February 25, 2006

A Dying Art

When do we defend the faith and when do we lovingly try to lead someone to the truth and can we do both at the same time? Sometimes we can win the battle and lose the war when it comes to witnessing. One thingís for sure, we have to lift them up in prayer and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Or as the old Kenny Rogers song went, "We need to know when hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run."
  • Hold em Ė We can use Scripture to comfort and lead others to Christ when they are going through one of lifeís difficult times. During a crisis, people are either open to the truth or hostile to it. We can give them a good word in due season and pray that the seed falls on fertile soil. If the Father is drawing them, you will find that the Holy Spirit gives you the words to say. If He is not, youíll see that your words are falling on deaf ears. A biblical principle comes into play. Jesus told His disciples not to prepare beforehand what to speak when they are brought before the authorities, but in that hour the Spirit would give them the words to say that no one could refute. That still holds true today. A couple I used to know in prison ministry who were struggling with their faith told me that they would go witnessing in the prisons as much for their own faith as for their hearers. They loved seeing the Lord give them words of wisdom and seeing the results boosted their own faith.
  • Fold em Ė Print and fold those tracts and pass them out and be ready for trouble. Handing out Gospel tracts in some peopleís minds is tantamount to becoming a solicitor and it isnít for everybody. For those who havenít been given the "baptism of boldness," you can always put tracts in open car windows or leave some on the counter in a public bathroom. Many times when I have handed out tracts to people coming out of public meetings, I have been met with hostility. Thatís an "occupational hazard," as Walter Martin used to say. But thereís always those that are reached if it is done with prayer. Remember the Apostle Paulís record on Mars Hill? "Some mocked, while others said, ĎWe will hear you again on this matteríÖ However, some men joined him and believed" (Acts 17:32-34).
  • Walk away Ė Donít put too much on a person Ė know when youíve planted a seed and donít concern yourself about landing it homeógive them time and space to think about it. You can always follow up later and plant more seeds or see if they are ready to repent of their sins and follow Jesus. If we lift up Jesus, He said He would draw all men to Himself. We must never lift up an organization or a church. We have no promise that that will achieve anything. Even though the seeker-sensitive churches want to fill the pews, that isnít the interest of a true believer. Our interest is in seeing people come to their Savior, not to some building on Sunday.
  • Run Ė When you see that youíre casting pearls before swine Ė no need to stay there taking insults. Jude tells us to save others "with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh" (Jude 23). I see that as a warning that knowing judgment is coming, we must be careful in trying to be an influence on others for God, that they donít influence us away from God. This is especially dangerous for those believers involved in "missionary dating," a common practice in the church, but forbidden by Scripture.

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In other words, there is no one right way of witnessing. But one thing is for sure Ė itís a dying art in Christendom. Most Christians are just not willing to put themselves out there for the cross of Christ. Or as George McFly once said, "I just canít take rejection!"

A big obstacle in sharing the Gospel nowadays, especially in America, is that all Americans have heard of Jesus and have already formed an opinion, usually based upon what they see on "Christian" television. The "Good News" is old news to most. And right away you will be pigeonholed as "one of them." Youíll hear comebacks like "No thanks. Churches are only interested in money" or "Iíve seen you guys on TV. Why would I want to be one of them?"

Itís difficult enough to suffer persecution for the cross of Christ, but to suffer persecution because of the misrepresentation of Christ by others is even harder to take. Sometimes we canít share the truth until we undo in peopleís minds their false impressions of what that truth is. We have to unteach them in order to reach them. We face challenges today that the first century Christians never had to face. However, they faced something we donít face (unless weíre in a Muslim country), the threat of death for speaking in the name of Jesus.

These challenges mustnít paralyze us from obeying the Great Commission. Perhaps we wonít see any big results like that of John Wesley or George Whitefield, but we can lead others to the Fountain of Living Waters one at a time. When Jesus came, the fields were white unto Harvest, and many before us have gathered the sheaves. But today all that seems to be left is what the gleaners can gather. There is still more wheat in the fields; itís just harder to find.

Here are a couple of places where you can get some good tracts:

Radio Bible Class: The ministry associated with the long-running television program "Day of Discovery." They have a variety of booklets that are very useful in your one-on-one witnessing. (And they donít charge for them, they just accept donations.) Theyíre too elaborate for general tracts but are a great source to give to those who do seem open to the truth. Some I have used effectively are "Who Is This Man Who Says Heís God?" "How To Identify A Dangerous Religious Group" "What Can We Know About The Endtimes?" "Where Do We Go From Here? Life After Death."

Chick Publications: Okay, donít laugh. Jack Chick gets a lot of flak, but his tracts are real eye-catchers. Theyíre especially effective when witnessing to young people. Teens really do read them! And they come in many languages and theyíre affordable too. Like RBCís tracts, theyíre not for mass distribution but for giving people specialized tracts for whatever it is they happen to be faced with in life. Some of my favorites are "The Titanic" "Flight 144" (give this to the guy who sits next to you on the airplane J ) "Somebody Goofed" "This Was Your Life"

Do It Yourself Tracts: These are the kind you make and copy and distribute enmasse. An example is the one I wrote for handing out to the church where the new ager was speaking. (Right now Iím working on one geared to Catholics. When itís done, Iíll put a PDF copy of it on the web so others can use it.)

Whatever way you choose to do your part in sharing the faith with others, be faithful to do it. How many regrets do Christians have when attending the funeral of a friend who died without Christ? Donít be one of those who looks back and sees lost opportunities and weeps knowing they could have made a difference, but didnít bother.

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Lord, make us bold in our witness yet sensitive to hurting and lost people. Give us wisdom in answering peopleís objections to the Gospel. Show us when to tear down and when to build up; when to expose wrong beliefs and when to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. Give us ideas for outreaches and help us find others to join with in going out and making disciples after You. Put your shield of protection around your people as they go out and proclaim Your truth. Bless the work of Your gleaners and empower them to fulfill the course You have set before them. Help us to proclaim you till you come. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

 

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