Apologetics for every day - the question

Last week I had an encounter with someone working in an office and on her desk was a sign that read "Karma is real."I have spent quite a bit of mental energy in the last week thinking how I could have best broached the gospel with this lady.  So I think I'll toss this question to you, my reader.  Tell me. What would you have said to begin the process of evangelism in this case?

Later  I'll tell you what approach I have decided on.

Great Commission ressurgence needed

I am frustrated as I write this, so the tone may not be what I am hoping for.  It may come across as a polemic rather than an illustration about the need for a great commission resurgence within the SBC. I’ll begin with some context.  Just over a year ago, the city of Fayetteville’s Dogwood festival passed a ban on all booths that promoted “religious or political views.”  Effectively this shut out all churches from the festival.

So last year the churches of greater Fayetteville made a big deal about not being allowed into the Dogwood festival.  We even held a political action rally.  This rally did not exclusively address the Dogwood Festival, but that decision was the impetus for the rally.

In response to the outrage, the board, rightly in my opinion, reversed the decision.

Political action working, right?  Yep.  We got the desired result, churches are now allowed at the festival.

Obviously then, this year, there were many churches there representing Christ, giving out free water (rather than selling beer) and telling people the life changing message that Jesus saves.  Right?  Wrong.

Three churches participated. They include, the largest church in town, a small Presbyterian church (PCA), and one church that was apparently fundraising.

There are 100 churches in the Baptist association which encompasses Fayetteville.  Many of these churches were represented at the political action rally last year.  Now let’s do the math, 100 churches in the association, zero churches participate in the festival after they hear our voice and change their policy.  That number, again, was zero.  Now, to be fair, not all 100 were at the rally, but many were.

Here’s the question; does that make us look inept, or hypocritical, or like we only want to cause trouble?  I’m afraid it sends the message that we have no time to witness because we are too busy complaining about people who will not let us witness.

To me it definitely says that we are not nearly as concerned about the gospel as we pretend to be.

By the way, my church was at the rally but not at the festival, so I am not merely casting stones.  Actually I want someone to tell me why I'm wrong to think this way.  I believe in political action, I’m glad the board reversed its decision, and I don’t expect every church in Fayetteville to be there.  I do, however, believe that we put way too much energy into fixing social issues and not nearly as much effort into spreading the gospel, even though it is the greatest message that could ever be told.

I believe that this is the perfect example of the need for a great commission resurgence. We need to have churches that focus on what's really important, the gospel.  It seems that we are currently out of whack.

(BTW - I really wanted to post this comic here because it is funny and goes with the last line.  But usage rights cost $25, which is ridiculous whenever you can just follow this link and see it for free.)


Tomorrow I have a post coming that is a followup to what I think is the best post I've ever written.   Essentially I am interacting with that post and a recent news headline from my local paper. If you would like to read that post, here it is.  Today, however, I will simply outline my argument from that post.  Let me know if you agree or disagree, but think on it, because I really want the opinions of my readers tomorrow.

The argument I am articulating goes like this:

-  Christians often say, "We have all these problems because Christians have been silent for too long." I have never heard this statement questioned.

-  What people mean when they say this is that Christians don't make their voice heard on social issues facing our country.

-  I say - we do make our voice heard, and we do it very well.  Every American knows the predominant evangelical view of nearly every social issue.

-  I say - this does not fix the problem because it is only treating the symptoms.  It's as if the doctor diagnosed you with Swine Flu but only gave you aspirin to get rid of the aches and pains.

-  I say - we have been silent too long...with the gospel message.  If people's hearts are changed, their political views will change.  Otherwise, lost people will behave like lost people.

Tomorrow I plan to demonstrate my point with a recent headline from our local paper and some context.

Yet another post about the SBC's declining numbers

This is the fourth and final in this series of posts all on the same topic - the bad news that came to Southern Baptists last week. I am a Southern Baptist who is proud of my denomination.  I am proud of our stance on scripture and our history as the only denomination to come back from liberalism.  (Just think how far our decline would be if we had progressed in denying the Scriptures.)  I actually enjoy the convention itself.  The business and the preaching is enjoyable to me. I want to see the convention grow, but I only have control over one Southern Baptist - myself.  Likewise, I only have influence in one Southern Baptist Church - LaGrange Park.

