In our church in Dubai, we have been amazed to witness conversions of people from Eritrea and Uzbekistan, Syria and South Africa, Scotland and Spain, Iran and India, the Netherlands and Bolivia, Germany and China, and more. They are from religious and non-religious backgrounds, traditional and progressive, Muslim and Hindu, young and old.
What is the key to unlocking the hearts of these people from such an array of cultural and religious backgrounds?
The answer is, there is no “cross-cultural key.” In our evangelism, we don’t do anything differently here than we would anywhere else. Our evangelistic methods are singularly uncreative. To suggest that some people are easier to convert than others is foreign to the Scriptures. All of us, by nature, are “far off.” And so in our evangelism we must bear witness and pray and await the sovereign move of the Spirit.
There is no “key” into a spiritual morgue.
But this doesn’t mean that cultural diversity is irrelevant to evangelism. Most of the world’s cities are becoming more and more ethnically diverse. With 202 nationalities in its labor market, Dubai is ahead of the curve in this area. The world has descended on Arabia, bringing with it both challenges and opportunities for evangelism.
Here are three lessons we have learned living and ministering in an ultra-multi-cultural environment:
1. Communicate clearly.
First, communicate clearly. Muslims are taught from childhood that God has no Son. Hindus deny there is one transcendent Creator who grounds all existence and morality. Secular humanists think religious truth is relative. So, whomever we’re speaking to, we must define our terms clearly. With Muslims, we unpack what the Bible means about God’s Son: not that the Father and Mary physically produced offspring akin to Zeus and Danae, but that the eternal image of the invisible God, who preexisted the universe, came down himself and took on flesh.
With Hindus, we work to explain a moral universe, one where good and bad are defined by God’s character and his revealed will. There’s no use talking about “sin” (Rom. 3:23) or pointing people to the “Son” (John 3:16), unless and until we have unpacked these freighted concepts. In multi-cultural settings we must, as D. A. Carson has said, “start farther back in our evangelism to provide more of the Bible’s story line for the good news to cohere…so we have to unpack more of the doctrine of God, and thus of the Son, to a generation that knows nothing of the Trinity.”
This is why, when Thabiti Anyabwile publicly dialogued with Muslim imam Shabir Ally in Dubai last spring, his opening statement was a 20-minute survey of Old Testament theology leading up to the life and ministry of Jesus. Unless the listeners grasped the storyline of the Bible, the significance of the atonement would be lost on them.
This is simply clear communication, which is all the more important when we live among people who are biblically illiterate and inoculated against a biblical worldview.
2. Proclaim the Word.
Second, proclaim the Word. James teaches that God “brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18). Wherever we are, the agent of regeneration is biblical revelation, read and proclaimed. This is why, in our evangelism, if the person can read, our goal should be to study the Bible with them, regardless of their culture.
“Friendship evangelism” is increasingly popular in the Middle East and many other places, because of the (mistaken) impression that we cannot or should not directly and clearly communicate what the Christian message is, but rather we should allude and insinuate until the friend shows an openness to hearing more. Friendship evangelism emphasizes that we must earn the right to speak the gospel to another person. Of course, we ought not use people merely as evangelistic projects. But, as one evangelist here told me, there is a danger of too much friendship and too little evangelism. Excessive concern about context and techniques will tend to overshadow the command simply to “preach the Word.”
3. Use the local church.
Third, use the local church. Whatever continent you’re on, the church is a gathering of people who are indwelt by God’s Spirit, and who gather weekly for preaching, singing, prayer, and the ordinances. Paul expected the weekly assembly not only to build up the believers, but also to convict non-believers who attended (1 Cor. 14:25).
Over the years, several people from “restricted access” or “closed” countries have quietly attended our church, or even walked into our building during the week and asked to learn about Jesus. Or they have called the church office, identified their religion, and asked to meet with someone to consider the claims of Christ. We were all too happy to oblige—not to pressure anyone, but to offer them friendship, true and clear explanations of the gospel, and the opportunity to observe the three-dimensional display of the gospel that is a local church.
