I opened 2008 with a post that laid out what I thought was the key for the Church for the year: listening to the Holy Spirit. If anything, 2008 proved without a shadow of a doubt that the American Church went deaf.
Last year saw the financial meltdown and the Lakeland “revival.” Do I need to say more? Okay, I do. Preparedness for the financial meltdown: zero. Was anyone listening to the Holy Spirit on this? Among charismatics, the Lakeland thing was all the rage, but it turned out to be charismania cranked to the nth degree. For a group of people who claim to be hearing the Holy Spirit, charismatics crashed and burned concerning Lakeland. Hugely. Sadly, so did a lot of noncharismatics.
How long are our churches in America going to wander through life with closed eyes and plugged ears?
God, please let us better know your heart in 2009. Please help us to read the times and know how we should live, not as the pagans do in chaos and fear, but as a people directed by You, with your purposes as our own.
As much as we still need to do a better job listening to the Holy Spirit, I believe another issue has taken on new urgency. It seems to me to be an issue that I cannot escape, as it has truly consumed my thoughts the last few months. For 2009, I am convinced that the word of the Lord to the churches is this:
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.”
Given what I’ve written here over the years about preparing for a financial meltdown and the need for proper discernment, you can imagine how I feel about 2008.
But 2009 can’t be a replay of 2008. If we didn’t listen to the Holy Spirit as we should have last year, we absolutely must get serious about evangelism and training converts to Christianity in the truths of Christ.
My confession? I’m terrible at evangelism. I wish I didn’t have to think about evangelism. Training and challenging people who are already Christians is something I feel I do naturally. But evangelism is different. I don’t think about it enough. I don’t worry enough about the souls of the lost. Evangelism doesn’t chart on my list of daily activities. My burden for people who don’t know God is light at best.
That needs to change in my life. And I’ll be bold enough to say that it probably needs to change in yours, too.
Some of you may claim I inhabit a dream world, but given the number of professed Christians who live in this country, how long should you or I go without a stranger engaging us randomly to discuss Jesus? A week? A month, perhaps?
In my own life, I would say that it may be pushing 15 to 20 years since a stranger last approached me and started a conversation about Jesus. Now I would like to think that this lack is because the aroma of Christ is so strong on me that fellow Christians who are strangers are keen enough to sense that aroma and therefore can bypass talking with me because I’m already saved.
That’s what I would like to think. But I know better. Fact is that too many of us rely on someone else to do the witnessing for us. The upshot is that hardly anyone is doing the work. That unnerves me. It tells me that we don’t care about the eternal destiny of lost people.
Some of us out there can at a moment’s notice preach a thousand words on our pet theological topic(s). But if we can’t articulate a decent presentation of the Gospel to a lost person and follow it up, we’ve got the wrong priorities.
I pray that 2009 sees those priorities changed in the American Church. They’re going to change with me, so help me God.
16 thoughts on “My Hope & Prayer for 2009”
Dan: best wishes to you and your family for the new year. Re: your difficulty with evangelism. Let me suggest you get involved in prison/jail ministry. Not only will you be fulfilling Matthew 25:36 but you will discover the unmitigated blessing of feeding hungry souls with the gospel. People who are incarcerated are looking for someone to give them hope. They are discouraged and ready to give up. Often the softening work of the Holy Spirit will have preceded your visit. Take the time to read Midget’s testimony here: http://www.unchainedministry.org/george.htm I know by your irenic and winsome writing on this blog that God would bless you greatly in this ministry. Your local county jail probably has a volunteer coordinator or ask the jail chaplain about it. A once per month trip is all I’m necessarily talking about. Once you get over the initial qualms you will be a blessing and be blessed more than you can imagine.
I will consider this. My situation is such, though, that I suspect that I must do a better job within the limitation I am under rather than to add new ministry outlets. In other words, I need to do better with those occasions I am given already.
There are many of us out here in the bogsphere who have been talking about the same thing over the past few weeks.
It seems that God is calling His people to speak out for Him in 2009.
