Tag Archives: evangelism

Evangelism Is a Means, Not an End

23 Sep

Last Sunday in church, one of the songs we sang was about building God’s kingdom here through evangelism. One of the lines said, “We are the hope on earth.” While I understand the idea, I emphatically disagree. Jesus is the hope; we are not. We simply relay the message of hope found in Him.

I realize that I’m probably more sensitive to this kind of thing than most people, because I spent years dissecting my Christian faith down to nuances and colloquialisms. However, I can’t help but comment on this phrase — because even though when I heard it now, I could put it in its proper context, if I had heard it then, it would’ve sent me into a massive tailspin of guilt, failure and despair.

Why? Because it confuses people like me about who is responsible for what.

Nothing sends me into guilt-trip, “I need to do better” mode faster than a sermon on evangelism. I’m guessing that a lot of people feel the same way. What ends up happening is that we feel the responsibility to bring others to know Christ and see how we fall short. In an effort to bridge the gap between what we “should be doing” and what we are actually doing, we determine to be bolder in sharing the gospel. We share with a few people but over the course of a month or two, fall back into our old habits. When the next evangelism message comes along, we get pumped up again and resolve to share the gospel. We do for a bit, but again gradually fade back into our old habits.

“So what?” you say. “At least the gospel is being proclaimed!” Yes, that’s true, it is. And it may even be that some of those people who heard the gospel came to know Jesus, and that is something to rejoice over. But is that ALL that God cares about? Is He only about the bottom line? “The only thing that matters is that people hear the gospel.” After all, in Philippians 1, the apostle Paul didn’t care that some were proclaiming the gospel out of faulty motives – he only cared that it was being proclaimed, right?

I believe that God cares about more than the bottom line. We are not just His pawns in the game of world domination. The Westminster Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Or as John Piper would say, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” It is possible to focus so much on the mission of evangelism as an end that we forget it’s really just a means of enjoying God.

When evangelism becomes an end, it’s often used as a gauge for how seriously we’re living out our faith, or for our success as a Christian or a church. If that happens, we will quickly find ourselves defeated and suffocated under a fatal burden of guilt and legalism. We are not strong enough to shoulder the weighty responsibility of growing God’s kingdom.

And the good news is: We are not responsible for growing God’s kingdom. We are not responsible for people coming to know Jesus. God is.

I wholeheartedly agree that God uses people – like us – to accomplish His purposes, and that we have a role in evangelism. But it’s far smaller and more personal than most people realize. Our role in evangelism is primarily in being faithful to God’s leading.

It’s not our responsibility to share the gospel; it’s our privilege. Telling someone about Jesus isn’t something we do for God; it’s a gift He gives to us. It’s for our benefit. We get the grace!

When evangelism stops being an end, and becomes the means to glorifying and enjoying God that it was meant to be, we can stop focusing on all the ways we’ve failed, stop resolving to Do Better! and instead, walk through today in faith, as God’s chosen ones, forgiven and justified by the blood of the Lamb, expectantly awaiting the Spirit’s prompting.

We are not the hope on earth — Jesus is. Come, Lord Jesus!

Obedience tastes sweet.

30 Jan

Last night, Travis and I went to a going-away party for a guy from Travis’ work. We drove down where the party was with our friends Ahren and Lauren (Ahren works with Travis too).

Just to give you a little background, Ahren and Lauren are fun to hang out with. We get along well and enjoy the same activities: hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. But they are not believers. They go to mass and consider themselves Catholic, though they don’t believe everything the Catholic religion believes. They like to party (aka get drunk) but usually with us, they just chill and have a few.

Because I have been convicted of sharing my faith more earnestly, I have been praying and looking for opportunities to bring up the gospel. I had thought about calling Lauren up and asking her out to coffee, since I only ever hang out with her in group settings. And I still might do that. We’ll see.

So last night, when we were on our way to the party, we happened to drive past the Denver Seminary. Ahren said that he didn’t know Denver had a seminary, and that he didn’t even know what a seminary was. We got on the subject of priests and how many new ones we thought there had been in the past couple of years (not many). And I felt the Spirit prompting that this was my chance.

The question that popped into my head was “What do you think about heaven?” There was a lull in the conversation and it would’ve been the perfect time but I was so scared to bring it up that I kept my mouth shut. Then Travis said something else and the conversation got off topic so I thought I was out my chance. I could feel my skin burning, the way it does when I have been really, really, really nervous and am finally let off the hook.

