Category Archives: Witnessing for Wimps

Moving Past “Dump Truck Method” Responses to the Gospel

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

My second year of Bible College the Lord taught me a very important lesson about how to study for exams.  I’ve always been able to memorize things very easily so throughout High-School my way of studying was to write things down on a piece of paper and then review it verbally.  The night before most exams was spent walking around my room (verbally going through notes) while the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Soundtrack played in the background 🙂

During my High School years I (along with many other students) adopted the “dump truck method” of test taking.   In other words my memorization style only thought in basic terms (this is the question and this is the answer) instead of thinking about the information (why is this the right answer?).  In early years of education like High School its easy to get away with this because having the right answer is enough. However a dump truck method of learning doesn’t work very well in College.

I actually coasted along the first semester of my freshman year using the dump truck method because my professors had mercy on me.  One literally gave us the questions and answers to each exam!  However in the second semester I was in for a rude awakening because suddenly having the right answer wasn’t enough, now we had to prove why it was the best answer.

I can remember a professor my Junior year at bible college giving us a reading assignment that would be covered in a quiz the next class period.  We were told to read the material carefully in preparation so I studied very hard and felt confident coming in. 

The professor however wanted to teach us a lesson in noticing everything in the material (not just the words) so a question in the quiz was “does the author smoke?”  Later on I realized in that chapter there was a picture of the author with a pipe in his hand but in my hurry to cover the material I didn’t notice it. 

That professor and others at college helped me think through an answer by looking at it from different angles or viewpoints instead of just putting it on paper without a second thought.  This change in thinking began by simply making me stop and think about my answer.

Sadly in a religious mission field (area where people have basic knowledge of Scripture but haven’t accepted Christ) we encounter many people who use the dump truck method when the Gospels shared.  They have the right answers but it’s just memorized words that spills out of their mouths without really thinking like my words dumped on paper.

Sharing the Gospel in this mission field is definitely a huge part of missions…however part of me wonders if just sharing it should be our goal.  Wouldn’t it be better to make them stop and THINK about those words?

Therefore the goal of Christians is the same as my professor in college by moving past the basic answer.   I’ve learned asking a follow up question like “if God asked why He should let you in Heaven what would you tell him?” has the same result as my professors question about the author smoking. 

With this new goal (thinking about the Gospel instead of just giving memorized answers) we change the way that we share the Gospel though the message will never change.  This begins by making the Gospel a conversation instead of a statement.

The Biggest Lie Satan Told Me About Evangelism

IMG_0069

This may sound strange but as a kid not only did I not feel called to Missions, the idea of sharing the Gospel scared me to death. Part of this had to do with my introverted personality [1] but in a deeper sense my fear of sharing the Gospel came from lies that Satan had been telling me about evangelism.

The Devil loves to deceive us when it comes to witnessing so we rely on our own power instead of God’s by telling us things like:

  1. You shouldn’t witness if you have fear so wait till there isn’t any [2].
  2. Your job is to prove that person is wrong [3]
  3. Witnessing is the responsibility of those who find it easy like extroverts
  4. You must have an answer to every question they ask
  5. And most importantly if everything doesn’t go smoothly you have failed

That last part always got to me as a young person because I was never good at small talk. Even today I’m more comfortable with a book in the corner than mingling with people. Because of this my attempts to share the Gospel were often awkward and uncomfortable…I walked away from many of them incredibly embarrassed.

Of course you know Satan was right there in those moments of embarrassment

  1. Wow you really made a fool of yourself there
  2. I bet those people are making fun of you right now!
  3. How many more times are you going to mess this up before you let some of the real people (extroverts) do it?
  4. You know you failed God right?

That one (you know you failed God) was a dagger in the heart because I believed like many Christians the goal was “to win someone to Christ” when in reality my goal is to share the Gospel clearly since NOTHING I do can lead a person to Salvation [4]. My misunderstanding of this meant every witnessing opportunity that didn’t result in Salvation was viewed as a failure.

So for many years I sat on the sidelines allowing fear of failure to keep me from sharing Christ. It wasn’t till God called me to missions as Junior in High School that I realized Satan had been lying to me for so long. The truly sad thing is in order to protect myself from what I viewed as failure [5] I willingly chose to take part in the actual failure….allowing my fear to keep me from sharing.

So let me give some words of hope to those who would rather get teeth pulled without pain meds than witness to their next door neighbour…

It’s okay if you fail

The truth is when we share the Gospel and its not accepted part of us will feel like a failure as Satan is screaming at us “you have failed!” but the reality is if we have shared God’s truth in a complete way we haven’t

  1. So its okay to have shaking hands
  2. and say Umm or uh fifty times
  3. or spend most of the conversation looking at the ground
  4. While making yourself look like a moron

The question we must ask ourselves afterwards is “did I share the Gospel in a clear way?” If the answer to that question is yes then you’ve succeeded no matter how much embarrassment was experienced.

