Monday, August 13, 2018


Enemies of Evangelism 10

diminish-discouragement-800X800One of the problems with developing a soul winning church is getting people over their natural resistance to being an active witness, but once that is accomplished it is not all smooth sailing. Often, in my experience, the devil will throw as many obstacles as he possibly can in the way of the personal soul winner or the soul winning church. He knows he does not have the power to overcome God, but if he can get God’s people discouraged he can get them to quit in frustration what they started with such high hopes.

One of the saddest statements to hear from the lips of a Christian is, “Oh, I used to do that.” They used to help in a Sunday School class, they used to sing in the choir, they used to go soul winning, etc. Sometimes sin gets in and they backslide. Sometimes false doctrine gets in, and they reject what they used to hold as precious. But sometimes it is just as simple as the fact they got discouraged and quit.

This is not a new problem. You can see this in the biblical mentions about how hard it is to find faithfulness in people. Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth: for the faithful fail from among the children of men. (Psalm 12.1) A faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20.6) Faithfulness is so valued that is both explicitly required and specifically rewarded. It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. (I Corinthians 4.2) Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. (Matthew 25.21) Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2.10) In fact, faithfulness is included as a prerequisite for those who are dealing with other people in the Lord’s work. The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men. (II Timothy 2.2) I think one of the reasons this is required is because working with people is often very discouraging.

Many a Christian has started out on fire for God and ready to charge hell with a squirt gun only to peter out after a while when things did not turn out as successfully as they hoped and planned. So how can we defeat that? Obviously, we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the available grace of God, but are there specific things we can think or not think, or specific ways we can approach evangelism that will minimize the potential for us to get discouraged and thus quit?

Yes, there are. I offer you three of them. First, we ought to becoming-aware-of-and-doing-God's-willmake obedience rather than pragmatism our foundation.

In the 1970s, the independent Baptist movement had the biggest, most “successful” churches in the country. Consequently, many pastors led their churches to copy the methods that apparently built those big churches – a well-organized Sunday School, a bus ministry, a Christian school, and door to door soul winning. Fast forward three of four decades and the contemporary evangelicals had the biggest, most “successful” churches in the country. Consequently, many pastors led their churches to copy the methods that apparently built those churches – a casual atmosphere, contemporary Christian music, and little to no confrontation in preaching. If the first one was good because it worked in the 1970s then the second is right because it works now. That is pragmatism, the idea that something is good or bad depending upon whether it works. And it is atrociously corrosive to genuine spirituality.

I talk to lots of pastors. Do you know what I hear most often from them about why their churches do not go soul winning? “It doesn’t work anymore.” Their foundation was pragmatic. Ergo, when soul winning did not seem to be working as well as before, to build their churches they got discouraged and replaced it with some new method that they think works better. In my humble opinion, nigh on an entire generation of independent Baptist pastors missed the boat. They sold confrontational soul winning to their people pragmatically, and when it stopped “working” they gave it up.

Beloved, that is the wrong foundation. We do not evangelize because it works; we evangelize because we are commanded to do so. (Mark 16.15) There is not a single verse in the Bible that says, in essence, “go witness so that your church will get bigger.” Scriptural success is not church growth; scriptural success is obedience.

In so saying and so building, much of the underlying cause for discouragement in soul winning is eliminated. If we are not witnessing in order to see our church grow we will not stop witnessing when our church fails to grow. If we do not set out to do it because it works we will not stop when it does not work. Rather, if we set out to be obedient to Christ’s commands to get out the gospel we can stay motivated whatever the result may or may not be.

man-light-structure-auditorium-floor-subway-gym-backstage-interior-design-stage-empty-room-tourist-attraction-screenshot-sport-venue-112248Second, we ought to let God answer the question, “Where are they all?”

One of the great attacks hurled at soul winning churches is this line. After all, if you are really reaching all of the people you say your church is reaching how come you have not become the biggest church in the world by now? Thus, they attack soul winning as invalid since it does not produce measurable, visible results.

I have already paid my respects in this blog series to sloppy soul winning. I am not for chasing numbers or gettin’ ya’ one. But neither am I for the unbalanced position in the ditch on the other side of the road, that soul winning churches and ministries are unscriptural in their approach if they are not big as a direct result.

There is a good response to the criticism, “Where are they all?”. It begins by realizing that Jesus had the same problem. In Luke 17 he cleansed ten lepers. "Cleansed" is the Bible word there, not “healed.” Were they healed? Of course, but it went deeper than physical healing. Leprosy was a type of sin, and they were cleansed as a result of their faith, their physical healing thus resembling their spiritual healing. All ten were cleansed yet what did Jesus say? Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? The other nine were just as cleansed, just as saved as the one, but only one showed any visible spiritual progress up to that point.

