Saturday, July 29, 2006

[subversive underground] PART 5- "THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?"

By Keith Giles

One thing that’s also helpful to me is to realize that, contrary to popular opinion, there is not a formula to evangelism found in the New Testament. Several times in the Gospels we see various people who come to Jesus and ask point blank, “What must I do to be saved?” One of the most shocking things is that Jesus never gives the answer that all of us have been trained to give. Not once. Jesus never says, “Confess your sins, believe in me and repeat this prayer after me.”

What we see is that Jesus gave a different answer to this question every single time. He never gave the same answer twice. It’s as if Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate to us that evangelism needs to be done in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, being sensitive to the specific heart of the one person we are speaking to, and not applying the cookie cutter approach to preaching the Gospel.

Let’s look briefly at the various answers Jesus gives to those who approached him asking about what must be done to inherit eternal life and see what we can learn from Him.

To Zaccheus Jesus simply acknowledges him in the crowd, invites himself to dinner and when Zaccheus repents of skimming from the taxes he’s collected, Jesus proclaims that salvation has come to his household. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus commands him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and become a disciple under Jesus. The man refuses and is allowed to walk away, seemingly unconverted. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is told he must be born a second time. This confuses him and Jesus does little to explain what he means, leaving the teacher of the Law to work it out on his own time. The Woman at the Well is boldly confronted with the promiscuous lifestyle she’s been living and yet never feels offended or condemned by Jesus throughout the conversation. Finally, the Thief on the Cross is converted and welcomed into Paradise simply for realizing that Jesus was the promised Messiah. His only part in the process seems to be the amazing good fortune of being crucified for his crimes on the same day as the Son of God.

Many other examples of salvation in the New Testament reflect this same lack of pattern and tailor-made response to the Gospel message.

How does your personal conversion experience compare to these found in the New Testament? Do you see a common pattern in your own story?

When I look at this amazing variety of conversion experiences in Scripture it really puzzles me as to why we’ve made evangelism so predictable and uninteresting.

What’s more, our focus on evangelism seems to be in asking whether or not someone knows whether or not they would go to heaven if they were to die tonight? If anything, it seems the basic questions beings asked by Jesus and His disciples dealt with what one would do if they knew for a fact that they’d be alive tomorrow. The real question seems to be, “If you were alive tomorrow, who would you follow and how would you live your life?”

Are we asking the wrong questions?

If you’ve ever fallen in love you know that it’s a scary, delicate and uncertain process. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get in the way of the natural progression of things. Other times we fall in love and we can’t even really explain how and when it really happened, only that one day we woke up and realized that we could not live without this other person in our lives. There is no science to the process of falling in love.

What I think we fail to realize is that, conversion to Christ is really a process of falling in love with Jesus over a period of time. When we make this process about a series of steps and a progression of words, we have seriously interfered with something that is far outside our ability to grasp and coordinate.

I can remember when I fell in love with my wife, Wendy, back in college. I can remember that first time I ever saw her, as she stepped onto the bus headed to a leadership conference we were attending with an on-campus student ministry. As she walked towards my seat and eventually sat in front of me I remember thinking, “Wow. Who is she? I’ve not seen her around campus.”

Before the bus left the parking lot she and I were engaged in small talk, she leant me new batteries for my Walkman and we barely interacted for the rest of the trip. A few weeks later I joined the Drama group she was leading, just to be near her. Over a series of months I got to know her. Finally I asked her to join me to see a local play and she turned me down cold. I was crushed.

Eventually she did join me and over time we got to know each other over the course of a year or so. After formally dating for a few months I asked her to marry me and a year later we were married.

Now, what if I took my own personal experience of falling in love and created a formula by which all others who wanted to fall in love must follow? Would that make any sense?

Hopefully we can plainly see that to expect everyone to fall in love the way that we fell in love is ridiculous. Yet, we have formulated a process for falling in love with Jesus and if people miss a few steps along the way we are quick to point out that they have failed to fall in love with Him in the acceptable way.

