Category Archives: Evangelism

Movin’ ’em to the right

Note: This is not a political post at all.  Really.  When I say right I literally mean to the right in the chart below, not to the political right.  We will now resume our daily post. 

This isn’t a continuum of behavior from bad to good, though there may be some correlation there.  It is purely a representation of how we move closer to God.  Some move at a steady pace, some quickly, some slowly and some never make the move or move to the left.  The idea is that non-believers may gradually learn more about God as seeds are planted and He works in their lives.  At some point the critical jump across the chasm is made and they put their trust in Jesus.  But it isn’t over then.  Discipleship – learning and growing – is a huge part of the Christian life. 

  right.jpg

I use this illustration when teaching evangelism to emphasize that as Christians we should always be working to move people to the right, in big ways or small.  Sharing the Gospel.  Treating people with love and kindness.  Giving.  Supporting missionaries.  Encouraging others.  Teaching.  Challenging.  Planting seeds.  Acting with integrity at work (and everywhere else).  Being the kind of spouses, parents and children the Bible calls us to be. 

Everyone is somewhere on this continuum, so our challenge is to help keep them (and ourselves) moving.  Ultimately, God is in control.  But He has asked us to be a part of his great plan.  How obedient will I be today?

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“Why do you believe in Jesus? And how can I?”

Are you equipped to answer those questions in a clear, winsome and biblical way?

I actually got an email with those two questions in the subject line.  The sender was a guy from  a Sunday school class I was teaching.  He attended with his wife, who was a committed believer, but he was a skeptic. We ended up having a great conversation about the real Gospel, the importance of reading the Bible, etc.  (We ended up leaving that church so I’m not sure of his current beliefs.  But I trust the process.)

Those are the ultimate softball questions for Christians, right?  They recognize that you believe in Jesus, they are interested in the reasons and they want to know how to do it as well.  Not all encounters will be that tailor made, but my question is this: Are you ready to give effective answers to those questions?  If you aren’t then you need to equip yourselves starting now.

I always start any evangelism / apologetics training with that anecdote.  I want people to get away from thinking that evangelism is only about knocking on doors (not that there is anything wrong with that) and pushing through hostile encounters (Jesus gave us the pearls before swine commandment in Matthew 7:6 for a reason).  I want people to be prepared, but not to give up before they start.

I highly recommend reading this book and having extra copies to share with people.  You will learn how to give an effective presentation of the Gospel, explain the main themes of the Bible and Christianity and address common objections.

P.S. There was an interesting side note with the email.  The guy was a trustee of a 3,000 person Methodist church at the time.   They didn’t even know he was an explicit non-believer.  I knew the church had agnostics in other roles who thought they are Christians, but this guy knew his real spiritual status.  Maybe churches should get to know their leaders first, and as a bonus, their members.  /sarcasm

Love in the Book of Acts

heart.gifHow many times do you think the word love is mentioned in the Book of Acts?  I often use this as a warm up question when teaching about evangelism.  The answers usually range from somewhere in the teens to over 100.

Before you answer, here are a few Acts facts to consider:

  • Acts has 28 chapters (the average book in the Bible has 18 )
  • Acts chronicles the spread of the early church over nearly 30 years, from Jesus’ final words and his ascension into Heaven all the way through the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment near the end of his life.
  • Acts includes 13 presentations of the Gospel to a variety of people – crowds, individuals, Jews, Gentiles, ordinary citizens, high-ranking government officials, etc.

So how many times it the word love is mentioned in Acts?

Here’s the answer: 0.  Zero.  Z-E-R-O.  Seriously.  Do a word search in your Bible software.  It’s OK, I didn’t believe it the first time I heard it.

So what’s the point?  Does that mean love isn’t important?  Of course not.  God displays perfect love throughout his Word and his love for us is displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus the Son on the cross.  And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mention God’s love when sharing the Gospel.

But it does tell us some important things about evangelism.  The history of the early church should certainly provide a model for how we should go about sharing the truth of the Gospel.  The primary model used in Acts was to lay out the facts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and miracles and to highlight our need for him and his forgiveness.  There are calls for repentance.  But God’s love is never directly mentioned and there is no hint at universalism (the notion that everyone goes to Heaven). 

