Subtext & Stetzer

stetzer_forumThe next subtext forum is going down March 12th at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and features Ed Stetzer. You probably know who Ed is, but just in case - here's the official stuff.

Ed Stetzer is the Director of Lifeway Research and Lifeway's Missiologist in Residence. He has planted churches in New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia and transitioned declining churches in Indiana and Georgia. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books including Breaking the Missional Code, Comeback Churches, Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living and recently, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them.

There's more, but then this post would get too long and you might stop reading. Ed is a gift to the church and is sought out by numerous denominations and churches for his insight concerning church planting, revitalization and all things "missional." We are excited to have him speak to us all.

This, our second subtext forum, is going to be a great time that's available to everyone on the cheap (not free, but on the cheap). Here's the breakdown.

Subtext Forum with Ed Stetzer: The Missional Church in the Suburban Context

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School March 12th 10:00am - 3:00pm Registration is $25 and includes lunch

10:00-10:15 Introductions 10:15-11:00 Session One: The Missional Church in Principle and Practice 11:00-11:15 Break A 11:15-12:00 Session Two: Breaking the Missional Code in Suburbia 12:00-1:00 Lunch (lunch provided) 1:00-2:00 Session Three: Challenges to Missional Thinking and How to Overcome Them 2:00-2:15 Break B 2:15-3:00 Q&A

We've been able to keep the cost for this incredibly low allowing for maximum participation, but seating is limited. You can register now and get all the details at subtext. $25 gets you hours with The Stet', lunch, opportunity to network with other pastors and leaders, and it puts you in close proximity to Steve McCoy's awesome beard.

Head over to subtext and register now!

sub•text forum

Tomorrow, on January 17th the first sub•text forum is being held at Redeemer Fellowship in Saint Charles, IL from 10:30am - 2:00pm (see the map below). sub•text is a new effort to develop a better understanding of the preaching and practice of the gospel in the suburban context. Al Hsu @ subtextAl Hsu, author of The Suburban Christian, will be our guest speaker and will address the topics of "The Suburban Culture," and "Mission to Suburbia." The two main sessions will be broken up by a lunch (not provided). You can brown-bag it, bring in your favorite take-out, or order in some pizza. We want our lunch to be a good time of networking meeting others concerned for the glory of God and the good of the suburbs. Following the second session is a time for Q&A. Spread the word, bring some friends and join the conversation.

This sub•text forum is open to all and free of charge. We will take up an offering to cover any related expenses. See the details below::

Time and Place Date: January 17th Time: 10:30am - 2pm Place: 1125 Oak St. Saint Charles, IL 60174 (map below)

Schedule Session #1: 10:30-11:30 (The Suburban Culture) Lunch Break: 11:30-12:30 Session #2: 12:30-1:30 (Mission to Suburbia) Q&A: 1:30-2pm

View Larger Map

Gospel Connections in Suburbia


I may not have the "gift" of evangelism (and there's debate about that concept), but I do share the gospel. Once a person decides the evangescript is not the best way to approach evangelism in their community the question then becomes, “How can I take a natural conversation about common things and connect it to the gospel without it coming off like an abrupt topic change?”

Any time we take the initiative to share the gospel with someone there is always a leap that has to be made to the gospel. Sometimes the leap is short and easy. Suppose you’re discussing the difference between Catholics and Protestants — getting to the gospel is easy. Sometimes the leap is long – very long, like when you try to move from your favorite Starbucks drink (Grande Americano) to the cross of Christ. The longer the jump, the more unnatural the transition, and the more awkward the conversation. So the key is having natural conversations that transition more smoothly to the gospel (smaller leaps).

To state it simply, the better you understand the gospel the easier the transitions become. If you are trying to share the gospel you will still sometimes make huge leaps that do not work. Sometimes the conversation will only connect to the Christian faith in part, without getting directly to the gospel. Sometimes it will all come together the way you imagine. The more you know the gospel (its essence and effects) and the more you practice this discipline the easier making comfortable transitions to the gospel will become. I have been asked a few times what this would look like practically, so here are 8 examples of topics that make for shorter leaps to the gospel or Christian faith.

