mardi 14 mars 2017

Fishers of Men - Evangelism in 21st Century/Apologetic 101

Image result for apologetic 101I thought of sharing a post I wrote in 2011 in a restricted forum. For this reason, I will keep names in original article out but I will keep the first letter of the names though. Miss J had asked the group a pertinent question on how to do effective evangelism for those who have no access to pulpits in order to share the good news of Jesus Christ. My response was only of the different intervention to her so I only spoke of what I thought was missing on previous interventions. The basic biblical text I based my response was this, 
"And He said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you FISHERS OF MEN"- Matthew 4:19


Introduction to conversational evangelism

Today, I thought it was time to answer 'J' question as promised. Few have attempted to give her an answer and some informed me that they were unsure if they would have been successful in touching the nerve of the question as raised by our sister "J" from Europe.

Nevertheless, three persons - R, O and M - have contributed with good advises and to those I will add nothing. I particularly was interested by the practical and culture-sensitive approach advises from R. R gave us a beautiful illustration on how you have to stay in touch with your unconverted audience and be sensitive to his/her culture, ideologies and interests in the process of bring the good news of Christ. That was just excellent and I'll follow his example below.

I have had the privilege a) to sometime bring people directly to Christ, b) sometimes indirectly to Christ and c) sometime never to Christ but left them respecting my faith as being a dependable and intelligent one. However this ability to bring people to Christ from very different persuasions from mine didn't come overnight. There was a time when It was not always the case. Hence I can understand "J" frustration as well as others who might feel overwhelmed by the task on how they could possibly become fishers of man in this complex 21st century! 

If any one of you want to bring people to the saving faith in Christ, you will have first to make them understand what this faith of yours entails which means you'll have to be able to give an answer - a credible answer to the skeptic you are evangelizing. It seems to me through my observations, personal and through hear-say and readings, that the westernized skeptic is a new type of skeptic. This kind of skeptic doesn't just want to hear old tales of a dying God who came back to life. What they want to know among others things is how on earth can you believe that and secondo why should s/he care? The first question voice the rationality of your beliefs and the second the relevance of it. You see now why I like them? 

As Christians, we should be up to the task, for in a way their salvation depend on how serious we believe in this bible verse quoted below: 

"But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully." - 1 Peter 3:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)
Image result for apologetic 1011 Peter 3:15 is the apologist maxim. It is his 21rst Century credo for evangelism. Any Christian apologist (i.e Christian Thinkers) knows that in our age, skepticism has known a veritable renaissance - hence the need to change our approach to bring the good news to the people. The essence of the message must remain the same but the form will have to change and the evangelist will have to adapt depending on who s/he meets. Take the example of a fisherman. Sometime a fisherman will use a simple fishing stick but at other time a net. Sometime the fishing is done close to the shore, sometime away from the shore. Sometime it is done at night, sometime during the day. The purpose remains the same, but the methodology changes as the environment changes.

Practically, what does it mean? 

Lee Strobel the bestselling author of the books, 'The Case for Christ', 'The Case for Faith', 'The Case for the Creator', 'The Case for the Real Jesus' comments: 
"When 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to "always be ready" to defend our faith—well, here is the kind of preparation that all of us need ... issues as the existence of God, science versus Christianity, and the reliability of the Bible, but ... also ... touchy social topics such as abortion and homosexuality."
In brief, you have to know your target. You have to understand your prey so to speak before you decide to start hunting or fishing them out of their natural habitat and comfort zone. They like their comfort zone - for it feels comfortable and they'll fight to stay there. Some will even give you the fight of your life and unless you are ready they'll make mince-meat of you.

