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STUCK! Chapter Three: Why Should I Care?

Perhaps one reason many Christians get stuck is that their eyes are too often on themselves, their needs, their families, their comfort. But here is where the gospel of Jesus Christ really becomes invasive. If the gospel is true, it demands us to open our eyes to those around us who are lost, separated from the love of God, outside the family of God, presently under God’s wrath.

A Vision Problem
I suspect many of us have a vision problem. We don’t look at others as desperately needing the gospel. Our vision is blurred or blinded by many other concerns. One of the blind people that Jesus healed said, “I see men as trees.” We often don’t even see the trees! How we view others is critical to getting unstuck in our Christian lives.

I’ve had a recent experience that has made me acutely aware of my vision. My right eye began showing signs of macular degeneration, a condition in which small capillaries leak blood in the eye, eventually leading to blindness. The cure? I had to have several months of injections into my right eye! The first injection was terrifying as you can imagine, but the doctor’s assistants did a great job of numbing my eye. All I felt was a slight pinch when the doctor gave me the injection. That first injection was followed by seven more spaced over a year. When I showed up for my last injection, the doctor looked at the high-res picture of that right eye and said, “You’re done. You don’t need any more injections. The medicine is working.” You can imagine my relief. Now, whenever someone tritely uses the expression “Just stab me in the eye”, I don’t hesitate to tell them of my real life experience!

Lost About the Lost?
Is that what it’s going to take for you and me to start seeing lost people? As a theologian I wonder if many followers of Jesus somehow inwardly think that those who die without Christ will somehow still be okay or that God will judge them on the basis of their good works or that they will somehow have a post-mortem (after-death) opportunity to believe the gospel. None of those options are supported biblically. One receives salvation in this life, on this side of the grave, before death. That’s why evangelism and missions are so important!

If I am thoroughly convinced that the gospel is true, that there is only one Savior and His name is Jesus, and that a person is saved only by believing in Him, then I will have to open my eyes to the lost — and really begin to care about reaching them.

Do you see? Do you see?
All the people sinking down
Don’t you care? Don’t you care?
Are you gonna’ let them drown?
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
(Keith Green)

Homework:
1. Read my short book Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. Pay particular attention to the story in Chapter Three “‘I Haven’t Got Time for the ….🎶” (a discussion of Luke 7 where Jesus says “Do you see this woman?”). How did Simon the Pharisee need his vision corrected by Jesus?

2. What specifically are you going to do to further develop your passion for lost people? Do you have a prayer hit-list which you use everyday to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin to the hearts of those you love?

Some of our witnessing is a one-and-done experience. We might meet someone on a plane or have a brief conversation with our plumber. I call this “evangelism by strafing.” In other words, you might not see that person again. I believe God honors a gentle boldness when we step out in faith and share the gospel with a stranger.

A while back we were getting a lot of telemarketer phone calls. It’s easy to be rude to such people. But I made a promise to the Lord and He quickly gave me the chance to keep my promise. A telemarketer called and I said, “I’m really not interested in what you are selling, but can I tell you about a promise that I made to God a while back?” Silence. Then, “Uh, sure.” “I promised the Lord I would share the gospel with every telemarketer that called me for the next month. Do you know what the gospel is?” Some listened. A few hung up on me! But I kept my promise. Do you have an idea for a similar bold effort you can make in single conversation encounters?

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2022 in STUCK!

 

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Bless-ed! 52 Blessings Your Lost Friend Doesn’t Have . . . And What You Can Do About It! (Part 30)

As I think about my unsaved friend Mike, God is reminding me of the many blessings I enjoy — or should enjoy — that he does not yet have. One blessing that occurs to me might sound strange, but I believe is a marker of a serious follower of Jesus. I don’t believe my unsaved friends —

30. THEY DON’T HAVE A PASSION FOR SOULS!

What do we mean by “a passion for souls”? We mean that the follower of Jesus is to be greatly concerned with the spiritual welfare of everyone he or she meets or knows. If the Bible is true that every human being is headed either to hell or to heaven, then the right passion, the crystal clear passion of the Christian, must be the gospel.

