Thursday, April 17, 2014

Owen's Real Problem


Yesterday, while I was standing on Bruin Walk (UCLA) handing out tracts and holding my "Stop and Talk" cross, a student named Owen approached me and asked what I was handing out. That was the beginning of one of the most remarkable conversations I have ever had with an unbeliever.

Owen was raised in a Christian home. According to Owen, to this day his entire family are Christians. Owen was a "Christian," too, until the age of 18. That is when he learned about theodicy, the study of the problem of evil.

For almost an hour, Owen and I talked about theodicy, logic, the law, and the gospel. Owen is one of the most honest unbelievers with whom I have spoken. Unlike many professing atheists, agnostics, and skeptics (Romans 1:18 makes it clear none of these categories of people really exist. There are no atheists, agnostics, or skeptics according to God's Word.), Owen didn't cling to the ridiculous and fallacious arguments so many professing unbelievers cling to. It was refreshing.

However, Owen was honest, only up to a point. Owen tried to cling to his assertion that the reason he no longer believes in Jesus is because of the problem with evil. But by the end of the conversation, Owen realized that was not his real problem.

As I spent time reflecting on my conversation with Owen, I found myself thanking God for my friend, Sye Ten Bruggencate. I am indebted to Sye. What I have learned from him regarding presuppositional apologetics is, in part, what allowed me to have the conversation I had with Owen. All credit and glory goes to God, of course, but Sye's help has been invaluable to me.

I've referred to my conversation with Owen as remarkable. I say that understanding it may not seem remarkable to anyone else. Undoubtedly, some of what I experienced face-to-face with Owen will be lost in the non-visual medium of audio. But I do hope you, the listener, will be encouraged. I really sensed the Spirit's presence as I communicated with Owen. I felt an immediate connection with and compassion for this young man. My time with Owen proves yet again that "relationships" can be established in minutes. It doesn't take months or years when the motivation is love for God and love for people. It doesn't take months or years when the motivation is winning the soul of the other person for Christ's glory.

I hope you will do more than take the time to listen to my conversation with Owen. I hope you will join me in praying that the Lord will save him.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Christian Hero - A Sketch of the Life of Robert Annan

One of my dearest friends, who also happens to be an open-air preacher, sent me a book. The book, The Christian Hero - A Sketch of the Life of Robert Annan, is a short biographical work of a little-known, 19th century, open-air preacher by the name of Robert Annan.

Robert Annan lived a short life, even for 19th century Scottish standards. And he hailed from the town of Dundee. If the town sounds familiar to you, it is because Dundee was the location of my arrest, in January of this year. It is the place to which I will return sometime later this year to stand trial for "breach of peace, with an aggravation of homophobic hate speech." I'm sure these details were not lost on my friend when he decided to send me the book.

Although only 95 pages in length, this is likely one of the most important and impactful books I have ever read. I believe this book will not only impact my open-air preaching, but my overall sanctification as a man of God. One should examine themselves to see if they are even in the faith if they read this book and not come away from the experience at least a wee bit humbled. The death of Robert Annan, who had but a few years of evangelistic ministry before his timely and heroic death, was mourned by not only the Christian community, but also those who would beat him in the streets while he preached the gospel. Robert Annan was a man who was above reproach.

Although flawed and rough around the edges in behavior and thought, just like every other man, Annan's open-air preaching quickly matured. Although I've preached longer than Annan did, by the end of his life Annan's preaching was far more mature, Christ-centered, and God-honoring than mine is, today. I experienced much conviction as I read this book. Here's an example:
"Very tenderly and wisely did he deal with young enquirers. He took them always to the Word, his own experience of the former anxiety standing him in good stead.'Look at this,' he would say, as he turned to the text, 'The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' 'Did you ever notice the word "ALL" here?' he would ask. 'Ah, you imagined there were some sins of your which the blood of Jesus Christ could not cleanse. What do you think now?' The effect of all this was now treading the path of life. He constantly laboured to bring out the difference between grace and works; and there is not a passage bearing on this fundamental point in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians which he has not marked in his Bible, or had not expounded in his own way at one time or another. And as he expatiated on his favourite topic, salvation by free grace, he would say, 'It is all grace, my friends; grace from first to last; and that is a grand thing for you and me. Look yonder at the grace,' he would say, as if he then saw souls, Christ's side was opened that poort sinners might look in and see His bowels of compassion toward them'" (p. 37).
Annan approached every area of life with the zeal, passion, and love with which he approached every evangelistic endeavor--in his letter writing, in his relationship with his wife, and in the discipleship of his children. Annan appears to be an excellent example of an on-fire open-air preacher who did not lose sight of the fact that his wife and children were his first ministry. Oh, how this drum needs to be pounded and pounded again, in the open-air preaching subculture!

I recommend this book to not only every open-air preacher I know, but to every follower of Jesus Christ I know. The book reads as quickly and intensely as Annan lived his life, for the glory of God. It was one of those books that, as I read it, I felt a hint of discouragement come upon me, knowing the experience would soon be over.

The book is available in paperback and on Kindle. Pick up a copy, today.

Will the Elders of the Church of Wells Answer?

For some time, now, I have had growing concerns about a group called the Church of Wells, which is led by three, young open-air preachers. More recently, I have begun to publicly express my concerns. One vehicle for sharing my concerns was a three-hour edition of my BlogTalk Radio program, Cross Encounters Radio.

