Dear Millennial: Give Faith a Chance in 2017

,

It’s that time of year once again! The expected “New You” slogans are populating the airwaves and saturating the marketplace. Whenever we approach a new year, the predictable appeals to look forward to new beginnings are always meeting us. And if you’re a millennial (approximately ages 18 to 34), you’re expected to be on the frontlines of change and pursuing new ventures in 2017. As a fellow millennial, I can attest to the burden and expectation to reach further and aim higher. With every challenge I’ve faced, my faith in God has been an anchor through life’s ups and downs. Here’s my challenge to you: While the weight of expectation increases, why not give faith in God a chance in this New Year? Here are some quick tips in activating your faith in 2017:

 

Step #1: Digest God’s Word – everyday!

I wish I could tell you there were some quick way to grow your faith. I must report that there is no shortcut to faith in God! But, there is a sure way to grow your faith starting today – digest God’s Word everyday. I liken it to eating food. Sometimes, I admittedly eat my food too fast. As a result, I deny myself the opportunity to enjoy the taste of the food for the satisfying a momentary hunger. I’m learning to chew my food properly so that it can digest properly. I apply the same approach to the Word of God. It is our living Bread! Why rush it?

If you already do this, I want to applaud you and encourage you to keep going! If this hasn’t been a habit for you, start today! Rather than taking large sums of Scripture, take a portion and reflect on the passage. Search faith scriptures on Google via BibleGateway.com or Blble.com and read these life-giving verses. If you’re hungry for God to move in your life without hindrance, build your faith in His Word. It’s His promises!

 

Step #2: Devote time in prayer.

I used to think I couldn’t pray because I heard other people pray publicly. From my observations, I did not measure up at all! Their poetry and prose was on point! They talked to God with eloquent language. I thought I was at a poetry jam! But, I laid down on those insecurities to pick up the mantle of prayer. It’s talking with God and listening to God. I know our schedules and lives can be hectic and quite overwhelming. But, the Giver of your life wants to connect with you. He wants to hear your heart and desires that you hear His.

Before ending my seminary pastoral internship in Trenton, NJ, a member of the church came up to me and lovingly said, “Ryan, God misses your times with Him.” My heart sank. I knew exactly what they meant. It wasn’t that I failed to pray. It was how I was praying. I wasn’t all in. I wasn’t completely devoted to sharing the depths of my heart and hearing what grieves God. Almost a decade later, I remember those loving, corrective words. I never thought about how God felt when I didn’t seek Him. Faith is built when you trust the Father in relationship and conversation.

 

Step #3: Develop an appetite for faith-filled risks!

My fellow millennial: Face your giants. Confront your fears. Courageously address the elephant in the room. Look around. There are many examples of people taking risks without any evidence that it will work out for their good. They’re making an attempt to try something new or as Aerosmith would put it, “Living on the Edge”! How much more should we be taking risks for God that is rooted in our faith? This kind of living requires an appetite for it. If you are used to playing it safe, you’ll find that your hunger to try new things wane. You may even be tempted to think, “That’s crazy. It doesn’t take all of that!” But that’s the crazy, radical, mind-boggling deal! It does TAKE ALL OF THAT and ALL OF YOU!

The biggest obstacle standing in our way is that four lettered word: FEAR. It is the enemy of faith, handicapping us from pursuing our purpose and calling. It will keep us on the sidelines, unwilling to open up and share our deepest passions and dreams. But it doesn’t have to be this way! When the voice of doubt says, “You can’t! Don’t bother!” turn to the voice of God that says, “You can! Move forward in Me!” Surround yourself with faith-filled adventurers! Keep them close and if you don’t have it in your circle, seek them out! Faith is contagious and will spread like wildfire when you are around those who keep the fire lit with their devotion and discipline. Before taking a faith-filled risk in 2017, I’m encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:17:

“God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting Him really lives.” (The Message)

As you navigate the hopes and challenges of 2017, I rest in the confidence that this three-point guide for faith will help you move into new realms of thought, creativity and passion as you pursue your goals and your purpose. And remember – the world is waiting on you. Let’s take a faith-filled adventure in 2017! -RF

In All Circumstances

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that declares:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I’ve read the brief but profound Scripture passage numerous times. I have found myself questioning, “Give thanks in all circumstances?” There are times when the circumstances are best described as heavy burdens. Relentlessly weighing you down, these “circumstances” seem to overwhelm and overtax your very soul. After the initial shock of this passage, further examination provides a blueprint of understanding and wisdom. The Scripture reads:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The operative word is in. It doesn’t mean we are full of gratitude for terrible circumstances and distracting situations. Rather, we give thanks IN all circumstances, recognizing that God has a plan and purpose in the midst of chaos. We give thanks knowing that God has us in the palm of His hands. We give thanks that He cares deeply about our very lives and has accepted the course to journey with us through it all.

