Category Archives: Evangelism

Riding the Beast

"The Beast"“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Phi 3:20).

During our trip to Tijuana, we have spent the majority of our time at Casa del Migrante, a Catholic mission to migrants.  In years past, the majority of their ministry was to migrants traveling north to find work in the United States.  Today, since the U. S. has deported 400,000 undocumented workers over the last few years, the vast majority of their visitors are recent deportees.  In fact, each night of our trip I sat across the dinner table and talked with men who had been dropped off across the border the previous night.  Many of them had been in the U. S. for several decades.  Most of them had wives and children somewhere in the States.  All of them were newly arrived in Mexico with only the belongings on their body—and they have no chance to return to their wives or children legally. 

One man, Jaime, was planning to hike across the mountains, risking a very dangerous journey, in order to get back.  Approximately ten people die every day trying to make this same journey, and yet Jaime would not give it a second thought.  Why would he do such a thing?  As I said goodbye to him at the end of dinner, I did so knowing that he might be dead in two or three days.  It is hard to relate to such a life or fully appreciate the choices he faced.  But many people feel the same pressures.

The picture above depicts men from Guatemala riding “The Beast.”  Guatemalans live in such abject poverty that even Mexico seems like a land of opportunity compared to their home.  So they get out the only way they can.  They ride on top of a freight train into Mexico—by the hundreds, as you can see.  One man we met at the Casa had fallen off “The Beast,” lost his leg, spent all of his money obtaining a prosthetic, and had it stolen when he got back on The Beast to complete his journey.  When we met him he was on crutches and broke.  These men are obviously convinced that a land of opportunity awaits them if they are willing to take on such risks. 

If you watch the news, you will hear no shortage of opinions about how the immigration problem should be solved.  I can’t pretend to have a solution to the complex political problems involved in our nation’s immigration laws.  However, I would remind you that the men and women who risk life and limb in order to cross borders are human beings with the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us.  As Christians, we cannot all solve the public policy problems, but all of us can care about fellow human beings who are trying to make a better life for themselves.  I can’t imagine having to navigate the choices they have to navigate.  But I do know what the church must do.  We must love them.  We must also remind them that the American Dream cannot be the only dream.  The Apostle Paul very memorably instructed us that our citizenship is in heaven.  If we can love them and point them toward a home that cannot be taken away, a home in which they can find a lasting citizenship, then we will impart to them a gift that will last forever. 

 

 

Why Evangelism Doesn’t Happen

Roger Bear

Campus Minister at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Indiana State

By Roger Bear

I think I’ve figured out why evangelism doesn’t happen, or I might say, doesn’t work, much of the time.  Since few people want to read long blog posts, here you go.

First, I think we are hesitant to tell others about a message or belief of which we ourselves are not adequately convinced. Think about something you’re convinced of:  the best way to drive to Indy; the name and description of the neighborhood or hometown you grew up in; your favorite style of music (blue grass, country, southern gospel, etc.); that Chicago or Branson or Holiday World (or wherever) is the most wonderful place to visit in the summer.  Being convinced of something makes it easy to tell to others, even if they’re skeptical, even if they remain unconvinced. If or when we are confident that God in the Person of His Son has invaded this planet and has given Himself as the only adequate and perfect sacrifice for the disease of humanity’s and my sin, then sharing the gospel (evangelism) should flow as least as winsomely as  telling someone how the latest diet has changed my life! How about you? Are you so convinced of John 3:16 that when you talk about it you’re convincing?

Secondly, we instinctively know that when/if we share our relationship, our saving friendship in Jesus Christ, with another person, we are also sharing our own lives, our selves, even our time and stuff!  I will admit (will you?) that I have held back in sharing the message of reconciliation in Christ (are you ready for this?) because I didn’t have the time for any more people to be a part of my life! (I hate admitting this.) If someone trusts the Lord Jesus as their Savior, Lord, and Friend, then I have to be willing to be their friend as well! (And what if it’s a homeless person, or someone from, you know, that neighborhood you can’t stand?) I think this has to be called selfishness—of the worst kind!

