How the Haves and Have Not Evangelize—Or Don’t


Yesterday, I mentioned the E-word: evangelism.

That’s not a fun word in a lot of American Christian circles. In the secular world, the fear of speaking in front of a crowd of people scares the willies out of more people than anything else. Obviously, How will they hear the name unless we tell them?no one is polling Christians on fear of evangelism or else you’d see 90 percent of believers’ knees knocking together at the mere mention of the word.

In America at least, I see the issue of our lousy attitude toward evangelism breaking down into two camps, the Haves and Have Nots.

If you are a Have, then life treats you well. You applied your nose to the grindstone and not only came away with your nose intact, but a two-car garage full of nice things as well. You’re healthy and so are the rest of the people in your family. As they say, it goes well with you. People point to you and say, “There goes a success.” And you are a success, at least as far as the world goes. You have the material gain, the nice semi-upper-level job, and the 2.3 children in an exclusive private Christian school to prove it. Your money gets you out of every jam you might find yourself in. And some Sundays, when you remember, you thank God for all the stuff He has given you.

If you are a Have Not, you look at those who live in the tony Have planned community down the road and pray that, for your sake, they discover Freecycle—and soon.Your car is ten years old and visited the shop one time for each of its years last year, each visit bringing a different mechanical ailment. You suffer from a vague unease that perhaps you have hidden sin in your life that prevents you from being a Have, yet you can never discover what that sin might be. The bills never seem to stop piling up. When your family talks about its situation, the phrase “make do” comes up a lot. In church on Sunday, you worry that people are thinking your nice church clothes are looking a little threadbare.You sometimes wonder if God plays favorites.

For the Have and the Have Not, the mere mention of evangelism brings on an attack of hives.


In the case of the Have, evangelism forces reckoning. It brings to the surface the reality that you claim to follow an invisible god-man who died and rose from the grave. You talk to this god-man through something called prayer. You eat his body and drink his blood. You use lingo found only within that group of people who do the same. That god-man asks things of you that “normal” people aren’t required to do, like take care of the naked and the prisoner. Evangelism is the means by which you want others to live that same way and follow that same god-man.

When you’re a Have, doing just that is a little unnerving. Because it makes you look weird. It casts a pall over your otherwise normal American life. It reminds you that the things that god-man said make other people uncomfortable, people who can make or break your career, people who can send you back where you came from, and you just don’t want to go back there because it wasn’t even a shadow of the life you enjoy now. Losing your Have-ness would be the same as dying—or worse.

So you leave the evangelism to others.

In the case of the Have Not, evangelism reminds you of failure. How many have come to Jesus because of your direct involvement in their lives? Not many. And why would they? You don’t have much. You’re not the shining example of the American Dream. There’s a vague unease that perhaps God is not blessing you as much as He is blessing others. Your pastor tells you that evangelism is nothing more than telling someone else what Jesus has done for you. Yet by the normal American standard of blessing, you’re not doing that well. Your pagan neighbors are, so why would they want to come down in the world? Why would they want to be a Have Not when they may very well be a Have right now?

When you’re a Have Not, you sometimes feel like an embarrasment to the Kingdom of God, the red-headed stepchild, the third wheel. Your Have-Not-ness disqualifies you from evangelizing because who really wants to be like you? Why would someone want to follow a god who has such a mediocre disciple working for him? Who wants to tell prospective followers that they may come down in their station in life if they follow Jesus? Or that devils may try to attack them more fiercely so that they’ll face discouragement in a way they never have before, discouragement that threatens to send them back to where they were before coming to Jesus but with all of the former things of that life now lost.

So you leave the evangelism to others.

The funny thing about the Haves and Have Nots here in the American Church is that it’s the Have Nots that are the most deluded. Truth is, most everyone in America is a Have, while most of the rest of the world is a Have Not. And oddly enough, the greatest revivals and most effective evangelism are coming out of those places in the world that practically define what it means to be a Have Not. Except that those Have Not Christians in those Have Not countries could not have more joy because they are Haves in the one thing that truly matters, having Jesus.

For the Haves, there is one thing they lack. If they were to read their Bibles, they would know what that one thing is. The problem for the Haves is that they love their Having more than they love their own souls—or the One who can save those very souls. Evangelizing others reminds them of this truth. It’s why they avoid it like the plague.

