Thursday, December 3, 2009
Where is the great burden to reach lost people in our churches today? Do we really care that a majority of the people that we meet in our day-to-day lives are on their way to spending eternity separated from our loving God? When was the last time you saw Christians gathered in prayer weeping over the spiritual condition of the people that they know?
This week I began calling North Carolina Baptist Churches for our Baptist State Convention that have reported zero baptisms during the previous church year. It is a project that I have assisted our denomination with for several years. I was discouraged to see that once again, the numbers of baptisms in our state have declined. This has been the trend ever since I started helping with the project. It is also a trend seen across the board in Western Christendom.
The good news is that I often find 800-900 unreported baptisms through this project. The bad news is even more churches in our state have reported zero baptisms during the 2009 church year. Why is this so?
I believe it is because we have lost the burden for reaching people with the gospel message.
Paul said that he wished he was accursed from Christ for the sake of his countrymen in order that they might be saved. He uses one of the strongest word possible - anathema - to describe this curse. He is saying that if it were possible, he would give up his own salvation in order to see Israel saved.
Moses expressed a similar burden for his people when he said to God, "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” (Exo. 32:32 NKJV)
Corporately, I see very few churches that have this kind of burden for the lost. One might say, "Paul was speaking hypothetically." True, but his heart for the lost is clearly seen in this passage.
Regaining that kind of passion for the lost involves first, seeing people with the eyes of Christ. In spite of the stain of sin, people are of infinite value to God. (Otherwise, why would He have sacrificed his precious Son on the cross?) Their greatest need is to connect with God which is possible only when the stain of sin is removed through faith in Jesus Christ. If they are valuable to God, then they should be valuable to us.
Secondly, recognize that evangelism is not an act of imposing ones beliefs on another; it is the ultimate act of compassion. This is where so many post-modern believers get it wrong. Jesus said that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He spoke directly and forthrightly to people about their spiritual condition. We are so fearful of offending people that we never get around to telling them the truth. Jude wrote: "Have mercy on some who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; on others have mercy in fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh." (Jude 1:22-23 HCSB)
Third, we must renew our understanding of the eternal implications of not reaching people with the gospel message...
People who die without Jesus go the hell. There, I said it.
Hell is not a place reserved only for the most wicked and vile -the Hitlers and Osama bin Ladens of the world. It is also reserved for the kindly grandmother who baked cookies for the neighborhood children and volunteered at the hospital. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We deserve to pay the penalty for our sin which is eternal death. Yet Christ died for us even though we had sinned. By faith in Him alone are we saved from this penalty.
We have placed too much emphasis on God's love and too little on his holiness and justice. It has resulted in an attitude of sentimental universalism and reduced God to a kindly old man who wants everyone to have a good time. As Charles Spurgeon said, "If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth."
God will hold us accountable for not sharing the Gospel with the lost. As believers, we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of our service for Him. This will not determine our salvation for that is settled the moment we repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ alone. It will determine our reward.
Join me in asking God to renew your burden for the lost today. It is the only way we can stop the decline of our churches and increase the number of baptisms and new churches planted in our nation and around the world.
DISCLAIMER: the views expressed in this blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina or its employees. Neither do I speak as an official representative of the Convention.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Every year, thousands of parade goers begin lining the streets of Pasadena along the 5 mile parade route 1 day before the parade. Last year, we saw people staking claim to their viewing spot as early as 8:30 AM on December 31! These people often spend the entire time waiting for the parade to begin at 8:00 AM on January 1. By that time, 750,000 - 1 Million people have accumulated in that short 5 mile stretch of Colorado Blvd.
This scenario presents a unique opportunity for the church to get out and share the gospel.
Our team sets up a base camp on Colorado Blvd. where we give away free popcorn, face painting, balloon animals and "What's in a Name" certificates that we print on the spot with the name of the person and the meaning of their name. These giveaways allow volunteers to engage people in conversations about Christ and salvation.
We also send roving teams of volunteers down the streets to distribute gospel tracts and a unique parade program that shows the order of floats and a gospel presentation. This gives them the chance to talk with people about salvation. Last year, volunteers led 27 people to faith in Jesus Christ.
As you can see from the picture above, we have also used mime teams to present the gospel message to parade goers. These teams are very popular drawing crowds of onlookers who both see and hear the gospel presented through song, movement and preaching.
Community events like the Rose Parade present a unique environment for the church to spread the gospel. Nearly every community has an event that can serve as an outreach opportunity for your church. Even the small town that I grew up in, Conway (population 734), has a parade at Christmas.
Other events include community festivals, athletic events, holiday celebrations, business grand openings and recognition ceremonies just to name a few.
Access to these events varies from community to community. Open events such as parades and festivals may be easier to participate in than others. Some events may require partnership with the sponsoring organization. Others may require you to purchase a booth or to pay for sponsorship.
I have discovered that in this kind of relaxed environment, people are often open to talking about spiritual matters. Further, an event like this gives you numerous opportunities to sow gospel seeds through tract distribution. This last year in Pasadena, our team gave out 5,000 gospel tracts and 17,000 parade programs. Many of these seeds begin to grow in the weeks after the event.
Here are a few thoughts on sharing the gospel at your community event...
- Check local ordinances first to make sure you are legally conducting your outreach. For example, are you using some type of portable sound system during the outreach? Some cities may require permits for such equipment. Also, is the event public or private? Don't assume that an event is public just because it is held in a public venue. Sometimes organizations lease public venues for their event making them private. Private events may ban tract distribution and outreach activities.
- Decide which outreach activities best fit your church and the situation. Would servanthood evangelism projects work best in the situation or are more direct approaches to sharing the gospel needed?
- Train your volunteers to engage the people they encounter with the gospel message. It is easy to give away popcorn at a booth but don't assume that a person is going to ask you the magic question, "Why are you doing this?" You may want to use spiritual surveys to start a conversation. Whatever you do, don't be shy.
- Look for ways to establish partnerships with community organizations. These partnerships may begin small but larger doors may open in the future once the organizations learn that your church wants to be a vital part of the community. Too often, we retract the bridge and huddle up within the 4 walls of the church when we should be crossing the bridge.
What events have you used to spread the gospel? What approach did you use during the outreach?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
This past Sunday, I attended the North Carolina Baptist Pastor's Conference in Greensboro where my friend, Alex McFarland, an apologist and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary was speaking. Alex quoted a statistic that to me was quite eye opening.
According to a 2008 survey conducted by the General Social Survey, 89% of those aged 18-30 "would be willing to listen to a Christian explain their faith."
What does this say about the idea that post modern's are not open to the Gospel? For my international readers, I am not sure how these statistics compare to those of your culture, but the statistics support what I believe to be true: people are much more open to the gospel than we give them credit for.
This openness doesn't mean that they will necessarily embrace our faith right away. As Alex pointed out in his message, the gestation period for faith is much longer for this age group than it has been in the past. Imparting our faith to this group requires a relational witness reinforced by a holy life. It requires an investment of time.
But at the same time, we need to recognize that reaching this younger generation for Christ may not be as difficult as first thought. I believe this generation is looking for a faith worth believing. They are disenchanted with the church and organized religion but intrigued by Jesus. Further, they are not looking for the way to heaven, but are seeking to have a meaningful life and to make a difference here and now.
