Monday, June 30, 2008

Guilt and Evangelism

I'd like to make a couple of observations about the feelings of guilt that most Christians have regarding evangelism. Having done full time evangelism\evangelism training ministry for about 3 1\2 years and having been in full time Christian ministry for the most part of 15 years, I feel like I'm qualified to speak to this issue. These observations aren't based on any theological degrees, just human observation.

My first and main observation is that the conscience of the Christian is keenly aware of his need to share the Gospel with the lost. The best proof of this is the physical reactions of guilt that Christians have when they hear a message that has to do with evangelism. Whenever a speaker or preacher talks about evangelism, I like to look around the room and observe the reactions of the listeners to the message. Almost without exception, the listeners react in much the same way that lost sinners react when they are taken through the Ten Commandments. They hang their heads, their brows are knit in concern, sometimes there are tears, sometimes there is anger, and almost always there are looks of resolve on their faces. They must be thinking, "I will do better. I WILL witness to my ____________ (fill in the blank: neighbor, co-worker, spouse, friend, etc.) this week." Chances are, these resolutions are left undone because the same cycle is repeated the next time someone speaks on evangelism.

As someone who does evangelism on a regular basis, I experience the "fall-out" of this guilt on a personal level. Recently, a friend of mine from my church who has come out with me to do evangelism in the past confided that he had been avoiding me because every time he sees me he feels guilty because he has not been evangelizing. I must confess that at first, I didn't understand this. I'm not a mean guy. I don't try to use guilt to motivate people to evangelize in my church. In fact, I think I've been careful NOT to use guilt as a motivator. However, the fact that I do evangelize somehow works on the conscience of my friend. He knows that my life is pretty well lived for the sake of the Gospel; I do full time evangelism ministry. Somehow the fact that he has not been as consistent evangelizing rebukes him every time he sees me. I'm not sure whether to view this as good or bad.

As I began to think about my friend, I have to wonder if there are others who feel the same way. I suspect that there are others. In a way, this is sad because I'm not just a one-dimensional person. Have I given the impression that I am one-dimensional? After all, I read, sell used books on the internet, teach adult Sunday School, have a great family, like to fish, etc.

In the end, I think that this is a matter of the conscience. Not because I have used guilt to motivate or inspire. It is a matter of the conscience because of the fact that the Law, perfectly summed up, is that we should love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength and then love our neighbors as ourselves. Romans 2:14-15 says that this Law is written on our hearts and our consciences bear witness of its truth. The command to evangelize has been given throughout the Gospels. When believers refuse to obey this command, they break the first command. They don't love God; the proof is they don't obey. And they don't love their neighbors enough to share the Gospel with them. And their conscience bears witness that they are guilty.

So, I have come to understand that it's not me, it's them. I will continue to be gracious and continue to do what I know I am supposed to do as an unprofitable servant. They, in turn, will continue to feel guilt until they repent and start sharing the Gospel. They don't need to do it in conjunction with my ministry or on the streets. If they start sharing it with their friends, families, neighbors and co-workers, their consciences will be assuaged and they will have confidence before God and men. May the Lord raise up laborers for the harvest.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Evangecamp #1: Niagara Falls Video

This is a photo video from TLC Ministries' first Evangecamp in Niagara Falls. This was a phenomenal outreach to the Buffalo\Niagara Region. Several professed faith in Christ and were referred to solid local churches. The campers were encouraged and gained additional tools to share the Gospel. Go to to learn more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The 500 Video

We're working together with Transplant Ministries to organize The Five Hundred Outreach in Atlanta, GA on October 18th. We're helping with the mobilization aspects of the outreach. Please keep us in prayer this summer as we nail down details and plan this important outreach. 500 street evangelists in one city; Atlanta will never be the same.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Colorado Bill Potentially Bans the Circulation of the Bible

As reported by John Ingold of The Denver Post, Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado signed into law a bill which expands the "prohibition of sexual-orientation based discrimination". This bill (Senate Bill 200) was sponsored by Senator Jennifer Veiga. The supporters of the bill claim that its purposes are: 1) to insure that trans-gender people and homosexuals have equal access to housing, family planning services (???), and "20 other public spheres" and 2) in the words of Bruce DeBoskey, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (by the way, what do the rights of the Jewish people have to do with transgender issues?), "...another important step in making Colorado safe and inclusive and welcoming to all those who live here."

This all sounds very inclusive and nice, but as always, there is a slightly hidden agenda here. Consider what the bill actually says, not just the spin that the pundits put on it:

"SECTION 8. 24-34-701. Publishing of discriminative matter forbidden.
No person, being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent, or employee of any place of public accommodation... shall publish, issue, circulate, send, distribute, give away, or display in any way, manner, or shape or by any means or method, except as provided in this section, any communication, paper, poster, folder, manuscript, book, pamphlet, writing, print, letter, notice, or advertisement of any kind, nature, or description THAT is intended or calculated to discriminate or actually discriminates against... SEXUAL ORIENTATION, marital status... in the matter of furnishing or neglecting or refusing to furnish to them or any one of them any lodging, housing, schooling, or tuition or any accommodation, right [marriage], privilege [adoption], advantage, or convenience... on account of... SEXUAL ORIENTATION, marital status... [which] is unwelcome or objectionable or not acceptable, desired, or solicited."