Times are coming and may already be here when the Haves will find themselves having less. Maybe that will change their attitude toward evangelism. Or maybe it will just make them bitter. That’s hard to predict. Sliding into the Have Nots is a foreign feeling. The Haves won’t know the language or customs of what it means to dwell in the Land of Have Not. I suspect some may find God’s grace in that Land, though.

At least, that’s what I’m praying.

No matter which camp you fall into, it’s time to live differently. The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. And if you look closely enough, you can see that today is a shade darker than yesterday.

Live from the Battlefield


Imagine you’re a soldier on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. It’s D-Day.

Eight hours into the fighting, you wiped the brains of your best Army buddy off your sleeve after a shell removed the top half of his head. Your thigh aches and oozes blood from the small fragments of a mortar round. When that happened, you have no clue. It’s all adrenaline all the time. Memento mori lurks around every corner. No time to think, just survive.

The stench of sulfur, sweat, and blood assaults your nose. The wails of the dying and injured never cease their howling. And you just walked past a kid—at least he looked like kid, even in his fatigues—Robert Capa's Omaha Beachwho had half his body torn away by machine gun fire, but there he was, still chattering. At least for now. You don’t come come back from an injury like that. You just don’t.

It’s kill or be killed. And too many of your side fell into the latter.

You regroup when the paratroopers drop in later that evening, and as you gaze out over the carnage, you wonder if your side won. Because nothing here resembles victory. Hell couldn’t look this bad. In the end, perhaps everyone lost.

Here and now…

When tribulation comes, it’ll make D-Day feel like a hangnail.

I say that because we are not ready for tribulation. Most of us wouldn’t last through two days of genuine tribulation. The closest we’ve been to tribulation is at family reunions when grandpa talks about the Depression. Oh, and pass the corn on the cob slathered in butter.

I don’t know if we’re headed into tribulation or not. It sure seems like it. Only God knows.

But here’s what I’m certain of: For Christians alive during that tribulation, it’s going to feel like defeat. I don’t say that blithely. We may look around and see nothing but utter chaos, even within our families.

Consider this passage from Daniel 10. The prophet saw a vision and prayed for an interpretation, but one failed to materialize. Finally, many days later, an angel arrives and speaks:

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.
—Daniel 10:12-14

This awesome angelic being was thwarted by demonic powers. Only after receiving assistance from an archangel did he manage to break through the line of chthonic assault.

And that was during the good times. Tribulation will see far worse.

For Christians, it will feel as if God has abandoned us because all the benefits we’ve known as believers will be bitterly, and perhaps even successfully, opposed. Life and faith won’t work like they normally do. The foundation won’t feel secure. Madness may strike someone you love. Cruel people might take your children away from you. When the forces of hell fight that last battle, they will not go down without taking out as many of us as they can.

It will look like defeat, folks. It will smell, taste, sound, and feel like it, too.

You’ll hear pollyanna Christians talking about how it will all be better. But it won’t be. And those pollyannas will one by one reject the faith because they built their hope on rainbows and fluffy bunnies instead of the Rock. People you know, even people who pledged allegiance to Christ, will turn on you to save themselves. Your best friend may sell you for a loaf of bread.

Torture. Pestilence. Horror.

Like that soldier on D-Day, you may look out over the day’s savagery and weep, wondering who won. And the answer will be just as elusive.

This is what I’m here to tell you: Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

Because you’ll be tempted in a million ways to do so. People you love will succumb. People you love may even beg you to give up too.

Don’t do it.

We don’t know what to means to endure here in America 2008. We have no idea. Yet soon enough endurance may be our bread and butter.

He who endures till the end will be saved. We know those words well enough. But have they been burned into our hearts? Remember, the only time when we can truly say that Christ is all we need is when Christ is all we have.

And those days may be upon us very soon.

Banking on God: Crisis, Part 5


The picture of dark daysSo here we are a month later at the penultimate post in this series. Today, I’ll be expanding some of the general ideas I discussed yesterday, while adding practical ways we can address crises better as a body of believers.

In times of darkness, we must be Spirit-led, radical thinkers who take chances that flow against the status quo’s stream. Truth is, the status quo got us into many of the troubles we face as Americans, as no one wished to buck the system to make things better. Too often, though we say we love the rugged individualist, the strongest voices for godly change are the ones we shout down fervently. Remember: they stoned the prophets, but the prophets were right.

