Are you a Christian? How about that person over there? They say they are—but are they really?
This question isn’t just an intellectual exercise—it has eternal significance. Will we see our beloved family member in Heaven? Should I believe that politician’s claim to faith?
A couple of weeks ago, in my post “Just Believe,” I stated,
I sadly suspect that many who claim the title “Christian” have merely given intellectual assent to the fact that God exists, and that Jesus lived, died, and lived again. They think they’ve got their “fire insurance” and that they’ve made peace with God, when in fact they don’t even know Him.
This begs the question—how do we tell the difference? Is it even possible for us to know whether or not a person has “accepted Jesus”?
Last month, I mentioned that I’m signed up to go on a mission trip to Swaziland, in southern Africa. I explained that our church has partnered with Swazi believers to create a care center in a country struggling to provide for tens of thousands of AIDS orphans. Rather than build orphanages and remove the children from their communities, the goal is to provide enough support for them and their caretakers to thrive. (You might want to re-read my post on this successful strategy.)
A third partner in this endeavor is a wonderful ministry called Children’s Hope Chest. Several years ago, I recommended a book written by the CEO of this organization, Tom Davis. Scared: a Novel on the Edge of the World puts forth in fictional form the true story of many African children. Read this book, and you’ll understand a major reason why I’m going on this trip.
Last month, I whined about discussed the dearth of churches that disciple believers to maturity and then keep them well fed on spiritual meat. It’s good to point out problems, but more helpful to put forward suggestions on how to fix those problems. So, what do we do when we’re hungry for more of God, and church is only offering Happy Meals?
Some friends of ours recently moved to northern Colorado and are in the process of looking for a church home. They want a church that focuses on God. That prays. That listens to His voice. That wants to go deep. They expect to serve. They expect to live out their faith in community. They expect miracles.
They want meat, and all they can find is milk.
Their disappointment makes me wonder: is the American church so focused on being seeker friendly that we ignore mature believers? And is that a problem? Should these seeker-friendly churches hang on to their members indefinitely? Or should they tell their members to move on to other, more “advanced” churches after a few years (as one church in South Korea does). Are there churches that offer spiritual meat?
Most Christians would agree that it is supremely important to win converts. We were rescued from hell, and it is imperative that we share what God has done for us so that others can be rescued too.
Likewise, most Christians would agree that evangelism is one of, if not the, hardest job they’ve ever faced. Just the thought of it causes our pulse to rise and our stomachs to churn.
I’ve struggled with the issue of evangelism for every one of the 39 years I’ve been a believer. Maybe I remember too well how disrespected I felt for all those years before I met Christ, when Christians tried all sorts of ways to convert me. I was misled, insulted, ridiculed, yelled at, argued with… and none of those things moved me one step closer to faith. In fact, they probably delayed my decision for several years.