In many of these cases, these people were born again and joined together with us. They not only heard and understood the gospel, they saw how the power of Christ changes individuals and influences entire communities that have little in common except Christ. The church, then, is the confirming echo of the gospel that is being proclaimed.
FOREIGN TO ALL CULTURES
Increasingly, global cities are home to multi-national churches that worship in English, the lingua franca of our day. These churches reach into countless national and ethnic groups, even through English as a second language. When expatriates return to their ancestral homes, they take the gospel back with them.
It’s true that multiculturalism poses challenges for evangelism. However, regardless of where we’re from, we must remember that the gospel is foreign to all of our cultures. For all our diversity, we are still sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, in need of the one remedy that only Jesus could secure: redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Churches in multi-ethnic settings must work hard to communicate clearly, with due regard to careful biblical theology. We must be centered on scriptural truth that will slice through all manner of cultural and religious barriers. And we must hold up the church as the display of the gospel to the nations.
John Folmar is the senior pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai.
 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Crossway, 2012), p. 85.
A FEW LESSONS
Here are a few things that I’ve learned from leading a church that is trying to reach out to folks from different backgrounds.
1. We’re not all that different
First, we’re not all that different. It can be intimidating to try and build relationships with people who experience life differently, especially in things that can seem so important: clothing, work, education, expectations, living arrangements. But in reality, such matters are a tiny fraction of what makes us who we are.
You probably have a tremendous amount in common even with people that seem very different from you. Everyone—perhaps with the exception of a few Brits I’ve known—wants to be loved, known, and accepted. We all love our children and are grateful to people who are kind to them. We are all prone to worry about what the future holds. But most importantly, we are all “in Adam” and in desperate need of a savior (1 Cor. 15:22).
Churches who want to reach out across socio-economic boundaries need to make their first step towards others on the basis of these commonalities. It’s fairly simple: treat other people with unfeigned sympathy and respect, as fellow travelers to the grave (to steal a phrase from Dickens). This approach will help prevent the sense of condescension that flavors and spoils a lot of well-meaning attempts to reach across class lines.
2. It helps to be a blessing
Second, it helps to be a blessing.
You really don’t want to build your outreach solely on the basis of giving people things—food, money, gas cards. Those things can be helpful, but if that’s all you do, you are giving people the chance to come for just the handout and remain unchallenged by the source of the love behind the handout. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use the resources the Lord has given you to help build connections with others. A few examples:
- A Christianity Explored course for people from the local homeless shelter begins with a home-cooked meal in a church member’s home. For some people living in a shelter, it is real blessing to eat a home-cooked meal in someone’s dining room. It feels normal; it feels good. It is much easier to start conversations and build relationships over a good meal.
- A grandmother is opposed to her child participating in our youth outreach because she is suspicious of Americans. When we dropped her granddaughter off after a meeting, we sent her with a couple of bags of groceries from our food pantry. After that, we were greeted with smiles when we dropped by to pick up her granddaughter.
- A local restaurant closed down for an evening and asked us to invite poor and needy people in for a meal. About seventy-five people enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner, an experience they would never have been able to afford. Members of the church were there to have conversations and build relationships over laughter and good food. The gospel was presented and an evangelistic Bible study grew out of that dinner.
In all of those cases, we were able to leverage resources that we had to bless people, connect with them, and eventually share the gospel.
3. Environment matters
Third, environment matters. If you want to reach out to people who are less affluent and privileged than you are, look around at your church and your life. Try to imagine how someone less fortunate than you (sorry, I’m running out of euphemisms) might perceive them.
Do your sermon illustrations assume that everyone has been to college? Or owns a car? Or has access to a computer or cable TV or designer clothing? These kinds of things speak volumes to people about whether or not they are truly welcome to be part of your church.
Is your house—its size, neighborhood, furnishings—intimidating to someone with few resources? Would it immediately make them feel uncomfortable or shabby? If so, you will probably have to work through extra layers of defensiveness in order to reach people.
Is your home in a location where poorer people (who may not have a car) can walk or take public transportation? If not, it will be more difficult to be hospitable.
