Do you suffer from “converter guilt”? It’s the feeling of failure when you desperately want people to know Jesus, but you’ve failed to share the Gospel … again. It’s a terrible feeling that most of us have experienced, but today you can be released! Dave and Jon Ferguson, brothers and co-authors of B.L.E.S.S.: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World share solutions in this episode that will empower you to help people around you back to God.
(This page contains affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help support Grit 'n' Grace at no extra charge to you.)
- Dave & Jon’s book B.L.E.S.S: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World
- The B.L.E.S.S. website
- B.L.E.S.S. short video
- Episode #211 Transcript — coming soon!
- What have your experiences been with evangelism?
- How would you describe them? Positive? Negative?
- How would serving and blessing change the way you share Jesus with others?
Featured Authors —
Dave & Jon Ferguson
Dave Ferguson is an award-winning author and lead pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago.
He also provides visionary leadership for the international church-planting movement NewThing and is the president of the Exponential Conference.
As the co-founding pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago, Jon Ferguson serves as one of its lead teaching pastors and provides leadership in new ventures.
Jon has also helped co-launch NewThing and serves on the board of directors for the Exponential Conference.
Transcript — scroll to read here (or download above)
Grit ‘n’ Grace — The Podcast
Episode #211: How to Use the Power of Blessing to Help People to God
Note: This is a machine-generated transcript that is only about 60-70% accurate.
Well, Dave, and john, we’re so excited to have you here today. Cheri and I are co authors. So we love to have co authors on and this book is seems so relevant for the time that we’re in, tell us why you chose to write about neighboring.
Well, one of the things for us is probably like a lot of your listeners, we were, you know, looking for a way like how can we share our faith? How can we share it with our neighbors in particular. And a lot of the ways I think in the past that were either very time consuming, so you had to go to this program, go through this class, that kind of thing, or we’re just playing relationally awkward. We can tell you some crazy experiences being what we call the soul winners club and all kinds of stuff. And so personally, it was something that really was important to us personally, like, how could we How can we do this in a way that wouldn’t be one of those things. And we also lead a church, and it’s with a whole bunch of people in our church, and we have a very clear mission, which is to help people find their way back to God. But while lots of our people, I think that I’ll tell you what our mission statement was, they didn’t exactly know how to execute it, how can I actually do that with my neighbors in my neighborhood. So that really was the compelling reason both for us personally, but also for the people in our church, and probably a lot of the people that are listening.
So the title of your book is b l e s s, five everyday ways to love your neighbor and change the world. Can you talk to us about the title and unpack it? I love that it’s capital capitals, with with periods in between. So that signals to me that there’s something really meaningful about that?
Well, I’m glad that worked the cut. That was the intention behind it, that we create some interesting people would assume there’s something behind those, those periods between each one of those letters. And, you know, like Dave said, we were personally frustrated with outreach efforts, attempts to evangelize to help reach people for Jesus. And we also found that the folks in our church were and, you know, we knew that they wanted to help people find their way back to God, that’s kind of the vernacular we use. But we wanted to move beyond hoping to actually helping, I think a lot of us hope people will, you know, get to know Jesus. But we felt like there were ways we can actually help people get to know Jesus. And so through the course of conversation, we came across a doctoral dissertation, which I think Dave and I both would tell you that we don’t typically include dissertations in our casual reading. But this one was particularly intriguing. And it was titled lessors versus converters, the lessors versus converter converters. And the study was based on two teams of missionaries that that went to Thailand, but they went with two distinctly different strategies. And the the converters just went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing the blessings went with the intention of simply blessing people, they would say, you know, we’re just here to bless whoever comes our way. And so the study actually follow these two people for a couple of years. And here’s what they found. look like. They found that the blesser, his presence in the community, resulted in tremendous amount of like social good, a better culture, a better community life. And interesting, Lee enough, they saw nothing like that from the converters.
I know it’s painful, isn’t it?
But this was most surprising, the blessing is actually had 50 times as many conversions as the converters. The blessings helped 50 times more people find a way back to God.
So that’s amazing.