This is all of a piece with the entire arc of Jesus’ ministry. I have spent a thousand hours studying the life of Christ. On a graph it looks like a bell curve – anonymity, attention, following, a mass movement, and then a frittering away until at the end just a handful remained. If your position is that a person must immediately, visibly, and continually pursue Christ in order to actually be saved your position is both un-Christlike and unbiblical.

The mistake here is to making a measurable result your aim when obedience ought to be your aim. Who’s job is it to convict the sinner and bring him to Christ? The Holy Spirit’s. Who’s job is it to transform that man’s life into a shining testimony of the grace of God? The Holy Spirit’s. All I am going to do is frustrate myself mightily if I try to do that job. My aim, the foundation of my approach, must be one of simple obedience combined with a willingness to let Him take care of the results – or lack thereof. “Where are they all?” In God’s care, that is where.

secrets-of-the-vine_t_ntThird, we must remember in due season. (Galatians 6.9)

If I plant tomatoes in May and expect a crop the first week of June I am going to get really discouraged. The Word of God plainly tells us that there are seasons of fruitfulness in relation to witnessing and other seasons that seem more barren. But that on good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8.15) Sometimes you will work and work and work and work – and nothing. Another guy will come along and suddenly everything clicks. Was he spiritual and you were not? Was he good and you were bad? Not necessarily. I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (I Corinthians 3.6)

Discouragement comes when I look at someone else who is getting results when I do not seem to be getting any. Beloved, results are not the point, results are not up to me, and results do not show up on my timetable. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. The results will show up; I am promised that. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126.6) But who says that will be visible in my lifetime? Sometimes they are, but sometimes they are not? Sometimes I get to see the fruit and enjoy it, but other times I do not. And if it is the latter I simply must remember the season of blessing and seeing is coming eventually.

When you carry the burden of results with you discouragement comes sooner and deeper, and often brings you to give it all up. Stop worrying about what happens. Just go. Go carefully. Go thoroughly. Go scripturally. But just go. And just keep going. And let God take care of the rest.

Monday, August 6, 2018

King of Apathy

Enemies of Evangelism 9

Note: Today's blog post is by Austin Gardner, pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. We connected after he had read something I had written. A former missionary, his church currently operates a vigorous missions training program. I do not know of a man more passionate about getting the gospel out in this generation.

Elisha is about to die, so King Joash visits the old prophet. Joash has respected him as a man of God and wants some final counsel as Syria is oppressing Israel, he also wants a blessing.

Elisha tells King Joash that he has a message from God and asks Joash to take his bow and shoot an arrow out of the window. Elisha placed his hands on Joash's hands, stating that this is the arrow of deliverance for Joash and Israel.
Joash Shoots the Arrow of the Lord's
Deliverance (1844)
by William Dyce

Elisha then asks King Joash to take the arrows in his hand and to strike the ground. Joash, half-heartedly, hits the ground three times and stops. If Joash had not been so apathetic towards the Word of God, he would have struck the ground five or six times. His apathy angered Elisha. Israel would defeat Syria only three times; they would not be completely destroyed. Israel would lose because of Joash's indifference.

Elisha is angry because of the apathy exhibited by Joash, whose indifference may be rooted in the fact that he believed wrongly. Possibly, he felt that these were the ravings of a crazy old man. Likely, he had not paid attention to the Word of God, only half listening as Elisha spoke. Maybe, he was there only out of courtesy, not thinking that this meeting might be a very important one. Therefore, he was laid back and waiting to finish the obligatory visit.

3544056862_90c487c036In most of our churches today, we see the same apathy: very few show up for outreach, visitation, or soul winning; most do not share the gospel with their family, friends, colleagues or anyone else for that matter. The pastor and staff urge people to take action, but they are unwilling. Our people do not seem to feel responsible for the eternal destiny of the lost. There is little to no concern. This apathy breaks our hearts as pastors and spiritual leaders.

What causes good, godly, people to be so unconcerned? What can be done to alleviate the problem? There is a lost world dying and going to hell but, we remain unmoved.

I place before you some reasons for the apathy we feel and see exhibited in our churches. With each reason, there are suggestions on how to fix the situation. We do not seem to feel the urgency to win souls or send missionaries, nor are our churches consumed with getting the gospel out to the world. Could it be that misunderstood doctrines, miserable doubt, and mistaken direction are root causes of the apathy we so desperately hate?

1. Misunderstood Doctrines

Our people have misunderstood many doctrines. They have fallen prey to skepticism, universalism, and fatalism. They do not realize this is happening, but it plays out in the way they live their lives and in our ministries. Let me explain what I believe is happening:

a. Skepticism: consider the following quote by A. T. Pierson: “Behind the shameful apathy and lethargy of the church, that allows one thousand million...human beings to go to their graves in ignorance of the Gospel, there lies a practical doubt, if not denial, of their lost condition.”

The apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit states in Romans 12:2 that we are not to be conformed to this world. The idea of being conformed to this world is that of being pressed into its mold. We accept what we hear on the news as truth; as a result, our doctrines, beliefs, and teachings are formed from our culture instead of from the Word of God.

Amongst our people, many doubt that there is a real, literal hell. They ask questions such as: will God send people to hell for eternity? Will they really spend forever suffering? God loves people, he would never allow that to happen.

In our tolerant society, people may be moved more by the secular media than by the Holy Scripture; consequently, they may agree more with their neighbor than with God. Though we have heard it preached and taught that there is only one way to God, is that enough for our tolerant society? Can there be only one way? Do people have to believe the way that I do to go to heaven and escape hell?

b. Universalism is more believed than we would like to admit.

As Karl Barth said in the Humanity of God “This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.”

People often believe in the back of their minds that God will somehow fix everything. God is just too good to let anyone go to hell. If there is life after death, God will take care of everyone. All roads indeed do lead to Rome.

c. Fatalism is another doctrine or teaching that I believe AgonyApathy5causes apathy. No Christian leader would ever admit to fatalism. The doctrine might be called sovereignty, Calvinism, or something else but it causes many to think that "whatever will be will be whether it is or is not!"

Fatalism says that God will save who He will. He planned it before the foundation of the world and being Almighty, nothing can be done to change it. If it is all predetermined, then there will be nothing that I can do to make a difference: I cannot change my hard-headed friends nor family members.

2. Miserable Doubt causes apathy. Many Christians believe that they are inadequate, they fear getting insulted, and they are spiritually insecure.

a. Inadequate because they doubt that God will use them. They believe that others are called and chosen to witness. They feel that they are not gifted in the area of evangelism or soul winning. They would witness or go as a missionary if God called them, but they do not feel that He has done so. They feel powerless to convince others. They feel like the heavy hitters should be the soul winners; that is, the missionaries and the preachers.

b. Most fear getting insulted. Our people are afraid of what others will think of them. Being rejected by a friend is more frightening than disobeying God. Some believe that their friend may get offended and then he will never be saved. For these reasons, they have no desire to be confrontational.

c. Most Christians live in spiritual insecurity. They would like to see someone get saved but do not know how to make that happen. They know that God can save, but they do not understand how they can be part of His plan; others do not have the confidence to push their beliefs on others. They wish they had the boldness and gifting of the pastor, preacher or missionary, but that is not the case.

3. Mistaken direction is the last cause of apathy that we will discuss. This one hurts the preacher, pastor, or leader the most. So here I go pointing the finger at myself.

a. First, there is often a lack of preaching on soul winning or missions. We want our people to participate, we announce scheduled events; but in all honesty, we do little to train them. The idea that God can use them without them being the special anointed ones should be preached. The fact that they do not need a special call should regularly be explained. The needs of "lost" people should be held up in front of them regularly.

b. Then there is what I want to call a little pretense. We tell our people that they are saved by grace but then use our pulpits to bully them to do things, or tell them that God doesn't love them like He would and could. We invite lost people to salvation by grace and then throw on a yoke of bondage. We manipulate them, put guilt trips on them to get them to go soul winning! We have robbed them of the privilege and put them under the obligation. This causes apathy.

c. Low preaching or not preaching the beauty of God hurts our cause and breeds apathy. We can be hard, mean and offend people. People are afraid to invite their friends to church, because they may get insulted or hurt. Isn't he gospel supposed to be the "good news"?

It is one thing to offend them with their need for salvation but another to mock their sin or condition. We often preach politics and opinions more than salvation and service. I feel like we have lowered our preaching and ourselves when we do that. The pastor needs to be filled with the Spirit and bursting at the seams with the truth of the gospel. They must see real heartfelt passion backed up by Biblical truth.

voter-apathy-yndont-know-dont-careLet me give a few solutions to consider:

1. Take them on mission's trips and let them see the lost and what the world does to those that do not know Jesus.

2. Take your people on a field trip:

a. Take them to a high place over your city and pray for lost souls.

b. Take them to the cemetery and show them the graves. Preach to them that some of those are in hell suffering for eternity.

3. Preach the Bible verse by verse so that they learn the great truths of the Bible.

4. Drop the threats and manipulation.

5. Set the example as we go ourselves and share the gospel.

6. Have a testimony time in the evening services where people can share their attempts at sharing the gospel.

7. Make sure gospel tracts are available.

8. Remember you get what you look for, what you praise, what you honor, and what you expect.

9. Make it all an exciting event, not a dreaded part of their life and ministry.

10. Have people share their testimonies of salvation.