I’m certainly not criticizing my lost friends for the passion that they have for their families. I’m grateful when my friend Mike expresses his desire to be a good husband and father. But what ought to be the highest priority in a human being’s life is knowing God and longing for others to know Him.

Jesus says in John 17, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (v. 3). Eternal life is not simply unending existence, but a quality of life in knowing and following the God of the universe.

A passion for souls involves the following elements: (1) A clear recognition that man without Christ is lost (Jn. 8:22-24); (2) A daily discipline of praying for those who are outside of Christ (“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” I Sam. 12:23); (3) Eyes open to opportunities to share a bit of the gospel on every occasion (“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Tim. 4:2); (4) An awareness of being a stench to some and an aroma to others (“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Cor. 2) ; (5) A commitment to doing the homework necessary to answer any questions which are keeping a person from believing the gospel (Acts 17- the Apostle Paul knowing pagan literature so he could speak to the philosophers of his day).

So, how do I pray for my lost friends? I pray for myself that I would not settle for a watered-down, minimal concern for the eternal welfare of others. I want my evangelistic zeal to be white-hot, but wise in its expression. And I pray for my friend that he would see that eternity is a long time to be wrong about Jesus. And that he would trust Him as his savior and get passionate about others’ doing the same. (to be continued)

 

 

 

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SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH FAMILY & OTHER STRANGERS DURING THE HOLIDAYS! (A 15-minute video)

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2020 in Christmas

 

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My Comments on the Article “There’s Got to Be a Better Method Than Hit-and-Run Evangelism”

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.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2020 in evangelism

 

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There’s Got to Be a Better Method Than Hit-and-Run Evangelism (Patheos December 6, 2018 by Josh Daffern)

Editor: Friends, I am very interested in your response to the following article:

Let’s say you were debating on whether or not to try and lose some weight. You hadn’t told anyone, but you weighed more than you wanted to and you knew that you probably needed something to do about it. At this point, what would be the best motivation to help you achieve your goals? What if someone you didn’t know came up to you in public and called you “fat” and “obese”? No relationship, no conversation, just judgment and condemnation. Would that be helpful at all? How about if someone screen grabbed one of your social media profile pics and started fat shaming you online? How motivating would that be?

What if they claimed their primary duty was to stand for the truth and boldly proclaim that truth, even if it was offensive? Sure, they would technically be in the right that you were overweight, but how motivating would that be to actually help you change? It really comes down to the ultimate goal: is it to always be right, or is it to actually see you lose weight? If it was to see you lose weight, then there’s got to be a better approach. Tough and honest conversations might be necessary to empower your life change, but wouldn’t those conversations be much better received in the context of an established relationship where trust and love were foundational?

We are living in a Christian culture where far too often the norm is to boldly judge and condemn those we’ve never met nor tried to build a relationship with, all in the name of “standing up for the truth.” Take the recent controversy over Christian singer Lauren Daigle’s refusal to wade into the issue of homosexuality. When it comes to hot button issues, people are herded into one of two extreme camps, with any attempt at finding a middle ground labeled as ‘collusion’ or ‘compromise.’ Especially concerning the divergent paths that modern American culture and the traditional Christian church have taken on homosexuality, Christians are placed in an especially tenuous position. Called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) and to stand for biblical truth, the two can easily come into conflict.

One way through this conflict is what I call “Hit-and-Run Evangelism,” a horrendously ineffective method to try and win people to Jesus by shaming and judging them first. Seen especially in the culture wars and the issue of human sexuality, Hit-and-Run Evangelism consists of declaring judgment, condemnation and abomination on an entire subset of the American population from within the safety of their own Christian fortresses. Hit-and-Run Evangelists declare that they’re “standing up for the truth” and “defending the Bible,” figuring the best way to lead people to Jesus is to boldly declare how sinful they really are. While that might justify Hit-and-Run Evangelists in their own minds (and at the same time seem a little too close to something Jesus condemned), it’s a horrible method for evangelism.

