Costcovangelism Part 2

 

Continued from Part 1.

Here are three keys to personal, practical evangelism. This isn’t meant as a formula to follow in every single situation, but it’s three things that I find helpful and encouraging for myself.

1. Relationship
2. Relevance
3. Respect

1. Relationship
Cheryl and I have a personal relationship. She rents her garage out to my husband and I. We share a kitchen and a breakfast table and faith in Christ. We identify on many levels. She’s not just my housemate or landlord, she’s my friend and mentor. If she were not my friend, or if we had no experiential basis of trust, I would be skeptical and suspicious of anything she tried to “sell” me.

It’s the same with evangelism—we have to do it from the basis of relationship. I’m not saying we have to become besties with every homeless man on the street before we can talk to them about Jesus—sometimes, a simple friendly introduction will do. “Hi, my name is Hannah. I notice your wrist is in a cast—would you like to be healed?”

It’s the same principle as giving CPR to a stranger—even if they’re not conscious or responsive, you introduce yourself, say you’re going to help them, ask questions to determine their condition, then proceed.

2. Relevance
Cheryl’s Costcovangelism would be completely pointless if she was talking about the price of steak, white bread, Jif peanut butter or Jell-O—because I could care less. They are not items I prescribe to in my lifestyle. They are not relevant.

But because of the relationship Cheryl and I have, she knows the things I use a lot of and how much I spend on them. She is able to relate to me though the things that are relevant to me.

I think I speak for every Christian when I say it’s awkward to start a conversation with a total stranger just to say, “Hey. Have you heard about Jesus?” In church, they try to tell you that it’s simple and it’s easy, to just go out and do it. But apart from relationship, how will you know what is relevant to a person? Without knowing what is important to them, you’re just shooting in the dark with the pickup line of, “Do you know Jesus?”

Which brings me to the third key to practical, personal evangelism:

3. Respect

If you don’t have a relationship with someone and therefore don’t know what is relevant to them, if you start a conversation with the intent of subscribing them to your product, you are a solicitor.

Solicitors are usually slaves of obligation. Nobody likes to be solicited. A 1-800 number on caller ID will either be ignored or received with dread.

What’s the difference between a college student who shows up on your doorstep with a Filter-Queen vacuum, and a college student on your doorstep with a salvation tract? The method is the exact same—and so is the consumer response. An awkward, uncomfortable exchange of introduction transpires, the salesman casts his pitch, and the homeowner smiles uneasily as he or she explains that no thank you, we are not interested, we already have one…et cetera.

Any success on these solicitors’ parts is usually due to pressure or the desperate desire to pacify the poor man to get him to leave—or worse, out of pity.

When Cheryl talks about Costco, she’s not pushy or pompous. She is gentle and respectful. She says her bit and is willing to say no more on the subject unless I show interest and engage in conversation.

It should be the same for sharing Christ. We can’t assume that just because we have access to perfection, that everyone else’s lives are miserable.

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When I was young in the faith and very zealous, I made this mistake. I looked at my most unchristian friends, felt a wave of compassion, and tagged them all in a note on Facebook telling them they were missing out and that there was great joy in Christ.

Little did I know, one of the people I tagged had just lost her mother. My attempts to evangelize backfired, and I lost a friend because I hadn’t taken the time to get to know her, see what she was going through, and actually relate to her.

There is nothing wrong with zeal.

Psalm 69:9 - Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

Jesus Himself was consumed with zeal for His Father’s house. But void of a heart after relationship with individuals, zeal kills.

The Crusades are evidence of this.

Evangelism isn’t about selling a product, it’s about making people hungry.

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Cheryl Bradley, Costcovangelist (Part 1)

Our housemate is a Costcovangelist.

Costcovangelist: A person dedicated to the mission of sharing the good news of Costco.

He who finds a Costco membership finds a good thing indeed. And what’s not to love? Brand-name products in bulk, for ridiculously low prices—not to mention the cheap gas! And it’s all for the investment of $50 a year! Surely, the passing of a crisp $50 is worth all the Benjamins you’d be saving by shopping at Costco!