4. Know who you are talking to when explaining the gospel
Finally, if you want to reach out to people with different backgrounds, consider how you are explaining the gospel. To be clear, the message must remain unaltered. All men, women, and children need to hear of their sin, God’s holiness, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the need for repentance and faith. But you may need to find new methods of delivering that message for people who are not comfortable with the English language or with reading as a way of gaining information.
If I am sharing the gospel with an educated professional from northern Virginia, I may well invite him to read a book with me in order to help him investigate the claims of Christ. And certainly, there are some poorer folks who are well educated and enjoy reading. But we also need to have other ways of communicating for people who are not readers. Two examples: using videos (like Christianity Explored) or stories (I like the ones being used at Soma Church in Washington) to communicate the movements and themes of Scriptures.
Mike McKinley is the senior pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, and is the author, most recently, of Did the Devil Make Me Do It? (The Good Book Company, 2013).
As cultural opposition toward Christianity grows, what is its effect on your evangelism at work? Are you more faithful or more fearful?
You could hardly be blamed for being more fearful. The rapid advance of social liberalism and human resources policies promoting workplace “tolerance” only exacerbate the two fears we commonly cite for not sharing the gospel with our co-workers: fear of social harm and fear of career repercussions, like job loss or career stalls.
Evangelism has always been hard. If there is anything new about our challenges today, it’s how emboldened the opposition seems to be. Non-Christians used to say “To each his own.” Now they are just as likely to accuse us of stupidity (“Seriously, you don’t believe in evolution?”) or hateful bigotry (“How dare you say homosexuality is a sin?”). Employers increasingly do rigorous social media background checks before making hiring and promotion decisions. How long before companies who are fearful of workplace harassment and discrimination pass over the more visible Christian for someone who makes fewer waves?
In spite of all this, I am so grateful for the brothers who feared God more than man and shared the gospel with me. My own faith is the fruit of workplace evangelism.
LOST, AND FOUND IN THE WORKPLACE
Twelve years ago, I was a researcher at a mid-sized consulting firm in Washington, DC. I was a self-confident, self-sufficient, professionally-prospering Hindu. You wouldn’t have assumed I was spiritually uncertain. Frankly, I didn’t know I was spiritually uncertain. What I was not was a guy who was actively seeking Christ.
Enter my Christian colleague Hunter. Well-known and well-liked around the office, Hunter was a high-performing sales guy with a range of interests. Someone told me, “He’s a Christian, ya’ know.” Neither one of us knew for sure what that meant, but both of us believed it was relevant enough to add a knowing, “Huh.”
I did know Hunter didn’t fit the mold of a Christian that I had mentally constructed. Christians were nice, old-fashioned, hypocritical, one-note tunes. Hunter wasn’t that. So I started watching him.
We became friends. We spent time together and talked about a range of topics—The Simpsons, Lord of the Rings, Christ, Krishna, coffee, work. While the Lord used Hunter to pursue me, I never felt like a project, just a friend. As only God can do, he providentially arranged for Hunter to be there at the same time that God orchestrated a spiritual crisis in my life. And he gave Hunter the wisdom and boldness to speak truth into my life when I needed it most.
BEHAVIORS OF A WORKPLACE EVANGELIST
While young in the faith himself at the time, there is much about Hunter’s example that any believer can apply in a workplace setting.
1. Put Christ on the Table
First, put Christ on the table. Because it can be rare to meet Christians in the workplace, it is essential that people in your office know that you are a follower of Christ. That way you can make yourself available to weaker believers and an example to non-believers. It was a non-Christian colleague who told me about Hunter’s faith. Obviously we should not do this obnoxiously or irresponsibly, but by recounting your weekend, describing a Bible study that you are in, or sharing how you pray for others, people will soon know.
2. Work with Excellence
Second, work with excellence. When you put Christ on the table, expect to be studied by your peers as I studied Hunter. Work in a way that reflects the creativity, purpose, and goodness of God. Demonstrate faithfulness and integrity. Work “without grumbling or complaining” (Phil. 2:14). Submit to those in authority, and serve humbly.
This in itself isn’t evangelism, but the content of our lives at work should reinforce, not undermine, the content of the gospel message we share.
