Kicking Off the 2021 Summer Reading Project: B.L.E.S.S.

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through B.L.E.S.S. by Dave and Jon Ferguson, I’ll post my thoughts here. They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2021. The schedule is online.

Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson are brothers who planted Community Christian Church in Chicago. It’s grown large (the church was drawing 6,500 attendees before COVID) and they’ve written several books to help their congregants serve Christ more effectively. This summer we’re going to take a look at their book about evangelism: B.L.E.S.S.

B.L.E.S.S. is an acrostic built out of the five practices the book advocates: Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, and Story.

This week, we’re looking at chapters 1 and 2. Dave describes his struggles trying to share his faith (although the book is co-authored, they wrote it in Dave’s voice to make it less confusing), shares encouraging data about how open people are to talking about God, and at the beginning of chapter two drops this gem about an email he received:

…Two teams of missionaries…went to Thailand. While both teams went with similar goals, they carried two distinctly different strategies.

The “Converters” group went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing. Their goal was to “save souls.”

The “Blessers” group explained their intention like this: “We are here to bless whoever God sends our way.”

The study followed both the “Converters” and the “Blessers” for two years. At the end of that time, the researchers discovered two key findings:

First, the presence of the “Blessers” in the community resulted in tremendous amounts of “social good.” It appeared, according to the study, that this group contributed to the betterment of society, community life, and the creation of social capital. The presence of the “Converters,” however, seemed to make no difference.

The second discovery–and this was very surprising–was that the “Blessers” saw forty-eight conversions while the “Converters” saw only one! The “Blessers” group saw almost fifty times as many conversions through being a blessing than the group that was only trying to convert the people around it.

B.L.E.S.S pages 17–18

I’ve never seen that study and can’t comment on its rigor, but it intuitively makes sense to me. A similar line of thinking led to the way I close our on-campus services each week. If you’re part of Chi Alpha, you’ve heard me say the following dozens of times:

“As you leave, remember you’re not just leaving a meeting. You’re leaving as part of a community, if you want to be. We’re Chi Alpha, a community of students earnestly following Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Our name reminds us of our mission: Chi Alpha stands for Christ’s Ambassadors because we represent a King and we do what ambassadors do. We make friends on our sovereign’s behalf and we advance His interests wherever we find ourselves. And since our King is in the blessing business, that makes it our business too. Go forth tonight with an eager expectation to see how God will use you to bless others. Go forth with faith in your heart, hope upon your countenance, and love upon your lips.”

Those aren’t just idle words I say, they express some of my deepest convictions about ministry. And so my hope is that reading this book together will help us become even more effective at being agents of blessing.

Blessing people is always good. When we bless people at a minimum they receive our love, and at maximum they receive both our love and God’s. In other words, the worst case scenario is that they are blessed, and the best case scenario is that they are both blessed and also transformed by God’s grace. There’s no bad outcome — it’s either good or it’s great!

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