Before we take part in a meal or serve our communities this holiday, give thanks to God. Whether you are in a season of harvest or a season of waiting, give thanks. Whether things are going well or your life is facing challenges beyond your control, give thanks. God hears our cry of gratitude and will respond to His children. Give thanks in all circumstances. It’s His will for you! – REF

There’s No Debate: The Challenge of Governing Our Nation

, ,

 

After Tuesday’s night’s debate, pundits and political observers will certainly analyze how the Democratic candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump fared on the debate stage. Americans with varying political ideologies will take their corners and try to convince the other that their candidate is superior, no matter what happened at the debate. In one of the most polarizing times in American history, we are facing a startling truth. There’s no debate about this: The next president will face a challenge in governing our nation.

The losing campaign and candidate may accept the result of the election. However, the acceptance of the voters of the losing candidate are another thing altogether. The vitriol seeping through the American political discourse doesn’t reflect difference on policy or legislative approaches. Rather, the chatter about over-the-top rhetoric and advancing proven falsehoods by fact-checkers has dumbed down our politics – and our democratic system.

Admittedly, our political preferences can color our view of how we view candidates, political parties and how the Constitution of the United States should be applied. While this differences persist, why should it be too much to ask for respectful disagreement and willingness to compromise for the greater good? The next president will face an American family, broken by polarized factions and fears. He or she will take the oath of office with those cheering them on to be successful – and others wishing they would fail. Does this paint a dire picture of the United States? Absolutely. But, it can be changed by courageous leadership on both sides of the aisle and outside of the political party system. This courage may not be awarded in the polls, but it will be rewarded in national and global progress.

The intensity of campaigning for an office does not match the acumen and tenacity needed to govern a diverse nation like ours. Governance requires conversation, informed debate, policy sessions and the creation of legislation. Governance requires a command of facts, not peddled fiction. As a nation, our future is dependent upon what we, the citizens, demand of our politics. If we’re not demanding decent debate while in the midst of an election, what does that say about our governing future? Our country cannot afford the absurdity of an unpredictable campaign bleed into actual policy that affects everyday Americans. The challenge of governing after this election is real. Whether or not we as a nation will rise to the challenge of our times is still – well, debatable.

What Floor?

WhatFloor

 

I cannot count the many times I have been on an elevator. My experiences have varied. Sometimes, the ride was so smooth that it felt as though the elevator never moved. Other times, I cannot wait to get off due to the uncertainty of the ride! But, when I get on an elevator while someone else is already there, they will ask me the question, “What floor?” Since I know where I’m going, I can confidently give the floor with hesitation. When I arrive on the floor, I don’t second guess. I get off the elevator ready to place my feet on that level.

I’ve been thinking about my real-life elevator experiences as it pertains to our lives. When we are called to elevate, do we know what level we’re ready for? If someone was to ask us, “what floor?”, do we know what to say? In my counseling and casual conversation, the topic of feeling stuck or not moving inevitably is discussed. In those conversations, it becomes glaringly apparent that most of our frustrations is not the lack of passion to elevate to a new level. It’s the questioning if we are ready to move and take on the responsibility for that level.

This blog post serves as a challenge. You are not meant to be satisfied with mediocrity or the status quo. The call to elevate is wooing each of us. It’s to champion a cause greater than ourselves. It’s to seize opportunities that affect life-change. It’s to make an indelible mark on a generation accustomed to fleeting moments. Even at my church (Christ Church), we have an event called ELEVATE for kids, teens, singles/young adults and married couples. There is a recognition that our lives are meant to have a greater impact than we are currently experiencing. I encourage you to even be a part of that time — go to www.ElevateFamilyConference.org for more information on the event and how to register. Ultimately, we are all called to elevate and move to the next level of maturity, growth and development.

