recast for the 21st century, can bring fresh faith to pre-Christian people and unleash a new wave of the Spirit in our day.
Discussion guides in each chapter facilitate interaction for leadership teams and small groups, and offer practice for successful implementation.
I was inspired! This is a terrific read that my leadership team will be reading together.
Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection
… helpful to pastors and laity alike!
Scott Jones, Bishop, Great Plains Conference (UMC)
… Roger shares the spiritual core that leads and sustains vital, life changing ministry.
-Mike Slaughter, Senior Pastor Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church
…A beautifully written book…
Bill Easum, Author, Consultant, and Founder, 21st Century Strategies, Inc.
… seven practices worthy of conversation, contemplation and promulgation.
Jonathan D. Keaton, Bishop, Illinois Great Rivers Conference (UMC)
…helpful to Christians across the denominational landscape. Study it in groups - It will deepen your faith and help you move far beyond church walls.
Martha Grace Reese, Author of Unbinding the Gospel
…Roger invites us to see, love and relate to the neighbors all around us with a new heart and new eyes.
Gregory Vaughn Palmer, Bishop, West Ohio Conference (UMC)
… Roger shares how pastors and church leaders can shape the culture of their church to reach
Jim Griffith, Griffith Coaching
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.20(d)|
About the Author
Roger currently serves as the Director of Congregational Excellence in the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is the author of Meet The Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith.
Roger is married to Leanne Klein Ross, and they have two adult children. He loves spending time with family, reading, SCUBA diving, and traveling in different cultures. He also has a weakness for golf. You can keep up with Roger on his blog at www.rogersross.com.
Read an Excerpt
Meet the Goodpeople
Wesley's Seven Ways to Share Faith
By Roger Ross
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2015 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Stay Close to the Power
God does nothing but in answer to prayer.
— John Wesley
We needed fresh power. Like many churches across the American Great Plains, the congregation had quietly lost its way. They still enjoyed each other and were able to meet their budget, but each year they grew a little smaller and a little older. You could feel the life ebbing away. As their new pastor, I was charged with turning the tide, but whatever we tried had little effect. There was a strong yet subtle resistance to any kind of spiritual change.
Slowly it dawned on me that the church needed a demonstration of God's power. They needed one of their own to accept Christ. This was no small request. Word in the pews had it that no one had seen an adult conversion in that church in fifteen years. Apparently, the last time a life was spiritually transformed, it ruffled some feathers and a concerted effort arose to return things to "normal."
At the time we were planning a retreat weekend for women. In my devotions, I kept running across passages like Psalm 63:5-6, where David prays, "My mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night."
Convicted by the Spirit, for two weeks I set the alarm for 3 a.m., got up, and prayed for that weekend. I prayed for each person on the retreat by name and asked God to break through our spiritual barrenness so someone from our church would receive Christ. Of course, I didn't tell anyone about my new night life, but I began to see the spiritual temperature in the church rise. Some of the women going on the retreat decided to pray and fast for a day leading up to the weekend. They had never done that before. While in prayer, one woman saw in her mind's eye a person on the retreat receive Christ for the first time.
Anticipation was at a fever pitch when the retreat began Friday night. By Sunday afternoon, the woman that had been "seen" in prayer stood up at her table group and said, "I have struggled with this for over a year, but today, I have finally decided to accept Jesus Christ as my savior." You could have heard a tear drop. Many did. That single changed life broke the spiritual dam in that small, rural church. In the next three years, more than two dozen people came to Christ, all because a few people fervently asked God to do a new work of grace.
Prayer releases the power of God. When God's power is released, it brings spiritual increase. Whenever God wants to do a new work, God first sets people apart to pray. Prayer is the precursor to change.
Ironically, church and change don't mix well. You may remember the song "Que Sera, Sera." It was made popular as the theme song for the old Doris Day Show in the late 1960s. It's Spanish for "whatever will be, will be." While watching TV as a young child, the lyrics were branded into my brain before I had any idea what they meant. The song defines stoicism, a popular philosophy dating back to the Roman Empire. In essence, it claims we live in a closed universe. The outcome of things has already been determined. We are just playing out a script that was written long ago. Our only choice is to resign ourselves to our predetermined plight. Whatever will be, will be. It cannot change.
Of course, this philosophy is the direct opposite of biblical faith. Think how the ministry of Jesus would have been different if he had listened to stoic wisdom.
"The man on the mat is paralyzed, Jesus. There is nothing you can do."
"Lord, they are lepers. You can't help them. Don't go there."
"Lazarus is dead, Jesus. You're too late."
Thankfully, Jesus didn't listen to dreamless doomsayers. He knew a God who can and does change our present reality in answer to prayer. One of the single greatest motivations to pray is that everything changes, and the outcome has not been determined yet.
