24 11 2010

In the October 2010 issue of OUTREACH MAGAZINE Dan Kimball published this thoughtful article. Click on to the Dan Kimball link at the end of the article to subscribe to the magazine and website.

It is incredibly encouraging to see how the evangelical church has awoken to the need for global activism for justice as Jesus and the Scriptures teach. New generations are not simply seeing justice as something extra to do as a Christian like an annual trip to build a home in Mexico, but instead as a fabric of the Gospel itself and an incredibly important part of what it means to be a Christian.

Unfortunately, the more I interact with younger Christians in particular, the more I’m seeing them define the Gospel as participating in justice more than the cross. But the more we care about global engagement in justice, the more we need to care and spend effort on evangelism too.

Those of us who have been Christians a long time and were ingrained with a reductionist form of the Gospel that focused only on the cross and death, resurrection of Jesus and payment of sin have welcomed the infusion of a healthy holistic theology that includes seeing the kingdom of heaven come to earth. But emerging generations are often solely learning the Gospel as an emphasis on justice. They actively participate in justice projects and stay aware of global happenings. However, I am concerned that they aren’t learning about the importance of evangelism.

Making New Disciples

When I think of evangelism, I think of the embodiment of the “Good News” of Jesus and proclaiming that in intentional relationships. Yes, the Gospel is about heaven on earth here and now and not just about what happens when we die. But we all do die. Everyone will face judgment, and there is but one Savior and one cross. If we aren’t teaching how to evangelize with word and deed and seeing new followers of Jesus being reproduced in number, then the amount of justice we can become engaged in and active with will lessen. So if we care about justice, we have to care about making new disciples.

What a shame and horrible thought it is that because some current evangelical Christians became disillusioned with how we went about “evangelism” and explaining the Gospel in the past, many then forgot to focus our attention on making new disciples and only focused on justice. So in 20 years, 30 years or 50 years, if we haven’t been making new disciples, we won’t have the number of Christians to serve passionately on the justice issues that Jesus would want us to.

The Power of the Gospel

I also believe it is easier to focus on justice than it is to focus on evangelism. At a recent private discussion group with [New Testament scholar] N.T. Wright, someone said it is culturally acceptable and applauded to be involved in justice these days. Thankfully so! Even atheists are passionate about justice globally. But it isn’t as easy to pray, spend time, invest in a relationship and have a difficult conversation explaining the cross and salvation to someone. That goes against culture. We have to remember the power of the Gospel and that it did take actual words and explanation of the cross for most of us to eventually make a decision and become followers of Jesus and therefore get involved in justice activism.

I dread to think of the lives who won’t be helped by the church and Christians in 50 years through acts of mercy and justice if we aren’t evangelizing and seeing emerging generations of new Christians coming to know Jesus as Savior today.

More about Dan Kimball, Vintage Faith Church, Santa Cruz, Calif. »



14 11 2010

This article by Ravi Zacharias comes by way of  Apologetics.Com

I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the Gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out. I remember well in the early days of my Christian faith talking to a close Hindu friend. He was questioning the experience of conversion as being supernatural. He absolutely insisted that conversion was nothing more than a decision to lead a more ethical life and that, in most cases, it was not any different from other ethical religions. I had heard his argument before.

But then he said something I have never forgotten: “If this conversion is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?” His question is a troublesome one. In fact, it is so deeply disturbing a question that I think of all the challenges to belief, this is the most difficult question of all. I have never struggled with my own personal faith as far as intellectual challenges to the Gospel are concerned. But I have often had struggles of the soul in trying to figure out why the Christian faith is not more visible.

After lecturing at a major American university, I was driven to the airport by the organizer of the event. I was quite jolted by what he told me. He said, “My wife brought our neighbor last night. She is a medical doctor and had not been to anything like this before. On their way home, my wife asked her what she thought of it all.” He paused and then continued, “Do you know what she said?” Rather reluctantly, I shook my head. “She said, ‘That was a very powerful evening. The arguments were very persuasive. I wonder what he is like in his private life.’”

Because my Hindu friend had not witnessed spiritual transformation in the life of Christians, whatever answers he received were nullified. In the doctor’s case, the answers were intellectually and existentially satisfying, but she still needed to know, did they really make a difference in the life of the one proclaiming them? The Irish evangelist Gypsy Smith once said, “There are five Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” In other words, the message is seen before it is heard. For both the Hindu questioner and the American doctor, the answers to their questions were not enough; they depended upon the visible transformation of the one offering them.

1 Peter 3:15 gives us the gives us the defining statement: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Notice that before the answer is given, the one giving the answer is called to a certain prerequisite. The lordship of Christ over the life of the apologist is foundational to all answers given. Peter, of all the disciples, knew well how to ask questions and also how fickle the human heart is. He knew the seductive power of the spectacular in momentary enthrallment. He knew what it was to betray someone and to fail. He knew what it was to try to explain the Gospel–as he did at Pentecost. Peter’s strong reminder of the heart of the apologist is the basis of all apologetic attempts.

With character in mind, there follow two immediate imperatives: the quality of life lived and the clarity of answers given. The way the Christian’s life is lived will determine the impact upon believers and skeptics alike. This is a defining line because the claim by the believer is unique. The claim is that of a “new birth.” After all, no Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim claims his or her life of devotion to be supernatural, yet they often live a more consistent life. And how often does the so-called Christian, even while teaching some of the loftiest truths one could ever teach, live a life bereft of that beauty and character. In apologetics the question is often asked, “If there is only one way, how is it that there are few in all of creation who qualify?” That question is actually more potent than the questioner realizes. It should further be raised, “Out of the few who actually qualify, why are even fewer living it out?”

The spiritual condition and character of the apologist are of immense importance. This call to a life reflecting the person of Christ is the ultimate call of everyone who wishes to do apologetics.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (John 4:1–26) she raised one question after another as if that were really her problem. It would have been very easy for the Lord to call her bluff with some castigating words. Instead, like a gentle and nimble-handed goldsmith he rubbed away the markings of sin and pain in her life until she was amazed at how much true gold he brought out in her. He gave her hope, knowing all along who she was on the inside. Likewise, we cannot simply vanquish the person in an attempt to rescue the message. The value of the person is an essential part of the message.

This means the apologist’s task begins with a godly walk. One ought to take time to reflect seriously upon the question, Has God truly wrought a miracle in my life? Is my own heart proof of the supernatural intervention of God? That is the apologist’s first question.

(C) 2008 by Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias is founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.Excerpted from Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend (Thomas Nelson, 2007), ed. by Ravi Zacharias.


10 11 2010