In other words, if you own or work in a place of "public accommodation" in the State of Colorado (Kolorado?) and you either publish or distribute a copy of the Bible (which contains verses which call homosexuality a sin), you will be punishable by law. The same could be said for any book or tract which suggests that homosexuality is a sin. If the socialist State of Kolorado is going to be consistent, this means that the sale of Bibles in all book stores (Christian or secular) will be banned.

I guess no one who has supported this bill, including the Governor of the State, has enough sense to realize that this law is patently unconstitutional. Unless Kolorado secedes from the Union and becomes their own country, they have no right to make a law which infringes on the practice of religion. In one fell swoop the lawmakers in Kolorado have managed to do what no one has EVER done in the history of this nation: ban the Bible.

Now, as a bookseller, I know what I would do if I lived in Kolorado. I would get a small open shop and sell Bibles. I would find every book I could get on homosexuality, how it is NOT hereditary (which is [gasp] what science actually shows), how it is a sin, and I would print out Romans 1 on a poster (so I'm displaying the truth, in the words of the bill) and DARE the Kolorado KGB to come and do something about it. There is no way that this law can stand up under the scrutiny of serious legal challenges. It's so silly it's laughable.

Why? Consider what our nation's Constitution; the First Amendment, actually says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Hmmm. Interesting. "Prohibiting the free exercise thereof." What is a law prohibiting the distribution and display of the Bible but a law which "prohibits the free exercise" of Christianity?

As an evangelist, I can't help but wonder what this sort of thing means for those of us who use our Freedom of Speech to spread the Gospel in this nation. I live in Texas; granted, it's the false convert capital of the world, but at least there's a pretension towards Christianity and it's not likely that our state will ever follow Kolorado's example. However, it's far more likely that our nation's lawmakers will ignore the Constitution and do whatever seems right in their own eyes and we'll have this kind of stuff imposed on us from the stuffed shirts in D.C.

I'll borrow a cliche from the printing world: the only ones who have the Freedom of Speech are those who use it. If you're not using it as a Christian, you may as well live in Communist China, Soviet Russia, or Saudi Arabia. You have imposed on yourself a law which we don't actually have (yet) by your silence. If we as believers do not use our Freedom of Speech, we will lose it. Wake up!

This is a call to professing believers who are content to let their "little light shine" by being nice to people to stop playing silly games and start sharing the Gospel while it is still legal. If you take the Gospel out of the public forum by your silence and your rationalizing that it's not "effective" or "relevant" or it's "offensive", then make no mistake, you are guilty by association when our freedoms are taken away to spread the Gospel in public forums. What will you do when they take that freedom away? Will magic "courage dust" fall out of the sky and give you what you need then to stand up for Christ? How can you expect it at that time when you don't do it now?

Listen, ministry in 90% of the world and in most of Church History is not nice and neat and does not fit into tidy little boxes that look pretty. It is not polite. It is gritty, dirty business. It is blood, sweat and tears. True Christianity knows no other kind of ministry. We claim spiritual lineage to the Apostles and Prophets but don't want to live their lives. We'll gladly believe their doctrine so long as we don't have to follow their examples. Where does this nonsense come from?

It's time that men be men and leave the girly stuff to women. Rob Bell would have me be "relational" in my witnessing. Here's a newsflash Rob: I'm a guy. I'm not interested in exploring my feminine side. I know it's been fun for you, but that's your issue. Guys aren't "relational". They are men. We kill things and conquer. We're aggressive, not passive. If you want to be relational, put your skirt on and invite your neighbors over for tea and crumpets. While the churches have bought into that lie, men stay in the background (if they attend at all). I'm not interested in limp-wristed evangelism which makes me wear lipstick and high heels. The Apostles were men's men. They were dirty, sweaty, bloody, stinky men. They told the religious leaders where the bear did his business in the buckwheat and they faced threats boldly. They weren't a bunch of timid school-girls.

That is the kind of presence the church needs to have. We need to stand up and DARE them to silence us. If you've missed it, that's exactly what the pagans have been doing in this country for the last 40 years. In the meantime, the church has been taught by its "experts" that we need to be relational and we're within one generation of becoming post-Christian as a nation. The pagans smell blood. And we sleep while they come in through the window. God help us all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

False Conversion

I am posting here a real letter I sent out to a Christian who asked some questions regarding my own experience as a false convert. Details have been omitted to protect the identity of the original questioner. I hope that this might be helpful to anyone who might be struggling with this issue; it's one that I'm asked about frequently and trust that the Lord will use this to bless anyone who might be going through the painful yet necessary process of self-examination:

The original question was:

After reading your testimony on the Lost Cause Ministries website, I have had a question for you for quite some time. How or what made you decide that you weren’t really saved after all? Do you think it’s natural for Christians to question that about themselves? I find myself doing that from time to time.