But as we continued driving (this place was about a 30 minute drive away), I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If I truly believe that they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in Christ, I can’t just shrug the conversation off like “it just wasn’t the right time.” It is always the right time, whether it’s awkward or not.

So I just blurted it out: “What do Catholics believe about heaven?”

Ahren asked if I was asked about anything specific in regards to heaven and I said no, I just didn’t know much about the Catholic faith. He said that they do believe that there’s a heaven and that you get there by asking for forgiveness (or by living exactly the way they want you to, which both Ahren and Lauren admitted was impossible… so at least there’s that). I confirmed that they believed forgiveness was the way you get to heaven. They said yes, that and confession. You’re supposed to go every week. I asked if they do that. Both of them said that they hadn’t gone to confession in years.

“So you’re just banking on asking for forgiveness before you die?” I asked.

“Something like that,” they replied.

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yes, we do. We believe that he was the Messiah,” Ahren said. They said something else after this about Jesus and one religion not being for everyone but I can’t remember exactly what it was. But it prompted me to ask,

“Do you think Jesus is the only way to heaven?” They didn’t.

Then I quoted to them Jesus’ saying, “I am the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.”

“Hmmmmm,” Ahren said.

“There’s a book called More Than a Carpenter,” I said.

“I’ve heard of that book!” Lauren said.

“In it, it says that Jesus was either a lunatic, liar, or Lord. So he’s either crazy, lying about everything, or he’s actually God. If he is God, then we have to believe everything he says because God is perfect.”

“Hmmmmm,” Ahren said again.

“He also says that we have to born again to be saved, that we get to heaven by putting our trust in Christ. That it’s not about how good we are, how we live, what we do with our lives, but about putting our trust in Him. He came to earth and lived a perfect life (it says in Hebrews that he didn’t sin), then died on the cross for our sins (he could do that because he was fully God and fully man), and we go to heaven by putting our faith in Him alone.”

“Hmmmm,” Ahren said.

At this point, we were reading the directions and trying to figure out where to turn so the conversation got a little distracting. But I didn’t want to lose the chance to share the gospel so I just pushed ahead.

Ahren started to say, “We do believe in the crucifixion, that Jesus died for our sins…” But then we found the place and the conversation was over. But Travis has a great starting point now the next Ahren and he go out to lunch to ask Ahren what he thought about what we talked about the other night.

I asked Travis later in the night what he thought of the conversation. He said that it was pretty awkward but that he thought it was good and that it might have always been awkward. It would be interesting to know what those kinds of conversations feel like on the other side. Maybe they just feel awkward to us because we’re the ones who are telling the gospel.

But I finally obeyed the Spirit! There have been other times when I thought about sharing the gospel (not necessarily with Ahren and Lauren) but I’ve kept my mouth shut because of somehow rationalizing the reason why I didn’t have to or shouldn’t share the gospel at that moment. I was able to convince myself that it wasn’t really the Spirit’s prompting, it was just an idea I had on my own. Not so! The guilt I felt after those missed opportunities showed me that it was the Spirit leading me, and I had disobeyed. Now I know from experience that instead of guilt, obedience tastes sweet.

I have been battling with the tension between living out my faith and being intentional about sharing my faith. I think that we are called to live out our faith always, even in the midst of sharing our faith. But we are also called to share our faith with unbelievers with words and intentionality. And I am so glad that I did that last night. Selfishly, I am also happy that it didn’t make things awkward between us but I’d rather it be awkward for them to come to know Christ than to maintain the peace and settle for being “friends” with people who we know are going to hell. (How can we be friends with them and be ok with that, is what I want to know? We need to remind ourselves that, like C.S. Lewis says, “There are no mere mortals.” Everyone we see is going to either heaven or hell. Greg Stier said that he always imagined people with “Bound for Hell” stamped across their foreheads to give him motivation to share the gospel. He even to the malls on the weekends when he was in high school to do cold evangelism.)

Anyway, I will pray for Ahren and Lauren, that God will plant a seed in them. I will also pray for Travis, that he has the boldness and opportunity to bring it up again with Ahren.

Something that has helped me is to remind myself while I’m talking to other people about the gospel that I have staked my life on this. This is what has shaped my entire being, values, daily activity, friends, etc. I am just sharing what I believe with others, not trying to cram it down their throats. I honestly what to dialogue about the gospel with people. If they don’t believe, that’s God’s business. But if they do, what an amazing thing to behold (it hasn’t happened to me yet but I’m hoping it will as I start/continue to share my faith!)

