Who Needs the Gospel?

Over the last seven years I have challenged Christians in hundreds of churches all over the world to take an active role in sharing Jesus Christ with Muslims. My heart’s desire is that more believers would give their lives to take the gospel to areas of the world where there is little or no witness at all. The vast majority of individuals with whom I discuss this vision at least recognize the need for someone to go regardless of whether or not they should be the ones to do so. However, there always seems to be that “one guy” who is so full of passionate patriotism that he absolutely must voice his opinion.

“Our country needs the gospel just as much if not more than ‘that Muslim country’ does! Let’s not neglect our own people to try and save ‘those’ people. Do you believe that they need the gospel more than the souls in our own country do?”

At first, this might sound like a valid concern, but usually it is a blatant expression of racism and willful ignorance, if not disdain for the Great Commission itself. It is a gross misunderstanding of our responsibilities as followers of Christ.

My answer to this question may shock some individuals.

No, I do not believe that people living in Muslim countries “need” the gospel more than those living in the United States or in Europe.

I also do not believe that people living in the Republic of Congo “need” food more than those living in the United States or in Europe.

The issue is not that of a need. Just like every individual in the world needs food to live physically, every soul needs the gospel of Jesus Christ to live spiritually. There is NO other way.

The real problem is access to that need. Americans consume on a daily average 3,830 calories per person while the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo only average 1,500 Calories per person. If someone living in the U.S. attends a banquet and refuses to eat, that is his problem. He starves by choice. Those living in the D.R.C. starve involuntarily. Even worldly organizations and individuals recognize the responsibility of those who have great abundance to help those who live in famine conditions. Why do Christians have a problem understanding this basic principle?

Sure, the United States needs the gospel, and American Christians should be active in reaching out to their own communities. However, it is time to quit neglecting our responsibility to go to the uttermost parts of the earth under the façade of patriotism. Fear bred out of ignorance towards the Muslim world will result in the eternal death of over a billion starving souls while gluttonous Christians complain about not having enough spices in their spiritual diet.

Lift up your eyes and see beyond the borders of your own comfort.

Let’s thank God for the abundant blessings that He has given us and then share it with the rest of the world.

 

For more information on world evangelism, visit http://www.bcwe.org


Boldness

We need boldness in our endeavor to reach the world for Christ.

I love this post written by my good friend who is living and working in China.

He lives what he preaches and the Lord is blessing his ministry in an amazing way.

1. Boldness is usually associated with proclamation ministry.
I jumped into Acts to find what boldness should be like specifically when it came to our witness, only to find almost every passage about boldness is a passage about our witness! There’s barely a distinction. The Bible doesn’t just talk about being bold as ‘doing what’s right even when it’s hard’ or ‘daring to be different,’ though those things are necessary. It associates Christian boldness most often with the ministry of verbally declaring the Gospel to others. It’s just not enough for us to live exemplary Christian lives among unbelievers in China – we are to be involved in the direct, open, verbal proclamation of the Gospel to unbelievers. We are not just to try to live in such a way that people ask us about our faith; we are to proactively preach it.

2. It is revealed as a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
This is especially evident in the opening chapters. A couple references put the ‘bold speaking’ immediately after filling with the Holy Spirit. Additionally, the disciples pray for boldness in chapter four. Worth a look to Ephesians, as well, where Paul asks for prayer that he would be given boldness in his preaching. This means that the apostles recognized that the boldness necessary to carry out their ministry could not just be conjured up. They needed God’s empowering. They didn’t just try really hard to do bold things or deliberately put themselves in dangerous situations. Rather, they prayed that their proclamation of the Gospel would be bold. So real boldness is given, not manufactured. Good news for those of us who aren’t naturally bold. This also means that genuine boldness is nothing to boast about – it’s a gift.

3. The word carries a connotation of ‘freely,’ ‘openly,’ and ‘frankly.’

And brass tacks… the word doesn’t just mean ‘brash courage.’ It’s used all through John’s Gospel and is usually translated ‘openly’ or ‘freely.’ In Acts, I think it only shows up once as ‘freely.’ But the connotation is there in every situation. Paul spoke the word of God boldly in front of Jews that would almost certainly not take it well – his message was not compromised. What he preached was the truth – clear, open, confident, bold. This has definite ramifications in our witnessing. Can we condone any missionary strategy that prescribes misleading others about our faith in Christ? That says you shouldn’t tell someone you’re a believer (even for a ‘trial period’ to find out if they’re a government spy)? Note again that the people that Paul is openly witnessing to are the ones anxious to put rocks in his skull.