Go back to that person who fat shames you and declares judgment on your overweight-ness from a safe distance. How motivating is that to actually help you change your life? Not at all! Hit-and-Run Evangelists want to check the box that they’ve done their Christian duty to share the gospel, but their primary concern isn’t the eternal destiny of those on the other side. Their primary concern is being right. The problem with that is, we don’t get credit for how many people we offend and push into Hell. The whole goal is to lead people to Jesus, so let’s be wise about our methods.

The practical effect of a Hit-and-Run Evangelist on those outside the faith is the same as if you noticed someone who had a hurt arm and you wanted to give them directions to the nearest hospital, so you decided to get in your car, proceed to hit them and run them over with your car to get them to stop, declare that they are hurt and yell directions to the nearest hospital as you speed away. You’re doing more harm than good, so please just stop.

If you need an outlet for all that righteous indignation, how about following the example of Jesus? Jesus didn’t turn over the tables in the Roman provincial offices or the nearest Roman bathhouse or brothel. He turned them over in the temple, a place of worship. Let’s hold ourselves accountable on the inside and love those on the outside. I promise you, love is a much better motivator for life change than condemnation is.

I’ll provide a few comments myself in a few days (editor).

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2020 in hit-and-run evangelism

 

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On Becoming Seventy! A Few Reflections (Part 4 of 7) E=EVANGELISM!

Groundhogs’ Day. February 2nd. That’s my birthday! Now, I think that Groundhogs’ Day ought to be declared a national holiday. This furry creature comes out of its comfortable underground home to prognosticate about the next six weeks of weather — Surely that deserves to be honored as a national holiday!

But it’s also my birthday. My 70th birthday. And as it approaches, I want to think about a couple of issues before it is “here.”

We’re using the acronym SEVENTY as our guide. We’ve thought about the letter “S” (survival!, the letter “E” (for engagement), and the letter “V” for victory. How about this second “E”? How about the word EVANGELISM? I don’t think I have the gift of EVANGELISM, but I do care about the lostness of people around me. The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s statement (see picture to teh left) sometimes haunts me.

In light of the Pope’s saying it’s wrong to proselytize and the reluctance of almost 1/2 those polled in a particular generation to share their faith, EVANGELISM isn’t popular these days. But what does one do with the Great Commission?

Here the believer in Jesus is challenged not to simply make CONVERTS, but to make DISCIPLES! Contrary to liberal theology, all people are not already saved. They first need to be converted so they can begin to become DISCIPLES.

Of course, the Lord has given me the opportunity to write on this topic — and my book Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World comes from a passion to befriend those who are lost like I once was. As you think about the years the Lord has given you, do you have a heart for people who are far from God?

Pray with me? “Father, I thank You, first of all, for saving me! Give me a longing to share the Good News of the gospel with all You bring into my life. Open my eyes, Lord, to the conversations that are possible. And give me wisdom, after I’ve done some heavy listening, to say what You want me to say. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2020 in 70th birthday

 

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On Those Christian Millennials Who Believe Evangelism is Wrong (A Patheos Editorial)

As a busy February is finally coming to a close, I decided now is a good time to catch up on the religion news stories I’ve missed over the last month. One bit of initially unsettling news I discovered is a Barna Group study released on February 5 revealing nearly half of Christian Millennials resist evangelism.

The study examined how different generations of American Christians approach the Great Commission from Jesus Christ instructing his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Barna’s data shows 96 percent of practicing Christian Millennials agree a crucial aspect of their faith is to be a witness for Jesus, and yet 47 percent believe it is wrong to share one’s faith with someone of a different religion.

Even so, 96 percent of my peers agree the best thing that could ever happen is for someone to come to know Jesus, according to the Barna Group’s Reviving Evangelism” study.

Most surprising to me is that the data shows Christian Millennials overwhelmingly agree (86 percent) they are equipped to respond to questions about the faith and 73 percent feel gifted at sharing the Gospel with others. So in one sense, younger Christians believe it is essential for others to know Jesus, but then a significant chunk sees no urgency in Gospel-sharing with others who disagree with them. How do you possibly reconcile the two?

