Crossroads Connection for the Week of September 17
 
Welcome to the new page on our site. I will be placing articles here that will inform, inspire, feed and challenge you in your walk with Jesus.
Please read and enjoy all three articles. The article on the Physicians Analysis of the crucifixion is still here too.
 
Article #1 

6 Dos and Don’ts for Welcoming Church Guests

Visitor connection should be organic, not contrived.

Marty Duran

I want you understand what we want visitors at Crossroads to experience, along with the things laid out in this article. The biggest thing is personal connection. In other words we desire to have every visitor be greeted by at least 5 people, or couples, between the time they arrive and before before they leave. I want them to know we really appreciate their attendance, since they could have gone to any other church, and we are here to answer any questions they might have and accept them.                                                 Pastor Gary

 
I remember attending a local revival meeting in the area where I used to pastor. I did not know the pastor of the host church well, but I wanted to be supportive, so I attended with my daughter.

After we sang a few songs, the pastor ascended the pulpit area, gave a greeting, and then asked for guests to raise their hands, state their names, and say where they were from. If there had been room in the pew rack between the Bible and the hymnal, I would have crawled in. To my dismay, he recognized me, pointed right at me, and waited. So I reluctantly gave my daughter’s name and my own. After the service, I assured her I would never do that to guests at our church.

That day I got a small taste of what guests at thousands of churches around the country experience every Sunday morning. It has helped me navigate an age-old dilemma: how do we welcome guests without overwhelming them? How do we express genuine interest without “getting all up in their business”? A swing and a miss is still a miss—no matter how mighty the swing.

The average church worship gathering sees two kinds of guests: those with a church background and those with little-to-none. The first type has some expectation of what the gathering will be like. The second goes by rumors, TV shows, and, often, negative word-of-mouth. How we engage guests—especially first-time guests—can determine not only whether they will return, but also whether they will judge us as genuinely interested in them.

Here are a few dos and don'ts to make sure your attempts to welcome are actually welcoming.

1. Don’t rely on a greeting time to welcome guests.

Regardless of how effusive your people are during the mid-service greeting time, it’s probably not the best way to make visitors feel welcome. If your church is like mine used to be, “stand and greet those around you” time usually involves people tossing a quick hello to those they do not know before turning to catch up with those they do. Rather than welcoming newcomers, people make lunch plans, discipline children, put away chewed gum, and discuss football games. Guests expecting to meet regular attenders may be surprised to find that the “greet those around you” time is actually a “greet those you know” time. They end up feeling left out, not welcomed.

That’s not to say you should automatically forego a greeting time (although our church dropped it some time ago). But do not be surprised if some guests view it as contrived—especially if no one speaks to them outside of that two-minute window.

2. Don’t ask guests to draw attention to themselves.

Asking guests to remain seated while everyone else stands provides a strange point of view for those seated—to put it mildly. And, after more than 35 years as a follower of Jesus, I still feel anxious when asked to raise my hand or stand while everyone else remains seated. (Don’t even think about asking me to shout out my name as a first-time guest.)

Few things are less appealing to my fellow introverts and me than forced small talk.

And about those contrived “greeting times”—many people do not mind shaking hand after hand while loud music plays, but a large percentage of the population (like me) are introverts. Few things are less appealing to my fellow introverts and me than forced small talk.

3. Do emphasize and celebrate the presence of guests during a pulpit welcome.

Most worship gatherings feature a time when the pastor or another leader welcomes attendees. When I was a lead pastor, this was when I liked to express deep appreciation for any guests in attendance. After all, they had—quite literally—a world of other options on that particular morning. I never wanted to take them for granted or miss an opportunity to make them feel appreciated by limiting my welcome to a recap of the bulletin announcements.

The person who has the microphone last can also facilitate welcoming with a simple reminder: “Don’t forget to speak to someone you haven’t met yet.”

4. No second chance to make a first impression.

You may already place greeters in the parking lot or at the entry doors, but remember, their job isn’t to prop the door open with one foot while chatting with friends or looking at their phone. Their primary ministry is to extend a hand and a smile to break down guests’ apprehensiveness. These volunteers are the vanguard of your welcome team, so devote time training them to brag on kids, admire new babies, and help guests find the friend who invited them. This goes a long way toward showing that guests matter.

At our church, this team is responsible for distributing the bulletin as they greet each arrival. This exchange of printed information is another opportunity for connection and conversation. No guest should pass through your doors without hearing more than a half-hearted “good morning.”

5. Do teach members how to welcome people.

Much of our society lives in isolation—if not physically, then relationally—and we no longer emphasize “ice breaker” conversation and small talk. (For people like me, small talk is torture. I would rather pay a fine than chit-chat about nothing just to avoid silence.)

No guest should pass through your doors without hearing more than a half-hearted “good morning.”

We’ve learned to introduce ourselves to people only in special contexts: in a business meeting, but not on a bus ride. Certain parts of the country are less prone to casual conversation than others. In other words, starting purposeful conversations from scratch is a challenge for many people. It isn’t innate; it must be taught.