You know, the bottom line is that the best way to accomplish the Jesus mission really is to be and what we would say in this case is to be a busser. And so with that research and then we looked at the life of Jesus, we discovered five ways that we can bless people that come right out of the pages of Scripture life in the life of Christ would be teaching on them and asking people to put those into practice and that’s kind of what forms this caustic B le SS.
Okay, so I love that this was born out of a frustration, a frustration that I know that Amy and I share and that our friends who are listening share, and oh my goodness, you said doctoral dissertation and my heart just just sped right on up because you are speaking our language. We are both research people but I love that because I was raised In a church where I was trained to be a converter, so, and, and I feel like I’ve been a failed converter, I hope it’s okay to say that on air. But Amy and I will talk more about that in our conversations. So.
Amen. Okay. Something that I think a lot of people feel that way. Good. I was gonna sound like a lot of people feel that that same way they feel that frustration, they feel that failure.
Yeah. Well, this is fascinating timing, I think for this book to come out. Because we are, we’re living in shutdowns and pandemic conditions. So we have more time than ever, which is a blessing, right? Where we can be blessing to people. So help us out how do we love people the way that Jesus did? Like practically What does that look like? What should we be doing with our time?
We’ll tell you, why don’t we just give the listeners real quick, candelas, five, simple everyday practices. And and I’ll tell you what, Sherry, we’ll see if we can take away some of that converted guilt that you have. How about that, please. So the B actually stands for and this is a little bit of a stretch, they get better after this one. The B stands for begin with prayer. And one of the things we tell people is, prayer is both how you do the mission, and also how you discover your mission. So even in the middle of a pandemic like this, where a lot of us are staying a lot closer to home, you can still do walks in your neighborhood, and be praying for each of your neighbors. And that is actually how it begins just simply praying for people, one of the things I do is I journal every day, and at the bottom of my journal, I just write the word bless. And I’ll write the names of 789 10 of my neighbors and I specifically by name, pray for my neighbors. And that begins in a way that we may not realize really building a relationship with those folks spiritually, and we creates a different kind of awareness of them. The Alvin stands for listen. So I am afraid and that most Christians are probably no more no more known for their talking, then they’re listening. And so we really encourage people. No, let’s you listen. In fact, one researcher I SAW said that Jesus was asked, I think it was 183 questions. And he only gave a few answers, because he kept giving questions back to them. And so he was a great listener. And I think that’s one of the things we challenge people to be, and what you’re going to discover with these practices, is it really it’s almost like a remedial course and how to become a friend. So you begin with prayer. You listen to people, and then the third he and john and i think i’ll get an amen. From john on this one. We really like this third one, the E stands for eat.
oh, I like that one!
And it can be a, it could be a cup of coffee, you know, it could be a trip to Starbucks, it could be out for dessert, it’d be having somebody on your back patio, you know, for a snack. But But something special happens when people come together around food it creates community. And I don’t know if if either one of you are married. But if you are, I have a hunch that probably when you were dating the early days that probably one of the most and first significant dates was when maybe your husband asked you, Hey, would you like to go out for dinner. And there’s something that happens around a meal. And so we encourage people eat with folks, then the s, the first S is serve. And that’s where what we have discovered is if you pray for people, and you actually listen to them, and you eat with them, they will tell you how to love them. They’ll tell you what’s your life, and you’ll discover a way to serve them. And that’s when you meet that need. And then the last S is we say story. And one of the things that we kind of stress a lot is I think sometimes Christians and particularly if we’ve been trained to be a converter, we lead with the story, the story of the Jesus the gospel or my story, and do you want to be saved, and it just becomes relationally awkward, throws everything off. And what we found is if you begin with prayer, listen, eat, serve, and then share your story. Oftentimes, that’s when they’re open to it. And in many cases, they’ll even ask you, Hey, tell me, you’ve alluded to spiritual things and tell me more about that. They’ll actually ask you to tell your story. And overall, we just tend to say you know what, let God do the converting. And you did the blessing.