3. Love your Peers
Third, love your peers. Invest in friendships with non-Christians in your workplace, not perfunctorily as “projects,” but lovingly as those made in God’s image. Don’t underestimate the importance of trust. Consider that it was a year and a half after Hunter and I met that we studied the Bible together and God gave me ears for the gospel.
Use your lunch break strategically. As you’re able, make generous use of hospitality, where you can share your life with a colleague away from the office and the usual chit-chat and office banter.
4. Prepare to Evangelize
Fourth, prepare to evangelize. As silly as this may sound, be sure you know how to easily explain the gospel. Practice if you need to.
When the Lord provides an opportunity, you don’t want your inner voice screaming at you for being unclear—you want your mind free to listen to your colleague and what they are struggling to understand. After all, it is the gospel that saves, not our quick wit and strong grasp of apologetics. I praise God for Hunter’s clarity, boldness, and trust in power of the gospel.
Fifth, pray. Pray for your colleagues regularly. Pray for good opportunities to share the gospel. Pray that you would grow in boldness. Pray that God would be big and man would be small—we’re all guilty of getting the two mixed up.
And invite brothers and sisters in your church to pray as well. Hunter later told me that his men’s Bible study group was praying for me from the moment I asked him about his Christian faith.
A CALL TO FAITHFULNESS
As workplaces grow more hostile to Christianity, these basic practices will be all the more essential. The Lord has been kind to answer my many prayers for good opportunities and the words to speak. Being known as a Christian, living out my faith professionally and interpersonally, and loving my colleagues more as God’s image-bearers has gained me opportunities to speak openly of my faith. And, in his amazing grace, God has chosen to use me to bring a colleague to faith.
We should expect the Lord to answer our prayers and grant us opportunities to speak of Christ, so pray for boldness. And be willing to spend your relational capital. God has put you where you are for a purpose.
Ashok Nachnani is an elder at First Baptist Church in Durham, NC, and a strategy executive at a multinational energy management company.
If you're within striking distance of Cedarville, Ohio, don't miss the upcoming 9Marks at Cedarville conference!
Where: Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio
When: October 29-30, 2013
Topic: A biblical understanding of the gospel
- Garrett Kell, Senior Pastor, Del Ray Baptist Church, Alexandria, VA
- Greg Gilbert, Senior Pastor, Third Avenue Baptist Church, Louisville, KY
- Mike McKinley, Senior Pastor, Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, VA
- Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Jason Lee, Dean of the Cedarville University School of Biblical and Ministry Studies
More Information: click here.
I recently returned from sabbatical. My church totally relieved me of duty for the months of June and July. I was banned from Sunday services at our church and was kept in the dark about pastoral issues they faced during this two-month period.
Leading up to this time, I sought counsel from many pastors who had been given similar time off. I was struck by how many shared of different regrets once their time was done. So I tried to use my Sabbatical in the most fruitful way possible. Here are a few lessons I learned.
1. Delight in your wife. Have plenty of date nights. Care for her. Study her. Learn from her. Laugh with her. Enjoy her. Reflect on your years of ministry together. Realize she needs this time as much as you do. Resolve to make it a great benefit to her soul. Seize time to delight in her while the busyness that often cuts into your time together is temporarily relieved.
2. Enjoy your kids. I have never before had such an extended period where I can focus on time with my kids. I needed to make sure they were not only a primary focus, but that my heart was taking in this time with them and truly enjoying them. Many pastors expressed regret to me on this front. So we spent time at the pool, parks, out of town a bit, reading, wrestling, laughing, riding bikes, and whatever else they wanted to do.
3. Be intentional with spiritual disciplines. I committed to have times of reading God’s Word that were long and covered large portions of text. I usually spend most of my time “staring at the trees” for sermon preparation; for this break I allowed “the forest” to feed my soul.
I also had intentional times of silence and prayer for the sake of my own soul, asking God for guidance on a vision for our church for the next ten years, as I’ve just finished up my first ten as pastor. Additionally, I renewed a helpful discipline I’ve neglected: journaling. Embrace the basic spiritual disciplines we exhort our people to engage in that we can often let slide in our own lives.