Despite conflicting responses, there is a bright spot here I want to highlight. The majority of Christian Millennials believe it is important for people to know Jesus and believe their lives should be a witness for Jesus. Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised so many Millennials desire to convert others.

So what about those who think it is wrong to share the Gospel with sinners in hopes of conversion?

Acts of charity is an easier evangelism route for Christian Millennials who are unlikely as confident in their evangelism abilities as they might say (or think). But this tactic often undermines the grim threat to eternal souls.

Recently I listened to an “Ask Pastor John” podcast titled, “Should Hell Motivate Our Missionaries?”  This particular recording is a clip from a panel discussion including Pastor John Piper that took place at the 2019 Bethlehem College and Seminary conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering,” Piper said. “Christians care and will show that they care about all human suffering, especially eternal suffering. So if your life is marked by compassion for all suffering except eternal suffering, you’re a defective lover.”

To say that people are going to Hell if they do not confess their sins and accept Christ as their Savior is an unpopular and uncomfortable statement. And yet true.

I confess that I sometimes question myself if I really care about people spending eternity without God. How does that play out in my evangelism and personal relationships? Do I share about what Christ has done in my own life? Do I recognize the urgency of eternal suffering and Christ’s imminent return?

This study is insightful, but I hesitate to express irritation with 47 percent of Christian Millennials. While my initial temptation was to write a cantankerous article complaining about the state of Christian Millennials, my conclusions circle back to a renewed sense of urgency to better disciple those around me and a bit of conviction for personally failing to prioritize eternal suffering. Because if we’re honest, don’t most of us need improvement in evangelizing to the lost?

Even while we strive to maintain a faithful Christian witness and care for others’ needs on earth, we all must remember to look forward. Homeward.

by Chelsen Vicari

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in evangelism

 

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Door-to-Door Evangelism Today?


I’ve done door-to-door evangelism — and it is difficult! I admire the church that goes out into its surrounding neighborhood with a small gift (ours gave away a lightbulb), tells people about their services, and asks something like, “Is there anything we can pray for you about?” But even that is tough.

The better alternative is to get to know our neighbors, become a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” like Jesus was (Mt. 11:19), and begin to strategically pray for their salvation. Your thoughts?

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in evangelism

 

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Some Thoughts about Church Membership – Part 6 What about EVANGELISM?!

The expression “church membership” is not found in the Bible.  [Of course, other important Christian words aren’t in the Bible either.  Like Sunday School.  Or board meeting.  Or casseroles.]  So, we shouldn’t pursue an efficient process of adding new, committed believers to the local church?  Of course we should do everything in our power to increase God’s family with born-again, gifted, servant-hearted disciples of Jesus.  But what ought to be the process?

I’m looking forward to preaching at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey the two Sundays of September 30th and October 7th. I’ve also been asked by the elders to draft a proposal about a more strategic process of church membership.

True, there is no formal document in the early Church outlining how they received new “members.”  So we’ve been looking at Acts 2:41-42, a primary summary passage, and drawing some basic conclusions about the 1st Century church’s priorities.  Let’s look at that text one more time:

We do, however, see several steps in believers being “added to” the Christian community.  They (1) accept Peter’s message (conversion); (2) were baptized (discipleship); and (3) were added to the devoted group who practiced those four priorities.  So it is reasonable to conclude that new members ought to be converted, discipled, and invited to join other believers who are committed to truth, community, worship, and prayer.

Those four priorities — biblical doctrine (“the apostles’ teaching”), fellowship, worship, and prayer — focused the attention of the early church, guiding their corporate meetings and, no doubt, forming their strategy to fulfill the Great Commission.  But isn’t there a great omission here?  Hasn’t something absolutely critical been left out?!

What about EVANGELISM?!

In our brief examination of Acts 2:42 we have seen that the early Christians devoted themselves to (1) the apostles’ teaching; (2) fellowship; (3) worship; and (4) prayer. But what about evangelism?! What about fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20)? What about sharing the gospel with the lost?