The response I gave follows:

Yes, it is natural to question one’s own salvation. We all feel unworthy of the grace we’ve been given and if we understand (and are sensitive to) the true nature of sin and how prone we all are to it, even as spiritually growing believers, we sometimes wonder where we really are spiritually.

One difference between someone who is a soundly saved believer and one who is not is that the one who is not finds ways to justify his sin and is comfortable with it. The biggest difference is where you place your trust: your works or in Christ alone.

I was brought up in “easy-believism” churches. In other words, if you “pray the sinner’s prayer”, they taught that you are absolutely saved, no matter what, as long as you really meant it at that moment. Even if you prayed the prayer sincerely at the age of five and then went on to become a reprobate atheist for the rest of your life, then you were saved at five and just “backslid.” I do believe in backsliding, but this kind of thing I’m describing is nothing but presumption on the grace of God, making it something that it is not. Titus 2:12 teaches that someone who has experienced the true grace of God denies ungodliness (among other things).

In that religious system, I was never told about repentance (they viewed repentance as a “work”) and certainly never did repent. I got immersed into the Christian youth culture and started doing all of the things that evangelical teenagers do: go to Christian concerts, youth group, hang out with Christian friends. I became a leader in the youth group (mainly because of personality and things that I did) and the leaders all said that I should go to Bible college. So I went there, became a leader again and everyone there said that I should go into ministry. At the age of 20 I went into my first ministry, as an assistant pastor in a black church. And on and on it went, getting “promoted” to the position of pastor in a small church, doing well there and then being promoted to the position of pastor in a larger church.

During all of that time, I “struggled” with the same sins. At least I called it “struggled.” It really wasn’t a struggle. If I was tempted to sin, I did it. And when I did, my conscience would bother me, and I would take that as a sign I was saved. However sin bothers the conscience of the lost as well.

Then I would justify myself by saying that I must be right with God, look at all of the things I DO. I preached three times a week, visited the sick, prayed, studied the Bible many hours per week, “discipled” people, and on and on. Someone who is saved wouldn’t do those things, would they? But the truth is, yes, unsaved people study the Bible (liberal theologians), pray (every religion of the world prays), do charitable deeds (Catholics), preached (Muslim imams preach), and mentor people (Big Brothers, Big Sister programs do that too). In the end, I wasn’t trusting in Christ alone; I was trusting in my deeds. I had a cultural Christianity, but no reality with Christ. In the end, I had to do what Scripture says and repent not only of my sins (Acts 3:19) but also of my dead works (Heb. 6:1). I needed to be justified by faith in Christ alone and stop trying to justify myself.

All of this came to light over time, but culminated in a period of self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5) that was brought on when I heard a man named Keith Daniel preach on the topic of the “Complications of the Spiritual Birth.” This sermon caused me to ask myself about my own repentance; my total lack of it. That day I was forced to admit that I was never told I needed to repent, never did repent, and my reprobate, hypocritical life proved that I was not justified.

Later, I saw that I never really placed faith in Christ alone. My faith was creedal; very theological (I was Reformed) but characterized by what the easy believism folks call “an intellectual assent to the facts of the Gospel” (their definition of saving faith). I was raised in a fundamentalism that taught if you can say “uh huh” to several basic facts, then praise God, you’re saved. Most of their evangelism was taking people through several facts and getting them to say they believed them. This kind of faith is demonic (Jas. 2:19). True faith is absolute trust, complete abandonment, to someone who is trustworthy. Combined with repentance and justification by faith in Christ alone, this is a magnificent Gospel. The other is nothing more than a half-breed Gospel which cannot save.

Sadly, most of this errant theology on salvation came from seminaries which strongly influenced the Baptist churches in the northeast: Dallas Theological Seminary and Philadelphia College of the Bible. These schools provided professors for smaller Bible colleges in the region and this heresy spread throughout the area. When Dr. MacArthur wrote his book “The Gospel According to Jesus” it was controversial in the Bible colleges of the northeast for about five years. Every evangelistic preacher and most pastors I heard in my life were strongly influenced by easy believism.

Richard Baxter wrote in his book “The Reformed Pastor” that it was possible to save others as a preacher and yet be lost yourself in the end. George Whitefield taught that the bane of the Christian ministry in his day was an unconverted ministry. I was one of those men; it is a fact which still causes grief when I think seriously about it. I preached a false gospel and baptized many people who responded to that gospel. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that fact, just as John Newton never lost sight of his own past as a slave trader. He didn’t let his past lead to self condemnation; he let it remind him daily of God’s amazing grace. I don’t think there is anything worse than a false convert preacher who spreads a false Gospel; a slave trader seems gentle in comparison. The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ saved me demonstrates that He is willing to save the worst of hypocrites. His grace truly is amazing. His love is astounding. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Here are some important messages on false conversion. These are all on our website:

1. Paul Washer’s message, “Examine Yourself”.

2. Keith Daniel’s “The Spiritual Birth”

3. Ray Comfort’s “True & False Conversions”

4. John MacArthur’s “Hard to Believe.”

Soli Deo Gloria,