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Showing posts with the label #Evangelism

When the sinner’s prayer doesn’t work.

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Imagine you share Jesus with someone. (Hope you do share Jesus with people. But anyway.) Imagine they respond well: They express an interest in this Jesus whom you speak of. They believe you when you tell ’em Jesus saved them. They wanna become a Christian right here and now. So you say the sinner’s prayer with them. They recite all the words right after you. They feel happy about it. You feel happy about it. And there was much rejoicing. Yea! Okay, now imagine it’s a year later and you meet up with that person again… and you find their life hasn’t changed. At all. They don’t go to church; they don’t see the point. They don’t read the bible; they don’t see the point. They don’t pray; no more than usual, which is the occasional “God, get me out of this and I promise I’ll…” and nothing more. Not even religious feelings , which I admit are usually self-manufactured, but they don’t even have that . No fruit of the Spirit. They’re not any happier, any more joyful. They

The “sinner’s prayer.” And how to lead one.

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In the scriptures, whenever someone wanted to become Christian, how’d they get initiated? Simple: They got baptized. Right away: They found some water and baptized ’em right then and there. Acts 8.35-38 KJV 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 [And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. Splash, and you’re Christian. But by the end of the first century, ancient Christians got it into their heads there oughta be more delay than this: Too many people were getting baptized, yet didn’t continue to follow Jesus. And baptism is a sacrame

Don’t exaggerate your testimony. Ever.

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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 encounters with God, what he’s told us, and how devoutly we follow him. But once again, we do. Way too many of us do. It’s out of pure selfishness. We wish we had a really good God-encounter. We wish we witnessed something truly spectacular. And no I don’t mean “spectacular” as in neat; 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 these types of stories, because we wanna sound like we have more

Your testimony.

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TESTIMONY 'tɛst.ə.moʊ.ni noun . Formal evidence or proof of the existence or appearance of something. (Particularly a statement provided in court.) 2. A public statement, or retelling, of a religious conversion or experience. [Testify 'tɛs.tə.faɪ verb , witness 'wɪt.nəs noun, verb .] In the scriptures a testimony or witness refers to, duh, something you personally saw. Something you could make a formal statement about before a judge. Something that was a big, big deal if you presented a false testimony; one of the 10 commandments forbids it. For the ancient Christians, when they talked about one’s testimony, they meant what we personally saw of Jesus. 1 John 1.1-4 NIV 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, w

Postmodernism: Don’t take “truths” for granted.

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POSTMODERN poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn adjective. Coming later than modern. 2. A 20th century concept and style in arts and criticism, representing a departure from modernism, typified by a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies. 3. Anti-modern. [Pomo 'poʊ.moʊ abbreviation , postmodernism poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.iz.əm noun , postmodernist poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.ist adjective , postmodernity poʊs(t).moʊd'ər.nə.di noun. ] I grew up postmodern. I just didn’t know it had a name. I also didn’t realize, at the time, how badly it scared the heebie-jeebies out of Christian apologists. The label’s not new. It first cropped up in the 1950s. Artists and architects started using it to describe the hip, exciting things they were doing. The current scene was “modern,” so they claimed they were beyond modern, post modern; whatever modern was, they weren’t. Pomo is a common abbreviation, although some pomos really hate it. I don’t, and use it. Gradually people began to clai

Can God’s word “return void”?

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Isaiah 55.11. So one night I and my friend Jason ( not his real name, and you’ll soon see why) were walking from the car to the coffeehouse. Enroute some vagrant asked us for spare change. Jason got it into his head this was a “divine opportunity”: It’s time to proclaim the gospel to this person! It’s time to get him saved. That’s how we wasted the next 15 minutes. Yep, wasted . Because the vagrant was. Either he was drunk, or off his meds, or had recently suffered a head injury, or otherwise had some condition which made him incoherent. Jason asked him questions to determine whether he understood the gospel… and the guy would start rambling about how he believed men and women should be together. In which context I don’t know. (Hey, this article is about context, so I had to bring it up at some point.) Jason kinda had this poor guy cornered in a doorway, pressuring him for some sorta confession of faith. Finally, after he extracted something he considered satisfactory, we

Deaf ears aren’t opportunities.

