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Showing posts with the label #Evangelism

So… do you know Jesus?

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I know better than to assume everyone who browses TXAB is Christian.I learned better on other blogs I’ve done. ’Cause nonchristians piped up. There’s a certain personality type—the class clown, the noisy guy in the theater, the guy in the nightclub who wears way too much musk, the Facebook friend who over-comments on everything (which, I gotta admit, is sometimes me) —who can’t go anywhere without making their presence known. If you prefer to go unnoticed, these are the people you never wanna befriend; they’ll always embarrass you. And on blogs, they’re the sort who wanna make sure the blogger (i.e. me) knew they visited. Sometimes with a polite note, and sometimes by flinging poo like a chimpanzee.On blogs, sometimes they’re the troll who comments, in case any Christians are reading, “You suckers do realize all this religious stuff is [synonym for dooky]: Jesus is dead, the bible is science fiction, and churches are scams to separate the feeble-minded from their money.” Or the guy wh…

Altar calls: Come on down!

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ALTAR'ɔl.tərnoun. A table or block used as the focus for a religious ritual, particularly offerings or ritual sacrifices to a deity.2. In Christianity, the table used to hold the elements for holy communion.3. In some churches, the stage, the steps to the stage, or the space in front of the stage, where people go as a sign of commitment.During our worship services, sometimes Christians are invited to leave our seats and come forward to the stage. It’s called an altar call.Thing is, we’re not sure how the term originated. ’Cause the stage, or the front of the stage, wasn’t called an altar back then. The altar was the communion table. My guess is people were originally instructed to gather by the communion table. In a lot of churches, that altar is front and center; in the church I went to as a child, it was right in front of the preacher’s podium.But when evangelists held rallies, whether at a concert hall, sports arena, outdoor stadium, theater, high school gym, or grade school ca…

We’re not the only ones who do grace, y’know.

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Scott Hoezee told this story in his 1996 book The Riddle of Grace.The story is told that, many years ago, a conference was convened to discuss the study of comparative religions. Theologians and experts from various fields of religious studies gathered from all over the world to tackle certain knotty questions relating to Christianity and its similarities or dissimilarities to other faiths. One particularly interesting seminary was held to determine whether there was anything unique about the Christian faith. A number of Christianity’s features were put on the table for discussion. Was it the incarnation? No; other religions also had various versions of the gods coming down in human form. Might it be the resurrection? No, various versions of the dead rising again were found in other faiths as well.On and on the discussion went without any resolution in sight. At some point, after the debate had been underway for a time, C.S. Lewis wandered in late. Taking his seat, he asked a colleagu…

The Fear.

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Seems appropriate for the day before Halloween to talk about the Fear.The main reason why Christians don’t act in faith?Why we won’t share Jesus with our neighbors and coworkers? Why we don’t pray for people to be cured of illnesses, freed from addictions, rescued from troubles? Why we never even think to ask God for miracles? Why we don’t prophesy, even though we’re sure God is talking to us right this instant? Why we don’t start ministries, don’t offer help, don’t encourage, don’t anything?The Fear.You’ve likely met Christians who’re the most friendly, outgoing, outspoken, extroverted people you’ve ever seen. Got no trouble with public speaking. No trouble sharing their opinions—even when you’d rather they didn’t. No trouble talking about their favorite movies, teams, products, politics. Maybe a little initial stage fright, but they shake it off quickly. But when it comes to talking about Jesus or acting in faith, these very same Christians seize up and never snap out of it. It’s li…

Jesus gave every Christian a mission.

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And missionaries are the only ones who follow through. MISSIONARY'mɪ.ʃə.nɛ.rinoun. Person sent on a religious assignment, namely to spread Christianity in another place.Jesus ordered his students to tell the whole world about his kingdom, and go make him more students. Mt 28.19-20 By πάντατὰἔθνη/pánta ta éthni, every ethnicity (KJV “all the nations”), our Lord really did mean everyone. So Christians obediently have.Well, some of us. Most of us don’t bother.Because we tell ourselves that’s a specialized job. One for people who’ve to have a God-experience: Jesus personally spoke to them, or appeared to them, and made us one of his apostles. Only then can we go to other lands and tell the locals about Jesus.Meanwhile we pray the Moses Prayer…Exodus 4.13 NLTBut Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”…and avoid anything where Jesus might show up, where we can no longer avoid him or explain him away, where he might actually tell us to obey him already. ’Cause the commissi…

You must be born again.

