How Christians Can Demolish Atheism with a Word


I’ve been listening to Unbelievable, a British podcast that pits Christians and atheists against each other on popular topics. Often, the battle is purely head-to-head, with no other topic than why atheism or why Christianity is true or not.

Here in the States, we had a slow news cycle leading up to the Olympics, so the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate took on a life of its own, with even the secular press touting the “event.”


I say this because all this logic and carefully worded argumentation misses the point. While I can see atheists not understanding how the point is lost, that Christians can’t see beyond is most troubling and says much about the state of the Church in the West.

What Christians forget is what places the Christian Church above all other religious groups and systems, including atheism. Christians believe God put His Spirit into each believer, which both empowers and grants the ability to experience true relationship with God through Jesus.

No Spirit, no Church. End of story.

And yet Christians almost never go to the Spirit when confronting atheism.

Paul preaching at the Areopagus (Mars Hill)All the reasoned logic in the world is unlikely to sway modern skeptics. We can appeal to Paul’s example at the Areopagus, but what was new to the ears of the Stoics and Epicureans in Paul’s day has had nearly 2,000 years to accumulate rebuttals. Reason alone cannot be our primary weapon.

While the Bible is God’s special revelation to mankind and contains what we need to know to have faith and to live the Christian life, many do not acknowledge it as such. To any who saw the Ham and Nye debate, Ham’s repeated returns to Scripture fell on Nye’s deaf ears. This is NOT to say the Bible as God’s Word is inadequate in some way, only that many have inoculated themselves against it when it is used alone.

But there is a word that can stop an atheist argument in its tracks. Why Christians today don’t use it is one of the great losses of our generation.

That word? The word of knowledge.

Yes, the charismatic gift.

A Christian and an atheist arguing presuppositions about the origin of matter can dispense with all the bilateral systematic dismantling if the Christian would simply say, “Your mother told you when you were 13 that she wished she had never conceived you , and you struggle daily to recover from rejection, don’t you?” Or how about “God revealed to me that you’ve been cheating on your spouse for the last two years”?

Any Christian out there wonder if that would change the direction of the debate?

If we’re talking whether God exists or not, connecting with the supernatural is the natural course of argument. A spoken word of knowledge immediately dismantles all opposition. Immediately. People who claim God does not exist must now explain that word of knowledge. Let them try. They won’t succeed. NOW who is on the defensive?

See, God intended us to be more than a Word Church. He intended us to be a Word + Power Church.

In the sidebar of this blog is an ad for Gospel for Asia. When you read the testimonies of the missionaries involved in that organization, nearly all came from non-Christian homes, and nearly all had some power encounter because of a missionary coming into their homes and bringing a miracle of some kind. Supernatural healing, deliverance, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, whatever—the Word was accompanied by a Spirit-filled believer operating in supernatural Power. The result was faith.

You see, the arguments against the Lord went dead in the face of God working through His people in power.

Is it any wonder why atheism has revived in the age of a Western Church that more likely than not DENIES the operation of the charismata? And is it any wonder that the Church is moving forward in leaps and bounds in those places where Christians place no such restrictions on the Spirit moving through charismatic gifts?

American Church, are you listening?

Get the gifts moving again and see the arguments against God crumble. Because they will.

And one more thing…

We always like to say that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. Why then do we Christians never press the relationship reality when we debate atheists? Why is it always a battle of logic? If knowing Christ is eternal life and relationship with Him is the cornerstone of our Faith, why do Christians never bring up this living relationship with Christ when talking with atheists? Ravi Zacharias is about the only apologist I ever hear who gets to the heart of relationship with Christ when discussing the uniqueness of Christianity and its superiority. More of us need to talk about our vital relationship with Christ with our atheist friends.

For too long the discussion has been from our heads. It’s time to take it back to relationship with Christ and to Word + Power. Because that’s what makes Christianity the only true answer.

Lonely Christian Men


Man aloneLast night, I got together with a friend I had not seen in about six or seven years. We shot the breeze on the porch of a pub and talked science fiction, trivia contests, copyright laws, and work. Reconnecting felt good.

Somewhere I read that by the time a man reaches his mid-40s, he has one close friend, the kind who would be there no matter the situation. Peripheral friends account for another two or three, at most.

Unlike women, who seem to keep their friends and add to them readily, men get married, have kids, and gradually so immerse themselves in their families that many of their friendships wither and die. One day, a man wakes up and wonders where all the the other guys he hung with vanished to.

For men, it’s all too easy to let friends gradually drift away.

I wish I could say that in the Church it was better, but I wonder about that. When I watch people who don’t know Jesus, it seems that the very lack of Him in their lives forces them to reach out, to value friendship just a wee bit more. I know a lot of Christian men who, if asked in confidence, would confess they are lonely.

In talking with this friend last night, we both noted how hard it was to get any group of people together. Everyone is so scheduled. Some have bought into a cocoon mentality and can’t seem to break out. Instead of doing anything as a group with friends, we instead pursue hobbies that can work without a group or we fall into a routine of only doing activities with our wives or kids.

