Tag Archives: evangelism

Is It Wrong to Share Your Faith?

Jun 16, 22
JMorgan
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6 comments

Evangelism has become passe.  Only 52% of born-again Christians report witnessing to someone at least once in the past year.  And 47% of Millennials feel it’s wrong to share one’s religious beliefs with someone of a different faith.  A Lifeway study found of eight biblical attributes most evident in the lives of American churchgoers, “Sharing Christ” had the lowest average score.

Today’s culture is not less in need of the Gospel, but Christians are more reticent to talk about it.  That reluctance to evangelize has (ironically) made America less fertile soil for evangelism.  The longer difficult conversations are avoided, the more uncomfortable they become.  It’s easier to criticize from afar than engage challenging topics at close range.  A vicious cycle ensues where the less we talk about Jesus the less important non-believers feel He must be – to us and them.

Church leaders understand and hesitate to pressure congregants to endure too much discomfort, offering to alleviate that Great Commission burden.  Rather than train disciples to be itinerate “preachers” in their workplaces and de facto “pastors” of their neighborhoods, churches encourage sharing personal testimonies and extending invitations to a weekend service.  Of those 52% reportedly making Gospel presentations, how many were simply a testimony or directions to the church?

Few acts could be considered more selfish and inhumane than withholding a known cure from the terminally ill.  Yet church leaders withhold evangelism training and intensive discipleship for fear of losing members.  Churchgoers withhold the remedy for sin, fearing a loss of social status.  The urgency, methods and message of evangelism have been reshaped around self-centered interests.  It’s no coincidence secular society now sees selfishness as Christianity’s principal characteristic.

Urgency

Christians have contributed to our divisive culture by segmenting into “us” versus “them”, alternating between playing “offense” or “defense” depending on which President is in office.  Being offensive during the term of a church-friendly administration has Christians on the defensive today.  Focus has shifted from winning people to Christ to fending off a barrage of attacks.  The tone of comments on this blog’s social media pages have turned dark and aggressive, insulting and deriding anyone who dares to speak positively about Jesus.  Honest debates about the need for God’s grace and forgiveness have evolved into angry, name-calling rants.  Admittedly, leading someone toward faith in that environment seems a more daunting uphill climb today, fraught with abuse along the way.

However, Scripture doesn’t exempt any Christ-follower from imitating Jesus’ Prayer/Care/Share lifestyle.  Our excuses for abdicating personal evangelism don’t hold water, even in the face of hostility:

  • “Faith is a private matter” – yet we talk about what we love (e.g. our spouse and children)
  • “Imposing my beliefs on others isn’t loving” – yet it’s love that should compel us to share our beliefs
  • “It’s not my gifting”not all are a “hand” or “foot”, yet all should be His “hands and feet”
  • “God has already chosen the elect” – yet we should consider it a privilege to be part of God’s plan
  • “I’m not around many non-believers” – yet churches adopt growth models that unintentionally encourage “social distancing”
  • “Speaking up could cost me my job” – yet the Great Calling says we should not draw lines between work and ministry, separating sacred from secular
  • “My pastor can do it better than I can” – yet we can reach many people that he can’t
  • “If I don’t someone else will” – yet you may be the only glimpse of Jesus they see
  • “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words” – yet this adage containing a modicum of truth conceals a cop out
  • “I don’t know what to say” – yet all believers should be able to adeptly explain the gospel and have biblical responses to typical objections

Church is not a destination for attracting and retaining but a vehicle for equipping and sending.  If more pastors had the audacity to teach that the Great Commission isn’t optional, society would be more convinced to listen.  But as it stands, our lack of urgency to evangelize comes across as uncertainty that we truly believe the Gospel is a matter of life and death – or as further evidence Christians are primarily concerned about themselves.