Here are a few ideas I believe we must seriously consider in our churches if we are to prevail and be a shining, countercultural light for Christ in dark times.

Healthcare is troubling issue because fewer and fewer people can afford it, yet none of us is immune to entropy. The early Church made its name in Rome by caring for the sick. Most of the world’s hospitals were founded by Christians. Yet Christian leaders today seem utterly flummoxed by the issue, preferring to ignore it even while their congregations suffer.

I had a taste of this Easter Sunday when one of the key members of my church’s worship team was laid out by a condition easily treated by a physician. The problem? He couldn’t afford to see the doctor and get the prescription medicine he needed that would have enabled him to join us!

For this reason, I believe that churches need to start stepping up to the healthcare plate. Many communities are home to retired doctors. No reason exists that a church (or a communion of churches) could not approach these retired doctors and offer to pay them a stipend to look after those people in the church who lack healthcare options. A retired doctor could see the sick on a Saturday for a few hours. House calls are even possible. This kind of thing is easily set up.

To be even more radical, why can’t a series of churches in a community band together with local politicians to have the entire community buy the services of an actively practicing doctor—or three or four? We pay for fire departments and police, why not community doctors? Keep it local by keeping the county and state out. That keeps if from becoming a big government initiative while continuing to benefit an entire community. With most office visits handleable by general practitioners, there’s no reason why this can’t work. Why then are we not pursuing it?

For funding such an idea, or any other benevolence fund, most of us, as I noted yesterday, could get by fine without 75 percent of what we own. The early Church divested itself of all sorts of extra goods, including houses, but we seem loathe to give up even the smallest thing. Just how stingy are we? Look at how many families are failing around us and see how the cultivation of our island (every family for itself) mentality has damaged even our church families.

We need to get some sense about how we spend our money. When we’re starving, we can’t eat an iPod.We spend millions on junk, yet what really lasts escapes us. God will judge our generosity some day. Are we feeding Christ by feeding the hungry or are we simply out to feed our own desires? Which one makes us sheep and which makes us goats?

We Christians will collectively spend umpteen millions of dollars each year on Christian conferences that we attend and then forget about a month later. Imagine what we could do if we channeled that money to worthy preparation and stopped our fixation with one religious high after another. Could we strategize new ways of living and fund those initiatives?

Take housing, for instance. A coalition of churches could buy older apartment buildings, rehab them, and offer housing to those who fall prey to bad times. We had a family in our church lose a home to fire just a couple weeks ago and another family offered the use of the home they just left. That’s one way to go. Or a couple churches working together could buy up foreclosed or auctioned properties and rehab them for families. Or they could work deals with families who are moving to donate their old homes. Heck, that’s even a tax writeoff! These are all readily workable ideas.

We need to re-explore Christian communities. I’ve written before that I believe it a wise thing for a group of Christian families to buy available land, build their houses together on that land, have a common meeting building, farm the land, and maintain some percentage of common purse for use when tough times hit. Or a couple families could build condo-type houses with common areas linking two homes. Or we could work to rent out apartments together in the same building. We are not limited here if we set aside our faulty ideals on what it means to be well-off!

Food is big issue, too. Dark times almost always mean less food. I was in the store today and was shocked at how prices continue to rise either outright or through what I like to call “packaging fraud.” (Your half gallon container of ice cream is now 1.75 quarts, or even 1.5 quarts. I noticed today that packs of cheese that were once half a pound are now six ounces. Same price, but no fanfare on the smaller size. I consider that fraud, frankly.)

How do we deal with the problem of food? We grow our own.

I catch a lot of flack from naysayers on this, but if we have a backyard and we’re not growing food on it, we’re wasting our property. We can’t keep relying on others to feed us. It’s time that we Christians started assuming leadership on the back to basics of growing and making our own food. No excuses here, either. If I, the world’s worst “black thumb,” can grow food in raised beds on my property, you can, too. I have a fruit orchard, also. No reason why you can’t, either. And it’s far cheaper to grow food ourselves and preserve it than it is to buy from big food conglomerates. Tastes better as well.

Every family in our churches should be growing food. End of story. And for those with bigger properties, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, and cows can supply meat. (I’m exploring that for my family even now.) Those people who have more resources for food production can assists those with less. Folks, this is about survival.