4. Boldness does not produce a uniform response to persecution.
Boldness does not mean (to Paul anyway) ‘stay put until you’re dead.’ There’s a couple times that Paul is said to be bold, then is threatened with serious danger, and he makes his escape while he can. You can find the apostles’ boldness before, after, and in the middle of episodes of persecution. Apparently, Paul saw living to preach another day as a valid strategy in missions. I think it’s interesting, though, that we don’t see anyone in Acts considering a non-bold witnessing approach. It’s consistently ‘bold-here-or-bold-elsewhere,’ never ‘bold-here-or-not-bold-here.’ He’s creative in his approach, but his approach is always the Gospel. So while boldness doesn’t determine every ministry choice (where to go, how long to stay, etc.), it does determine what we say about Christ to others.

In summary, I think what is most striking about these passages is that boldness is there to empower the disciples to do what they would do and to be what they would be if there was no persecution. It lets them ‘be real’ even when the surrounding circumstances demand that they bend. Paul’s testimony of faith is consistent wherever he may be. That might be a good working understanding of boldness in China: we share our faith in largely the same way that we do anywhere else. Sounds simple enough – but it’s astounding how many people spend their first months in China learning that that’s exactly what should never be done! Not saying this is easy – I catch myself sometimes not being as open about my faith in China as I might be in the States. But let’s be honest about the problem – what I need is boldness.

Click here to read the entire post and to subscribe to the Gospel in China blog.


المسيح قام (Christ is Risen)


The OG Summit 2011


The Local Church (Part 2)

If we do not understand why the church exists, we will never recognize the importance of assembling.

Put simply, the purpose of the church is to glorify God and make Him known throughout the world by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8). We call it “The Great Commission.” This ought to be the church’s greatest concern as it was the last command that the Lord gave before He ascended into heaven (see Acts 1:8-9). All of our time, energy, and resources should be directed to fulfilling this task.

The local church was designed to be the vehicle by which the message is carried to all nations. We often get side tracked by endless programs and activities which work hard at keeping people busy, but rarely offer any significant spiritual substance. Every single event must have a purpose or it is a waste of time.

Evangelism is not limited to pastors or other church leaders. The role of leadership within the church, according to Ephesians 4:11-12, is “To equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up the body of Christ.” In other words, pastors have the responsibility of training other believers (saints) to evangelize, disciple, baptize, and build up the body of Christ.

The church is the training center where spiritual gifts transition from theory to practice. Pastors, like a coaches, work at helping other believers develop their individual gifts and then encourage them to implement them in the most effective way possible. Coaches do not carry or throw the ball themselves, neither do they block or kick field goals. That does not mean that they are lazy or incapable of preforming the tasks themselves. However, they realize that they are most effective on the team by devoting their time and energy to preparing others who are more gifted in those areas reach their full potential.

Every believer has a part in fulfilling the Great Commission. The Lord has given each of us special gifts and abilities with the intention that we would use them to spread the gospel (see Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12). One body is made up of several different members. Every part is important and needs to function correctly in order for the whole body to be healthy. I’m no doctor but it seems pretty logical to me that body parts are only useful when they are attached to the other members. In fact, it’s kind of gross to think of disembodied members. That’s because it isn’t natural. We need each other!

If we do not come together, we will lose these important aspects of the local body, and our efforts to reach the world for Christ will be greatly hindered. Our disposition is supposed to be one of offense, not defense. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Satan is not storming the gates of the church, we should be advancing on his territory.

What are your gifts and abilities? How are you using them in your local church to further the cause of Christ? Use what The Lord has given you to accomplish your mission in life and fulfill your purpose. Live unto the One who gave you life (2 Corinthians 5:15). Get involved in your local church!

For more information on world evangelism, visit http://www.bcwe.org


The Local Church (Part 1)

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

The local church is the key to world evangelism. It is a nonnegotiable factor in our mission as believers to spread the Gospel. If we have a low view of it or if we lack an understanding of its true importance, we will not fulfill the Great Commission.

As we observe the deluge of chaos and turmoil overwhelming the world today, it is easy for those who believe the Bible to recognize that the ¨day of the Lord¨ is quickly approaching. The doctrine of the local church has never been more important than it is now. We cannot afford to ignore the issue any longer!