There are others who share my concerns: individuals (both Christian and non-Christian), families of Church of Wells members, para-church ministries, and many Christians who are part of the open-air preaching subculture around the world. Two strong and respected apologetic ministries, Christian Apologetic & Research Ministry and Striving for Eternity Ministries, have begun independent investigations into the Church of Wells. I have joined them in their effort. Together we are quickly amassing a large amount of data; the more we dig, the more troubled we are all becoming.

I realize, as do my Christian brothers from the other ministries, that what is being shared through secular news sources must be looked at with a somewhat wary eye. Without questioning the integrity of these secular news sources or individual reporters, or the veracity of the information they are disseminating, these secular sources cannot help but to apply a secular worldview to their journalism. And one's presuppositions, one's particular worldview, will effect one's interpretation of evidence.

I also realize that the passion and intensity fueling my own rhetoric, at times, may have been less than helpful in creating or maintaining lines of communication. I take responsibility for that, and apologize to anyone who may have been troubled or offended as a result.

So, in an effort to draw accurate conclusions about the specific doctrinal beliefs of the Church of Wells, we are going to produce a series a very short videos. In each video, we will publicly ask one specific and concise question of the church elders. In return, we will ask the church elders to answer each question in either a video on the church's (or designated church member's) YouTube channel, or a written response posted on the Church of Wells website, or both. This way the elders can dictate how their answers are disseminated to the public, and so that no accusation of spin or tampering with content can be levied by either side of the discussion.

In an effort to show there is no attempted gamesmanship on our part, we want to share the questions we will ask with the church elders, as well as all those who are watching events unfold in Wells, TX, before the videos are made. Our hope is to have videos for each of the following questions posted to my YouTube channel before 5:00 PM (PST), today, April 10, 2014.

We believe the principles, goals, and motivations that govern not only what we are trying to do, but also why we believe it is reasonable to expect answers from the church elders, are biblical. Some of the verses to which we have gleaned wisdom for this approach are:

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6).

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).

With the above in mind, hoping the elders of the Church of Wells will receive these questions in the spirit in which they are asked, we ask the church elders to answer the following questions:
  1. Please explain your understanding of the biblical Doctrine of Persecution, and explain the relationship of this doctrine to the Church of Wells. Please also provide specific examples of how the Church of Wells has been persecuted prior to April 1, 2014.
  2. Please explain the Church of Wells doctrine of “unwilling sin.”
  3. Given that it has been stated by the elders of CoW that a person can lose their salvation, please explain the following: John 8:29, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” John 6:39, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” If Jesus always does that which pleases the Father, and the will of the Father is that Jesus lose none, and that those who are given to Jesus will be raised (to glory), then how is it possible for Jesus to lose somebody by them losing their salvation?”
  4. According to the Church of Wells, what must a person do in order to obtain and retain salvation?
  5. Can a person whose salvation is once lost return to a state of grace?
  6. Please explain where Scripture supports one ability to declare a person’s salvation upon first meeting them.
  7. Do any of the elders of the Church of Wells have formal, theological training?
  8. How were the elders of the Church of Wells qualified and selected?
  9. Is the Church of Wells a true church, and if so, can the elders provide the names of other true churches?
  10. Do the elders of the Church of Wells believe that Paul Washer once walked in the light, but no longer does? If so, why has the Church of Wells’ opinion of Paul Washer changed?
  11. The Church of Wells website shows the faces of men implying the church sees them as the church’s “cloud of witnesses.” Many of the men shown held to the Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. Will the Church of Wells be removing the images of these men since your church believes a Christian can lose their salvation?
  12. When did each of the elders of the Church of Wells come to faith in Jesus Christ?
  13. Have any of the elders ever lost his salvation? If so, how did he regain it?
We pray the elders of the Church of Wells will answer these questions, not only for the benefit of three ministries represented in this article, but also for the benefit of all those, both inside and outside the Body of Christ, who truly want to know what the Church of Wells believes, teaches, and practices.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Living the Evangelistic Life


I Want to Go, But.....

Wanting to put pen to paper, today, I asked friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter for article suggestions. The suggestion I received from my friend, Chris Poindexter (pictured above) resonated with me. As anyone who follows my ministry knows, for years I have called Christians to take to the streets to proclaim the gospel from atop a box, or by engaging people in conversation, or through gospel tract distribution. But mine is certainly far, far from the best known voice making such a plea to Christians. Ray Comfort of Living Waters, for well over 30 years, has led the charge to mobilize Christians to obey Christ's command to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:18-20). Like an untold number of Christians around the world, I was one of those influenced by Ray to take the gospel outside of my comfort zone, onto the streets, and around the world.

Sadly, most professing Christians will never answer the call. They'll continue to live in disobedience to the Lord while insisting they're living their life in such a way people ask them why. They'll continue to live in disobedience to the Lord while insisting they need to earn the right from lost people to do what the Lord has commanded them in His Word: go and make disciples. They'll continue to live in disobedience to the Lord while insisting evangelism is not their "gift."

Then there are those genuine followers of Christ who want to obey His evangelistic commands. They want to take to the streets. They want to be part of the church's evangelism team. They want to distribute thousands of gospel tracts. They want to travel to other parts of the world to reach the lost. They want to go out and engage their neighbors, whether friend or stranger, in gospel conversations. They want to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But circumstances in life, whether permanent or temporary, leave them feeling that they can't contribute to the Great Commission.

If this describes you, well then this article is for you.