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Our housemate, Cheryl, is a faithful cardholder and frequent shopper of the Costcovian Kingdom. She has taken every opportunity to educate me in the gospel of Costco. My baking powder, flour, baking soda, brown sugar, milk and all fruits and vegetables are all grossly overpriced, reports the Costcovangelist, who then eagerly throws open her cupboards to price jugs of cinnamon and vanilla extract under $10, a gallon of baking soda for less than $5, a potato sack of barley for $7ish…and so on and so forth.

Now, I’m not stranger to the wonders of Costco. When I was in my mom’s house, Costco was always the first stop for groceries. A full cart for $200 to feed a family of five was a darn good deal. But now that I’m building a family of my own, and we have a $200-per-month budget for food, I long for that Costco membership card to call my own. Especially toward the end of every month, when I pull open the refrigerator to find just eggs and foil-swaddled baked potatoes remaining.

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Mind you, my husband and I are not lacking by any means. The past three months we’ve been married, we have never missed a meal. And every time things have gotten tight with food, I have prayed. The first time I prayed, we got a box of home-canned delights as a gift from one of our friends. The next time, I had $20 more on my card than I’d thought I had to spend. And the next time, we were blessed with a HUGE cardboard box full of organic vegetables!

We have never gone without—and I know we never will. But the frugal voice in my head paints fantasies of how much more effective our $200 food budget would be if we spent it at Costco. I keep telling myself, “Someday, someday, when we have an extra $50 for a membership startup…”
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I was perfectly content to keep up the mantra of “someday.” But Cheryl is a Costcovangelist who does her job well. She knows our staples and how much they cost where we do our shopping, and then she scouts out the prices of our staples on her next trip to Costco.

She’ll leave sweet notes for me on the counter, with afterthoughts of, “Agave nectar is $6.50 at Costco!”

I know she’s not talking about our 12-oz squeeze bottle ($7 at Fred Meyer). She’s talking about a 30-something-oz JUG of our favorite sweetener for only 50 cents more than what we get.

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I was perfectly content to stick to “someday.” But Cheryl keeps making me hungry, transforming my passive desire into an anxious, gotta-have-it, get-me-that-membership, burning desire for Costco.

This is practical evangelism. The model Cheryl demonstrates to inspire me towards a Costco membership would be just as effective if she were telling me about Jesus.

Part III: Diet Plan

Click here for part 1.

Click here for part 2.

I began this series with a warning against spiritual junk food. In part 2, I outlined the importance of staying spiritually hungry.

Now we’re going to make our diet plan.

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First of all, I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you physically eat more than once a week. You probably would not be able to survive if you only had one meal, one day a week.

Likewise, how can we expect to be spiritually sustained by one or two hours one day a week? If spending time in the Word and His presence, and having worship and fellowship, is so important, why do we allow ourselves to bank on one or two church services a week, call it good, and wonder why we’re miserable by Monday?

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Pastor Steven Furtick demonstrates the importance of “eating before you come.” When it comes to church, he says that he has been approached by members of the congregation who say they have not been spoken to, or “fed,” by the message he gave. His response is, “You should’ve eaten before you came.”

What he means is that church is not supposed to be the Thanksgiving dinner for which we starve ourselves the entire week before because we know it’s coming. Church is a doctor’s checkup. It’s a little supplemental booster. It’s your meeting with your personal trainer to scrutinize and reassess your nutritional plan.

Church can only function the way it’s supposed to if you’re taking care of yourself throughout the week.

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Imagine your spiritual life as compared to your nutritional life. If we went to church, prayed, read our Bibles, worshiped, or just spent time seeking His presence—as much as we spent time putting food in our mouths, I guarantee we would not feel “dry” throughout the week.

Variety is the spice of life.

I think a lot of Christians are either afraid of falling into routine or have already fallen into one that lessens the impact of a life centered around Christ, but look at it this way: If we focused on our spiritual nourishment as much as our physical hunger, we probably wouldn’t enter into that religious routine of doing the same thing over and over again, day by day. Sure, little habits may be the same—I still eat at appointed times and whenever I’m hungry, but there’s variety in my diet.