This is especially true in areas of the world where persecution is prevalent. Christian fellowship is vital for believers who are constantly under attack. Such is the case for Muslim background believers. Those who leave Islam to follow Jesus Christ have their closest friends and even family members turn their backs on them. They are cut off from fellowship and often threatened and harassed for becoming “apostates.” They desperately need a family that will love them unconditionally and encourage them in the Lord.

That’s what Hebrews 10:23-25 is talking about! The local church comes together (assembles) to ¨consider one another and to provoke unto love and to good works.¨ Listening to a forty-five minute message once a week is not the primary function of the “assembly.” Preaching and teaching are necessary, but it’s only a part of what needs to be happening. Believers gather together to worship the One who gave His life for them, and to encourage each other. We hold one other accountable, and when a brother struggles or falls, the others are there to lift him up (Galatians 6:1).

Satan knows that ¨the gates of hell shall not prevail¨ against the church, yet he does everything within his power to handicap the body of Christ. One of his favorite strategies over the past 2,000 has been the classic ¨divide and conquer.¨ If he can keep believers away from each other or turn them against each other, he doesn’t have to worry about them encroaching on his territory.

As opposition and persecution increase, believers need to take a stronger stand together than ever before. One of the most devastating reactions to persecution is for a church to indefinitely cancel services and essentially disband altogether because of fear. Church leaders sheepishly avoid guiding their flocks because of potential opposition. They cloak cowardice by calling it “wisdom,” and leave their sheep with wolves as they try to save their own necks. It is never wise to ignore a direct admonition from the Word of God!

I’ve heard pious statements like, “I have church every Sunday in my house. God and I meet together when I read the Bible and pray every weekend.” That is not church! We should be doing that everyday. Jesus promises us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). There is a reason that He wants us to come together so frequently. It is not good for us to be alone.

Life isn’t easy, and the enemy will continue to attack until he is ultimately defeated by the Lord. The worse the battle gets, the greater the need becomes for us to assemble. We need each other. The Lord designed us that way. It is time for us to come together; not scatter.

Praise the Lord, He promises us victory and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

For more information on church planting and world evangelism, check out www.bcwe.org


A Call For Men

I spent this past week visiting with a believer who lives in a remote village just outside the Sahara dessert. When I say remote I mean way out in the middle of nowhere. We traveled 15 hours to get to a little city where we took a bus to an even smaller town where we then took a taxi to a village where we finally had to walk another 45 minutes to get to our friend’s house.

It wasn’t the first time that we had met. A little while back he contacted my friend and told him over the phone about how he became a believer a while back, but he had never met another Christian face to face. His Muslim friends and family just wrote him off as a crazy old man, and he was hungry for genuine fellowship. My friend went down to meet him and then took a couple of us back with him a few months ago. While we were there, he shared his testimony with us and showed us all of the correspondence courses that he had done with various Christian organizations all over the world. His real burden was that his family would also come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. He asked us to come back and spend time with them teaching through the Bible. That was the reason for our trip this past week.

Between lessons that my friend taught on from the book of John, our host decided to turn on his television and let us “meet” the people that have taught him over the past decade. He literally flipped through ten different “Christian” stations and I it shocked me. At first I thought, “Wow! I had no idea that there were so many TV programs in this country that taught the Bible.” Then as I payed attention to what the various programs were teaching I quickly changed my opinion and thought, “I cannot believe that these people even claim to believe the Word of God!” I listened to what was shallow doctrine at best and even blatant heresy at times from half of the programs. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing stalking their prey; intoxicating them with their poisonous doctrine with self-serving ambitions.

I watched as our friend soaked in everything that he heard on TV, and then the thought occurred to me, this is the only form of “Christian” fellowship that he ever gets. We talked to him about the need to know the Word of God ourselves and discern between good doctrine and bad. It was hard for him to accept a few of the things we showed him from the Bible because these people, who live on the other side of the world and do not care about him or his soul, have taught him over a decade their own religious dogma which blatantly contradicts the Bible. Our friend has no shepherd within a thousand miles who will love and care for him and teach him pure doctrine. He is left to fend for himself against the predators.

The Lord blessed the time that we had there, but I can’t get over the thought that if somebody does not go back and disciple him, he will be even more confused and discouraged when we meet again.