As for other skills, your church directory should list not only the basics like a phone number and address, but the skills and talents of each person listed. Someone got car fixing skills? Time to use them to the bettering of everyone in the church. Who sews well? Who can teach others sewing? Who has legal training? We need to know this. Every ability should be noted and made open for use. People who can pay should. Those who can’t should try as best they can to, yet that inability to pay should not keep them from getting services from their brethren. People with plumbing skills should be fixing plumbing in the homes of people in the church. Same for electricians, accountants, and whatever other skill is needed. We need to start depending on each other and living up to real community, even if it hurts. Again, the days of our privacy are gone. The government already knows everything about you, so privacy is a myth anyway. Our churches need what we have to give, money, skills, and all. Time to pony it all up.

Jobs are a big issue. Those people in the congregation who can make hiring and firing decisions need to understand that they should be hiring their out-of-work brethren. For those people in our churches who can train others in worthwhile work, they need to do it now, not wait till bad times come. An out-of-work person in a church is everyone’s responsibility. You can tell how loving and godly a church is by how well they meet the needs of their weakest members. And nothing in our society renders people weaker than being out of work. If our churches are filled with out-of-work people, then we’re not living up to the high calling of Christ. Jobs training, networking leads, anything that works we should be exploring. Absolutely no excuses on this, either.

Churches need to be working with local businesses to ensure them that they can provide ethical employees. Our churches should be able to go to any local business and say that the people in that church will make the best employees because they are godly, moral, ethical people who will do a company right. If we can’t say that, then we fooling ourselves concerning our discipleship programs. Church leaders need to be able to make that promise and fulfill it. They should cultivate relationships with community business leaders that will ensure that, even in down times, their congregants will have work.

As you can see, this takes on an alternative economy kind of thinking after a while. Underground economies exist all over the planet, but we suburbanites do a lousy job of creating our own. We need to learn how to barter and exchange outside the system. One day, off the grid and outside the system may be our only means of surviving. We better start planning those means now.

Why aren’t we training our children to survive? For all our obsession with homeschooling, how many homeschoolers are teaching real survival skills like animal husbandry, power generation, farming, and the like? Knowing Latin won’t fill an empty stomach. Our kids need to know how to live like the pioneers of old if they are to live in the days to come. (We adults also need that wisdom, too, though I suspect too many of us spent our precious time learning how to play video games or memorizing sports stats and not enough learning how to sex chickens.) Who in our churches can teach the next generation how to do these things? We need to identify them. And if we can’t identify those people, then we need to drop all the other junk we’re doing and start teaching ourselves those skills.

Our churches need to learn what real persecution looks like, too. How is the Church persecuted in other countries? We need to know how those persecuted churches survive. What happens if we have our church building taken away? How do we keep meeting? How does an underground church work? Our church leaders should stop assuming that tomorrow will be all milk and honey and start finding ways to test-run persecution. Break your church up into house churches for a while and see where the pressure points and weaknesses are. Who are the leaders of the church? Who will run things if the pastor or elders get taken out? How are we training people to assume leadership roles? This is basic discipleship training! How are we living it out?

Do we have prayer meetings in our churches going on all the time? Why not? Dark times call for serious prayer. Why are all the old ladies filling our prayer meetings? Why are all the able-bodied men camped out watching sports? What a waste! Are we serious or not? I’ll tell you, we’ll be serious when we lose our houses or can’t put food on the table. But by then, it may be too late.

Bad days call for fasting and repentance. I read all sorts of headlines about the dire economy, but I hear no Christian leaders calling for repentance, fasting, and prayer because of it. Why not? How badly do we want to be caught unawares? I don’t wish to be and I don’t want my church to be, either. Are we serious people or are we dancing when we should be preparing for winter? Dance when the stockpile is in place, but not before.

I could go on and on here, but I think the time has come to wrap this up.

I ask again, How serious are we? When did we Christians get so “fluffy”? Tough times call for tough people and brave ideas with committed follow-through. Good times won’t always be here, yet we act like they’ll last forever. How foolish we are when we, of all people, know how things will end, yet we are not prepared for that Day!

In the next post, I’ll wrap up the “Banking on God” series. Stay tuned.


Banking On God: Series Compendium