Evangelism through Who You Are versus What You Do

love_youContinued from here.

Many Christians choose not to engage in evangelism/talk about their faith because they don’t know how to do it. They fear that they don’t know the right words to say and that they will be unable to answer any questions that someone has. They view evangelism as something they must do, and they fear they will not do it well.

I have found that evangelism is less about what I do than about who I am – who God has molded me into. For example, before I lost my job in Corporate America, the company had laid off 3/4 of the employees in my division (all of whom did the same job that I did), and those of us remaining were concerned about whether another layoff was coming for the rest of us. One of my coworkers was very anxious about the uncertainty of the future of her job, but she noticed that I was calm about it and asked me why. I responded that while my provision was coming through the company, I trust God as my provider, and He is able to provide for me through another source if this one ends. While I was certainly not enjoying being in this precarious position, I was calmer than my colleagues were, and she noticed. She did not come to Christ during that conversation, nor did I ask or expect her to. Instead, this conversation planted a seed that having a relationship with Christ can help someone stay calm in a situation that was alarming to most people. That conversation came about because of who I have become in Christ, not because of anything I did.

As I have grown in my discipleship with Christ, God has transformed me from an anxious, bitter control freak into someone who is generally joyful, peaceful, and patient. People notice the difference without me having to say a word. As I am consistently kind to others, thankful rather than complaining, and calm rather than anxious, people are drawn to understanding why, and that’s the invitation to talk about my faith – not about what they need to do in their lives but about how much better my life is since I started walking with God. Even when I blow it (and I do blow it from time to time), I am quick to apologize, which further draws people into inquiring why I am different. God has powerfully used who I am (who He has transformed me into) to whet the appetites of those around me to investigate who God is.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peeking over a sign that says, “Love You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Evangelism: Invitation rather than Sales

how_you_feelingContinued from here.

I work for a Christian ministry that is based upon listening. Volunteers meet with the population we serve in small groups week after week, month after month, and year after year, and those being served choose the topics to be discussed each week. Those who attend the weekly meetings know we are a Christian ministry, and they are free to come to a meeting or not. At the meeting, they are free to talk about Jesus or not. Eventually, many of those being ministered to will raise the question, “Why do you visit with me week after week?” That’s the invitation for the Christian volunteer to talk about his or her faith. Numerous people have become Christians through this format, despite the absence of sales, pressure, or debate about the Christian faith.

In other words, this is a “fishing” ministry, not a “catching” ministry. Our volunteers continue to invest in those they serve whether or not they ever come to Christ because they are extending the same love and grace to those they serve that God extended to them. All is offered by invitation, which those we serve are free to accept or decline. Isn’t that the same invitation that God offers to all of us? He continues to woo us, even when we reject Him. In fact, Christ died for us while we were still sinners. God does not give us a “hard sell.” He does not debate us into agreeing with Him. He simply loves us, right where we are and exactly as we are. That love is what wooed me to God, and that’s the love that woos others to God as well … no Bible thumping required.

While I am not putting down other forms of evangelism, the sales tactic version of evangelism did not work for me, so I will not use it on other people. I share my faith through loving and investing in people, not because they deserve it but because God loves them. After all, I did not deserve it, but God still loved me, and He patiently loved me for many years while I pushed Him away. The invitation always stayed open, and I was eventually drawn by his love – not by logic, fear of hell, or any other sales pressure. My reconciliation with God was solely a response to His love.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting in a chair and asking, “How ya feelin’?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism: Go Fishing, Not Catching

fishingContinued from here.

There’s no question that Christians are commanded to share their faith with others. Jesus spelled this out clearly in the Great Commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matt. 28:19-20

This isn’t going to happen if the Church doesn’t talk about our faith with people who are not yet part of the Body of Christ. God loves everyone and wants to be reconciled with everyone. That’s what Jesus came to earth for: to reconcile as many people to God as possible. If we never talk about our faith outside of our church walls, with people who already have a relationship with God, how are people who do not yet know God going to be drawn to Him?

Joyce Meyer recently made a profound statement on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life. She was talking about a man who enjoyed fishing but whose children did not. He said the problem was that while he wanted to go fishing, the children wanted to go catching. In other words, the man enjoyed the process of using different baits to try to lure the fish to him, and the process was enjoyable to him whether or not he actually caught a fish. Conversely, the children simply wanted to catch fish – to bring in a large haul – and they were only going to enjoy the experience if they succeeded in this goal.

I think that some segments of the Church have made people feel pressured to “catch fish” rather than to “go fishing,” which is not what Jesus meant when he talked about fishing for people. Fishing for fish or for people involves using the right bait to lure them in … to invite them to join you … and few people are actually responsive to pressure, sales, or Bible thumping tactics. I believe this is at the heart of why so many Christians (including myself) are reluctant to engage in them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a boat fishing. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism: The “E” word

scaredFor this blog entry, I would like to talk about a topic that strikes fear in the hearts of most Christians: Evangelism. Just reading that word likely brought your blood pressure up, and you’re probably considering not reading any further, right? I get it – it’s not my favorite word, either.

In fact, if you want to clear a room of Christians quickly, just announce that the topic of evangelism will be discussed. For those who stay, notice the “deer in the headlights” expression on their faces. Heck, at my church, the Evangelism Committee recently changed its name (but not its function) simply to remove the barrier of having the word “evangelism” in the title. They are hoping that more people will consider becoming involved with their activities if what they are doing is packaged under another title.

