Evangelism – learning from unbelievers

There’s a saying in chess that, if you are in doubt about your next move, choose the move your opponent would like least.

I reckon a similar, but opposite, saying might apply to christian evangelism: if you are wanting to evangelise, try to choose the behaviour your friend would most appreciate.

A recent study by the Barna Group in the US provides some invaluable insights from those who are the targets of christian evangelism.

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Apologetics is “dangerous” stuff!

Are you the sort of christian whose faith is built more on reason and evidence than an experience of God?

Do you enjoy answering sceptics’ questions about Jesus and the Bible? Perhaps even enjoy arguing with atheists online?

Have you considered that apologetics might be dangerous for your faith? (Well, sort of! But read on!) Did you know even CS Lewis experienced this?

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Church for the 21st century?

This is possibly the most revolutionary, revelatory and important book about the church and mission I have ever read.

If you are interested in how the 21st century church can become a missionary community in first world countries, this book can teach us new ways, and inspire us to new efforts.

If you are tired of the church life that you have inhabited for years, and want something new, effective and Jesus-focused, check out this book.

I learned so much from it. Ideas I have had were confirmed in it. I was inspired by it.

Read on to find out why.

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When thoughtful christians begin to doubt

In my previous post (When sensitive and thoughtful people begin to doubt) I looked at 4 different sets of musicians who were christians earlier in their lives, but had struggled with faith since then. Now I want to share a few thoughts on how churches and parents might help their youth to be able to face doubts sensibly and on a good basis.

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When sensitive and thoughtful people begin to doubt

Do you know someone who appeared to be a strong christian, and then began to doubt the truth of the whole thing?

I’m guessing they were likely someone in their twenties, brought up as believers but suddenly facing questions they didn’t have answers for and issues they couldn’t easily resolve. And I’m guessing many of them ended up either giving up their faith or radically changing what they believed.

It seems to be a frequent occurrence these days. Maybe we can learn something from these musicians who have gone public on their doubts and how their beliefs have changed.

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Is this the most important thing you could do as a christian?

Thirty five years ago my life was changed after listening to a talk on prayer and spiritual warfare.

I had been converted as a teen in a Presbyterian church where doctrine was regarded as the most important thing and God was known to be sovereign, ordaining everything according to his good purposes. But this doctrine left little place for prayer. After all, if God knew everything, he already knew what was best without me advising him, and if he was good and all-powerful then he would assuredly do the good thing whether I asked or not.

So I rarely prayed in my everyday life. Until 35 years ago, that is.

This blog is mostly about better understanding the Bible and postmodern culture, following Jesus in a world far removed from when he lived, and being a better and more faithful church. But all of these are means to the end of “seeing Jesus more clearly, loving him more dearly and following him more nearly”, and so playing our part in his mission of seeing God’s kingdom established on earth.

And for me, what I am writing about here is the most necessary aspect of that mission.

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Letting go and hanging on ….. and flying!

Who doesn’t enjoy flying a kite? There’s something special about seeing a colourful kite soaring higher and higher while we hold onto the string, feeling somehow in command (even if we’re not).

We need at least three things for a kite to fly:

  1. We need to let go and allow it to fly. It can’t fly if we hold onto it.
  2. It needs a string to hold it and maintain an aerodynamic position in the wind. Without the string, it will be blown randomly downwind and just gradually flop to the ground.
  3. There needs to be a wind. In still air, we can run to get it aloft, but there is a practical limit to that, and it will soon fall to the ground again.

Following Jesus is like being a kite

The parallels are clear, and I guess obvious.

We were made to fly

Human beings have aspirations to do more than just exist. We want to find meaning, we want to be valued. We want to achieve great things, or at least something worthwhile. We long for adventure or at least a life that transcends the mundane.

And Jesus calls us to follow him in a life lived for others, and for him. If we try to hang on to our own lives and our own selfishness, we will lose out, he tells us, but if we let go of safety and follow him out of our comfort zones and into life with him, we will be fulfilled.

Staying safe isn’t an option. Holding onto the past isn’t an option. God is always doing new and unpredictable things, and Jesus calls us to let go of self and join him in the adventure of the kingdom of God on earth. Nothing less than that.

We were made to fly like a kite.

We need to hold on

We are not in this adventure alone and we cannot do just as we like. Without him, we can do nothing, Jesus said.

Like kites, we need to stay grounded. We need to stay connected to reality and truth. We need to stay connected to him. We need to hold on even when the currents around us are strong. Especially then.

We won’t fly for very long, and we won’t achieve our potential, if we let go of the way, the truth and the life.

We were made to be tethered like a kite.

It isn’t a choose your own adventure

How do we know when and how to hold on, and when and how to fly? What gives us the impetus and motivation to keep flying when we are tired and buffeted?

The Holy Spirit is the wind beneath our wings. The Spirit motivates us and empowers us. The Spirit is the wind that sends us this way or that.

But unlike a kite, we have a choice. The kite is passive in the wind, and cannot fly upwind. But we can ignore the Spirit or welcome him. We can choose to invite him to guide our direction, or we can go our own way.

But we’ll only truly be the kite God wants us to be if we invite (daily) and welcome the wind of the Spirit to lead us into new adventures, flights to places we’ve never been before.

We were made to soar on the wind, like a kite.

Like a kite

The Holy Spirit can lead us in so many ways.

  • To begin new things that build God’s kingdom. They may be really new, or just new to us.
  • To learn new things from him and the scriptures. Our understanding of God is necessarily so incomplete it is rudimentary. The world and human culture are always changing. There is always more to know. There may be new things that are crucial for our lives and the kingdom.
  • To speak to this person or that, to say this and not say that.
  • To hold on to this truth and to let go of that thing we thought was truth, but is not, or is no longer applicable.
  • To apply for this job or that, to live in this street or that, to marry this person or that, or not at all.
  • To correct us and convict us when we need it, if we are listening.

We needn’t be afraid or worried about all this. The Spirit of God doesn’t lead us to be fearful, but leads us into truth and peace.

Let’s be like kites, lifted and driven by the Spirit of God and anchored to Jesus.

The analogy that following Jesus is like being a kite came from reading the first few pages of Bruxy Cavey’s (Re)union.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“Just because you know something doesn’t mean you have to say it!”

I was raised in a family of four noisy boys. As we grew up, we became quite opinionated, and often argued, quite amicably but noisily, about religious, political, ethical and a thousand more trivial issues that interested us.

When each of us found girlfriends and eventually wives, they didn’t always find our loud and rambunctious conversations easy.

And it didn’t always stop there. As an idealistic and articulate youth, I found it easy to argue with just about anyone. Fortunately, my wife had good advice for me.

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The Underground, Florida – a better way to be the church?

Did Jesus mean it to come to this? Yes!! I think he did!!

One common theme of this blog is that the 21st century western church too often seems to have lost the vision of the mission of Jesus, and settled for something far less noble.

So it is a great pleasure to be able to wholeheartedly recommend a branch of the church which seems to have kept central Jesus’ vision to love God and love our neighbours.

If you haven’t heard of it before, let me introduce you to the Underground in Tampa, Florida.

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