Archives For Evangelism

Go ahead and think about the person whom you think is the most unlikely to become a Christian. Now, ask yourself why you think this. Odds are you are looking at the way they order their life and in particular their blatant distaste and disregard for God. But you need to correct this thinking. It’s unbiblical to look at what you have to work with and think, “I could see them becoming a Christian” or “There is no way they could become a Christian.” In both cases grace is neglected.

Let me give you an example. In Acts chapter 6 we read: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

Let that sink in.

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Have you become discouraged in evangelism? Have your eyes grown weary from looking for fruit? Are you wondering if the problem is more with you than them?

Let me tell you a true story.

Nearly 20 years ago I was an unbelieving, angry guy. I hadn’t previously been exposed to “Bible-thumping” guys but, now that I was, I utterly despised them. I hated their smiles, humility, hopefulness, charity, and confidence. Oh, how I hated their confidence. I would mock, insult, and try to get them to “sin” or blush. They just kept on like they understood me better than I understood myself.

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Christians approach evangelism a lot like dieting. We are comfortable doing what we are comfortable with. Occasionally, someone will say something that unsettles us.

In terms of our physical health, we go on a diet, join a gym, or pledge to be more fit. I think of this analogy whenever I see a guy getting abused by a trainer. They look like they are going to die. It’s obvious they won’t continue.

In the spiritual realm, specifically with regard to evangelism, people are convicted after they hear a sermon, read a book, or talk with a Christian friend. They pledge to be more active in evangelism. They grab some tracts, set some witnessing goals, and get set to “do-evangelism.” Then, after a few weeks they fizzle. They slide back into the posture of evangelistic passivity. Like the red-cheeked, exhausted fella at the gym: they are ready to throw in the towel.

But what if faithful evangelism didn’t involve anything extra but simply intentionally doing what you already do? Continue Reading…

“I will become a Christian once I get my life together.”

I have heard this phrase too many times to count while talking to people about Jesus. People believe that they need to clean up to become a Christian.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the thing that qualified someone to become a Christian is their filth. Jesus did not say, “I came to affirm the moral.” Or “I came to congratulate the righteous.” Never! Give Jesus the mic and hear him clearly:

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” (Mark 2:17, ESV)

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We all know that kids, particularly little kids say surprising and funny things, but sometimes they are refreshingly precise. They can cut through the boundaries erected by the mature.

This was the case last night as I was putting my daughter (4) to bed. We were talking about how I was going to visit a family member. She asked me if this person loved Jesus. I told her that I do not think that she is a Christian. Then I invited her to pray with me for her salvation. She complied. Then she sat up, pushed her curly hair back and said, “You know what, you should also go and tell her about Jesus right away. Prayers are good but you need to tell her about Jesus Daddy.” I told her that she was exactly right and that I would.

Here we are reminded about the simplicity of a child and perhaps some of the things that Jesus would have been aiming at when he reminded us of being like a child. She doesn’t have all of the hangups that we often have about evangelism. She hasn’t been rejected, argued with, or belittled. She doesn’t entertain the quiet, embarrassing doubts about the sufficiency and power of the gospel. She just understands, in her young mind, the need for us as Christians to tell unbelievers about Jesus. And she is exactly right.

I share this story because it was so encouraging to me and I think it would be for you also. Further, it reminds us not to overcomplicate things; it is really that simple: someone has got to open their mouths and talk about Christ. The gospel is powerful. It is sufficient (Rom. 1:16). After all, this is how we ourselves came to faith in the Savior.

Evangelism is hard. I can’t think of anyone that I have met over the last 15-plus years of being a Christian who did not struggle with evangelism. Even the people who seem to excel and have the gift of evangelism readily confess their weakness.

So, why is it so universally difficult?

Some common answers include such things as not knowing enough Bible, fear of rejection, or not being sure how to bring up the gospel. I am more convinced then ever that these are symptoms of bigger issues. I’ve distilled my answer to evangelistic struggles into three areas: my view of God, my view of others, and my view of the gospel. I am convinced if we get these 3 down then we will be well on our way to diagnosing unfaithfulness and demonstrating faithfulness.