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Matthew 7.6, Luke 13.6-9. Back in college I was at my home-away-from-dorm, a popular Capitola coffeehouse called Mr. Toots. (Figured I’d throw ’em a free plug.) I got to talking to some UC Santa Cruz students, ’cause they quickly figured out I was a fellow student and wanted to know which school I went to. Once they realized I was a biblical studies major—a “God expert” (in training, anyway)—they wanted to talk God. A lot of pagans go through a phase when they head off to school where they question their faith—and rightly so, ’cause they need to question everything , and get rid of those things in their religions which aren’t growing their relationships with God any. But a lot of ’em ditch their faith altogether, assuming they ever had any. Some of ’em dabble in other religions; some of ’em even invent their own. And some of ’em flirt with nontheism —either because they really think there might be no God, or because they’re jerks and just wanna outrage theists. That’s what

Sharing Jesus patiently.

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For the sake of this article I’ll call him Uladzimir. He’s a pastor, and he was trying to teach me how he did street evangelism —where you stand in some public place, and share Jesus with passers-by. Most of the time, street evangelists pick someplace busy, but not hurried —someplace where people might hang out, and therefore have a few minutes to talk. Like a park, a shopping mall, a town square, a main street, a parking lot. For this instruction, Uladzimir took me to a mall. Pick a place to stand, he instructed, and watch the passers-by as they come your way. Look at their body language. Do they walk quickly, eyes straight ahead, pretending you’re invisible (like they do with beggars and pollsters), pretending they have somewhere to be? Skip them. Do they walk slowly, nodding or saying hello as they approach, seemingly willing to listen if you distracted them with a conversation? Talk to them. Still, Uladzimir pointed out, don’t forget to listen to the Holy Spirit th

When pagans believe they’re Christian.

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In the United States, roughly seven out of 10 people believe they’re Christian. I live in California, where it’s six of 10. (I’m not just pulling these numbers out of my bum; the national stats and state stats are from the 2019 Pew Forum study.) Which matches my experience. Whenever I share Jesus with strangers, about two out of three tell me they’re Christian already. They don’t necessarily go to church; that’s another issue. But they do figure they’re Christian. For all sorts of reasons: Personal experiences with Jesus. Even personal appearances. Said the sinner’s prayer once. They’re a regular at their church. ( How regular varies. Many figure twice a year counts.) Got baptized. Raised Christian, or their family’s Christian. They consider themselves spiritual. And when they contemplate spiritual matters, Jesus is in the mix somewhere. Now, let’s explode that last definition: They’re “spiritual,” by which they nearly always mean they believe in the supernatural,

Witnesses and testimony. And us.

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1 John 1.1-4 KJV 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it , and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. John and the other apostles knew Jesus. Knew him personally; saw him with their eyes, touched him with their hands. He taught ’em bible. More importantly he taught ’em what he meant when he got the prophets to write it. These experiences with Jesus became their testimony . And yeah, Christians tend to treat this word like it has a special religious Christianese meaning. No it doesn’t. It mea

Christian apologetics: Kicking ass for Jesus. (Don’t!)

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APOLOGY e'pa.le.dzi noun . Justification for one’s behavior, theory, or religious belief; usually in form of a logical argument. [Apologetic e.pa.le'dzet.ik adjective , apologist e'pa.le.dzist noun .]   APOLOGETICS e.pa.le'dzet.iks noun . The study and use of logical arguments to defend [usually religious] beliefs. Years ago a pastor introduced me to a visitor to our church thisaway: “He knows a lot about apologetics.” “Well, theology,” I corrected him. ’Cause at the time this pastor didn’t really recognize much of a difference between theology and apologetics. In fact a lot of Christians don’t. Theology is what we know about God. Apologetics tends to be based on those beliefs, and regularly argues in favor of them. But ’tain’t the same thing. Yeah I actually do know a lot about Christian apologetics. Before I studied theology, it’s what my church taught me. Started in high school. My youth pastor (same as a lot of undereducated youth pastors wh

Looking for God. But not there.

