Evangelism Lessons from Chris Pratt

Evangelism Lessons from Chris Pratt

On Monday evening, June 18, 2018, actor Chris Pratt was awarded the Generation Award at the MTV Movie & TV Award ceremony. His acceptance speech has created quite the buzz in all forms of media, social and otherwise.

Pratt took the opportunity to share what he entitled “Nine Rules from Chris Pratt, Generation Award Winner.” He proceeded to count down these rules, mixing his trademark absurd humor with some profound statements of a spiritual nature. Here is a link to his Nine Rules so you can read them for yourself.

Almost immediately, armchair analysts and theologians began dissecting his speech, carefully turning over every word to speculate on what he meant. I’ve heard and read from both those who applaud his advice for turning attention to God, our brokenness, and the need for grace as well as those who complain that his speech was either not explicit enough about the gospel, or a false gospel altogether.

I saw a few Facebook posts about the event on my feed, but didn’t click on it at first. Then I did and listened for myself. I honestly felt pretty encouraged by what Mr. Pratt said. Now, I don’t know with absolute certainty that Chris is a believer, though a piece in Relevant Magazine in 2017 reports that he did have some sort of faith experience. However, from his Nine Rules I see some wisdom concerning speaking the gospel to others.

Use Your Platform
Chris Pratt has one of the most visible platforms from which to speak in the world–the entertainment industry. He could use that platform to say anything he wanted, and he chose in this moment to offer some truth.

You and I have platforms, too. It may not be as visible and public as being an A-list Hollywood actor, but we have them. We all have circles and realms of influence in which we can choose to either dabble around in small talk or speak the gospel in compelling ways. Are you using the platform God has provided you to declare and demonstrate the good news of Jesus?

Know Your Audience
Chris knew exactly who he was speaking to. He understands the way they think and what they believe. That’s why–if his intent was truly to share gospel truth–he said what he said the way he said it.

For those complaining he wasn’t explicit enough, if he was more explicit and detailed in talking about Jesus and our brokenness, his audience would have tuned him out pretty quickly and labeled him as some sort of evangelical quirk (maybe even a closet Trump supporter). He would likely have lost his audience among his peers overnight. Pratt’s creatively worded rules were presented in such a way that he managed to get across some strong gospel points without alienating those he was speaking to. His technique leaves the door open for some of his entertainment colleagues to approach him later and ask questions about what he meant, and then he would have opportunity to share more detail.

Lesson: communicate gospel truth in a way your audience can understand, but in such a way that you don’t unnecessarily turn them off and close the door for any future conversations about Jesus. We have to earn the right to speak into someone’s life, and we must learn to give the good news in ways that it actually sounds like good news.

Trust the Holy Spirit
If Mr. Pratt’s intent was to speak some gospel to his audience, then hopefully he understands that he can trust God to continue working in the hearts of those who heard his speech.

Too often we try to do all of the heavy lifting in evangelizing, thinking we have to “set the hook and reel them in” on the first cast. Or, we dump the whole gospel package on someone in our first encounter to seal the deal. We try to do the Holy Spirit’s job.

We have to learn to trust the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do once we have spoken gospel truth to someone. People choose to follow Jesus, not because of your detailed, persuasive, and impassioned presentation of the gospel, but because the Holy Spirit convicts them of their need for Jesus and he convinces them that choosing to follow Jesus is the absolute best choice to make.

Will some of those who heard Chris Pratt’s Nine Rules eventually decide to follow Jesus? Will Chris Pratt be a growing effective influencer for Jesus in Hollywood? I pray so on both accounts. Meanwhile, I learned some pretty profound lessons about sharing the good news.


Missional Service

Missional Service

Personal Note: This is my first blog post in a few weeks. We have been in the process of selling our house and moving. I don’t have to tell you if you’ve been through this what an interruption that can be.

Serving is part and parcel of the life of a Jesus follower.