Methods

Even if we drum up the courage to broach the topic of faith, the ways we’ve been coached by most American churches to evangelize are designed around self-interest, not selfless urgency:

  • Efficient – Just tell your story and let pastors do the rest
  • Egocentric – Focus on what God did for you, and what He could do for them
  • Convenient – No need to get your hands dirty caring before sharing, like Jesus did
  • Transactional – If they don’t respond to your story or invitation, you’ve done your part
  • Easy – Evangelism training isn’t necessary; we’ll answer their tough questions for you
  • Comfortable – No one can argue with your personal story so that route carries little risk
  • Non-Committal – There are no requirements or timelines; just speak up when you feel “led”
  • Indirect – Get to know people, show them who Jesus is by how you live, and see if they bring Him up
  • Arms-Length – Take a stand for moral issues, virtue signal, and keep a safe distance
  • Worldly – Tell how God got you through tough situations, the theme of most Christian songs
  • Attractional – Convince those who don’t worship Jesus to come to a holy worship service
  • Non-Controversial – Don’t bring up sin even though its resolution is the basis for your faith
  • Liberating – Cheap grace frees you from the obligation to align your words and behaviors
  • Lighthearted – Don’t be a downer, making anyone feel guilty even though suppressed guilt is driving rampant medication (escapism) and self-justification (cancelling others)

God’s justification in Jesus is the only viable alternative to self-justification.  But learning how to present and contrast those options requires more time, effort, and risk than most churchgoers are willing to endure.  Statistics and the evening news confirm that designing evangelism to suit the schedules and preferences of cultural Christians isn’t effective in leading people to Jesus or growing churches.  In fact, it is validating society’s caricatures of Christians as uncaring.

Message

Assuming a Christ-follower senses the urgency of evangelism and understands biblical methods for sharing our faith, it’s unlikely he or she was taught by a church how to communicate the Gospel in ways that will resonate in Post-Christian America:

  • All roads lead to God – Since Adam and Eve, creation has tried 1,000s of ways to make things right with the Creator. All world religions except for Christianity go down the same path – telling mankind how to fix what we broke.  Christianity alone contends that our “good” works or “enlightenment” can never do what only God can.  We cannot raise ourselves up or bring God down, trying to earn a “wage” (salvation) we feel we’re due – that’s why Jesus came down, to offer a “gift” we don’t deserve.
  • “I’m living my truth” – Being your “authentic self” is impossible if your identity is not as a child of our Father.  However, America’s fastest growing religion, Selfism, places its faith in mankind rather than God, believing human nature is good with the capacity to define “truth” and no need for redemption.  Evangelism today requires proving that we are not innocent and therefore it’s unwise to bet our eternal lives on our goodness rather than God’s.  Only Jesus satisfied the requirements of the law (works), qualified to graciously gift us His righteousness.
  • “I’m not religious” – The ranks of “Dones” and “Nones” have grown so rapidly because they rejected church growth models that appeared self-serving, and/or the self-centered Christians it produced.  Getting through to them starts with humble confession and by encouraging them not to blame God for man’s mistakes.
  • “There is no God” – When entering into conversations with someone who claims God does not exist, it’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as an Atheist.  While listening and respecting their views, it should give us courage to know deep down everyone understands something didn’t come from nothing and has an innate desire to reconnect with our Father.  For most, unbelief emerged from belief – at some point consciously walking away from God when He didn’t give them what they wanted or allowed something to happen they didn’t want.
  • “Christians are nothing like Jesus” – As churches have lowered expectations for following Jesus’ model for evangelism, His emphasis on (and example of) demonstrating His love before telling people who He is also went by the wayside.  Jesus served the poor and solved real-world problems, but compassion is now a low priority for most churches.

Pitting our story, our Scripture, our God, our world view, or our philosophies against someone else’s is just our truth against theirs (from their perspective).  Christians won’t often win those arguments in today’s culture, but can disrupt the self-confidence of non-believers by making them question its underpinnings – the enormous wager they’re making on their “goodness”, capabilities, intellect, identity, and spirituality that obviates their perceived need for God’s descent into our decadence.

It’s Your Turn

What methods and messages for conveying the love of Jesus have you seen most effective in breaking down the walls of self-determination and self-actualization?

Are You a “Disciple”?…a Surefire Litmus Test

Oct 05, 16
JMorgan
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3 comments

Jesus with a jug of water and a towell

Last week we showed how Powerful Christians aren’t private, passive or pensive.  They don’t rail against all that is wrong with the world, nor are they quiet about what they believe.  They aren’t “pew potatoes” that check the proverbial boxes, showing up on Sundays and doing a few “church chores”.  They see compassion and evangelism as their personal responsibilities, and don’t leave it to the “professionals.”  Powerful Christians recognize that sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option when the consequences facing non-believers are so dire.

