Friday, March 23, 2012

Cross Training: Conclusion

The past couple of weeks I've been examining No Greater Love Ministries' discipleship program called Cross Training. We looked at four essential disciplines for living a Christian life:
Study, Prayer, Fellowship and Witness. As you learn to practice these things in your life, you'll grow in understanding and in commitment to the Lord.

The purpose of No Greater Love (NGL) is to train men in righteousness, to raise them up to be faithful disciples of Christ, capable of leading others to Him. I've been involved with NGL for nearly 25 years, and it has changed my life. Because of the training I've received from NGL, I'm no longer a timid, undisciplined Christian. I have learned how to live my faith boldly, but also with humility. And I've enjoyed lifelong relationships with brothers who love me and also hold me accountable.

It's important to learn to share our faith with others so we can help fulfill the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19No Greater Love uses mission trips to major national events as a tool to draw men closer to Christ. I've been on dozens of these events, including the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Street Machine Nationals and the VP Fair in St. Louis. Currently NGL makes annual trips to Mardi Gras and to the Indy 500. As we step out and witness for Jesus Christ, men get out of their comfort zones and find they have to trust God to guide, direct and protect them. And as He provides what they need, their faith grows.

On these trips, everyone is assigned to a small group of 6 to 8 men. A typical group has an experienced, proven leader who has been to several NGL events, an assistant leader who is there to help the men learn and grow (and to develop his own leadership skills), and several guys on their first or second trip, who generally didn't know each other before joining the group.

Everything happens in the context of these groups. The guys eat together, pray and share in small group sessions, train in evangelism methods, then go out on the street and minister with each other. Intense sharing with one another builds trust. The leader is provided group questions that can help the men deal with issues and problems in their lives. The idea is to get guys to drop their "good Christian" mask and honestly share their struggles and faults, the areas in which they need help. When this happens, men grow in their faith and find that Jesus is all sufficient to meet every need. Just as the Bible promises, as they confess their sins and failures and pray for each other, God brings healing and victory. (James 5:16)

On the street, we use several different methods to present the gospel. One way we share our faith is through clown ministry. Each group is outfitted in clown suits and makeup. Then they learn a simple clown skit and a couple of easy songs, get some smiley tracts and Jesus Loves You stickers and head out to a parade. We try to arrive an hour or two before the parade starts, when people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. When our groups show up, people are happy to see the clowns. The guys pose for pictures, pass out tracts and stickers, sing and perform the "Chicken and Farmer" clown skit. At the end of this skit, the farmer invites those watching to pray and commit to Christ. Everybody in the group gets to be the farmer at least once. Clowning is a very easy, non-confrontational way to begin sharing your faith.

Another way we reach out is through passing out gospel tracts. There are hundreds of different tracts available. NGL uses two - the Smile, Jesus Loves You one is aimed at children and is primarily used when clowning. The main tract used in street distribution is called The Big Question. This question is, "If you were to die this minute, do you have the assurance that you would go to heaven?". This tract is a very simple way to get people thinking about eternity. The back of the tract includes the Four Spiritual Laws: 1) God loves you. 2) But you have sinned, causing separation from God. 3) Jesus died for you. 4) You must repent and receive Him. Following that is a brief prayer of repentance and commitment.

When passing tracts, it's really important to smile and enjoy what you're doing. We have Good News to share, and want others to receive it. The goal is to get gospel literature into people's hands and pockets, and trust God to use it in their lives. Some guys use the tract to start conversations with people, which leads to the next NGL witnessing method: one on one sharing.

The idea of one on one witnessing is to hold a conversation with random people on the street and discuss spiritual things. The goal is to present the gospel effectively and to give the Holy Spirit opportunity to convict them and draw them into His Kingdom. There are a lot of ways to initiate contact. As mentioned, some like to start with the Big Question tract, asking bypassers how they'd answer the question. Others look for some kind of common ground to start a conversation. For example, some guys enjoy ministering to bikers or to veterans or maybe to parents with kids. Another interesting way to initiate one on one encounters is to simply stand holding a sign or a Bible and wait for people to approach you. One sign that's been effective lately simply asks, "Need Prayer?" It's amazing how often people will approach you with prayer needs, which opens up a conversation about God and His ways. Of course, it's important to pray with them as promised.

Big signs and a large cross are featured in another way we present the gospel: Marching. When we march, several of the small groups combine to form a column of 50 or 100 or more men, three abreast. At the front of the march is a cross, carried by men who rotate in and out periodically. Carrying the cross is a moving, emotional experience which gives just a little of the sensation of what Jesus suffered for us. Preference is given to men who have not done this before, followed by veterans. The cross also is a bold statement to onlookers.

Sprinkled throughout the marchers are large signs proclaiming the gospel with phrases such as Jesus Heals Broken Hearts, The Holy Bible -  It's True, and Jesus Saves From Hell. These signs leave no doubt as to who we are or what we stand for.

As we march, we sing. A songleader helps keep everyone together with help from designated singers scattered throughout the march. We favor songs that are simple and direct, such as Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, and He Paid A Debt. Marching through the midst of the partiers is a powerful way to publicly proclaim Jesus, engaging people visually through the cross and signs and aurally with singing.

Another method of witnessing is street Preaching. In this, each man is given the opportunity to share their faith publicly. Many guys find this very intimidating. It certainly gets them beyond their comfort zone. But we often allow fear make this a lot harder than it has to be. Really, it's just a matter of reading a passage of Scripture or sharing one's personal testimony. It doesn't have to be loud, long or polished - faithful and obedient is all that's really necessary.

One more way we take the gospel to the streets is through music. Everyone on the trip isn't required to participate, but those with the ability and inclination often take their instruments out, sometimes with a battery powered sound system. We set up and sing praises to God. Sometimes music will penetrate a hard heart where other methods fail. And guys who like tracting or sharing one on one find that street music will often draw a crowd they can work. At times, we set up a "Street Church" with a full band and have a worship service right in the middle of the party.

There are many creative ways to help fulfill Jesus' instruction to preach the gospel. No Greater Love Ministries helps men overcome fear and intimidation and gain confidence as they learn to share the Good News. The goal is for men to draw closer to Christ, develop godly character, and go home as better husbands, fathers and sons, bosses and employees. And to apply the witnessing tools they gain in their everyday lives.

Jesus said when our light shines for Him, people will see and will glorify God. (Matthew 5:16) No Greater Love has helped me, and countless others, become more like Jesus and be able to confidently share my faith. This brief overview gives just a taste of how that happens. If you want more information, check out their website at nogreaterlove.org.

1 comment:

  1. Dan did an excellent job of presenting the NGL experience. The only thing I can add is the reason why hundreds of lives have become fully devoted followers of Jesus is because of the life and mentorship of the founder of NGL, Fred Bishop. From the moment I met Fred 35 years ago, even before I gave my live to Jesus, I wanted to be like him. I am who I am today because of the Jesus I have seen in Fred. He oozes Jesus more than anyone I know. It's hard to be a man of God without rubbing shoulders with men of God. Praise God for men like Fred!
    Craig L

    ReplyDelete