Jesus is the prime example of what true service is. He continually was giving of himself for the benefit of others. He said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28). When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he told them they should do as he had done for them (John 13:15). Jesus’ example was behind Paul’s admonition to the Galatian believers to serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:13).

All of this means that service in the name of Jesus is not some kind of add-on to everything else you’re doing in life. It’s not an optional, do-it-when-it-fits-your-schedule sort of thing. Service for the Jesus follower is a lifestyle.

Let’s think about how churches many times approach serving. Churches tend to promote service from the perspective of a project orientation. Sometimes they even call it that–a service project. It’s done as a kind of one-off activity that is planned, coordinated, executed, and then analyzed for its effectiveness.

The service activity may be a regularly scheduled project varying in frequency from weekly to monthly, quarterly or annually. Some projects are connected to the season of the year. Some churches are well known in their communities for the specific service projects they perform, and are appreciated for them.

A major drawback of doing service purely from a project orientation can be that those being served can feel as though they are little more than a project for a church’s service activity. While they appreciate the kindness shown, they know that these church members, once the project is completed, will retreat back to their homes and normal lives. Meanwhile, needs continue among those served the whole year, day in and day out.

An example of this scenario is a church that conducts an annual outreach to a local apartment community doing Bible Clubs for the kids. The kids and their families are blessed, but once the week is over, they know this church will to a large extent be absent from their lives till next year. Those of the church who participated in the project will feel they have done their annual bit of service and continue on with their normal lives.

Even when service is done on a weekly basis, the project orientation is still influencing the attitudes of service both on the servers and those being served. It is still seen as an additional activity that is scheduled and performed.

So, how would missional service be any different? How would a church move from a project orientation to a missional orientation regarding serving their communities? What impact does a missional perspective have on how a church serves?

First, we need to establish that serving is to be a normal and natural outflow of a loving relationship with God. We love because we have been loved without measure by God; we serve, because Jesus has served us by ultimately giving himself for us. Our mindset should be, how can we not serve with generosity and grace as God has served us?

Serving is to be the lifestyle of the believer. We serve not only by participating in organized activities, but in smaller, everyday opportunities. We must learn that service does not always have to be put on the calendar; it is how we live every day. Reflecting continually on the gospel leads us to live a life of extending grace to others in simple acts of service on a regular basis without even thinking about it. Serving should be a habitual expression of our desire to glorify God and make Jesus known.

Let’s return to that example of serving the apartment community. A missional orientation of serving would lead one or more of the families in the church to choose to move into the apartment community and become residents. Their acts of service would be year-round. The other residents would receive their serving and not feel like a project, but like a neighbor. They are now your neighbors and friends, not your service project. This is how serving gets real, when you choose to live among those God has called you to serve.

Another example is when churches serve by cleaning up a park, or performing some other service activity that is very public. Churches will often get matching colorful T-shirts printed up to wear when they do these projects. That’s okay, but let’s think about the rationale of advertising our church this way. Are we drawing more attention to the love of Jesus for the community, or are we communicating that we want the neighbors to know that our church is the one doing the serving?

I think the simple act of serving without concern that people know that your church is the one doing the serving highlights Jesus more effectively. When Jesus said in Matthew 10:42, “If anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…” I don’t think he had in mind including a label on the cup with the church logo and a note saying From your friends, the Disciples of Jesus in Bethel.

Churches can tend to use service projects as a means of promoting their church and increasing the attendance at their gathering. Our motive for serving should never have the hint of personal gain. We should serve because this is our identity: servants of King Jesus. Serving should point to Jesus, not to us. And Jesus said if we lift him up, he will draw people to himself.

I challenge you to examine how your church serves the community. Is it more of a project orientation? Service is not a project we complete; it is a lifestyle we live. Adopt a missional orientation to your service as an individual believer, and lead others to do the same.

Understanding Missional Terminology

Understanding Missional Terminology

Communication can be practically impossible if you’re unable to understand the language someone else is speaking. Hand gestures, facial expressions, and pointing to things can help, but it still falls far short of efficient communication.

