Category Archives: evangelism
Friends: As you know, my most recent book is Unlike Jesus! Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. I’m convinced many of us believers meet only with other Christians, watch only Christian movies, and eat only Christian casseroles. We make lousy friends because we’re not sure we’re supposed to be a friend of sinners!
In the next few posts, I’m going to hammer pretty hard on this idea of being a friend of sinners — like Jesus was! I have one goal in mind — to get you (and me) much more serious about the unbelievers we know and to challenge us to develop deep, committed friendships with them.
Just so you know, I’ve developed three videos which cover the basics of my book and can be used in a Zoom kind of church study. I would gladly lead the discussion (live) after your church group watches each video. All we have to do is schedule the meetings.
In fact, here’s the first video in the series. Let me know what you think!
I’ve been told by some of my friends that I’m an evangelist. I’m not so sure about that — but I do want to share the gospel wherever and whenever I can. But how are we to share the gospel when we are to stay at least 6 feet apart from others, not gather in groups of more than 10, and never, ever touch another human?
Yes, I’ve overstated matters a bit. But here are a few ideas that occur to me of how we can “do” evangelism in this “new normal”:
1. Nothing, I repeat, nothing should keep us from the imperative of being a friend of sinners like Jesus was! This has been my kind of ministry mantra for the last few years. We Jesus-followers fail miserably at developing deep relationships with lost people and spend all our time in Christian meetings, talking only with Christians, and eating only Christian casseroles!
2. This Covid pandemic has driven many of us to our computers and smart phones and to see them for what they are — incredible communication tools that can be useful in the Kingdom! Have you taken the opportunity during this strange period to connect or re-connect through email or text with those you haven’t seen in years? Why not?
3. Where are you and I showing the kindness of Christ during this challenging time? As an introvert, in some ways this period has been a blessing. But for my extrovert friends and family members, this has been tortuous. Am I choosing to reach out in my introvertedness? If you are an extrovert, is this social distancing time encouraging you to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ Himself? Has it driven you to His Word?
4. Are we using this time to serve others? I hate wearing a mask, but why flaunt my freedom at the risk of the health of others? What kind of witness am I if I enter a grocery store or business that says “Mask required” maskless?
5. What happens when this pandemic is over? When we don’t have to wear masks anymore? When we can fully meet together as churches and friends? What will be some of the changes in a post-pandemic society? I don’t know, but I do know that I will value my friendships much more than I did pre-pandemic. My life will ssslllooowww down some and I will relish conversations much more than before. Life is too short to rush about, treating others as unimportant, ending conversations prematurely.
6. My last thought: What will church be like? How has this pandemic been a wake-up call to God’s people to get the gospel out in new and creative ways? Will we be less self-absorbed and more Great Commission oriented? When will we begin to talk about and pray for our lost friends? Could it be that in the sovereignty of God this pandemic’s partial purpose was to get the church to THINK? To think about reaching those who are far from God. To think about starting evangelistic Bible studies (either in person or online). To think about genuine fellowship where we talk about what we have in common in Christ.
[Some of you might remember my post back on June 2 regarding my dialogue with my friend “Mike.” I believe the Lord led me to write the following. I’m always open to your comments.]
Always good to hear from you.
Just a couple of thoughts:
1. I appreciate your honesty in not accepting my understanding of God and the human person. I’ve never been in the dark about what you believe. And I thank you for your candor.
2. I must admit I’m sad to read that you said “the two of us will never come to a common understanding.” So I guess we’re done with our “religious” discussions. It is interesting that you sent me your essay on truth.
3. A comment or two on your article on truth: Granted, the sum of what you or I don’t know greatly exceeds the amount of “truth” that we do know. But doesn’t this assume that quantity of information is more important than quality? You may give me accurate directions how to get to your winter cabin for a feast of venison, but there’s a world of things I don’t know about the things surrounding my trip (the area’s topography, how my car exactly works to get me there, etc.).
You know that your wife loves you, but there is a world of information about her and her inner workings that you’ll never know. But the most important point is that she loves you. It seems unreasonable to deny or denigrate the truth we do have because of the volume of truth we don’t have.
You challenge the idea of our being made in God’s image because of the evil of man. I can understand that. Man is fallen and in rebellion against God. But man is also capable of great sacrifice for others. How does one explain that?
I could go on, Mike. But there are several points that I want to leave with you (if we cease our “religious” discussions):
1. I regret I’ve not done an adequate job of presenting the best case for biblical Christianity to you. I have tried. I’ve thought long and hard about my responses to you. I do remind myself of 2 Corinthians 4:4 which gives me a bit of help.