Preaching God’s unconditional love without the need for repentance and faith in Christ is not a Biblical model.  It can give people a false sense of security, as in, “God loves me without conditions?  Great!  No need to change anything.  I’ll get back to mocking/ignoring him now.”  That is the terrible place to be, as even those who consciously rebel are conceding that they are out of line with God.

People need to understand the bad news (they are sinners against a perfect and Holy God and rightly destined for an eternity in Hell) before they realize their need for the Good News (Jesus took the punishment for our sins and we can be completely and eternally forgiven and reconciled to God if we put our faith in Jesus).

Also note that the Gospel presentations in Acts rebut the myth that Christianity involves faith without reason.  Each time the message is given it is based on facts, logic and appeals to reason.  At no point is the message to have blind faith.

Acts 17:29–31 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Read Acts for yourself and see what I mean, or read about Preaching God’s love in Acts.

Hat tip: Greg Koukl – Stand to Reason

Remember, it is called the Good News for a reason

It is bad enough that Christians aren’t more intentional about sharing the Gospel. But in a twist that Screwtape would be proud of, countless people who profess to follow Christ are actually proud about not sharing the Good News.  Michael Moore gave a good example of this when he said:

I have always believed that one’s religious leanings are deeply personal and should be kept private.

I’m not sure where he came up with that belief, but it isn’t in the Bible.  Since Moore was claiming to speak for Jesus, perhaps he should tell us how the Bible teaches that we should be private about our religious beliefs.  That would make it hard to fulfill the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A commenter named Joanne noted that:

Progressive denominations have stopped trying to proselytize with their missionaries YEARS ago. Look at Global Ministries (UCC/Disciples of Christ). They make no efforts to convert people.

She’s right, and it is pathetic that those organizations who willfully withhold the Gospel call themselves churches or “disciples of Christ.”

A regular commenter (“Sunday School Teacher”) noted this:

Our church is currently having a sermon series on Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules”.

The 1st rule is “Do No Harm”. Some people are trying to use this rule to argue that we should not try to change the religious view of others, as this could lead to conflict and thus harm.

I’m glad that SST is trying to lead his church in the right direction, but it is amazing that people learning about John Wesley would ever imagine that he’d discourage people from sharing the Gospel.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

As Paul said in Romans 1:16:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

From the Newsboys song, I’m Not Ashamed:

What are we sneaking around for?  Who are we trying to please?

Shrugging off sin, apologizing like we’re spreading some kind of disease.  I’m saying no way.  No way.

I’m not ashamed to let you know I want this light in me to show. I’m not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus Christ.

This one says, “It’s a lost cause.  Save your testimonies for church time. ” Other ones say, “You’d better wait until you do a little market research.”

I’m saying no way.  No way.

The Gospel can and will offend people.  We don’t want to add to the offense with our own style, but that is no excuse not to share it.  The bad news is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.  The Good News — and it is still good news worth sharing — is that there is a Savior.  He is Jesus, and He is the only way to salvation.

Hear the Good News, believe the Good News and share the Good News!  But please don’t identify as a Christian if you think it is bad news and refuse to share it with others.

Is forgiveness possible? Don’t ask the “Christian” Left, ask a Christian!

I like to re-run this now and then, which is appropriate, because it is TV-related.

It was surprising but so encouraging to see that the clip below was on the TV show ER a few years back.  The video is fictional, of course, but the premise occurs countless times every day around the world: People need and want forgiveness, but the world — and especially the “Christian” Left —  tell them lies.

The chaplain is the classic fake Christian you’d expect to find in most theologically liberal churches today.  I love how the patient doesn’t buy her “just make up a god in your own image” type of platitudes.

The money quotes from the dying patient:

All I’m hearing is some new age “God is love” one-size-fits-all crap . . . I don’t have time for this now . . . I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell . . . I don’t need to “ask myself,” I need answers, and all your questions and uncertainty are only making things worse . . .

I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!

Hey Christians, time to fire up!  Some people don’t want the truth.  But there are lots of real people like this in the world who need and want the truth.  They must be so sick of the lies and the politically correct “God is whoever you want him to be” nonsense taught by the world and by far too many churches.

Is it really so hard to understand that you do not get to tell the creator of the universe how eternity works?  You don’t set the terms and conditions of salvation any more than you get to tell your boss to triple your pay and give you 50 weeks of vacation, or tell your teacher that he must give you an A without you coming to class.