Why does the word “evangelism” scare – or at least bother – most Christians? I believe it is because one form of evangelism, known in the vernacular as “Bible thumping,” is what most people believe that evangelism is. In many minds, to participate in evangelism means walking up to strangers and asking them if they know where they are going when they die … or getting into a debate with someone and “proving” that Jesus is the only way to God … or using used car salesman tactics to pressure other people into believing as you do. If that’s the perception of what evangelism is (and I fear that is the case), it’s no wonder evangelism has become the “E” word of Christianity that most of us seek to avoid at all costs!

I, myself, despise sales and pressure tactics in sharing my faith with others and refuse to use them. However, I regularly engage in evangelism … just not the stereotypical form of it. In this blog series, we’ll explore the topic of evangelism and broaden your perspective of what it means to share your faith with others.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking frightened and saying, “So Scare.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Turning from our Wicked Ways to Heal our Land

nopeContinued from here.

The final step needed to heal our land is to turn from our wicked ways – to repent. The Church has become so worldly that it is nearly indistinguishable from the culture around it in many ways. Sadly, many Christians only spend one hour a week with God as they attend worship services. What they learn in that one hour has little impact on their daily lives as they go about their week. Many are “closet Christians” whose daily behavior blends so well into the culture than their coworkers and associates would be surprised to learn that they are even Christian!

Jesus did not call us to receive just enough of his blood to avoid going to hell but to otherwise go live our lives however we see fit. He said that if we want to be his followers, we must stop living for ourselves and, instead, live for God:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34

Denying yourself brings us right back to where we started: the first requirement for God healing our land is humbling ourselves. Humbling ourselves involves turning from our wicked ways and, instead, living our lives as God tells us to live, which is all spelled out for us in the Bible. For example, as a Christian, you don’t get to stand around the water cooler judging Nikolas Cruz or Dimitrios Pagourtzis for shooting up schools. You need to be praying for both of them because the Bible tells us to do so. You don’t get to hate those in your own personal life who wrong you: you must forgive them. This is tough stuff, but that’s what it means to be a Christian. Either you are a disciple of Christ, or you are not. If you are, then you will turn from your wicked ways and live your life in the ways that God tells you to live. Only when the Body of Christ does this will God heal our land.

If we, as the Body of Christ, want to see these school shootings stop, we need to get serious about our faith. We need to do what God tells us to do: humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways. If God’s children will get serious about doing what He has told us to do, we can bring healing to our land and shine God’s light into this darkness that is permeating our schools.

[Graphic: Cartoon of of Grace running while saying, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Seeking God’s Face to Heal our Land

where_are_youContinued from here.

Sadly, many Christians regularly pray without seeking God’s face. How is this possible? Their prayer lives involve all talking and no listening. They bring their requests to God, like children bringing their toy requests to Santa Claus, but never take the next step of actually listening for a response from God. Despite the Bible being filled with stories of God talking to people, many Christians do not believe God will actually “talk back,” so they never take the time to listen for His still, small voice.

In one of her Bible studies, Priscilla Shirer asked a great question: “Why would Jesus die for you but then refuse to talk to you?” If you think about it, the Bible is one continuous story about man’s separation from God and God’s initiative in restoring that relationship. First, God communicated from afar, such as through a burning bush. Next, He lived among his people in a tent and later in a temple. Then, he came and lived among people through Jesus, and then after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He came to live inside us through the Holy Spirit. After all of that trouble, is He really going to refuse to talk to us?

God promises us that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. That’s the level of seeking that will heal our land. We must continue pursuing God until we find Him, refusing to settle for anything less. We seek Him through his Word and through our quiet time with Him. We tell Him that we will not stop seeking Him until we find Him, and we do this day after day, week after week, and month after month until God shows up. As someone who has been through this process, I assure you that God will show up, and when He does, it will profoundly change your life. If everyone in the Body of Christ would do this, it would also profoundly heal our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a telescope and asking, “Where are you?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Praying for God to Heal our Land

prayerContinued from here.

I hope that every Christian hearing the news about the latest school shooting is praying for God to intervene. This cannot be a one-time request, though. As the Body of Christ, we need to be persistent in our prayers like the persistent widow. We need to saturate our country in prayer, inviting God into every area of our country and culture.

I have been leading a statewide Christian prison ministry since October, and one of my primary focuses is saturating this ministry in prayer at every level. I pray earnestly for this ministry every morning in my quiet time, as is true of the leaders and many of the volunteers as well. In addition, the ministry has dedicated prayer warriors to cover the ministry as a whole in prayer as well as specific aspects of the ministry that need special attention. This is not a one-time request – we go before God again and again and again, seeking His wisdom, guidance, and provision.

This is the level of prayer that is needed if we want God to heal our land of these school shootings. As the Body of Christ, each of us individually needs to be praying for our country daily. In additional, we need to be covering specific schools in prayer, including their students and former students. We need to pray for all schools – private and public, those in different districts, and those in different states. We need to take this initiative seriously, saturating every aspect of our school system in prayer.

What might happen to our land if every local church selected one school to saturate with prayer daily? What impact might it have if every single school in the country was covered in prayer by one local church? How might your praying for a particular school day after day, month after month, and year after year affect your love for that school? Might you feel drawn to do more for that school? Might you feel drawn to mentor a student there – perhaps a quiet student who nobody notices? Might you carry the light of Christ into that school out of the love that grows in your heart by praying for that school daily? If the Body of Christ committed to covering every single school in America in prayer, this would go a long way toward healing our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying behind emoticon hands that are held in prayer. Courtesy Bitmoji.]