Jesus had 12 disciples who said they’d die for him, but when the moment came, they scattered and hid. Then, alone and abandoned, Jesus did what he said he’d do—he died for them. When the reality of what he’d done sank in, that band of “cowardly lions” mobilized into a “band of brothers” so brave that they changed the world. To a man, they died for Jesus. So, in between their frightened denials and marytrdom, what changed in the souls of the 11 remaining disciples? That’s really the core question of ministry—we’re partnering with God to move people from a mild affinity for Jesus to a die-for-you commitment. Notre Dame sociologist Dr. Christian Smith says: “No more than 15 percent of the total emerging adult population embrace a strong religious faith. Thirty percent tend to customize their faith to fit the rest of their lives.” These are sucker-punch statistics. It means most of our people never leave the land of window shoppers to the land of never-look-back disciples. Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, writes: “The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into best sellers…or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” A dramatic transformation requires a tipping point in a person’s life. So, what is powerful enough to catalyze a tipping point?
  1. Christlike presence in the midst of crisis. Dig deep into an adult Christian’s story and you’ll likely find several turning points in their journey toward “deep, transformative faith.” In a study I led several years ago, nine out of 10 Christian college students we surveyed said they had a crucial recommitment experience that was as significant as their conversion. Two-thirds of these young adults said the recommitment experience happened when they were teenagers.These experiences were fueled by four catalysts: crises, outreach trips, big events, and camp experiences. Crises have no inherent power to cement a person’s commitment to Christ. But, like surgery, they do have an unmatched power to open people to deeper healing. The key: When the crisis hits, is there a passionate Christian leaders engaged in that person’s life—not to answer unanswerable questions, but to offer determined love and intentional presence. The right question for ministry leaders is: “Where would Jesus be?” Right there in the middle of the crisis.
  2. Staying power. As I’ve talked with people in the church over the years, it’s amazing how often they point to a ministry leader’s staying power as a key to “viral” impact in their life. The longer we stay in ministry, and the longer we stay at the same church, the more likely we are to kick off epidemics.
  3. Clarity. In business author Jim Collins’ bestseller Good to Great, he and his team of researchers studied 11 companies that beat the odds and vaulted out of longtime mediocrity into longtime excellence. One transforming catalyst is something Collins calls the Hedgehog Concept. Briefly, it means companies that embrace one simple purpose, then pursue it with passion, succeed. Companies that skittered between one “passionate purpose” after another stayed mired in mediocrity. Discern your ministry’s God-given purposes—or callings—then organize your ministries around them.
  4. Challenge. If we rarely challenge people to commit at a deeper level, they’ll have few opportunities to embrace transformation. This is exactly what Jesus did when he struck Saul blind on the road to Damascus. He challenged him to change: “Why are you persecuting me?” Now Saul had a choice—to continue down the same road or choose another fork. He took the fork less traveled. To paraphrase the Jerry Maguirecatchphrase—“Show people the forks!”

At the heart of our new resource Lives of Meaning and Purpose is a Jesus-centered exploration of our primary tipping point—the weight of our presence, released into deeper impact when we discover our callings in life. We developed this new ministry kit out of our five-year project “Creating a Culture of Calling.” Please do check it out, HERE. And for help in developing a “viral impact” faith in others, use our new 40-lesson curriculum for teenagers and adults Following Jesus—you can check it out HERE.

Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith—he created the new curriculum Following JesusHe’s editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible and author of 40 books, including The Suicide Solution,The Jesus-Centered Life and Jesus-Centered Daily. He hosts the podcast Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus.


Thank you for Registering