Something similar happens in discussions among church leaders talking about mission and ministry. They may be speaking the same actual language, and even using the same terminology, but the meaning of those terms can be understood differently.

Throughout church history, theological and biblical terms took on a pretty standard meaning as they were taught and studied. At times, some of the deeper meanings of terms may have been truncated somewhat for any number of reasons. Perhaps out of cultural compromise, political convenience, or in an effort to promote a particular doctrinal position certain terms were shaped accordingly. Today, that reshaping of terminology has carried over into our current church experience, and we unwittingly fall short of full comprehension of some critical language of mission.

If we are going to effectively share the good news of Jesus, be fully engaged in the mission of God, and have lasting impact on the culture of our day, we must be on the same page when we describe and define our terminology of mission. It is definitely not that we must come up with new meanings for familiar terms. It is simply that we must define these terms from the perspective of the biblical mission.

So, here are a few terms where we may be using the same words, but speaking a different language at times…


Typically, sin is defined as anything that displeases God, acts and attitudes of rebellion against God, or disobedience to God. All true. But let’s go deeper. Consider this definition of sin:

Sin is any expression of disobedience to God rooted in unbelief regarding the truth of who God is or what God has done.

Sin at its root is unbelief. We believe wrongly, which leads us to behave wrongly. Sin is not just about the surface actions that we manifest. It is not even only about the heart attitudes that sometimes lead to those actions. It is about a willful unbelief that God is who he says he is or that what God has done for us in Jesus is enough. When we fail to believe that God is great, glorious, good, or gracious, we sin.


The gospel is traditionally thought of as the good news about Jesus paying our sin debt by his sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross so we can be forgiven of sin and go to heaven. Amen! All that is great news. The typical understanding of the gospel with this definition speaks to our future, and usually this is how people think of the effect of the gospel: it secures me a place in heaven for eternity.

The problem with this description of the gospel is that it doesn’t really address the here and now impact of the gospel on us. So let’s define the gospel like this:

The gospel is the good news of Jesus as expressed in God’s greatness, glory, goodness, and grace. Jesus has saved us from the penalty of sin, is saving us from the power of sin, and will save us from the presence of sin.

A fuller understanding of the gospel enables us to live with incredible peace and victory right now in the everyday. We understand that we are now living the eternal life that God gives through Jesus, and all the benefits of the gospel begin now and not in the sweet by and by.


The usual understanding of evangelism is that it’s the act of sharing the gospel with a nonbeliever for the purpose of seeing them come to faith in Jesus. This typically involves learning a technique of conversation that eases into the topic of spiritual matters.

Evangelism means telling good news. We normally think only nonbelievers need to be evangelized, but believers need the good news about Jesus proclaimed to them as well. In fact, there is not a single person who does not need to be evangelized on an ongoing basis. Evangelism is not just for the purpose of getting a nonbeliever saved. It is also to call believers to live in line with the truth of the gospel.

Evangelism is showing how the good news of Jesus applies to your life circumstances. It is declaring how the greatness, glory, goodness, or grace of God as expressed in Jesus speaks to what you are dealing with in life at the moment.

This is not some sort of feel good approach that compromises the need of the person to repent of sin and turn to Jesus. It’s simply making the good news truly good news to the individual by showing how Jesus is the better answer for whatever their dilemma is.


Most think of discipleship as training a new believer in the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life; how to pray, how to study the Bible, how to serve, and how to share their faith. It usually involves a curriculum, a class time, or some sort of formal one-on-one meeting. Discipleship has a continuum, beginning when a person chooses to follow Jesus and ending when the person has completed the course.

Biblical discipleship is a lifetime process. It begins with your first encounter with a person and continues for as long as you are involved in their life.

Discipleship is the continuing process of learning to submit every area of life to the lordship of Jesus. It is moving from unbelief to belief in every area of life.

Discipleship occurs best in three environments: life on life (one-on-one, done in normal everyday rhythms), life in community (each believer has impact on the person in the family life setting), and life on mission (discipleship occurs as the family serves together on mission).