In Mark Mittelberg's book, "The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask", there is an interesting story that I suspect most of you can relate:
"I first experienced that phenomenon when I was a young Christian and volunteered at our church to respond to questions submitted on cards at our weekend services. One Sunday I got an inquiry from a twelve-year-old girl who said she just wanted to know more about Jesus. When I called her, she invited Leslie and me to her home to talk with her and her father about Christ. "Aw, isn't that cute?" I said to Leslie as I hung up the phone. "This is gonna be fun!"
But as her father ushered us into their apartment, I glanced at the coffee table and saw stacks of heavyweight books. It turns out her dad is a scientist who had spent years studying scholarly articles and weighty tomes attacking the foundations of Christianity. Over a dinner of pizza and soft drinks, he peppered me for hours with tough objections to the reliability of the New Testament and the divinity of Jesus. While I was able to answer some of his questions, he kept raising issues that I had never even considered. Before long my head was starting to spin—and I began to experience spiritual vertigo.
Here's my prediction: if you've never felt this sort of divine disequilibrium, the chances are you will and soon, because challenges to the Christian faith are coming fast and furious in best-selling books, popular magazines, college classrooms, television documentaries, and on the Internet. Your family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues may be influenced by what these skeptics are saying and they may very well come to you with their doubts and concerns."
Here is my question to you, when those question comes what are you gonna do? My lady friend "Y" made me laugh few months ago when she told me that her Christian life took an unexpected turn when she went to Singapore and lived with a Muslim girl. I could relate since I was myself 'baptize' in that fire when I went to South Africa and realized with some horror for the first time in my life that I couldn't use the Bible to preach to people the Gospel because they just didn't wanna consider the Bible as a source of authority on true spirituality. In one of my encounter with a pastor from Europe in visit to South Africa, I was left laughing when he told the audience that it is even difficult to speak about God as a Father in certain places where he lived in Europe. Here is one of his stories. 

He approached a group of young people and started sharing with them the love of God when one of them raised his hand to interrupt him with these questions.

'Sir', the young man asked, 'when you say God - are you talking about that divine Guy who had only one Son that He loved so much?' The pastor said 'yes'. Then the young man proceeded. 'The Dude had only one Son and he gave that one Son to be killed by people who didn't know him nor care about him?' The positive answer came at once, 'yes'. Then the young man shook his head and waved him away saying, 'if that is the God you are talking about I am not interested in Him'. 

'A guy who sacrifice his only son to strangers is a mentally sick dude!' The pastor was in shock! He didn't see that coming. When He reported that to us telling us how close hearted people hearts have become, I  couldn't help myself but laugh. Actually, I sympathized more with the skeptics than with the pastor. I guess I would have reacted similarly if I didn't know better. Those guys were not rejecting Christianity nor Jesus' gospel. They were showing their revolt against a concept that didn't make sense to them and I could understand them and probably sympathize with them to an extend.

Lesson: Find Common Ground

Don't assume that people you preach have the same theological or the same historical background knowledge as yours. To the immortal words of Ravi Zacharias, 'Don't give too much too soon' when you preach the gospel to skeptics. First find a common ground, find a point of reference and proceed from there. 

I brought once a young man who was into 'Black Islam' literatures à la Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, etc - to consider Jesus teachings while playing chess with him. I didn't bring him to Christ that day, but the day that followed he gave his life to Christ publicly in a Church I visited with him. Another time I brought similarly a young man to faith by talking with him regularly about his favorite subject that I happened to like too - 'Latino dancing', 'movies' and else. The year was 2006 at Randburg / Jo'Burg. 

I can't emphasize enough the importance of R's advise. Find a common ground and you won't even have to compromise your faith and your Christian ethics.

As 1 peter 3:15 states, be prayerful and in a good holy communion with the Lord. Though I was playing chess and in full conversation I was praying in my heart for the gentleman for almost the whole duration of the mind game. You have to train yourself if you want to be a good 'hunter'. 

Practice the few points I have shared and you'll be better at it with time. Don't be in hurry neither. Be patient too, just like fisherman are. 

A last example, I met twice a month with a lady sharing my faith and responding to her objections for 4 months. It went from August 2006 to December 2006. On the first week of December 2006, she gave her life to Christ and I prayed for her though still amazed by the impossible miracle that had just happened. She never gave me even the impression that she was agreeing with any of my answers all along, but she surprised me by her conversion. God works in mysterious way. God will do his part, let us do ours which of being always 'ready to defend' the hope that is within us from all attacks foreign (skeptics) and domestic (sects).

May the Lord bless you all in Jesus' name.

1 commentaire:

  1. thanks for sharing Gatera.many of us its like we don't even know what we are in.God bless you for reminder and for strategy.