Adults

Being Authentic—OK, but How?

Being authentic has become somewhat trendy. What do we mean by authentic? What is it about that word that draws our attention? In our world of impersonal social media and fake news, perhaps we sense the need for something we can trust—something deeper in our relationships.

In an article for Christianity Today called “Keeping it Real: The Truth about Authenticity,” author Megan Hill shares that authenticity is transparency, truth-telling about all areas of life. She offers five principles for being an authentic Christian:

• Authenticity proclaims the reality of the Bible.
• Authenticity doesn’t excuse sin.
• Authenticity seeks the good of the body of Christ.
• Authenticity honors wisdom.
• Authenticity points ahead to a perfected future.

Her thoughts resonate with me, especially about pointing ahead to a perfected future. In the past, I feel like I have really tried being authentic with mixed results. It seems that the more I try to be authentic with people, the more confusing it can become.

Community Garden Ministry: Any Fruit in the Garden?

Do you have a green thumb? Not everyone does. I actually killed an aloe plant once. (Yes, really.) I placed it on a windowsill behind a set of blinds facing a dark garage. Then, I forgot it existed. It was beyond hope when I found it again. I realized then that avoiding maintenance for a month only to douse it superfluously in a day wasn’t going to resurrect anything.

Time Worth the Effort

The fact is growing a garden, a friendship, a prayer life, or even a Christlike mind-set takes daily tending. It is a purposeful activity to grow. When seeking to reach others for Christ, we need to make a few plans ahead of time. If we are willing to be creative for the sake of the gospel, God will supply the resources.

Green thumb or not, anyone can find ways to minister through community gardens. Do you have such places where you live? It’s easy to find out. A quick search on the Internet may surprise you. Often, you will find information about renting plots as well as whom to contact as the site coordinator. If there are waiting lists in your area to lease a plot, consider starting a community garden by yourself or with a group.

Experiencing the Ripple Effect

Have you noticed that when God is at work, there is a ripple effect? Not only does He change the life of an individual, but often He also affects the individual’s friends and acquaintances.

I love seeing this happen in Luke 5:17–26. A man is lowered by his friends to Jesus. He is healed. Not only is the man healed but his friends’ faith is also strengthened and the crowd is amazed. I saw the same ripple effect course through the Familyfest held in our city of Indianapolis in 2015. 

Here’s a glimpse into what took place to plan our Crossroads Baptist Association Familyfest:

My Favorite Thing

Imagine you’ve been friends with someone for several years. You know each other’s birthday, favorite color, and how you like your drinks at Starbucks.

Imagine your friend doesn’t know Jesus, and one day, after telling her all your other favorite and not-so-favorite things, you bring Jesus into the conversation. You invite her to church or tell her something you learned in your Bible study that morning.

And then your friend looks at you and says, “You follow Jesus? I didn’t know after all these years that you followed Jesus!”

This is not the response we as believers should hear from those who know us best or from those we want to share Jesus with. As we go out into the world and share with our friends, co-workers, and families that we like our coffee with no cream or that our favorite color is blue, we must also tell them that our favorite thing above all things is Jesus.

I’m not suggesting that every time you meet a new person the first words out of your mouth are “My favorite person ever is Jesus!” However, what I am saying is that the first time you meet someone who is not a believer, you must be up front with him or her that you are.

Single Moms and the Gospel

We were pushing our strollers through our neighborhood that beautiful, sunny day. We had an immediate friendship since our babies were just a few months apart and we were both home during the day. We found ourselves escaping from our houses around the same time in the afternoon with two fussy, sleepy babies as two moms who could use a walk and adult conversation.

This day was like any other, except we began to talk about spirituality. Then the subject of church came up.

She said, “They told me I was wrong to raise my baby alone. They said I needed to have a husband if I wanted to be a good mom. They didn’t know his dad was the one who left us. But their words still hurt. You and your husband seem so different when you talk about God. You say how God loves me and my son; and He isn’t mad at me. I’ve never heard that before. You talk like He’s real.”

