Archive | Evangelism

How Jesus Would Act in a Homosexual Bar? or “How to Evangelize Homosexuals”

Christian-Homosexual

This is one of the most commonly asked questions that I get lately: How do I evangelize homosexuals? It is such a sensitive issue as there are so many passions involved and a growing variety of opinions. The volatility could not be greater and I could not be dumber for writing on this! Nevertheless, I am going to do my best to answer here.

I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.

Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.

I, personally, was pretty excited that she moved in there. Why? What a great place to live! It is filled with opportunity and excitement. It is filled with the possibility of having the power of the Holy Spirit work in a place that few in the church would dare to go.

Let me back up and ask the key question: How do we, as Christians, evangelize (give the Gospel to) homosexuals? Here we go . . .

If this family member were to ask me this question, this is what I would tell her:

First, what a great place you are living! What a great opportunity! But I think it would be best if we asked another question: what Jesus would have done in such a situation. Here are the steps I believe he would take:

First, he would go to the bar Continue Reading →

Part II: The Other Reason All Conversions are Not Equal

To “convert” someone, as most people use the word, means to get that person to change in some profound way, usually beginning with and centering on the person’s beliefs. Conversions, in this sense, are happening on a regular basis, some good and some not. This is the second part follow-up to my previous post on the subject of how not all conversions are equal. I argued that there are two main reasons for this. First, it makes all the difference what exactly is being embraced by the new “convert.” The actual substance of the message and worldview that will shape the convert’s thoughts and actions may be something true and good. But it may be a terrible deception that brings destruction to that person and others. If you want to read more about this, see the previous post.

The second reason not all conversions are equal has to do with the process by which a convert is won. If the first reason involves the message, the second involves the method. There’s more than one way to get someone to see things from your side.  Consider the tools you might employ to get people to profess what you want them to:  you could frighten, threaten or terrify them; you could brow-beat or manipulate them; you could lure them, bribe them, make them great promises; you could use subtle mind-games or clever tricks known to the best advertisers; if you have the power to do so, you might institute a program of heavy propaganda; you might make use of the potent pressure of peers or forces of pop culture; you could play to their emotions, toy with their feelings, confuse or bewilder them; if you want more assurance of success, maybe you could turn to the most direct empirical methods available – mind control, brain manipulation, the use of drugs.  The fact is that if the result is all that matters to you, and if any means will justify the end you seek, then any number of these methods might get the job done.

I’m sure you’re aware that everything listed in the previous paragraph has in fact been used to get people to think and do what other people wanted them to think and do. And the reason is simple.  It’s easier to use these kinds of tactics than it is to convince people by the legitimate method of making a good case. Advertisers and politicians know this all too well. Today’s world is image-driven, we’re told. Making a good impression is all that matters for a brand or politician. In fact, politicians running for office today are marketed as brands themselves. The goal is a good impression, creating a positive vibe that reverberates across social media and gets people to like the candidate, even if it’s only because his voice sounds authentic or he has caring eyes or some other shallow reason.

Our culture has shown that it can be swayed in record numbers and in a surprisingly short amount of time on major moral issues without thinking all that critically about them. Not long ago I heard an interview with a sociologist on NPR about the change in public opinion on gay marriage.  In an accent that was hard to nail down, he described a research project he had spear-headed among people under 30 that made it pretty clear to the researchers that the majority of those in that age category who have become supporters of that particular cause over the last five years have done so for personal and emotional reasons. People cited personal relationships with gay friends or family members, as well as the influence of likeable gay public figures or fictional gay characters depicted in movies and TV shows. Few of those surveyed, the researchers found, had come to their position because of arguments on behalf of gay marriage. The sociologists was quick to add that this is characteristic of the American public today, in fact. If you want to change people’s minds, the old fashioned approach of giving them a well thought-out list of reasons is probably not the best way to do it.  You’d have much more success with a simple repetition of your message and perspective in the lyrics of the music on their iPods, in the voices of the characters on their favorite shows, and in the social circles populated by their peers.

While it grieves and frustrates me to admit it, I can’t argue against that. More outlandish examples of groups of people being persuaded to believe something bear out this same principle. There’s all the more reason, in fact, to use means other than direct argument if the thing you’re trying to get people to believe seems intuitively problematic and would not fare well under scrutiny. Ask yourself: could the Nazi party have persuaded so many German citizens to go so far down the pathway of the “final solution” using plain arguments in a fair and open forum? Would North Koreans really fall all over themselves worshipping the “Great Leader” if they hadn’t been subjected to a lifetime of isolation, state mind control and fear? Would prosperity televangelists be hailed as ‘anointed’ teachers and have such large followings if they weren’t playing upon the greed and desperation of people looking for a quick miracle fix or a ticket to sudden wealth?