So today I am sharing with you a portion of my newsletter article I wrote for May 2009.

Last May I reported to you that the Southern Baptist Convention baptized fewer people for the third straight year, that number is now 4 straight years and for the second year in a row we saw a decline in overall membership.  I would like to offer you a challenge.  Let's not let LaGrange Park be a part of this trend. We are already well on our way to baptizing more people than we did last year, but it will still be a difficult task.  We can, however, accomplish this goal, which is certainly God's will, if we make sharing our faith with our friends, coworkers, schoolmates and family a priority.

This is my prayer:

Father, would you give our church a burning desire to share our faith?  Convict us of the need to live differently from the world (Rom 12:2), to tell others why we have the hope that we have (1 Pet 3:15), and to be winsome and encouraging to the lost world around us.  Burden us the way you burdened Jeremiah (Jer 20:9) because we know that there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11) Thank you for the gift that is salvation, and let us not take it for granted.

What I will do in light of the SBC's declining numbers

Yesterday I put together a list of things I would not do in light of the declining numbers in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Today, a list of things I will do. I will witness

I will be faithful those whom God has given me to minister to

I will be proud of my convention

I will affirm the Baptist Faith and Message

I will be a proud signatory to the Great Commission Resurgence statement

I will realize that my message is being pushed further into the fringes of society

I will be willing to speak the truth in love even if it hurts a bit

I will be willing to speak the truth in love even if it hurts a lot

I will attend the SBC as long as my church allows and I can afford it (anybody need to share a hotel in Louisville?)

I will pray before I vote for convention leadership rather than simply voting for the pastor from the largest church

I will share my faith

I will honor those who helped bring the convention to where it is

I will continue believe that the Bible is true in all that it declares

I will pray for the convention leadership

I will listen to those who are wiser than me

I will remember that the gospel is not just about the afterlife but that it instantly makes life better

I will tell others about what Christ did for me

I will encourage other under-40s to participate in denominational life

I will encourage my state convention to pass as much money on to the SBC as possible

I will continue to support the CP

I will remember that God is in control

I will make the gospel central to my message

I don't have any plans to make any further comments beyond this list, but if you want something clarified just ask.  Also feel free to add to this list in the comments

More News That Bothers Me

Longtime readers of this blog will remember a post from last April 23rd called News That Bothers Me.  Everything I said in that post still applies to this year and I won't rehash it.  Just follow the link and read it again for a refresher.

Here is the bad news.  With the publishing of the newest ACP is is official, The Southern Baptist convention baptized fewer people for the fourth consecutive year, and for the second year in a row overall membership has declined.  This is very bad news and it really bothers me.  What follows is a bit of commentary on the subject.

I do not want to overanalyze the convention, but I do want to maybe diagnose it based on what I know.

I will begin with a bit of optimism.  I am very encouraged by the movement towards a great commission resurgence.  I suggest all Southern Baptists go to the website and read the resolution.  Sign it if you are so inclined.

Secondly I'll say this, I am sure that there are no churches that purposefully avoid evangelism.  Every SBC church I know anything about would say that evangelism is a key tenet of the faith; that evangelism is necessary.  I believe that what happens is that there are a lot of necessary functions of the church, and it is easy to get distracted by finances, politics, and internal issues so that we find ourselves dealing with these things rather than witnessing.

I also believe that most preaching is gospel preaching.  I believe that the message of hope in Christ rings from most SBC pulpits on any given Sunday.  Admittedly however, Churches have less impact within their communities than they once did.

Why then do I think the convention is declining?

I believe that, at the core, this problem is really a youth problem.  I am not just saying that because I am a youth minister.  What I mean is that there is a problem with the graying of congregations.  When a church has less youth and children it will baptize fewer people.  It's that simple.

Who do we blame for this graying of the church?  We certainly don't blame the children who cannot come to children's church when parents won't bring them.  Do we blame those young parents?  Maybe we blame the young parents' parents.  They obviously didn't instill in them the importance of passing on the faith to the next generation.  Maybe we blame the church and its old-fashionedness, or its out-of-touchness.  Maybe we blame the publishers of the hymn books.  Don't they know that hymns are too boring to be worthy of worshiping the 21st century God?  Maybe we blame all the hypocrites.  You people should be ashamed of yourselves. :-)

I said last week that I think a worldview problem is responsible, in large part, for the lack of evangelism.  People have accepted the idea that there can be no claim to religious truth.  Acceptance of this world view has lead to the graying of churches.  Why pass on what you believe about the world and salvation to come if it is no more true than whatever your children decide to believe?  When parents fail to teach their children about God they teach them that God doesn't matter.