Some of this is surely because of the guilt ladeled out by many parachurch organizations and some churches that contend that if we’re not spending time with our families, then we’re poor fathers and husbands. I think a lot of Christian men feel that oppressive burden. They can’t determine how much is enough or too little, so they spend all their time with their wife and kids, just to be safe—just to be “Christian.”

This is, in part, a lie.

Jesus said this:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. ”
—Matthew 12:25b ESV

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…”
—Luke 22:31 ESV

I am increasingly aware that the Good can be the enemy of the Best. There is too much in today’s church that appears Good on the surface, but it wars against the Best, ultimately hurting Christians and churches. Because so few Christians are actually listening to the Holy Spirit, that Best goes missing, while the Good prevails.

It is good that a man spends time with his wife and family, but the Church begins to hurt when men do not gather together regularly as just men. The lonely Christian man is a symptom of a breakdown in fellowship that is hurting our churches.

Some churches may offer a large group gathering for men every now and then. While that’s a start, it is no substitute for getting together more regularly. It’s also not a replacement for small groups of men gathering for a more intimate fellowship. Larger groups tend to stifle the kind of relational intimacy that men are dying for.

Whether large or small, groups of Christian men getting together offer the chance for men to get down on their knees together and pray the way men pray. Men and women pray differently, and it is to the shame of men that the prayers groups in most churches are comprised almost entirely of elderly women.

In reference to those Bible verses above, division is a bad thing. And Christian men are too often divided/separated by the world. We have believed lies about responsibilities that prevent us from getting together, and the result is that the Church limps along because men are off being individuals at a time when we should be united.

A house divided cannnot stand. Keep men apart; that’s the Enemy’s strategy.

Back in the 1990s, the whole men’s movement was a welcome awakening, but it was so heavily commercialized that it was doomed to fail. Too many moneychangers saw it as an opportunity to make some moolah, and love of money has a way of dooming many worthwhile Christian ministries.

In addition, the men’s movement of the 1990s was too national. It needed to be localized, and it never was, so it was doomed there too.

Christian men don’t need a commercialized, national movement. We need to cultivate friendships with other men on a local level. And as Christians, we need to rediscover what it means to be standing in the gap and covering each other’s backs.

Time is running out for us to do this. But too few recognize this because we are not getting together to discuss and counter it in the way that only Christian men can.

Why Evangelism Is Failing in America


EvangelismOne of the measures I have used over the years to check the pulse of the Church is a simple one: Are strangers, unaware that I am already a believer, trying to convert me to Christianity?

In the last 20 years or so, the answer has been a resounding no.

Prior to that, though, I would regularly encounter zealous evangelists who approached me and tried to start a conversation with a Christian bent, hand me a tract, or present a spiritual spiel intended at converting me.

But not anymore.

Some of that is because some churches abandoned a hit or miss “street” style of evangelism for what is euphemistically called “friendship” evangelism. This type of Gospel presentation involves more of a personal approach intended to invest more time in the actual relationship between the evangelizer and the evangelized. That’s probably a good change, but…

The proof is in the pudding, they say, and anyone who has read widely regarding the condition of the Church today will tell you the grim truth: The Church is not growing in America. Period.

And “not growing” is being generous. Many polls show a slight percentage drop of a couple points from the long-accepted figure (45%) for church attendance on Sundays. Other polls and studies show a bigger drop, as much as 15%, with attendance by those under 35 or by men to be particularly troubling.

I don’t know about drops; they may be real. I suspect they are. That we’re even talking about them says something.

And then there’s the dirty little reality that what we label “growth” in a church comes mostly at the expense of other churches. A couple used to attend Church A, but now they attend Church B, often because Church B enacted some cleverly designed marketing program. This is how “flock rustling” occurs—and we label it “growth.” All we’re doing, though, is swapping existing believers. We’re not adding to the number in the herd.

Here’s reality: Given all the supposed Christians in the United States, if even one Christian helped lead one non-Christian to Christ in a year, the Church would nearly double in size.

Just one person.

That we may not even be at a sustaining level paints only one picture: Evangelism as a matter of Christian practice is not happening in America.


And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” —Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

Those three verses close the story of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. God inspired Matthew to end his Gospel with what is called The Great Commission.

In other words, this is important stuff, so important that men and women through the ages have died to ensure what Jesus asks in those three verses happens.

So why isn’t it happening here?

I can answer why with one word: success.

Everything that we are as Americans comes down to success. By most measures, we are the most successful nation of the last 100 years. The good ol’ American Dream promulgates the idea that anyone here can be a success because America is a giant laboratory for creating success.

We love our successes, too, with successful people guaranteed their 15 minutes of fame. Oddly, we even award people who are ignoble failures some modicum of success for flaming out spectacularly. Go big or go home, right?

Success in America is built on four elements: Money, Power, Sex, and Fame.

One of those elements, a couple in conjunction, or all four—it doesn’t matter, just so long as one is present in the mix, and you will have success.

