Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

There really isn’t much to comment upon in Bruce Gerencser’s 9th post in his My Journey series. This post is entitled I Can’t Believe Bruce Doesn’t Believe.  The following statement caught my attention:

“When it comes to Christianity the less you know the better. Just believe. Don’t question anything. Just have faith. Don’t doubt. Doubt is Satan’s way of leading people astray.”

I disagree.

Oh, I agree that doubt is Satan’s way of leading people astray. That goes without saying. One of the very first sentences he utters in the Scriptures is “Did God really say?” He followed that up by denying God’s Word entirely and casting God as the villain. So, yeah, I’d say that he uses doubt to lead people away from the faith.

Furthermore, statistical research suggests that doubt is at the root of the reason why many our churched youth quit church. Summarized in the book, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church & What You Can Do To Stop It, this research reveals that while 95% of our kids attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years, only 55% were still attending during high school. This means that about 40% of the kids in our churches are already gone before high school. Their decision to abandon the faith correlates with the educational level at which they first began to doubt the history of the Bible. In fact, of those who no longer believe that all of the accounts and stories in the Bible are true, 39.8% first had doubts in middle school, an additional 43.7% first had their doubts in high school, while a mere 10.6% had their first doubts during college. About 90% of those kids went to public school. And guess what they start teaching hot and heavy in middle school? Evolution and millions of years – the latter being the key issue here. After being presented with an uncritical, one-sided account of the all-natural origins of the universe [and, in many cases, being told that this all-natural origins account of millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution is compatible with the biblical account of supernatural creation], these kids began to doubt the authority and veracity of the Bible.

So to state the painfully obvious, doubt leads to apostasy. This is pretty much a no-brainer, but what kind of doubt? Almost all Christians have moments of doubt, but this does not guarantee they will leave the faith. So what kind of doubt leads to apostasy?

Unanswered doubt, the kind of doubt that cannot seem to find a satisfactory answer.

Which is why I disagree with the notion that when it comes to Christianity, the less you know the better. I personally think that Christianity can stand up to anyone’s questions. Once I began subjecting it to scrutiny after my long absence from the church scene, after I had shed the credulous husk of my youth and begun to truly think for myself, I could find no objection that did not have a reasonable answer. Ours has always been a reasonable faith supported by weight of argument and evidence. In my experience, those who have little knowledge of apologetics or how to defend their faith are most prone to leave over doubts. There are also those who suppose that the Bible will always provide absolute, unassailable answers. Yet if we are to approach God by faith, not pure deduction, we might expect reasonable answers but not always definitive answers – else the requirement of faith would be made moot by the surety of knowledge.

This is not to say we should not expect reasonable answers. There are always reasonable answers, if we are willing to give Christianity the benefit of the doubt. For example, later in his post, Bruce laments:

“In my previous life I thought I had reached the end of the journey. I was waiting for the big payday in the sky. Now life is an unscripted, yet to be written journey. It remains to be seen where I’ll end up.

Bruce, aren’t you afraid of hell? No, I am not. I think the only hell there is is on this earth. Hell is caused by the machinations of wicked human beings and not devils, demons, or gods.

I see no evidence for a “He has a wonderful plan for your life” God. I refuse to embrace a god who thinks a wonderful plan includes suffering, devastation, pain, and death. I much prefer the “sh*t happens” approach to life. I can embrace and live with such a view of life. Life happens whether I am ready for it or not. There is no god pulling the divine strings of my life.”

I must first note that I disagree entirely with his assessment. If he supposed he had reached the end of his journey as a Christian and was simply waiting for his pie-in-the-sky, he missed a crucial element of authentic Christianity. You see, Jesus declared that He came to give us abundant life. This life we live isn’t meant to be cloistered. It’s meant to be shared. We are meant to love and disciple others and the journey is a great adventure all its own. If he supposed that he had somehow arrived, what did he make of Paul’s declaration that he never counted himself to have arrived, but rather, forgetting the past [including past achievements and failures], he pressed on for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?

Yet this false sense of having arrived, simply because one has made a declaration of faith, been baptized and begun attending church is pervasive through church culture. We are called to make disciples of the world, yet according to Barna Research, the majority of Christians go throughout their entire lives without ever having led even one person to Christ! Do we suppose there is a section in heaven for the Scorched Yet Scarcely Saved? Have we not read the parable of the talents and the warning regarding the fellow who came to his Lord empty handed? What unprofitable servants we have become! And these same Christians look to churchified motivational speakers like Joel Osteen in search of the abundant life that only comes in fulfilling your calling to be a disciple and to make disciples!

I digress.

Note that Bruce laments he cannot bring himself to “embrace a god who thinks a wonderful plan includes suffering, devastation, pain, and death.” The question of a loving, omnipotent God and the existence of suffering has often been considered. Skeptics consider it a pretty good objection to the existence of the Biblical God. Theologians have offered varying answers, many of which I agree with, some of which I do not. The average guy in the pew supposes that we’ll discover the answer to this apparent paradox when we get to heaven.