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We don’t make a habit out of eating the exact same thing for every meal, every day.  The likelihood that we would get the proper nutritional value we need for our daily function by eating a bowl of cereal three times a day, every day, is slim to none.

Even more so, who would enjoy a diet of the same milk and cereal every meal, every day? It would get really old, really fast.

Not so cheerio.

I know if it were me, I would probably start picking at my food by morning of the second day, and by that evening I would seriously consider just not eating. I would start viewing the cereal and milk with disgust and disdain.

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Growing up, we had the exact same rehearsed prayer that we would pray to “bless this food for the nourishment and strengthening of our bodies, and blessed the hands that prepared it, amen.” I think my stepdad learned it from his dad growing up and was never taught that he could divert from the formula and seize the opportunity to actually meet with God.

But after days, months, and years of praying this routine prayer for performance purposes only, the entire act of prayer became something I dreaded and avoided. I hated when it was my night to pray over our food, because I didn’t want to get any of the nuances wrong, or forget or jumble any of the important words in the daily script.

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Ecclesiastes 3:1 – For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

There is a time and a place for routine and repetition. But the only time in our lives when we do have the same food every single day is when we are infants, when we ingest breastmilk or formula. Formula is a good thing in its appointed place and time, but it won’t do anything for you if taken out of its timing.

For example, it would be inappropriate for me, at 19, to eat baby formula—in fact, the idea of it is nauseating. But to a 3-month-old, formula may be all that baby can ingest because his digestive organs aren’t mature enough to break down solid foods—and neither is his soft, gummy mouth.

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Ephesians 2:5 – …That even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead.

When we receive Jesus into our hearts and claim Him as Lord and Savior, we are born again. We have gone from being spiritually dead to being spiritual babies.

As babies who are developing brand new systems of ingestion and digestion, it is appropriate and essential for us to intake as much formula food as possible. It’s okay to rest on fellowship, church services, and being fed by other people.

As a new believer, it’s good to create routines, at first, just to introduce the critical elements of prayer, worship, and discovering the Word. Just like babies have regular feeding times (and frequently), they as well as we need that regularity to grow rapidly.

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Constant doctors’ checkups are recommended for babies to monitor their growth and progress—likewise, many churches make it an aim to not only add more believers to the tally, but to get them plugged into discipleship groups. We surround new believers with as many resources as possible. This is not only to keep them in the church, but to fight off the almost instantaneous discouragement and confusion the enemy brings through the world to attack our newfound salvation. The goal is to empower.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians.I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.

I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.

Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.
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For every infant, and for every new believer, there comes a time where weaning must happen. We must introduce solid foods into our spiritual diets, learn to chew and digest on our own so we in turn may start feeding others.

Part II: Are you Hungry?

Click here for part 1.

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The enemy will try his hardest to make us believe that obedience will never be worth the sacrifice of favorable public opinion. He will try to cripple us into thinking that disciplining ourselves to God’s ways will make us weak.

This is exactly right. Welcome back to the inside-out, upside-down Kingdom principles.

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I’ll reiterate: The only way God can be made mighty in you is if you are made weak.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I blog about this passage a lot. Every topic I write on, it comes up and becomes more and more relevant to my life personally. It is truly alive for this season of spiritual growth, and is central to the gospel itself.

In our weakness, God is made stronger.

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In the world, when you train for an athletic event, you discipline yourself rigorously. You starve your body of excess things you don’t need–only what’s needed for nutrition and rebuilding is allowed in.

Exercising your body beyond yesterday’s limits creates microscopic tears in the muscle tissue; it is the repairing of these tears that allows for the muscle’s growth.

In the Kingdom, when we rigorously discipline our minds, we emphasize more time spent in our prayer closets. Our daily bread is the Word of God, and our water is prayer. Worship is our oxygen. We fast, depriving our flesh of indulgence, literally starving to death the part of us that is “me.”

Anything to make room for more of Him.

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You make time for what's important.

As we devote more and more time to feeding our spirit, we become aware of how much of our time before was spent on indulging our impulses and making excuses about how we “didn’t have time” to pray and read our Bibles.

In these times, we realize that all our excuses are silenced in the face of a stern but simple truth: You make time for what’s most important to you.