Start by Never Saying "Just" Again

The Lord has opened up so many ministry opportunities to me over the last nine years I doubt I can remember all of them. He is allowing me to travel throughout North America and around the world to preach the gospel on the streets of large cities and small towns. He is allowing me to do something I love as much as open-air preaching, and that's coming alongside good churches to assist them in reaching their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love traveling to different parts of the world with the expressed purpose of serving under the leadership of a local church, assisting them as they shepherd their flock in the area of evangelism. A little radio show, blogging, videos, conference speaking, travel: all of these God-given opportunities have provided one of the greatest blessing of all--fellowship with the Bride of Christ, the Church, my beautiful Christian brethren who look different than me, and sound different than me, and live different than me.

When I meet Christians for the first time and they are familiar with my ministry, they often begin the conversation with telling me how much they appreciate what I do. This is always a little embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it is always appreciated. It is not uncommon for the brother or sister in Christ with whom I am speaking to begin to tell me about their evangelistic efforts. I love hearing their stories. It's always such a great encouragement to see the glint in their eyes and the smile on their faces as they tell me about where they go and how they go about making the name of Jesus Christ known to others.

However, I find myself all-too-often rebuking my brethren before they have a chance to really get into their story. The reason is they often begin like this:
"I just hand out tracts."

"I just talk to other students at my university."

"I just share the gospel online with people."

I just focus on making sure my kids understand the gospel and are raised with a Christian worldview."

I just.....I just.....I just.....I just..... It drives me crazy! And why do I rebuke them? The reason is that whenever they put "I just" before any form of biblical evangelism, before any form of gospel proclamation, they are unintentionally minimizing the message and determining the validity of their evangelistic efforts by the methodology they employ. In other words, they have bought the lie--a lie sometimes perpetrated by the open-air preaching subculture and the para-church ministries therein--that there is a caste system in evangelism. The highest caste being open-air preaching with all other castes, in descending order, beneath: Open-air preaching, followed by one-to-one conversations, followed by gospel tract distribution, followed by workplace evangelism, followed by, classroom evangelism, followed by, friends and family evangelism, followed by online evangelism, followed by everything else.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16, emphasis mine).
The power in every evangelistic effort is the gospel. The power is not in the manner the gospel is communicated. The power is not in open-air preaching or the open-air preacher. The power is not in the Christian's ability to effortlessly strike up a conversation with a stranger. The power is not in the Christian's ability to convince most people to take the tract he is handing them. The power is not in the personality, profundity, perseverance, or passion of the Christian engaged in evangelism. The power is in the gospel.

Never use the word "just" as an adjective or an adverb when talking about your evangelism efforts. Whether you preach to a stadium filled with tens of thousands of people or hand a gospel tract to the cashier at the grocery store, your evangelism efforts are a beautiful testimony to the grace of God in your own life, and to the grace of God shown to the one who heard or received the gospel you shared. Rejoice! Rejoice that the God who saved you chooses to use you at all to reach the lost with the gospel. Rejoice that He has given you a heart to win souls. Rejoice that He has perfectly placed you in space and time to communicate the gospel with the specific people to whom you speak. Rejoice and be glad!

You never just share the gospel. You get to share the gospel!

If you continue to get hung up on thoughts of your intentional, loving efforts to share the gospel not being as good or as important as someone else's--someone you perceive to be doing more--then your issue is likely pride. If this happens or is happening now, repent and thank God for every and any opportunity He gives you to glorify Him through the declaration of His Son, King Jesus.

Live with Contentment Right Where You're At

Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians:
"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God" (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).
The popular phrase "bloom where you are planted" is not in the Bible. Some speculate that it might be an ancient Afghan proverb. However, Paul does say that every Christian should "lead the life that the Lord has assigned to [him]."

I know many Christians who, because they are in a particular season in life (like Chris who inspired this article) or because the life God has assigned them has placed them in a permanent physically limited condition, simply cannot take to the streets as much as they would like, or even once in a blue moon. They can't join the evangelism team during their weekly outings. They cannot travel far away to the large-scale outreach. They can't even go to the grocery store to hand a tract to the cashier.

Life happens. Life is hard. Sometimes where we are is where we're going to stay. Sometimes life is the way it is and the Lord, for good and glorious reasons known only to Him, is not going to change things anytime soon. If you think these truths, and maybe for you these realities, prevent you from being an effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ, you're wrong. You are oh-so-very wrong.

Accept where the Lord has you, right now, at this moment. Thank God, even though you might not be able to see it through the haze of your circumstances, that He is more than able to use you to reach the lost right where you are. Live with contentment right where you're at.

With the above in mind, let's look at some simple, practical ways every Christian can live the evangelistic life.

A Knock on the Door

As I wrote this article, I noticed the following post come across my Facebook feed.


How many times does someone knock on your door, through the course of your day-to-day life? Every time someone knocks on your door, you have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Afraid that the knock on the door might be the nicely dressed members of the Watchtower Cult or the kids who call themselves "elders" from the cult of Latter-Day Saints? Then love the cultists enough to prepare yourself for that kind of knock on the door.

Whether it's engaging the person in conversation or simply handing them a gospel tract, don't miss or minimize the gospel opportunities God provides with every knock on the door.

"But, Tony. The knock on the door happens so infrequently. How could that ever be enough?"