4. Be consistent with physical disciplines. Commit to sleeping eight hours a night. Try to renew regular exercise—for me, this meant a three to four day a week workout plan. And resolve to eat well. If you do none of these well in your normal grind, a sabbatical can be a great time to recommit to stewarding your body and energy well. I lost ten pounds on my sabbatical and was reminded how much sleep I actually need to be at my best to serve the Lord. Do not underestimate how poorly you care for your body during the grind of ministry.
5. Be mentored by a faithful dead pastor. Dead pastors from different moments in history can teach us about pastoral ministry in ways modern pastors cannot. I chose the great 18th century English Particular Baptist Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) to mentor me during this time via his writings. It was so encouraging! Pick one, then immerse yourself in his life and ministry and allow him to teach you.
6. Learn about preaching from a faithful living pastor. I chose Ted Donnelly, who pastored in Northern Ireland for over 35 years until his health recently declined. He is known in Britain as one of the most gifted, Spirit-filled preachers in the last half century. I listened to his sermons and learned much. God also fed my soul through his Word in the process. Choose someone you don’t know very well but would be a helpful instructor to push you to grow in your preaching.
7. Visit other churches. It can certainly be restful and encouraging to worship among your people with your regular pastoral duties relieved. But the inevitable conversations that will arise can make a Sabbatical less of a break if you spend Sundays in your own church. So I made sure my responsibilities at church were covered so that I could worship at other churches for the entire sabbatical.
If you go to other solid churches where the Word is preached you will experience Christian fellowship. There is much to learn from other churches and pastors. You may experience something in their public gathering you then choose to bring back to your church. If you do not have many choices, pick a couple of solid churches during your sabbatical where you can simply attend, relax, and be fed while sitting with your family.
8. Put off the tasks you normally put on. A Sabbatical will not be truly restful if you hang on to what normally wears you down. This is why my fellow pastors banned me from writing a book or preaching anywhere, both of which are a normal part of my ministry. Although many take sabbatical time to write—which is fine for some—my fellow pastors were right to forbid me from doing so. Make sure you are honest with yourself about the things that wear on you. And make sure set them down for this time, even if they are things you love to do.
9. Play golf. Golf is relaxing yet humbling for most of us. There are layers of reasons this is good for your soul. I shot some of my best rounds of golf in years during my Sabbatical and beat my very competitive father for the first time in my life. Clearly, the favor of the Lord was upon me. If not golf, find some other relaxing, humbling way to have fun that’s tough to fit into your regular grind.
10. Truly rest. I typically don’t rest well. But I realized through others’ counsel that if I came to the end of my time off and my wife and I did not feel refreshed and rested, we would have defeated the purpose of this gift from our church and squandered this opportunity. Whatever will help you rest from the rat race of your regular labors and refresh your soul is what you should do.
If you are planning for an upcoming sabbatical, I hope this begins a helpful conversation between you and your fellow pastors about what would be the best way for you to benefit from this gift. Be intentional. Involve others in your church to help determine the best way for you to spend your time. Listen to your wife’s input. And pray God would grant you to rest well and wisely, so that fond memories vastly outweigh regrets when you return to the normal routine of ministry.
Brian Croft is the senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and the founder of Practical Shepherding. Along with his wife Cara, he is the author of The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Zondervan, 2013).
Flip to just about any TV channel with religious programming and you are likely to encounter the prosperity gospel. From Joel Osteen’s perma-smile to T. D. Jakes’s mopped brow, from Jan Crouch’s bouffant cotton-candy hairdo to Benny Hinn’s Nehru jackets, America’s electronic preachers tell us there is a God of inexhaustible abundance ready to bless us with our own personal miracle. Whether our troubles are financial, physical, or emotional, God will change our fortunes if we will just pray in faith for the desired outcome, proclaim it ours, and then act on the certainty of its arrival in our lives.
Of course, it helps to sow seeds if you want to reap a harvest, so a gift given to the ministry is a tangible sign of our faith that God will do as we say. And the bigger the gift, the larger the faith. Lest we doubt this simple spiritual formula, we need only look at the extravagant lifestyles with which the good Lord has blessed prosperity preachers. It’s all so straightforward and appealing, as American as mama’s apple pie and a 30-year mortgage. Evidently, we can’t get enough of the stuff.
THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
In a thoughtful and engaging work, Kate Bowler unravels the origins and development of the prosperity gospel into a multi-billion dollar industry. Although there are several varieties of prosperity gospels with subtly different animating convictions and practices, Bowler sensibly lumps them together as birds of a feather, a range of species in the same genus. “Word of Faith,” “Positive Confession,” “Health and Wealth,” and so forth, they all share a bedrock conviction that God chooses to bless his children with material prosperity in body, mind, and brokerage account, awaiting only our willingness to get on board.
Click here to continue reading.
We asked four churches to tell us how they equip their people to evangelize. Here are their responses. Answers from University Reformed Church, Sterling Park Baptist Church, the Village Church, and the Church at Brook Hills.
Ben Falconer, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan
If we’re going to evangelize faithfully, we need to talk, pray, and be challenged about it. With that in mind, at University Reformed Church we attempt to keep evangelism at the forefront of our ministry as much as possible.
The foundation is laid with regular admonition and encouragement from the preached Word on Sundays. As often as the text gives us opportunity to trumpet our responsibility to be heralds of the good news, we take it. Evangelism and praying for the lost are repeated applications that we as pastors make from the text.
Another way we teach on evangelism is by including it in our new members class. We want those interested in the church to hear right from the beginning that the Scriptures expect believers to share their faith. We take class time to walk through a gospel tract that our senior pastor Kevin DeYoung and the staff developed a number of years ago. Then we give each new member time to practice sharing with a partner.
A third way we have sought to equip the congregation in evangelism is by making it our theme for a given year. We have identified four basic disciplines of the Christian faith (prayer, Bible study, missions, and personal evangelism) and we aim to focus particularly on one each year. For each theme, we offer specific training, have a corresponding sermon series, and provide other opportunities for practice or accountability. When we focused on evangelism a few years back, we also had the entire church read through Mark Dever’s book The Gospel and Personal Evangelism and discussed it in our small groups.
Ben Falconer is associate pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.
Mike McKinley, Sterling Park Baptist Church, Sterling, Virginia
At Sterling Park Baptist Church we offer training to our people on how to share the gospel with the hurting and needy. Our mercy ministry and outreach to “at-risk” youth generate a lot of gospel opportunities, but we realized pretty quickly that most of our members weren’t naturally comfortable interacting with and sharing Christ with people who seemed so different.
We try to train our people to listen and ask good questions so that they can identify how this person understands what has gone wrong in their life and what they think will fix it—that is, their version of the Fall and Redemption. Once our member understands how that person understands their “story,” they can share the true story of Christ with them: their real problem is that they are enemies of God, but the good news is that God has made a marvelous salvation available through Christ.
We also have about 30 minutes set aside in our Sunday evening service to pray for evangelistic opportunities that have come up in the previous week, or that we hope will come up in the following week. Members share about conversations that they’ve had or plans they’ve made to share Christ with people in their lives, and then we ask God to give more opportunities to us and bear more fruit through us. This helps make evangelism seem like a normal part of the Christian life, rather than something done by the professionals. It also drives home the point that evangelism begins with prayer.
Mike McKinley is the senior pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia, and is the author, most recently, of The Devil Made Me Do It (Good Book Company, 2013).
Josh Patterson, The Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas
At The Village Church, we try to equip our people to fulfill the Great Commission in three ways: we model it, preach and teach it, and celebrate it.
First, the church leaders model evangelism. We are not asking our people to be involved in something that we ourselves are not doing. The pastors and elders are sharing Christ with their neighbors, friends, and family members.
Second, the pastors preach it and teach it. The preaching of the Word stands as a constant reminder of God’s call for his church to be his ambassadors in the world as he makes his appeal through us. Also, we teach evangelism in a variety of contexts. A primary equipping venue for us is our home group groups. Here we have a “multiplication guide” that walks a home group through six-month evangelism training course.