Jesus offers everything they are looking for. We must present His timeless message in these truth-less times with boldness and relevance. We must be willing to listen and to dialogue - not to lecture. And our efforts must be Spirit-empowered and guided.
In Acts 16, the Bible says that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia to pay attention to the things that Paul was saying. She was baptized and eventually became a great help to Paul and his ministry. If we want to share the gospel with people in our day, we must depend upon the Holy Spirit just as Paul and the apostles did.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Recently, I reestablished contact with a younger person that I watched grow up. (I am deliberately leaving their name and many of the details out for sensitivity reasons.) They attended a strong church as a child and youth. Even though this person was exposed to the gospel many times they have now, as a late teenager, chosen a totally different path. They now claim to be an atheist among other things.
While it would be easy second guess and ask, "what went wrong," it is more important to consider how this person might be reached again with the message of Christ. Here are some of my thoughts...
I am not trying to be overly simplistic here. I truly believe that prayer is absolutely essential to reaching the heart of a person that has rejected everything that they have heard about Christ. We must pray that their spiritual eyes and ears might be opened and that whatever is hindering them from believing would be removed.
What events have transpired in this person's life that may have caused them to reject God? Has there been a major tragedy in their life? Has this person been hurt by a professing Christian or group of Christians? What do you know about their family life? What do you know about their lifestyle? Did this person ever make a genuine profession of faith in Christ?
Many of these factors may give you an idea why the person has chosen the path they have chosen. I believe that a majority of atheists/agnostics have either a moral reason or emotional reason for rejecting belief in God. In other words, they are either living in open sin and refuse to acknowledge their condition or they have been hurt by people or life in general. (I am reminded of the young lady that my wife had the opportunity to lead to Christ in Wichita, KS earlier this year.)
This knowledge is not to be used as ammunition to condemn them, but as background information to help you understand and reach them.
Compassion should be the hallmark of the Christian life. Unfortunately, we as Christians can be some of the least compassionate people around. To be compassionate toward a lost person is to love them while they are yet sinners. It was said of our Lord that, "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench..." (Mat 12:20) By no stretch of the imagination did Jesus ever condone sin. But He compassionately reached out to the lost with the truth. we must do as Jesus did.
I know of no one who rejects God overnight. It is going to take time and lots of relation building to reach them with the gospel. The Holy Spirit must be allowed to work in their hearts and break down the walls they have built-up.
I am interested in your thoughts. What do you think it would take to reach someone has been exposed to the gospel message, but for whatever reason, they have rejected it's truth?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
In the classic movie, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there is a character called the Cowardly Lion. Those who are familiar with the movie will agree that He is quite a contradiction. The Lion is called the "King of the Jungle." He is a most powerful and majestic predator; no other animal dare challenge him in his natural environment. He is at the top of the food chain and has even been known to go after humans. His powerful jaws and strong swift legs enable him to take down much larger prey as he works in conjunction with his fellow lions.
Yet in the movie, this character is anything but a powerful beast. In fact, the Cowardly Lion says he even scares himself. He is fearful of his own shadow. He longs to be what he was created to be, but lacks the courage to stand up for himself. He makes this speech about courage in the movie which goes like this:
“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?...COURAGE!”God wants us to be courageous lions who boldly proclaim his message of salvation to the lost. Too often we cower behind our church pews and pray that no one swats us on our nose. We forget that God "gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2Ti 1:7 ESV)
Do you find it hard to talk about Jesus with your friends? Do you avoid the subject all together because you don't know what to say? Deep within your heart you want to speak up but can't because of fear. You might have CLS.
If you're a Cowardly Lion, you're in good company. The disciples were Cowardly Lions at one point too. Peter denied knowing the Lord three times while Jesus was enduring the unlawful interrogation leading to the crucifixion. Right after the crucifixion, the disciples were fearful of being identified with Jesus. The Bible says, "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews..." (John 20:19 ESV)
The only thing that made a difference with the disciples was the infilling of the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, these men laid aside their fears and began to boldly proclaim the message of Jesus. In fact, in Acts 4, we see where Peter and John - who had been arrested - stood before the very council - the Sanhedrin - that had instigated the death of Jesus and said:
"let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Act 4:10-12 ESV)Just as the Cowardly Lion had to go to the Wizard to receive his courage, we must go to the Holy Spirit for courage. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Act 1:8 ESV)
In my moments of witnessing on the streets of the inner city, I have to rely completely upon the Spirit of God to help me witness. I never know how someone is going to react when I approach them on the street with a gospel tract. I try to stay in constant communication with God through prayer while I am sharing the gospel. I ask, "What scripture should I use Lord? How do I respond to that objection? How is this person hurting on the inside? How can I give them comfort while pointing them toward You?" If I just use some canned gospel script, I know that I will miss what God is doing to draw this person to Himself.
Every born again believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We don't get any more of the Spirit when we ask. Being filled means to allow Him to have complete control over our actions. We can be filled with the Spirit if we meet His conditions of: 1) Confession of all known sin, 2) Emptying ourselves completely of self, 3) Yielding complete control of our life to Him and 4) Allowing with word of God to dwell in our hearts. When we do this we will find complete freedom to witness and proclaim the message of Christ.
If you are suffering from Cowardly Lion Syndrome, ask God to give you a fresh infilling of His Spirit today. He longs for you to become the courageous lion that He meant for you to be.
Friday, June 26, 2009
In the eyes of the world, he had a stellar career as an entertainer. He made millions and millions of dollars on his popular music and related products and still carried an impressive following. In later years, he was a figure surrounded by controversy and nearly went broke paying legal expenses.
When Michael woke up this morning, he was preparing to launch a major comeback in his career. By the afternoon, the man know as the "King of Pop" was struggling to hold on to life as his heart failed him. At 2:26 PM, Pacific Time, June 25, 2009, he was pronounced dead.
All of his fame, fortune, talent and popularity could not hinder his appointment with death.
His passing away is a reminder that no one is immune to death. 10 out of 10 people die. If I were to put a calendar in your hands today and asked you to put the date and time of your death on the calendar, could you do that? I doubt it.
The Bible says, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…”(Heb 9:27 ESV) So when you die, you will stand before a holy God and give an account of the things you have done in this life. According to Jesus, every idle word that you have spoken will be accounted for in the day of judgment. Every lie, every time you disobeyed your parents, every time you stole something - be it a car or a pencil or time from your employer, every lustful thought - everything will be brought to light.
What will you say when you face the KING of the universe?
You might say that you were a good person or you did many good deeds. You might say that you were a church member, that you had been baptized or that you tried to keep the 10 commandments. You may not know what you would say.
God will want to know how you responded to his offer of salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. You see, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 ESV)
Jesus died on the cross for your sins and my sins. The Bible teaches that “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NLT)
The only way to have right standing before God on judgment day is to put your faith and trust completely in Jesus Christ. God will accept no other excuse, no other way other than His way. “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Act 3:19-20 ESV)
Invite Christ to forgive you today. Allow him to take control of your life. You can begin that important step by calling upon him in prayer. Pray like this or in your own words…“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner and have broken your laws. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and came back to life on the third day. I am sorry for my sins and with your help, I turn away from them. I ask you for forgiveness. Take control of my life and help me live for you from this day forward. Thank you for saving me and giving me eternal life. In Jesus name, AMEN.”