Stop thinking about numbers. The "numbers game" is a blight on the history and reputation of American Evangelicalism. If the Lord tarries, future generations will look back on the American Evangelicalism of the 20th and 21st centuries and shake their heads at how unbiblical Christian churches and ministries were when it came to their focus on counting heads.

Love the one person the Lord brings to your door more than the thousand people you may never meet.

Stop Going to the Store to Buy Groceries

Living the evangelistic life means changing the way you look at every aspect of life, including the mundane things in life, like running errands. This one of many things Ray Comfort taught me. Ray doesn't go to the store to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. He goes to the store to share the gospel with someone, and while he's there he buys a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.

Stop going to the gas station to fill your tank with gas. Go to the gas station to share the gospel, and while you're there get some gas.

Stop going to the post office to mail a package. Go to the post office to share the gospel, and while you're there mail a package.

Stop being a "soccer mom." Go to the soccer field to share the gospel, and while you're there enjoy watching your kids practice or play in a game.

Stop going to school to earn a high school diploma or a college degree. Go to school to share the gospel, and while you're there study heartily for the Lord and get the best education you can.

Stop spending so many hours a day on social media to get your news, gossip, and attention fix. Go online to share the gospel. Go online with the intention of loving God and loving people.

Are you sick and tired of going to doctor and specialist appointments week in and week out? Then knock it off! Go to the doctor's office, clinic, hospital, or therapy session to share the gospel, and while you're there get the physical treatment you need.

Stop going to work to earn a living. Stop going to work to provide for your family. Stop going to work to improve your station in life. Go to work to share the gospel, and while you're there do your work heartily for the Lord. Be the very best employee and provider for your family that you can be.

Stop living for yourself and live for Jesus. Really live for Jesus.

Make every activity a conduit for gospel proclamation. Make every relationship secondary to your love for Christ and love for the souls of the people for whom you say you care the most.

Live the evangelistic life for the glory of God. You don't have to be a full-time evangelist, or even a part-time evangelist, to do that.

Stop Whining and Sniveling

Living the evangelistic life means changing your negative attitudes about daily inconveniences into opportunities for praise, worship, and evangelism.

You pull into the DMV parking lot, and what do you see? You see a line of people wrapped around the building, all not wanting to be there just as much as you. Instead of grimacing, looking at your watch, and pounding the steering wheel in frustration, rejoice and be glad. "Look at all of those people! I didn't think I was going to have time to share the gospel with anyone, today. I bet I can hand out at least 50 gospel tracts while I'm here."

When you live the evangelistic life, you no longer see a line of people as an inconvenience. You see them as lost souls--people to whom God has given you the special privilege of sharing the gospel. People who you once thought got in your way are now people you see as those God has put in your path.

Conclusion

There is only one thing stopping you from living the evangelistic life. It's not your schedule. It's not your circumstances. It's not your physical limitations. It's not your lack of talent or gifting. It's you. You're the only one stopping you from living the evangelistic life. Stop it! Knock it off! Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Quit being lazy. Quit being indifferent. Quit being unloving. Quit being self-absorbed. Quit fearing people more than you love people. Quit fearing people more than you fear and love God.

Those who truly live for Jesus, regardless of their lot in life, live life looking through the lens of the gospel. Make today the day you begin living the evangelistic life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Approaching Your Pastor about Evangelism

A Common Story

You had been meaning to read it, but it just wasn't a priority. A few of your friends, people in whom you've seen a distinct spiritual change over several months, had been begging you to read it. One day, sitting on a shelf wedged between Moonwalking with Einstein and The Fallacy Detective (two other books you've been meaning to read), the book caught your eye.

You started reading and you found yourself unable to put the book down. You get to the last page still wanting more. You close the book, feeling the stiffness on your cheeks from dried tears.

The light bulb goes on. You realize for the first time, even though you've been a Christian for years, that you have been wrong all along about evangelism. Not only that, but you realize you've never really had a burden for the lost or anything that could remotely be called zeal for reaching the lost with the gospel. You finally get it. For years, you have been loving yourself more than you love Christ, and certainly more than you love the lost.

You repent.

And in a moment, not unlike that moment you came to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, God changes your heart and your mind about evangelism. It will never again merely be the participation in the occasional on-site church outreach, or volunteering at the food pantry, or building a house in Mexico. Oh, you have every intention of continuing those activities because they're good and right and necessary. But from now on, all of those activities will include the gospel.

You can't wait to buy a pack of gospel tracts. You no longer think of walking up to a stranger and engaging that person in spiritual conversation as weird, culturally insensitive, or something only the trained evangelist does. Now you think of such an encounter with the nervous exhilarating felt before climbing into the car of the newest, most death-defying roller coaster known to man. You want to get out, but you can't wait to go! You picture in your mind standing atop a box to preach, and then you catch yourself. "What! Am I nuts?"

You feel your cheeks starting to hurt because you've been smiling for so long. As you relax your face, another thought enters your mind. This one isn't as positive. "For all these years, my pastor has taught me that I shouldn't share the gospel with someone until I've done the heavy lifting of establishing a relationship with them. He taught me that I should preach the gospel at all times, but when necessary use words. He's said several times that people won't care what I know until they know I care."

Discouragement sets in, maybe even a sense of betrayal. You quickly forget about how many times the pastor has met with you for lunch or coffee to discuss personal issues. You quickly forget about how many years you have sat under your pastor's faithful, verse-by-verse expository preaching. You quickly forget that your pastor is probably the most active person in the church when it comes to sharing the gospel. You forget that you're pastor has shepherded you faithfully, patiently, and sacrificially as a shepherd should.