8 topics that can naturally connect to the Christian faith.

1. Corruption, evil and sin. Conversations about corruption and evil are pretty common in my experience. Murderer’s go unpunished, children are exploited, racism continues on in more polite forms, mayors are busted smoking crack, etc. These conversations can naturally connect to the biblical issues of justice, judgment, forgiveness and redemption.

Transitions examples: “Even when the unrighteous escape justice in the courts, God says he will not let sin go unpunished…”

My personal desire for vengeance is often quited by God’s assurance of justice…”

In the end, I find that though I am guilty of different sins, I am just as guilty as…”

2. Community. This is a great conversation to have in the suburbs. Everyone wants it, but many are at a loss how to build it. Zoning laws have essentially destroyed the development of real, workable, walkable, communities. Conversations about community naturally lend themselves to the reality that we are made for community, that God himself dwells in eternal community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and that a central component of God’s saving work is the establishment of a community, a family, made up of every tribe, tongue and nation.

Transition example: “Part of why I am so passionate about the development of authentic community is because of how the Bible portrays the need for it. We are created by God to live in real community…”

3. Politics. In “my suburbia” it’s 49% Republican and 51% Democrat. We’re split down the middle, and yet I often hear and have political discussions with practical strangers. Political discussions are a great opportunity to relate the second greatest commandment (love for neighbor) to the management of power.

Transition example: “I regret that Christians are often seen as a voting block of the Republican party. The truth is, the command to love God and our neighbors points to a way that is not entirely in line with any political party…”

4. Environment. People around my neighborhood are much more likely to talk about the environment now than 10 years ago. This too is an easy topic to connect to the Christian faith. God as creator and the cultural mandate in Genesis can make the leap shorter.

Transition example: “Our dependence on automobiles, especially in the suburbs, is a concern of mine not only because it only perpetuates the breakdown of localism, but also because of the negative effect it has on the environment, and ultimately because I believe God has given us a wonderful gift (creation) as well as us the responsibility to care for it…”

5. War. At the moment there is a lot of discussion about the War in Iraq, the war on terror, and the potential conflict with other countries. Just-war theory, pacifism and warmongering are topics that all connect with the issues of justice, judgment, sin and the hope we have for true peace. The topic of war can allow for a truly unique voice to be heard when we speak with both conviction and humility.

“War is a terrible thing, but if we are going to seek to the good of others and protect the innocent, sometimes war is an unfortunate necessity. That doesn’t make the issue easy. In fact it makes it more difficult. And my concern for justice is rooted in God’s love of it…

6. Family. We have a lot of families here in Saint Charles, IL. On many levels family, children and marriage are valued, and yet many seem to be looking for answers concerning the very nature of what it means to be a dad, mom, husband and wife. Directing people to move beyond mere cultural expectations of these roles to see the biblical perspective can be a provocative and challenging dialog, but it’s a conversation many are willing to have. It is a shared interest between our church and culture, so this point of connection can serve as an opportunity to move right into the Christian faith – and even the gospel itself as we emphasize grace-based parenting that aims at the heart, not just behavior.

7. Church. We live in a very Catholic area so having conversations about church is not uncommon or unnatural. Anytime I find out someone goes to church we have a great discussion about their faith, the differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism, the words of Christ vs church/religion in general. Obviously, once this conversation is underway there is virtually no leap to make.

8. Art/pop-culture Everyone watches television, goes to the movies and listens to music. Many of the forms of art in pop-culture provide excellent entry points to get to the greater themes that the gospel addresses. This is often an easy connecting point that gets to the issues of sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption, etc.

Transition example: “…the protagonist’s search for redemption is reflective of humanity’s serach. The fact that he doesn’t find it is the common frustration of man…”

Evangelism is hard work for me, and while I enjoy it I have to be very intentional about it – or it does not happen. But I am finding that our natural conversations in suburbia can transition to the gospel without coming off like a sales pitch.