Chances are you're reading this because you want to see God do a new work in your life, in the lives of people you love, and in the life of your church. If so, you have a bigger role in the future than you may realize. When explaining the part he and Apollos played in starting the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul said, "We are God's coworkers" (1 Cor 3:9 CEB). In other words, available to us is the indescribable privilege of working with God to determine the outcome of events. Nothing is set. Our prayers can change the course of human history. The future of your life, your family, your church, your community, your nation, and the world has not been written yet. There are no prepublished history books. It's all open.
Since everything changes, the only question is, "How will it change — in what direction and to what degree?" Our prayers influence those changes. Open- universe prayer is what fueled the Methodist revival in England throughout the eighteenth century. During his most productive years, John Wesley devoted at least two hours a day to personal prayer and made fervent prayer a defining characteristic of the movement. He was convinced in both his mind and his experience that believing, persistent prayer is the necessary first step to see God move. Today, over two centuries later, the group of historically related denominations that derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley claims over eighty million adherents in 133 countries around the globe.
Clearly, prayer changes things. But how?
When God's people pray, it produces a heart transplant. Praying moves us closer to the heart of God, a heart filled with compassion for people who are far from God and in deep need. Over time, a heart concerned only about ourselves is replaced with a heart that breaks for God's wandering children. God speaks about this transplant through the prophet Ezekiel in the Bible: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
This new heart is tenderized to the plight of those who have lost their way, whether they are trying to "find themselves" through destructive self-centeredness or prove their goodness by following a set of moralistic rules. As that heart of flesh begins pumping God's compassion through our veins, it produces three identifiable behaviors.
See with New Eyes
Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, spoke of a conversation he had with a woman who was a prostitute. She was older. She had been doing this kind of work a long time, and it had taken a toll on her body. You could see it in her skin.
When she was out on the street, she noticed that people would not look at her — they would look past her. She began to feel like she was invisible. One day she was out looking for johns, but "it was as if people couldn't see me," she said.
Suddenly, a younger woman from the Church of the Resurrection came up to her and cheerfully asked, "How are you today?"
She couldn't believe it. "She saw me!" the older woman said.
That began a relationship. Over time, this woman who had given away her body so many times decided to give her life to Christ. She is now in a ministry to help other women come out of that life — all because somebody saw her.
Is there anyone in your life right now you are looking past? It often takes some time for our new eyes to come into focus. One night I went out to eat with Mike, a friend of mine who was far from God, and a couple who were relatively new Christians. Before arriving at the restaurant, I told the couple of my previous attempts to share Christ with Mike. Since he was pretty skittish about the Christianity thing, I thought it might help if he met other Christians that were "regular" people.
We had a great time that night. We talked about all kinds of things, laughed to the point of tears, and shared some of our life stories with each other. When it was all over, we dropped off Mike, and the three of us were in the car driving home. As we rehashed the evening, we talked about what a great guy Mike is, how funny he is, and how much he cares about his work.
Suddenly, the woman turned around and said in a completely different tone, "Roger, what's going to happen to Mike?" I knew immediately what she meant. "What is going to happen to him eternally?" For the first time in her life, she got it. She saw a person through God's eyes. Mike wasn't just a nice guy who was good for a few laughs. He had a soul. He mattered to God. Yet by his own admission, he was clueless about a relationship with Christ.
I said, "I don't know what's going to happen to Mike. There is still time. But unless God can use someone to get through to him, I hate to think about what might happen to him. I really do."
As Paul was going through his conversion experience in the book of Acts, something like scales fell from his eyes, and he was able to see the world through God's eyes for the first time. Those scales have to fall away from our eyes, too, to see the people in our lives the way God does.
Think with Fresh Imagination
For the last year, I have been in a small group with a couple of other guys. We meet for an hour every week to pray, discuss scripture, and ask each other a set of questions to help us grow in our faith. One of those questions is, "Have you daily prayed by name for lost people in your life to come to know Jesus Christ?"
As I prayed over and over for people in my circle of influence, God began to whisper to me, "What are you actually doing to share your faith?" This was an unsettling question, mostly because the answer was "nothing." I would talk with them as we watched our kids' ballgames, we would go out to eat occasionally, but the subject of faith and spiritual things rarely came up. For a long time, I considered inviting them to a small group like the one I enjoyed so much. But deep down, I knew that wouldn't work. My group was designed for believers who desired to grow deeper as followers of Christ. That's not where my friends were spiritually. They might come once or twice to a group like that, but they wouldn't stick. It didn't meet them at their point of spiritual need. They had doubts and questions and some wounds from the past. They needed a safe place to talk those things through. I just didn't know what that would look like.