It’s so important for leaders in communicating with those they lead, not just to use the same words, but to be speaking the same language.

Missional Leadership

Missional Leadership

We have to face the reality that the church has lost its place at the center of culture.

For generations, the church enjoyed the position as a primary influencer in the culture. But that day has passed, and the church has been nudged to the margins.

The church particularly in America has reacted to this shift by attempting to regain the center. It has pinned the hope of national revival to recovering its place of influence in culture. The formal training for church leadership has for years been informed by this mindset, and continues to perpetuate the notion of the church at the center.

Rather than struggling to move to the center of culture again, why not instead engage the culture with the gospel from where we are? Churches must learn to transition to mission from the margins rather than from the center. That begins with the leadership. Pastors, planters, and leaders have to unlearn some things and re-learn how to lead missionally.

Today’s view of church leadership is based largely on the professional model. Ministry is seen as a profession requiring specialized training for specific roles that church members look to for spiritual resources. The image of the professional is rooted historically in how leaders are trained, how leaders see themselves, and how the churches see the leaders. Ministry is a profession in the same sense as law or medicine. Therefore, a professional degree is preferred and it takes professionals to do it. Some unfortunate ways the professional model is fleshed out in churches today are…


Pastoral care is the main function of the chaplain professional role. Taking care of the flock by visiting the home bound and hospitalized, providing counsel, preaching good sermons, marrying and burying duties, and basically managing the church are the chaplain’s duties.


Helping people feel good about themselves, showing how the gospel can empower people to succeed in life and giving principles to live their best life now is what the motivator professional leader does.


The pastor operates as a CEO who seeks to grow the church with marketing and branding, energetic worship, creativity, and relevant teaching series appealing to the felt needs of their target audience.

Notice a common factor among these three examples of the professional model. The primary leadership burden falls to one person. The organizational chart looks like a pyramid with one point, the pastor/leader at the top. Missional leadership is by necessity and scriptural history not for professionals, but for everyday people.

So what does missional leadership in a church look like? First, it is shared leadership. A plurality of leaders with a mix of gifting share the responsibility of leading the church. The facets of administration, shepherding, equipping, proclamation, and discipleship are divvied up among leaders who are best gifted for those particular responsibilities.

Next, missional leadership involves shared ministry. Ministry is not seen as the domain of the professional, but of every believer. Leaders in a missional church give the ministry away by equipping believers to live out the realities of a gospel-centered life in the everyday. Every believer is engaged with ministering to one another and their communities in the normal course of the everyday rhythms of life. Believers demonstrate the heart of God and the love of Jesus by caring for needs in very practical ways. The clergy/laity divide is broken down. If you have responded to Jesus’ call, Come, follow me, then you are called into ministry.

Finally, missional leadership culminates in a shared mission, making disciples. Believers are trained in gospel fluency, being able to apply the gospel to themselves, one another, and nonbelievers as gospel needs surface. Making disciples is way more than an invitation to the Sunday gathering; it’s a way of life. Leadership will train believers that making disciples is not only about seeing an individual converted to Jesus, but seeing that individual consumed by Jesus.

The missional church leader has the challenge of unlearning the professional paradigm and re-learning a whole different paradigm. Find others who are on this same journey and learn from one another. Build networks of like-minded missional leaders. Reach out to those a little further down the road than you when you hit roadblocks. Missional leadership is different and transitioning can be scary. But it is well worth it.

Missional Metrics: How Do We Measure Success?

Missional Metrics: How Do We Measure Success?

To determine if something is being effective or not, to gauge whether or not something can be declared a success, you need metrics. You need some way to measure the results.

In traditional church paradigms, success is generally determined based on three particular criteria: how many people attend the gathering, how much money was received, and how large a building (space) you have. The ABC’s of church success: Attendance, Buildings, and Contributions.

Typical metrics of church success are based primarily on quantitative standards.