First, whoever is tasked with training or coaching small group leaders should make a point to say, “Remind your people to welcome guests.” Repeat this mantra in the bulletin, in Bible studies, and from the pulpit: “Be sure to welcome guests.”

Second, train your members to approach people they do not know before the service starts. Give them talking points that move beyond “How ‘bout this weather?” to “Tell me about your family?” or “What brought you to this service today?”

6. Do implement a strategic follow-up plan for guests.

One long-time strategy I’ve seen churches use is Seven Ways in Seven Days. They contact each guest using seven different methods during the first week after his or her visit. This strategy may or may not be effective in your area, but the point is intentionality more than intensity.

Perhaps your church could use a combination of cards, text messages, emails, and phone calls. Experiment to discover what works best in your context. Our church is finding a good response to text messages. Since cell phone area codes are transportable, many people do not pick up a call if the number is out of their area. We use an introductory text to schedule a phone call or email where further information can be given. Our pastor calls each guest on Sunday afternoon from the church phone so the caller ID is clear. He gets good results from this practice.

When following up with guests, listen for these words of feedback: “friendly,” “felt at home,” “was surprised how many people spoke to me,” and “will definitely be back.”

Your goal is to determine how guests—those familiar with church and those who are not—felt and responded to your welcoming efforts. Plans that sound good and execute well should be dropped or re-thought if only we think they are successful. “Welcoming” is an attitude to inject into our congregations and an atmosphere to create in our culture. But “feeling welcomed” is determined in the heart of the recipient. Intentional strategies are important, but unless your people truly care about the guests in their midst, the best of plans won’t make a difference.

 

 

 Article #2
 

My Visit to Montreat

I spent a day at the home of the Rev. Billy Graham. |
Ed Stetzer
My Visit to Montreat

Recently, I was in Montreat, North Carolina, at the home of Billy Graham.

As the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, this was a tremendous privilege for me. As I think about it, virtually all of the ministries that I am engaged in are in some way impacted by the leadership of Mr. Graham. (This includes Christianity Today, where this is published, which was started by Mr. Graham under the editorship of Carl Henry.)

Mr. Graham’s impact upon evangelicalism is unmatched and will stand as a testimony for generations to come. Although I was unable to meet with him while I was there due to his frail health, I was able to see where he, Ruth, and their children lived and get a glimpse into his daily life. I wanted to share some photos I took that inspired me with the hopes that they would have a similar reaction in you.

Here is the view from the Graham’s living room window, overlooking the Black Mountain Range. The word Montreat is a portmanteau of the words ‘mountain’ and ‘retreat.’ You can imagine how this home was a special place for Mr. Graham and his family to ‘retreat’ from the pressures of a global ministry.

I was there most of the day with Will Graham. Will, like his grandfather and father, is an evangelist, in addition to running The Cove. Will showed me some of the nooks and crannies of this simple home, telling a funny story here about one of the kids who used to hide in there.

Here, Will is standing by the huge wood-burning fireplace. The mantel bears the title of Luther’s greatest hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” carved in German.

One of the chairs in Mr. Graham’s office (in his nearby offices) bears the insignia of Wheaton College. Mr. Graham graduated from Wheaton in 1943. Needless to say, his legacy here looms large, as I am writing this in the actual Billy Graham Center.

David Bruce, Executive Assistant to Mr. Graham, dropped in. Here, Will and David are telling me stories as I sit behind the desk of the Mr. Graham. He’s not been in that office for a long time, but it is as he left it, with his favorite picture of Ruth Bell Graham.

And here I am. Ready for action.

Actually, I hold the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College, but was shocked for find that, well, there really is no chair (we ordered the chair I am sitting in right now from a catalog).

So, technically, THIS is the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair, and I’m not worthy to sit in the physical one, or the academic one, but it was a thrill to do so.

Finally, there is a fascinating collection of pictures showing Mr. Graham meeting with U.S. presidents, often for prayer and counsel. I have heard that Mr. Graham has personally met with more presidents than any other living person.

These meetings span nearly 70 years, from Harry Truman to Barak Obama. President Barack Obama visited Mr. Graham at his home at the end of his weekend mountain vacation in April 2010. He was the first sitting president to meet with Mr. Graham at his home. And he visited with President Trump before he was president, which is the last picture on the right.

I won’t soon forget my pilgrimage to Montreat, and I am especially thankful to be part of preserving his legacy of solid evangelistic fervor. A few minutes ago, I preached in Wheaton College chapel. I preached on the priority of gospel proclamation, and I thought to myself, “I pray we preserve the legacy of gospel proclamation here.”

It is an honor to serve at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. My hope is that through our ministries, his legacy will continue to live on. But more importantly, that all of us would go and share the good news of Jesus as freely, boldly, and winsomely as Mr. Graham has done for more than seven decades.

 

 Article #3

 

The Millennial Exodus: How We Created It

by Rick Chromey

Some of you won’t like what I’m about to write, but I need to point out something that’s bugged me for decades.

Perhaps it’s the reason the Millennial generation has walked away from church and even Christianity. Despite enjoying the best in resources, facilities, events, pastors, and opportunity since the 1980s, the Millennials continue to leave church in droves.