If you invited Christ into your life today, please let me know by e-mailing Darrel at onlyfoundation dot org. I want to send you a follow up Bible study to help you grow in your faith.
“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:3 ESV)
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
We met Tiffany in Wichita, KS during the 2009 Riverfest Outreach. A group of us were riding out a severe thunderstorm and tornadoes inside Metropolitan Baptist Church – our base camp for the street outreach. Some of our team members tried to go out and witness but I just don’t do storms.
We were waiting in a Sunday school classroom when Shawn, one of the team members, brought several young people in to dry off and warm up. Tiffany was among them.
These young people were members of a group called the Juggalos – a counter cultural movement made up of fans of a rock group called the “Insane Clown Posse.” They range in age from early teens to late 20’s and hang out in “The Pit,” an abandoned fountain on the banks of the Arkansas River, right across the street from the church.
Since arriving Thursday, Penny and I had spent most of our time in the Pit talking with these kids and found that almost every one of them came from backgrounds of broken homes, abandonment, abuse, rebellion and tragedy. Their experiences have hardened their hearts toward church and Christians – and especially against God.
We began to chat with these young people. It was very clear that Tiffany was the outspoken one. Her language was like a sailor and she had no regard for the fact that she was inside a church building.
Soon, the conversation turned to spiritual matters. When we asked if they would spend eternity in heaven or hell, Tiffany said, “I’m going to hell,” she laughed, “I’ve been going to hell for 18 years.”
She then began to share her story with us. Her father abandoned her when she was young. He was killed shortly thereafter; he was drunk and stumbled in front of a car. Tiffany sternly warned us, “And don’t you tell me you are sorry about that either!” Her mother had had a series of men afterward that abused Tiffany. She had moved out of the house at age 18 because of it.
Tiffany began to spew out all of her pain and anger from the years of injustice she had experienced through those abusive relationships. It was obvious that she had been hurt many times and that she was trying to prove to us that she was unlovable.
Many times people who have experienced very little love from their parents grow up believing that they don’t deserve to be loved. They then make this a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing people away who attempt to love them. You see this in the way they act, dress and speak. It’s as if they are saying, “You’re not going to love me, so I’ll give you a reason to reject me since you weren’t going to love me anyway.”
Tiffany was going down that same path with us. She kept saying off-the-wall things like, “I have multiple personalities. One is a demon and one is a vampire.” She also continued to use profane language. I think she was expecting us to be shocked and tell her to leave. Instead, several of us began to tell her how valuable she was in the eyes of God. She didn’t deserve the things that had happened to her in the past. God had something special in mind for her future. Tiffany, and many other girls we talked to that weekend, had no concept of a loving heavenly Father because they never knew a loving earthly father.
Unfortunately, I have to leave many of the details out for the sake of space. The turning point came when Penny grabbed a Bible and began to read Psalm 139. As she read, she began to substitute Tiffany’s name for each of the impersonal pronouns. “I praise you for Tiffany was fearfully and wonderfully made…”
A peace descended upon that room that I cannot describe; it was clear to us that the Holy Spirit was present and doing His job of drawing Tiffany to Jesus. He kept leading Penny to share scriptures from the Roman Road and to speak words of peace and love to her. She began to listen intently to the gospel. Her countenance and demeanor changed.
Finally, Penny said, “Tiffany, I know you joked about going to hell a few minutes ago. I can assure you that hell is no joke. Are you ready to give your heart to Christ tonight?”
Tiffany, holding back the tears, said a simple “yes.”
She didn’t feel comfortable praying out loud so Penny led her to trust Christ in her heart. Then Penny asked, did you mean what you just prayed? Tiffany said yes. It was as if the whole room breathed a sigh of relief. We gave her a New Testament and some encouragement. Shawn and I took Tiffany and her boyfriend home that evening.
The next day, we had another opportunity to sit down with Tiffany and disciple her. Penny told her that God was going to make some changes in her life. She said something to a friend and almost used a curse word, but stopped herself and looked at Penny. “See Tiffany! He’s already changing you!”
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
On top of the normal ICE team members, we are expecting 113 seminary students and 150 youth from out of town to join us in our street evangelism efforts! We are also praying that a number of local church members will come out to be equipped and join us during this week.
A typical day for me at this outreach begins around 5:00 AM with prayer preparation followed by breakfast around 6:30 AM. Our team leaves for the host church at 7:30 AM and have our team devotion and prayer time from 8:00-9:00 AM. We leave from there to go to our individual churches for witnessing. We will return to the host church for lunch and dinner. The day ends around 9:00 PM. By Thursday, every muscle in my body hurts and I am ready to crawl back in the bed, but the Holy Spirit empowers me to keep going.
Louisville, like many cities has its share of inner city issues – especially generational poverty and crime. They also have a growing gang problem. According to my research, much of this gang activity is located in the area where my team and the Guiding Light, Emmanuel and Bible Community teams will be witnessing (Portland, Shawnee, and Chickasaw areas.) Here is a link to the map of the areas that we will be working in. Please use this to pray for our teams.
Please pray for my family while I am on the field. The enemy would like nothing more than to distract me with issues back home such as sick or rebellious children or broken down cars/appliances and etc. Pray for Penny as she will be taking care of the children on her own for 10 days. I will be staying after the outreach to help man the NAMB tract booth and attend the SBC annual meeting.
You can also join this effort by donating. Much of the cost is covered by NAMB but I will still need to cover some miscellaneous expenses and ministry support. I still need around $750 for this project. If 30 people would give $25 this week, the need would be met. Please pray that God would meet this need this week.
Thanks for praying and I look forward to sharing the stories of changed lives in Lousiville.
You can also give via tipjoy through twitter.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
First of all, I really don't care for the term, "cold" evangelism. I believe this is a term used primarily by those who question the effectiveness of this type of evangelism. I would prefer using the term intentional evangelism or encounter evangelism. I believe this reflects the true nature of the methodology being used. The witness is being intentional in sharing the good news. Or, we could look at it from the perspective of the person encountering the message of God through the witness.
Basically this method of evangelism advocates the sharing of the gospel with as many people as possible even if you do not know the person. A number of people today are of the opinion that evangelism can only occur in the context of an established relationship. They advocate building the friendship first, then sharing the gospel.
First of all, I believe both types of evangelism are needed. There are some people who you will only reach in the context of a relationship. The problem comes when we build the relationship and fail to share the gospel.
let's just say you start building a relationship with a person with the intention of sharing the gospel with them. After three months, you feel that the time is finally ripe for telling this person about Christ. You make plans to share the gospel with them when you get a phone call; your friend was killed in a car accident. Where will they spend eternity?
You say, "Oh, that probably will not happen that way. You are just using fear tactics." Really? Are you willing to take that risk with a friend's eternal salvation?
