Just Tell Them the Gospel

Yesterday I told you about an opportunity to share the gospel with a coworker.  He immediately left the room after making the comment that opened the door, so I was not able to share with him.  However, another coworker was.  And the path of the conversation was relayed to me shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly, almost immediately, became about what is and is not a sin.

I wish I could say this was the first time I ever heard a conversation go this way.  Many times I have seen conversations which should have been about the gospel turn into conversations about morality.  Is drinking wrong? What is the line you cross that becomes lust? So-and-so is a hypocrite.  You can believe in God and not go to church.  I have heard all these things repeatedly.  Those conversations are not necessarily bad.  However, if they distract from the Gospel they are a tragedy.

The person with the spiritual questions will almost always begin to turn a conversation this way.  It is natural.  They do it because they associate Christianity and morality.  They think it is where the conversation should go.  Also, I believe it allows them to feel better about their spiritual condition.  If we are all sinners and we all fail, then a conversation about how we disagree about what even is a sin makes them feel as if they are in the same boat with the rest of humanity.  Misery loves company, confusion does as well.  There is comfort in the confusion I suppose.  The problem is, this does not address their problem. A discussion of this type gives them no answers.  A discussion of sin or hypocrisy with a person who is not a Christ-follower is completely unhelpful.

Imagine this conversation.

Cletus says, “How do you get to the grocery, Joe?” “Well, I’ll tell you.  I always take the first left.” Joe replies. Cletus interrupts, “Jimbo says that there’s a lot of ways to go.  He thinks that the second left is the best way” “C’mon Cletus.  You know Jimbo gets lost wherever he goes.  My way is better” “He might get lost a lot, but so do you.  What makes your way so much better?”

Hopefully you can see that this conversation is not going to help Cletus get to the store.  Ultimately it is going to leave him unsatisfied.  He may find the store, but not because of his conversation with Joe.

This is a [probably overly distracting and unclear] analogy designed to illustrate the futility of focusing on the wrong thing.  Whether or not Jimbo gets lost a lot does not matter.  The question was, how do you get to the store?  It was not answered.  The most important thing is to answer the question.

Why does this happen so often?  Two reasons. Number one I already shared.  Lost people do not know the problem, they have a notion that morality and the afterlife are connected. So morality discussions seem to be the natural path for them.  Also there is comfort in feeling like everyone is confused.

Number two is confusion on the part of Christians.  Talk to some people in your church.  I will bet that many of them cannot clearly articulate the gospel.  And worse, many of them have also confused Christianity and moralism.

Briefly, the message of the gospel is this: God made us for fellowship with Him, but we cannot be in fellowship with Him because we are sinners and He is holy.  Because of sin, we deserve death and hell.  But because God loves us and wants that fellowship He made a way to restore it and for us to avoid the consequences of our sin. What is that way? Jesus, who is God, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected.  In order for the gift of salvation to be effective you must, by faith, believe in this sacrifice on your behalf and ask Jesus to take control of your life.

That is the gospel message as briefly and clearly as I can state it.  You may notice that there is not one word about morality in that, other than to say that everyone sins and Jesus did not.  If I had been in the conversation with my coworker I guarantee he would have heard that message. Probably not that succinctly, but as clearly as I could make it while being sure that he understood.   I would have asked him if he had ever heard that message before, and if he had come to a place in his life where he had placed his faith in Christ.  I have no idea how he would have responded.  I only know that by allowing the conversation to become about morality the message of the gospel was lost.

If you are reading this and you think that the gospel is the same as moralism, go back and read that paragraph again, click through the scripture references.  There is nothing there about whether you can or cannot drink alcohol or how much money you give to the church or whether your neighbor kicks his dog or even whether you were baptized.  None of that. The gospel is about restoring sinners to fellowship with God.

When we have opportunities to share the gospel it is very important that we use them wisely.  With many people you may only get one opportunity.  GIVE THEM THE GOSPEL. Please don’t get sidetracked with moralism.

Opportunities to share

I am an ordained minister who has a secular job, so it is not unusual for coworkers who have spiritual questions to come to me.  But I learned years ago, long before I was a minster of the gospel, even before I considered going into the ministry, that if you are a Christian who lives out your Christianity, people will come to you with their spiritual questions. I also know that sometimes people have spiritual questions that they don’t really think are such.  Occasionally they think they are just making a joke about the afterlife or telling you about their debaucherous weekend or something like that.  However, it is necessary at all times for Christians to look for opportunities to share the gospel.  Those opportunities are more common than many people suspect, and there is nothing more important for that person than to hear the message.

Let me tell you about one of these opportunities

Recently a coworker made a joke about the weather that was much more than a joke.  His comment went something like this, “Wow it’s hot out there.  I better go to church Sunday.  If hell is supposed to be hotter than this I need to change my ways.”

For him this was a somewhat silly, throwaway comment.  He meant it as a joke - mostly.  But I know, and any believer knows, that there is more to a statement like that than pure jokiness.  It speaks to a knowledge built into all of us that we are incomplete.  A joke like this one is about much more than just the weather.  This is an opportunity to share the gospel.