Now, don’t think that I’m saying it’s always a bad thing to pay attention to numbers. Knowing how many or how much is helpful to church leaders for some things. My only argument here is that numbers are not the best gauge of true missional success in a church.

How We Did vs. How We’re Doing

The numbers game generally focuses on one event: the gathering. We feel that we were successful if the crowd was larger than the previous week. How many people responded in some way to the message? How many kids were checked in at the children’s ministry area? How much was the offering this week? If the numbers were good, even a little higher, then we did really well that Sunday. If the numbers were down, maybe we didn’t do so well. This is measuring how we did.

Measuring how we’re doing takes into account what’s going on all week, not just what happens on Sunday. It does take into account how many in some ways, but it’s more focused on the idea of how well.

For example, how well are we building friendships with people who don’t yet follow Jesus? How well are we incorporating the gospel into everyday conversations? How well are we multiplying our missional communities? The how well translates naturally into the how many.

Measure What You Value

We measure what we value. What we place value on, we measure. So, if you value quantity, you measure by the numbers. You then focus your efforts on what can increase the numbers.

If your concern is more about quality, then you measure by effectiveness. Quality is more intangible than statistics, and is not something that is easily quantifiable. But it really is the more accurate picture of how your church is doing and a better metric.

Just as the how well naturally translates into how many, the numbers can lead to a deeper examination of your effectiveness as a church. Here’s what I mean.

How many non-believers are in your circle of friends? Now how well are you doing at loving those non-believing friends in such a way that only the gospel can explain? How many opportunities to have gospel conversations did you have in the past week? How well did you take those opportunities and speak the gospel into specific situations?

See how that works? The more valuable metric is how effective your church is at living and speaking the gospel. The result is that more people are introduced to Jesus and his ways through his people. And that’s success by any measure.

Building a Missional Framework for Your Church

Building a Missional Framework for Your Church

What is the basic organizing factor of your church? What is the framework on which you build your identity and function as a church?

If you examined everything you do as a church—every event, program, ministry, and activity—what would those things point to as your “main thing?”

The most typical framework of traditional churches is the Sunday gathering.

Everything the church does, communicates, and promotes inevitably points back to the Sunday gathering, the big weekly event. The gathering is the primary organizing structure of these churches.

The planning and preparation each week looks toward the gathering. Then we pour our energy into the gathering. Next, we review how the gathering went. And then we launch into planning and prep for the next gathering.

In churches organized in this way, evangelism is expressed as encouraging members to invite others to the Sunday gathering. Discipleship is a formal exercise in a classroom setting, typically at the building. Anything done outside the building in the community still has the goal of getting people to the gathering on Sunday.

Some unfortunate side effects of relying on the gathering as your primary organizing structure are…

  1. Attendance becomes a metric of faith. Members begin to judge one another’s relationship with God based on their attendance at the gathering or participation in every event.
  2. It reinforces a disconnect between life at church and life everywhere else. If believers depend on the Sunday gathering as their primary means of spiritual sustenance, they are more likely to compartmentalize their lives into what happens on Sunday and what happens every other day of the week. They generally don’t make the connection of their faith in God with the experiences of everyday life, and they often fail to see the relevance of the gospel to the everyday.
  3. It conditions people to a centralized, building-centered understanding of church. This is one of the cultural misconceptions that often manifests itself in the language we use. We go to church. We will see our friends at church. Our language betrays the notion that we see church as an event at a location.

With that being said, is there a more biblically appropriate framework around which we can structure a church?

The organizational framework that I would encourage you to consider is missional communities.

A missional community is a group of people who radically reorient their lives around the gospel and live as a family sent on mission together in the everyday.

The missional community is smaller than the gathering, usually between six to twenty-five people. If it helps you, think of a missional community as a small group (although I personally cringe at using that term to describe an MC, because they are not the same at all).

In the missional approach to church, MC’s are the primary organizational structure of the church. MC’s are how disciples are organized for the purposes of mission, discipleship, and shepherding. Those functions of the church are mainly carried out in the context of the MC’s. Although, let me hasten to add, those functions are still important in the gathering. It’s simply that we don’t rely only or even mostly on the gathering for those functions to be accomplished.