Note that the more striking cases have in common something of the religious element.  There is truth to the well-worn proverbial wisdom about what a powerful tool for manipulation religion can be. If you keep up with world affairs to any extent, you’ve heard about Christians being imprisoned in places like Iran due to accusations that they dared to persuade/convert someone. Pastors like Youcef Nadarkhani and Saeed Abedini (look them up) have been sent to hellish prisons where they receive torture and the repeated pressure to renounce their beliefs and convert to Islam in order to save their skin.  How’s that for a missionary strategy? I’ve often wondered just how truly devoted to Islam the people of [take your choice – Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Indonesia, etc.] would be if those societies allowed genuine religious freedom.  In other words, if the playing field were leveled in those places such that for a few generations people enjoyed the liberty to discuss, debate, disagree, and attempt to convert by legitimate means, what overall religious landscape would take shape as a result?

Regardless of what Islam (or any other worldview, religious or secular) does, Christians simply cannot allow themselves to revert to illegitimate tactics of persuasion.  All of these prohibited strategies– and I am referring again to anything other than the free profession of a person who has genuinely come to believe – are categorically outside the parameters of missions and evangelism for Christians. There is simply no ground for using any of the alternative methods of persuasion, regardless of how enticing they are due to being easier and getting better ‘results’ (which I put in quotes because I will argue that the ‘results’ are actually not better even if numbers are high).
Continue Reading →

All Conversions are Not Equal (Part I)

There was a funny scene in an otherwise forgettable movie (and that’s not so much a criticism as a confession that I actually can’t remember what it was) in which a couple of average white Americans pretending to be renowned Japanese scientists – complete with Japanese name tags –  introduced themselves to someone who asked them the obvious question: “Aren’t you guys supposed to be Japanese?” Their immediate response was, “We converted.”

The idea of people “converting” is seen by most today as either comical in this sense (remember also the Seinfeld episode where a comedian converted to Judaism just so he could do Jew-related material?) or it is seen as distasteful.  References to conversion, unless by genuinely religious followers, are either lighthearted in nature or negative and coming from a secular or left-leaning point of view. Critics suggest that attempts to “convert” people are somehow oppressive, and cynics maintain suspicion about people’s professed conversions. Today a prison inmate who has a religious conversion is as likely be scoffed at as he is applauded for his professed change of heart.

And whether you play the scoffer or the encourager may have a lot to do with where you stand. People tend to believe and appreciate conversions TO their way of thinking, while looking distastefully down their noses at conversions AWAY from their way of thinking. If you want to be a media darling today, then convert away from your conservative religious upbringing for some professed reason having to do with how your thinking ‘evolved’. But don’t go the other direction. When the late Oxford philosopher Antony Flew, after spending his illustrious scholarly career as a leading voice for academic atheism, changed his mind and decided that God most likely exists, the response from his former camp, according to Roy Varghese in the preface to Flew’s final book, “verged on hysteria. … Inane insults and juvenile caricatures were common in the freethinking blogosphere.”

Christians have always seen conversion as more than just a change of mind, more than the acceptance of a few key beliefs and a switching of allegiances, more even than the moral alteration that causes someone to behave differently. It involves all of this but more still. Because Christians believe that God is involved (to summarize the theology of conversion in the barest of terms), there is a decidedly supernatural element.  Nevertheless conversion for Christians certainly includes a profession of belief that is specified such that it affirms some things to the exclusion of others. In the case of Flew, his was not a Christian conversion but a conversion in the looser sense of the term as people often use it; he changed positions on a very key issue that has far-reaching implications.

If we zero in on this important and obvious component of what conversion means, something will likely become obvious to us the more we think about it – namely that changing one’s mind, or professing x to be true (and, whether overtly or by logical implication, not x to be untrue), is a regular experience of life hardly unique one specific group of people. In fact it is completely non-controversial. Doesn’t everyone believe and profess certain things to be true? Hasn’t everyone at different times in life rejected beliefs or accepted beliefs, changed his or her thinking from belief that x is true to the belief that x is not true?
Continue Reading →

What Happened to the Emerging Church?

What happened to the emerging church? I don’t know.

For many years, it was the talk of the town. From its advocates to its antagonists, the emerging church gave everyone fodder for conversation. Bloggers knew every day what they were going to blog about. Revolutionists always had a distinguished place in the world. Revisionists had many friends who would take up the same rifle and shotgun. Deconstructionalists all held their distinguished hammers. If you were an emerger, you were not alone.

