Category Archives: Evangelism

Another Reason to Never Stop Evangelizing

Earlier this week, Justin Taylor quoted from an interview with D.A. Carson on the topic of helping coming generations to keep their focus images (1)on the gospel.  Carson gave six suggestions for this, but one gripped me when I read it:

Never stop evangelizing: it is much easier to get sloppy about the gospel if you are not proclaiming it and seeing men and women come to Christ.

Why is this true?  Why are we in danger of losing the gospel if we stop evangelizing?  I think it’s because when we evangelize we understand that there are significantly fewer assumptions we can make concerning what people know and don’t know about the Bible, God’s holiness, sin, Jesus, and grace (especially when you consider our increasingly post-Christian society).  This helps to keep us from leaving things out and urges us to be precise in our gospel-telling.

When we simply stay within our Christian bubbles, it’s easy to assume your brothers and sisters in Christ know what you mean when you use words like “justification” and “redemption” because they’ve already come to know Christ and they’ve been sitting under biblical preaching and teaching.  Not so with evangelizing the lost.  Actually, in evangelism it is better to assume they know very little or nothing at all about these things.

In understanding that unbelievers may not have any other Christians telling them what we’re telling them about sin and forgiveness, there is a greater sense of care we bring to a gospel conversation.  Evangelism keeps us from straying into ambiguity and vague generalities when thinking and speaking of the gospel.  We need evangelism to keep us fixed on the truth.

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What Keeps Us from Loving the People Next Door and Across the Street?

images (14)I’ve been reading a book lately that often has me slowly exhaling as I nod my head up and own.  I nod my head because I agree and I exhale slowly because I know I’m not doing what the book prescribes.  The book is called The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.  The concept of the book is simple: we have a divine responsibility to obey the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, with our actual neighbors; those who live next door, across the street, and around the corner.  Many of us Christians do this well with those who are a part of our church or our clique inside the church, but let’s face it, we have  dropped the ball countless times with those who live closest to us.

One of the reasons for this is found in a sentence I read last night: “…it’s easy to make assumptions about other people when you don’t really know anything about them.”  That’s probably not something new and profound for you, but it’s something I needed to read.

As we see our neighbors out mowing their grass, putting the kids in the van, tinkering around in the garage, or taking their dogs for a walk, we interpret what we see.  But the problem is that what we see provides very little information about who our neighbors really are.  Add to that our tendency to think the worst of people and you’ve got a recipe for a safe, independent, yet ungodly way of living.

Church, if we will take the time to engage our neighbors in real conversation, then we will discover that many of the assumptions which keep us from having relationships with them, will fly right out the window.  So, today, will you pray and ask God for the grace and courage to interact with your actual neighbors and then make a plan for how to do this?  I pray so…for you and for me.


A Better Way to Think About Giving Away Books for Easter

images (8)If  you didn’t already know, WTS Books is having a big sale on books for Easter.  Two books of particular note are Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper on sale for $3 (or $2 if you buy five or more) and The Cross He Bore by Frederick S. Leahy for $3.50.

These books, no doubt, are discounted so drastically because WTS Books wants us to buy them in bulk and give them away during the time of the year when we are thinking most about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  To this I say “Amen!”  I love to give away books, and I imagine many of you do as well.  This is a good thing, but perhaps we can do more good with an opportunity like this.

Giving away books (whether to believers or unbelievers) is pretty easy.  You buy a book, give it to someone you know, and tell them you think it’s a good book for them to read.  Sure, you have to muster up some courage and dish out a little cash, but it’s a pretty small commitment.  Plus, unless you keep asking that person about the book, you never really know if he/she read it.  I can’t tell you how many copies of Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die I’ve seen at Half-Price Books.

But here’s a crazy thought, what if you bought the book, gave it to someone, and said, “I think this is a good for you to read… I want to read it too, so how about we read it at the same time and talk about it over lunch… and lunch is on me.”  Yeah, he might make up an excuse or flat-out tell you “no”, but you’ll never know unless you try, and if he says “yes”, it could be the start of a great conversation that may lead to that person’s salvation if he’s an unbeliever or a deeper faith if he’s a Christian.


Questioning Your Heart: “What if Today Was Your Last…?”

images (43)With today being the last day of the Mayan calendar, I heard a discussion between two guys at Starbucks yesterday concerning what they would do if Friday, December 21 really was the last day they had to live.  One man began describing the steak he would eat and what drink he would choose to go with it.

His answer led me to ask some questions of myself: “Brent, is that what you would do if you knew it was your last day on earth?”  The answer: “No, because if today is my last day on earth, then I know tomorrow I will be in heaven, and in heaven there will be much more joy than a steak from a sin-scarred world can provide.  The whole reason to eat a steak on your last day on earth would be to experience its savory delight in the expectation that you will be derived of such delight in the next life.  For a believer in Christ, I can expect that ‘to depart and be with Christ’ will be ‘very much better’ (Philippians 1:23), so I will do something other than eat a steak.”

“Brent, what will you do then?”  The answer: “Something that I will not be able to do in heaven.  This does not mean that I will spend the day pursuing sin and immorality because there is none of that in heaven.  Rather, I mean, what God-glorifying thing will I do that I will not be able to do in heaven?  Okay, I know, I will tell unbelievers of the only hope they have to escape God’s judgment of sin: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  There will be no unbelievers in heaven to share this hope with, so I would spend the day doing that.