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What “born again” means to pagans and Christians. BORN AGAIN |bɔrn ə'ɡɛn| verb: Become Christian.2. Convert to a stronger faith in, and a more personal relationship with, Christ Jesus.3. Become a zealous [or overzealous] Christian.4.noun: A Christian who underwent one of the above experiences.Certain Christians insist you’re not a real Christian unless you’ve been “born again.”These same Christians look at me funny whenever I talk about Christians who weren’t born again: “There’s no such thing,” they say. Actually there are: Some of us grew up Christian. From as far back as we can remember, we were raised to believe in Jesus and follow him, so we did. We went straight from childhood faith (where you trust Jesus because you’re told to) to personal faith (where you individually choose to trust Jesus) without any abrupt born-again experience at all. It was seamless… well, if there is a seam, Jesus knows where it is, but we don’t.For me there was a born-again experience; I was a littl…

Convincing people they’re not all that good.

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Ray Comfort likes this particular evangelism trickapologetics argument. He didn’t invent it though; I’ve heard it from lots of people. Whenever he’s talking Christianity with someone, he’ll ask them, “Do you consider yourself a good person?”In my experience, a number of people will actually answer no. Sometimes because they actually don’t consider themselves good people; their karmic balance leans way too far on the bad side of the scale. Sometimes because they’re just being contrary; they don’t know what’s coming next, but they anticipate you want ’em to say yes, so they’re preemptively throwing a monkey wrench into things. And sometimes they do know what‘s coming next, and definitely wanna sabotage it. But in order to keep this article moving, let’s say they answered yes.PAGAN. “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person.”APOLOGIST. [stifling that grin you get when they take the bait] “So if you stand before God on Judgment Day, he’ll be okay with you and let you in?”PAGAN. “Probably.”APOLOGIST…

Don’t exaggerate your testimony. Ever.

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Far too many liars are spreading stories about God. It should go without saying that Christians shouldn’t lie. But we do, for various reasons, all bad. So stop. Wean yourself off exaggerating in order to make yourself look good; wean yourself off dissembling to get yourself out of difficulty. Quit lying. Jesus is truth; Jn 14.6 stick to the truth. There y’go; your mini-sermon for the day.It should also go without saying we shouldn’t lie when we share our testimonies, and talk about our God-experiences. But once again, we do. Way too many of us do.It’s out of pure selfishness: We wish we had a good testimony. Or a better one. One where God did something really spectacular. And no I don’t mean “spectacular” as in really great; I mean in its original sense as a serious spectacle, something visible which really gets people’s attention. Like when Simon Peter raised Dorcas from the dead Ac 9.36-42 or something. We want those sorts of stories, because we wanna sound like we have more faith, …

The instigator?

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Why I keep winding up in conversations with strangers about Jesus.I have a lot of stories in which I’m talking with strangers about Jesus, Christianity, the church, and so forth.Because of this, y’might get the wrong idea about me—that I’m the one initiating these conversations. That I’m one of those evangelists on the prowl. You know the type of person: If they’re not selling Jesus, they’re selling something, be it cars or timeshares or herbal supplements. In their case they just happen to be pitching salvation.You’ve met ’em when you were minding your own business at the coffeehouse, nursing a mocha and trying to get a grip on the day. Suddenly one of these yahoos nudges into your “me time” and tries to talk about the eternal destination of your immortal soul. Like you’re ready for deep stuff at that point in your day.But nope, this isn’t me.You can probably tell I don’t care for that type of evangelist. I don’t care for that type of salesperson either. Likely neither do you. I’m fi…

Pagan and proud.

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Whenever I share Jesus with pagans, I run into two types: The open-minded and the closed-minded. Either pagans who are curious and have tons of questions; or pagans who wanna tell me about Jesus, ’cause they already know it all.The open-minded are fun. I may not get them to believe, or convince them to set foot in a church, but that’s okay: There’s still room for the Holy Spirit to work on ’em. There’s still hope. Whereas the closed-minded are depressing. They suck all the fun out of the conversation. They dismiss or mock what we consider important, and don’t care how insulting and condescending they come across. When Jesus compared them to swine, Mt 7.6 you can see why that analogy has become so popular.Why are they like that? Pride.Like I said, they already know it all. They think they have God all figured out. Or at least they have God figured out better than we Christians do. Sometimes they grew up Christian, so they actually do know a few things. Sometimes they didn’t, but they r…

You realize other religions have their own apologetics, right?