The thing is we as a Church have been tricked by Satan into choosing failure so that we won’t experience what we view to be failure. So the answer is to understand the success or failure of a witness has absolutely nothing to do with how we feel…but instead about what we did with the Gospel of Christ.

 

 

[1]: I wrote about this a few weeks ago in a post that can be read here https://johnwilburn.org/2016/03/18/the-you-have-to-be-an-extrovert-to-evangelize-myth/ (https://johnwilburn.org/2016/03/18/the-you-have-to-be-an-extrovert-to-evangelize-myth/)

[2]: the truth is sharing Christ can still fill my heart with anxiety from time to time

[3]: actually this is God’s job through the Holy Spirits conviction instead of mine

[4]: I explained this in detail yesterday in my post https://johnwilburn.org/2016/04/04/its-not-your-job-to-save-anybody/ (https://johnwilburn.org/2016/04/04/its-not-your-job-to-save-anybody/)

[5]: not winning someone to Christ

Why Salvation is a Choice

IMG_0874

During my first few months in Barrouallie it became apparent many children came to Bible club not because they were interested in Christ, but for the chance to get some of Mr. John’s juice (koolaid) or play one of my tablets.  Of course this is normal so I decided to look children who actually wanted to be there for the right reasons.  One of those kids was Adam (not is real name).

Adam showed a real interest in the teaching time and was always one of the best behaved kids there.  In fact we had to make a rule about how many times a person could get the peanut-butter sandwich reserved as a special reward each week so Adam couldn’t get it every day!  Over time I began to notice the Lord working on his heart and began to share the Gospel with Adam.

The interesting thing is when I asked Adam where he would go when he died he would immediately tell me”Hell” and there was a clear understanding of how to receive Christ.  Yet whenever I asked Adam if he wanted to accept Christ today or later his response was always “later.”

At first Adam’s saying later was frustrating, especially since he was so close to accepting Christ.  Part of me wanted to tell him that Jesus could come back today or he could die that afternoon destined for Hell.  I considered giving Adam ten reasons why he should accept Christ that moment or talking him into accepting Jesus.

But I didn’t do it because Salvation has to be a choice

Lots of the kids who come to Bible club tell me they are saved, but when I ask them to tell me about it they give some very interesting responses.

  1. I prayed a prayer (that they cannot remember any of)
  2. I told God I loved him
  3. I talked with God
  4. I decided I was going to be a good person

While I try not to question the Salvation of others, when someone cannot give a clear testimony of accepting Christ you start wondering if they really know Him at all.

While the children deserve some of the blame for this I believe the majority of it falls on those who shared the Gospel with them.  That boy or girl either a.) didn’t truly understand the gospel or b.) decided to pray a prayer because that’s what the person wanted them to do.  In both cases they were never truly saved in my opinion.

By placing pressure on Adam to accept Christ instead of allowing him to do it on his own I would have contradicted the character of Christ who knocks on the door of a lost persons heart instead of breaking it down (Revelation 3:20), and of God who gives us free-will desiring children who willingly choose Him instead of robots who are forced to obey.

Even worse I will try to do the Holy Spirits job of convicting his heart over sin with my human wisdom instead of God’s Word.  Yes my putting pressure on him may result in a conversion, but when asked why he accepted Christ Adam may say “because Mr. John wanted me to.”  Of course there is a place for us to encourage children like Adam to accept Jesus.  But this is done as we cooperate with the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

One warm afternoon Adam sat on my front porch and after weeks of being inches from the Gospel accepted Christ as His Lord and Savior.  Though it could have happened sooner I’m grateful the Lord kept me patient because the choice was his.

A Culture that can Quote Romans 3:23 but has no idea what it means 

IMG_0393

Last week I shared a story about sharing theGospel with people who came during a free medical-clinic run by a missions team in St. Vincent.  It was interesting how many of them had a basic knowledge of Scripture (knew what to say) but didn’t know what the right answer actually meant.  For instance when asked where they would go when they died people would quickly say “heaven” but when I asked why God would let them into Heaven a look of fear was their only response.

It’s easy to condemn that unsaved person for their lack of knowledge about God’s Word and they should be.  However at the same time Christians face some of the blame as well for sharing “tidbits instead of the Gospel.”  In other words much of our evangelism is done through out outreaches or events instead of one on one sharing.

Bill Faye in his book “Share Jesus Without Fear” explains giving out tidbits this way

A survey from the Institute of American Church Growth showed that 75 to 90 percent of new believers come to Christ through a friend or acquaintance who explains the good news on a one-to-one basis. Only 17 percent of all conversions come through what is called an “event”—a pastor giving his Sunday morning message, a Billy Graham crusade, or a Friendship Sunday. Yet, most churches denote the majority of their time, energy, and money to these kinds of events.