One night I took a long car trip to my mom's house, alone. Instead of flipping on the radio or pushing in a CD, I decided to spend the time in silence listening to God. For the first hour, nothing much happened — which was good. I needed to quietly soak in God's presence. Somewhere in that second hour, God's answer to my long-time frustration burst in my mind like fireworks on the Fourth of July. It was so simple. "Start a group for people who have doubts and questions about God, faith, and life."
What my friends need is an entry-level group. Instead of having multiple individual conversations (which seldom happen due to time constraints), a group approach would serve them better on several levels. First, it is far less scary to join a group than have one-on-one meetings with "the pastor." Second, it provides a safe place to explore issues on a regular basis that are usually pushed below the surface and never discussed. Third, it shows group members that questions and doubts are normal, and they are not wrong for having them. Doubt is the leading edge of faith. It is the process by which all of us come to faith.
The longer I drove into the night, the more God revealed to me. There needed to be clear, low-level requirements to be a part of this group, such as, "Admit you don't have everything figured out." We needed some simple ground rules like this one: "Listen to one another and respect each other's opinions." We also needed some ideas about what to do during the group meetings, like icebreakers and open-ended questions to get people started. All these things were coming to me so quickly, I grabbed the only piece of paper next to me, found a stretch of interstate with no one on it, and started writing as fast as I could. As I wrote, names of people to invite flew into my head. By the time I arrived at my mom's house, the whole plan was scribbled out in detail.
I didn't know God was going to reveal those things on that long car ride. By sheer grace, I was quiet just long enough for God's gentle whisper to get through all the noise in my life. That's how God rolls. When we quiet ourselves before God, God transplants his heart of compassion for our stony one. We not only receive new eyes to see people in a spiritual light, our minds are also ignited with bursts of creativity. Kenda Creasy Dean calls it "missional imagination." The Holy Spirit inspires us with innovative ways to share the love of Christ with pre-Christian people that matter so much to God. One friend has not only reclaimed his faith in Christ through one of these groups; he's now wrestling with God about becoming a pastor.
Act with Surprising Boldness
Boldness in faith doesn't come naturally to most people. One day a very dignified pastor was visiting a lady in a nursing home who was confined to a wheel chair. As he stood to leave, the lady asked him to have a word of prayer. He gently took her hand and prayed that God would be with her to bring her comfort, strength, and healing. When he finished praying her face began to glow. She said softly, "Pastor, would you help me to my feet?"
Not knowing what else to do, he helped her up. At first, she took a few uncertain steps. Then she began to jump up and down, then to dance and shout and cry with happiness until the whole nursing home was up for grabs. After she was quieted, the solemn pastor hurried out to his car, closed the door, grabbed hold of the steering wheel, and prayed a little prayer, "Lord, don't you EVER do that to me again!"
Jesus makes some outrageous promises about prayer.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
If we took Jesus at his word, nothing could keep us from praying. When hit with a problem or concerned about someone's eternal destiny, it would be the first thing we do. But for most Christians and churches, prayer can be the last thing we do, when everything else hasn't worked. What keeps God's people from naturally going to prayer as the primary means to effect change?
To be honest, we like our predictable routines. They are safe and familiar. They create a comfort zone of religious respectability without the turbulence of moral transformation. Prayer messes that up. If we sincerely pray, we won't stay the same. We won't see people the same way or think the same thoughts. As Richard Foster puts it, "To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives"
At some level, we know prayer is subversive to the status quo. God is neither predictable nor tame. To call on God's name could turn everything upside down. That's why prayer is not for the faint of heart. Praying unleashes a power that brings change, emboldens our spirit, and launches us into uncharted territory.
One Saturday morning at a men's retreat, a simple explanation of the gospel was offered. During an "open mic" time that followed, a guy stepped up and said, "My name is Geno, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior today." Every man in the place stood, clapped, and cheered. It was exhilarating.
Geno proceeded to share his story. He had just retired the previous spring from teaching at Cambridge High School for thirty-three years. He's well-known in that county-seat town of 2,200 people in northwest Illinois. He went on to speak very vulnerably about difficult things he had experienced in life and what the love of Christ meant to him. When he was finished, the group prayed for him and gave him a second standing ovation for sharing so boldly.
In the room that day was David Joyce, pastor of the Cambridge United Methodist Church where Geno has been a member for decades. When Dave heard Geno's story, he asked Geno to share it with the church on Sunday morning.
Excerpted from Meet the Goodpeople by Roger Ross. Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
"Introduction" They Are Everywhere,
"Chapter One": Stay Close to the Power,
"Chapter Two": On the Go,
"Chapter Three": Plain Talk,
"Chapter Four": Tune In to Their Hearts,
"Chapter Five": Do Life Together,
"Chapter Six": Get Everyone in the Game,
"Chapter Seven": Go Global,
"Conclusion": Why Not Now?,