We should never assume we will have tomorrow to tell someone about Jesus. As it says in James, "Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." James 4:13-14
Secondly, let me give you some reasons why I believe that intentional evangelism works:
1) I believe in the power of the gospel. Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." When the gospel is proclaimed, I believe it can change a person right then and there. They don't have to be taken through the ten steps to the purpose driven better life to be saved. God is still sovereign and still saving people. He is powerful enough to get his message through.
2) I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit. His job is to draw people to Christ. He is the best friend of the witness and whenever the gospel is shared, He works through the witness and in the heart of the hearer. If the person hearing the gospel truly repents and puts their faith in Christ, do you think the Holy Spirit says, "Praise God, another soul saved," and then abandons the person??? NO! I believe He takes up residence in the person's life at that point and continues to draw them close to Jesus. This does not excuse our need to begin to discipleship process with the person by any means. In fact, we must do everything possible to help the convert plug into a local congregation.
3) I believe in divine encounters. God is at work redeeming a lost world. He has invited us to join him in that work. I believe that if we are faithful in looking for opportunities to share the gospel, God will send people to us who are ready to hear the gospel. This may not mean that the hearer is ready to receive Christ, we may be one link in the chain that God uses to draw a person to Christ. Still, God sends up clear opportunities to influence other with our words and we must seize those opportunities.
4) Jesus and the Apostles practiced intentional evangelism. How well did Jesus know the Samaritan woman at the well, or Zachaeus, or the man on the pallet brought to him by the four friends or the thief on the cross before He shared the gospel with them? How well did Paul know the Philippian jailer? How well did Phillip know the Eunuch in Acts 8. Did Phillip say, "Hey Eunuch, I would love to explain that scripture you are reading. Let me first go back to Ethiopia and get to know you better." Now, all of this intentional evangelism was done in a relational manner - as is the case with all evangelism. But it was all "cold" evangelism.
5) Intentional evangelism has a rich history of success. Well known Christians like D.L Moody, St. Patrick, George Whitefield, Charles Finney and many other well know evangelists believed in and practiced intentional evangelism effectively. It has worked for nearly 2000 years. It still works today when it is practiced.
6) Try as we might, no method of evangelism is 100% effective in producing disciples. I don't mean to rain on everyone's parade here, but Jesus didn't have 100% success with everyone he came into contact with either. (Judas, the rich young ruler, many of the ones who heard him speak, etc.) Read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-23. Jesus compared four types of ground to the human heart. The seeds landed on all four types of ground, but only one soil successfully produced fruit.
I am interested in your comments and thoughts on this matter.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Recently, leaders in our denomination have called for a Great Commission Resurgence - a return to gospel-centeredness and active proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Considering the current state of decline in our denomination - evidenced by the fact that we have reached a 22 year low in baptisms - I say it's about time!
So many churches have lost confidence in the power of the gospel message. We are often told that evangelism doesn't work anymore and we have to use other methods to reach people. Of course evangelism doesn't work when you don't do it.
I believe we need a revival of confidence in the power of the gospel to save whosoever, whenever wherever it is proclaimed.
I have been privileged to share the good news in 10 different countries and 16 different states. I have shared the gospel with many people in places like Mombasa, Kenya, Los Angeles, CA, San Antonio, TX, Kampala, Uganda, Indianapolis, IN, Denver, CO, Cartagena, Colombia, Portland, OR, St. Johnsbury, VT and Raleigh, NC - just to mention a few. I have shared in every kind of context you can think of from refugee camps, to special events, to churches, to the streets and so forth.
In every context that I have ministered in, I have seen God at work in the hearts of people. I have seen people experience genuine life change through Christ. I have seen people become followers of Jesus. It was not because of me, but in spite of me. It was all about God.
I believe that every church and every denomination can experience a Great Commission Resurgence when we become the resurgence that we long for. In other words, enough talk - now is the time for action. It's time to get out there and obey God.
As John Piper said, "Go, send, or disobey."
Monday, April 13, 2009
That is why I am writing the post a few days early – to get this off my heart and mind.
This weekend, a church in Raleigh held a large Easter event in downtown Raleigh for the community. From everything that I could tell, the event was well organized and the church invested a significant amount of money and time putting it on. Thousands of people attended throughout the day.
There were moon bounces for kids and food, bands and story times and lots of fun for everyone. They also did multiple Easter “egg hunts” (if you could call them hunts – the eggs were scattered in the open for kids to pick up.) It was a great event and wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with the people in attendance.
Except that there was no gospel sharing going on. In fact, the band was playing “Folsom County Prison” by Johnny Cash at some point. You had to look real hard to tell that a church was sponsoring the event. Even the shirts worn by the volunteers had the word church written so small that most people would have never noticed. My wife took my son and daughter to the event while I was sharing the gospel in the streets and she saw no presentation of the gospel at any point. They didn’t even hand out church literature!
So I’m miffed that any church would put on such a wonderful event and NOT give an intentional presentation of the gospel and I’m puzzled as to why they would spend so much of God’s money and not share the gospel.
I talked to some of the volunteers about the event. First of all, I commended them for hosting such a visible and well organized event in the community. I then asked them several questions about the event. When I asked if there was any intentional presentation of the gospel, they responded by saying, “we are just here to serve people and love Raleigh.” I can appreciate that – servanthood is a critical component in ministry.
One of the volunteers said, “We just want people to have a good time.” They told me that this event wasn’t designed to share the gospel. I also asked if they thought that people in Raleigh were open to a presentation of the gospel and all said yes. However, two of the volunteers at some point said that they didn’t want to “shove the gospel down people’s throats.” (I wish I would have asked them to define what that meant, but that would have been too confrontational.)
At one point, an older volunteer got a little upset at me that I was asking all these questions about evangelism. She said, “You need to talk to someone in authority about that.” To which I replied, “Part of having authority in a church is transferring that to the people. You should be able to answer these questions.” Perhaps I was getting a little upset at this point too. So I thanked them for answering the questions and moved on.
I talked to a couple of people after the event and asked if they realized that the event had been sponsored by a church. They said no. The sad part is that many of these church members went away from this event thinking that they made an impact for the kingdom when in reality, they were just being nice to people. Here are some observations about this and suggestions for making an event like this intentionally evangelistic.
1) We can become so relevant to culture that we relegate the gospel to an offensive inconvenience for people. People are open to hearing the gospel and churches have a responsibility to share it at all times. Otherwise, the church becomes a mere social club.
2) To minimize or hide the fact that a church is sponsoring an event like this is dishonest. It is like the church is saying, “I’m ashamed of being the church. I just want to be accepted by the world rather than stand up for my Lord.”
3) Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an act of aggression; it is an act of compassion. (RE: Shove the gospel down someone’s throat.) It is possible to be offensive with the gospel. Also remember that the gospel is an offensive message to some. But not sharing the gospel is offensive to God. Who would you rather offend, God or man? Think of it this way: if you had cancer and your doctor knew it, yet he refused to tell you because he didn’t want you to have to deal with the negative emotions of having cancer, what service has he done for you?
Here are some ideas to make an event like this evangelistic…
1) Have trained teams of people interact with the crowd and share the gospel one-to-one. These teams can give out Bibles, tracts or something that will start a spiritual conversation. Even stickers that say, “God loves you” will help open the doors to a spiritual conversation. At the very least, have them give out church information and invite people to church.