Please understand I’m all for outreach events because often that’s the only time the unsaved will visit a Church.  But I also agree with Bill Faye that a greater emphasis should be placed on Chrisitians sharing their own faith since it has a stronger affect.  And in the end events or evangelism programs can only give the foundational truths of the Gospel.

  1. You are a sinner
  2. Your sin separates you from God
  3. There is nothing you can do to reach God in Heaven
  4. Because we are in need God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins
  5. Through  blood of Christ and His resussurection we can be saved through Faith

Of course those foundational truths are a powerful thing but sadly it’s not possible to personally counsel or share with everyone in attendance so many of them go home with a clear knowledge of Scripture but a false interpretation of it.  Or in the worse case they will honestly admit not knowing what it means at all!

While living in a culture that can quote Romans 2:23 or 6:23 but doesn’t know what it truly means can be frustrating it’s also an incredible blessing.  Because the knowledge of Scripture is in their mind just waiting for someone to explain it! All it takes is a humble Christian willing to explain God’s truth in clear terms, and then get out of the way so that the Holy Spirit does the work. He does a better job anyways.

The other blessing of this knowledge is they already have the answer for our deepest questions…

  1. Why is there so much violence and crime in the world? (Because we chose to rebel against God Romans 3:23)
  2. Why can’t I find happiness?  (There is a gap (separation) between us and God)
  3. If God is loving then why is there a Hell?  (He doesn’t want to but that’s the price that we chose Romans 6:23)

It’s an incredible blessing to see the light go off in someone’s eyes when they realize Heaven is a free gift, and they don’t have to earn it or work for it anymore, Salvation is accepted by faith in Christ.  Yet they need someone who will come explain it to them.

We live in a generation  that doesn’t understand Scritpure but that’s okay…because they live with a generation of Chrisitans that do.

The “You Have To Be An Extrovert to Evangelize” Myth

537416_4625798797934_759538850_n

If someone would have walked into my ninth grade classroom and was told by God “somebody here is going to be a missionary” they probably wouldn’t have picked me.  That’s because in those days I was extremely introverted and had the social life of  a large rock.  Even today I’m not an extrovert and recently found myself identifying with the first paragraph of author Sammy Rhodes in his book “Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy

I’ve always considered myself an awkward person. I can’t tell you the first time I had this realization. It probably was a social situation that involved small talk. If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to do small talk well, because anyone who does it well is a superhero as far as I’m concerned. I’m more like the Aquaman of small talk: people don’t remember much about me except that I’m weird.

That doesn’t mean of course that God cannot use introverts (people who have hard time starting conversations) but missionary definitely wouldn’t be on the list of things that God could use me as.  I mean honestly we know that all missionaries have to be.

  • Fearless in the face of all danger
  • Able to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time
  • And of course never admit weakness

Now of course I’m laying it on pretty thick, but the fact is as a teenager I definitely didn’t fit the qualifications of being a missionary.  Which is why when the Lord started leading me to missions as a Sophomore in High School my initial response is “you’ve got to be kidding me!”  Yet no matter how many times I explained to God missionaries had to be swashbuckling extrovert types His calling just got stronger.  Finally following about a month of conviction I accepted the call to missions but still had my doubts that God can use an introvert as a missionary.

Now many years later I no longer have doubts, though I continue to be an introvert;

  1. I’m still someone who prefers a night in reading a book to hanging out with others
  2. I still struggle making eye contact when I talk
  3. I still use the words um and uh roughly twenty-times when meeting someone
  4. And I’ve yet to master the fine art of getting past the “how are you today?” stage of a conversation (you know what I’m talking about….”how are you today?” “good and you?” “yea good” followed by an awkward silence.

But you know what?  None of that matters because it isn’t my witty conversation starters or small talk that leads someone to Christ.  That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  Mine is just to share God’s Truth.  Now yes its harder for an introvert to share the Gospel sometimes.  But its a comfort to know I can make myself look like the biggest buffoon in the world but still glorify God is the gospel is shared.

If winning people to the Lord is our job then the Lord probably wouldn’t choose introverts.  The role of missionary or evangelist would be reserved for the people who are tall with rippling muscles, perfect teeth, and a Harvard education.  But since our job is to simply share the truth He takes great joy in choosing the introverted teenager wearing “husky jeans.”

But then God does something amazing

He uses that introvert who as a teenager struggled making friends as a vessel for His power and Glory.

I’m not saying that evangelism is easy for introverts, but I am saying your lack of confidence is no excuse for not sharing the Gospel.  Because God doesn’t call us to be fearless extroverts, He just calls us to be willing

« Older Entries