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Some years ago I was listening to a radio host talk about his doubts. He used to be a pastor, but more recently he’d come to doubt God even exists. Mainly—and understandably!—because of his utter lack of God-experiences. If God exists, shouldn’t his kids have God-experiences? And he’s absolutely right. We should! But he hadn’t. More accurately, he’s entirely sure he hadn’t; whatever he’d seen thus far, hadn’t convinced him. He’d been Christian for years, yet was pretty sure he’d never heard God’s voice, never seen a legitimate miracle, never had any supernatural event in his life. And, he claimed, he wants these experiences, but thus far, nada. It was a call-in type of show, so a caller responded, “What about the Pentecostals? They claim they have God-experiences all the time. Why not go there and see what happens?” “ Oh no,” said the host. “I’m not going there . I don’t wanna get into that whole scene.” Lemme pause a moment and make clear: I’m Pentecostal, but no I’m n

“Spiritual… but not religious.”

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SPIRITUAL 'spɪ.rɪtʃ(.əw).əl adjective. Dealing with immaterial things in the human spirit or soul. 2. Dealing with religion. [Spirituality 'spɪr.ɪt.ʃəw.æl.ə.di noun. ] Many pagans like to describe themselves as spiritual. ’Cause they are: They believe in immaterial things, like the soul. Might even believe in other spirits; or God, whom they correctly recognize is spirit; Jn 4.24 or a spiritual afterlife. Or not: They only believe in spiritual forces, like good vibes or positivity, bad vibes or negativity, which can affect not just ourselves, but everyone around us. Christians call ourselves spiritual too, ’cause we are. We have the Holy Spirit, who’s hopefully working on us—if we let him. We’re taught to pursue spirit, not flesh. Ro 8.5-6 We believe in God and angels and unclean spirits (like the devil) and that we’re part spirit. For the most part, we believe in the supernatural too. Now, you can tell a pagan all this: “You’re spiritual? So’m I.” But

Seeker-sensitivity: Being all things to all people.

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SEEKER 'sik.ər noun. One who’s attempting to find religion: God, truth, peace, or self-justification.   SEEKER-SENSITIVE 'sik.ər 'sɛn.sə.dɪv adjective. Caring about seekers’ feelings, hangups, offenses, needs, or lack of familiarity; adapting one’s message in consideration. 2. Compromising one’s message to make it more appealing. [Seeker-sensitivity 'sik.ər sɛn.sə'dɪv.ə.di noun. ] People are more apt to listen to you if you’re like them. Yeah, I know there are exceptions to this rule. When I’ve been on missions trips, the locals are kinda curious about the novelty of American foreigners, and that’s why they’re more apt to listen to me a bit. But only till the novelty wears off. One of the things American missionaries discovered in the 20th century (and it’s a little dumbfounding it took us so long to discover it, but it’s probably ’cause racism ) is our missions either grow really slow, or don’t grow at all, whenever we don’t put locals in

Sealing the deal. Or not.

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Most of the evangelism seminars, classes, and books I’ve read, insist our every conversation with people about the gospel, has to end with a decision. They’ve heard the gospel, and either they believe it or they don’t; either they wanna follow Jesus or they don’t; so get an answer . Have ’em make a decision now . Right now! DO IT! Which is why that’s what I’ve experienced whenever I’ve been on evangelism teams: The high-pressure tactics of proselytizers. And a whole lot of cringing pagans, who don’t wanna make a decision right now. They gotta think about it! They need time to process. Really, they need time for the Holy Spirit to work on ’em—which is exactly what he’s gonna do. Heck, some of them might have already decided, “No thank you,” but of course the Spirit doesn’t like that answer, so he’s gonna get ’em to realize it was the wrong one, and convince ’em to change their minds. And that takes time . And patience. Patience which the Spirit has in abundance. Evangelist