I and many people I knew also saw the financial crash coming but we didn’t speak loud enough. We need to not make the same mistake with the gospel!
I think people are too scared to speak. They look at their own Christian walks and cannot see enough of the miraculous to want to tell others about Jesus. It’s as if we live as failures, but we don’t know what else to believe. We can’t be that way, though. Either knowing Jesus is everything to us or it’s not. If it were everything, we’d be much better at communicating the Gospel to lost people. As it is, we barely believe, so how is it that anyone else will believe as we do? That’s no way to live, though.
Did you see the video by self-confessed atheist Penn Jillette on this subject?
You can see it here or on lots of other blogs, or just YouTube.
I and two other men met at a local coffee shop for Bible study this morning. An electrical fire sparked in an adjacent storefront in the shopping center. The faint smell of plastic burning grew until I looked up and saw smoke in the coffee shop. I told the women next to us that they needed to leave. I told some others, including an Asian man so engrossed in his book that he did not notice the densening smoke in his vicnity.
One of the three women next to us seemed offended that I spoke to them so abruptly. Two customers continued to sit at their booths until the employees forced everyone out. At that point, smoke was wafting out of the roof.
“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:23 KJV). My clothes stunk of plastic-tinged smoke after I left the building. I hated it. Imaginations of slinging people over my shoulders and running out preoccupied my mind later.
But how often do I witness like the world is on fire? Rarely.
I think the key is making disciples; not just convincing people to make decisions. We must be willing to follow through after we witness. Lord help us all to be bolder!
Have you seen this video?
Somehow the link to the video didn’t work.
try this: http://beaboutyourfathersbusiness.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-comfortable-are-you.html
I share your burden. Over the last couple months, I’ve been pressing my church leaders to do something about this, but the wheels turn slowly, and I can’t wait. My husband and I are planning to start an evangelistic Bible study at our home, regardless of what the church does. I’ve been re-reading an older book by Bob & Betty Jacks called “Your Home a Lighthouse: Hosting an Evangelistic Bible Study.” It provides good practical suggestions, as well as motivation and encouragement to just do it.
I’ve also just started a new blog aimed at the lost. I’m still feeling my way with this, but thus far I’ve been defining Christianity (i.e., going to church every week doesn’t make you a Christian) and relating my own testimony.
All this is a complete about-face for me, too. My normal inclination is to try to draw Christians closer to the Lord, and deeper into His Word. Now I’m learning to “edit out” the Christianese and speak in language that’s comprehensible to the unsaved.
Thanks for the post. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.
Good for you, akaGaga. Blessings on your study, and thanks for the book recommendation. (I’ve heard of it before, but I have not read it. If only every home were a lighthouse!)
Isn’t it true that the Spirit leads some to be evangelists but others are meant to focus on other gifts, such as sacrificial generosity and humble service? I think only certain types of people can be reached by evangelism, especially from strangers.
You’ve written previously about how wide-spread and effective gifts like mercy and giving were in the early church… but I’ve never heard anything about every Christian preaching in the streets. There was a healthy balance of saying and doing, and both were effective when done in faith and empowered by the spirit.
The issue is STILL getting in touch with the Holy Spirit, so that people who are supposed to be evangelists will have the power to evangelize effectively (I have been completely unsuccessful trying to evangelize friends and family using my own speaking skills), the people who are supposed to be agents of mercy will have supernatural aid in mending broken lives, the people who are called to giving will be led to give when and where it will make a big difference in someone’s life… instead of the vast majority of us American believers being stuck as directionless pew potatos like myself!
I’m not arguing that many Christians don’t care enough about the unsaved — that is certainly true for me; I mostly just care about people whom I know. Maybe you personally are being called as an evangalist — or perhaps you are going to be called to do something else related, say serve as a prophet in your own church who will deliver the message to some people who are supposed to be getting out there in the streets.