Media is a powerful tool. We need more believers dedicated to producing programs to get the true gospel around the world. It is literally an opportunity to preach in the homes of millions who live where it is illegal for you to go and evangelize in person.

HOWEVER… we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into believing that media will get the job done by itself. We found a few good Bible teachers on television while we were there, but it was about a 1/20 chance that he will choose those specific programs to watch when he is spiritually starving. Without a shepherd who will live there and answer the real questions that he is asking, there is very little hope for maturity.

We need men! Real men who are willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause greater than themselves. Men who will go to the regions beyond and be a light in the darkness. We need men who will love the people, live among the people, teach them the Word of God, disciple them, and train them to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

It is time to wake up and work in the fields. Pray for laborers and sincerely ask God, “Am I the man whoYou are calling?” If you are, don’t waste any more time. Get up, be a real man, and answer the call.

For more information on how to get prepared to do the work, check out bcwe.org


Why I Don’t Use the Qur’an

It’s a popular new fad in Muslim Evangelism to walk people through the Qur’an in hopes that they will somehow find the gospel or at least encourage them to read the Bible in addition to their holy book.

Simply put, I believe it is as effective as a Muslim trying to walk a believer through the Bible and convince you that Jesus prophecied that Mohammad would come after him with the Qur’an.

I personally do not buy into this method for a few simple reasons:

1. I am not a valid resource for teaching the Qur’an:
Why? Because I don’t believe it. If I did I would be a Muslim. There is no need to attack it or attempt to discredit it. Just leave it alone! I, as a Christian, have no business messing with their book. Think of any argument that you might have for or against the Qur’an, and then imagine a Muslim coming to you with the same accusation about the Bible. Why would you reject it (or at least be a little skeptical)? Because he is a Muslim and does not believe it’s message! That’s exactly how they feel about our opinions on what the Qur’an teaches. I could beat this dead horse some more, but I think you get the idea.

2. I see no Biblical model for such a method:
When dealing with Jews (who had and studied the inspired Old Testament), Jesus and the apostles would preach from the scriptures and show how He was the end of the law and the fulfillment of the prophecies. There was no problem with that because it was still the Bible.

When they dealt with pagan nations they would preach to the Bible. This is what people that buy into this method like to use to justify it. Just like in Romans where the book starts off talking about how God can be seen in nature, and His law is written in the hearts of men, Paul took common observations and went back to what the Bible said about them. He did not use religious materials that he picked up from the local Pantheon.

The question is usually, “Well, what about Paul’s message on Mars Hill?” Good question. First of all, he quotes a poet and not one of their prophets or a select passage from their holy book. He makes reference to an “unknown god,” but he certainly does not say that Zeus was another name for Jehovah. He preaches Jesus and uses truth from the Scriptures.

When Paul writes to the church in Corinth he mentions his own method: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The model for evangelism in the New Testament is simply to preach Jesus and Him crucified.

3. The Bible is the one true Source:
Jesus challenged people to “search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The Bible is called “a more sure word of prophecy” by a man who once actually heard the audible voice of God coming from heaven (see 2 Peter 1:19). And finally in Romans 10:17 we learn that, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” That’s the source!

Study the Bible, memorize it, meditate on it, and preach it. Jesus is the only way to heaven and the Bible is the book that testifies of Him. Stick with the truth and leave the Qur’an alone.

 

for more articles on world evangelism check out bcwe.org


How Not to Witness to a Muslim Part 2

click here to read part 1

4. Do not sacrifice truth for unity. Jesus Christ is controversial. Understand that and embrace it. Do not try to avoid the issue. He is the only way to the Father so it is impossible to truly witness to somebody without talking about Jesus. The world hates Jesus and they’ll hate you you too. It’s one of our precious promises from the Lord himself (John 15:18-21). Building relationships is important, but it should never come at the expense of the truth. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you believe in the Trinity, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross for our sins, and that He arose from the grave. The problem that most believers have is that they don’t know enough Bible to explain why they believe these core doctrines. The only way to teach the truth is to study and know the truth. Saturate yourself with the Word of God.

5. Don’t trust in yourself to produce results. This is not a license to be lazy. We should work hard at whatever we do and be persistent (1 Cor. 15:10). However, do not think that your intelligence, eloquence, reasoning ability, or ministry methods actually produce the results. Draw close to the Lord and love Jesus Christ more than your ministry, more than your family, more than the people you are trying to reach, and more than your own life. We plant, and we water, but the Lord gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-8).

6. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts. We usually lose the battle on this front. Prejudice, fear, and bitterness ruin us from within, and it’s most difficult to deal with because no one else sees what’s going on most of the time. We are not crusaders; we are messengers of good news to those who are without hope. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

7. Don’t give up (2 Corinthians 4). Remember why we preach the gospel. It is about glorifying the name of our Lord who alone is worthy to receive all glory, honor, and power (Revelation 4:11). We need to control our thought life and remember this is neither about us nor those to whom we are preaching.

We must know and understand our purpose and God’s power.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Our Objective: “To preach Jesus Christ and him crucified.” There is no other message.

We don’t have to be great orators, have a PHD, or possess some mystifying talent. God uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty (1 Cor. 1:27) and chose the “foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).

The Lord will bring the increase. Just keep lifting Him up (John 12:32).

 

(for more about world evangelism check out bcwe.org)


How Not to Witness to a Muslim Part 1

Few subjects in the world are as controversial as Muslim evangelism. So I figure, I’ll give it a shot. After all, that’s the name and purpose of this blog.

Let me preface everything by stating that I am not against differing methods or strategies. I simply believe that the most important aspects of evangelism are often overlooked (especially when working with Muslims). After years of studying the subject, reading dozens of books by various authors, and personally working with Muslims myself, I want to share a few things that I have learned.

It’s no secret that the Muslim world has been one of the most challenging areas in spreading the gospel over the past 1,400 years. Very little evangelism has taken place among them and there are thousands of theories as to why that might be. The temptation has been to overreact to this challenge and move away from Biblical methods and embrace ideas that have no Scriptural foundation. I believe that it usually happens through a genuine desire to reach people, but in spite of good intentions it is doomed to failure.

Before we discuss how to reach the Muslim world, let’s address a few pitfalls that I have come across in the past few years.

1. Do not get involved in politics. I cannot emphasize this enough. It does not matter what your political position or idealism is, we were never commissioned to change or even challenge the government. Democracy is not the hope of the nations… Jesus Christ is. If you want to see real spiritual results, stay out of political affairs!

2. Do not argue about nor attack Islam. A debate usually consists of two excessively proud individuals, full of godless ego, decide to prove to each other that they are in some way superior to the other. I will refrain from going off on a tangent here, but suffice it to say that there are no positive results in slandering Islam or Mohammad. Our commission is NOT to go into all the world and preach against Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, polytheism, or even atheism. We were called to preach the truth.

If they ask you if you believe that Mohammad was a prophet of God, be honest and simply tell them “no.” Nine times out of ten that two-letter answer has been the end of the issue for me when talking to Muslims around the world, and it saves hours of fruitless debates and/or crafty ways to skirt around the issue. Be honest, focus on the truth (Jesus Christ and the Bible), and stay on track.

3. Do not be a coward. Cowardice breeds cowardice. One of the biggest challenges in Muslim missions (if not the greatest) around the world is the issue of fear. It’s usually called “being wise,” by those who have embraced it, but the result is the same: years of torturous anxiety with no results. When a friend of mine, who was a Muslim before becoming a believer, was asked what was one of the greatest lessons that he had learned from the missionaries in his country, his response was “how to be afraid.” What a sad epitaph.

There is an unbiblical method of Muslim missions growing in popularity today known as the “insider movement.” In essence the adherents to this doctrine teach that a person can become a “secret” follower of Jesus by believing that He was the Messiah in their hearts, but never profess Him. They are encouraged to live exactly like a Muslim, dress like a Muslim, talk like a Muslim, go to the mosque like a Muslim, pray like a Muslim, worship like a Muslim, and in every conceivable way be a Muslim who privately thinks about Jesus while he practices Islam. Good luck finding a verse on that.

There is a need for bold Christian leaders who preach Jesus Christ without shame and make no pretext for their belief in Him. Persecution is inevitable and it should not be feared. I will attempt to address this issue more in depth in another post, but for now this issue needs to be settled in our hearts when talking to anyone anywhere about Jesus Christ. We should not seek persecution, but neither should we fear it. If you let your disciples know that you are afraid to tell people about Jesus, they will inevitably be twice as afraid to witness themselves, and the Word is never planted anywhere else. Fear is natural; boldness is from God. Pray for courage and live out your faith.

Click here for part 2

(for more on world evangelism, check out bcwe.org)