Although the culture is shifting further from Christianity, one thing I'm sure of is that the basic problem is not a failure to relate to culture.  In fact I believe that we have just the opposite problem.  We are far too worldly and far too culture-driven.  Do you honestly think the people in the 50% of SBC churches that baptized no one in the last year would not be able to have a conversation about American Idol or CSI: Montpelier with their lost co-workers?  Look at the books on your shelves, or the DVDs you have.  Are they products of the out of touch church?  Not likely.  They are almost certainly products of the culture we live in.  And they almost certainly teach messages that you would disagree with.

Another thing I'm sure of is that the problem is not that the message of Christianity is irrelevant.  In fact, the message is inherently relevant.  There simply is nothing more important to the lives of people than the peace, hope and purpose that comes from knowing Christ. What was our President's campaign slogan?  One four-letter word - HOPE.  That message was incredible powerful and popular.  That fact should tell us something.  People are looking for hope.  Christianity, or rather, Christ offers real hope that won't fade.  Hope in the government is pointless and will ultimately fail, but the hope from our salvation is real.

Do I have any solutions for the depressing news at the beginning of this post?  The same ones I had last year.

Take this test.

  • Do I know somebody who doesn't know Jesus?
  • Do I know somebody who doesn't know Jesus that I haven't witnessed to?
  • Do I love this person?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are officially part of the reason for this news story. I have been deeply convicted lately that I don't witness enough. And I wanted to share.

BTW: If you are reading this and don't know Jesus please read here or here

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment.

Evangelism and Offense

This post is brought about by reading this.  This is not intended as an interaction with that post.  That post merely started the wheels turning in my mind. First, let me say that I believe the most important duty for a Christian is to evangelize, to make other Christians.  But this post is not even about that command or necessity.  This post is about answering the question, "What is the most loving thing to do?"  This answer would be the same whether you are a Christian or a Jehovah's Witness, or a Mormon or a Wiccan.

Now, to my point.

The fact is, if I deeply hold a belief that is so important as Christian faith, then I am obligated to share it with those whom I love.  I might add here that it is even more important than just life after death.  Faith in Christ and His sacrifice for my sins gives me peace and purpose in this life, as well as a certainty about my future in heaven.  If I knew where people could obtain a million dollars with no strings attached, I would certainly tell my loved ones how to do that.  Why?  Because I love them and it could make their lives better.

I don't really want to be the five millionth blog to post the Penn Jillette video, (click here to see it) but in fact Penn, an atheist, understands the necessity of evangelism better than many of the Christians I know.

Why is it that so many Christians don't share their faith?  I believe that it is a combination of things.  First, I think that many of us don't really think about the gift of salvation as we did when it was new.  Next, I think we don't live with urgency, understanding that life could be over for any of us very soon.  Finally, I think that many of us are so worldly that our thinking is warped.  Survey after survey shows that Christian church-goers deny the truths of the faith.  Not because they don't believe them, but because of the illogical notion that there is no such thing as religious truth.  This post is not about apologetics but I will say this.  If there is any such thing as truth at all, then there is religious truth.  (Everybody believes in truth and they certainly want a banker who believes in truth.)

Another symptom of this worldliness is that we are worried about offending people to whom we witness.  I understand their view, if there is no such thing as religious truth then how dare I hold my view as certain.  Again, I'll say this, if I'm not certain, then why bother?

After saying this let's look at my hypocrisy meter.  Do I get annoyed when the Mormons or Jehovah's witnesses come knocking at my door?  Sure, but I am not offended, and I always pray for them when they leave and I understand why they are there.  I believe that they have a message that is false and ultimately hopeless, but they believe it deeply and are right to share it.

Any religion worth having is worth sharing. Share Christ with someone this week.

Technology and the Church (part 1)

Yesterday I spoke at the NSRBA pastor's conference.  For years I have been attending that meeting, but I usually stay quiet.  Most of those men have been pastoring longer than I have been alive, so I often feel unqualified to contribute. I always thought that when I had something to contribute, I would.  Back in December I realized that I did have something to add to the conversation in that room, so I asked to speak. I taught on technology and the church.  It was very well received, and since it's already written, I thought I'd post about it here on my blog.  That concept works for Ed Stetzer, why not for me?