Clarity

29 Oct

For about the past year and a half, I have been struggling with what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I became totally discontent with living the typical American life but I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing differently. Little by little, God revealed the answer.

First, while I was reading The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, I realized that life is nothing if it’s lived without people. We were created for relationships, not only with God but with one another as well. It convicted me that I needed to think of others and their needs more, to pray for them more, and to worry about myself and my image less.

Kind of a spinoff of that, I began to struggle with the realization that the majority of my time each day was spent on things that were directly about me. It was all about me. I couldn’t believe that that was the way God wanted me to live my life. But again, what to do about it?

That led into my search for volunteer opportunities and a potential career change. I thought maybe I should be out there on the front lines, actually caring for the people in need so that I could really feel like I was making a difference. But somewhere deep down, I knew that wasn’t the answer. After all, I am working for a non-profit right now, one whose mission I totally align with. Back in college, I had thought about working for a non-profit because it seemed like that was a way to really contribute to something big than myself. I do believe that I am doing that with my current job.

Working at a youth ministry dedicated to mobilizing teens to reach their generation with the gospel, I have heard and learned a lot about evangelism–not just how to do it but the biblical basis for it. Matthew 28:19 should have been enough but as the president Greg shared story after story and bible verse after bible verse of calls to share our faith, I began to be really convicted.

That conviction was deepened through my personal study of the Word. I was going through Romans, which was written by the apostle Paul, whom some say was the greatest evangelist who ever lived. I will admit that his letters are inspiring for evangelism. Putting it all together, I came to the conclusion that if people are what make life worth living, and we’re called to share the gospel, then evangelism is the most meaningful way to live your life.

I didn’t want that to be the answer. Evangelism wasn’t an easy answer. It was actually the hardest one there could be for me. For many months, I ignored my conviction. I listened to my fears and self-preservation instead of being bold.

But I am back full circle to the same answer. That’s the only answer there is. Why am I here? To share the gospel. What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Sharing the gospel. If I am not doing something with eternal impact every single day, then what do I have to show for my life? At the end of it all, it will crumble. It will be burned up in the fire because only what is done for God’s glory and praise will remain.

So I am taking baby steps and moving forward into a lifestyle of evangelism. I shared the gospel with my elderly neighbor, Fern, on Tuesday night. I plan on engaging my neighbor Patty in a gospel conversation again next week. I am also pondering the thought of calling up the girls I know through Travis’ co-workers and asking them to have coffee or go shopping or something. I know that this is where God is leading me. And it has been a place that I have been fighting and fighting against with my life because it scares me. But I know that I will not and cannot be content with living the typical American life that takes no risks and never steps out. I need to live radically for Christ. That is where true joy and satisfaction are found. That is what I’m here for.

 

Divine Courage

17 Nov

When I got home from work today, I made dinner and then watched 2 episodes of The Simpsons, all the while dreading what I had told myself and God I would do today: go talk to my neighbor Patty about what she believed.

I toyed with the idea of just putting it off until tomorrow or not doing it at all. As I was watching commercials of people who were happy and enjoying their life, I felt bitterness in my heart toward God. “Why can’t I just be content in my own little, comfortable bubble? Why do I feel the need to go out there and take risks? Why can’t I just be concerned with myself?”

I had almost decided to not do it but the feeling of laziness and my desire to not spend the whole night on the couch doing absolutely nothing but watch TV made me get up. In an almost robotic motion, I brushed my teeth, grabbed the jelly jar to return to Patty, and walked next door.

God answered my prayers.

I talked to Patty about random things for a little while: her teeth, fish tanks, jelly canning. Then I asked her what I had planned to ask her: “Travis and I were wondering if you and Fern [her mom] would want to come to church with us this Sunday?”

Patty replied that they weren’t really churchgoing people, that church made her uncomfortable, that she had her own beliefs. I asked, “Would you be willing to talk about what you believe?” And she was. I was over at her house for about an hour talking to her about God and Jesus and praying and religion. I was pumped that I had actually done it; but I was also sad when I heard Patty say what she believed. Most of her beliefs she formed herself, through picking and choosing from other religions. Most of it isn’t biblical. But she’s open to talking more about her beliefs! And I have these little pamphlet thingys I got from Campus Outreach that explain things like “Is truth relative?” “Is the Bible reliable?” “Is God fair?” etc. that I think I will utilize the next time I go over to talk to her.

