When telling someone else about your faith, what do you think is most important? A clear, concise presentation of the Gospel? Good theology? Answers to all their questions? An exciting testimony?
No question, all those are important. As the church, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure we can explain the Good News in a way a non-Christian can understand. We have tracts, websites, and billboards. Churches and neighborhood Bible studies describe themselves as seeker-friendly. We take classes in evangelism, learn the “Roman Road” verses and memorize John 3:16. Fans hold up signs at ball games and players tattoo Scripture on their arms, crediting God with every win.
With all the witnessing going on, you’d think the church would be growing by leaps and bounds—but it isn’t, at least here in the U.S. Why not? Could it be that we’re going about evangelism all wrong?
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
I think about that verse often… what about “those who have never heard”? How did God clearly show his power and divine nature? Yes, we often say that the beauty of nature, as seen in a sunset or a baby’s first cry, is ample evidence of the existence of God. Is that what this verse means?
Then I read Eternity in Their Hearts, by Don Richardson*. I realized that God didn’t stop with showing himself in his creation. He placed a part of himself in every people group on earth. It’s up to us to discover where the gospel hides in every culture. It’s absolutely amazing, the “coincidences” that missionaries find on the field. That’s what this book is about.
One of the blogs I follow is SkyeBox, written by Skye Jethani. All his posts are insightful and worth reading (or listening to). This one is even better than that!
He recently posted:
Last month I spoke at the Lumen conference at Mariners Church in California. They asked me to talk for 18 minutes about why there is an exodus of young people from our churches. Rather than focusing on the sociological data, I used my time to talk about how the way we understand the gospel may actually be inoculating young people to genuine faith.
When the church presents a less than biblical understanding of how to relate to God, it leaves young people with a powerless form of Christianity predicated on fear and control. When this way of life proves ineffective, they may abandon both their faith in Christ and the church. So, our first job is to get the gospel right. Check out my talk and the brief Q&A afterward. Much of the content you see is based on my book, WITH.
His talk was so good, so right on, so insightful, that I am hoping everyone will listen.
I’ll be back next Tuesday with some thoughts about good deeds and orphans.
Our church just announced this year’s Christmas Eve “Experience.” It will truly be an event, with an official title (for promotional purposes, I assume), a huge cast, handcrafted costumes, well-built scenery, lights, carols—even ice skating!—plus a reenactment of the nativity and a candlelight service. Thousands of people will come to each of the three performances, and I’m sure they’ll be impressed.
The church we attended when our kids were young was much smaller—350 people instead of 10,000. There was no way we were going to compete with the huge productions of much larger churches. Instead, our Christmas program was pretty much the complete opposite.
I’ve been commenting on an article by Shane Bennett that appeared several years ago in Missions Catalyst.
In his two-part post on Top Ten Myths about Missions , Bennett explained:
I want to understand how the average Lou and Sue, sitting in the pew, think about missions stuff. … From what I’ve seen there are some serious misconceptions floating around in our churches, at least some of our churches. We could call these collective assumptions, beliefs that simply don’t reflect reality, “myths.”
If you want to read all ten myths now, check out the article online. You can see my other articles on this topic by choosing God:World under “Categories” on the right-hand column of my blog page.
You may have noticed my new little widget on the sidebar here. It shows a photo of an “Unreached People of the Day” along with a few facts to inform your prayers. If you click on the photo, the link takes you to the Joshua Project website, where you can learn more. Joshua Project is a ministry that seeks to highlight the ethnic peoples of the world with the fewest followers of Jesus.
When Pete and I talk about missions, we are often asked about the phrase unreached peoples. “What do you mean, unreached? My neighbor here is unreached. He never goes to church. I don’t need to go anywhere—there are plenty of unreached people right here in my city.”
This type of confusion is what happens when mission researchers (who can be rather geeky at times) interact with the general public.