We'll begin with a video. You've probably seen it before, it's been posted on many a blog.


To me, largely a product of the information age, this video is a bit frightening.  But I think it illustrates the neeed for the church to embrace technology.  We are already losing ground in the culture wars, and without tech, soon we will find we are fighting a war on different terms.  (Mennonites and Amish likely live fulfilled lives and people admire them to some degree, but they are not evangelizing the world.)

What is Technology? It's hard to define, but I'd call it the use of engineering to interact with our world differently.  For almost everyone there is a certain era of technology beyond which they never advance.  Some folks never get beyond movable type, invented by Gutenberg.  (Though I'll admit, I've never heard anyone say, "Scrolls were good enough for Isaiah, they are good enough for me.") Some maybe never advance past the television.  Even though they are no longer made, some people may be stuck on the VCR even though the DVR is superior in every way.  And many preachers especially never got past the wireless phone.

Why does technology matter to the church? Well for one thing because it is changing the way the youngest generation interacts with the world.  According to neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, our brains are literally being rewired.  I think I can demonstrate the way technology has changed your life with just a short quiz.  When is the last time you memorized a phone number?  I literally only know one phone number today that I didn't know when I was 15 years old.  When you are searching for a Bible pasage, how often do you use a software or internet Bible instead of your concordance?  I wrote a blog post about this quite a long time ago I call the phenomenon, the death of remembering stuff.

If it's afecting me, in my 30s, what about the millennial generation?

Is the digital divide equal to the generation gap? What I am asking in this question is; is the inability for one generation to relate to other generatons caused by, or even equal to, the differences in the way we use technology.  Barna published a recent study that highlights the digital divide and the generation gap.  The younger you are, the more central tech is to your life.  The moral of the study is that the digital divide doesn't cause the generation gap, but it highlights it.

Is the technological takeover wrong? In short I would say that the technology is morally neutral.  Surely there is a moral component to the utter dependance upon tech to communicate and function, but the technology itself is neutral.

Can't we just call the younger generations stupid and get on with our lives? Certainly you can, but you might as well be telling them to go to hell.  Jesus died for kids who only know how to talk through a cell phone, just like he died for fogies who think putting hymn lyrics on a screen was thought up by Satan.

If you are of a certain generation and simply cannot understand the mind of millennials, maybe you should view them as a people group to be reached.

Tomorrow in part two, I will address some specific ways your church can use technology.

News That Bothers Me

I saw this news story today:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., 4/23/08 -- The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denomination’s lowest level since 1987. Although the SBC added 473 new churches and gave more than $1.3 billion to support mission activities around the world, there’s no escaping the disappointing fact that Southern Baptists are not reaching as many people for Christ as they once did, according to Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, which gathered the information on the denomination’s behalf…Read the rest of this press release here.

I don’t know if I have anything interesting to say on this subject and I’m sure I have nothing new to say. But I do want to get some thoughts out there. And thank you for reading.

I love the Southern Baptist Convention. I love my church. And when I see news like this I want to cry.

I know that the SBC is not equal to the church. And I know that Jesus didn't say, "Upon this rock I will build my denomination." I also know that there are many good churches of other stripes, but this feels like a kick in the teeth. I’ll restate it. The churches of the SBC baptized fewer people for the third straight year.

Without getting into why I am a Southern Baptist or analyzing lots of potential problems (others will do a great job of that), here is what I see. The tragedy is that we are officially now losing the war for souls. More church members are reaching less people. Which means, simply put, more people will die and spend forever in hell.

I also know that the problem cannot be fixed on a national level or with better leaders. Nobody could do a better job calling for revival in evangelism than Frank Page or Bobby Welch. It must be fixed by individual Christians. Take this test.

  • Do I know somebody who doesn’t know Jesus?
  • Do I know somebody who doesn’t know Jesus that I haven’t witnessed to?
  • Do I love this person?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are officially part of the reason for this news story. I have been deeply convicted lately that I don’t witness enough. And I wanted to share.

BTW: If you are reading this and don’t know Jesus please read here or here

Feel free to comment.