Another word for a “Powerful Christian” is a “disciple”.  So…what is a modern-day disciple of Jesus Christ?

Different people give different answers: a fully committed follower; a follower who reproduces more followers; a devoted student; an avid adherent.  All of those are true to a large extent.

There is (at least) one reliable litmus test…how well do our lives align with the attributes of Jesus?

In other words, are we…

  • not able to walk by those hurting and hopeless without helping them?
  • brokenhearted for the lost and bold in pursuing them?
  • selfless to the point of stepping far outside our comfort zones for Jesus?
  • wholly dependent on the Father, living and giving by faith?
  • willing to risk and sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?

If you examine the lives of most Christians – for example, those who attend your church – do they look a lot like that?  How could their lives not be transformed if they truly get who Jesus is and what He did for us?  Yet many go to church on Sundays, then look like the rest of the world all week.  Many pray in the morning, then essentially forget about God the rest of the day.  Too many believers stop short of surrender.  They either don’t fully realize what Jesus is like or don’t try hard enough to imitate Him.

Jesus’ Foremost Attribute

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we should take on His greatest attribute – that of a humble servant.  In Jesus’ own words, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus consistently modeled and stated (as did His disciples) that caring for the helpless and hopeless was the first step toward proving and living out our faith as Christians.  For example:

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he still lacked after obeying the commandments, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)

When John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the evidence He provided was how He had served others: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the deal is raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5)

When Paul and Peter went their separate ways, Paul said “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Galations 2:10)

James 2:15-16:  “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 1:27:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

Our faith is dead without action?  The only flawless religion is caring for orphans and widows? 

Seriously?  Yes.

Jesus showed His compassion first, so people listened to His words.  He demonstrated His love before telling people who He is – and many believed.  As we said last week, Powerful Christians are those who do likewise – Act and then Speak.

Why aren’t more churches and Christians making service and evangelism to the helpless and hopeless their first priority?  How are they not getting that message when the Bible conveys it so clearly?  Look at the Facebook pages and websites of the average church in America – it’s all about Sunday services, classes, new campuses and sermons with little or no mention of serving struggling families in the community.  Churches are no longer the local food bank or the homeless shelter as they were for the better part of 1900 years.

Your Great Commission

Jesus’ disciples acted like Him.  Jesus was loving, selfless and compassionate.  As a result, He attracted a large following – and so did they.

Disciples make disciples.  Christians who aren’t disciples can’t make disciples.

That’s why Jesus spent most of his time discipling 12 men.  Through those first disciples, the Christian faith spread like wildfire.

Nothing has changed.  Disciples are still the key to growing the Kingdom and your church.

Discipleship is the means by which Jesus intends for people to come to Him and get to know Him.  It’s the most critical function of Christians and His Church.  Jesus made that clear in the Great Commission, His final words before His ascension.

Jesus made disciples by serving and teaching.  How can you know if you’re a disciple?  The same barometer applies to you:

  • Living a prayer, care and share lifestyle
  • Always looking for opportunities to serve others
  • Intentional in forming and building relationships that lead people toward Christ
  • Radically changed by what Jesus did for you, and thereby changing those around you
  • Possessing an infectious faith, leading to acts of compassion that catch others off guard
  • Can’t possibly hold the gospel in – just as you talk about the things you love, you love Jesus most
  • Concerned but not worried about where our nation is heading, knowing God is in control
  • Realizing that loving action, not just words, is the best weapon to fight the culture war

Is this you? 

If not, we encourage you to pray for the courage to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Courage is required because discipleship is:

  • Hard Work – Much more time consuming than attending Sunday services or small groups
  • Costly – Luke 9 points out how much hardship being a disciple of Jesus entails
  • Risky – “Go and make disciples” may take you far from a predictable, secure existence

A Great Next Step…

Consider participating in Vote for Eternity 20:16.  We’re asking 1 million Christians to follow Jesus’ model of leading with compassion and then telling people who He is by Election Day, NOVEMBER 8th:

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Share your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote or #VoteForEternity2016.
  • Challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.