That’s fantastic. I’m so moved by that and I’m thinking well, that’s the kind of friend I want. So I mean, even as a Christian so like you said at the very beginning is really tips on how to be a good friend. That’s fantastic.
Okay, before go to the next question. I’m gonna play devil’s advocate for one moment, because I was raised that if you heard somebody actually say something wrong, was your duty to correct them. So how do we listen? And you know, okay, so my perfectionistic slash legalistic roots are coming up here. Help me out here because everything within the rises up and you know, Amy and I talk a lot about being meddlers and control freak. So I’m just going to name it for what it is. But for those of us for whom this is actually goes back as far as we can remember, like I remember playing sword in hand where you know, Bible was out in one hand, and we could whip to a Bible verse as fast as possible. A Dave has heard of this before, because it was to proof text people. So I could use the Bible to prove them wrong. How do we learn to listen when that’s my that’s kind of in my DNA?
Well, if I could just interject, and a follow up, if you would, but I think if you look at the life of Jesus, the people he was most likely to correct. Were the religious people who are getting it wrong, not the people that had yet to find their way back to him. For those people, what did he do? I think he listened. And then he would just keep asking questions, and help them discover the truth for themselves. Now, there’s certainly opportunity in time for propositional truth. But I think if we leave the relationship, which is what bless helps us do, then as Dave said, you’ll have the opportunity to tell your story, tell the story of Jesus. And it’ll be community in an effective way and and a scripturally accurate way as well, which is absolutely vitally important.
Enough, please said beautifully said
if I could back up to on these best practices. We didn’t make these up. Every single one of these if you look at the life of Christ, I think you’ll find that these are things that Jesus practiced. He began with prayer. I mean, before he started, His earthly ministry went to the mountainside to pray. He constantly you know, was listen to people, like Dave said, ask questions, even people where it seemed like it was obvious what he needed to do for them miracles, he would still say, hey, what can I do for you? Or what do you want me to do? He ate with sinners. He was accused of eating with drunkards, he ate with people all the time. I mean, the Lord’s Supper, he left us a meal right to remember him by. So over and over, I think you find these throughout the life of Jesus. Absolutely.
All right. So do you think evangelism can really be as simple as blessing people up? Sorry? Let me do that again, after turning off my phone, which normally I do. Do you think evangelism really can be as simple as blessing? Okay. Barely, that it’s a new phone, and I thought I had done the right thing. But there we go. All right. Third, time’s a charm. So do you think evangelism really can be as simple as blessing people and serving those in our community?
I got a great question Cheri. And in fact, I mean, after we read that doctoral dissertation to, and then we kind of looked at Genesis 12, and life and she’s, I mean, I felt like it was a great presentation. But I’m going like with you with this really work. And I can tell you firsthand, and I do it in the book, too. I mean, like one of my friends, Michael, who was someone who is far from God, was a very successful executive had a tragic thing happened in his life that he personally held on to for 20 years, that he felt tremendous remorse to men tremendous grief. never told anybody about it until the 20 year anniversary and confided in me, But part of the reason him confide in me about that. And I’ll just give you a little more detail. Actually, his friend from college, his best friend, they were in a driving together, they were in a car accident. His friend was killed in the car accident. And Michael was held liable for the accident. So you can see why he felt that. Well, he kind of said, I felt like I always had to live two lives. But I started practice. When he’s bless practice. I’m praying for him. Our kids ran cross country and track together. So I’m listening to him, we actually started doing breakfast together. And it was at breakfast that he shared that story with me. And then I was able to tell him about, hey, here’s the place where I found forgiveness. Here’s the place where I’ve even found redemption for the, you know the crap in my life. And it really opened him up. And I got a chance to see him say yes to Jesus. And I even got a chance to baptize him. And it wasn’t because I didn’t baptize him this time, because I’m the pastor. This is like my friend. Yeah. And so I think it’s a great question. Okay. Does that really work? We’re kind of, you know, Americans were very pragmatic and what really work? And in this case, yeah, this is exactly how Jesus did it, and it will work.