I submit that the most reasonable answer has already been provided in the very first book of the Bible. We’ve already alluded to it. The Bible says that God created everything in six normal calendar days and then when He finished He declared His creation “very good.”

Of course, a lot of Christians have abandoned the history of Genesis, supposing that the all-natural origins story of millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution must be true instead. As Christians, they still cannot get over the undeniable fact that the Bible teaches that God is the Creator of all things, but if they suppose that God used evolution – a process of death, suffering, mutation and, according to uniformitarian geology, several mass extinctions – they are essentially painting God out to be an ogre, for what sort of God calls such a world of death and suffering “very good?”

The Bible paints a different picture of the Creator. While God’s original creation was very good, man rebelled against Him in the Garden. Since man had been given dominion over all creation, as a kingdom suffers for the bad decisions of its king, all creation fell under the curse, the punishment for his sin. The Bible teaches that death, suffering and thorns entered the world by Adam’s sin. The world was very good, but now there’s something wrong with the world. As a result of Adam’s sin, thorns, predation, natural disasters, death, suffering and all manner of evils entered the world.

Yet the worst evil in the world dwelt in man’s heart. The world’s first murder was committed within the first generation. To use Bruce’s turn of phrase, the evil machinations of man’s heart made a hell of earth. Seeing that the intent of man’s heart was only continually evil, God sent a worldwide flood to destroy all that drew breath on land, assuring the destruction of every man, except Noah and his family who found grace in God’s sight. Noah and those aboard the Ark were spared, but the flood destroyed everything else.

Biblical Creationists believe that the fossil record is largely a record of the judgment of God on a fallen world. While the world contains much beauty and evidences the power, glory and existence of God, what remains is a fallen world scarred by the effects of the Genesis Flood.

Those who compromise the clear teachings of God’s Word regarding Creation, the Fall and the Flood mean well; they simply want to remove any impediments to acceptance of the Gospel in a scientific age. Yet the imposition of the ideas of millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution have some undeniable conclusions for our theology: God has used death, mutation, pain and suffering to bring about His Will; the unexplainable existence of pain and suffering makes Him a somewhat detached, possibly ogrish deity; He cares more about the Big Picture than the little details or the process in that He created man via microbes-to-man evolution. This is where Bruce gets the idea that God does not concern Himself with our personal day-to-day lives; that there is no plan for our lives. Yet most Christians would object to these observations by appealing to supernatural revelation over natural revelation. We would note that God originally created the world perfect but that death, pain and suffering entered the world by man’s sin and that Nature reveals the glory, power and existence of God but it no longer reveals His nature and character as the original state [and promised future state] of creation does; that God is good and a rewarder them that diligently seek Him; and that He cares enough about the small details of creation to note the number of our hairs and when each sparrow falls. In doing this, we appeal to the superior [ultimate] revelation of Scripture over any philosophy or idea of fallible man, which is what those who compromised Genesis with millions of years and/or evolution should have done instead. You see, only in a literal historical Genesis do we have an answer for death and suffering in this world, much less hope for an ultimate remedy to this problem. Only in a literal historical Genesis do we have reason to expect the loving God who rewards them that diligently seek Him as painted elsewhere in the Bible. And the picture the Bible paints does provide a reasonable answer for the existence of both a loving, omniscient God and a world filled with suffering, violence and death; just as it promises that creation will one day be restored to its original “very good” state.

Be ready at all times to give an apologia [reasoned defense] for the hope that is in you,

Tony Breeden

 

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Bruce Gerencser’s 8th post in his My Journey series, I Love and Respect Your Position, is something of an open taunt of those who love him enough to try to win him to Christ. In short, he doubts their sincerity. He began the lament in his previous post:

“I am convinced that most Evangelicals and Fundamentalists can not truly be a friend to someone like me. The urge to evangelize, witness, convert, call to repentance is just too great…”

In this post, he objects to the concept that a true Christian could respect his position:

“If you are a Christian, I mean a card –carrying member of the Jesus band you should find my views abhorrent, loathsome,and damnable.

I know you are my friend.

I know you have become adept at separating the man from his message.

I appreciate the fact that people make an attempt to love me where I am, how I am.

But I wonder…

Do they really love me for being me or is their love a means to an end?”

It’s an interesting objection. Once again, he presumes that true love or friendship will abandon its Christian beliefs that their apostate friend will go to hell if he does not repent. He asks for apathy concerning his eternal fate, quite the antithesis of love or friendship.

Would love let a man choose hell if he could convince his friend otherwise? Would not friendship make the attempt to win his soul? What makes Bruce suppose that this concern is a pretense for evangelism, rather than evangelism being the inevitable response of Christian love? Was he this shallow as a professing Christian? Was his love for unsaved loved ones as disingenuous as he proposes everyone else’s must be?

He continues:

“Perhaps you operate under the delusion that if you just love me as you know Jesus loves me that I will return to the Christian faith and the universe, your universe will be in balance once again.

You hold on, hoping that the hounds of heaven chase me down and return me to Kingdom of God.”

If the claims of Christianity are true, could love hope for anything else but his true conversion? Could a friend do ought else but hope that the love of Christ demonstrated toward the unsaved would draw them to Himself?