You turn on your computer. You rub your hands together as the computer comes to life. You open your email, click "create new message," select your pastor's email address, and write:

Pastor John,

I just finished reading the book, "Everything I Ever Wanted to Know about Evangelism, but I Didn't Know I Wanted to Know it; in Fact I Didn't Want to Know it, and Now That I Know it, I Know All I Need to Know." We need to talk about it. When would be a good time for you? I can be at the church in ten minutes."

You drive to the church and walk into the pastor's with "the book" in hand. Before the pastor can stand up from behind his desk, say hello, and shake your hand, you drop "the book" on your pastor's desk and say:

"Pastor, you need to read this book. This is what we should be doing as a church. I mean it. This is it. Let me know what you think, but you've gotta read it now--tonight if you can. Just let me know what you want me to do to make the necessary changes around here. It's time this church gets out of the pews and onto the streets!

"Well, I'll let you go. You've got a book to read, and I suspect a lot of repenting to do. See ya later!"

You might think the above story is an exaggeration. I wish it was, but it's not. I've heard these stories--from people who did things like this, to pastors who have been on the receiving end of someone who's "evangelism light bulb" has illuminated for the first time.

The above story is not a good example for approaching your pastor about evangelism. Please don't do this to him. And if you can't be dissuaded from doing this to your pastor, please don't blame the book you read. It's not the book's fault. It's not the author's fault. It's your fault. Your pastor won't respond well, not because he doesn't like a book he may not have time to read, but because of the way you approached him with what you believe is the answer to the church's evangelism "problems."

Remember Who You Were

One of the most common mistakes Christians make when approaching their pastor about evangelism, especially after their own personal evangelistic light bulb turns on for the first time, is that they forget who they were just a short time ago. They forget that not long ago, maybe just moments ago, they had spent maybe years walking in disobedience to Christ when it came to evangelism.

Before you approach your pastor about evangelism, give yourself a moment of pause and remind yourself about how many years you "didn't get it." Extend the kind of grace to your pastor you would want extended to you, if the shoe were on the other foot.

There's More to Pastoring than Evangelism

While every pastor should be engaged in personal evangelism, and while every pastor should teach, encourage and model evangelism for his flock, evangelism is but one entree on a pastor's very full ministerial plate. Prayer, study, sermon prep, preaching, counseling, visiting, comforting, consoling, correcting, disciplining, shepherding his own family: the list of pastoral activities and responsibilities goes on and on. In most churches in the United States, there is one man doing all or most of these activities. He is likely putting in 80-90 hours a week.

This is important to note: sometimes the sheep bite. That's right. Sheep (Christians) can be stubborn, rebellious, stiff-necked, whining, sniveling, needy, selfish, disobedient, lazy, unteachable people. And the under-shepherd, like the Good Shepherd, loves his flock not because of who they are, but in spite of who they are.

Keep in mind that your pastor, no matter how much vim and vigor he shows from day-to-day, is likely a tired man. He probably loves the work. He was called to do it. But he probably burns the candle at both ends, with one end of the candle being ministry and the other end of the candle being his family life--two ends that never seem far apart, with each end effecting the other.

Before you approach your pastor about what you believe the church should be doing in its evangelistic efforts, remember there is more to pastoral ministry than evangelism.

A Bad Taste in Your Pastor's Mouth

"Confrontational Evangelism;" "Cold Evangelism;" "Shock and Awe;" "Turn and Burn;" "Sign Guy;" "Bullhorn Guy." The first time you mention the terms "street evangelism" or "open-air preaching" to your pastor, he may have the before-mentioned terms run through his head. He is likely more familiar with the awful caricatures of street evangelism and open-air preaching than he is with the grand and beautiful, biblical and post-apostolic representations of street evangelism and open-air preaching. With bad open-air preachers flooding YouTube with their videos and making messes legitimate evangelists and Christian students have to later clean up on university campuses, it's no wonder your pastor might be hesitant, wary, and skeptical about bringing street evangelism and open-air preaching into the church.

Your pastor's wariness and hesitation is NOT necessarily a sign of indifference toward or taking a position against street evangelism and open-air preaching. If your pastor is truly a man of God (and why would you sit under his teaching if he wasn't), then he wants to reach the lost with the gospel, probably more than you do. You are obligated, out of love and respect for your pastor, to give him the benefit of the doubt. You must presume the best about your pastor and not assume the worst. So, before you approach your pastor with your new-found evangelistic zeal, keep in mind he might have a bad taste in his mouth from his exposure to the brand of evangelism about which you are now so excited.

The Approach

Don't play mind games with your pastor. Be straightforward, respectful, kind, considerate, submissive, and loving toward him. Tell your pastor that you've been reading or watching videos about evangelism and that you would like to talk to him about it.

Don't email your pastor! Call the man! The pen (or keyboard) is mightier than the sword, but it can be an assault with a deadly weapon if you wield it in the wrong way, with the wrong motives.  Better yet, pull him aside after church (not before). You don't want to distract him before he steps into the pulpit.

Do you have any idea how many people leave the church, quit the church, via a "Dear John" emails to the pastor? Do you have any idea how many times a pastor's heart (maybe your pastor's heart) has been crushed by reading an email from a member of the flock? Do you have any idea how many times a pastor's heart has sank when he opens an email hoping for a word of encouragement, but expecting something else, and slumps in his chair as he reads, "Pastor, you and I need to have a talk?"