Beautiful. Well, it’s a real long view, view of evangelism. And it’s beautiful. But Americans we’re kind of microwave people right? So for spiritual laws surely would be quicker. But as you’re saying, it’s less effective. So amazing. So how Of course, we want to know what’s in it for us. So how does blessing others in turn, bless us? And how can God encourage us through our choice to love our neighbors?
Yeah, you know, I think, um, and Dave kind of referred to this in the story of him and Michael, which is a great story. And, you know, throughout the course of the book, there’s story after story of people who have actually put these best practices to work in their in their everyday life. And, you know, one of the value of sharing your story, I think, is that you’re being authentic, and you’re, you’re confessing, if you will, and I think we all find healing in that, especially if we if we make the choice and take the risk to actually be authentic and genuine in our, in our confessing, I mean, James, the brother of Jesus said, confess your sins to one another. So you’ll be healed, right? There’s healing in that. And it’s, there’s something that almost magical that happens when the Holy Spirit is active in that in that process. And so yeah, I think sharing your faith is not only something that God wants, for those who don’t know him, I think it’s something he wants for those who do know him. And it clarifies your faith and builds your confidence in your story reminds you of the amazing work that God has done in and through you. And so yeah, I think the more you talk about it, the more comfortable you’ll get talking about it. And I think you’ll begin to realize, you know, parts of your story that maybe are clear to you that aren’t clear to other people, parts that connect with some people and don’t connect with others. But ultimately, I think, sharing your stories, I mean, it’s one of the most faith building experiences, I think a person can have.
Absolutely, I think telling our stories as part of the redeeming of our stories. And so we get to experience that redemption, as we tell them beautifully said, yeah.
So what are some practical tips to bring up faith naturally in conversation?
I think one of the one of the practical tips is I mean, when you do begin with prayer, and I’ve noticed this for me personally, so like, I’m actually sitting in my dining room table. And the house to my left is Charlene Debbie, and the house to my right, our new neighbors, Ray, and Nikki. And so there are a couple people that I pray for every day. And what I noticed is that just by actually praying for them every day, when I see them outside, I feel a different kind of affinity, I feel a different relationship. There’s a maybe it’s the Holy Spirit also working in me kind of prompted me, I think, at a real practical level by praying, it creates a different kind of awareness of the opportunities that present themselves. For you. I think that’s that’s one thing. I know, john, you got a practical tip you’d offer.
I would say this, I think often this is last prayer counts. Like, like prayer is a part of being on mission. And I think we feel like oh, well, that’s what I do before, or that’s how I prepare. But I mean, somebody challenged me a while back, and they said, you know, there are people that cross your path every day, who have never had a single person, word of prayer for them their entire life. And I’m not talking about you know, you know, stopping a total stranger and say, Hey, can I pray for you and laying your hands on them and make it a production? I’m just saying, saying, offering a quiet prayer in your head for that person that counts as being on mission. And I think it does do what Dave said to I think it begins to like, soften you and you begin to look at them differently. You see opportunities, maybe you didn’t before, but that’s why I think it’s so important to begin with prayer and recognize that, yeah, that’s how we discover our mission. But that’s also how we do the mission. We’re actually helping people find their way back to God when we pray for them. accounts.
Yeah. Let me also offer this to hospitality. If you have the gift of hospitality, it is a tremendously important gift in reaching people. So like this idea, the third practice of eating. What I love about it is, I think probably most of us wheats three times a day, right? seven days a week at least. And but we just begin to think strategically, okay, how can I include one of my neighbors or one of my friends in one of those 21 slots every week. I could just take one or two of those slots every week, I mean, and invite them in it into that immediate Or it might be, like I said, a coffee or dessert. That is a, it’s just a great way to build relationships and in time, perhaps share your faith.
I mean, we’ve all had that experience where you kind of knew somebody, but then you know, they invite you over, or you invite them over, or you go out to eat together. And then all of a sudden, that that has moved from acquaintance to friendship, faster than almost anything else we can do. And it’s just the idea of, of sharing a meal. And I love what Dave said there, the fact that, you know, you’ve already got 21 time slots, just how about this week pick to pick two. And instead of eating by yourself, ask someone to join you. And you know, what, even in, in the pandemic, you know, zoom somebody and share a meal via zoom with them, you can do these things during the pandemic.
