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
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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.