How Do We Tell Others About God?

What is mission? Purpose? Bringing God’s Kingdom to Earth?

I’ve been pondering these questions lately, and what qualifies something as “evangelism”? Are we here solely to tell people about God, or also to simply enjoy him and be loved by him? Can we tell about him in the ways we live our daily lives, and reflect the Kingdom by the beauty we create?

My boyfriend and I talked about this at length recently after watching Saving Mr. Banks. Through the act of writing and storytelling, a redemptive world was created for not only the writer, but those who read her book and watched the movie inspired by it. The movie with a changed ending created a story of a good father and redeemed a past of pain. That fictional world. whether intended or not, gives its readers and viewers a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. It showed how the world ought to be, and stirs a longing for more.

What if God’s purpose in P.L. Travers was to gift her with the ability to write so that his glory may be put on display? What if Walt Disney’s purpose, who turned her book into a famous movie, was to create “the happiest place on earth” to give a glimpse into another kind of world. One so full of imagination, it reflects Heaven in its uniqueness and excessive joy?

Perhaps God did not create either of them to go out “on mission” and evangelize the world through their spoken words, but to reflect his pleasure in his children, and bring about healing in unusual ways.

These are just questions and ideas, not theological conclusions, so don’t get crazy with me. Yet it came to mind again because of a conversation I had this week on the street.

Every Thursday is street ministry with Broken Hearts, where we go out onto the streets of Hollywood in the middle of the night to love the overlooked and tell the marginalized about the hope of life in Jesus. In my paradigm, and many others, this is true evangelism. We build relationships and speak about ways of getting free from drugs, out of homelessness,  and redeemed from prostitution.

For the past two weeks I’ve been talking to a man who’s been homeless for years. This week, he was passionately discussing drug dealers, the world of cocaine addiction, and the countless ways he’s seen how destructive it is.

He’s been clean from drugs for 20 years. What struck me when he told me about deciding one day  to go cold turkey from crack was this: the catalyst for his change was sleeping on a bench and listening to a musical group (I don’t remember which one, some old school jazz or doo wop or something like that). The music inspired him so much in that moment that a desire to do something like them, and aspire to be a musician, changed his perspective. That instance of imagination and beauty, and a glimpse at what could be changed his life. He got off of drugs right then and there.

No one told him drugs were bad or suggested rehab. No one told him Jesus could heal him or offered him food. God used music (one of my personal favorite creations by God) to save his life.

John Piper, Desiring God, page 18: "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." (Design submitted by Jennifer Knight.)

On recent reflection, I too would say that some of my most life-changing moments have come through listening to worship music, reading a book, journaling, watching a movie, in church, and listening to people’s stories.

I observe that God is limitless in his imagination and anointing of creation to change lives. I’ve heard as many stories like the smell of a flower bringing someone back to faith in God as I have testimonies of being “evangelized”.

Consider the question I’m asking myself right now: Is it possible that some of our greatest gifts to spread the Kingdom of God and reflect Heaven are being squelched so that we can tell people about Jesus in the only way we’ve been taught is acceptable? Could we actually change the world more through our joys and passions than through our works? Might “the chief end of man to glorify God by enjoying Him” be what ignites a passion in others to do the same and surrender their lives to Christ?

Less is More – Not Just a Cliché?

A few nights ago, I sat in my brother’s living room with his wife and my boyfriend, discussing various personality traits and  how differently we all operate. We laughed as he explained the irony of how lazy I was when I was younger,  since I have become an almost non-stop machine of responsibility, social involvement, and ministry leadership.  You’d have no idea now how rarely I wanted to socialize when I was younger and how my mom had to kidnap items from my bedroom, which could only be ransomed by cleaning my bedroom after 50 desperate please had been ignored. I was queen of irresponsibility and quiet living, and quite the opposite now.

What’s not so funny about the change was looking at my boyfriend’s disheartened face a few months ago as he simply said one night, “Holly, I want more quality time with you.” The seriousness of his request sunk in immediately, kind of like when my mom finally stole my toys in order to get a response. The cute L.A. way of living suddenly seemed far less normal than I thought it was, and I realized it would hurt my relationship unless I made a change.

Unfortunately, I’m a little slow sometimes. Like a see-saw, I’d adjust one end so it can drop to the floor, only to add another weight, so the other end pops up at the same time. Hence, that was not the last conversation like that.  What eventually boiled up was that yes, maybe I should slow down… but didn’t he realize how important all of that was? Couldn’t he acknowledge its importance to me, and my importance to all of my involvements?! He seemed to be missing key parts of who I was, what I was accomplishing, and the things that – in my mind – gave me worth. In my mind, he didn’t care about me enough.

The ensuing conversation changed me drastically in the past few months. Once again, we Lsat frustrated in my boyfriend’s car as I explained all of the above. He essentially replied, “I don’t care.” Yes, I was offended, and may have had a desire to throw a punch or kick in that moment. But that wasn’t really what he was saying. He far more poetically stated something like, “I know those things are important to you, but I don’t care about the things you do. That’s not who you are. I care about you. I want a best friend to laugh with and do ministry with, I want to know Holly, because that’s who I want in my life and who I love.” ( That’s a paraphrase, believe me the original should have been recorded because it was far more beautiful and moved me to tears).

When he finished, I was disarmed and my heart softened. Yet what struck me most was that it felt even more significant than a speech from a man. I truly felt God’s heart in that  moment, and heard him speaking to me as well.  What I know, but forget about every 5 minutes, is that God feels about me the  way Jason does (except about 1000 times more).