Yes, well, our porch has been the place where we’ve been doing this. And I have to say, I don’t have the gift of hospitality. But you know, pizza works. And I’ve been kind of amazed by that. And the fact that I’m doing it on my porch means I don’t have to feel like I have to clean my whole house either. So there are lots of ways even those of us who don’t have that natural gifting can do this really well. So I love it. It’s such a natural way to go about it. Well, we ask our listeners every time that we do an interview to submit some questions, and so they submitted some really great questions for you. And I particularly love this first one, because we get to ask it to some pastors. And so this is talking, talking about balancing church and neighborhood life. So how do we find a balance between our church involvement and our commitments there? And time spent engaging with people outside of our church community right here in our neighborhoods? Do you give us permission not to be there? Every time the doors are open? pastors, this is what we want to know.
Well, the doors have been open a whole lot here lately. So. Yeah,
I think that’s a great question. Because I think one of the things that that has been a challenge is that we’ve asked, you know, people to come back to the church to kind of then figure out how to do evangelism. And what we’re, I think this is this is the challenge. I think now for local church pastors go like, you know, what, no, we’ll make a deal with you. We’re gonna do is we’re gonna do everything we can to equip you with tools like this, like the best practices, now you go and be the church. And that’s what we talk about. Communities, okay, go and be the church. The other thing we’ve been using a lot of communities we call the radical minimums, the radical minimum here, here’s some radical minimums, and, and part of our radical minimums are these blessed practices. And we kind of basically make a deal. Yeah, if you’re gonna do this in the neighborhood, then we’ll do everything we can to care for you and equip you. And that’s the way the church should work.
So good. You know, I saw a meme that makes me think about this. When everything was shut down, it says the church hasn’t been shut down. It’s been deployed. But the problem has been is that we don’t know what to do when we’re deployed. And you guys are helping us with that. So thank you.
Alright, so the next question we may have already covered, but I’m going to go ahead and ask it anyways. does love your neighbor mean being neighborly, without any agenda of converting them being a light without burning them with it?
I think you are you are, you’ve made a choice that you’re going to love them no matter what, whether they ever say yes to Jesus or not. And you’re going to continue to do like Jesus was the friend of a sinner, you’re going to continue to be and you are also a sinner, okay, works both ways. You’re going to be friends with them. And at the point in time, where they begin to ask questions at the point in time, where you have the opportunity as you would with any friends, share the things that are important with you, faithful come up. And again, it kind of goes back to that simple idea. You do the blessing, let God do the converting.
I mean, in some ways, that’s that’s kind of unconditional love, isn’t it? And that’s the same grace that God and Jesus extends to us. So we also have to extend that to the people that, you know, our neighbors who may or may not, you know, come to know him the way we’d like for them to come to know him. But yeah, I think it’s, it’s absolutely okay. And important to do it without an agenda.
That question comes from somebody who was raised the way I was. So for both of us, thank you. This is very freeing,
converting, would you call it converter guilt? I think
yes. I love that phrase.
Well, and you’ve talked about the answer to this question quite a bit, but anything you want to add would be welcome. How do we love our neighbors and talk about Christ without being annoying or weird?
Well, in the book, we talked about this a little bit, Jesus was was known by a lot of different sort of names, but one of the things he was known as, as the friend of centers, okay. I don’t think we always think about that. But he was actually known as that. And so I think if we’re known as a, I mean, how would you be known and what do you want to be known by? I don’t, there’s probably too many people who would say, I don’t really want to be blessed. I don’t need your blood. No, I think most people are pretty receptive to being blessed. And so if I was known as a blesser, that I think that’s probably a good way to be known. I think it’s going to open doors for people to hear not only more about my story, but eventually hear about Jesus.