Doesn’t this seem foolish?

My prayer is that we will begin to see evangelism, and conversion, and discipleship to Jesus as an organic, creative, and miraculous process, as mysterious and marvelous as falling in love.

“And they will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”
–Jesus (from John 13:35)

(end of part 5)
TO REPLY: If you want to email me directly or would like to respond to this e-newsletter, you can contact me at

UPDATE: This entire six-part series is now running online at two different web-zines. Both "" and "" (Neil Cole's ministry) are running the entire series over the next few weeks.

IN PROGRESS: My book, "The Power Of Weakness" is almost complete. I'll have the next two and a half weeks to focus on these last 2 chapters and do final edits. I'm currently trying to decide if I should make the book available as a downloadable pdf version for subscribers at a minimal price. More on this as we approach the final edit.

PLEASE PRAY: I'm hoping to have a new job very soon. Right now there's a great position at a ministry called "Kidworks" that I'm praying for, as well as a few other possibilities in the works. Pray that I can discover God's next plan for us as our family goes through this time of transition.
THANK YOU! - I'm consistently honored to have each of you as part of the [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND]. Many of you have become friends and I am grateful for the feedback I get from time to time. Just last week I was able to connect someone with a house church across the country in North Carolina due to this network of "subversives". I'm grateful to each of you for signing up to read my ramblings and for the support you've given me as I struggle to put my thoughts and passions down in writing.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

[subversive underground] PART 4- "THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?"

By Keith Giles

In the book of John, Jesus prays for those who would follow his teachings after he ascended into heaven. What I find fascinating is that Jesus began by praying for what he didn’t want to pray. Yeah, it sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Why would anyone every start praying by asking God for what they were not asking? Maybe the clue is in what it was that Jesus didn’t pray. He says, “I pray not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the Evil One” (John 17:15).

Why did Jesus pray this?

I think it’s because he knows human nature and he knew that, soon after his ascension, we would want to remove ourselves from the world around us. We’re not comfortable hanging out with those sinners. More often than not, we treat the lost, those outside the Church, as if they have some sort of “Social Leprosy”. We’re afraid we’ll catch what they’ve got, so we avoid contact with them. We create Christian versions of the world so that we never have to interact with these “Social Lepers”. We have Christian Radio Stations, Christian Yellow Pages, Christian Coffee Shops, Christian Book Stores, and all sorts of private avenues where our contact with non-Christians is minimized.

I’m convicted when I realize that Jesus didn’t even treat people who had actual leprosy this way, and yet I treat those who think differently than I do as if they had some infectious disease that I might catch if I’m exposed to them for any extended period of time. The ironic thing is that Jesus expected that his disciples would be salt and light in the world, not hidden under a basket waiting for the second coming.

Paul the Apostle echoed the prayer of Jesus when he instructed the Christians in Corinth about their interactions with non-believers. “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people; not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Have we removed ourselves from the world? If so, we’ve allowed the Enemy to pacify us into complacency. It’s time to awaken from our slumber and burst out of our Christian bubble.

One thing I find fascinating as I study the New Testament and the practice of the early church is that their concept of salvation was much different than mine. When I think of salvation, I usually think of that one day when, as a nine year old boy, I walked forward and prayed with my pastor to ask Jesus into my heart. However, Peter and Paul seemed to have a different opinion about the salvation process. In their minds, salvation was an ongoing experience, not a one-time deal.

“..And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

"For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:9)

When we begin to think of Salvation as a process, and not an event, it changes the way we think of Evangelism.

In your own experience, what happens when someone you’ve been praying for and witnessing to finally accepts Christ as Lord and Savior? Don’t you cheer and weep and give high-fives to all your Christian friends? Sure you do. That’s an appropriate response. Even the Scriptures tell us that the angels in heaven celebrate when someone is saved.
(Luke 15:7-10)

However, our response and attention usually diminishes soon after this event. I believe it’s because, for us, our work is done. Our friend has “made it”. They are “in”. They’ve crossed the finish line and we can all move on with our lives now.

