regularly to encourage and pray for each other. The tagline we have at Lakeside is “where it’s more than a game”. People are always saying that there is something different about this place – we love it when we hear that. However, the challenge and prayer is to move them from making the statement to asking the question why? Oh yeah, by the way that young 16 year old basketball fanatic? That was me! Anthony Palmieri is the Senior Pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Western Australia.
How do we do this? Well even after 20 years we are still learning – yet the concept is not overly hard. You see what we do is, we have Christians doing life with or connecting with non-Christians – I know, it’s revolutionary!!! PRAC WINTER 2014 | 06
By Scott Berry
Possibly the most exciting thing of my early 20s was being a key player in seeing a number of friends and youth group kids come to faith in Christ. I remember our youth pastor at the time, Mark Wilkinson, suggesting that I was going through a real “purple patch” as it seemed that everyone who got baptised at our church named me as a significant person in their journey of faith. I don’t say this to brag but rather to pre-empt what I’m about to say, and that is that life has been very different in recent years. I thought this was just how life was and would always be; unfortunately it isn’t. I’m an Associate Pastor now and I enjoy this role, but it means that I’m no longer at uni or hanging with youth who are ripe to become Christians. Instead I spend most of my week journeying with Christians, often in the midst of their most difficult times. Some of whom are themselves seeking to be the ones reaching out to non-Christians they work or study with. As someone who used to live and breathe opportunities to share the gospel, my “purple patch” evangelist time feels like another lifetime ago. Back in those days, whenever I used to preach at church it was a simple gospel message; basically “jokes and Jesus”. However, now as a ‘serious’ pastor, I’ve been doing teaching sermons so long that I feel like I’ve started to lose my edge. Recently I had the privilege to hear Dennis Pethers, and what he shared, as well as the discussions that ensued, were inspiring. I’ve been reminded of the importance of being on the coal face of evangelism; if I’m wanting to call my church into sharing the good news of Jesus with those around them, I need to be actively doing it too. I want to be a preacher who shares of recent stories of how God is at work in my life and the lives of those around me (and not just someone who tells stories of a bygone era). I was always sceptical about how out of touch pastors became surrounded entirely by the Christian world and whose primary friends outside of their local church were other pastors. I don’t want that fate for myself; I don’t think it’s good for my life or the church that God has called me to serve. 07 | PRAC WINTER 2014
So I’ve continued to hear the Lord’s call upon my ministry but I am acutely aware that it includes me making space to be a presence in my child’s school. It is only in recognising that this is a crucial mission field that deserves time which will enable my eyes to see the opportunities God provides to share the gospel with other parents at this local public school. That means I have to make time to regularly be present as parents hang around waiting for their kids after school and at school events rather than just rush off to more church work. I’ve also been stirred to ensure that I make opportunities to connect deeply with the non-Christian friends in my life. A simple achievable goal that I have is to have one non-Christian friend a month over for dinner and spend the night chatting about life, love, the universe and everything and waiting expectantly that matters of faith will crop up – they usually do. My most recent project (sounds harsh but that’s the word that comes to mind) is connecting more deeply with the neighbours in our street. Aside from conversations at the kerbside asking to use green bin space, or if they could feed our chooks when we are away, Facebook has provided a great launching pad and viewing point into their lives. Just last weekend we took the risk of inviting a young couple that live opposite us over for tea. Surely this is basic hospitality that was so obvious that all the New Testament writers would take this as a given for good neighbours to do, but in our busy rollershutter communities opening ourselves up to people near us can be a daring act. I long to see my church take genuinely risky steps to share of the great news that has captured our hearts. It seems easy to speak about social justice or even loving others or short-term mission trips but surely this means we need to become leaders whose lives make deliberate space to connect with nonChristians. We can’t be teachers of Jesus’ mission movement if we aren’t active practitioners “fishing for men and women” and living out his kingdom. Scott Berry is Associate Pastor at Enfield Baptist Church, Adelaide.
The latest PRAC Magazine edition focuses on the ministry of the evangelist and the place of the evangelist in local Baptist churches. What...
Published on Jun 23, 2014
The latest PRAC Magazine edition focuses on the ministry of the evangelist and the place of the evangelist in local Baptist churches. What...