However, today things have changed. No one blogs about it. No one claims the name anymore. No publisher would dare accept a book about the emerging “thing” that happened in the forgotten past. Why? because around the year 2009, the identity of the emerging church went silent and many (some enthusiastically) put a gravestone over its assigned plot. In fact, I even paid my respects.

What happened to the emerging church? Which emerging Church?

Defining the “emerging church” is as difficult today as it was in the bygone days. No one ever agreed. It touched so many issues: ecclesiology, soteriology, epistemology, anthropology, and sociology. You could “emerge” with any or all of these issues.  In general, the emerging church represented a disenchantment with the traditional methodology and beliefs, primarily within the Evangelical church. It was an ununified movement of deconstructing. Many deconstructed theology. Some deconstructed liturgy. Others deconstructed truth altogether. The key unifying factor was that people were disillusioned with the folk religion they had been given, and were willing to stand up as reformers in whichever area housed their ensuing bitterness. But there was not much unity with regard to their beliefs. They just did things differently. They believed differently than their parents.

What happened to the emerging church? Who was involved in this? Continue Reading →

A Real Halloween Horror: Hell House and Evangelism

(Lisa Robinson)

As Halloween approaches, you can bet the discussions will increase amongst Christians concerning whether Christians should participate.  One faction promotes participation while the other faction wants all Christians to see the horrors of Halloween and why they should not participate.  But that is neither here nor there because I believe it is a matter of Christian liberty of whether one participates or not.  Each should live according to their own convictions.

But I want to address what I consider a real horror that does involve Christian participation in Halloween.  In various spots in the country, months of organization and activity have gone into the production of a haunted house experience for innocent people looking for a good old fashioned Halloween scare.  The will line up to go to Hell House and they will rightfully face a horror.

Participants will be led through a series of scenes, which sadly go on in every day life.  There is one scene that emulates the Columbine shooting.  There is another one where a Rave ends up in a date rape scenario.  The girl feeling so ashamed of what has happened to her, curses God.  Another ends up hemorrhaging from a morning after pill.  There is one living room scene that confronts the addictions of pornography.  Yes, this transpires in our society more than we probably care to imagine.

And these scenarios are used to highlight one thing – all these people are going to hell.  That IS the point of Hell House, to lure people into a haunted house experience and expose scenarios that could be going on with anyone in the audience.  In fact, as I watched the documentary of the original Hell House here in TX, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were being forced to relive their own private pain and then being scorned for being victims. Continue Reading →

Is the Muslim My Neighbor?

I am conflicted. It was Muslim terrorists who flew commercial planes into the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon, killing 3000 people. It was Muslim terrorists who did another coordinated attack in eight different locations in Mumbai, India in 2008, killing 173 people and injuring at least 327. It was Muslim terrorists who kidnapped and brutally murdered journalist Daniel Pearl. Muslim snipers killed ten people in the Washington DC area in 2002. It was Muslim suicide bombers who have viciously attacked high population sites in Israel too many times to count (fifty times in 2002 alone). Muslim terrorists started a gunfight in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing at least 17. Muslim suicide bombers killed 27 and injured 65 in Hanju, Pakistan in 2009. A Muslim extremist killed two American soldiers in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2009. Later that year a Muslim fundamentalist—who was at the time a major in the United States Army—killed 13 and injured 30 at Ft. Hood in Killeen, Texas. As many as 150 people were killed by Muslim terrorists in Damaturu, Nigeria, in 2011.

And it was Muslim suicide bombers and other terrorists who have repeatedly killed Americans, Afghanis, and Iraqis since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started. And the death toll continues to rise. The casualty list from the despicable and cowardly actions of these terrorists goes on page after page. Muslim terrorists have been responsible for thousands of deaths and incalculable suffering in Pakistan, India, Egypt, Somalia, Qatar, Indonesia, Jordan, Philippines, China, Mali, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, Algeria, Libya, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Sweden, Denmark, France, England, Israel, and the United States.

And yet I am conflicted. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those who harm us [most of the following translations are from the NET Bible]: “Do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well” (Matt 5.39). “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5.44). “If you do not forgive others, your heavenly Father will not forgive you your sins” (Matt 6.15). “In all that you do, treat others as you would want them to treat you” (Matt 7.12). “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man” (Luke 6.22). “All who take hold of the sword will die by the sword” (Matt 26.52). Continue Reading →

Does Sola Fide Means You Can Do Whatever You Please?