But I’m just pumped that I shared my faith (and explained the gospel at least twice)!! I actually did it! And I know that it was God who enabled me to go over there. I stumbled when trying to explain a few things and was starkly reminded of my lack of memorized Bible verses. But I did it. I was faithful to God’s leading. I am amazed at myself and even more, I am amazed at God. That He would be willing to work with such a coward as me is humbling.

That is the one thing that Patty felt the strongest against: that I shouldn’t feel like I don’t deserve to go to heaven, because (in her words) I do deserve it. She was surprised that Travis felt the same way. I tried to explain to her that knowing I am a sinner saved only by grace and not by anything I have or will do is the thought that gives me hope. I tried to explain that it was a good thing, that it humbled me and made me appreciate what Christ did on the cross all that much more. But she didn’t understand it. It’s one of those things that is music to the believer’s ears but a stumbling block to those who don’t believe.

Just a few reminders to close:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24

“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:26

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3: 23-24

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ…” Ephesians 2:4-5

I wouldn’t want it any other way. Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!

Sharing the Good News

16 Nov

This weekend has been a culmination of sorts. It was the Dare 2 Share Invincible Conference in Denver. I was at the event for the whole weekend and while it was physically draining (I’ve had an incurable headache all day), it was spiritually nourishing. Not only did my personal relationship with the Lord benefit (which I will talk about in a little bit), my job became ever more valuable.

Over 7,000 people filled the Pepsi Center for the conference. That’s a lot of students. And I have to tell you, it is beyond amazing to see these young people on fire for Christ. Not only are they fellow members of the body of Christ, they have found something to live for, a purpose for their lives. I can’t help but think back on my own life. What would my life look like if I had discovered that purpose in high school or even junior high? I have no doubt that if I had been invited to a Dare 2 Share event in junior high or high school, I would have rolled my eyes and said no. But maybe I would’ve gone…

There are hundreds of kids just like me (when I was that age) at our events: disinterested, apathetic, cynical, hopeless. And they leave the conference believing in their souls that Christ died for them. They leave with hope. They leave with the knowledge that, no matter how many people in their lives don’t love them, God loves them. And best of all, they leave with a burning desire to see their unbelieving friends come to know Jesus as well.

It’s ironic that I struggle so much with sharing my faith and yet I work at a ministry dedicated to teaching teens how to share their faith. I know God did that on purpose. Where else would I be continually convicted over the importance of giving hope to the lost, especially teens?

Our President, Greg Stier, is an amazing person. I’ve obviously heard him speak/preach quite a bit and know that since he is very animated and outgoing, he’s a great person to have speaking to a teenage crowd. But more than that, he is an inspiration. He inspires me to evangelize. God created Greg to eat, breathe, and sleep evangelism. He’ll tell you that ever since he became a Christian as a young boy, he’s been going around his neighborhood, around the mall, and now, around the country sharing the gospel. And not just in a preachy sort of way (though he does that too). He has the God-given ability to bring up the gospel with anyone, in any conversation. A guy in my care group also has that ability too. I get so inspired listening to both of them. They remind me that sharing the gospel is not something Christians do once in a while; it’s a lifestyle:

It’s walking through each day with the desire to share the gospel with someone, somehow. It’s seeing every situation and every conversation as a segue into the gospel. It’s seeing the gospel relate to every aspect of life, from waiting for a bus to eating a meal. It’s sharing the good news of Christ with those who are going to hell but don’t know it.

The biggest thing that happened this weekend was that God spoke to me. Listening to Greg speak, I knew the answer to my question, “What does living out my faith practically look like?” God’s answer:

Evangelism.

I’m pretty sure that I knew that was the answer all this time. And even now when I’m sure that it is the answer, I want to go look for a different one, one that’s not so scary and risky. One that I can feel comfortable doing. I feel like saying “God, I said I would follow you anywhere, do anything for You. But this? Anything but this…”

Whenever I think about sharing my faith with our neighbors or my brothers or friends from Travis’ work (since all of my co-workers are already Christians), I get a feeling of dread in my stomach. It’s like I’m back in 9th grade, dreading my next speech in speech class, feeling the impending doom of that fateful day.

