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I struggle with personal evangelism. Inviting an individual to make a specific commitment to follow Jesus makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like to do it. When I have done it I often feel like I didn’t do a good job. So I tend to avoid it. Maybe you can relate. One of the reasons so many of us struggle with this critical spiritual discipline is that we believe (on some level) myths about personal evangelism that hold us back. Below are five evangelism myths that have hindered my witness and may be hindering yours.
Words aren’t required
“Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words”. Christians who struggle with evangelism love this quote, usually (falsely) attributing it to St. Francis of Assisi. We like to think we can lead people to Jesus simply through Christ-like actions. This allows us to rationalize a lack of witness with the idea that we’re “preaching the gospel with our lives”.
While deeds can add credibility to our witness the notion that they aren’t necessary for evangelism isn’t biblical. It’s also incredibly arrogant. It’s absurd to think Billy Graham, George Whitfield and the Apostle Paul needed to preach but my lifestyle is so Christ-like people will trust Jesus because of that alone. Even Jesus used words to communicate the gospel. They’re certainly going to be necessary for us.
A year ago this week Fresh Eyes on Truth. Since then I’ve posted something nearly every week in an effort to bring fresh perspective to the application of timeless biblical truth. I’ve covered a wide variety of topics from family, to Bible study, to current events. To mark the on year anniversary of this blog I’ve decided that this week I’ll share a link and summary for each of my most popular posts. Below are the top ten posts from the blog’s first year based on unique page views.
The post that started it all. I share how noticing one tiny detail 2 Kings chapter 2 caused me to see the entire story in a whole new light. As it turns out the protagonist of that story, Elisha, needed a similar paradigm shift in his understanding of how to live out God’s truth.
It’s been two and a half weeks since my family arrived at our new home in Nebraska and we’ve been busy. In addition to unpacking we’ve been settling our kids in school, exploring our community, and handling lots of personal business. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve been working on making friends.
A Warm Welcome
The people we’ve met here have been extremely friendly but that doesn’t make them our friends. We’ve been welcomed cordially by our neighbors and virtually everyone we’ve encountered here. I’ve met a number of people that I’m sure will become my friends. Some of the people I’m getting to know I already like better than some of the people I consider to be friends.
Our church family has embraced us in a special way. Dozens of people from our new church showed up to unload our moving truck and help put together furniture on the day we arrived. People we hardly know stocked our fridge and pantry for us before we arrived. We’ve received gifts and offers of help. No group of friends could care for us better than we’re being cared for now. We’re loved, cared for, and supported. We’re not lonely but we’re lacking friends.
Most of us are looking forward to a day off this Monday. I’ve always thought it ironic that we celebrate labor by taking the day off work. I used to think the whole idea of celebrating work was strange. I thought of work as necessary evil that we had to get through in order enjoy the good parts of life. As I’ve grown in my understanding of the Bible and the nature of work I’ve come to see that work really is worth celebrating. Here are five reasons to celebrate work.
Work was part of God’s original plan for us
God created human beings with the idea that we would work. Adam and Eve were given a job to do before the Fall. That means that work isn’t a necessary evil it’s a positive good. Work was a major part of the creation order that God called “very good“. The Fall made it so that work is often frustrating and burdensome. That can sap the joy from our work but work isn’t the problem, sin is. Work, itself, is still important. The Gospel seeks to redeem those things which sin has corrupted and by God’s grace our work can be one of those things. One step toward redeeming it is to celebrate work as a gift from God.
One of the great encouragements we have as followers of Jesus is the promise of strength through Christ. The Bible is full of verses that encourage us to find strength in our relationship with God, especially when we are struggling or feeling weak.
Perhaps the most popular of these verses is Philippians 4:13. It’s easy to see why a verse most commonly quoted as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” would be popular. It offers hope for victory and triumph in every situation. It suggests that people who really trust Jesus can accomplishing anything they set their mind to.