And this actually leads to a third reason I think evangelism fails so often.  I may very well talk to and lead someone into becoming a follower of Jesus. Then, this new believer will need the fellowship of many followers, many friends, a family of faith – a church!  But, what if I don’t really like my church? What if I think, “I need to get this new Christian involved somewhere, but, oh, my church is too (fill in the blank), or my church doesn’t (fill in the blank)?”  At times in my life, I have felt this way. In other words, I have been hesitant to talk to others about eternal life because my own church family wasn’t very cool! Is this the case with you?  What can be done?

I could be wrong here. (I do reserve the right to be.) But this much is certain: all around us are people needing everything that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us and offers us. We must look within and among ourselves and come to terms with why the faith we profess isn’t flowing from us more easily and readily.

Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13)

The Gospel Changes the World

Dr. C. Michael Wren, Jr.,
Pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Greencastle

Jesus changes the world.  This is not a new idea.  In fact, when Jesus taught that his followers were supposed to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:13-14), surely he meant for his followers to be active in changing the world as well.  But changing the world is in vogue these days.  Making the world a better place has become a common crusade, though a multitude of organizations have a kaleidoscope of agendas to help make that happen.   Reduce obesity by cutting out sugars.  Eat organic.  Go vegan.  Make healthcare affordable for all.  Make it possible for everyone to earn a living wage.  Ensure equal rights for all.  End war, and the list goes on.  None of these crusades are bad, per se.  (Though I have to confess: I like meat.  I’m not going vegan.  Sorry).  Because of the plethora of causes that crowd for space on our agendas, we have to ask, “How does Jesus intend us to change the world?”

I ask this question because this is precisely what Jesus tells Peter they’re going to do in the current History Channel mini-series, The Bible.  After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter is evidently overwhelmed by Jesus’ power and asks, “What are we going to do?”  Jesus replies, “Change the world.”  Of course, Jesus never actually said those words.  At least the gospel writers have not recorded them, but it is hard to read the gospels, or the rest of the New Testament for that matter, and miss the truth that Jesus came to do exactly this.  So how did Jesus intend to change the world and how does this influence the church’s mission?  Let’s think about this.

The Bible consistently tells us that following God obediently involves acting to address the needs of the world around us.  Take, for instance, the opening chapter of Isaiah.  The prophet condemns Israel for worshipping God without faith.  Following this devastating critique of their worship, he calls on them to repent and change their ways.  He tells them, “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil.  Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause,” (1:16-17).  If we are going to worship God with a clear conscience, we work to see that God’s righteousness is honored and upheld in society.  It is part of our calling.

Jesus understood it as part of his mission as Messiah.  When Jesus began his public ministry, he spoke at the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown.  He could have spoken out of any Old Testament text, but he asked for the Isaiah scroll and opened it to the 61st chapter and began reading: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn,” (61:1-2).  Part of Jesus’ mission as Messiah was to heal and liberate.  The Messiah came to change the world around him.

And yet Jesus came to do more than to change the plight of those suffering here in this world.  Repeatedly in the Gospel of John our Lord makes this point.  He is the water that quenches the thirst of the soul.  He is the bread that gives eternal life.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Jesus came to change the plight of those who suffer from the oppression and domination of sin.  He came to bring eternal freedom.

How do we wed the two?  How can the church pursue the goal of alleviating human suffering and seeking eternal salvation for those who do not know Christ?  We evangelize through service.  As an example of how to do this well, check out Operation Inasmuch, a movement Indiana Baptists will hear more about in the coming days.  Our calling is to connect with people who are in need, share the resources we have, and share the message we have received.  In our world today, people are looking for a gospel that changes the world.  With Jesus, they will find so much more.  Let’s make sure they get to hear Him.