However, I have no hope in prodding random believers not Gifted for evangelism to go out and talk to strangers. People need to tune into the opportunities God is providing for them personally. (If you do get called as a prophet, I would be grateful for some guidance along those lines…)
P.S. I wonder if anyone reads comments from old discussions? I’ve been reading this blog for quite a while, but writing is very hard for me… so until this weekend I’ve used that doubt as an excuse to cop out: the discussion seems “stale” by the time I’m ready to say anything (though the articles are still thought-provoking).
All of us are called to share our faith. Evangelists just have an additional gifting for doing so. That doesn’t excuse us from playing our part. Remember, even that guy with the lousy voice still sings on Sundays.
Did Paul exhort all new believers to go out and testify in the streets? He really emphasized teamwork with a diversity of gifts, and different gifts hit home with different kinds of people. Of course I’m not excused from playing my part, but there’s no reason to think that my part is going out and talking to people I don’t know. People who do know me, know that I am a Christian, and I am willing to talk about what I believe — even though I currently have no personal testimony from my own life to offer. Wish that I did have some direction as to my own part, so that last would no longer be the case…
Anyways, if we American Christians were going out and surprising people with other Gifts like mercy, generosity, humble service, you wouldn’t be worried about whether the lost were being neglected: people would be asking us what our secret was. The big problem is that we can’t do those things either; at least, not in a way that stands out from the “good deeds” of the humanists around us. Not until we grow up and learn how to “do all things in Christ”. As someone who has a solid grasp on the gospel and also receives promptings from the Spirit, you are probably farther along than a lot of us… I would like to hear more about how you learned how to pray in a way that the Spirit can speak to you, instead of disappointing Him with monologues.
SJLC, you said you have no personal testimony to offer. If you’re a Christian, I disagree. What is our testimony but relating what Jesus has done for us? Has Jesus done nothing for you? I don’t believe it.
This is a topic that we’ve been discussing recently in my church, and I’ll share two things that struck me as important.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
There is spiritual power in sharing our testimony. When we are under spiritual attack, relating the things that Jesus has done for us helps us overcome the attack. This is along the lines of “”Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Praising God to others when we are dealing with difficult situations denies satan his power. If he can’t get us to say, “curse God and die,” he’s lost the battle for our soul and we have overcome.
The second thing comes from a post I read recently that speaks for itself:
My pastor was preaching the other day and he was telling us a little about his life and his testimony and he was almost apologetic because he said he had never drunk alcohol, never taken drugs, never gone out partying, never gotten in trouble with the cops, never had sex outside of marriage, never been addicted to porn etc etc. He had been a straight-A student his whole life. After high school, he had gone to seminary, done well there, met his wife, got married and became a pastor. He said he’d never experienced many of the things that so many people struggle with, he didn’t have those bad memories from past mistakes – and he pretty much apologised for it, for not being able to truly empathise with people.
I went up to him afterward and told him “Don’t ever apologise for your testimony and don’t ever apologise that God saved you from going down those paths. Your testimony gives me hope. Your testimony tells me that it is possible to not make those mistakes. Your testimony tells me that it is not inevitable that I will start drinking and doing drugs again because of my depression over my wife dying. Your testimony tells me that God can bring me through this. Your testimony tells me that is possible for my children and grandchildren to not make those mistakes, to not go where I went and do what I did.
“Yours is a testimony that gives me hope.
Thanks for the response. There goes my excuse to revert to mere lurking down the drain, thanks to you and Dan…
Jesus has guaranteed me eternal life, which is far from nothing to me, but doesn’t mean much to people who aren’t already believers. How are they supposed to know it’s different when I say I have eternal life, vs. when mormons or muslims or whacky cultists say they have eternal life?
To me, personal testimony is about the here-and-now aspect of a believer’s life, and I’m really not sure what effect being a Christian has had on my earthly life. I have a good friend who is a clean-cut, former-eagle-scout type who has similarly avoided those nasty traps mentioned in the antecdote — but without really believing the Bible. I expect that when I meet Jesus I will find out all kinds of ways that I have been taken care of, but at the moment I can’t distinguish anything apart from His great providence that allows both the saved and unsaved to even exist in this life.