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22 March 2008

"If they could hear my pastor..."

A while back while we were talking over coffee, blogger Preston put into words one of the situations that really bothers me about what seems to be the state of many church members these days. I don't attribute this to him in order to absolve myself of anything, because I agree with what he said (and I'm jealous because he verbalized it first).

He noted that most of those in our church fellowships are not only content, but feel like they've done their duty and maybe even "witnessed," when they invite someone to come to services at their church. The statement was something like this: "If I can get this person to come to church, then they can hear my pastor and they'll get saved."

Now, each situation is different, and sometimes simply inviting someone to church is exactly what is called for. I wonder, though, if people seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in ascertaining whether or not this type of invitation is called for, or if a more "aggressive" approach is correct.

There are at least two underlying points here.

First, it is imperative that we know why we believe what we believe, and sometimes even what we believe in the first place. A lack of understanding of the Scriptures will obviously undercut any believer's desire and ability to tell people about Christ. Many people have a general knowledge 1) that Jesus Christ died for their sins and that He rose again on the third day, 2) that they are going to heaven, and 3) that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth -- and that's where the depth of their understanding of theology ends.

Personal daily reading and study of the Scriptures is not reserved for the pastoral staff or deacons in a church fellowship. Rather, it is the privilege and responsibility of every single Christ-follower in the world.

Second, the field that is ripe unto harvest is nearly always sitting right under our proverbial noses. With whom do you interact during the day at work, at school, at home, and at play? Do those people know without a doubt that there is something different about you? Have you been waiting for just the right moment to tell them about Christ, and if so, are you waiting as a result of insecurity or fear of rejection, or are you waiting because the Holy Spirit has told you to wait? Worse, are you waiting until you think they forget about a rash thing you said, a dishonest thing you did, or the off-color joke or WMV file you e-mailed them last week?

Whenever I write about things like today's topic, I want you to be aware I am not pointing a finger at anyone without pointing it at myself first and examining these things in my own life.

Be encouraged! If you read this and it hits home, don't look backward; look forward! Ask God to give you the desire to dig far deeper into His Word and into your relationship and time with Him, and for the boldness and conviction to live what you believe and to tell others about it.

Then go about doing it.


Christy said...

The thing I struggle with in my own little world of stay-at-home, homeschool mom, is that I don't have people I work with or go to school with that aren't already born-again Christians! The only people I come into contact with that probably are not saved, are cashiers and other sales people, and occasionally my neighbors. I pray consistently for God to give me the words to say to someone when He wants me to, and sometimes I distribute cards (not tracts) that have an encouraging verse of Scripture and a great artists' rendition of Jesus holding up a man who is collapsing. I say something like, "I wanted to leave this card with you. I keep one with me at all times for those days when I need extra encouragement. I hope it does the same for you". I know it's not a lot, but I pray it's a seed at least. The neighbor thing has been a huge burden/conviction to me and it's a struggle! I know those of you who know me won't believe this, but I am pretty shy at times and it's hard me for to reach out to people. There are times, however, like when I help interview families for our homeschool cover, when God gives me boldness to witness. This was especially true immediately after my mom died, because I realized how short life really is and how we just are not promised tomorrow!

Preston N said...

(Dean - let me apologize for "blog jacking" your post here - but I felt I had to add my nickel's worth)

Given it's that time of year where we as Christ-followers commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that I would like to add to Dean's challenge. As Paul clearly states in 1st Corinthians he preached nothing but "Christ crucified". Certainly the atoning death of Jesus Christ is the central to understanding the gospel. In a day and age where everyone claims to be a Christian (over 80% in the USA alone), I have come to discover a way by which to really tell if someone truly knows and understands the central tenets of our faith - and that is the atonement. Want to see if someone truly knows and understands the gospel, ask them a simple question - have them explain the atonement to you.

Let me be very clear that this question is not to be in any way judgmental or to say your required to be some theological scholar. But is it really too much to ask for someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus to know and understand the gospel message - at least to the extent of being able to simply explain why they believe his death is not only necessary, but central to the gospel message? Sadly, when I do ask this question I usually get the same pat answers or coined phrases as "Oh Jesus took my place on the cross" or "Jesus paid for my sins" - these of course are the answers many Christians are taught to say or are mimicking what their pastors says. However, the real issue here is so many non-believers hear these pat responses and so often walk away utterly confused or even more bewildered at what's the real purpose of the cross. Many non-Christians are so confused at these type of statements - on one hand they are told God forgives people of their sins, and then on the other hand they are told God had to be "paid off" in order to forgive - which by the way is not really forgiveness. Here are some general questions most non-believers have about the cross, but yet we as believers fail so often to answer:

Why couldn’t God just forgive us without the cross? Why did Jesus have to die, could there be another way? What effect does the crucifixion have on us/God? Why did there have to be so much suffering/brutality? Why is there no forgiveness without the shedding of blood? Was atonement necessary because God was angry? Did God redirect this anger to Jesus? Are our sins paid for? Are our sins forgiven? Was God willing to forgive before the Atonement? What exactly about the blood is so “precious”?

My challenge to EVERY Christian today is just as Peter told Christians 2000 years ago in 1 Peter 3:15 "but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear"

If you can't answers these questions, then seek first to understand for yourself the need and intent of the cross. These questions should never be shrugged off as insignificant or irrational, but rather these are genuine questions that a dying world desperately needs to hear and understand.

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