Thoughts on Kobe

Like so many other people all across the world, I was stunned when I learned about the horrible crash of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other lives. Nine total lives were lost in the wreck and the ripples of this tragedy began to make their way literally throughout the whole world.

My own daughter texted a group of us to ask if we had heard. Sunday afternoon, relaxing after church & lunch, I began to search for news. Is it true? Can this be a real story? Hopefully this is just a bad case of misinformation. However, it didn’t take long to find that it was in fact true. Over the next hour, I watched news and details come in and my heart continued to sink.

The days that followed were difficult as close friends of Kobe began to share their reactions and memories of their time with Kobe. So many emotions shared by so many people who had been touched by his life in one way or another. There were many times when my eyes filled with tears as I watched and heard the pain others were experiencing.

The hardest emotional hit for me (a person obviously not friends with Kobe) was hearing his daughter was on the plane with him. I am a dad. I have a daughter. Seeing all the pics and videos of Kobe with his daughter just ripped at my heart. Knowing that his wife and three other daughters would be grieving and hurting so deeply was tough to think about.

So many athletes and people from the NBA, other sports as well, celebrities, public figures and random people who had interacted with Kobe in some way were sharing their thoughts and feelings. There was no shortage of proof that Kobe’s life had greatly impacted the lives of many people. Emotions were raw, heavy and real.

A beautiful part of it all was seeing just how many people bonded over their mutual respect and admiration of Kobe. His basketball prowess was one part, but the way he lived the rest of his life was celebrated to an even greater extent. Being a father and specifically a #girldad seemed to be one of Kobe’s most fulfilling roles.

Again, being a sports fan, a father and a #girldad had me often very emotional as I watched this all unfold. I truly felt for all those who were grieving and hurting so badly and I also felt some enjoyment seeing how much everyone seemingly cared about Kobe and his family.

However, being a person of faith, I couldn’t help wonder just how many people who were experiencing so much emotion over this loss of life actually had a grasp on what life after death means for us.

The truth is, all nine of those souls left this mortal world in an instant and found themselves in eternity. You might not believe in any kind of life after death, and I get that. Every person is free to believe what they will. But, I whole-heartedly believe in the Bible and the truths it contains. I believe that every human being will leave this earthly plane as their body ceases to live and either find an eternal reward or eternal suffering. I believe in a literal Heaven and hell as taught in the Bible.

The truth of the Gospel of Jesus is that he is the only way to heaven. He paid the debt for our sinfulness and secured for us an eternity in heaven with God. Our path, the only path, to an eternity in heaven is to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”  Acts 4:12

No matter how good a person is in his or her life, and no matter how well they are liked or loved, the bottom line concerning life after death is whether or not their faith has been put in Jesus. Salvation through Jesus Christ is based solely on the grace of God, not on anything we can accomplish ourselves.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  Romans 5:8

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”  Ephesians 2:8-9

My prayer has been that Kobe, his daughter and the others left this physical world knowing Jesus as their Savior.

My other prayer is that this closeness many shared in grieving this tragedy will be used by God to bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Times like these are great opportunities for God to work in the hearts of people. When we stare death in the face, we are reminded just how fragile life truly is, we are primed to consider our own mortality. May you consider your own life and what would be your final resting place if you entered eternity in the blink of an eye.

Reaching…From The Inside Out

No matter how long a church searches, they will never find an admonition from God to spend the bulk of their time and effort planning and preparing for those outside the church to come and be their guests at church gatherings. Yet, that has never stopped churches from doing exactly that. It is, in fact, just the opposite of what is found in Scripture. Mark 16:15 says, ““Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

It is all about outreach, and there are various methods and structure to it. Each individual church bears the responsibility of deciding what is best for their church body. Some will argue inside their own ranks as to which is the best outreach method and struggle to do well at much of anything. Others will tend to gravitate towards a particular type of outreach and end up making all of their efforts and members conform to that type.

So, is there a “best” way to structure church outreach? Is there a list of “right” and “wrong” ways to do outreach? The short answer is, “No.” There are no right, wrong, or best ways for a church to do outreach. While the heart attitudes behind the specific type of outreach can be wrong, it doesn’t make the outreach itself wrong. As a matter of fact, the arguing and bickering over this is a cancer inside many churches that often keeps churches from doing anything in the area of outreach.

Truth is, anyone can look online and quickly find “101 Outreach Ideas” and a myriad of other links to help you find new outreach ideas. However, true outreach has very little to do with the specific activity, event, or method. It could be a carnival, skate party, movie night, computer class, marriage seminar, car wash, etc. The important thing is the purpose behind the method. The purpose will narrow down the options and help point the church in a more specific direction. But, it all begins with purpose.

Here are three types of outreach events and their purposes. After identifying one of these three, a church’s focus can be narrowed to the specific events that will best facilitate their purpose.

1. Evangelical Outreach- The purpose of all evangelical outreach activities or events is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give people the opportunity to respond by trusting Jesus as their Savior. While there are other aspects involved during the event, it will all hinge on or be built around the time of sharing the Gospel.

2. Community Event- This type has, as its number one goal, the purpose of getting the church out into the communities close to the church campus, to interact with and show God’s love to those outside the church. There will be no formal proclaiming of the Gospel from the standpoint of church leadership or a main stage speaker. Instead, God’s love will be shown and modeled in tangible ways as the church rubs shoulders with and meets others.

3. Service Project- Clearly this is putting some real hands and feet to showing God’s love to others. Most communities have those who have genuine needs who are waiting for someone to lend a helping hand. At other times there are big needs that come from things like storms and various tragedies that call for volunteers to give of themselves in new ways. When someone is in need, and they get a “no strings attached” helping hand, there is often great impact in their lives. It really helps them see the unadulterated love of God at work in their own lives.

All three types of outreach events are important and a church must be balanced in their approach in order to excel at outreach. There are bridges to be built and every opportunity to place another brick on those bridges has to be taken very intentionally and with clear purpose. The old adage, “nobody will care how much you know until they know how much you care” is fitting. Churches have to get outside the walls of their church buildings and share God’s love.