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Their apologetics don’t evangelize you. Why should yours work on them?About two months ago on a Friday, I was walking to work when I was accosted by a street preacher. He wanted to say hi, strike up a conversation, find out a little about me… and invite me to synagogue that night.Yeah, synagogue. He’s Jewish; he stopped me as I was walking past his synagogue.He’s hardly the first evangelist from another religion I’ve encountered. I meet Mormons all the time, and expect I’ll meet a few more this spring. When I lived in Sacramento, the Muslims were mighty active in my neighborhood, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses came calling every Saturday morning. I had a Buddhist roommate for a few years, and picked his brain about Buddhism. (Then led him to Jesus, ’cause I do that.) I would’ve had a long interesting discussion with the Jew, but I hate to be late to work, so maybe some other time.I know: Certain Christians are gonna be outraged that I dared let work get in the way of an “opportunity” suc…

Sharing Jesus and sucky Christians.

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If we make lousy representatives of Jesus, we’re often extra hesitant to share him with others.There’s a popular saying among Christians, attributed to Ragamuffin Gospel author Brennan Manning:The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.It’s popular among wannabe-devout Christians, ’cause it lets us point the finger at irreligious Christians and say, “See, it’s their fault.” (And so much for grace.) But is it true? Has anybody bothered to poll nontheists and ask ’em, “Is that why you struggle to believe in God? Because of Christians who won’t act like Christ?” Have we sought to find out if there’s anything to it? Or is it too comfortable and appealing a “truth” to question?I mean yeah, irreligious Christians need to shape up and stop treating God’s grace so cheaply. Duh. But I’m loath to park the blame for al…

“Train up a child…”

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It’s not about evangelism. It’s about taking Jesus for granted.Proverbs 22.6This particular proverb, best known in the King James version—Proverbs 22.6 KJVTrain up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.—has brought a lot of comfort to a lot of Christians whose kids don’t appear to be going anywhere close to the way they should go.After high school, a lot of the kids from my church youth group didn’t stay in church. Some of us did, and some of us went away to school… and the rest decided since they were adults now, they could choose to go to church or not. So they chose not. To the great consternation of their parents, who thought they raised their kids better than that. They really didn’t.In despair, the parents turned to this proverb. The way they chose to interpret it: Yeah, the kids had quit Jesus, but the parents had trained ’em up in the way they should go. They’d raised ’em Christian. Took ’em to church. Made ’em pray before meals. Sent …

“I stand at the door and knock.”

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It’s not about evangelism. It’s about taking Jesus for granted.Revelation 3.20Revelation 3.20 KJVBehold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.This’d be Jesus speaking.When I was a little kid, I was told Jesus lives in my heart.I didn’t then understand the difference between one’s physical heart, the blood-pumping muscle/organ in one’s chest; and the spiritual heart, the center of one’s soul. That “Jesus lives in my heart” means Jesus takes priority over all. Arguably the spiritual heart is a metaphor, and Jesus living in it is definitely a metaphor. You wanna talk persons of the trinity who live in you, look to the Holy Spirit.But you know how literal-minded a kid can be. Tell ’em “Jesus lives in your heart,” and they’ll wonder whether there’s a little tiny Jesus, physically inside their chests. And of course that’s not what they meant. Or at least I surely hope that’s not what they me…

Christian jerks.

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SHE. “Ugh, religious people are the worst.”ME. “Hey. I’m a religious person. How am I ‘the worst’?”SHE. “Oh, you’re not that religous.”ME. “I beg to differ. I’m extremely religious. If I weren’t, I’d be even more of a jerk. Now explain how I’m ‘the worst’.”The gist of my pagan friend’s complaint was how Christians are bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental—although she tried to make it very clear she didn’t include me.Which is a fair comment. Plenty of us Christians are totally bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental. I certainly used to be. I try not to be; I’m trying to overcome all that fleshly behavior. I’d like to think I’m succeeding more often than not, which is why I could object to my friend: “How am I ‘the worst’?” The fact she agreed I’m an exception means I must be succeeding, sorta. Yea me.And plenty of my fellow Christians also try to overcome such fleshly behavior. Like I said, it’s ’cause we’re religious. We’re trying to do the good works God laid out for us. Ep 2.10 Tr…

Sheep-stealing: “Hey, those were our sheep!”