Proverbs 27:17 – One who is full will refuse honey from the comb, but to one who is hungry, every bitter thing is sweet.


This is one of the most crucial verses for revival. Pastor Bill mentions it often to the church as a whole, but I would like to grab hold of this on a deeply personal level. We  can’t have corporate, large-scale revivals unless we have individuals who are hungry.

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Hunger motivates.

When you’re hungry, living from simplicity and not out of gluttony and clutter, every little thing that comes your way is a special gift, something that feeds your spirit. Many times in theological discussions and kung-fu movies, the phrase “You can’t fill a glass that is already full” gets tossed around, and it’s very true.

How can we come to God and ask for Him to fill us up if we don’t take the time to empty ourselves and just get hungry?

Pastor Mark Venti from Generation Church illustrates prayer as the process of emptying ourselves of the world in God’s presence. It’s a spiritual cleanse that purges us of the junk food we eat in our everyday lives, the stuff that’s impossible to escape from, and allows us to be hungry for the good stuff: Him.

A year ago, when I was first really digging deep into the Christian walk, my spiritual father sat me and a few friends down to start watching a series by John Bevere. In the introduction, John contrasts physical hunger to spiritual hunger. He says that when your physical body becomes hungry, your stomach growls. Your blood sugar is low. Survival kicks in, and all you can think about is getting food into that belly to satisfy the hunger pains.

But when your spirit is hungry, it gets quiet. It withdraws.

Only when you begin to feed your spirit will it start marking noise. It’s a peculiar and unexpected aspect that capitalizes on the importance of paying attention to how we’re feeling. In a sense, it’s like we need to constantly monitor our spiritual heart rate, to come and do checkups on our spiritual health.

I believe that’s partly what church is for, though we ideally would be in a place where it’s a daily self-examination as well.

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Reader, I challenge you: Take some time to examine yourself. Are you hungry? What would you do for a word from Papa God, right now? What’s He saying?

One of the biggest symptoms that lets me know if I need to fill up my tank is if I don’t feel like getting close to Him. If I feel like I’m not poor in Spirit.

If I feel like I’m satisfied, I know there’s something wrong.
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God is big enough that it’s possible to never have all of Him. If I think I’ve spent too much time in worship or in the Word, or if I feel like there’s a more important priority, then I’m letting God be second. I realize that I’ve been eating the rich foods of the Babylonian king’s table without coming in hungry simplicity to eat from the Most High King’s table.

Without hunger to drive us, we risk the danger of slowing our pace to a trudge. Without hunger, we risk forgetting that our mission is to those who are starving.

Without hunger to motivate us, we forget why we are even running in the first place.

Philippians 3:14 – I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 

Part I: What Are You Eating?

Even if they seem redundant, don't ignore the warning signs.One night a few weeks ago, my godsister and I sat down to watch a Netflix movie that had come in the mail. The movie was called “Crash,” an edgy  2004 drama with a some-star cast set in post-9/11 Los Angeles. As soon as I looked at the summary and the rating, my stomach fluttered uneasily. But I resigned myself to sit and watch the 112-minute feature, silently praying as I always do before I watch a movie, that the Lord would reveal His heart to me through it and that I would be able to glean some hidden Kingdom gold from the creative dreams of this team of writers, directors, producers, and actors.

The red flags began to pop up within the first scene: cruel racism, intense swearing, and abrasive anger that was fast-paced and nonstop for the first 15 minutes. I kept telling myself, “It’ll get better, it’ll get better.” Meanwhile, my heart was dropping into my stomach. At last, there came a point where I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me to stop. So I jumped up and excused myself, jammed earbuds into my ears and drowned out the screaming drama of the movie with worship music. My heart was pounding and I literally felt nauseous.

It was like I had been under rapid-fire attack in a matter of minutes and was now weak and shaken. I grabbed for my Bible and journal, and dove in for the next two hours. I spent much time repenting of watching the movie and asking Jesus to wash my feet and make me new again. I felt restored after a short time, but the message came through loud and clear: I need to start watching what I eat.
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Daniel 1:3-5 Then the king ordered Ashpenax, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites form the royal family and the notiblity–young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned ot them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. 