Reading it Wrong
Many read Philippians 4:13 as a virtual guarantee of success in all of life’s endeavors for those who seek strength through Christ. That’s not what Paul was trying to communicate when he wrote these words. Like most of the Bible’s most misunderstood verses the biggest problem comes from taking these words out of context. That combined with some ambiguity in the Greek has made this one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. [Read more…]
Ten weeks ago I completed a two-day journey of 1400 miles. I was heading home to California after a visit to the Nebraska church whose staff I’ll be joining next month. This week I’ll be making the same drive in the opposite direction and once again I’ll be heading home.
Home is Where the Heart Is
I grew up in California. I’ve spent nearly all my life there. My deepest connections are to people who live there. My most profound memories occurred there. Now I’m moving to a place I didn’t even know existed a year ago. I don’t know much about it and am only beginning to build relationships there. Despite this, Nebraska has become my home.
They say “home is where the heart is”. Nebraska is my home now because it’s where I’ve directed my heart. A piece of my heart and of my sense of home will remain in California. California has shaped who I am and while I’m no longer a Californian I will always be from California.
It’s possible to have a divided sense of home. If you went away to college or have had an extended but temporary stay in another city you know what this feels like. You have a home that is immediate and familiar but you know it’s temporary. Your “real” home is further off but more permanent. [Read more…]
If you’ve been watching the Rio Olympics you’ve probably been inspired by stories about the dedication and perseverance of the athletes competing in the games. There’s something noble about their single-minded commitment. It makes us question why we run the race of life the way we do. Imagine if we pursued Christ with the same passion with which these athletes pursue their Olympic dreams.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The apostle Paul uses athletes like those at the Olympics to illustrate his dedication and passion for his mission. He cites the motivation of the athlete, the prize for winning (which in his day was a crown of laurel). He then points out that this prize is essentially worthless, especially compared with the eternal rewards of living for Christ.
Why doesn’t Paul compare eternal rewards to a more profitable activity like business or conquest? Perhaps, there is something about the connection between the training and reward of athletics that is similar to the connection between dedication to God and eternal rewards.
A Faithful Failure
Jan Hus died a failure. He died heroically, faithful to God and his conscience but without reason to hope his efforts to reform the church would have a lasting impact. Although Hus died an apparent failure his life changed the world and should force us to rethink failure.
As Hus was burned at the stake the church he’d dedicated his life to reforming was more corrupt than ever. The powerful men he’d convinced to support him had abandoned his cause. The Czech people he’d hoped transform the church had been ostracized from Christendom. By every significant measure he had failed.
Hus faced tremendous pressure to renounce his critiques of church corruption. It’s unlikely that he imagined his refusal to do so would make much difference. He didn’t know that his martyrdom would lead the Kingdom of Bohemia to renounce the corrupt Roman Church and repel it’s resulting crusades. He didn’t know his death would lay the groundwork for the movement that would turn the world upside down a century later.
The horrible news keeps coming. We’re bombarded with reports of ugly politics in the U.S. and abroad, continued racial tension, and a constant stream of terrorist attacks and unthinkable crimes. Some pretty horrific things are going on in the world. It’s hard to find hope amidst the horror of sin that seems to dominate.
As Christians, we’re called to be people of hope. Our hope isn’t in this world but it is for this world which God loves and promises to renew. Where can we find hope? Our political system offers little. Our nation and world seem increasingly divided. The church seems to be declining, divided and full of scandal. So how do we find hope?
Here are three ways to seek out hope amidst the horror
During this week’s Republican Convention and throughout his campaign Donald Trump’s supporters have sought to portray him as the “Christian” candidate. Trump identifies as a Christian, says he will strengthen the power of Christians, and is supported by prominent Christian leaders. However, Christianity requires repentance and Trump wants nothing to do with repentance.
This isn’t a political blog. I’m no expert on economic or foreign policy. I’m not offering an opinion on Donald Trump as a candidate. I object to calling Trump “Christian” because of what it communicates to the world about the gospel.
Trump’s morally questionable words and actions are not the basis of my objection. Like all of us, Donald Trump is a sinner. While grievous sins may disqualify a person from leadership for a season, no sin can exclude him from receiving forgiveness and following Jesus as Lord. I object to identifying Trump with Christianity not because he’s a sinner, but because he’s an unrepentant sinner.