The other day, my daughter did the dishes without me asking. Wait…there’s more. Get this: it is not even her job to do the dishes anymore! It is my other daughter’s job. Those of you who are parents know what I am talking about. You know, the frustrations of trying to get your kids to fulfill their responsibilities. And it is not just that you want them to do what they are supposed to. Whether it is washing the dishes, taking a bath or shower, brushing their teeth, watching their little brother (or sister), or any number of things parents wish their kids would do, you want them to do these things without being told (over and over again). I walked in the kitchen and said to my daughter, “What are you doing?” She said, with a confused look on her face, “The dishes.” “I know that, but why?” I asked. “Because they needed to be done” she answered. This is the first time I can think of in my trek through parenting when one of my kids graduated from doing something because of fear of punishment to doing it because it was simply the right thing to do. It was a proud moment for me. And, as is the case with ninety percent of the things that happen to me on a daily basis, the blog lobe in my brain started running in the background. It said: “Pssst, Michael. This is not only a monumental occasion in your life as a parent, it is also a potential blog about how people misunderstand sola fide.”

Though I don’t know where (citation needed), it is said that when Martin Luther rediscovered the idea that justification was by faith alone, without the aid of any meritorious good deeds, the leadership within the institutionalized church of the day said, “You can’t teach that. You know what will happen if you do? Everyone will be doing whatever they please.” To which Luther responded, “This is true. Now what pleases you?”

The idea Luther was promoting was not unlike the same idea posited by Augustine before him: when we become believers in Christ, our nature changes; with it, our pleasures. Our greatest pleasure, our greatest satisfaction, our loftiest ambition, and our lifelong goal, after faith is ignited in our soul, becomes to please our Lord. Why? Because we have changed, because we have graduated, because it is the best thing to do. This change will continue from the inside out for the rest of our lives.

I believe in the doctrine of sola fide. Sola fide means “faith alone.” It means you and I are justified, not by any good things we do, but by simply trusting in Christ. My Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Mormon friends do not share this belief. In fact, I don’t know of any religion in the world that does or ever has. All other systems of being made right before God involve some sort of merit system. Ultimately, for them, you have to perform well here on earth. You have to refrain from enough sin and add enough good deeds to your resume, which you will one day present to your creator. What a terrible (and fear-inducing) system. I don’t want God (or anyone else) to see my resume. It would not be pretty. I need a substitute resume. Therefore, I have acquired one which is not my own: Jesus Christ’s. His is the only resume God will accept, because he is the only one who lived a perfect life. And, indeed, I do have his resume. But I did not buy it, lease it, or put it on layaway. Nothing can be done to purchase or deserve his resume. He offers it to us freely. All we have to do is extend our hand (an act of faith) and take it. Hence, our justification (perfect resume) is a gift that comes only by faith.

It is a wonderful message. It is an unbelievable message. However, it is an offensive message. First, it is offensive because we are a prideful people. We think our resume is not too shabby. Many just want to take their chances on their own. Second, it is offensive because people are scared. They are scared of what this might mean. They are scared of abuse. They are scared of grace. Grace means it is free. If it is free then people will do whatever they please. Here are some of the common road blocks I have heard from others:

“So, what if a person becomes a believer, then goes and murders a hundred people?” Continue Reading →

A Real Halloween Horror: Hell House and Evangelism

(Lisa Robinson)

As Halloween approaches, you can bet the discussions will increase amongst Christians, as they normally do.  One faction promotes participation while the other faction wants all Christians to see the horrors of Halloween and why they should not participate.  But that is neither here nor there because I believe it is a matter of Christian liberty of whether one participates or not.  Each should live according to their own convictions.

But I want to address what I consider a real horror that does involve Christian participation in Halloween.  In various spots in the country, months of organization and activity have gone into the production of a haunted house experience for innocent people looking for a good old fashioned Halloween scare.  The will line up to go to Hell House and they will rightfully face a horror.

Participants will be led through a series of scenes, which sadly go on in every day life.  There is one scene that emulates the Columbine shooting.  There is another one where a Rave ends up in a date rape scenario.  The girl feeling so ashamed of what has happened to her, curses God.  Another ends up hemorrhaging from a morning after pill.  There is one living room scene that confronts the addictions of pornography.  Yes, this is certainly real life.

Unfortunately, the scenarios are used to highlight one thing – all these people are going to hell.  And that is the point of Hell House, to lure people into a haunted house experience and expose scenarios that could be going on with anyone in the audience.  In fact, as I watched the documentary of the original Hell House here in TX, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were being forced to relive their own private pain and then being scorned for being victims. Continue Reading →