2. As someone has said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” Another responded, “I can! I can give him a salt tablet and he will get thirsty and drink!” I regret, Mike, that I’ve somehow not provided a salt tablet for you, for I’ve not seen any real thirst on your part to pursue the God of the Bible and find real forgiveness for your sins. God saved me as a teenager. There’s still time for you to trust him as an octogenarian!
3. I hope you won’t be offended by what I’ve written, but rather assured of my concern for you. I’m appreciative of your friendship and won’t bring up “religion” again unless you ask me to.
Friends: I have been corresponding with an unsaved friend of mine for years. We’ll call him “Mike.” You might find the following dialogue interesting. I’m open to your comments or questions:
I take you up on your last sentence: “I think that a genuine friendship gives the other permission to share his thoughts and deepest convictions”.
You understand my frustration….
You understand my request…..
Do you really???
We both believe in a higher authority that governs our life. We give it different names, but it is the same authority. It is the same authority that all the hundreds of different religious belief systems are based on. You enhanced your conceived system with ideas that are not shared in the same way by all the other different religions. This does not change the fact that there is only one authority and it is wrong to take the position that ones own interpretation is better than every other.
I fully accept the Christian value system, but cannot accept the detailed descriptions of paradise, the creation of mankind, the original sin, the love of God, etc.. similar as I cannot accept the idea of a Santa Claus, or an Easter bunny.
Whenever you talk to me in terms of converting me to your views, it always implies that your views are better than mine. Do you think this is right?
You talk about my world view. I don’t have one!
I simple accept the higher authority without having any thought of trying to understand. I know without doubt, that this knowledge is outside my capability.
Hope you will not give up on me for being blunt with expressing my views.
Good morning, Mike.
I received your email and wanted to jot down a couple of thoughts to you. On some things we agree; on others, not so much.
1. On the issue of “a higher authority” — If you mean “God,” then on the surface you are right. All religions claim to believe in “God” (although Buddhism believes in many gods or none at all). The Bible talks about “false gods” and bluntly says that those who don’t worship the God of Israel are worshiping idols. Your comment reminded me of a long conversation I had with a leader of the Ba’hai movement. He believed that all religions were really believing the same things.
But that’s not true, is it, Mike? Apart from the specifics of Jesus, etc., the various conceptions of God (a Trinity? not a Trinity?) differ dramatically. To say that all religions believe the same thing when it comes to “God” is actually not taking those religions seriously in what they claim.
2. I would love to know what you mean by “I fully accept the Christian value system.” Which parts? On what basis do you pick and choose which parts you will believe — and consign the others to the level of the Easter Bunny?
3. Thank you for your honesty in asking me the question: “Whenever you talk to me in terms of converting me to your views, it always implies that your views are better than mine. Do you think this is right?” I’m sure some of your views are better than mine, and maybe some of my views are “better” than yours. What’s the problem? Isn’t dialogue and discussion a way to get to “better” views (those more consistent and in tune with reality)? For example, isn’t the Christian idea of love not better than the Hindu practice of sati, the forcibly burning to death of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre? Mike, I’m certainly not saying that you hold to sati, but if you did, wouldn’t love dictate that I try to dissuade you of that idea?
4. You write, “You talk about my world view. I don’t have one!” Au contraire, mon ami! Every person has a way of looking at life, of understanding reality. Your worldview does not include recognizing Jesus as God’s Son who gave His life for you. Mine does. That’s a pretty big difference in worldviews, wouldn’t you say?
5. Lastly, you write: “I simple accept the higher authority without having any thought of trying to understand. I know without doubt, that this knowledge is outside my capability.”
Mike, don’t you see that this is an assumption that you make? What if that higher authority has revealed Himself to man in order to draw people into a relationship with Him? Of course an exhaustive knowledge of this “higher authority” is impossible. But our knowledge need not be exhaustive to be sufficient. I don’t ever want to be one who has given up the pursuit of the knowledge which He has revealed.
I will not give up on you for being blunt about your views. And I hope you won’t give up on me. But please don’t expect me to leave my Christian convictions outside, to stop praying that you will understand and believe the gospel, that you will come to know my Jesus.
A few days ago we posted the article “There’s Got to Be a Better Method Than Hit-and-Run Evangelism” (Patheos December 6, 2018 by Josh Daffern) which may be found here.
Here are my comments on that article:
Josh gives a great illustration. How would one best help an overweight friend? By “fat shaming” them on the internet? By bluntly addressing their weight problem? By boldly proclaiming “the truth” about their obesity? Josh rightly asks the question, is your goal to be right — or to help your friend lose weight? “Hit and Run Evangelism” means shaming + judging first. When we do that, aren’t we merely “checking the box” that we’ve “done evangelism”?