But, if Salvation is a process, and not an event or a point in time, then our work is not done. Our friend has not come to the end of the journey. Instead, they have only just begun.

In other words, Salvation is not the finish line, it is the starting line. If we begin to think of Salvation in this way, as an ongoing, daily commitment to following the marvelous person of Jesus, it will have a radical effect on our methods of evangelism and the way we treat those we hope to lead into this way of life.

- kg

Saturday, July 15, 2006

[subversive underground] PART 3- "THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?"

By Keith Giles

Someone once told me that every single human being has a desire to believe something, to become something and to belong to something. As we enter into relationship with others we need to listen for the clues to where people are at in this process.

Ask people questions about what they believe, find out what they are searching to belong to, help them to come to grips with what they want to become.

In some cases, the answers to these questions will be very practical. Some people want to become a nurse, or a mechanic. Others want to become significant or necessary. A few people we talk to will reveal that they want to belong to a family, or a discussion group, or that they are already identified with people who share their viewpoint. Until we engage people in real, honest relationship we’ll never discover the answers to these questions, and we cannot help others find their own answers to these questions.

If nothing else, start your conversation with the person in front of you by saying, “You know, I was reading the other day about how everyone wants to believe, belong and become something. What do you think about that?” Let the Holy Spirit guide things from there and see where things go.

Another useful concept for me lately has been the understanding that there are two different styles of evangelism we can employ. As described in Spencer Burke’s book, “Making Sense of Church”, the two styles are “Warrior” and “Gardener”.

The “Warrior” model is the predominant method that I have been trained in over the course of my Christian life. This model uses ideas like closing the deal, winning the lost, and targeting sinners, as if they were deer on the other end of our hunting rifle. Our mindset, in this model, is squarely centered on results, and often we expect the result to come sooner rather than later. If we take a shot and miss, we simply move on to the next target and take a shot at another one.

Granted, this sort of evangelism style has been largely successful in bringing hundreds of thousands of people into faith in Christ over the years. Perhaps, again, our focus has been so centered on conversion that many have fallen through the cracks, but over the decades of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies especially, this “Bag’em and Tag’em” mode of evangelism netted scores of new converts.

I think in today’s culture this warrior form of evangelism is a dead-end. If anything, it does more damage to the Gospel than good, in my opinion. The reason why is that, honestly, we’ve gotten so good at blasting out the message that “Jesus Loves You” and “Jesus Died For Your Sins” that the world is tired of hearing it. What they want now is to see.

They want to see, with their eyes, if what we say is true, and they are looking at the lives of those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus to find the evidence.

The “Gardener” model of evangelism takes a much different approach. Like a farmer or a gardener plants, waters and protects the growing things in their care, they recognize that making the plant produce fruit is not their job. They recognize that they are simply cooperating with the natural process of growth inherent in the creation.

This does not mean that the gardener does nothing. Far from it. As anyone who has tended a garden knows, success depends on daily attention and care, but the bloom and the fruit will come in due time. These things cannot be forced or coerced. They must be allowed to occur in an organic and natural way.

To apply this to evangelism, it means trusting that God loves people more than we do. It means daily placing our attention on the lives and spiritual development of those whom we are in contact with. Our goal is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He urges us to love people into the Kingdom of God. This means we’ll be invested in the lives of people for the long haul. We’re not loving them because we want to push them into our way of thinking, we are loving them simply because God loves them and we are committed to love them in tangible ways to express the love of God to them every single day.

FREE PODCASTS: Go to the main page ( and download all the MOMENTUM 06 sessions on mp3. Be sure to listen to DAVID RUIS: "MUSTARD SEED" and TODD HUNTER's message, "EMERGING EVANGELISM".


