Clay M. Burnett, MD,
Dear Christian Leader,
As a physical heart surgeon, I’ve had the privilege to perform many heart transplants and hold thousands of live hearts in my hands. Like you, I regularly communicate intimately with patients when they come as close to the edge of eternity as one can get.
As you know so well, we are not only living in a Post-Christian society, but as Dr. Ed Stetzer reported, half the people in evangelical churches don’t even believe that Christ is the only way to salvation. After similar research David Kinnaman concluded in UnChristian that we need a new language “to get back to the power and depth of the Gospel as it is conveyed through Scripture.”
More than thirty years ago the Lord graciously transformed my life through Campus Crusade when I was a sophomore at East Carolina University. But three years ago Chris Cooper showed me the short Swedish film, Passing Hearts, and I gained a new appreciation for what Christ sacrificed for me on the cross and my new identity in Christ.
The Bible talks about the “heart” more than 700 times. In Ezekiel 36:26 God says He’ll take out our hearts of stone and give us new hearts and new spirits. Then, in John 17:26, Jesus prays He will be our heart donor. And the perfect, eternal heart of Christ is the only heart that can save us.
So here’s the new picture and language that is so easy to visualize and communicate:
By our very nature, our old heart of stone is dead to God. We are totally self-centered. Our only hope is a heart transplant. By God’s infinite mercy, He intentionally sent His only Son to die on the Cross to be our heart donor. But, Praise God, Christ defeated death so His perfect, eternal living heart can now be sewn into each of us when we surrender the old heart to Him and request the surgery. To our joy, our new heart makes us new creations and members of the family of God. Now the same love the Father has for Jesus can now flow through us.
Now that’s the exciting, world-changing Gospel truth!
I’m writing to you as a fellow heart surgeon, because I believe God’s real mission for His church is to be a heart transplant hospital for the Kingdom of God. So I’m asking you to pray about taking a lead role in launching a new language of the heart by delivering an four to eight-week sermon series on spiritual heart transplants.
In the words of Pastor Keith Bonner at First Baptist of Safety Harbor, here’s what happened after they showed the 10-minute video, The Parable of the Heart in their Sunday service:
“I’m delighted to report that a young mother in her twenties trusted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at the end of the service. We have been praying for her for some time and asking the Lord to give us the right way to present the Gospel message to her. When she told us of her decision to receive Christ, she said, “I never understood it this way before.” She is scheduled to be baptized this coming Sunday. Praise the Lord!”
One of the reasons Bill Fay got so excited about The Parable of the Heart is that your members can buy three DVDs for only $10 on the way out of church and immediately share the Gospel with their friends and neighbors.
When Pastor Bob Kasten at the Southeast Florida Baptist Church in Ft. Myers showed the 10-minute video in his services, the 400 people in the services bought 200 copies of the DVD. The church did not have to spend a penny. However, they did choose to buy 40 copies of the Spanish DVD for their mission trip to Panama and some DVDs to keep on hand because they know their members will be coming back for more.
You know a picture can be worth far more than a thousand words. When Henri Nouwen saw Rembrandt’s last painting, The Return of the Prodigal, he wrote a best-selling book that has helped thousands grow in their Christian faith.
In the same way, the short international award winning film clip, Passing Hearts, can help facilitate spiritual heart surgery on the people in your church and throughout the world.
In one of the most intimate scenes ever caught on film, we watch the expression on the face of Stefan’s mother as she listens to her deceased son’s heart beating inside Daniel. When this couple’s son, Stefan, died in an accident, they donated Stefan’s organs for transplant. Daniel now carries the heart of their son, Stefan, in his chest.
Another page on this website describes our strategic partnership with LifeLink for organ donor registration. More than 105,000 terminally ill people are on the organ transplant waiting list, and half of them will die before receiving their needed organs, primarily because of the shortage of organ donors. Through the united efforts of the churches in America, God could virtually eliminate the organ donor shortage, while presenting a clear and compelling presentation of the Gospel to millions of people in need of heart transplants.
Chris Cooper said he would be delighted to work with you in developing this for your church. Just to get you started, attached is a list of ideas for an eight week series.
Thank you for considering this request. Please feel free to call Chris Cooper at (913) 231-3579.
In His service,
Clay M. Burnett, MD
P.S. When a physician signs on for Cardiothoracic surgery, he or she commits to working 36 hours on and 12 off. In other words, they only sleep every other night. Don’t you think churches should be as committed to help spiritually dead people receive the perfect, eternal heart of Jesus Christ in a transplant?!
STARTING IDEAS FOR THE EIGHT-WEEK SERMON SERIES ON HEART TRANSPLANTS
In this eight week series you take someone all the way from salvation to becoming an evangelist. The general outline of the series may already be developed for your in the Four-week teaching series. There are so many ways you can drill down into this in a fresh and compelling new presentation of the Gospel. Here are just a few examples:
Week 1: How do you know if you need a heart transplant and how do you get one?
To start the series, we recommend you preach for about 15-minutes and then show the 9-minute video followed by the invitation. (More on that later.)
Week 2: What is the nature of the old heart?
