Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm Open

My apologies for not posting an article last week. I was in New Orleans doing street evangelism prior to Mardi Gras and did not have access to a computer.

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

Preach the Gospel at All Times and When Necessary Use Words.

"Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

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...

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

The Urgency of the Message

Do you realize that 7 people pass into eternity every 7 seconds. By the time you go to bed tonight, around 600,000 people will die. Some will go to heaven. Some will go to hell.

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?