“Brent, even though you don’t think tomorrow is going to bring the end of the world, you do agree that any day on this earth could be your last… so why aren’t you sharing the hope of the gospel more in view of this reality?”  The answer (after a pause of conviction): “Because I don’t see God’s grace for the treasure that it truly is.”

A prayer: “Lord, help me see my sin as wretched, treasonous rebellion so that that I see your grace as awesome, breath-stealing beauty… so that I will tell more people that they can experience this grace too.”


God Often Uses a Collection of People to Draw a Person to Himself

Many of the Christians I know came to faith in Jesus not through one faithful believer telling them the gospel, but through a collection of faithful believers telling them the gospel.  Alongside a faithful parent may stand grandparents, friends, Sunday school teachers, a pastor, acquaintances, and even that strange lab partner in high school chemistry with all his Christian paraphernalia.

I too am a product of God working through a collection of people carrying out the Great Commission, many of whom served in the church I grew up in.  These people were used to impress upon me different aspects of God’s character and work at different times and in different ways.

One such person was a man we’ll call Mr. K who was substituting for our regular fifth grade Sunday school teacher.  Mr. K and his family had been a part of our church as far back as I could remember and I genuinely liked him.  On the Sunday Mr. K filled in for our teacher he asked a question, “Why are we here?”  He wanted us to tell him the reason why we came to church each week.  Being the little punk that I was, I whispered an answer to my friend sitting next to me, “We’re just killing time.”  I won’t ever forget the fire in Mr. K’s eyes.  Almost immediately, he kicked me out of class and told me to go sit with my parents in “big church”.

Even though I wasn’t a believer, I learned something about God’s holiness that day.  Mr. K’s response to my flippant irreverence showed me that God is One who will be honored.  But that’s not all Mr. K taught me that day.  After class he came and found me with my parents and gave me a big hug and explained to me why he did what he did.  That day God also used Mr. K to show me something about the kindness of his grace.

My point is not, necessarily, that you should start kicking kids out of your Sunday school classes, but rather that you should thank God for each person in the collection of people he used to draw you to himself.  And then, to willingly put yourself in the service of God for others as you pray that he would use you in their collection.


Overcoming One Excuse for Not Sharing the Gospel

Have you ever recognized how brilliantly deceptive your heart can be?  Our hearts can be masterful at creating excuses for our neglect of responsibility so that we feel no qualms about not doing what we should.

My heart works this way with evangelism.  The excuse I use is one that is familiar: “I don’t have opportunity”.  I’m a pastor, right?  So, I work with Christians, I serve Christians, my wife is a Christian, and my friends are Christians.  I tell myself it’s okay that I don’t share the gospel more, because to do so would require taking time away from my young family or the flock God has given me to care for.

My heart uses this excuse to suppress the Holy Spirit’s conviction for me to proclaim Christ to the lost and so I feel safe with my hands tied, ever-ready to say, “When God sends me an unbeliever, I’ll be waiting.”

In those times, however, when the Lord has me thinking biblically, I realize the blessing and the need to share the gospel, and, like Paul, I pray for opportunities to tell people that Jesus saves (Colossians 4:3).  What happens when I do this?  Something amazing… sooner or later God answers my prayer!  Sometimes the opportunities take a little more work than others, but God has been faithful to provide them.

I am convinced that we don’t pray this prayer enough because we know God is faithful and we know he answers prayers… and if we pray that prayer and he answers it, then we no longer have the convenience of saying we don’t have opportunities to evangelize.

Please pray with me that we will be so gripped by the gospel and enjoy Christ so deeply that we will have the courage to pray for gospel opportunities with the lost.


How You Can Share the Gospel Through Inviting Someone to Church

A few years back the elders of Calvary Bible Church put me over our benevolence ministry.  Among other things, this means that I personally speak to each person that comes in during the week seeking some type of physical help.  While we get some new folks that come in  from time to time, most of the time this responsibility has me talking to our regulars.

One of our regulars popped in yesterday because he needed some groceries and so I began to think of how I could engage him with the gospel without it sounding too clinical or forced.  I have shared the gospel with this man a few times before, so I was also thinking of a different angle to come at him from.  He had just recently purchased a car (he has been riding the bus for the last eighteen months), so I jumped on the opportunity to invite him to church again.  I said something like, “Now that you’ve got a car, it’ll be a lot easier for you to visit us on a Sunday morning” (smooth transitions are not my forte).  He smiled and nodded, acknowledging my statement, but didn’t say anything.  So, in my mind, I began frantically thinking of where I could go next to move closer to the gospel.

Suddenly the Lord led me to think of the reason that is associated with church-going for many people – to earn brownie points with God.  This became my avenue for gospel-telling.  God was gracious in giving me the words to speak to dispel any notion of works-righteousness that may have been present in this man’s  thinking about why people attend church.  I was able to tell him that for Christians church-going is a response to what God has done for us in sending Christ to take our place on the cross.  In this way church becomes a celebration of God’s grace wherein we worship God together and hear from him through his Word.

Why did I think this was worth mentioning today?  Because I think inviting unbelievers to church is still a legitimate aspect of pointing them to Jesus, but such an invitation can often fall on deceived (or confused at best) ears.  Therefore, there is much potential for turning the church invitation itself into an opportunity to share God’s free gift of salvation.

 

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