A worthwhile listen on the evangelistic charge:
Dealing with distractions is a big part of witnessing. People in general love to take any rabbit trail that comes up in a conversation. If one does not come up naturally, they will create one!
Jehovah’s Witnesses are similar in that they find it their job to teach the one witnessing to them. The words sound good. “We just want to teach everyone more about Jehovah and help them have a stronger relationship with him. See, let’s look at the Lord’s prayer. From Jesus’ example, we can see how to pray!” (Taken from an actual conversation I had with a Jehovah’s Witness.) So how do we, as Christians, redirect in love?
There is an art to redirecting any evangelistic conversation that I’m not sure can be taught. And I know that I am not qualified to teach such an art. But there are a few helpful principles I like to keep in mind.
- You have the truth. Any other belief that is contradictory to what is taught in Scripture is not truth. In an evangelistic situation, your goal is to present the truth in love.
- Without the truth, this person (or group of people) is going to hell. There is no middle ground.
- If this person is going to hell without the truth, and you have the truth, you need to communicate the truth with a sense of urgency!
- Do not allow a person to talk over you. When you are speaking in the name of Jesus, you have power over the lies of satan. Speak firmly and in love and communicate the sense of urgency.
- Do not feel the need to respond to every comment or question. Most comments or questions are distractions. Sometimes simply continuing on in presenting the truth is the best thing.
- Always pray as you speak to a Jehovah’s Witness for wisdom in dealing with them as an individual. There is no one right way to handle every person or one right argument to encourage them to examine their own beliefs.
- Most importantly, know what you believe. Presenting the truth is far more about your own knowledge of God than it is about understanding all the ins and outs of a cult.
There is much going around the online Christian circle right now about Twitter. The biggest news is that John Piper has started tweeting. This news is probably the highlight of my week. That either speaks volumes for John Piper or very little for my life.
Now here are a few worthwhile Twitter posts to read:
- Why and How I am Tweeting– John Piper: “‘All things were created through Christ and for Christ’ (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I Tweet.”
- Should We Twitter During Church– Josh Harris: “God is speaking again through his word, we should all be silent–and so should our Twitter feeds.”
- More on Not Using Twitter During Worship– John Piper: “There is a difference between communion with God and commenting on communion with God.”
I started tweeting about a month ago. I had a multi-faceted purpose including expanding my online presense from just the blog to using it as a creative outlet to share truth. Most importantly, and as has been stated by the above named authors, Twitter, as with all things, should be used to God’s glory. While I do not think it is necessarily sinful to Tweet about your favorite salad dressing, sometimes online forums provide us with more opportunities to think about ourselves. We make the best use of media when we use it to point to our Savior.
God is so faithful to bring people in our lives that need to hear the gospel. My last witnessing encounter could not have been more brought into my path if the kid had skateboarded right in front of my car… oh wait, that is what happened! I parked, grabbed tracts, and went to talk to the kids.
Skater kids are almost always open to talking. They are usually running in a small pack of other like kids. And they have time on their hands. So we started talking.
I gave them tracts and asked about their eternal destination. One kid skated off to try out another trick. Another kid was in and out of the conversation, but his first question for me was, “What if I’m going to hell?” He informed me he had been arrested several times. The guy that was most willing to talk informed me he was Mormon. But then he changed his story a bit to tell me that he did not believe in religion. I always love to run with that line- because I am not into religion either! I am about Jesus.
I gave them a quick gospel presentation and encouraged them to read the tracts later. It was an encounter that I wished I had handled better, but I know God can work, even through my unclear speech. I know those skater boys will think about the conversation. It is not every day that one is asked to think about what comes next. If nothing else, their thoughts were turned towards eternity.
Christianity Today has an interesting article called Speak the Gospel. The premise of the article is that the quote, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words” was not an actual reflection of the supposed originator Francis of Assisi. The goal of the article is to point to a rephrase of the quote, “Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.”
At first glance, this rephrase sounds grand. It encourages speaking the gospel versus the obscure nature of showing the gospel through action. Some of the comments on the article make a great point. Our actions should accommodate our words. There are many examples I can give of sharing the gospel with words that were falling on deaf ears. An action that accompanied the words made all the difference- be it a cup of coffee or a generous tip. The actions paved the way for the words to be heard.
We see this example in Jesus and His disciples when they fed people and healed people and also spoke the truth of the gospel. Actions are often necessary.
I do not think the purpose of the article was to minimize deeds done well for the Lord. The purpose was to counteract the rather cop-out statement that it is sufficient to live out the gospel and only use words when necessary. Perhaps the quote should really be, “Preach the gospel boldly and use your actions as tangible demonstrations of the gospel you present.”
I had the privilege of talking to one of my students yesterday who is a Catholic. I must admit that I have been rather naive about Catholic’s beliefs. I have assumed that they are basically all Christians with some different/incorrect theology. In the ten minute conversation I had with her, I realized that she is lost, despite her sixteen years in the Catholic church.
I am now starting to understand that while some Catholics are Christians, there are many who are not. They are following a different set of Scriptures (including the Apocrypha as inspired) as well as following the doctrines of their Catechism. A great starting resource for understanding the differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs is Mark Cahill’s talk: Roman Catholicism vs. The Bible
As I talked with this student, I asked her about some of her beliefs. She told me about purgatory, but ironically enough couldn’t really tell me what it was. This is significant as this is a place she plans to spend some time after she dies. I personally would want to know what it is like!
I also asked her about confession and the process of getting out of purgatory. I asked her, “If Catholics believe that all these things must be done by us to eventually get to heaven, why did Jesus come to die?” She was really confused and said she had never thought about it before. I did a quick presentation of the fact that we have broken God’s law and that is why Jesus came to die- to pay for our sins. I explained that there is no way for us to be good enough on our own; we need a Savior. She really was thinking about it by the time we parted ways. She was confused and said nobody had ever asked her that question.
I know that the Lord is using conversations like this to open my eyes to the lost all around me. I do not want to ever assume that someone has heard the gospel, knows the gospel, or is saved based on a religious affiliation, church attendance, or any other potential indications of a belief system. Religious zeal is giving many people a false security about their eternal state. True salvation is found only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross including His death, burial, and resurrection.