But email is faster. And? So? Do you email your wife or your kids to tell them you want to have a talk with them? Or do you simply talk to them? And what makes your timetable sacrosanct? Calm down. Take a deep breath. The world will continue to turn on its axis. You've walked in disobedience toward Christ for years, yet no one went to heaven or hell as a result.

Gasp!

That's right. No one goes to heaven or hell based on your evangelistic efforts or lack thereof. You do not save anyone. You do not sentence anyone. You are not sovereign. You are not even necessary. God is sovereign. Salvation is of the Lord. While He doesn't need you to complete His salvific work in another person's life, He commands you to love Him by keeping His commands. He commands you to love other people by sharing the gospel and making disciples out of them. Evangelism is not about results or effectiveness based on man-centered standards of success. Evangelism is about the two greatest commandments--loving God and loving people.

Make no mistake. I am not proffering a sinful and unbiblical brand of hyper-calvinistic non-evangelism. Not at all. Every Christian is commanded by God, in His Word to engage in evangelism, to make disciples, to proclaim the gospel to every human being, to fulfill the Great Commission. But God's predetermined, sovereign plan for every human being has not been, is not, and never will be thwarted by your disobedience. So, stop thinking so highly of yourself, slow down, be patient, and talk to your pastor.

When you approach your pastor, don't hand him a book or a DVD. Don't hand him anything. Ask to arrange a time, maybe over coffee or lunch (your treat, not the pastor's) to meet and talk. Assure your pastor that you don't have any bad news to share with him. Assure him that you do not want to talk about his shortcomings and how he could do a better job pastoring the church. In other words, put his mind at ease by assuring him you don't have a bomb to drop on him.

Be honest.

Tell your pastor you've been reading, watching, or studying about evangelism and that you would like to talk to him about it. If your evangelistic lamp was plugged in and turned on by reading any one of several good books or videos about evangelism, tell your pastor. Give him the title of the book or the video. Leave nothing to speculation. Show your pastor the respect of letting him come into the meeting fully informed and not anticipating any surprises from you.

The ball is now in your pastor's court. Your job is to pray and to wait patiently and quietly for your pastor to get back to you with a time and place for the meeting, if he doesn't give you one on the spot, when you first approach him.

The First Meeting

Before the meeting, pick up a copy of the book or DVD you would like him to read or watch. Do this with the understanding that if your pastor is a man who studies to show himself approved, studies to make sure he is rightly handling and dividing the Word of God, then he is probably already doing a lot of reading. A lot of reading. Also keep in mind that you are not the only member of the church to hand your pastor something to read or watch. It may take time, a long time, before your pastor even gets to the resource you hand him, let alone finish it, think about it and its implications for the church, pray about it, and get back to you. This is true in sound, small churches as well as the mega-church whose pastor's sermons you listen to every day.

Do not drop the book in front of your pastor and say, "This is it pastor. This is what our church is missing. We've all been disobedient and unloving. We're not sharing the gospel the way Jesus did. We need to change things now, right away, so we don't create any more false converts. And have you ever stopped to think how many false converts might be in our church right now?"

Breathe.

I recommend, before ever handing your pastor the book or DVD that you spend some time talking to your pastor about, of all things, your pastor. Find out how he's doing. What is he studying or reading? How is his family? How can you pray for him? And this must not be mere superficiality and preliminaries before getting to the main topic. Care for your pastor enough to spend some time talking to your pastor about your pastor's life. Minister to him, for a change.

Let the pastor lead and direct the conversation. When he's ready to talk about the subject you want to address, he'll let you know. When the time comes, give your pastor his copy of the resource you want to share with him. Explain to him how the resource has impacted you. Ask your pastor to take the time to look it over--not for the purpose of tearing down and rebuilding the church, but to make sure what you're reading and watching is indeed biblical. As your shepherd, he should have a healthy and biblical concern for what his sheep are eating when they are outside the four walls of the church.

Answer whatever questions your pastor may have, and leave it at that. Make no further requests. Don't give any veiled or direct ultimatums. Don't ask you pastor to commit to a day or time when he will finish his review of the resource.

Be patient. Wait. And pray.

Follow-Up

If you have not heard back from your pastor in a reasonable amount of time (no, not the next day), give your pastor a call. If he says he hasn't been able to get to it yet, don't chastise him. Instead, ask him if there is anything you can do to serve him. Ask if there is more you can do around the church.

Be patient. Wait. And pray.

The culture of a church, in any area of ministry, does not change over night. This is especially true in older (not necessarily larger), more established churches. For better or for worse, there is a "we've never done it that way before" mindset in many churches. It could take time, a long time, before your church makes any real and appreciable changes in direction regarding evangelism, if they do at all. And you must also be willing to consider how your church sets out to reach the lost with the gospel may not be wrong. It may simply be different than the new way you want to go about it.

When NOT to Leave the Church

Does your pastors/elders stand in the pulpit and herald the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ? Are they doing their best to teach the Word of God? Are they faithful to the text of Scripture? Are the ordinances of baptism and communion conducted in a way that brings honor and glory to Jesus Christ? Are your pastors/elders diligent to guard the flock, promote biblical unity, and lead the church in the ministries of fellowship, care, discipline, and discipleship? Then the issue of your pastors/elders not agreeing with you philosophically about how the church should engage in evangelism is not a biblical reason for leaving your church.

