Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

The National Religious Broadcasters vs. J. Gresham Machen

In terms of sharing the faith, which do you prefer – sharing the gospel message – the doctrines – or your personal testimony? That is the question that was asked of many on the floor at the national religious broadcasters convention – the group of people whose job it is to communicate what Christianity is to those listening over the airwaves. What was their answer? Overwhelmingly they replied that they believed their personal testimony was to be preferred and was more effective in evangelism. Listen to this week’s White Horse Inn to hear the tragic answers. However, I do not blame these poor broadcasters mostly. To whom are these people listening? What do they hear preached on Sunday mornings?

At the end of the broadcast, Horton shares this quote from J. Gresham Machen – in it Machen teaches exactly the opposite of what most of us (apparently this would include those on the floor of the national religious broadcaster’s convention) were taught all of our lives. Machen’s words line up with the Bible. However, much of the church’s so-called evangelism today does not line up with the Bible. Maybe that is why much of our evangelism is so powerless.

Let us not deceive ourselves. Christian experience is necessary to evangelism; but evangelism does not consist merely in the rehearsal of what has happened in the evangelist’s own soul. We shall, indeed, be but poor witnesses for Christ if we can tell only what Christ has done for the world or for the Church and cannot tell what He has done personally for us. But we shall also be poor witnesses if we recount only the experiences of our own lives. Christian evangelism does not consist merely in a man’s going about the world saying: “Look at me, what a wonderful experience I have, how happy I am, what wonderful Christian virtues I exhibit; you can all be as good and as happy as I am if you will just make a complete surrender of your wills in obedience to what I say.” That is what many religious workers seem to think that evangelism is. We can preach the gospel, they tell us, by our lives, and do not need to preach it by our words. But they are wrong. Men are not saved by the exhibition of our glorious Christian virtues; they are not saved by the contagion of our experiences. We cannot be the instruments of God in saving them if we preach to them thus only ourselves. Nay, we must preach to them the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is only through the gospel which sets Him forth that they can be saved.

If you want health for your souls, and if you want to be the instruments of bringing health to others, do not turn your gaze forever within, as though you could find Christ there. Nay, turn your gaze away from your own miserable experiences, away from your own sin, to the Lord Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Only when we turn away from ourselves to that uplifted Savior shall we have healing for our deadly hurt.  -J. Gresham Machen, The Importance of Christian Scholarship in The Defense of The Faith

Mark Dever and one of his “little loving protests”

Mark Dever also spoke at Commending Christ, Desiring God’s 2009 conference for pastors.  Having grown up a Southern Baptist, I really appreciated this tidbit from His message – “The Pastor and Evangelism“.

We cannot measure the correctness of what we do by the immediate response we get…If you grab a hold of this in a sanctified way, pastor, it will reduce your stress and anxiety and change, maybe for the worse, your relationship with your denomination. They want your statistics. We as a church (Capital Hill Baptist Church) just won’t give them. We don’t count. I don’t know how many people I baptized last year. So we certainly then do not send it in to the denomination. I don’t think it is wrong to do that. I don’t think it is wrong to count. I just know the temptation in our own sort of family of Christian churches and that’s one of my little loving protests.

If we get this wrong, I think what we see is we end up distorting well meaning churches into pragmatic, results oriented businesses. It also cripples the individual Christian with this sense of failure, aversion, guilt…I mean who can deny that much modern evangelism has become emotionally manipulative seeking only to get a momentary decision of the sinner’s will yet neglecting the biblical idea that conversion is the result of the supernatural gracious act of God toward the sinner.

The Pastor and Evangelism, by Mark Dever

Defending the Faith and Sharing the Gospel

Al Mohler has a great article about the death of evangelism in America

On that note, I had a conversation with a friend at work regarding an email correspondence he had with a gentlemen.  This gentleman called himself a Christian, yet believed there were still many ways to God.  Here was my counsel to him, for what it’s worth, after he let me read the email correspondence with his friend Warren.

What I have found to be true in trying to present the uniqueness of Christ to folks like your friend Warren is that it really boils down to a single issue that you stated very well in your last response – “God is holy.  Man is wicked.  Because of man’s sinfulness, he is not worthy to be in the presence of God.  His destiny is death.  ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.'”  This is the key to the Holy Spirit breaking through to this guy just as it was true in our own lives.  None of us (Warren, me, or you) can accept the reality of the sin within us unless the Holy Spirit, working through the word of God (Romans 10:17 – “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”), breaks us and reveals to us our need for the Savior.  Warren believes what he believes because he does NOT believe he or anyone else truly needs a redeemer.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t also present proofs to him regarding the reliability of scripture and the reality of the resurrection – I’m just saying that it is clear Warren is not a Christian although he may say he is and so he primarily needs to hear the gospel.  You know what I mean – we are surrounded every day by people who see no need for a savior just as we once did – all they think they need is someone to point them in the right direction and then they are perfectly capable of getting there on their own (whether “there” is heaven or nirvana or paradise or whatever) just like we once did.  Until Warren comes to terms with the truth that there is a sin problem in his heart that makes him guilty before a holy God, no evidence for the resurrection or the reliability of scripture that you present to him is going to convince him.

I hope you continue your interactions with Warren and I encourage you to concentrate your efforts on his conscience by showing him what the Bible says about the natural condition of mankind – that we are all sinners and under the just condemnation of God, that Christ bore that condemnation in our place and that is what makes Christ unique among all other false gods.  The God of the Bible, as He is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, is the only true God and he is a redeeming God.  No other religion makes the claims of Christianity in that all other so called gods do not redeem.  They may set forth a prescription for mankind to adhere to so that they may find redemption, but only the God of the Bible has acted in history to redeem a people for himself.  He alone is mighty to save and until Warren discovers that he has no hope outside of the redemption that comes through Jesus, he will not be convinced of the resurrection as fact and the inspiration of the Bible as divine…