Christianity has the truth and the Good News, but far too many people claiming the name of Christ are unequipped and/or unwilling to share it, even when asked.  If that applies to you, then do something about it.  Right away!  I recommend Tactics by Greg Koukl as a great way to learn how to share your faith as an effective ambassador and apologist for Christ, just as the scriptures command.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Are you ready to tell people the truth and the Good News?  Forgiveness, redemption and eternal life are possible, but only through trust in Jesus.

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Here’s a conversation you don’t want to have.

Reading the entire New Testament or the entire Bible doesn’t automatically save you, but isn’t it a logical thing for Christians to progress towards?  You want to avoid this:

  • Non-Christian: So, you believe the Bible is the word of God and tells you all about your Savior and such?
  • You: Yes!
  • N-C: Have you read it all?
  • Y: Uh, not as such, no . . .
  • N-C: Not even all of the New Testament?
  • Y: Look – a squirrel!

Another thing to avoid: Talking about the importance of the 10 Commandments but not being able to name them.

I encourage everyone to read some of the Bible every day.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  Just do it.  It will make you a better ambassador for Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Witnessing to the Witnesses (and others): Some useful tactics

A couple Jehovah’s Witnesses came by the other day and we visited for a while.  What would you think about my approach if you knew that I made the following points?

  • They are in the wrong religion
  • Their religion has characteristics of a cult
  • They are worshiping the wrong Jesus
  • Their New World Bible has some deliberate mistranslations
  • If you really love Jesus you’ll want to ensure you understand his nature properly
  • Hell is real

They must have thought I was a big meanie, right?  Just another one of those jerky know-it-all judgmental Christians.

Nope.  I made all those points quite clearly, yet the way I navigated the conversation resulted in the lead guy telling me in a sincere way at least three times what a nice guy I was (I give a lot of credit to Stand to Reason and Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions for this approach).

Now we all know I’m as friendly as a basket full of puppies (We do know that, right?!), but you usually wouldn’t expect that reaction after I just made all those points about their religion.  So what made the difference?  Things like this:

  • I focused on the Bible, because we both claim that is the word of God.
  • I stuck to a few key points: John 1:1* (which I knew they’d have a ready response to, even though I could counter it), John 1:3** (they weren’t ready for that), the JW rule about them not being allowed to take written materials from me, and that their New World Bible translation has easily identifiable errors.  I continually referred to the real Jesus — the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator in Genesis 1 and John 1, the one whose descriptions are used synonymously with those of God in the Old Testament, etc.
  • I told them I appreciated how they cared enough to go out and share what they think is true.
  • I used common foes (Mormonism, Islam) as examples before addressing the JW theological errors.
  • I noted that it doesn’t bother me that they think I’m wrong and that I think they are wrong, so we can have a friendly discussion on where we differ.
  • I realized I had said “JWs” instead of their religion’s full name then sincerely apologized if they found that shortcut offensive.  They didn’t, noting that they use it themselves, but my desire to avoid unnecessary offense seemed to resonate with them.
  • I listened carefully when they made their points.
  • We had some friendly chit-chat interspersed with the theological discussions (one guy was from Italy, so we talked a little about that).
  • It was a hot day (August in Texas!) so I gave them each a bottle of cold water as they left.
  • I gave them one of my “business” cards that has my church information, email address and blog site.  I know they are unlikely to visit, but I smiled and encouraged them to come spy on what the Protestants are up to.

Where these guys end up theologically is between them and God, but I was pleased with the interaction.  It always glorifies God when you speak the truth about him, regardless of how people respond.  And it definitely planted some seeds.  The lead guy was going to take the John 1:3 objections back to one of their experts to try and respond to me.  And my comments on the textual criticism issue seemed stick with them (i.e., that with the thousands of manuscripts we’ve found around the world from different centuries we know that the New World translation has errors).

I admit that I find using these tactics much easier in person than on-line.  But they do work.  I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already.  You can’t control their reactions, but you can speak the truth in love.

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*Their Bible ends John 1:1 with “a God” instead of “God.”  (The right version: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

**They haven’t mistranslated John 1:3 (All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.), so you can show the logic of how Jesus can’t be a created being.  This can be used with Mormons as well.