The spiritual heart is the fountain or source of all of our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes and endeavors. We are developing a free hand out piece about the size of the “Four Spiritual Laws” that contains a chart for people to diagnose their own heart conditions and understand the concept of spiritual heart transplants. When we seriously compare our own thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes and endeavors to those of Jesus Christ, Romans 3:23 takes on a whole new meaning. We don’t just fall short, we are light years away! Great time for another invitation.
Week 3: What is the nature of Christ’s heart and our new relationship with Him?
The heart transplant allegory provides a powerful model to help us understand the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our hearts are dead in our sins and transgressions. We need transplants and there is only one spiritual heart that can save us. Only the perfect, eternal heart of Christ, the only begotten sinless Son of God who died on the Cross, can save us for eternity.
Here, you can drill down into the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes and endeavors of Christ and how He lived His life. Who wouldn’t want a heart like that?
And what a beautiful picture of a personal relationship with Christ! Having the very heart of another person is even closer than your breath. When His thoughts become our thoughts, His passions become our passions, when His desires become our desires, there is no greater level of intimacy.
Week 4: How much does God the Father love us and want us to love others?
In John 17:26 Jesus prays on behalf of all future believers that the same love that the Father has for Jesus would be in us. So, just how much does the Father love Jesus?
God is pursuing us. The picture of this mother running out and hugging Daniel, and this couple who freely donated the heart of their son for somebody that they did not even know is a beautiful picture of God's love for us. In fact, we were not only strangers but we were enemies when he gave us his son's heart.
After our heart transplant, the Holy Spirit will fill us with that same love. What would happen to the world if Idlewild members would live out that reality?!
Week 5: What can we do to earn this new heart?
ABSOLUTE GRACE: You could easily preach several weeks on this. In your church you probably have members who have received heart transplants. If so, ask them what they could have done or ever could do to earn the right to receive the heart of their donor. Most likely their eyes will fill with tears and they won’t be able to speak. There is absolutely nothing a heart recipient could ever do to earn the right to receive the heart of their donor. Ephesians 2:8-9-reveals, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Week 6: What is the nature of our new family relationships?
A physical heart recipient becomes flesh and blood relatives with the family of the heart donor. But the family tie is even stronger with God. When we receive the heart of Christ we are adopted into the family of God and become new creations with new identities. We become heirs with Christ to the Kingdom of Heaven. The people in the church are our new brothers and sisters with the same hearts.
IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS: Whenever Stefan’s parents see Daniel, they don’t think about his shortcomings and failures. All they see is their son’s heart in him. That’s how God sees us after our transplant.
Week 7: How do we live heart healthy lifestyles?
After our transplant, we need to take medicine, which is the Word of God; attend support groups, which are Bible believing churches and small groups, and meet with our great physician daily, which is prayer.
Immediately after our transplant we may not be the picture of perfect health, but praise the Lord, God promises to finish the good work He started in us and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ. That’s a beautiful picture of sanctification.
Week 8: How do we help others receive heart transplants?
This is the evangelism training piece.
Because Passing Hearts has won top awards in a dozen international film festivals, it has high credibility as a secular work of art. As a result, non-Christians will be drawn to watching it and some of your members may feel more comfortable giving it to their non-Christian friends.
In this week we look at how our partnership with LifeLink for organ donor registration can give us many opportunities to share this message.
By the end of the eight week series your members will be well equipped to confidently share this message with their friends.
You could explain it this way at the end of each service in the series:
Imagine you go to your cardiologist and she explains you are in end-stage heart failure and your only chance to survive is to receive a heart transplant.
First you would cry out, “Lord have mercy on me!”
Then you would seek a second opinion, interview heart recipients and surf the Internet looking for survival rates, best hospitals, latest research, lifestyles after transplant, finances and more. And rightly so, because asking the doctor to saw your chest open, cut out your old heart and sew in a new one, may be the most radical surgery anyone can have.
But some of you are in that place where you know your old heart is dead and no amount of exercise or new diet can save you. Because of our human condition, everything we do is selfishly motivated at it’s deepest level. And no matter how hard you try, you end up doing the opposite of what you know you should do.
Through Ephesians 2:4-5 God teaches, although you were dead in your transgressions, you were made alive in Christ! Jesus did not come to make bad people good, HE CAME TO MAKE DEAD PEOPLE ALIVE!
For some of you God has made it clear that your old heart is dead in transgressions. You know you need the new heart. But reality is until you sign the surgery request form and lie down on the operating table, you don’t get the new heart.
The great news is, God is waiting right now and would love to take out your old heart of stone and put in the heart of His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s non-invasive, but you will become a new creation with the heart of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.
So if you feel God is calling you to surrender that old heart of stone and receive the perfect, eternal heart of Jesus Christ, you can simply say something like this to God: ….
You could give some form of that invitation every week for eight weeks.
After the invitation, ask the people how many of them have ever talked with a friend about medical issues in the last month. Or, how many of you know someone with heart problems or other medical issues. Or maybe you know someone who is a medical professional who could relate to this story. Or maybe you know someone who is struggling with anxiety, depression, fear or other problems.
Encourage them to purchase 3 DVDs for $10 as they go out to share with their friends. When they do, we recommend that they loan the DVD to the friend for one week. That way their friends are more likely to watch it and they can talk with them about their reaction to the video.