Reading past Acts 2:42 we learn that

“43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and miraculous signs done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

God gave miraculous signs to the early church to confirm its message. And the believers practiced sharing their material goods with one another. They so connected with one another that every day they met together for common meals and worship. Their corporate prayer caused them to be held in high regard by those who looked on the Christian community. Then we read that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47). Perhaps our failure to see others come to faith in Christ may well be because they don’t see our lives being changed by God’s grace and our corporate fellowship as something attractive. What they often see is our Christian churches just keeping the religious machinery humming along, going through the sanctified motions, doing the “Christian thing” without ever drawing closer as the family of God. Is it any wonder that the world isn’t interested?

The development of strong, trusting relationships with other believers is the place to start. They are God’s instrument for making you and me holy. We need the kinds of friends Dinah Maria Mulock Craik described when she wrote:Strong Christian friendships are critical, but what about evangelism?  Evangelism begins with friendship! The unsaved world not only saw signs and wonders in the early church, but they observed a tangible unity and mutual material care that attracted them! They gladly ate meals together. And they enjoyed “the favor of all the people” (v. 47)

We then read that fantastic statement: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (v. 47).

The book of Acts is clear that sharing the gospel for the early church meant debating with various religious groups (see Acts 17), proving to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:22; 17:3; 18:28), and simply spending time with lost people (as Jesus did).  We are to witness to philosophers, intellectual loiterers, strangers.  But we must not overlook simple, basic, honest friendships.  (from the book DocWALK: Putting into Practice What You Say You Believe, pp. 172-173). (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2018 in church membership

 

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“Unlike Jesus” – A Theology Matters Retreat for Dayspring Camp – Part 4

From August 3-5 I get to lead a group of young people through the topic of being a friend of sinners, like Jesus was (Mt. 11). In our six-part study, we have already seen that we need a theology of lostness (we come into this world as enemies of God and under His wrath), we need a theology of friendship (we need to learn to listen to our unsaved friends without resorting to conditional friendships), and we need a theology of worldliness (being a “friend of sinners” [which is required] is not the same as being a “friend of the world” [which is forbidden]).

Let’s notice a fourth aspect of being a friend of sinners and it is that we need —

Session #4- A Theology of EVANGELISM!

“Evangelism” — a word that strikes fear in the hearts of Christians!  But “evangelism” simply means sharing the Good News about Jesus.  And when that is done in the context of a serious friendship, it is a whole lot different than much of the “witnessing” we Christians panic over.  What if your unsaved friends asked you about your Christian faith, about why you are kinder and more considerate, about your calmness in the midst of trial?  Wouldn’t it be easier to share Jesus with them if you were responding to questions?

A theology of evangelism flows out of a conviction that the Great Commission (“19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”) in Matthew 28 is not an option for the believer.  It is his or her marching orders!  And we make disciples as we share the gospel with others, some of whom will repent and believe, and then begin that discipleship journey!  Evangelism means I am looking for opportunities to speak of Jesus’ saving me, rescuing me from my sin, giving me forgiveness and freedom and eternal life and . . .

There are some simple ways to share one’s faith that may be useful.  For example, if someone (hopefully a friend) says to you, “I see that you are very religious,” you might say, “Well, I spell ‘religion’ D-O.”  “D-O?,” your friends asks.  “Yes,” you say, “religion is about what you DO.  The problem is you never know if you’ve done enough to earn God’s favor.  I’m really into Christianity which is spelled D-O-N-E.”  “D-O-N-E?”, your friend asks.  “Yes, Jesus did for me what I cannot do for myself . . .”

Another simple approach might help if you are talking with someone who says they already are a Christian.  You might ask, “Would you say you are a cultural Christian or a biblical Christian?”  “What’s the difference?”, they might ask.  You would explain that a cultural Christian is someone who attends church once in a while, is a good neighbor, and doesn’t beat their dog.  “Then what’s a biblical Christian?”, they might ask.  “Ahhh, you say.  A biblical Christian . . .” (I’d recommend putting John chapter three in your own words at this point).

I have found the following books helpful in developing my ability to share my faith with others:  Greg Koukl’s Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, Rebecca Pippert’s Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life, and Paul Little’s How to Give Away Your Faith.  (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in evangelism

 

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