Josh says, “We don’t get credit for how many people we offend and push into Hell.” He then recommends that we “to turn over the tables in our churches” and “hold ourselves accountable for those on the inside and love those on the outside.” Love, he rightly states, is a better motivator for life change than condemnation.
I grew up as a hit-and-run evangelist. Whether I used an approach like “The Four Spiritual Laws” or some other technique, I stepped out in boldness — and stepped on a lot of toes.
Here is where we need to get back to becoming friends of sinners as Jesus was! Some evangelistic encounters might well be brief (a conversation on an airplane, giving a comment on someone’s blog post), but even in those we are to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Some people need to hear about God’s holiness and wrath and eternal judgment. Others need to hear of His love for sinners. In those short and solitary encounters one must ask God the Holy Spirit for wisdom which approach to take.
But for friendship encounters — situations where we can follow the Lord and truly become friends of sinners — we need to invest time and love in earning the right to be heard. That is precisely my burden in Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World.
Today’s Challenge: Ask the Lord specifically how you can advance or initiate your friendship with someone you know who has not yet trusted Christ.
I’ve recently been corresponding a bit with a couple of people who hate Christianity and have attacked me. Some of the things they have said about Christians are true. We often come across as holy know-it-alls. We are guilty at times of trying to manipulate conversations to spiritual things. And the “friendships” we develop with “lost” people are conditional and sometimes shallow and end when the other person refuses to become a believer.
I’m not sure any of us do anything out of 100% pure motives. But that’s no excuse for not loving others the way Jesus loved them. But I think if Christians were almost perfect in their interactions with those not yet in God’s family — they would still be criticized and hated. Which brings me to 2 Corinthians 2 which reads:
1. Notice that God uses the believer “to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (v. 14) Are you aware, Christian, that you carry with you a smell, an “aroma,” wherever you go? You can’t wash it off — nor should you want to. But one man’s aroma is another man’s . . . stench!
2. Notice also that we are “to God” a pleasing aroma. He is our primary audience. Others may “smell” us, but His “nostrils” are the ones that really count.
3. Our aroma is a pleasing one to God whether it is among those who are being saved or those who are perishing (v. 15). Interesting that all of humanity is divided up into two categories: (1) those who are being saved and (2) those who are perishing. God is not willing that any should perish (2 Pe. 3:9), but He is glorified even by the death of the wicked.
4. Notice that we are an aroma to two audiences: (1) to the one an aroma that brings death; (2) to the other an aroma that brings life (v. 16).
The bottom line is that the Christian is both! I would prefer to go through life as a fragrance rather than as a stench. You?
“Lord, help me to be faithful in representing You to a watching — and smelling — world. And help me not to take it personally when people turn up their noses at the gospel — and at me! In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
First, Pope Francis was quoted as saying “There is no Hell.” Later, he reportedly denied the deity of Christ, saying that while Jesus lived on earth he was a virtuous man but “not at all a God.” Then, the Pope reportedly said that His death, Christ appeared as a spirit, as opposed to the bodily resurrection of Christ. Now he has said that those who try to “proselytize” an unbeliever are “not a disciple of Jesus.”
The other times the man who is said to be the custodian of the Christian faith reportedly said something that seemed to deny a central tenet of Christianity were in the context of a discussion with his atheist friend, the Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari. The Vatican insisted that the journalist was not accurate in his reporting. This time Pope Francis was talking to a group of high school students in Rome, responding to a question about how to deal with atheists and people of other religions.
Here is what he said:
In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: “But why do you do this?” And yes, I can speak then. But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the church does not grow by proselytism. Pope Benedict had said it, it grows by attraction, by testimony. Football teams proselytize, this can be done. Political parties, can be done there. But with faith there is no proselytism. And if someone says to me: “But why?” Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.
To be sure, “proselytize” has the connotation of evangelizing in the wrong way–high pressure, canned presentations, being manipulative, etc.–though simply telling people about Jesus is often branded as proselytizing. This is how it is taken in the growing number of countries with anti-proselytizing laws, which are often being used today to persecute Christians, something the Pope should be sensitive to.
But setting that aside, the Pope’s answer suggests what might be a useful tactic in evangelism: Wait to be asked. Instead of trying to convince your Muslim, Jewish, and atheist friends to become Christians–which might create big trouble for a contemporary European teenager–live out your faith so that they become curious and ask you about it. Then you can speak.
Fair enough. The problem, though, is that the Pope puts his prohibition about not trying to convince unbelievers and not proselytizing so strongly. Those who do so are not just well-intentioned but ineffective, or wrong-headed and naive. “They are not a disciple of Jesus.” Is he saying that if you try to convert someone to Christianity, you yourself are not a Christian?