MC’s reverse the negative side effects that organizing around the Sunday gathering can cause.

  1. Living on mission is the metric of faith. MC’s naturally foster an environment of accountability concerning living a gospel-centered life. Failing to be on mission indicates unbelief, and other MC members faithfully “gospelize” one another to repentance and missional living.
  2. MC’s establish a deep connection between life with church and life everywhere else. Members are taught to see all of life as mission, and to look for gospel opportunities and opportunities for worship in the everyday. The sacred/secular is a misleading distinction. For the missional believer, all of life is holy and sacred, and there is no detail of life that is untouched by the lordship of Jesus.
  3. MC’s condition people to a decentralized church structure, and to a view that ministry and mission are a way of living, not an activity you add to your schedule, or an event you attend.

If a church is organized around their missional communities, then their weekly gathering will be focused on celebration, worship, equipping, encouragement, and fellowship. Evangelism, discipleship, and shepherding happen in the context of the MC.

Using missional communities as the primary organizational structure of the church does not take the place of the weekly gathering. Rather, MC’s enhance the significance of gathering regularly as a body.

Assessing for Adopting the Missional Approach

Assessing for Adopting the Missional Approach

You believe your church needs renewal, revitalization, revival, or even restarting.

You’ve tried programs, special emphasis weeks, spiritual renewal weekends, conferences, denominational campaigns, revivals, and other assorted means to stir the gathered church into a fire that scatters like embers to ignite a fresh passion for Jesus and making disciples.

If your experience is anything like mine, these efforts result in limited success. Things happen, the Spirit of God moves, lives are impacted…but no lasting transformation.

Now you’ve heard of the missional paradigm. You’ve read some about it, had conversations with colleagues over it, watched some videos related to it. Maybe you’re interested in exploring more deeply, or you’ve become convinced the missional track is where God is leading you.

Just to remind you, the term missional refers to living as people who have been sent by Jesus to make disciples; it’s a reorientation of every area of life around the mission of making disciples. Read my previous post that unpacks the missional mindset (here).

To assess where you are in your understanding of the needs of your church and how the missional approach can be applied, we need to ask some diagnostic questions.

What are your church’s core values or convictions?

Most churches have worked these out and have them listed and described on their website. These values/convictions are your non-negotiables, the realities that give your church an identity and distinction in your community.

If disciple-making is not somehow expressed in your core values, I would ask, why not? Most churches make the mission of making disciples a priority, because that is the mission Jesus gave us, so for most, it’s going to be on the list. So my follow-up question is then…

How do you flesh out the value of discipleship/disciple-making in the life of your church?

You say discipleship is a core value. So, how does your church express that priority in practical ways?

Typical strategies might include small groups, Sunday School, training, outreach events, or special classes.

I would point out what these strategies share is that they are programs/ministries the church uses, and they are conducted primarily at the building where the church meets. Disciple-making takes a more centralized approach. One more question…

How well are your strategies making and strengthening disciples?

Are your strategies truly effective? Are disciples being made?

If you’re getting an increase in the number of Christians attending events and getting smarter, that’s not the effectiveness I would be looking for. What I mean is, are nonbelievers being brought closer to following Jesus, and are believers becoming more effective at living and speaking the gospel?

It’s important to know that the metrics of the missional approach will be different than the metrics of more traditional approaches. It’s not so much the ABC’s (attendance, buildings, and contributions) we’re interested in. It’s the intangibles that often cannot be quantified numerically. In a later post we will delve into missional metrics.

If you and your leadership are considering how to shift into a more missional approach in your church life, it requires an honest assessment of where you are now, determining where you believe God wants you to be as a church, and then prayerfully and intentionally working out a plan to move in that direction.

I would be happy to consult with you in person, online, or by phone to assist in assessing your current needs and to give encouragement in pursuing a more missional approach. Let me know how I can help.