"So, what do I do?"

Stay. Serve. Submit to your elders. Love the brethren. Do evangelism in keeping with the convictions God has given you, as you study His Word and grow in your faith.

Do not be contentious. Do not be factious. Do not try to pit the congregation against the elders, or elders against other elders. All such works are ungodly and of the devil. Repent of even the thought of them.

"But Tony, you left."

Yes, I did. Recently, I left Faith Community Church to seek membership at Grace Community Church. Mahria and I will receive the right hand of fellowship, as new member, on Sunday, April 6. I left because after 18 months of discussion and prayer with my elders, my elders affirmed my call to serve Christ as an open-air preacher. But because that particular form of evangelism is not in keeping with the church's philosophy for evangelism, they suggested I look to serve in a church where open-air preaching is affirmed by the leadership. The parting was sorrowful, but loving. I remain friends with the people at Faith Community and I recommend Faith Community to anyone living in the area who is looking for a Christ-centered, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church.

I left Faith Community Church in a biblical way. Had I not, Grace Community church would not receive me as a member.

Conclusion

Approaching your pastor with questions about the church's philosophy of ministry regarding evangelism is important. How you approach your pastor is even more important. Love your pastor. Respect your pastor. Serve your pastor. Submit to your pastor's authority, both in the church and in your life as a member of the congregation. Help your pastor understand your position. Don't threaten your pastor in a sinful attempt to force your pastor to see things your way.

Remember, the goal is to see your church be as biblical and pro-active as they can be in evangelism. That will look different from one church to the next. Don't expect everyone in your church to think like you and be like you when it comes to evangelism. Work to have the form of evangelism in which you want to engage be grafted in to the church's overall philosophy for evangelistic ministry. Don't lose sight of the fact that the Body of Christ is made up of different parts--hands, feet, etc.--different parts that need the others to function properly, for the glory of Christ.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Letter to the Hebrews - A Reading

A very close friend of mine needed some encouragement, today. So, he asked me to record a reading of The Letter to the Hebrews.

I hope it encourages you, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Truth About Sensuality (Parental Discretion Advised)

I have written a new tract for One Million Tracts titled "The Truth About Sensuality." The tract will be available for pre-order on Friday, March 21, 2014. You will find the tract in the Tracts by Tony section of the website.

I believe this may be the most important gospel tract I have written to date.

Here's the tract text:

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” The great American author and humorist was wrong on both counts. Clothes do not make the man (or the woman). And naked people have far too much influence on society. Clothing doesn’t make a person. Clothing simply reveals who or what a person is, or what a person wants other people to think of him or her.

Today, many societies see the public display of sensuality as a virtue and not a vice. Today, many men and women dress to attract members of the opposite sex. By and large, the attraction sought and received does not result in thoughts of “I want to marry this person,” but rather, “I want to fornicate or commit adultery with this person” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Here is what Jesus said about sensuality. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). God sees sensuality, whether committed in darkness or in the light of day, as sin. He sees it as the byproduct of an evil heart.

Author Paul Washer wrote: “If your clothing is a frame for your face, God is pleased with your clothing. If your clothing is a frame for your body, it’s sensual and God hates what you are doing.”

Solomon wrote the following proverb: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven things that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

If you choose your clothing with the intent of enticing a man or a woman to look at your body, then you have devised a wicked plan in your heart. You have sinned against God.

The Bible says, “The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Because God is good, if He finds you guilty of sinning against Him, He will do what is holy, righteous, and just. He will punish your sin; the punishment God ascribes for sin is eternity in Hell.

The prophet Isaiah wrote this about Jesus: For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:2-3). The beauty of Jesus was never seen in His physical appearance. It was seen in His sacrificial love for sinners like you.

God has provided only one way for you to receive forgiveness of your sins and freedom from the eternal punishment of Hell. God the Father sent His Son to earth in the person of Jesus Christ—fully God and fully Man, yet without sin. He voluntarily went to the cross where he shed His innocent blood and died—not for sins He committed, but to take upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your sins against Him. Three days later He rose from the grave. God commands you this day to repent and believe the gospel—to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Sensuality never leads to happiness and fulfillment. Sensuality only leads to shame, a loss of self-respect, and making one’s self the sinful object of another person’s sinful desires. Sensuality replaces God-given beauty with God-hating depravity.

However, dressing more modestly will not make you right with God. The immorality that leads you to dress inappropriately comes from a heart that is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). It is a heart you cannot change. But if God causes you to be born again (1 Peter 1:3) and, because of His goodness (Romans 2:4), extends to you the gifts of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, He will take your wicked heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), forgive your sins (1 John 1:9), and grant you eternal life (John 3:16).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

They Don't Only Hate the Babies They Kill

This morning, the man driving this car brought his wife or girlfriend to the FPAMG abortuary in Mission Hills. As I stood outside the driveway, holding my cross, the man intentionally steered the car in my direction, causing me to back up to avoid being hit, before he turned the car sharply to make it into the abortuary parking lot.

Finding no place to park in the lot, he came back out of the parking lot cursing at me and threatening me. The man drove toward the front entrance of the abortuary. Fearing he would do as so many cowardly men do and drop the young woman off at the front door, we walked in that direction.

The man parked the car on the main street in along the west side of the abortuary. As he and the young woman walked toward the front door, I told her that if she was here for an abortion, there was a crisis pregnancy center across the street. The woman, who seemed to have tears in her eyes, said, "I've already had the abortion." She was apparently at the abortuary for a post-abortion appointment.

