Following this morning's worship gathering:
Q: I was thinking about this earlier, but how do you evaluate if things go well on a Sunday?
MCA: I think there are a couple of ways to look at it. You can evaluate a sermon as a piece of communication and try to measure the effectiveness of what you say. But how do you do that? So much of what goes on in preaching won't be obvious. And just because a lot of people show up may or may not mean anything. As we're growing, I think it's important for us to remember that the win for us is not how many people show up but are we seeing people's lives changed by the gospel. So I might like this sermon better than that sermon - thought I was more prepared, felt like I was connecting well with everyone, etc. But at the end of the day, what I want to ask myself is whether or not I communicated the message of the particular text I'm preaching as well as I could.
Q: So how do you think you did with Jonah 3?
MCA: I actually thought I hit on the heart of this part of the story pretty early in the week. Sometimes it doesn't come into focus until late in the process but I really felt that what we were supposed to hear through the muddiness of Jonah's message and the Ninevites' response was that even when we struggle to tell and take in the gospel, we can rest assured that there's a God who goes to great lengths to tell his story.
Q: I have to ask - the microphone?
MCA: Yeah, who knows. For anyone reading this who wasn't there this morning, my 'face mic' kept cutting in and out on me. We've been having some problems the last few weeks but this was easily the most distracting - to me and everyone else.
Q: What goes through your mind when that kind of stuff happens?
MCA: I keep waiting for Aaron [Slaten, our worship leader] to walk up and hand me another mic or give me the kill sign or something. I actually had a handheld mic behind me that we had used earlier - first time in a long time I was tempted to use it. A couple of things that were going through my mind - is there something I'm doing to cause it and praying that God will either fix the problem or help people stay focused on what we're talking about.
Q: So how did Jonah 3 bring out this theme of evangelism we've been talking about the past few weeks?
MCA: Well, we talked about our need to make connections with people if we're ever going to have the kinds of conversations we're talking about in evangelism. I thought Jonah 3 actually served as an encouragement that even if we completely miss the boat - and the story of Jonah's message and the Ninevites' response doesn't make it real clear one way or the other - there's a God who goes to great lengths to tell his story.
Q: How does that help us in evangelism?
MCA: I think it frees us up. We care about what we say and how we say it - but our skill in telling people about Jesus is not the source of hope for us or those who need to hear the gospel.
Q: You spent some time talking about what goes on in our conversations with people - could you go through that again?
A: Yeah. Tim Keller up in NYC talks about the need to make the gospel intelligible, credible and plausible. Meaning that in the course of our conversations about Jesus and the gospel, we have to find ways to help people see how attractive biblical Christianity really is - are we talking about something that seems to good to be true? And then are we walking into those convictions, beliefs and objections that keep people from believing that Christianity is true and a viable way to live. And if we can help people see that Christianity is attractive and true - because we've painted a picture they understand, are drawn to, and can buy into because we're helping to pull apart the arguments they've held onto as a way to keep Christianity at arm's length - then we can help people see that their story is never going to end the way they want it to without Christ.
Q: It seemed like you were struggling with how much detail to put into explaining how to have these kinds of conversations.
MCA: Yeah, it's just a lot of information and preaching to a couple hundred people is just a hard context to talk about something that we have to walk through individually. So hopefully this stirred the pot to create some conversations in our community groups this week - maybe in some of the campus ministries that are hanging out with us. And hopefully we can find some helpful ways to walk people through this process in a way that helps them make connections and have conversations in ways that ring true with who they are and where God has them in the world.