  • **
    FREE PDF DOWNLOAD: I want to share something with you guys that has helped to set me on my current course. About a year ago I came across a powerful, scholarly work on the history of the early church called "EMBEZZLEMENT: The Corporate Sin Of Christianity" by Ray Mayhew. This article is a big part of why Wendy and I decided to start a house church, so that 100% of our tithe could go to the poor. I challenge you to read it and to consider the information Mayhew presents:

  • READ THIS!- Mayhew: "Embezzlement" Paper

  • **

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    [subversive underground] PART 2- "THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?"

    THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO? (Part 2 of 6)
    By Keith Giles

    In the closing words of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus leaves us with what has become known as “The Great Commission”. In it, Jesus charges his disciples with a set of tasks until he returns. Here’s what Jesus commands us to do:
    1) Go out into the world and make disciples.
    2) Baptize these disciples in the name of the Trinity.
    3) Teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us.

    If we take a moment to evaluate how we, the Church, have done in accomplishing these tasks, I think we’ll see where we’ve missed the mark, and hopefully where we need to get back on track.

    First, we’re called to go. It seems simple enough, but what frustrates me is how often I see us in the Church twisting this into a more comfortable format. For the most part, the organized Church has built a model of evangelism and discipleship that says, “Come to us”. We build large buildings, we buy plasma television screens to announce our upcoming events, we host large-scale musicals and plays to dramatize the Gospel, and we instruct our members to invite their friends to Church so that the professional clergy can do the evangelizing.

    I’m not trying to say that these methods are wrong or evil, but just that we’ve taken a very simple and clear command to “Go” and made it into a call for the lost to “Come to us”. This isn’t what Jesus commanded us to do. Jesus very easily could have commanded us to create inviting environments where the lost feel welcome. He could have commanded us to make space for unbelievers to show up and meet us on our terms, but he didn’t. He commanded us that we should go out and, in the course of our everyday, regular life, communicate and live out the message of the Gospel among those we encounter everyday.

    Secondly, Jesus commands us to make disciples. A disciple is someone who is daily, intentionally following Jesus with their whole life. A disciple is not a convert. If you take a look at how our local churches practice evangelism you’ll probably see a lot emphasis placed on winning people to Christ, getting them to come forward in the meeting to make a public profession of faith, and not as much emphasis on taking them from this first step into all the other steps that follow.

    As one example, I recently came across a very helpful tool called “The Engel’s Scale” which charts the slow progression by degrees of those who are far from God and how they slowly come to faith in Christ over time and with the assistance of loving friends and the Holy Spirit.

    What I found troubling about the scale was that it stopped at conversion. As if, after the conversion experience, we no longer had any need to chart their ongoing development and discipleship to Jesus.

    Again, the entire emphasis was on conversion, not on discipleship.

    I understand that there are exceptions to this in the Body of Christ, and for that I am very grateful. I’m simply pointing out that, at least as far as I have seen, most modern American Churches seem to focus entirely too much on conversion and not enough on discipleship, which is expressly what Jesus commanded us to focus on.

    Thirdly, Jesus commands us in the Great Commission to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded”. I find this part the most painful to explore. Simply put, I have never once encountered a church or a ministry where the main goal was to emphasize the commands of Jesus or to communicate a strong expectation of obedience for those who would call themselves disciples of Jesus.

    If you want to know whether or not the Church has been obedient in the third section of The Great Commission, just ask yourself if you can name all of the commands of Jesus. If you don’t know what all of these commands are, you not only cannot teach others to obey them, you yourself cannot obey them.

    Jesus had an expectation that those who would follow him would…well…follow him. Obedience to Jesus was not an optional activity for disciples. Over and over again Jesus spoke about how those who love him obey his commands. His unwavering invitation was for disciples who would take his words seriously and put them into practice.

    For the Gospel to become a living reality to those around us, it must become a living reality to those of us who have decided to make Jesus our Lord and Savior.

    When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by saying, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind...and the second is like the first; you should love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matt 22:37-39)

    Without embracing the Great Commandment, we can never hope to accomplish the Great Commission. This is why Paul the Apostle tells us that, without love, all that we strive to do for the Kingdom is meaningless and empty. (1 Cor 13)

    We have to love people because they are people that Jesus loves. We have to learn to love people unconditionally. To love others as He loved us. Until we get really, really good at this, all our efforts to evangelize and to make disciples will appear hollow and empty.