I wanted Jason to know about the things I do, what I love, my good works, my social status, etc. Truthfully, its because  I care a lot about me, and deep down, I think it will make him love me more. Like most of us, I want to impress and earn favor and make sure every area of my life is shiny and stellar in a way that is deserving of love and attention.

I do the same thing with God. I want God to look at my love for him, and others, and all of the sacrifice and work I do for him so he can not just love me, but be extra proud of me. I’m shooting for valedictorian in God’s kingdom. But God’s kingdom is nothing like high school. The one with straight F’s gets as much honor as the valedictorian just for being a student at the high school.

That conversation set off a recent journey of going deeper in an understanding of the power of just being me. The power of you being you. How being who God has created us to be, without all of the extras, can change this world for the sake of the kingdom of God.

I’ve been on sabbatical from ministry for about three months, and not being as busy or being as involved is very weird for me. God has been speaking to me that it doesn’t matter. Like my boyfriend said, God just wants to be with me. He wants my love, affection, time, and undivided attention. That’s what a good romantic relationship looks like, right?

I’m reading a book right now called The Art of Being You, which Amazon happened to suggest to me while doing online Christmas shopping. It was cheap, so I threw it in my virtual cart and picked it up yesterday. I don’t think it was an coincidence. It says,

God is looking at the real you, not the “show you”…we play the best version of us – but God pays no attention to our act. He’s listening for the unguarded words, the thoughts and intentions of the heart…Because mystery is so unsettling, many of us choose to think of ourselves primarily as tools in the hands of God. We want to be used to build or fix things, to impact and change the world – a practical purpose. God does have a purpose for each one of us here, a job for us to undertake…But many of us see ourselves only as a tool in the hands of God. Our identity becomes too tightly defined by our earthly purpose and tasks…Rather than seeing you primarily as his tool, God views your purpose here as a tool in his hand for the art he is making of you. He is at work in you more than through you” (pg. 37-38).

I needed a looooong season of maturing and learning to be responsible and to get out of my comfort zone and realize life was about more than me. God taught me that lesson well, and now seems to be helping me revisit playfulness and simplicity with the foundation of lessons learned. He’s showing me that it’s not just good works that impact the kingdom, but that the art he’s making of me can have the same impact in mysterious ways.

Strangely to me, my boyfriend has noted as his favorite moments with me, ones that I was caught off guard, goofing around, being vulnerable –  not the pulled together, cutely dressed,  sophisticated and wise ones. I am learning more and more that God is no different. When all I did was sit at home tonight, read a book, pray and worship, and watch a documentary, God takes the same pleasure in me.  It may even be that something from “wasting” a Friday night alone at home is just what God will use in a conversation or opportunity in the future to impact someone more than anything I could have planned.

So if you find yourself working to earn God’s love, or do all of the right Christian things, remember he just wants you to be with him. quality time with you. God is the artist. He loves his piece of art far more than you know, and each one has a unique purpose and design. With the time and worship you give him he will accomplish far more than you could ever calculate or imagine.

Which One Will You Be?

As I was starting my morning with God today, and reading his Words to find out what he might have to say today, it felt like I was reading directly about our time and culture. Yet it was the book Ezekiel, written around 571 B.C. that spoke about God’s heart for his people.

“Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice” – Ezekiel 22:23-29

I can read this and picture horrendous church corruption that gives Jesus a bad name when you hear about things like priests and child molestation, greedy pastors guilting congregations for tithes and then owning personal jets, and prophecies about the end of the world that don’t come true. Yet none of those extremeties really hits home for most of us.

What may actually be worse, is the subtle ways we as the church live this way and don’t even notice. The subtle weakening of the church that destroys our witness. I thought about a conversation with my sister and brother-in-law this weekend about church discipline (or lack thereof) and the tendency of the Church in general (and that means all of us) to just let sin go with a heaping measure of grace that never requires change. How we handle unbiblical behavior with so much “love” and “grace” that we’re actually hurting our own friends and church families by letting them live in sin that’s destroying their lives. Then when we receive truly loving correction, we rebuke it and become defensive, as if the person trying to help us is trying to hurt us.

How often in our churches – and in our personal walks with God – do we make no distinction between holy and common, clean and unclean, and just let it all go? At least in Hollywood, where many people have been burned by the church, I can say that quite often we just let it all blend together and allow people to live less-than-quality lives in the name of acceptance, grace, and fear of offending anyone.

Even Sabbath – I know I often ignore the idea of sabbath and being set apart, and look just like the rest of the hurried, production-obsessed people in this city. I act like I have no God to give me rest and provide, just like those who don’t know him. Yet how often do we pause to think about these ways of life that are so normal in our culture that we have accepted, thereby making our witness say that life with God is no different than life without Him?

Then God tells Ezekiel:

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

Wow. God is looking for just one person, that one who will stand in the gap, pray and intercede, and build up the wall of holiness and Christ-likeness to save our lands. If there’d been one, destruction never would have come. But God could’t even find one.

And what a simple role to play, in some ways at least. To hold up standards that reflect the Word of God, and to simply pray for our city, is something that could save the places we live and the lives within them. What we do affects others….it’s not just all “going to hell in a handbasket”. Just one. That’s all God needs. Just one.

We can be those who let sin reside and slowly but surely wear down the integrity of the church and the laws God has created to actually give us the best, safest, most fulfiling ways to live. We can be part of the corruption, extortion, lies, and average lives, or we can be the one who stands. The one who God sees and says, “Because of your heart and courage, I should not destroy, but build up.”

Which will you be?