2) Register everyone regardless of the size of the event. This will give you a list of prospects to follow up on. Give people an incentive for registering by offering door prizes. This will increase your registration rate. You could use the previously mentioned evangelism teams to register people for the event.
3) Use the door prize drawings to share the gospel. Require people to be present to win the prizes. At regular intervals, have someone share their testimony prior to each drawing. Be ready to talk with people afterward about salvation.
4) If you are going to use secular music, make sure you also use Christian music. Blend your music.
5) Have something unique for people to do but first require them to hear the gospel. For example, have a really cool moon bounce that all the kids want to play on. Have a gospel presentation and give out tickets for the moon bounce after the gospel presentation.
If you have other ideas to make an event intentionally evangelistic, I would love to hear them. Also, if you think I am completely off base with this analysis, I would love to hear from you too. Use the comment section below to voice your opinion.
Friday, April 10, 2009
For those receiving this via e-mail view the video by clicking here.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Using Gospel tracts is somewhat controversial these days. Some post-modern Christians believe that they are no longer effective for reaching people with the gospel. Some are even offended that a Christian would consider using tracts to communicate the gospel.
What I have learned is that they don’t speak out of experience and usually ignore the statistics. Gospel tracts are effective if… 1) You use the right tract. 2) You use the right tract in the right way.
I use tracts constantly in my street evangelism ministry. I have even had people that come to me and ask for my latest tract. I try to make sure that the tracts I use are well written. I want them to be thought provoking and at times novel.
Some of the best ones I have used come from http://www.livingwaters.com/ produced by Ray Comfort. I like their Giant $100 dollar bill tract – especially for witnessing in the hood. I walk up to a drug dealer or gang member and say, “Hey, let me lay a Benjamin on you man.” I use several other tracts from them as well. I also like their 10 commandments coins.
I have also found that the old standby tracts are sill effective. One such tract, available from the North American Mission Board, is the old Eternal Life tract. It was originally designed to go with their CWT evangelism training program but is still effective today.
When it comes to mass distribution of tracts at a special event, called tracking, I would recommend you write your own tracts and print them on a laser printer or copier. That way, if you have a high rate of throwaways, you have not invested as much money.
When distributing tracts, I usually look the person in the eye and say something like, “Can I give you a little book of wisdom that will tell you how much God loves you?” Another way of doing it would be to say, “Here is a little book that will tell you how to get heaven from ________ (Insert the name of the city you are in.)”
I always use tracts as an opening to a gospel sharing conversation. I make sure I put the tract in the persons hand first, and then ask an exploratory question to determine where the person is in their spiritual journey. After the conversation is over, I ask them to read the tract as a follow up to our conversation.
Before using tracts, always pray for each person who receives a tract before you give them away. Pray that their spiritual eyes would be open and that God would use it to touch their heart. Also pray that other people in their household would read the tract once they take it home.
Here are some great articles available from the American Tract Society that will help you be more effective in using tracts...
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I want to talk to you today about the importance of sharing the good news with others. I grew up attending a synagogue and hearing the law and the prophets. For many years, I devoted my life to building my wealth and neglected my spiritual life. I wore the finest clothing and lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous. I also lived a very virtuous lifestyle. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I needed the grace and mercy of God and not my possessions in order to be successful in life.
One thing that I regret is the fact that I have not been a very generous person. I would often see homeless people lying outside my summer residence and despise them. I refused to even allow them to have the leftovers from my table. I figured that they could get a job and earn their wages just like I did.
Now I find myself in a position where I’m not to be able to help others or to share the good news with anyone.
I was talking to my neighbor Abe just the other day. He was comforting one of the homeless men that I had treated so mercilessly. I asked, “Is there any way that you can send your homeless friend back to my father’s home and tell my 5 brothers the good news of Jesus Christ? I don’t want them to end up like I have.”
Abe reminded me that they have the word of God to guide them. They should be able to find the truth based on that alone. I wish I would have paid closer attention to the Word of God. I spent all those years going to synagogue for all the wrong reasons. I was more interested in keeping up appearances than in spiritual things.
So I said, “Abe they will believe your homeless friend if he comes back from here.” Abe says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
Needless to say, I was very disappointed in Abe. Even more so, I am disappointed in myself. I really regret not finding the way of salvation before I came to be in this place. Now it is too late for me.
But it is not too late for you. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then it is time that you faced the facts. Whether you are rich or poor, you have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) You, like me, have told lies, you have taken things that didn’t belong to you, and you have taken the name of the Lord in vain. In other words, you have broken the 10 commandments either in letter or spirit.
God will judge you, as he did me, based on the 10 commandments. The word of God says that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:10)
That judgment will lead you to eternal separation from God in a place called hell. However, it is not God’s will that you go to hell. He made a way for you to be forgiven by sending His only Son Jesus Christ to die upon the cross for your sins.
The word of God says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
If you will turn from your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you will be forgiven and not have to spend eternity separated from God. You will spend eternity with him. For more help with this important matter, please e-mail Darrel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those readers who already have that relationship with Christ, get out there and tell someone about how they can be saved from their sins today. It is so important to tell everyone you know the truth before it is eternally too late.
The following blog post was based on the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31. I hope you don’t mind me using a little April Fool’s Day humor and artistic license to communicate spiritual truth. For complaints, contact our complaint department. (If you can find it)
Feel free to send this out to people who need the message. God bless.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I am leading revival services this week at a church that is in a state of decline. God led me to preach on Jonah 4. In Jonah 4:5 we read, “Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.”
Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah. God called him to go to the city of Nineveh and preach a message of impending judgment for their wickedness. Jonah, because of his hatred and prejudice against the Ninevites refused to go, fled to Tarshish on a ship, A storm arose, he was thrown off the ship by the crew, eaten by a whale, repented in the belly of the whale, was spewed out of the whale onto the beach, and finally went to Nineveh to preach God’s message. Nineveh repented and God spared the city.
Or, to put it in once sentence, God got Jonah’s goat, Jonah began to gloat, got on a big boat, went for a float, was thrown in the moat, went down a whales throat, sat up to take note, remembered what God wrote, was spewed out with his coat, and finally went with God’s message to promote.
It is sad - no tragic - that Jonah had such a bad attitude about the whole affair. He had experienced the mercy of God when he was delivered from death, yet he did not want the Ninevites to experience the same mercy.
A well known atheist, Penn Jillette of the magic duo, Penn and Teller said it best, "How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn't believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there's a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that."
Today, we as believers let our attitudes, our prejudices, our fears, our preferences and so many other things get in the way of sharing the gospel with all people. We may not intentionally do what Jonah did (Build a shelter and watch for God to judge sinners) but through our actions, our apathy and our attitudes toward others, we practice what Jonah did!
Most churches are shelters on a hill from which the members watch sinners perish. We don’t want to reach out to that group because they are….black, Hispanic, poor, rich, snobby, pagans, middle class…let’s face it, they don’t look and act like us.
It is time we repented of this nonsense and obeyed Christ by taking his message to the lost. The world needs Jesus. There is no evidence in scripture that Jonah ever changed his attitude toward the Ninevites. Let it not be said of the church of Jesus Christ.