    *END PART 2


    ARTICLE ALERT: My article "THE FAITH FACTOR" is now online over at

    ARTICLE ALERT: My article "BBQ WAFFLES?" is now online in the July issue of "Next-Wave Magazine":

    MY SPACE: I've had this MySpace website up for months now and never used it (because a lot of the stuff that goes on there is kinda "icky" to me, to be honest), but I've decided to at least maintain an ongoing blog there as well as at my main site so, if you're a MySpace kinda person (and you know who you are) check it out:

    VISION 2006- As I am currently on the hunt for a new full-time job, I've been thinking about my calling, my passion, etc. and as a result I've written out my vision for the rest of 2006 over at the main site. The year is half over! What have you accomplished so far? What can you still do for the Kingdom with the remaining time you have? I'd love to hear from some of you guys and gals about your "Mid-Year Goals" too...


    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Part 1- The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?

    *NOTE: This six part series was developed out of my recent workshop for Soul Survivor's MOMENTUM 06. The articles will also appear in sequence over at, however you faithful subscribers will get to read these before they go live to the rest of the world wide web.

    THE GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO? (Part 1 of 6)
    By Keith Giles

    There’s a great scene at the end of the film, “The Big Kahuna” where Danny DeVito’s character counsels a young co-worker about his overt mode of evangelism.

    He says, “It doesn't matter whether you're selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or 'How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.' That doesn't make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are - just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore; it's a pitch. And you're not a human being; you're a marketing rep.”

    That scene sums up, for me, how the world sees the insincerity in our attempts to sell our faith the way a door-to-door salesman sells magazine subscriptions.

    As a young college student, I was very passionate about Christian Apologetics. I read book after book dealing with how to “give to every man an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within” using science, history, archaeology, and logic to convince the skeptic and the unbeliever that Jesus really was the answer.

    After several years of learning, and even teaching others, about the basics of the Christian Faith, I came to the realization that I had never once argued anyone into trusting Jesus. I had some great theological and mentally stimulating discussions with people, but the fact was that my apologetics had not won a single person to Christ.

    That’s when I realized that the only Apologetic that really matters is the Apologetic of your life. No one can argue with your actual, personal experience with God. I realized that my life needed to reflect the transformational power of Jesus, or else my logic and wisdom and answers were useless.

    Granted, I’m much wiser and more secure in the grounding of my faith now that I’ve spent so much time studying and discussing the issues with people. But what is best for others is that I begin to actually live out the Gospel in my daily life and share openly about my own struggles, failures, experiences and insights as I personally follow Jesus every day of my life.

    When Peter exhorts the early disciples of Jesus to “..always be ready to give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within..” it was written with the underlying assumption that the people he was writing to were living radically transformational lives within the culture they were part of. We know this because of what we see in the book of Acts and by looking at the first three hundred years of Church History. The early followers of Jesus were living lives that were extremely different from those of the pagan world around them. Because of this, Peter is encouraging these disciples to be ready to explain why they cared for lepers, and fed pagan widows, and shared personal belongings with anyone in need whenever unbelievers asked them the reason why.

    These days I fear we in the Church have largely lost this sense of living a different sort of life from those around us. Instead, we’re quick to offer answers to questions that no one is asking us.

    (end part one)

    ARTICLE ALERT: My article: "Less Is More" is online now at ALLELON. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!! Wow. These guys publish Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren and Todd Hunter...why are they publishing my stuff? WHO CARES!? Go check it out:

    ARTICLE ALERT: My article- "What's Wrong With This Picture?" is online now at Please go check it out and make a comment to let me know what you think.

    PRAYER REQUEST: As I'm praying about what God has next for us, I'd appreciate some coverage from you guys also. Wendy and I are seeking God's Will about where my next full-time job should be. Thanks for your prayers!