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There are many factors that make evangelism difficult. There is the internal spiritual alienation from God that renders the unbeliever unimpressed by God and therefore unresponsive to him in worship (Col. 1:21; 2 Cor. 4:4-6). Then there is the fog of worldliness that reinforces the heart’s unsubmissiveness to God and his Word (1 Jn. 2:16-17). We see this with the ongoing marketing of personal autonomy, self-discovery, and satisfaction in created things.

But there is another contributor to the fog that is very unhelpful. I am talking about the authority of personal experience. Today our personal experience and personal interpretation of that experience is the unquestionable authority that all must submit to.

Earlier this week I was talking to a number of unbelievers about Jesus. In the midst of the conversation one told me that he can see the future. He said that he has, on a few occasions, been able to see what was going to happen. He pointed to his buddy for confirmation and, as you’d expect, got the requisite head nod. I know that in this conversation I cannot slash the tires of his experience. If I even pull out the knife of reason or testing he will shut me down. Personal experience and our interpretation of it is the authority. We might call it Sola Experiencia. 

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Paul rejoiced whenever Christ was preached (Phil. 1:15-18) and I try to do the same. Paul also talked about proclaiming Christ with wisdom and making the most of our times with the unbelieving world around us–even having grace dripping from our lips (Col. 1:28-29; Col. 4:5-6). Therefore, I can rejoice but also long for some evangelists to switch up their game a bit to be a more considerate and faithful.

Here are four evangelists that need to retire. If only they were just caricatures.

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When you read the Bible it is clear that two things are true: a) God is sovereign. b) Man is responsible for his actions. What becomes tricky is the harmonization of these twin truths. One person might say, “If God is sovereign then he cannot hold people responsible.” Another would say, “If man has responsibility to make the right decision, God cannot be sovereign.” Doubtless you have heard and even felt this tension.

The biblical category where this tension tends to get the most attention is the area of Evangelism. How does the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility mesh together in terms of evangelism?

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Why don’t people heartily engage in mission?

This is not a new question and I won’t propose any new answers. However, the question is perennially important to consider and answer. When I say “mission” I mean the mission of the church, specifically, the making and training of disciples (Mt. 28.19–21).

THE PROBLEM

Why is there disengagement with and ambivalence towards mission?

  • Let me give you a word: selfishness.
  • Let me give you a verse: 3rd John vv.9–10.

John writes 3rd John to commend the church towards a gospel-driven hospitality. A “gospel-tality” if you will. He does this by highlighting the faithfulness of Gaius and Demetrius in contrast to the mission-sabotaging rebellion of Diotrephes.

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I enjoyed this video from David Platt about how to practically make disciples on a day to day basis.

I have often marveled at how much and how light the Apostle Paul traveled. As you read the book of Acts and the Epistles you get a quick sense of how much ground the guy covered. He was in and out of countries, cities, and towns. He shuffled through different cultural contexts with their variant practices of worship. You see him in synagogues, in the market place and in the Areopagus (Acts 17). At the same time, he traveled light. He had one satchel and it was filled with gospel.

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Rick Warren is a masterful communicator. So, what is he endeavoring to communicate with his announcement that they are canceling the services at Saddleback Church this weekend so they can serve their neighbors?

According to The Christian Post:

“Good Neighbor Weekend” has been enthusiastically received by the majority of the 20,000 members at Saddleback Church in Orange County. Many have already signed-up online for acts of kindness, according to church officials.

Volunteer opportunities suggested and organized by church members include visiting severely disabled children in hospitals, serving breakfast to homeless and families living in motels, and helping families having members in the military stationed away from home with house chores.

Additionally, many more churchgoers will be reaching out to their neighbors in ways they’ve conceived themselves.

Did you catch that number? 20,000 people! That’s a lot of people.

Let’s think about this then in terms of pros and cons (concerns).

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In Matthew 28, the Great Commission, Christians are instructed to bring the gospel to all people and nations. Think about how radical this is. It is a command to transgress the ethnic, national, and social boundaries of this world with the gospel. Of course, Christians are to do this in an honorable, charitable, and tactful way. But make no mistake about it, it is a command to make converts from people’s current systems to Christianity.

Think about how unsettling this would be if other institutions adopted this same charge. David VanDrunen, in his very helpful book Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, says this:

This missionary task distinguishes the ethic of the church from the ethic of common kingdom institutions. Any earthly society that sees its task as evangelistic in nature has radically transgressed its proper boundaries. A Nazi regime that seeks to make the whole world German—or any American regime that seeks to make the whole world American, for that matter—is a frightening thing. No civil government could accomplish such a goal except by trampling other civil governments through unjust warfare. No particular culture could dominate the world except by a cultural imperialism that fails to respect the creativity of image-bearing human beings in other cultures.