Evangelical Christians are well-known for evangelizing, for “witnessing” to others about their faith, giving their “testimony” about their own coming to faith in the course of “sharing the Gospel.” In their recent ecumenical zeal, Catholics have finally accepted Protestants as Christians, though as “separated brethren.” But does the Pope believe that evangelicals and Pentecostals who try to win others to their faith “are not disciples of Jesus”?
But here is the biggest problem. On the first Pentecost, St. Peter faced a diverse, multicultural Jewish audience “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). He preached to them about Jesus, called on them to repent and be baptized, and “with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them” (Acts 2: 40). As a result, “about three thousand souls” became Christians (Acts 2:41). Later, St. Peter won converts by preaching to the crowd at Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3). Still later, St. Peter presided over the conversion of a Roman centurion named Cornelius (Acts 10).
How does this align with what Pope Francis said? “In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak.” Didn’t St. Peter speak first and try to convince his audience? These people already had a religion, whether Judaism or Roman paganism. So wasn’t St. Peter trying to get them to change their religion? Couldn’t this be seen as proselytizing? The Pope said, “Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus.” Would the Pope say that St. Peter, whose office he claims to hold, is “not a disciple of Jesus”? But St. Peter was, literally, a disciple of Jesus.
St. Peter and the other Twelve Disciples, along with other Apostles like St. Paul, spread Christianity throughout the Greco-Roman world, from India to Spain. None of them seem to have followed the contemporary ecumenical approach, sometimes expressed by Pope Francis, that “If you follow your own religion faithfully–whether you worship Zeus, Jupiter, or any other deity represented in the Roman Pantheon–you will be saved.” Instead, they said things like, put away your idols and turn to the living God (cf. Acts 14:15).
The subsequent generations of the Early Church also convinced multitudes of unbelievers from still more religions. A large number of the saints venerated in the Catholic Church were missionaries, apologists, and martyr witnesses. And some, arguably, were proselytizers. Does the Pope really believe that these saints of the church are not disciples of Christ? If so, is he going to de-canonize them?
I know quite a few people who have become Catholics. They say that the Catholic Church gives them certainty, that having a living oracle from God in the papacy protects the church from change and from liberal theology, ensuring a living tradition that is continuous from century to century. Recent popes, like St. John Paul II and Benedict VI, played that role. But Pope Francis does not.
That he is continually undermining not just historic Catholicism but historic Christianity in favor of beliefs that interest him more, such as environmentalism and ecumenism, undermines the office of the papacy itself. Orthodox Catholics, whose conservative theology has always manifested itself in allegiance to the Pope, are put in the position of having to resist what the Pope teaches. For non-Catholics, the papacy and thus the church that he rules lose all credibility.
To be sure, Pope Francis is still pro-life, though remarkably tolerant of Catholic politicians who are not. He still believes in the supernatural, unlike some liberal theologians, to the point of recognizing demonic possession and promoting exorcisms. And maybe all of these controversial statements are just misunderstandings or mistranslations.
For Lutherans, the Popes of history have not, contrary to the claim, been the custodians of historic Christianity. Rather, they have been a means of making changes in Christianity, adding innovations such as Purgatory, indulgences, saint worship, relic veneration, ritualism, legalism, and the consequent effacing of the Gospel itself. Pope Francis makes clearer what Lutherans have always professed about the office of the papacy, that it is not of Christ but Antichrist, not as the dispensationalist end times bogeyman but as a usurper of Christ within the church (2 Thess 2:3-4). If you want an objective guardian of the faith that never changes, look to God’s Word, not to a fallible human being who claims to be infallible.
Patheos article by Gene Veith January 3, 2020
GREENSBURY, AZ—Local Catholic woman Gabriella Perez was getting ready to tell her friend about her Catholic faith Monday morning. Her friend had expressed her agnosticism over the existence of God, and Perez prepared to share some reasons for her faith.
Unfortunately, before Perez was able to give a reason for the hope that is in her, a lurking Pope Francis leaped out of a nearby shrubbery and slapped her across the face for attempting to proselytize.
“Bad Catholic!” Pope Francis cried as he unleashed a devastating open-handed slap. As Perez recovered, Francis continued his lecture, wagging his finger at the stunned woman. “You’re not supposed to evangelize — do you want people to feel uncomfortable or something? What if she has her own worldview that’s no less valid than your own? You’re gonna make Catholics look judgmental, which is utterly opposed to the God of the Bible who never judged anybody.”
His work finished, the pope pressed a button on his utility belt, summoning the Popewing to fly overhead and pick him up to go lecture a priest for drinking out of a plastic straw.
Editor’s note: We will examine the Pope’s declaration that evangelism is wrong in a later post.