The question remains — what floor? In other words, what level are you ready to occupy? If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s no time to sit in shame or condemnation. Rather, it’s time to pray for insight, seek wise counsel and reflect upon where you are and where you desire to be. 

Years ago, recording artists Stacie Orrico sang a song titled “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life”. The chorus says,

There’s gotta be more to life, then chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me

Cause the more that I’m tripping out thinking there must be more to life

Well it’s life but I’m sure there’s gotta be more than wanting more…

Our lives are not simply reduced with the accumulation of more things but being who we were designed to be. It’s more about being than simply more doing. What will you do to be who God has destined for you be? Deep down, there may be this insatiable desire for more, greater and going higher. I have one question — what floor? – REF

“No Answer”: An American Tragedy

NoAnswerREF

 

In the early morning hours on Sunday, June 12, 2016, the city of Orlando, Florida was struck by tragedy. As the nation was receiving this news, the headlines were already firmly established by news outlets:

  • Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History at a Gay Nightclub in Orlando
  • Possible ISIS-Inspired Terrorist Reigns Terror in Orlando
  • A Gun Issue, A Terrorist Issue or Both? Or Neither?

This tragedy is the intermingling of terrorism, the access to guns, homophobia, identity, spiritual/religious convictions and violence. Constituencies and factions began to take their place in what will be the lasting debate of what America has become and what it will be in the future. The politics of a presidential race will be no doubt be injected to see what candidate or party gets the upper hand. The response to such a tragedy has already demonstrated the deep divisions that exist in our nation.

As a Christian, the conviction to pray for the victims, their families and the city of Orlando is overwhelming. For the parents who have lost a child. For the surviving victims who have to endure surgeries and the fear of what could happen next. For the law enforcement and emergency personnel who had to witness the carnage. While the conviction to pray is strong, the purpose behind praying is even stronger. Collectively, the community of faith can no longer hide behind religious platitudes while seemingly dismissing the necessary work of speaking and finding solutions on the issues plaguing our communities — everyday. Our prayers before a just God must be followed by men and women willing to fight for justice in the Earth.

One of the reports from the scene of the tragedy gripped my heart. A reporter on CNN mentioned how investigators could hear phones ringing from family members as they walked among the bodies [Source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-gay-nightclub-shooting-live-blog/index.html#lf-content=166516576:lb-post-2b2864db571c15c427ba5150d312138a@livefyre.com].

There was no answer.

As family and friends grieve the loss of their loved ones, we cannot idly stand by with no answer. The proverbial phone cannot ring without us at least answering the call to engage in dialogue, find common ground and work tirelessly to bring healing to a broken American family. It is no longer acceptable to stay in our corners, unwilling to, at the very least, mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15) and grieve with the purpose of being better and stronger in the process.

You or I may not have all the answers. But let us resolve not to be satisfied with NO ANSWER. No answer to senseless tragedies like the one in Orlando, Florida and many others that go unreported, is a tragedy in itself. – RF

 

Jack Redmond: Soul Winners Arise!

JackRedmond2016Jack Redmond is a man on a mission. 

A pastor, evangelist, speaker, teacher and author of several books, including his latest, Let Your Voice Be HeardTransforming from Church Goer to Active Soul Winner, Jack sat down with me to discuss his book. As you will discover through this interview, Jack is passionate to share this truth — anyone who follows Christ can help others connect with Jesus. Now, the interview:

RF: Jack – you’ve written many books like People Matter to God, Infusion and Wounded Heart. What compelled you to write your latest book, Let Your Voice Be Heard?

JR: If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity.There’s a big difference between how modern Christians live compared to how the early Christians lived. The early Church was very much face-to-face and relational. They had a personal relationship with Jesus and told others — it was contagious! When I think of the first 300 years of Christianity, there was a 40% growth of Christianity each decade within those 300 years. But when you look at the statistics from 1970 to 2010, Christianity on a global scale is the same — around 33%. With all of our modern technology, conferences, mega-watt pastors, and resources, we are not growing at the rate the early Church grew.

Changing those statistics is bringing us back to relationship and sharing our stories. Let Your Voice Be Heard is a book that equips people to share their faith with people they already know.