He then insists that:

“You don’t really love and respect my position.

How can you?

I stand in opposition to much of what you believe in.”

My answer is painfully simple. Yes, he stands in opposition to [dare I say, in adamant defiance of!] much of what I believe in, but I really do respect his position… because I’ve been there. When I say that much of Bruce’s journey resonates with my own, I’m not kidding. If anything, it’s understatement.

Yet I found I had never truly known Christ. I had known about him and been fully engaged in church culture, but never truly known my Lord. Yet now that I know Him, I cannot but speak of Him. The love of Christ constrains me, so that any expression of that love must ultimately compel me to tell others about Him, to warn them of their plight and tell them of His great love and sacrifice for them.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:10-15

Love will not stand by while you douse yourself in gasoline and strike a match. Unfortunately, this is the level of “acceptance” Bruce is asking of his Christian friends. Perhaps he should be more honest: it is he who cannot be friends with a true Christian, for he knows they must try to convince him of his error if they are truly his friend.

This brings up an interesting, but very important point. If we are to emulate Him who was called the Friend of Sinners, we must realize that the friendship will take much more effort on our part than on the part of the lost. For starters, we must tell them the Gospel if we love them.

I know that some folks will object that they don’t wish to wreck the friendship and that their unsaved friends get upset when they broach the Gospel. In all honesty, I get upset when someone broaches the subject of sports, but I will endure a friend’s fanaticism on the subject. I’ve gone to ball games and familiarized myself with the topic of my friend’s passion because a man who wishes to be friends must be friendly. Friendship is anything but selfish. Since my friend knows of my general opinion of sports, he does not go out of his way to discuss it, but neither does he deny himself. If we are passionate about Christ, He will come up in normal conversation from time to time.

As loathe as I am to mention it, I must also note that eternal separation from our friend will most certainly wreck the friendship! And we must tell them the Gospel as God gives us opportunity; merely living a Christian life, though it can be a witness of our authenticity, might also give our friend the mistaken idea that all is required to enter heaven is to live a good life! We must tell them the reason for all of it!

Friendship demands no less.

God bless you in your friendships,

Rev Tony Breeden

In Bruce Gerencser’s 7th post in his My Journey series, What Should We Do About Bruce?, he makes the following criticism:

“Their Christianity has no place for the world. It has no place for those who are not just like them. Their world is a narrow, homogenous world. They make forays into the world to evangelize, do what business is necessary and to earn a living. The rest of their time is spent within the safe walls of the Christian home and Church.”

I bring this up because we’ve also been looking at Barna.org’s Six Reasons Why Young Christians Leave Church.  Reason #1 on that list is “Churches seem overprotective,” and under that heading is found the following comment:

Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%)…”

The basic charge here is one of irrelevance.

This is just sad, because while we are charged to fulfill the Great Commission to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, we are also charged with good works.

Consider the following Bible verses concerning good works:

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to
keep himself unspotted from the world

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Peter 2:15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

1 Peter 3:15 [K]eeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

When you look at these verses, you begin to get a picture of the importance of good works in a Christian’s life. While we are not saved by good works, good works are an evidence of a transformed life and the mark of true religion. We were saved for the purpose of good works that glorify God, point men to Him and put scorners to silence even when they disagree with us. Is this the Christianity we see today in USAmerica?

Is this the Christianity we see reflected in you? What good works are evidenced in your life and how do they glorify God? Do people think of you as good people, good at argument, or good for nothing?  Do they see you as holier-than-thou and self-righteous, or someone who truly loves and cares for folk?

The thing is we have to earn the right to be heard in many cases; especially in those cases where folks have been burned by the church.

Let me give you an example from my own life. When I was living as an agnostic who regularly blasphemed God in song, I was asked on many occasions to join the ranks of atheism. Surely having been exposed to the hypocrisy of the church, I could boldly say that God did not exist, they reminded me. Yet in my case, I was fully aware of two imperfect people who were Christians, who truly cared about me and were not hypocrites: my parents. Furthermore, my father was so down-to-earth that I could not fathom why he would believe in God unless he was convinced it was reasonable and useful. I watched them as they served God, did good works and, yes, stumbled and fell. Each time they messed up, they confessed their fault, made amends and moved on. Their good life and works and their testimony prevented me from becoming a full-fledged atheist – in essence, they gave me a reason to doubt my doubt about God and opened a door that made me receptive [if still highly suspicious] to hearing their take on things.

This is what Christians need to strive for. Like it or not, the perceived hypocrisy and irrelevance of the church is an impediment to the Gospel. In many cases, it is not just our silence that prevents the Gospel but the absence of any evidence of the Gospel in our lives!

Here’s a thought-provoking article I ran across with a list of 100 practical ways to love and serve others:

http://learnthis.ca/2010/02/100-ways-to-serve-others/

Can you imagine how this world would be turned upside-down if Christians actually began re-asserting the importance of good works in our lives?

I leave you with the words of G. K. Chesterton as a challenge:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried!”

God bless you, and may love constrain you to serve,

Tony Breeden