I cannot even remember what I said in return. All I could remember was that she needed to hear that Christ loves her and her son, He sees her, and they are welcome in the body of Christ as they are.

Senior VBS!

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (Psalm 71:9 NIV). God values the elderly, and we should too! Is fun only for the young? Are all old people saved? What about having a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at an assisted living or retirement center?

If you’ve ever visited such a place, you know how well-received visitors are. Often, people are lonely. They are away from families and friends. They may feel discarded by society and unimportant. If adults partnered with youth to involve residents in fun, Gospel-centered activities, all could be tremendously blessed. The elderly can hear Bible stories, sing songs, do themed activities, and perhaps even come to faith in Christ.

Too Much Information!

You’re being real. You’re applying the message of James 5:16 and confessing sins to each other and praying for healing. Intimacy is vital to growth in a relationship. So, when does this become a problem? Here are a few things to consider before letting it all hang out:

*Use discretion. Not everything should be shared with everyone. Listen carefully before you speak. Pray for guidance on when to be quiet. Remember something you say could impact others negatively. Don’t inadvertently cause others to stumble.

*Know your audience. Proverbs 18:24 states, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin…” (NIV). If someone you know struggles with keeping confidences, don’t entrust them with sensitive information. Be friendly, but think before you speak.

*Seek out Godly advisors. Rather than going to those who will say what you want to hear, consider asking God for friends willing to sharpen you.

Howdy, Neighbor!

Thermometer shows warmer temperatures. How’s the thermostat on your hospitality? Would your neighbors say you are prone to hibernate or do they see you now and then? To share Christ with others, we have to get out there! How can we form relationships with our neighbors to better witness to them? Here are a few ideas:

*Emerge from the den. Do a little something in the yard. Take more walks. Lollygag, doddle, and take your time. Smile, wave, strike up a conversation asking questions with more than one-word answers. Ask how someone is doing and wait for the response. Be purposeful about interacting, not just accomplishing your task.

*Offer help. Using the information you’ve learned from conversation, make a plan to take action. Rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor, run errands for someone recuperating from illness, welcome a newcomer with a treat. . . are all good ideas to share love in tangible ways.

Open Up: The Risk of Rejection Is Worth the Reward

My uncle is a local radio disc jockey. He’s one of the sweetest guys I know and truly cares about the people in his life. However, one of my family’s favorite pastimes is to watch him in a public setting. He has go-to nicknames for each gender so it seems like he knows who people are even if they’ve never met. The thing about my uncle is that he’s really great and everyone likes him but not everyone actually knows him.

When it comes to building the kind of relationship needed to invest in others, people have to know you. That’s a scary thought, often with this main concern: “What if they don’t like me?” But the risk is worth the reward.

In this case, the risk is being liked and the reward is a gospel-centered, kingdom-changing relationship. See? The risk is worth it. Now, if this sounds like a devotional for a middle-school girl, I apologize. But honestly, most of us (myself included) are still afraid of the rejection that comes with opening ourselves up to the point where we earn the right to share the gospel.

Missionary Spotlight Update: Holly Procita

The scent of buttery popcorn filled the community center as neighbors gathered for a movie night. Southwinds Church in Calgary, Alberta, partnered with the local community association to host the event. Holly Procita, community outreach coordinator for the church, and other church members served popcorn and juice to the 200 people who attended.

“It was the largest event of its type at the community center!” said Procita, who also serves with the North American Mission Board. “Pray that we can continue to provide opportunities for our neighbors to encounter our church family in fun and exciting ways.”

She recently helped train church planters in how to organize and host sports camps. She has hosted similar camps, and now she is helping church planters in Calgary and Edmonton use camps to reach their communities.

“I have learned a lot in the past 5 years and am really enjoying sharing what I’ve learned with these men and women who are reaching other parts of our city with the gospel,” she said.

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