Oh, sorry, it’s my turn. You guys just gave me my word of the year for 2021. I was just thinking this morning, I haven’t figured out my word for 2021. Yet, I wonder what it’s going to be. And I just realized it’s going to be blessed. This is I have my word. Okay. Final question here. From our listeners, what are some ways we can break the ice with new neighbors to let them know that we’re open to relationship?
I think again, if we already know this, we should just be reminded, it’s the simple things of friendship. That’s what this blessed practices are. And so like I said, we had the big orange truck pulling next door, which meant we got brand new neighbors, Ray, and Nikki. And so one of the things you know, my wife’s pretty good cook, so she made some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, we took him over there. And that broke the ice, right? That was one thing I had another friend once told me said, Hey, if you want to become friends with someone, ask them for a favor. And I knew that they were actually doing some hardwood in their new hardwood in their in their house. I knew we were thinking about doing some different things in our house. So I just went over to Ray said, Hey, I’d love to know, who did you use? And he said, Oh, come on inside. Let me show you. Let me show you my house. So he showed me around. And, and again. So there’s those kind of simple things that you do. And I think that’s what I love about these best practices. They’re just simple reminders, you know, prayer, listen, eat, serve story of how to build friendships, and really how to break the ice.
I want to add one more in there that we can edit out if we don’t like where it goes. I’m just thinking in. In America right now, we have become so divided. And I’m not going to I don’t want to spell out all the ways we become divided. But when I when we were approaching this interview, I thought to myself, I love all of these concepts and theory. But what if my neighbor turns out to be somebody that really, really, I whatever the topic might be that we could even come to blows over? What are we going to do in a situation like that? I mean, I don’t feel like I grew up that way. I don’t feel like it was that way when I was raising my kids, but boy, this year has kind of scared me that people can be much more different from me than I realized and hold things really, really strongly. And yet, everything you’ve shared with us today comes straight from Scripture. So do you have any advice for those of us who have been a little bit or maybe a lot scared by what we’ve seen in 2020?
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a great question. And I think at the end of the day, we all want it, we all want to be we need to be learners. And I think one of the best ways we can learn about other people, and even their opinions, even if we don’t agree with them is to go back to one of these practices. And that’s to be good at listening. And if you want to build a bridge, I can’t think of a better way to build the bridge, because ultimately, that’s not what we want to do. We want to build bridges to anybody, everybody, even people that we don’t agree with, might not ordinarily spend time with might have completely opposing views with, we still want to build that bridge, I think if we would first I mean, you know, Stephen Covey told us this, how many years ago and seven habits seek first to understand before seeking first to be understood. And it’s such a great principle, I think, especially in these divisive times where, you know, it is so easy to focus on where we don’t agree or what we don’t, or we aren’t on the same page, rather than saying, Okay, what, what can I learn about this person and their perspective, even if I don’t agree with it, or think I ever will? And how could that possibly build a bridge for me to also, you know, maybe share a meal and eventually serve them and who knows, at some point, maybe even tell my story?
Well, I have felt a huge paradigm shift in my own head and heart into this conversation about how to help people to return to God, I even love that right? To help them to return to who they were created to be and who they were created to be in relationship with as beautiful. So what closing words do you have for our listeners who want to be more intentional and loving their neighbors?
Let me just say, say one thing, Dave, and then why don’t you close with it? Okay, I just, I kind of feel like we need to say this and it, take the pressure off. You know, just just take the pressure off. Put the converter guilt aside, and simply be a good friend. And use these practical tools that you can find in the book be LS s to build those friendships, and just kind of see what God does.
I mean, I guess it isn’t that sharing a one of the challenges we give people in there is, what if you just tried using one of these practices every day and then if you do have a group of four commit to doing it together like a small group in just begin your small group by saying, Who did you bless this week? And like john said, to take the pressure off, if you pray, okay, if you begin with prayer every day, and you’re praying for that counts, because I know Chris is always trying to figure out what did I do enough? Does that count that counts? And so every day, do one of the best practices. And then once a week, if you’re that’s how your small group meets, then just begin with, okay, who did you bless this week? And then just have conversations about it? And I think if all of us would do that, I think we can profoundly impact what happens in our communities, and even what happens in our country.