Money is simple. You’re a success in America if you’ve got multiple commas in your bank account bottom line. Because ours is a consumer society, money—and the material possessions it buys—becomes the ultimate marker for whether someone has achieved success or not.

Power is a bit more complex, since few people without money have power. Power often comes after someone gains money, but it can’t grow without connections to wealthy and powerful people. The powerful in America are usually the connected. Or they control some unique idea no one else can synthesize or own. Or they have a strong presence in academic or governmental podiums.

Sex is on the downturn. Sex used to mean something, but in an era of porn, promiscuity, and same-sex marriage, its worth has gone downhill like no other element in the success formula. Sure, a few people can still use sex to be successful, but it ain’t the force it used to be.

Fame is the odd one. The wealthy, powerful, and sexy usually attract fame. But fame is the buy-in element in success that even the poorest nobody can attain. The rise of media has assured that fame can be had by anyone who does anything worthy of the news. This explains why we keep hearing more and more cases of crazy people going on killing sprees. Their goal in many cases? Fame.

Money, Power, Sex, and Fame send a message. That message is drilled into the psyche of every American. That message that success matters more than anything else in life exists at the very core of the American Dream.

Where it starts turning even darker is that we believe the flip-side of success too: Failure is NOT an option. Anyone who sends a message of failure, even subconsciously or over a course of time, can’t be a success.

We live in an era where the value of any message is directly related to the success it generates. And the proof of that success is found in the bearer of the message. If the bearer is successful, then the message has validity.

This formula not only drives success but is used to substantiate truth claims.

Why is the American obsession with success so detrimental to evangelism?

You’ve heard the phrase “scum of the earth”? It comes from the Bible:

“We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”
—1 Corinthians 4:13b

Paul the Apostle was referring to what the apostles became to get the Gospel out to everyone. He later warns that the hearers can become arrogant if they don’t consider what must be lost so as to gain Christ. He asks the hearers to imitate him. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, does it?

Paul also writes:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
—1 Corinthians 1:25-31 ESV

We as a Church in America no longer believe that passage, though. For us, success by worldly standards matters more. And because not many of us are of “noble birth” or can flash a wad of Franklins on demand, we do not see ourselves as successful. So of what importance is our message to other people if it can’t be assured of generating the American definition of success? If you and I can’t measure up to that standard of success, then why embarrass ourselves with sharing a faith that may involve becoming the scum of the earth?

Because the heart of the Christian message is at odds with success. The Gospel is a message of denial, of the death of the self. It means becoming overlooked by the “people who matter” so as to become noticed in the eyes of God.

I think that one of the prime reasons why Christians are not evangelizing others is that they feel they can’t point to their own lives and say, “I’m a success.” And that’s an understandable way of thinking IF one has bought the definition of success on constant display in America today. But from a biblical perspective, that thinking is poison.

The American success model is toxic to just about every aspect of Christian doctrine.

When we start talking about sin and the need for a savior, the success model mentality translates that talk of sin into one of self-improvement for the sake of achieving worldly success. And you don’t need to be a Christian to go to Amazon and buy a Kindle version of some bestselling self-help book that will help you rid yourself of “bad habits” and “lousy thinking.”

And there’s not a step in the direction of justification that isn’t pulled off the Roman Road by the American success model.

What’s truly horrifying is that the success model not only interferes with the Gospel presentation, it’s syncretizing it. Prosperity gospel anyone? If you want to watch the mutation in action, watch Asia and Africa for penetration of the prosperity gospel. All those inroads made by the Church are coming undone thanks to the false gospel of prosperity overwhelming the real Gospel. That’s just one pressing problem for the Church.

Here’s what must be done if the American Church is to improve evangelism:

1. Churches must drill into people that we live in an age of lies. And the American Dream is one of those lies because it is based on a success model that runs entirely counter to the Gospel.

2. We must understand that the message of the Gospel is true regardless of an individual’s or church’s success as measured by the world. This will NEVER be a popular message, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Pastors, preachers, and teachers who believe this need to model it more effectively and deal with the fallout in their own lives if their flocks are to believe it and live it too.

3. The measure of success in a Christian’s life is the intimacy and knowledge of God that each believer possesses. That’s its own reward, and churches must revalue that spiritual capital.

4. Churches must start talking about jobs and employment. Because in the minds of most Christians, their work is their direct line to success. If the Church cannot break that mentality and substitute a godly one, we will make no inroads into combating a success message.

5. Church leaders must speak against the cult of celebrity, even Christian celebrity. There can be no change unless Christians embrace humility over celebrity.

6. Churches must come to terms with failure, because in the eyes of God, strength is found in weakness. To Americans, weakness smacks of failure, and we American Christians must overcome that thinking.

7. Church leaders must train people to evangelize—and not just memorize some verses on the Romans Road. People need a comprehensive view of the Bible so they understand how all the themes work together within the character of God and the salvation story He is still writing.

American Christians will not share the Gospel message if their understanding of what it means to be a success in America is skewed. It’s that simple.