Parting Words: Schaeffer on Evangelism

Today is get-away Thursday for a lot of people myself included, so before skipping out for the weekend, here is a quote from Francis Schaeffer’s 1968 classic “The God Who Is There”, a book I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying. He is talking about evangelism (and not the evolutionary kind):

We must remember that the person to whom we are talking, however far from the Christian faith he may be, is an image-bearer of God. He has great value, and our communication to him must be in genuine love. Love is not an easy thing; it is not just an emotional urge but an attempt to move over and sit in the other person’s place and see how his problems look to him.

Love is a genuine concern for the individual. As Jesus Christ reminds us, we are to love that individual “as ourselves.” This is the place to begin. Therefore, to be engaged in personal “witness” as a duty or because our Christian circle exerts a social pressure on us is to miss the whole point. The reason we do it is that the person before us is an image-bearer of God, and he is an individual who is unique in the world.

This kind of communication is not cheap. To understand and speak to sincere but utterly confused twentieth-century people is costly. It is tiring; it will open you to temptations and pressures. Genuine love, in the last analysis, means a willingness to be entirely exposed to the person to whom we are talking.

Good stuff, ya’ll have a safe and happy 4th. I cannot think of better words to depart with than the words of the inimitable Brett Myers,

Boom… Outta here!

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Conversion: Not the Christian’s Responsibility

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,

so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
— St. Paul to the church at Corinth

There is a great deal of confusion regarding conversion to Christianity. Many are resistant to even hearing the good news of Christ and this should not surprise anyone given the Apostle’s words here.

I recall, with gratitude given the immeasurable grace of God, the days when my residence was in the darkness in which all men are born into, and can testify to the truth of Paul’s words.

Then there are those who take it upon themselves to be the motive force behind the conversion of the unbeliever, forgetting the clear testimony of Scripture (see above or see here) that this cannot be so in the case of true conversion, that is, the rebirth from which a new creature (in Christ) arises.

Currently reading J.I. Packer’s classic, Knowing God, and he shares the following insight,

It is not for us to imagine that we can prove the truth of Christianity by our own arguments; nobody can prove the truth of Christianity except the Holy Spirit, by His own almighty work of renewing the blinded heart.

It is the sovereign prerogative of Christ’s Spirit to convince men’s consciences of the truth of Christ’s gospel; and Christ’s human witnesses must learn to ground their hopes of success not on clever presentation of the truth by man, but on powerful demonstration of the truth by the Spirit.

The Christian’s responsibility is not to convert those around him, but to give testimony to Christ who has graciously redeemed him from the miserable natural state where he was but a child of wrath, deserving to face God’s Justice. The Christian’s responsibility is to echo the blind man’s reply to his Pharisee interlocutors,

Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!

John Newton’s Words Stab Deeply

While this could easily be said of Mr. Newton’s more famous words, the song “Amazing Grace”, I presently refer to a bit I recently heard via a Justin Taylor message titled A New Kind of Christianity? A Look at the Emerging Church Movement.

Mr. Taylor masterfully used the following Newton quote in the context of how to engage the emergent church movement,

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him and during the whole time you’re preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.

This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him. And such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If he is a believer, in a little while you will meet in heaven. He will be nearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon the earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts.

If he is an unconverted person, he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas, he knows not what he does but you know who has made you differ.

Lifestyle Evangelism at the Workplace?

Pastor John Piper addresses this brand of evangelism as it pertains to the Christian’s workplace,

Thinking that our work will glorify God when people do not even know we are Christians is like admiring and effective ad on TV that never mentions the product. People may be impressed but won’t know what to buy.

This quotation came from his his excellent book “Don’t Waste Your Life”.

I’m not sure that I’ve seen such an apt analogy as it pertains to this popular form of evangelism.

CS Lewis and the Social Gospel?

From Mere Christianity,

‘Niceness’–wholesome, integrated personality–is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat.

But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world–and might even be more difficult to save.

It is a good thing that truly nothing is impossible with God or else none of us would escape His wrath…

Evolutionary Evangelism

Caught this editorial on the January 10, 2008 issue of the journal Nature,

“Spread the Word: Evolution is a scientific fact, and every organization whose research depends on it should explain why.”

Here are some tidbits,

But die-hard creationists aren’t a sensible target for raising awareness. What matters are those citizens who aren’t sure about evolution–as much as 55% of the US population according to some surveys.

And because the general theory of evolution (and thus its implications) is only scientific in nature and allegedly does not have religious and/or philosophical underpinnings and thus, assertions in those veins,

Evolution is of profound importance to modern biology and medicine. Accordingly, anyone who has the ability to explain the evidence behind this fact to their students, their friends and relatives should be given ammunition to do so.

Seriously folks, how can evolutionists be taken seriously when they rail against certain meddling religious people when what this editorial shows is that they’re not “above” evangelistic efforts when it benefits their religion?

Since it’s been chic to use the word “Bible-thumper” are we going to see the word “Evo-thumper” enter public discourse?

Christianity Brings out the Worst in People

“Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. — GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

I was recently privy to an elucidation of what Chesterton alludes to. A complaint was made that a certain charitable Christian woman was “too nice” to her fellow congregants. So much so, that the congregants, filthy quislings that they are, were portrayed as folks who took advantage of the woman’s charity.

Oh the outrage that this venerable woman would, at the drop of a hat, stop what she was doing and rush to the aid of her brothers and sisters of Christ. As a recipient of such actions, though not coming from this woman, I most appreciate this example of faithworks.

Ironically enough, the plaintiff above also showed displeasure when people did not lend her a helping hand in an hour of need.

The episode brought Lucian’s The Death of Peregrinus (to mind. I have not read this work but learned about it as it was referenced to in Fanning the Flames: Probing the issues in the Acts within a chapter having to do with the way the first Christians were perceived by their Greek and Roman critics.

Lucian’s mid-second century unflattering description of Christians is in part, as follows,

The activity of these people, in dealing with any matter that affects their community, is something extraordinary; they spare no trouble, no expense.

Peregrine, all this time, was making quite an income on the strength of his bondage; money came pouring in. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.

All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. Now an adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get among these simple souls, and his fortune is pretty soon made; he plays with them.

What certain unbelievers see as “stupid” and “misguided” is actually service to the Lord. To the Lord because by serving His body, the Church, one serves Him.

That this requires denial of self (not as its own end of course) is paramount not to mention counter-intuitive to the deep-rooted selfishness natural to us after Adam’s sin.

That this is not, can not, be understood by those who willfully remain outside merely gives testimony to the truth in the Apostle’s words,

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

May we go forth and tell those still in darkness about this “crucified sage” and show the love He teaches us.