If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity. – Jack Redmond

RF: Jack, you mentioned the decline or stagnation of Christianity…

JR: Christianity in the Western World is statistically stagnating, but that could change. D. James Kennedy, in his book Evangelism Explosion, talks about 95% of born-again Evangelicals never led someone to Christ. That book was written about 40 years ago. I haven’t been able to find any statistics to update or confirm that study. But, most church-going Christians do not have soul winning on their mind. I found this when I traveled to churches and even in my own church. When you start to have conversations with people, it’s amazing that many have not led someone to Christ — the Savior that changed and is changing their lives.

RF: Why do you think that there has been a disconnect or Christians don’t feel compelled to share Christ?

JR: I go into great detail about this in my book Infusion when in the 4th century, Constantine (Roman Emperor) made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. Some say he was converted, others contend that Christianity was taken over and he simply wanted to “roll with it”. But, what he did was to make Christianity acceptable and gave it many benefits it didn’t have before. Christianity spread as a persecuted religion — one that was relational in nature. The benefit of Christianity for 300 years was that people knew Christ. With Constantine made it the religion of the Roman Empire, it became valuable to the larger society. It became an IN thing to be a Christian. But Constantine would also build cathedrals that had one person speaking up front while others looked on. This changed the dynamics of Christianity being founded on relationships and conversation.

Christianity was taken on by Roman Catholicism that relegated much power to the priest. Without going into too much history, the Dark Ages and other historical milestones saw the Bible being taken away from people experiencing it themselves. Now, it was belonging to an organization. Even the Reformation was to clean up Roman Catholicism. Protestant tradition transitioned from a priest to a pastor. There have been many changes historically, but it was widely accepted to have a point person speaking and others listening, rather than being engaged.

Presently, where Christianity is exploding is where people are engaged and connecting. Let Your Voice Be Heard serves to help people share the Gospel wherever they go.

RF: Would you concede that while the advent of technology has spread the Gospel in a global fashion, it has also been a proxy voice for Christians rather than Christ-followers speaking up themselves?

JR: In terms of technology, even before its boom — it was an attraction model. If you have good preaching, singing and a good environment, it is attractive. But, the “modern church” mentality is about filling churches in order for people to give to maintain the church. It’s a maintenance mentality as opposed to a Great Commission mentality.

Around 86% of people come to church because they were personally invited. Technology has its place but doesn’t replace relationships. I use technology. God uses it. But, it should never replace the importance of interacting with others.

RF: I noticed on the cover of your new book — you have a photo of young people. I’m sure that was intentional. Why did you include young people and do you believe this book is for everyone of every age?

JR: The first answer is yes — the book is for all ages. As Christians, we are here to seek and save the lost and connect them with Christ. As far as young people, the stats are that 85% of people that come to Christ come before the reach the age of 18. Young people are the greatest mission field on the planet. Young people, oftentimes, are the greatest minister to their generation. Ministry is what God has done in your life. I’ve seen teens and young adults to share their faith in a real, transparent way. If you are serious about the Gospel, you must be invested in the next generation.

Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. That’s the focus of the average church. In order for them to keep coming back, we have to keep them happy. Since many pastors have limited time, that’s what they do. It’s another reason why we must train the Body of Christ to do the work of ministry. The church is an equipping place. The five-fold ministry is designed for the church to do ministry outside the church walls. As it pertains to young people — they are passionate and they have time to invest. They are able to make a big difference. I was saved at the age 0f 27. If I was saved a bit younger and shared my faith with who I partied with, I would have won many to Christ. But, no one had ever shared Christ with me until I was 27.

Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. – Jack Redmond

RF: On page 99 of your new book, you have what’s called THE REDMOND SCALE. I thought it was quite good. How did you come up with this scale and what do you want readers to glean from it?

JR: I have to laugh — I have named scales after me! I wrestled with it and it almost postponed the book because of it.

But, the REDMOND SCALE is a reminder that evangelism is a PROCESS. It’s not a point in time. Theologically, yes — salvation is a moment when you are saved by faith…when you cross from death to life. The reality is that there is a process leading up to that. If someone has had a certain perspective or philosophy of life for 40 years, their perspective may not change overnight. Be prepared to invest in the PROCESS. It takes time!

Some don’t share their faith because they are in church and watching the preacher preach the message and share a call for salvation — thinking if they can’t do the same, they are disqualified or not doing right. But, every time you help someone get closer to God, you are invested and engaged in the PROCESS. If you can get a militant atheist to wonder, “Hmmm, I wonder if God is real”, then you are making an impact! That is a huge breakthrough and it may take a couple of years.