OK, I’ll put away the soap box now. Thanks for letting me vent.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I want to invite you to join me for a free webinar training on prayerwalking, March 30 from 8:00-9:00 PM eastern time. This opportunity is being offered in cooperation with Chris Walker of Evangelismcoach.org.
Chris is an evangelism trainer who lives in Panama, Central America and travels throughout North and South America to train people in evangelism. He also maintains Evangelismcoach.org, an evangelism blog that I read quite frequently. When you sign up for the webinar, you will be given the option of connecting to the session either via the internet or telephone. If you connect via the internet, you will see the visuals as well as hear the audio portion of the training.
There will be a time of questions and answers at the end of the session which Chris will moderate. I will lead in the teaching time.
There is no cost to join us and no product pitches will be made. You will have an opportunity to give after the webinar to help offset the cost of the webinar service. To register for this webinar or to see more details, visit http://www.evangelismcoach.org/2009/webinar-on-prayerwalking-for-community-outreach/
I hope you will join us for this training. If things go well, I may start offering free webinars through our ministry.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This is first in a series of articles on handling objections to the gospel. I want this to be interactive so I am asking you to submit a topic for consideration. What is one objection to the gospel that you have encountered that made you think or had you stumped?
I would even invite someone who does not believe to submit a question for consideration - that is, if you really want an answer. (No stump the Christian questions like, "can God create a rock so big he can't lift it" and so forth.)
I will write a article on how to respond when that objection comes up. Fair enough? So send me your suggestions to info at onlyfoundation dot org and I will consider them for an upcoming topic.
Recently, I was working with a team of street evangelists in New Orleans prior to Mardi Gras. While standing in the middle of a very crowded Bourbon Street around 9:00 P.M., I was accosted by two college-aged guys who claimed to be atheists.
They were in my face expressing their opinion quite vocally while I was trying to get them to think honestly about the fallacy of their position. These guys were what we on the Intentional Community Evangelism team affectionately call "DTs" or "Drunk Theologians." (Get a few beers in them and they become ______________ [insert name of your favorite theologian here])
First of all, it has been my observation that most people claim to be atheists because they don't want to be accountable to a Holy God and not because of the preponderance of evidence for the non-existence of God. It's kind of like saying that your electric bill does not exist in the hope that that will excuse you from making the payment. Soon you will find yourself in the dark for not paying the bill.
Second, I am amazed that people like this would pour so much energy into objecting to something that they don't believe exists. If you don't believe that God exists then leave it at that. You might choose not to believe in gravity if you want. Just don't jump off of any 12 story buildings when I am around - I faint at the sight of blood.
They expend energy defending their position in hopes of making God disappear.
This is why it is best to speak to the conscience of this type of atheist. The Way of the Master Training is one of the best courses to help you witness in this instance. I don't agree with Ray Comfort in regards to the sinners prayer, but using the Ten Commandments to bring conviction in the heart of the atheist (or anyone else) is right on target.
A sample conversation would go something like this...
Witness: Do you consider yourself to be a good person?
Atheist: Of course I do...
Witness: Have you ever told a lie?
Atheist: Sure, everyone has.
Witness: What does that make you?
Atheist: It doesn't make me a bad person.
Witness: If I told you a lie, what would you call me?
Atheist: A liar.
Witness: So you are a liar by your own admission...
Atheist: If you want to call it that.
Witness: Have you ever stolen something regardless of value?
Witness: What does that make you?
Atheist: A thief.
And so forth...
As they are listening, the Holy Spirit is using the law to reveal their sinfulness to them. For the sake of brevity, I will not go any further with the script...
As far as philosophical and apologetic responses to this objection are concerned (No, I am not apologizing for my faith, Apologetics is the practice of defending the faith) I believe that the argument from the existence of morality is the best approach to giving convincing proof of the existence of God.
Christian apologist C.S Lewis was converted as a result of this argument. His argument is detailed in the book Mere Christianity.
Lewis once believed that God could not exist if evil existed. A loving and good God would not allow evil to exist in his creation. One day Lewis asked himself where his definition of Good came from. Was good merely something that he preferred and evil something that he disliked? This made his definition of good, subjective (meaning that what was good for him might not be good for someone else.)
If that was true, then his argument against God fell apart because what he considered evil was merely something that he did not prefer. Good and evil had to come from some outside, objective source. Hence: God. Even if the idea of good and evil came from society, it would still be subjective and irrelevant.
As it says in Romans 2: "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. - (Rom 2:14-15)
Morality and good exists because God exists. Evil exists because sinful man chooses to reject the good in favor of evil. Or it could be said that evil is the absence of Good.
There are many other arguments that could be shared with the atheist. This one has the most teeth as far as I am concerned because it allows you to transition back to using the law to bring conviction. So if the atheist is open to an honest dialogue, use this approach to sharing with them.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
"Church has become the place we go to get away from the people Jesus sends us to." - Dr. John Avant.
I'm going to let that linger for a minute...
Christians have fallen victim to the same phenomenon that the rest of our culture has...cocooning. What is cocooning? Think of it this way....
Most people drive home from work into a gated community. They open their garage door and drive their car inside shutting the door behind them. They go inside and isolate themselves from the rest of the family - Sally is in her bedroom listening to her iPod, Mikey is in his room playing Xbox, and mom is in the office surfing on the Internet.
We rarely interact with people in our neighborhood. We don't even know the people in their neighborhood.
Furthermore, my "Friends" on the Internet - i.e. Facebook and Twitter - are people that I barely know who are constantly trying to grab my attention by telling me every little thing that they are doing. The quantity of my relationships has increased while the quality has decreased. Social interaction in the information age is faceless.
The average church member has few if any close relationships with anyone outside of their church. This poses a serious problem- especially when you have a church full of cocooned Christians. If we don't know people to evangelize, then how are we going to obey the great commission?
We need to emerge from our cocoon to engage our community.
It is time for Christians to intentionally build relationships with the lost in order to win them to Christ, build them in faith and send them back into the world to influence others. That is what FriendFluence is all about. Building friendships in order to influence others for Christ.
How do we do that?
A native once said to a missionary, "You built a bridge of love between my heart and your heart and Jesus walked over." How cool is that?
Begin by walking across the street to say hello. Host events in your home that are designed to get to know your neighbors. Have a backyard barbecue where you supply the burgers and ask your neighbors to bring all the trimmings. Host a Backyard Box Office night where you invite our ministry to show a Christian film like Fireproof or Facing the Giants in your backyard as you provide popcorn and drinks for your neighborhood guests. Prayerwalk your neighborhood and as you walk, stop to ask how you can pray for the neighbors.
There are lots of ways you can intentionally build a bridge to the neighborhood. Just get outside of your cocoon and build more bridges for Jesus.
For more info about the Backyard Box Office, contact us at darrel at onlyfoundation dot org.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
We had an acronym that was heard quite frequently in reference to technical stuff. It was K.I.S.S. which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid.
I'm not calling you stupid by any means; the acronym had a point. Don't make things too complicated.
For nearly 2000 years now, people have tried to complicate the gospel. They have tried to add this requirement and that requirement to salvation making it much more complicated than it really is.