Finally, we celebrate it. What is celebrated is cultivated. And a culture of evangelism is stronger than any evangelistic program. We celebrate evangelism through stories of conversion and faithful members who bear witness to Christ. Four times a year we have “Celebration Weekends” where the bulk of the worship gathering centers around the proclamation of the gospel through baptism. At The Village, we ask those who were integral in the conversion of the individual being baptized to perform the baptism. In other words, our members baptize those they lead to Christ.
Our desire to celebrate, teach and preach, and model evangelism serves to reinforce this biblical call that for disciples of Jesus, evangelism should be normal.
Josh Patterson serves as Lead Pastor for Ministry Leadership at the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.
J.D. Payne, The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama
At Brook Hills, we recognize that the best evangelism equipping strategy is multifaceted. This requires:
- regular biblical teaching that provides a Great Commission foundation;
- ongoing exhortation to share the gospel in Birmingham, across North America, and throughout the world;
- personal examples set by the leaders of the church;
- and regular, practical equipping in the area of personal evangelism.
While we spend a great deal of time in multiple venues talking about sharing the gospel, we know it is not enough to just talk about evangelism. All of our elders are required to develop and submit an annual personal disciple-making strategy, and all of our members are encouraged to do the same. This past year, two of our pastors preached a several-week series on personal evangelism. At least twice a year, we offer a six-week personal evangelism training, with plans to offer it three times per year starting in 2014. I also do a weekly 5-10 minute vodcast called “Multiplication Matters,” addressing issues related to evangelism.
J. D. Payne is Pastor of Church Multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama
I am grateful for Trevin Wax’s blog post “I Weep for Miley.” And I want to tell you why: it joins a genre of Christian literature that is rare but appropriate—the cultural lamentation.
There is plenty of Christian writing (and teaching) in which the writer (or teacher) laments his or her own failings. And there is lots of cultural criticism to be found on any given day in the Christian precincts of the twitterverse or blogosphere. All this can be done well or poorly.
But what makes the lamentation distinct as a form of criticism is that it more obviously exposes the writer's heart posture to be one of love. The writer hurts, mourns, even weeps because a person or a people whom the writer loves are destroying themselves with folly and sin. Beholding such sin, the writer cannot help but say, “Oh, please, no, don’t! God, help! Friends, why would you…”
America is not the new Israel, nor is any other nation to be equated with the people of God. But I think there is a place for the Christian citizens of a nation to behold the self-destructive forces of sin at work in their nation and then to weep, just as one might weep for a non-Christian parent. Our nations—at least the better ones—have reared, protected, and provided for us in our growth into adulthood (see Acts 17:26-27). We are rightly affectionate for them.
These are the people who came to our birthday party at age 7, and played on our soccer team at age 11, and showed up with us for freshman orientation at college, and sat in the cubicle next to us in the office. They have built our streets and watched our borders. These are our friends and guardians.
So there should be something inside of every Christian that mourns for these friends when we see them hurting themselves by rejecting Christ and believing the lies that lead to death.
“Ah, a people loaded with guilt,” the Old Testament prophets would say.
And David: “I weep because your laws are not kept.”
Jesus, too: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I long to gather you as a mother gathers her chicks.”
Yes, the unteachable and the self-righteous will always reject our lamentations because a lamentation involves moral evaluation, and moral evaluation defiles the temple of the sacred self.
Yet everyone laments something. Even that most holy priest of the sacred self, Walt Whitman, offers a wonderful specimen of the genre in his poem, “I Sit and Look Out”:
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.
In certain respects, Whitman’s conclusion is appropriate. Meanness and agony should leave us dumbfounded. In other respects, the Christian knows that God alone is the one before whom we are utterly silent, and that we do have something to say in the face of evils committed or endured:
Oh, my fellow citizens, look to Christ!
Look to him for healing from your woe,
and for pardon from your guilt!
How my heart aches because you will not look but choose death!
We just released a new interview with Russell Moore on religious liberty and ethics. In it, Dever and Moore discusses Moore's new role, rap, relevance, and why "it's even worse than it appears, but it's alright."
Yes, that is a Grateful Dead quotation. A 9Marks first, if I'm not mistaken. What more reason do you need to listen?