Everyone wonders why.

Well, here’s my take.

I think it’s because we bribed them to follow Jesus. Of course, you might prefer more sanitized terms like incentive, reward, or prize, but I still think it’s bribery:

“Say your memory verse (perfectly) and I’ll give you candy.”

“Bring your Bible, get a Bible Buck to buy toys at our store.”

“Invite friends and receive a Christian concert ticket.”

“Be good today and we’ll have a pizza party next week.”

“Perfect attendance and the church pays for your mission trip.”

Do this and get that. I’ve been watching these incentive “church” games for over three decades. I used to play them myself until I recognized they don’t work. Not for long, anyway.

I’ve also witnessed some extreme abuses of incentives:

  • A youth pastor awards a car to whoever brings the most friends to an event.
  • A children’s minister fuels child baptisms with extra trips to the prize chest.
  • On Easter Sunday, advertised free televisions are given to first-time visitors.
  • A youth ministry doles out $5 to everyone who attends meetings, plus awards bonus bills to teens who pray, serve, lead, or teach.

Its no wonder the Millennial generation is cynical of “churchianity.” They’re a smart bunch and clearly have tired of the bribery. Furthermore, countless managerial studies and educational research confirms incentive-based strategies fail to produce long-term results. Consequently, many businesses and schools have ditched incentives, but in the church, many still believe spiritual growth can be manipulated and microwaved.

So is there a better way? Actually, yes, there’s a much better way.

When I’m hungry, my stomach “growls” for food. Similarly, every human has six inner needs that rumble for attention. When leaders, teachers, and parents feed these needs, it sparks natural motivation to learn, behave, and produce:

GRACE: Forgiveness. Freedom.

RELATIONSHIP: Connection. Community. Collaboration.

OWNERSHIP: Control. Contribution. Choice.

WORTH: Value. Voice. Vision.

LAUGHTER: Enjoyable. Entertaining.

SECURITY: Emotional. Physical. Mental. Spiritual.

When churches and ministries create environments of grace soaked in relationship, powered by ownership, and focused on worth, they naturally g-r-o-w attention and affection, loyalty and liberty, duty and discipline. When children, teens, and adults also feel safe and enjoy the process, motivation really sparks.

Abraham Maslow and William Glasser, among other psychologists, have long recognized these inner needs, but few practiced them better than Jesus. He discipled entirely by feeding the GROWLS and never resorted to manipulation with incentives to motivate spiritual growth.

That’s why some won’t like this post.

Many in the Millennial Generation weren’t won to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Instead, they were bribed to view Christianity through the lens of consumerism (“what do I get?”), narcissism (“what’s in it for me?”), and perfectionism (“did I do it flawlessly?”). In our incentives, even if practiced innocently or ignorantly, we actually taught works righteousness, churchianity, and moral therapeutic deism.

Essentially, we persuaded a generation to focus on prizes rather than a Person, to value stuff rather than spiritual awakening, and to view Christianity as destination rather than journey.

We also created winners and losers. And perhaps that’s the biggest barb in these bribes. The Millennial Generation learned at church that if they can’t win—because only winners get the prize—then it’s not a place for them.

And so they left.

And now you know why.

 
 
A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis

Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, or suffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in Jim Bishop's book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken the crucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callous to its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurred to me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause of Christ's death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Since crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, they undoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason we have only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him."

Despite the gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many have looked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from a medical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wrote extensively on the topic.

An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate1 God in atonement2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope of this article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord's passion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of His initial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is the bloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the only evangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, "And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone could have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

Although Jesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, the next event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective is His trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards then blindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.

Before Pilate

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from a sleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shift responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate ordered Barabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparations for Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders. The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonly used for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaited into the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and again there was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe from His back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. The heavy patibulum3 of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we know today as the Via Dolorosa.

In spite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. He stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion, selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finally completed. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loin cloth which was allowed the Jews.

The crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic, pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4, and the titulus5 reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was nailed into place.

The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

The Last Words

Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded.

The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."

The second - to the penitent thief7: "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The third - looking down at Mary His mother, He said: "Woman, behold your son." Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John , the beloved apostle, He said: "Behold your mother."8

The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.

The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasped His fifth cry: "I thirst." Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips. His body was now in extremis, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brought forth His sixth word, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished." His mission of atonement9 had been completed. Finally, He could allow His body to die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit."

Death

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "And immediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed.

But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man--the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning.

1 Incarnate
2 Atonement
3 Horizontal portion of the cross
4 Vertical portion of the cross
5 Small sign stating the victim's crime
6 Gambling
7 The one who felt remorse for his sins and asked Jesus to help him.
8 As Jesus was dying, He gave his trusted friend responsibility for the care of His mother.
9 Taking our place by suffering the death penalty for our sin.

Dr. C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a book about medicine and the Bible.

Editors' note: If Jesus had remained dead, Christianity would be nothing but an empty promise. But three days after His death, He rose again from the dead. This is the miracle of resurrection, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter. To learn more about the resurrection, read John chapters 20 and 21.