I just talked with someone yesterday who is a nanny and cleaning lady for a Jewish lady for 20 years. The Jewish lady recently gave her life to Christ. But, it took a 20 year relationship of interaction to bring this woman to faith in Christ. When we are asking people to come  to Christ, we are asking them to reject what they have known.

Here’s another example: I had a lady come to me who took an evangelism class. She was a foster parent to two teenagers who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was upset because they wouldn’t come to church. I shared with her that if someone is a Jehovah’s Witness (and I may not be exactly correct on their theological position), they believe the only way to God and Heaven is through the Kingdom Hall. If they walk away, they are doomed to soul annihilation. You are not asking these kids to come to church or try something new. You are asking them to risk, according to their theological position, soul annihilation by coming to church. Sometimes we don’t think about that…

RF: …what you’re saying Jack is that sometimes (or too often) we are not considering the consequences and the risks others are taking to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior…

JR: Exactly! And what they have to wrestle with. What would it take for a Christian to go to Mecca and proclaim Allah is superior to Jesus. Think about it. When you share your faith with a Muslim, you are asking them to bear consequences. When I was in India, I didn’t know what the dot (bindi) meant on the foreheads of the females. I asked and was told that the smaller bindi are for single girls of the Hindu faith. If the women are married, they have a larger bindi. If the woman is a widow, she loses her bindi. They are deemed as worthless or useless because they are widow. So now you have a 20 year old Hindu girl who comes to the Lord. She loses her bindi. She is looked upon as worthless and useless – like a widow. Rejected by her family and no Hindu man would marry her. Yet, she may be in a Hindu village or Hindu city. When we are asking people to come to Christ, it’s a big decision. This is why it’s a PROCESS.

The REDMOND SCALE looks at the process of where people are and how to address them in a way that’s inviting and engaging. Some people may have a five minute conversation and conversion happens suddenly. Biblically, it happened with the Ethiopian eunuch. But, for many — that is a rare occurrence. For most, it will be a PROCESS. It’s the PROCESS that causes people to see Jesus as a Savior moving towards their need for the Savior.

Evangelism is a process. – Jack Redmond

RF: How long did it take you to write this book? I’m not referring to the actual writing and editing process. When did you know you were ready to release this type of book?

JR: I think I finished writing it in 2012 and then I was going through the publishing process and offered bad book deals. Then, I started up again in 2015 and re-edited the book. I was chewing on the concept for five years. I think its BASIC CHRISTIANITY. Unfortunately, the Church-at-large may not focus on BASIC CHRISTIANITY as it should – like how do I become a good this or that. When I came to Christ in 1997, this message made sense to me. I lived it before I wrote it. No more spectators but soul winners. I’ve heard people say its insulting to call them church goers only. But, the question is are you winning souls?

RF: Jack, you’re a pastor (fellow pastor with me at Christ Church), you’re a husband, a father, a coach, a mentor with many responsibilities. How do you win souls in your schedule? Do you feel satisfied in your approach to soul winning or success?

JR: I don’t feel satisfied that I have fulfilled what God wants me to do. In terms of personally sharing faith with others, I face the same challenges such as busyness. Being married with children with multiple jobs, writing and traveling — I reconcile it by standing on this truth — I’m not called to do everything. I can do what I can do. If I can help others be soul winners, it’s impact that’s beyond what I can do personally.

I found a new pizza spot and I was so excited. I received my two pizzas and a flyer was stapled on the top of the box saying that a psychic would be visiting the pizza place. I looked at that as an opportunity to build relationship with the owner. He may or may not have spiritual convictions. He may be thinking the psychic coming will help me sell some pizzas. Whatever the case, I view it as an opportunity to learn more about him and gradually ask appropriate questions that will help foster Christ conversations. But, I recognize it will be a PROCESS. Before you go to people about God, go to God about people.

RF: Jack, would you pray for the readers of this interview that they would be soul winners in their generation?

Jack Redmond is an author, speaker Church Mobilization Pastor at Christ Church in Montclair, NJ since July, 2000. He is also Founder and President of Fourth Generation Ministries. For more information, connect with Jack at www.4thgen.org.