So you’ve had a blood transfusion with Jesus and had all your affairs exchanged to your mansion in the Heavenlies. You’ve just said “Here am I, send me!” to the Lord’s cry of “Who will go for us?” Welcome to the war zone. You now have dual citizenship in this world and That one. You’ve been given a new set of instructions for how to live life (significantly shorter than the one you used to have, this one just says “Love God and love people”). You’ve been grafted with a new, soft heart with which to be convicted of everything that rendered you slave to your old (now dead) lifestyle. Your response protocol to offense is new, different and honestly a little offensive to your mind. You have been drafted into a school of how to shed the hollow husk of your worldly paradigm in exchange for taking Christ’s yoke upon you. You have been exhorted to be in the world, yet not of the world.

You may feel disoriented and confused–that’s all right. But just remember, now that you’ve made the leap into Eternity, there is no going back. Your friends and the kings of this world will expect you to join in their feasts and banquets, partaking of the foods they find rare and attractive. But you mustn’t touch–these foods are nothing more than poorly disguised and cleverly advertised poisons. The decadent, rich foods of the kings of the world that once sated your hunger (or seemed to, for a while) are pollutants.

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Daniel 1:8 – But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel respectfully requested that he and his three comrades be allowed to keep to a diet of vegetables and water instead of eating the king’s food and thereby defiling themselves. That couldn’t have been an easy petition for Daniel, a captive of the king with no former rapport that we know of to cover even a hint of defiance with mercy. Daniel and his three comrades were captives in a foreign land under the command of a king who had the right to kill anyone who disobeyed him. There was a lot at stake, but Daniel was a man whose standards were shaped by God Himself. The first 3 chapers of the book of Daniel are an illustration of the young Israelites’ courage under the pressure of a forgetful, vengeful king.

Titus 1:15 says, to those whose hearts are pure, all things are pure. These four boys of Israel had been taken captive from their home, where there was a standard of purity, into Babylon, where the only standard of righteousness was what they themselves carried–and whatever the king said was right. Daniel and the other three could have had a number of reasons for choosing to eat the food of the king anyway. They would have had every reason to submit to king Nebuchadnezzar’s authority and do what they were told.

But the sense of purpose displayed by these young men is astounding. Many of us may just have given up hope in their situation. Why? Because there is no instant gratification in keeping up with our standards in such an environment. What’s the point? No one would see, no one would care what we do. What difference would it make if we hold ourselves to a standard of holiness when we have no support and we’re expected to act just like everyone else? There are countless excuses we can make to justify crumbling in the face of peer pressure, but that’s all our justifications add up to–excuses.

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I’m not so naive as to think that this situation is anything special; peer pressure (to dumb it down simply to that) is something every believer faces. In every home, every public arena–and yes, even in every church, there is great temptation to succumb to the majority vote at the cost of your integrity.

Ultimately, it comes down to whose opinion we value more. Proverbs 9:10 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. If you respect and revere God first and foremost, the opinions of your friends, coworkers, teachers, classmates, and bosses will pale by comparison. Obedience may very likely cost you the popular vote among your peers…But it might not.

Daniel 1:9-10 – Now God had caused the official to show favor and compasison to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would have me beheaded because of you.”

When Daniel asked Nebuchadnezzar’s chief of officials if he and the other three Israelite boys could keep to their normal diet of undefiled food, the cheif was immediately fearful for his life. Being charged with training these young men, he was instructed to keep them strong and healthy. He was afraid, and for good reason–how could the meager diet Daniel spoke of compare to the diet of other young men who partook of the king’s meat and wine?

So Daniel, again treating the king’s man with utmost respect and honor, proposed an alternative:

Daniel 1:11-14 –  Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,  “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

At the end of the 10 days, not only were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not frail and thing–they were stronger and healthier than the other young men who had eaten from the king’s kitchen!
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So now, here is my question to you, beloved reader. Re-examine your diet. What are you eating? What are you taking in that could be clogging up your channel to a heart of flesh, deadening it once again to a senseless stone? Once we find them, we are not to hide them, cling to them, justify them, or hate ourselves for having them. There is only one thing we can do: Give it up.