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It’s been over 8 weeks now since protesters descended upon Wall Street to tangibly express their frustration. 8 weeks! That is 8 weeks of living in tents and among strangers in public parks. Initially in New York City and now spreading out to other metropolitan areas, it is clear that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors are continuing to gain momentum and news coverage.

What is not as clear is why they are “occupying” these parks. I should say it is not clear in an coherent, organized, precise direction.

On the other hand, their objective seems to strike a consistent tone.

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I was recently in for a doctor’s visit and was attempting to turn our time of chit-chat into gospel-chat. As I made my move the Dr was receptive. When I told him I am a pastor he smiled and asked, “Where do you guys get the topics for your sermons?”

Without thinking I gave what I think was a great answer, “The Bible.”

He smiled and said, “I guess I walked into that one.”

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A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent. (John Calvin)

I have difficulty remembering his name however, his impact remains profound. It was 17 years ago this fall when I was in Basic Training in the military. I was an unbeliever, a flaming (straight! but unabashed) unbeliever. One of my favorite ways to punctuate or begin a sentence was by taking God’s name in vain. Then this guy from Ohio had to bunk next to me. He always read his Bible and refused to let me get off my blasts without calling me out. In his fast paced, country-ish, Southern Ohio-Northern Kentucky twang, he would tell this Yankee, “Could you please not do that?” I would often reply with a stare. He would then say, “Please don’t take God’s name in vain.”

That didn’t convert me, however, it did unsettle me. It did produce some reform, at least around him. Furthermore, I was made aware of what I was doing and I didn’t like these regular meetings with that internal siren named the conscience.

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It has been said that if you want to make a Christian feel guilty you just need to mention prayer or evangelism. This is because we innately know that we should be doing more of both.

This Saturday Emmaus Bible Church will be hosting a conference on Evangelism. This will be our first conference as a church plant and we are thrilled to have Jesse Johnson come to help us think and act biblically in response to Christ’s great commission (Matt. 28.19-20). Jesse is the outreach pastor at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also blogs at The Cripplegate.

If you are local, we’d love to have you come and join us. Here is the schedule:

9am Session one: The Foundation of Biblical Evangelism
10am Session two: Presenting the Gospel
11:30am Lunch
1pm Session three: Handling Objections
2pm Q&A

We will be meeting at Cornerstone Church in La Vista, NE (map).

We’d love to see you join us.

Register online.

Christians have a responsibility to strike an admittedly difficult balance in this world. We are called to be faithful missionaries without being repulsive and obnoxious. This is a tough note to hit because the message itself is offensive, people (by in large) don’t want to hear it, and frankly– we are sinners.

This is why I take notice when I see a guy being faithful, compelling, and attractive.

Here in Nebraska, football is king. The state becomes red on Saturdays in the fall. People love their team and everything about their team.

This is why I was not surprised to read Dirk Chatelailn’s article in the Omaha World Herald on the intriguing relationship between Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown and Ameer Abdullah, a highly touted freshman running back.

However, the article was not concerned primarily with what goes on between the hashmarks as much as what goes on between an outspoken evangelical and a young Muslim.

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I recently had a great conversation with an unbeliever. He was asking good questions. And, by God’s grace, I think I was able to be helpful.

In one portion he mentioned that he is much more comfortable with a religion that doesn’t have a God of wrath (his words). He mentioned the local liberal Methodist church as a good example of this and the local Roman Catholic church as a bad example.

WHAT HE WANTED, HE REALLY DIDN’T WANT

As we talked it became evident that he wanted a God who was good but who just didn’t punish anything less than good. But you can’t have it both ways. Either God is good or he is not. And if he is good then he must be opposed to all that opposes him, otherwise, he is tolerant of evil.

Of course this option is absurd to every sane person, including my new friend. What most people mean is they want a God who will punish people worse then them and reward people as good and better than them. In other words, they are the standard.

WHAT CHRISTIANITY BRINGS

This is where Christianity crashes through the man-made barricades of safe religion. In order to get ‘in’ so to speak, you have got to line up with and behind all of the ‘bad’ people.

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