I’d like for you to take a second and consider how you would have proceeded if presented with an opportunity to witness such as this.  What would you have said next?  Would you have at least recognized it as an opportunity to share the gospel?   Feel free to tell me in the comments how you would have responded.

He was literally walking out the door when he made this comment so I had no opportunity to reply, but the conversation continued with someone else.  I have another post about how this progressed planned for tomorrow.

By the way, if I had the opportunity I would have told him that I believe the Bible and that I actually do believe in hell and that it will be much more miserable than the weather right now.  I believe that this would have definitely led to an opportunity to share the gospel.

I will talk about that tomorrow.

The Drought is Over

I have written a couple of posts about how I recently have had the first year of my ministry (all in small churches) when none of my students came to Christ even though I have been faithful with the gospel.  Well, that drought is over.  Just thought I'd praise God here on my blog for that and say that He is always faithful. w00t!

Also, here's my current favorite song.  It's called "You Know My Name" by Detour 180 (I'd link to it on amazon but I live in NC and they canceled my associates account so I refuse to link there)



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.

Evangelism & Results

Note to all my non Southern Baptist readers: please don’t let all the big words in the first sentence keep you from reading further.

Three weeks ago I spent my days at an Intentionally Evangelistic Church Strategy seminar sponsored my local Baptist Association. In it, we focused on the need for our churches to be more intentionally evangelistic. In other words, we need to learn to make whatever we do as a church be focused on sharing the message of the gospel.

This seminar obviously got me thinking about my own witnessing habits and the effectiveness of my own ministry. I used to make this comment somewhat regularly:

“I always hear about all these churches that don’t baptize anybody and I can’t even imagine that. I’ve been in ministry since 1997, in nothing but small churches, and I’ve never gone a year without someone in my youth ministry being saved.”

It’s true. I have never gone a calendar year without anyone in my youth group getting saved.

So what brought about this post. No one in my youth group has come to Christ since July 2007. I have been blessed to lead two people through the sinner’s prayer in that same period, and I am thankful to God for that privilege. However, I consider it my main calling to work toward the spiritual growth of the students in my youth ministry. (There are some students who do not know Jesus there.) You can see why this is troubling for me.

I do share the gospel regularly, I do pray regularly for my students, and I understand that being faithful with the gospel is not equal to leading others to Christ. As they say we have to love fishing, not catching. I have this fear that students (not necessarily the ones in my ministry) do not think that being a believer matters, that, since it doesn’t affect the behavior of their [Christian?] friends, it’s not important to live differently from unbelievers. Therefore the message is compromised if not completely undercut. I do know this, the best thing that ever happened to me was asking Jesus to save me from my sins and be my Lord.

I’m not really sure why I wrote this post, maybe it should be a prayer request, maybe it is just me venting, or maybe it is time for some serious questioning the of way I do things. Sometimes I post things that I should probably keep to myself.

Ramblings about Youth Ministry and Other Stuff

363 days ago I wrote my first ever "blog post" it was on MySpace and not really meant fully for public consumption.  Now I have a real blog, several regular readers (literally tens of people every day) and the same motivation for posting.  First I present to you that old post

Youth ministry

I have been in youth ministry for almost 10 years now and there is no other job I could be happy doing.

Sometimes it is incredibly frustrating.  Students won't listen or they don't seem to care what you are teaching, or they refuse to do something very simple like bring their Bibles to church with them.

But other times are truly rewarding.  Today was one of those times.  This was youth Sunday at our church and that means that our youth lead in every part of the service.  They taught adult Sunday school classes, they filled the choir, they took up offering and prayed every public prayer.  Also today we watched a video of Brandon's [who has moved to Texas] Baptism, and Derrick  gave his testimony.

It was a wonderful experience and I am proud of all of them

Thank you to my youth group.

Yesterday was again youth Sunday but yesterday had a different feel than previous years.  Our students taught all the adult SS classes, filled the choir and, led the music, etc.  Normally our main speakers are the graduating seniors, but we had no graduating seniors, so I, as the youth minister, decided to be the main speaker.  My message was very simple.  I simply explained the gospel clearly and thoroughly.  In the past, youth Sunday has always, been about the students.  But as I shook hands with people as they were leaving I could not help but feel like it was different.  I felt that I somehow took away from the emphasis on the youth.  I am proud of them, they did an excellent job and deserve whatever credit they get.

Regarding my message, I have listened to it, and I am still convinced that I am not a preacher, nor am I likely to be one.  It was my first time ever in the pulpit since I began in the ministry, and it was not terrible.  I was clear, and people seemed interested.  (Only like 4 people had their eyes closed.)  Essentially I went slow and repeated myself often.  I have way too many uhmms and okays, to be a good public speaker.  I have included the message in this post if you want to listen to it, or you can download it here.  It's long, so carve yourself out a good chunk of time.