jtrhart

Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

Polite Evangelism?

In links on April 26, 2008 at 3:29 pm

philiph and nathanaelI read a quote from C.H. Spurgeon over at Pyromaniacs today:

Men are perishing, and if it be unpolite to tell them so, it can only be so where the devil is the master of the ceremonies.

Out upon your soul-destroying politeness; the Lord give us a little honest love to souls, and this superficial gentility will soon vanish. I could with considerable refreshment to myself pour sarcasm after sarcasm upon religious cowardice. I would cheerfully sharpen my knife and dash it into the heart of this mean vice. There is nothing to be said in its favor.

It is not even humble; it is only pride of too beggarly a sort to own itself.

I loved how he worded this, “Out upon your soul-destroying politeness“. What great use of words there. Politeness is meant to be cordial and make others feel good. When I think of politeness, I think of doing the things my mother always told me to do: always say please and thank you, don’t point, don’t stare, don’t make fun of others, hold open the door and such. Obviously this is a different kind of politeness, this is the kind of politeness where you hold back the real message that is not very acceptable for fear of offending someone.

I’ve often asked myself this, “If I really believed what I believe, that those without a restored relationship with God will spend eternity in hell, why aren’t I more vocal about it?” and an even better question, “If I really believed a soul could be redeemed, why aren’t I sharing this with every person I run into?”

Look at the story of Philip and Nathanael in John 1:43-45:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Philip didn’t seem to waste any time telling Nathanael, as soon as he found out who Jesus was, he found Nathanael and told him. I think this sense of not wasting any time combined with the impolite message is much needed today.

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Acts 14:7

In acts_14_7 on April 22, 2008 at 7:28 pm

This week, have a listen to Kirk Cameron share the gospel with a stranger

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWcDXT6pH7A

And there they continued to preach the gospel” – Acts 14:7

Each Tuesday a different reflection on the gospel and its continual effect on our lives

Colorado Gunman's Pleas From His Letter

In news on March 13, 2008 at 7:58 am

The Associated Press is running a story today with the details of a handwritten letter found in the car of the Colorado gunman who killed 4 people in Dec. 2007. I can’t seem to find a copy of the whole letter but the bits and pieces found in the article are difficult to read: “Jesus, where are you? Do you even care these days?”, “What have I done so wrong? What is wrong with me anyways? Am I really such a bad person?”, and the most telling “Am I too lost to be saved? My soul cries for deliverance. I’m dieing (sic), praying, bleeding and screaming. Will I be denied???”.

How many millions have these same thoughts?

I wonder though, if someone were to share similar thoughts with you as a reason they didn’t believe, what would you say to them?  It would be great to get some discussion going on this topic so maybe I can start off with a few things.

  • Am I too lost to be saved? Two Scripture passages come to mind, Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” and Luke 23:39-43 where the thief condemned on the cross cries out to Jesus and Jesus assures him he would join him in heaven. One passage gives clear teaching that Christ died for unworthy sinners, not somewhat worthy sinners or sinners with a little bit of good in them. There is no distinction here, it says that Christ died for those who needed salvation the most. The other passage gives an example of a man who was so lost in his sins that he was sent to his death but yet Jesus still assures him that his sins will be forgiven. The condemned sinner has no chance to prove his salvation by living a good life afterwards, he died in a few hours.
  • Will I be denied? Romans 10:13 (quoting Joel 2:32) “for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved'”. This is pretty clear teaching that God will deny no one who calls on him for salvation. I think we need to be careful here though, Jesus talks about people who try and get in through a back door by believing in Jesus but still attempting to work their way into heaven by their good works in Matthew 7:21-23. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), it is not of man’s good works.
  • What have I done so wrong? Again, Romans 1:23 says we all have exchanged the glory of God for an idol. We have all traded what is infinitely valuable for what is worthless. Everyone has done this, everyone has sinned against God. It is important to talk about our sinful nature and not our individual sins though. People easily get hung up on a one-time sin they did a long time ago, or they are caught up in a repetitive habit of the same sin over and over and can’t get past this. But, it’s not like God overlooks all the other smaller dirt and just focuses on the mud pile so that if you could just find forgiveness for the one big sin everything would be ok. All of these sins we commit are the evidence of our sinful nature, our bent towards doing the opposite of what we know to be the right thing to do. We need salvation from our sinful selves and Christ promises to forgive all sins.

Now it’s your turn, would you say things differently? What else would you say? The gunman also asked, Why couldn’t you write your (expletive) book more clearly?” What would you say to that?

Lost in Translation(s and packaging); part II

In personal on January 30, 2008 at 8:26 pm

About a month ago, I shared a story about a man I gave a copy of the Bible to. I didn’t expect to hear from him ever again given the fact that he lives on the other side of the country. But one month later, I am truly excited.

He is reading it.

He is sharing it with his family.

He is reading it to his kids and they are interested in what it says. The Word of God is in his house and it is going forth. Please join me in praying that Christ would open his heart.

Whitefield and a Plan

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2008 at 8:21 am

whitefieldI’m reading through one of the excellent presents my lovely wife gave me recently. In it, the author tells a great story of what happened during Whitefield’s first missionary journey to Georgia. George Whitefield was the great preacher who God used to start revivals in England and America during the middle 1700’s. He is said to be one of the first “traveling, open-air” preachers, similar to Billy Graham’s style.

I’ll describe the story first and then conclude with what we can draw from it in our own evangelism.

