Being a Blessing to Others
Mike Kinne said he’d kept the secret hidden for 20 years: he and his best friend, Jay, a college roommate, were coming back from a concert when they got in a serious accident. Kinne survived, but he watched his friend die.
Police found Kinne to be negligent in the crash, and he spent some time in prison because of the accident. When he was released, he moved to a different community, and, except for his wife, no one else around him knew about what had happened.
“I didn’t have religion. If I had to get something done, I literally had to do it myself,” Kinne said in a video shown at a recent Coffee Break Connect conference attended online by people across North America and beyond. The Connect event was presented by Global Coffee Break, a CRC ministry that helps churches invite neighbors to discover God’s story together.
“I was very angry at God. I was alone and living two lives — one for me and one for Jay,” said Kinne. “It was like I was carrying around a bag of bricks, and I never considered putting them down and asking for help.”
Kinne’s story — and how he unloaded those bricks by coming to faith in God — was part of a plenary presentation given at the conference by Dave Ferguson, an author, mission leader, and cofounder of Community Christian Church in Naperville, Ill.
Held in mid-November, the online gathering featured other plenary speakers and several breakout sessions.
“I got to know Mike because our boys ran cross country together,” said Ferguson. “We started talking and began to go out to breakfast together.”
As they became good friends, Kinne asked him — and Ferguson agreed — to be his spiritual coach. After that, their connection grew even deeper.
“I will never forget the time Mike told me at breakfast one morning that his friend had died 20 years ago on that day. I was the first person he had told other than his wife.”
Mike’s admission opened things up so that Ferguson could tell his story and how he was forgiven and came to faith.
“I told him that God could use his story for great good. I got to see my friend find his way back to Jesus.”
Mike started attending Ferguson’s church, joined a small group, and eventually invited his family and a full slate of his friends to be there as he was baptized.
When he was baptized, the church erupted in spontaneous applause. They were well aware, said Ferguson, of how important it was for Mike to be immersed in the water and to come back up again as a new person. “It was a wonderful experience for everyone,” said Ferguson.
As part of his presentation, Ferguson spoke about the new book he has coauthored, BLESS: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World.
Focusing on what he sees as an effective approach to evangelism, Ferguson pointed out that research today shows more than 90 percent of people believe in God while only a small percentage attend church — which is the place, he said, where they can learn to live out their faith.
Ferguson said his main focus as a pastor is to help those large numbers of people, noted in the study, to find their way back to God — and his new book attempts to show how people can do this.
“You need clear and simple practices to help people find their way back to God,” he said. “I believe you can have a blessing strategy to reach and change everyone in the world.”
Pointing to the acronym BLESS in his book, he discussed the first letter, B, which refers to “blessing” people by praying for them — not necessarily in an overt way but, for instance, by keeping their name in a journal and bringing them to the attention of God regularly.
Blessing carries with it substantial power, Ferguson said, noting another research study that looked at two approaches — blessing or converting — used by Christian evangelists in different communities in Thailand.
“The ones who were the blessers added significant social capital and made the community a better place to live, and at the same time converted some 100 people,” said Ferguson. Meanwhile, he added, the converters only converted two people.
“Clearly, the strategy to use is to be a blesser and not necessarily a converter,” he said.
Moving on, he said, the L in the acronym is for “listening.” “Too often we are known for our talking instead of listening to someone,” he explained.
The E is for “eating together” — as he and Mike Kinne did when they met so often for breakfast. “We eat three time a day,” Ferguson said. Why not do that along with others as a way to create friendships and be a blessing to others?
The first S is for “serve” — and this means building those relationships and being able to learn, as he did with Kinne, where a person hurts. Part of serving, Ferguson added, is being a good listener as someone talks to you about their struggles.
And the final S is for “story.”
“After you have gone through all of these steps, another person may be ready and willing to hear your story of how the love of God has changed your life,” said Ferguson. “It is important that we don’t start with our story but that we wait until we have the opportunity to share it.”