Even the apostle Paul had to deal with this issue as seen in the book of Galatians. Certain false teachers had crept into the church claiming that circumcision and law keeping was one of the requirements of salvation in addition to faith in Christ. They had even persuaded Peter and Barnabas to join their cause. (See Galatians 2 for a detailed account.)
Paul wrote: "yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." Galatians 2:16 ESV
An encounter that I had this weekend reminded me of this tendency to complicate the gospel.
I was at Moore Square handing out tracts in the rain when I offered a tract to a man standing in the food line. He refused the tract saying, "I have a different belief." Not one to let a witnessing opportunity go past, I asked, "In your opinion, what does it take for a person to go to heaven?" After all, he could have been a Muslim or a Jehovah's Witness or something.
"You have to be born again," he said. I assured him that that was what the tract said. Then he said, "I don't believe that you can just accept Christ. You have to be baptized, filled with the Holy Ghost and you have to live the life." Well that sounds close to the truth doesn't it?
He was all about trusting in his own faithfulness to God in order to save him and not in Christ's death. He had no assurance of salvation as promised in the Word of God. If it is possible for you to "live the life," then Jesus death is nothing more than a travesty. I could go on dissecting his faulty theology, but it would not be prudent to do so.
The point is clearly taught in scripture, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV.
When you are sharing the gospel, make sure you are sharing the simple truth of faith in Jesus Christ alone. Not in attending church, being baptized, keeping the rules or any other add-on to the gospel. Some might even argue the point that Baptism is a requirement for salvation. We will have to agree to disagree on that one. (See explanation below)
Keep the gospel simple because it is simple. Faith in Jesus Christ is what saves a man. Even that faith is a gift from God. In turning to Christ, you must be willing to forsake and repent of your sin and simply rely upon him for forgiveness.
From now on, K.I.S.S. the Gospel!
Baptism is often argued as a requirement for salvation. People even use their favorite scripture to justify such belief (Acts 2:38 is one of them). I am not against baptism. I believe that believers baptism by total immersion is a Christians first act of obedience to Christ. It is an outward sign of an inward reality - namely, that a person has died to the old life and has been raised to walk in the new life. However, the idea that baptism somehow saves us is a carry over teaching from a heresy called baptismal regeneration which teaches that the waters of baptism mysteriously wash away sins. It is a false teaching with no basis in scripture. Again, we might agree to disagree on this.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Speaking of Mardi Gras, I had many people look at me prior to my trip with the "deer-in-the-headlights" look when I told them I was going to Mardi Gras to witness. The sentiment ranged from "you're insane" to "You are a brave soul man."
I guess that is somewhat understandable considering the atmosphere that I was going into. Mardi Gras has to be one of the most, vile, wretched, debauched and disgusting "celebrations" in the world. While standing on Bourbon Street at 10:00 PM in the middle of the whole drunken spectacle, I started to think that God might owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. (Of course, He doesn't, but you get my point.)
But the most amazing thing happened while I was there. People actually stopped - even came back - to talk to me about Jesus.(Not all conversations were positive.)
Quite frankly, I thought we would have better opportunities to witness during the day time as opposed to the night when people were getting drunk. The opposite was true. People were more open at night. In fact, I encountered more hostility during the day.
In my witnessing experience, I have found that the very people that I assumed would be closed to the good news were most open, while the ones I thought open were closed.
We had this discussion last night in an evangelism class at church. One of the learners said he wanted to go out to White Oak (Which is a shopping center near Garner) when it came time to put our evangelism principles into practice. This was after I offered to take everyone to Moore Square (Where the homeless people are) and Bragg Street (Where the drug dealers and prostitutes are.)
I just smiled because I know from experience that the people in the later areas are far more receptive than those frequenting the former.
Total strangers are easier to share the gospel with than people that you have built a relationship with. 95% of the time, they will grant you an ear and listen out of politeness. Those that are not open to listening will tell you point blank that they don't want to talk about these matters. In that case, you move on to someone else. I rarely encounter open hostility.
Conversely, it is much more difficult to witness to people who are close to you. The closer they are to you in relationship to them - from casual acquaintance to family member - the harder it is to share the gospel. That is because you have more of an emotional investment in those relationships.
You will keep silent - when the Holy Spirit tells you to speak - for fear of damaging the friendship. In fact, I would venture to say that the longer you know someone, the less likely it is that you will share the gospel with them. This is why friendship evangelism - as it is taught - is not as effective as it's adherents claim.
The moral of the story is don't assume that someone is not open to the gospel based upon their position, their actions, their appearance, or any other limiting factor. You do not know what God is doing in their life to draw them to the cross. So go out and tell someone about Jesus today.
Do me a favor. Take time to read the recent article that my friend and mentor Victor Benavides posted on his blog; you will find it here. It confronts much of the modern research that says that evangelism doesn't work anymore. Those of us who practice evangelism know better.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The famous quote seems to express the current attitude of many Christians when it comes to evangelism. It is an inspirational thought indeed. We should all aspire to live such holy lives for our Savior that people are attracted to Christ simply by the way we live. But would St. Francis have approved of he way we are applying this phrase?
Francis was a flaming evangelist for the gospel. After a failed attempt to go to Syria to evangelize, St. Francis devoted his life to evangelizing central Italy. He was an open air preacher as well. He believed in sharing the gospel using words. For more information about his preaching, go to...http://www.piney.com/DocFrAssisi.html
Today, I had coffee with a friend of mine who said, "I don't believe that it is my responsibility to share the gospel." He just wanted to live his life in such a way that people would be attracted to that example and hopefully come to Christ.
I reminded him that for a Christian, the Bible teaches that sharing the gospel is not optional. Jesus commanded us to tell others about his death, burial and resurrection.
Who is to say that your life well lived will look any different than that example of a good atheist, Buddhist, Muslim or any other religion?
Even though the world is closely looking at the way you live, you cannot assume that they are going to make the leap of asking why you live the way you do. Words are necessary. Eternity in hell is too high a price for those around you to pay for your silence. You may not be called to devote your life to the ministry of evangelism, but your commanded to give away your faith.
Don't fall in to the trap of thinking that silence is golden when it comes to witnessing. St. Francis of Assisi tells us to "Preach the gospel at all times..." Because faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
We like Heaven don't we? However, Hell is not a topic of pleasant conversation. We don't like the thought of a God who punishes people by sending them to Hell. God is love, right?
He is. He is also a completely righteousness and just God. The righteousness that God requires is the righteousness that His righteousness requires him to require. (Meditate on that for a minute) His righteousness demands an accounting from man of their actions.
His judgment is not capricious either. It is based upon His absolute holiness, His natural and written revelation to man of His standard for living (The Law) and his offer of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone has access to that salvation through the cross. Therefore, man is without excuse.
Knowing that our family members, friends, casual acquaintances and others that we meet will face God's judgment should motivate us to tell them about Jesus. The message is urgent! We never know when eternity will come for the lost.
A perfect example of the uncertainly of life is seen in the recent US Airways plane crash on the Hudson River in New York. Every one of those passengers on that plane had a thousand different things on their mind before they crash landed in the river. They were thinking about seeing their families, conducting their business deals and solving their problems. Within a few minutes, their thoughts turned to survival. Thank God for the miracle.