But I know that it’s the answer, no matter how hard it is to take. I try to envision the living out of my faith without evangelism and it’s sort of like playing basketball with no hoops. I’m dribbling and running around but when I look up, I see that I’m just playing with myself. Similarly, it would be easy for me to just focus on my personal Christian walk. But when I look up at God, I see that I’m not actually playing in His game, I’m just sitting on the bench.

I want to play. I’m called to play.

But how do I play?

I know places I can start: my neighbor Patty, my brother Brian, friends I know through Travis. But beyond that… [insert big question mark].

I do know that my style of evangelism is going to look a lot different than Greg’s. He’s an outgoing person who speaks his mind…sometimes a little too much. 🙂 I’m not shy but I wouldn’t say I’m outgoing either. And I definitely like getting to know people before sharing the gospel instead of doing cold evangelism. So where to get to know people?

I’ll let you know what I come up with.

How to: Live in a Christian Bubble

23 Apr

For tonight’s care group (which is like a Bible study for those of you who aren’t members of Grace Community Church), we walked to Baskin Robbins and got ice cream. It was yummy. (I had York Peppermint Patty).

But on the way there and back, we were supposed to talk one-on-one with other people in our group about evangelism, because that’s what last Sunday’s sermon was on. Well, to be honest, I talked to the girls about things other than evangelism because I really want to get to know them better!

When we got back to Paul and Carrie’s house where we meet, we went around the room and everyone said who they had talked to and what were their thoughts/opinions/hindrances regarding evangelism.

And the whole thing got me thinking more and more about evangelism, the reasons why Christians evangelize, what motivates us, and why I don’t evangelize really at all. I mean, I work at a non-profit youth ministry that is dedicated to teaching teens how to share their faith! We’re all about evangelism. So why am I so “bad” at it?

The first explanation (though it is by no means an excuse, and actually could make it worse that I don’t evangelize) is that I work with all Christians at a ministry. You can’t evangelize to Christians. You can talk to them about your faith, encouraging and building them up. Which is definitely a good thing! But you can’t lead someone to Christ who has already been led…

The second explanation (still not an excuse) is that beyond my co-workers and my fellow churchgoers, I don’t know anyone in Colorado. I have no unbelieving acquaintances to share the gospel with. I mean, I guess I know some people that Travis works with but wouldn’t that seem weird to call them up randomly to hang out? Even the woman I teach English to is Christian (or at least agrees with Christianity). I shared the gospel with her and it didn’t seem to be anything new.

I have been thinking about the different activities/clubs I could get involved in to meet some unbelievers. I’ve thought about playing softball with Travis’ work team. During the games isn’t the greatest time to get to know people (since you should be paying attention to flying balls and batting orders) but maybe before or after, there would be food and drinks involved and we could get to know each other? After Travis’ company Christmas party, we went over to one of his co-worker’s houses. I thought it might be the beginning of a friendship but we haven’t done anything since.

I know that I have to be more intentional. Expecting non-Christians to be intentional about forming relationships with other people is a little unrealistic, especially when even some Christians (like me) aren’t that good at it. I have even been meaning to ask some girls I work with or some girls in my care group out to coffee. When I was involved in CO, that kind of thing was routine. Going to coffee with a girl you barely knew wasn’t out of the norm. But now, it seems like it would be a little odd.

To be honest, the thing that it really comes down to is priorities. Evangelism isn’t my priority. It sounds like the sermon on Sunday talked about making evangelism a priority, which makes me interested to listen to it. I know that the Great Commission is right next to the Great Commandment in the Christian life. When we love God and are truly His followers, we will have a heart for the lost and be living our faith in such a way that people can’t help but notice the difference and that we can’t help but share.

I also know that the more I grow in my relationship with God, the more I’ll want to evangelize. But the reverse is also true–the more I evangelize, the more I will grow in my relationship with God. If I am really serious and passionate about an intimate relationship with God, evangelism will be part of my life. My Spirit wants to evangelize and share my faith–I was actually just praying about that this morning. But my fleshly desire for comfort is completely content with my life staying exactly how it is right now.

How to break out of my flesh in the evangelism area? I don’t want to do cold evangelism to people I’ll never see again and yet sometimes I feel like that is my only option if I want to share my faith at all.

Thankfully, in matters related to sanctification and evangelism and really everything about the Christian life, I don’t have to strive or worry. I can lift everything up to God and ask Him to mold me and shape me into a more Christ-like person every day.

My life is in your hands Lord. I trust that You will do what You deem best.