It is my contention that Christians lack the motivation to evangelize because they lack confidence confronting unbelievers with the Gospel. That lack of confidence, I believe, is due largely in part to the lack of proper theological and biblical grounding on the subject of evangelism and apologetics.
As I noted in my last couple of posts on this subject, doing apologetics and evangelism requires a good defense for the faith and a good offense to challenge the hearts of unbelievers.
Defending the faith begins with a life saturated in God’s Word that shows forth godly character submitted to Christ’s Lordship. Challenging the unbeliever involves directly assailing the worldview he has created for himself by confronting his heart and mind with the truth of God revealed in Christ.
Hence, effective apologetics and evangelism will utilize both defensive and offensive tactics to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
With that bit of background, I want to become more practical with the principles I have been outlining so far. In order to ready ourselves to engage the world with the Gospel, I have three primary areas I would like to address: Our preparation, our practice, and our pitfalls. I will consider the first point with this post, and the final two in the next one.
There are two important points we need to grasp in order to get prepared,
First, Know Your Faith
That is an unspoken given. So why even mention it? Simply because evangelical Christians are spiritually illiterate when it comes to their faith. Some folks even seem to be willfully ignorant. It’s as if they don’t really care about learning the Bible, or key doctrines, or any theology at all. I find that attitude of self-imposed ignorance mystifying.
I would think any person who genuinely experiences a spiritual awakening would immediately desire to know the faith he or she just embraced. That was my experience when the Lord saved me. Yet sadly that is not the case for many Christian. Older, more seasoned Christians are often times even more ignorant.
They tend to only listen to CCM and rarely if ever think to listen to good biblical preaching. They may attend a weekly Bible study, if one is even offered, but the study is superficial. Church has become a routine done on Sunday mornings. A good service is judged by how well the pastor captivated the audience, or perhaps how much the music moved the people to experience “glory bumps.” Now, there are probably legitimate reasons why this lazy attitude exists in Christians, say for example, poor pastoring from the pulpit or insufficient discipleship, but whatever the case, a Christian must stir from his spiritual stupor and begin knowing his faith. How can this be done?
Begin first by regularly reading the Bible.
The Christian must get into the disciplined habit of reading the Bible daily. Cultivating a habit with reading the Scripture is an absolute, a “no other options” must for a Christian’s life.
You can never defend anything you know nothing about, and you will certainly never proclaim it to others with any authority. Neglecting the reading of Scripture is inexcusable, because there are many helps available in our day and age to aide a person in this area. For example, there are a number of “Through the Bible in a Year” outlines, including reasonably priced editions which break the Scriptures up so a person can begin on January 1st, and if read faithfully every day, the entire Bible will be completed by December 31st.
A person doesn’t have to get up at 4 AM to read the Bible. Find whatever time works best for you and start reading it through. I personally like the evening hours. Even if a person has reading disabilities and takes TWO years to read through the Bible, well fine, if that is what it takes. The important thing is reading it.
Once you have read through the Bible a few times, I would suggest finding a NT book you happened to like and picking up a short, but soundly written commentary, and do an in-depth study on that one book. One year I wanted to learn Galatians. I picked up maybe 4 or 5 commentaries, short in length and written by solid guys, and spent a few months (along with my daily Bible reading) studying Galatians. I have done this with Romans, though not extensively as Galatians, 1 – 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and the Pastoral epistles of Paul.
Also, listen to good preaching, particularly expository preaching, either by listening to the radio or purchasing CDs, tapes or MP3s. Excellent expository preaching is a fantastic way to learn the Bible as you read it regularly.
Second, supplement your daily Bible reading with reading good, biblically rich books written by solid men and women.
Along with the Bible, you want to gather around yourself good books written by solid men and women whose doctrine and ideas are shaped by the text of Scripture. Those are not the devotional style books found on the top 20 lists available at the local retail Christian bookstore which is usually overstocked with religious paraphernalia like Precious Moments figurines, footprints plaques, and all the CCM a person can’t humanly listen to.
The books I am talking about here are often written by individuals who are dead, like the Puritans; but their work is still in print because of the genuine value of their work. They cover important doctrinal subjects like God’s attributes, the authority of God’s Word, or the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, the doctrines of salvation, and Christian sanctification. Those are the books you want to find and read, for they will help familiarize you with the teaching of scripture.
I can recall the first time I met John Piper when he spoke during one of our seminary chapel times. He had given a heart stirring message on the personal priorities of a pastor and afterward, I had occasion to ask him which Christian books and authors impacted his faith. I remember him pausing and then replying that rather than picking a variety of authors and books, he recommended finding a man who has written extensively and has been tried by time as being a faithful theologian and teacher, and read everything he wrote available in print. At the time, Piper had just finished the works of Jonathan Edwards and was then studying the life works of John Owen. I was encouraged by his words, because I had read much of A.W. Pink’s printed materials and was starting to immerse myself in the printed sermons of Thomas Watson. Piper provides excellent advice for supplementing consistent Bible reading.
Third, get yourself a good systematic theology.
A systematic theology is one of those real thick books with itty-bitty print and are generally more expensive that your regular book. For the laymen, they can be scary. However systematic theologies do what it’s title proclaims: it systematizes theological subjects by organizing biblical doctrine in to logical categories and showing how they all function in a comprehensive whole.
A systematic theology may be intimidating for some because it is so overwhelming in volume, but don’t let size discourage you for securing a couple of different ones.
The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns is a good starter, as is the classic Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. A couple of more recent ones which are more in-depth, but geared for laymen and are easy to read, are Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology and Robert Duncan Culver’s Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. You may not agree with every conclusion a particular author makes with his points of theology, but a good systematic theology will help immensely with framing a theological structure built upon a strong foundation of daily Bible reading.
Realize that you will not be an immediate expert in all things theological and apologetic. But, you will be developing habits which will serve you well when you evangelize.
Second, Know Your Friend
A second important truth to keep in mind as you prepare to engage the world with the Gospel is to remember you are engaging unbelievers. We tend to forget this sometimes. Even though you have a friend who is sweet and nice, he or she is a sinner in need of a savior and it is the main reason a person is resistant to your message of salvation.
I mentioned what the Bible teaches on the state of an unbeliever. Let me remind us of some basic facts concerning the unbelieving friend you are about to engage:
– Your friend will be deceived by the world’s wisdom of this age. He may be enamored with so-called experts perceived as authoritative in his life. These authorities can take many forms: false religions, pseudo-Christian cults, secular personalities. Who, or whatever, this authority is will hold sway in your friend’s heart by forming his perceptions and presuppositions about reality.
– As a result of sin, your friend is darkened to spiritual truth (Ephesians 4:17 ff.). He doesn’t properly understand spiritual truth, and may in point of fact think you are “nutty” for believing any thing spiritual to begin with.
– Your friend is also hostile to God. He is opposed to the Law of God and ultimately doesn’t want to have anything to do with it (Romans 8:5-9). His hostility may be mild or severe depending upon the person.
Even though he is darkened to spiritual truth and hostile to God, you still must persevere with giving him the Gospel. You possess the only message by which your friend can be saved. Only the Gospel can bring him to a place where he is reconciled to God and live in a spiritually functional life pleasing unto the Lord. Additionally, you engage him in the power of the Spirit. Hence, God has mandated His people to present the Gospel and He equips them with the ability to be effective, so regardless of how resistant your friend may be, God’s Spirit can easily break through the hardness of heart.
With my next post, I’ll consider some application.