The Bible tells us that it is not God's will for anyone to perish. Knowing this I have one question for you: are you urgently spreading the message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I'm being a little sarcastic here to prove a point. So much of our praying in church today is focused on the physical and temporal needs of people. If people are healed, if they are provided for, if their temporal needs are met while their greatest need - salvation - is neglected, then what profit is our praying to them?
Paul said of Israel in Romans 10:1 ESV , "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." He was so burdened for their salvation that he said, "...I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh." "Romans 9:3 ESV"
That is a heavy burden.
Would you be willing, if it were possible, to forsake your own salvation in order to see others saved? In case you were wondering, my answer to that question is: no comment.
We should be burdened for the salvation of people. This is especially true when you consider their spiritual condition apart from Christ. The bible says that people apart from Christ are...
- Matthew 15:24 – LOST.
- 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4 – BLIND.
- 2nd Timothy 2:25-26 - BOUND.
- John 3:18 - CONDEMNED.
- John 3:36 - DESTINED FOR HELL.
- John 6:44 - HELPLESS.
- Ephesians 2:12 - WITHOUT HOPE.
Here are a few ways that you can start a ministry of praying for the lost in your church...
Begin an Operation Celebration ministry in your church. (This is also known as Operation Andrew.) This is a list praying method. You begin praying for lost people by name on a daily basis. Download the training manual and the Operation Celebration brochure from our website. It is free.
Fishbowl Fishing - During prayer meeting, have people write the names of their lost friends and relatives on slips of paper. Collect them in a fishbowl and place them on the altar. During each prayer meeting, have people take a slip from the fishbowl and pray for that person(s) by name. Return the names to the bowl and keep praying for them at every prayer meeting until the person comes to faith in Christ.
Prayer Triplets - This is a variation of the list praying method. Find three people to partner with. Each person identifies three people that need Christ and begin praying for them by name as a group. If possible, find a time to meet together each week for prayer.
Prayerwalking - Prayer walk your neighborhood specifically to pray for the salvation of lost neighbors. If you don't know your neighbors by name, collect their addresses and use a service like www.411.com to do reverse address look ups. For the most part, it should give you the names of the people in your neighborhood. (For those living in the USA)
I would love to hear your suggestions on how to pray for the lost by name. You can list them in the comments section. Most importantly, pray for people who need Jesus as part of your daily walk with Christ. J. Sidlow Baxter said, "...men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons - but they are helpless against our prayers."
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
One of the most powerful things you can do in evangelism is to pray for people - by name - who don't know Jesus Christ that they might come to faith in Him. If the heart of the king is in the Lord's hands to turn it which ever way He wishes, then how much more so is the heart of the lost person? (See Proverbs 21:1)
Often, we have difficulty in identifying those whom we need to pray for. It shouldn't be too difficult considering that the average person knows or comes into contact with about 30-35 lost people. If you are in business, that number jumps to 70-75. (Statistics taken from IECS training)
Below is a short video that I created to help jog your memory on who to pray for. It was primarily created for the Praying for the Lost by Name group on Facebook but also applies to this post. You will need to have a Facebook account to join the group.
Once you finished watching the video, grab a pencil and paper and list the names of people in your circle of influence who don't know Jesus. Then, commit to pray for them by name every day until they come to faith in Jesus Christ. Let me know how many names you come up with by posting the number in the comment section on the blog. Better yet, post their first name and initial of their last name in the comment section below so our readers can pray for them as well.
Link to the YouTube video - Click here
Embeded YouTube video below...
Friday, January 16, 2009
As God gives you opportunities to share the gospel with people of other religious backgrounds, there are some things that you should and should not do in order to give an effective witness.
- Show respect to the person to whom you are witnessing even though you do not agree with them. You do not want to insult their beliefs or any of the important historical figures of their religion. Focus on Jesus and his substitutionary atonement for sin.
- Rely on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and not just your well crafted argument when you witness.
- Present Christ as the exclusive way of salvation and back it up with scripture.
- Sow seeds of the gospel. It may take a considerable amount of witnessing before this person will understand who Jesus is and willingly turn to Him. Be patient.
- Argue with them.
- Assume that they are not interested in discussing their spiritual beliefs. Many people are interested if you approach them with the right attitude.
- Approach the encounter with a "I'm going to win the argument" attitude. That will get you no where.
- Leave leave a bad taste in their mouth. In other words, represent Christ and his kingdom.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I just returned from the annual Rose Parade outreach in Pasadena California. We had a marvelous time of witnessing on the streets. California is such a fruitful environment for spiritual conversations.
Not everyone that we encountered on the streets was open to the gospel. But our main task in evangelism is to discern who is open and who is not. If a person is open, then you should seek to share the gospel in the power of the Spirit. If not, then move on to find someone who is open.
I encountered some interesting people on the streets of Pasadena. One man, who was enjoying the holiday "spirit," was from a Muslim and Baptist background. He understood that there would be a final judgment, but misunderstood that he would have a chance to ask for forgiveness at the moment that he was facing that judgment.
Another man, who was standing in front of the Scientology Center, was a Jewish Scientologist. He believed in self improvement and living a moral life. He still clung to some of his traditional Jewish beliefs, but for the most part believed that everyone had the right to their own religious beliefs.
Whenever you actively practice evangelism, you are bound to encounter other religions. How will you react when you come across someone who is from a different religious background that you may not be familiar with?
Here are some practical thoughts on witnessing to adherents of other religions:
1. Understand what you believe. When they train members of the secret service to identify counterfeit currency, they make them handle real money first. They become familiar with how real money feels and looks and therefore can spot the fake as soon as they see it. When it comes to faith, you need to be conversant in your own belief system. This is especially true of essential doctrines such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the scriptures, the virgin birth of Christ, deity of Christ, His atonement for sin, the bodily resurrection of Christ and His return. If you know what you believe, you will easily discern false beliefs when you hear them.
2. Understand how other religions view salvation. People have often asked, why are there so many religions in the world. Truthfully, you can categorize every religion in the world in to 1 of 2 categories: those with works based salvation and Christianity with grace based salvation. Practically every religion in the world except Christianity teaches that a person has to perform some type of ritual or work to gain acceptance to God. The Bible teaches that a person cannot earn salvation, it is by grace they are saved through faith.
3. Don't be afraid to ask. If you encounter a particular religious belief that you are not familiar with, don't be afraid to ask the person to tell you what they believe. Recently, I encountered a man who practiced Moorish Science. He did not come out and tell me what his religion was, but shared enough of his belief system that I was able to further research his beliefs and discover what he practiced. In case you are wondering, Moorish Science is a mixture of Islam and mysticism created by a man named Drew Ali. (Google it for more information.)
4. Study, study, study. First of all, make sure personal Bible study and scripture memorization is a part of your regular routine. Secondly, nothing replaces good hard work and research. A good place to start your research on other religions is http://www.4truth.net which is maintained by the North American Mission Board. You can find a good article on Scientology on this website. There are many other Websites out there where you can learn about other religions.
Whatever you do, don't panic when you encounter someone of a different religion. If you know what you believe, you will do well as long as you depend upon the Holy Spirit. In the next article, I will share more about the dos and don't of witnessing to people of other faiths.