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Since all the sheep belong to Jesus, what’s the real problem?Sheep-stealing /'ʃip stil.ɪŋ/ vt. Getting a Christian to leave their church and join yours. [Sheep-stealer /'ʃip stil.ər/ n.]My sister and I live in the same town. I’m a member of a small church. She’s a member of another, larger church.When people hear this, sometimes they respond, “Aww. Why don’t you go to the same church? You should be worshiping together.”Well, sometimes we do. Sometimes I visit her church. Once, she and her family visited mine. Our churches aren’t in competition, y’know. Mine may be in a denomination and hers isn’t, but both churches belong to Jesus: They’re both outposts of God’s kingdom.Why don’t we go to the same church? Various reasons. Initially it was because I was giving the churches in my denomination a try before settling on one… and this one fit. (Once it wasn’t, so I hung with the Baptists a few years.) If I had to switch churches, I don’t think it’d be too big a stretch to switch to …

Deaf ears aren’t opportunities.

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Despite the kingdom’s unlimited resources, let’s not be stupid with them.Matthew 7.6In his the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the chip and the beam story,Mt 7.3-5, Lk 6.41-42 then immediately brought up pearls and pigs. Or pearls and swine, as the KJV more famously has it. The saying’s only found in Matthew. Figured I’d show it to you in context, since it makes my interpretation more obvious.Matthew 7.3-6 KWL3“Why do you see the wood chip in your brother’s eye,yet not notice the support beam in your eye?4How will you tell your brother, ‘Let me get the chip out of your eye’?Look, there’s a beam in your eye!5You hypocrite, first get the beam out of your eye!And you’ll see straight enough to get out the chip from your brother’s eye.6But don’t give holy things to the dogs, nor throw your pearls before the pigs.Otherwise they’ll trample them under their feet, and they might turn and attack you.”See, the problem with the pearls-to-pigs saying, is we regularly forget it comes right after th…

Carrot-and-stick evangelism. (Mostly stick.)

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Why hellfire and brimstone is the worst way to proclaim God’s kingdom.Recently I got to talking with a member of my church about evangelism. She wanted to know how I shared Jesus. Not to pick up any pointers or anything; she just wanted to make sure I wasn’t spreading heresy. (She’s one of those folks who’s not sure anyone’s doing Christianity right but her.)So I talked about how I usually lead pagans to Jesus: First I try to plug ’em into a church. Doesn’t need to be mine, but it should be a fruitful church. They’re more likely to encounter Jesus for themselves if the people in the church know him personally, y’know.She. “And what do you tell them about hell?”Me. “Not much. They don’t usually ask.”She. “You don’t warn them about hell?Me. “I don’t need to. I’ve already got ’em interested in going to church.”She. “But you’ve gotta warn ’em about hell!”Me. “Why?”She. [gonna burst a blood vessel over my perceived stupidity] “Because that’s where they’re headed!”Me. “Oh, they know that. …

Don’t just raise your kids Christian. Share Jesus with them.

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If you can’t talk politics yet still produce good fruit, they’re in Christ’s way. And need to go.Some years ago I was telling a friend about some church ministry I was involved with. He then told me, with a little bit of embarrassment, he wasn’t involved in such thing in his church. Didn’t feel he could possibly find the time.“Well that’s understandable,” I told him: “You have four kids under the age of 10. They’re your ministry. You’ve gotta make sure they know Jesus, and have a growing relationship with them. Get them solid; then worry about all the other stuff your church is doing. Then your kids will wanna do all those church things with you.”He was a little relieved to hear me say that, ’cause he’d been kicking himself a little for not doing enough church stuff. You know how some churches can get: If you’re not giving ’em 10 hours a week, they doubt your salvation. But when Paul instructed Timothy on what sort of people oughta serve the church (or deacons, as we tend to call ’em)…

“Can I pray for you?”

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Most people don’t mind at all if you do. When you don’t know what to do, talk to God.Not only is this always good advice to follow, but it’s good advice when dealing with others. When other people share their difficulties with us, we don’t always know how to respond. Prayer’s one of the best responses—if not the best, period. It’s turning to God as our first resort.I know; plenty of people think they know just what to do when they hear someone’s troubles. That’s why they immediately offer it: Advice. No, the person sharing their woes didn’t ask for it. Often they just wanted to vent to someone. But that’s not gonna stop people from inflicting bad advice upon ’em anyway.Remember Job’s friends? For a week he kept his mouth shut, Jb 2.13 but then he made the mistake of lamenting in front of them, Jb 3 and it opened up their floodgates of bad advice, naive statements, sorry platitudes—you know, the same stuff people still offer as advice, which just goes to show they’ve never really read