Whitefield was hired as a ship’s military chaplain for the soldiers on board the ship taking him from England to America, but George took it upon himself to be chaplain to everyone on board as well (civilians, the crew, the captain, etc.). On the first morning at sea George stands up during public prayer time and tells everyone that his intention was “to know nothing among [them] save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Of course, telling the people they are not worth getting to know didn’t go over very well and they instantly shunned him. But George had a plan. He started visiting the sick (very dangerous to do on a long sea voyage in the 1700’s) and spent time with them and prayed for them. Then he began developing relationships with the people on board. Every opportunity he had, he would just wander around the ship and strike up conversations with people. After the people’s trust in him continued to grow, he started up some classes; bible studies, catechism, education for children and adults.

By this time, everyone on board knew him and he seemed to be in their good graces. Then a terrible storm came about and he spent the entire time crawling on his hands and knees going about from person to person and group to group comforting them and praying with them and reading to them. Imagine the effect this had on people. Think of those times when you’re on an airplane in turbulence and the plane suddenly drops in altitude, it’s pretty scary. Now imagine there was someone walking around the airplane, showing no fear, talking to people, encouraging them, praying for them. It would make quite an impact.

Soon after this, the people on board began to be transformed by the gospel that Whitefield preached. It got to the point that every day, the people would set up benches on the deck and Whitefield would preach to the people. The other two ships that were making the journey with Whitefield’s vessel would actually come up along side them during these times of preaching so everyone on board could hear as well. A floating church building.

Of course by the end of the journey, many had come to know Christ and many were on their way. He had made such an impact during a few short months that the people on board begged to let them follow him on his missionary journey to Georgia.

It’s a great story and from it we can take a few pointers that might be helpful in our own evangelism.

  1. Declare our intentions soon. Whitefield make it known to the people what his plan was, he didn’t try and act secretly to trick people. He plainly stated his intentions to make Christ known and then went about doing it.
  2. Have patience. He knew it was going to take people a while to warm up to him and so he took his time. He didn’t start his classes and bible studies and preaching times right away but eased into these things once people knew him and saw that he was genuine in his intentions.
  3. Go to those in need. The first people he sought to know were the sick. His intention was not to prey on these people because they were weak but rather, it was to help those in need. If he had gone straight to the captain and gentlemen of the ship first, he would have been alienating the majority of the ship. By going to the sick first, he was able to help those weakest and most in need.
  4. Be intentional. He would ask people the hard questions and get them to think about eternal matters but he made it personal to whoever he spoke to. If he was speaking with the soldiers, he would speak about their jobs and the risks they took with their lives. If he was speaking with the sailors, he would speak on their conduct and language. He wasn’t cold and impersonal, running off some list of questions prepared beforehand. He asked people about their own lives and what they believed.
  5. Be selfless. Whitefield showed this in two ways. First, he didn’t concern himself for his safety or health. He visited the sick and of course got sick as a result of it. He risked his life by walking around during a huge storm so that he could comfort people in their time of need. Second, he could have easily locked himself in a room and spent all his time studying and reading as he loved to do but he choose instead to spend the majority of his time developing relationships with others. He didn’t concern himself with becoming their best friend either, he asked the hard questions and pushed people to think about more weighty matters.
  6. Be prepared. Once the people had warmed up to him, he was all set to put in place various types of structured learning. He was prepared to teach and preach as soon as the people were ready to hear it.
  7. Have the right goal. His goal was to make Christ known to the people. What more worthy thing could he have given the people other than the only thing they did not have?

Lost in Translation(s and packaging)

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2007 at 11:53 am

“Oh really, you go to church too? I just started taking my family back to church, I didn’t go much when I was a kid but I think it’s the right thing to do for my kids, so they will grow up to be good.”

“That’s good that you’re doing that.”

“Yes and I just started going to a Wednesday night meeting, they talk about practical stuff there, stories from the Bible and such.”

“Really, what are you reading right now?”

“Well, I haven’t bought a Bible yet but I plan on doing that as soon as I get a chance to, they use the Spanish Bible at church and I like that, it’s in my language.”

“How long have you been going to church?”

“A few years now…”

A few minutes later, a trip to the local franchise bookstore revealed something to me that I had never really taken note of. We have more Bibles than we know what to do with. Has the Word of God become a product? You can get your Bible in any kind of packaging you want; metal casings, leather-bound, bonded leather, duo-tone leather, sheepskin leather, hardcover, paperback, thin-line, extra-wide margins, cloth casing with a handle to carry it, engraved, and even covered with the latest Christian artist’s face or album artwork. And English translations? Well, let’s just say you can have it in a language a cat could read.

I took a count of the number of Bibles in Spanish. I accomplished this with one hand. Not the number of translations or the number of packaging options mind you, the number of Bibles total.

But, the point I actually wanted to make was not about the difference in English/Spanish translations or packaging, that was just a side note. God’s Word is more powerful than a translation, or a human author’s notes, or a particular color scheme on the cover.

Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

and Jeremiah 23:39:

“Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”

My heart finds rest knowing that as this stranger reads through whatever translation (I don’t speak Spanish) was given to him, he will be hearing God’s Word, hopefully on the plane he was getting on a few hours later. The packaging wasn’t very slick, he probably won’t be very proud to show off his gift, but the Word is in his home now. He can read it, he can share it with his children, he can memorize it, he can live by it. Lives are changed by the Word through the Spirit, nothing more.