The man continued to breath out abuses and threats. He spit at Don, and then he went after Steve who was holding a small camera. Fearing the man was going to assault Steve, I stepped toward the man. The man turned toward me, made more threats, which I tried to assure him he would not carry out, and then knocked the digital recorder out of my hand.

The man walked into the abortuary, which the young woman had already entered.

No one was injured, including the man who made the threats.

I decided we would not call the police because I was quite certain nothing would be done.

This is the type of person who murders unborn children. It is no surprise that any man who would encourage or coerce a woman to murder her child would also harbor hatred for other people.

As we left the abortuary, I stopped and placed one of Living Waters' In the Womb gospel tracts on the windshield of the car. I included a note letting the man know I forgave him, and I left my email address in case he wanted to contact me.

Babies are murdered at these places, folks. The Christian community needs to stop sanitizing, minimizing, and ignoring what actually happens when men and women come to these places with murder in their hearts. And those who choose to murder their children do not limited their hatred to the child they kill, more often than not, for convenience sake.

If you have not yet seen the documentary Babies Are Murdered Here, please take the time to watch it, now.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ken Ham Answered the Higher Call


Much of Christendom, as well as parts of the atheistic and scientific blogosphere, are writing and chattering much about last night's debate between creationist Ken Ham and atheist Bill Nye. I feel the need to also weigh in. But, contrary to my modus operandi, I plan to be brief.

Ken Ham wasn't as presuppositional in his creation apologetic as some Christians would like. He likely didn't provide enough evidence for some evidentiary apologists in the Christian ranks. But he preached the gospel.

When a man is given a platform in front of potentially millions of people--most of whom hate Jesus and His gospel--and he faithfully and unashamedly preaches the gospel, and then Christians respond with, "he preached the gospel, but.....," there's a problem. And it's a serious problem.

The gospel, and the gospel alone, is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). One man preaching the gospel, even if he can't pronounce or spell "presuppositional" or "evidentiary," let alone competently and effectively employ either apologetic tactic, is fully equipped and fully armed to be used by God to lead men to Christ.

Don't get me wrong. Apologetic tactics have their place in evangelism, and I respect those who are accomplished apologists. And for the record, I personally ascribe to the presuppositional approach and employ tactics I hope are consistent with the discipline, in my evangelism efforts. However, apologetic tactics will never be more than a secondary, supporting tool for the evangelist, not for the gospel. The gospel needs no such support. The gospel simply needs to be proclaimed.

Scripture commands that the Christian always be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in [him]" (1 Peter 3:15b). My hope is in Jesus Christ and Him alone. My hope is in the gospel of my Lord and Savior--nothing else. My hope is in His perfect life (2 Corinthians 5:21), propitiatory death (Romans 3:21-26, and glorious resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)--nothing else. My hope is in the reality that the Holy Spirit testifies with my spirit that I am and adopted child of God (Romans 8:16)--nothing else.

And the reason for my hope? God has caused me to be born again (1 Peter 1:3). He has taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). He has made me a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Because of and by His goodness, He led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). His gospel became an aroma of life for life to me (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). He removed the veil from my eyes (2 Corinthians 4:3-6) so that now I can see the truth that set me free (John 8:31-38). And He has assured me that His Word provides me with the assurance to know I am saved (1 John 5:13).

No apologetic argument convinced me of the above truths. God, by His grace and mercy, through the faith in His Son, which He gave me as a gift, through a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, has allowed me to come to understand these truths that He so kindly inscripturated.

To some (maybe many), Ken Ham was not the hoped for apologist or debater last night. So be it. What Ken Ham did do last night was far more important than winning a creation/evolution debate. He answered the higher call. He preached the gospel.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Notes: The Importance of the Preacher's Character

In Eifion Evans' wonderful biography, Daniel Rowland - and the Great Evangelical Awakening in Wales, Evans wrote the following regarding the character of the great, Welsh open-air preacher:

These honest statements of appreciation for Rowland reflect not only the hearers' views but also the preacher's character. Evidently Rowland was a man of great warmth and compassion, for whom personal convenience was always secondary to the spiritual welfare of others. At thirty years of age, his preaching activities away from Llangeitho involved costly and prolonged separation from is wife and young children (a son and perhaps two daughters). Yet, a large measure of self-denial on their part, together with Rowland's sensitivity to the Spirit's prompting, allowed him to be flexible and open in the face of unexpected developments. Furthermore, when thus presented with an unscheduled opportunity for preaching, a knowledge of Scripture which was kept fresh each day provided him with a relevant message. There was also a passionate concern for Christ's neglected people, and this constantly motivated his decisions. In this way he reflected a care for Christ's churches which, in spirit and intensity, if not in office, was as apostolic as Paul" (p. 167).

From this brief passage, I drew the following, albeit not exhaustive, spiritual checklist for the man of God, like Rowland, who preaches either in a pulpit or atop a box in the open-air:
  1. A man of warmth and compassion
  2. A man who is other-minded (putting the spiritual needs of others before his own conveniences)
  3. A man who is able to intensely and daily serve the Lord while keeping his own household in order
  4. A man who is flexible and able to quickly adjust to unexpected developments
  5. A superior working knowledge of Scripture
  6. A passionate concern for the welfare of the Bride of Christ
Such are but some of the character traits of one of Christ's heralds.