InterVarsity’s “New World Gospel Presentation” is an evangelism outline “designed to lead others to make a decision for Jesus Christ and join his mission to heal the world.” As of today there are training materials on their website, Vimeo and YouTube. Additionally, they have developed a free app (iOS and Android) to help illustrate the main points of the presentation during a gospel conversation.
ENGAGING THE “FOUR WORLDS”
The presentation is built on the premise that most people ache for a better world. The outline works through the paradigm of a world, using four worlds to communicate the biblical story. These four worlds are the four points for the conversation. Like many other presentations, they aim to frame redemptive history in their main points:
World 1: The world and all that’s in it was designed for good.
World 2: We—and the world—were damaged by evil.
World 3: Jesus came to restore the world and everything in it to what God intended.
World 4: Jesus invites us to join him and his community to heal the world.
InterVarsity ambitiously attempts to pull off the evangelistic version of a hat-trick with this presentation. They aim to listen to people’s stories (especially their scars and wounds), frame them within the context of the Bible’s story, and clearly communicate how Jesus answers their aches and pains. All of this they do while aiming to be faithful, winsome, compelling, clear, and understandable. Do they pull it off?
In communicating the first two worlds they do a fairly good job showing the divine design for creation and the problem we brought through human rebellion. “This better world really did exist,” they say, “and was designed for flourishing and intimacy with God. However, we rejected God, put ourselves in the place of God and as a result damaged the world.”
Yet here we see the good and the bad of contextualization. The good is seen in how they unpack words like idolatry with the helpful phrase “putting ourselves in the place of God.” The bad is in what they do not say. After all, why is it a problem that we put ourselves in God’s place? Is it bad simply because it wrecks our world or because it breaks his law, lies about his glory, and earns his just wrath? In an attempt to simplify the presentation many crucial questions go unanswered.
In world three we learn, that
Instead of leaving us in our brokenness God sends Jesus to be like us, to die on the cross and to rise from the dead. In this Jesus identifies with us, owns our judgment we deserve for damaging the world, and releases his power to restore the world for better.
Again, all of these statements are true but they are dangerously reductionistic. How does Jesus become like us? After all, we are the ones who messed everything up (see world 2). Did he contribute to this? Why did he have to die on the cross? How does this intersect with how I have “damaged” the world?
The fourth world is the invitation to join Jesus and his community in healing the world. In order to do this we must do three things:
(1) Identify with Jesus; believe that his death and resurrection broke the corruption in the world and in our hearts.
(2) Own our responsibility for the damage and the scarring in this world.
(3) Overcome by choosing to follow Jesus. Jesus does not leave us alone; he gives us himself, the Holy Spirit, and his people to go together and follow people.
These things are not untrue but they are, in my view, unclear. Following Jesus is reduced to becoming a conduit of healing. If we have not explained who God is, what sin is, and how the reconciliation is exclusively achieved through the cross of Christ, then we are not being totally forthright. At some point Christians have to agree that the gospel has irreducible components. These categories need to be developed and explained; they cannot be glossed over and certainly cannot be replaced with vague phrases like becoming “a conduit of healing.”
Another point that I found troubling in reviewing the material was the sheer lack of Bible. The videos I reviewed were curiously devoid of any mention of Scripture, even in passing. Yet the Bible should feature prominently in our evangelism. After all, it is the word of Christ that brings faith (Rom. 10:17).
What’s my bottom line?
I appreciate and even applaud the four worlds, the drawings, and the goal of listening to people’s stories in order to show how they fit within the big picture of God’s story. However, in setting out to do this, we must exercise great care about what we say, not just how we say it.
While it’s set in the Bible’s storyline, the New World Gospel Presentation is so user-friendly that it is simply not Christian enough. I would imagine that Roman Catholics and even Mormons could use this material within their doctrinal framework without violating their convictions. While helpful in some points, the New World Gospel Presentation simply lacks the main ingredients of the gospel. I would not recommend this program for use in your church.
 http://evangelism.intervarsity.org/how/gospel-outline/new-world-gospel-presentation; accessed 8/5/13.
Erik Raymond is the pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska.