[ part 2 ]
The first part of this article talked a lot about what not to do. Now it’s time to talk more about what we should do when trying to serve as witnesses to Jesus Christ. You may be surprised to hear that I don’t think we should start with Jesus at all.
You may not know this, but the Bible is more historically credible than most of the sources that college history textbooks cite as indisputable fact. The same criteria that is applied to other historical documents before they’re considered credible has been applied to the Judeo-Christian scriptures (by skeptics, no less), and it’s passed with flying colors.
I realize I am probably a huge nerd compared to you because I love this kind of stuff. If you want to hear more about all of this, there are two books by Lee Strobel called “The Case for Christ” and “The Case for Faith.” Last I checked, you can find bits and pieces of the presentation on YouTube.
The point is that there’s a much bigger story to tell than the Roman road path of salvation.
It starts off with a story of creation. If someone can’t humble himself to at least accept something higher than himself, what’s the point of starting an argument about who Jesus is? I’ll never understand why Christians use the Bible to prove to an atheist that God is real.
This is why it’s so important to first find out what someone believes about how we got here and where we go when we die. If they reveal themselves to be an atheist or even agnostic, telling them about Jesus is pointless because Jesus (and the Bible altogether) have zero credibility.
So many people in our generation, even self-professed Christians, have a problem believing that not everyone goes to heaven and that the Bible is truly God’s inspired word. In these cases, calling ourselves Christians really means “I think I’m alright being exactly who I am right now.” That’s a dangerous view to take, according to what the Bible says. If no one goes to hell, then Jesus was meaningless. And if the Bible isn’t God’s word, then we can pick and choose what to accept.
But how much easier would it be for someone to talk about and eventually follow Jesus if they first got to a place where they could accept these things?
It all starts with logical arguments, which Paul had to have been a master of when he began each of his years-long church planting missions among the gentiles.
Surely, he opened up with something more along the lines of “Hey, what do you think about how we got here?” or “What do you think happens after we die?” and not “I’d like to tell you about Jesus” or “If you died right now, would you go to heaven or hell?” And this was surely after first making sure his own life was transparently aligned with his own beliefs as much as possible to give a positive example.
Also, I feel the need to say that if Paul lived in American culture, I’m not so convinced that he would go door to door witnessing. I hope he would recognize that it can easily do more damage than good for God’s kingdom.
In the US, we’ve been taught to find our own answers and not to embrace something simply because someone told us it was true. In this relativistic culture, the truth is one big grey area and can be different for each person. “Universal truth” is becoming synonymous with bigotry and even hatred while having an open mind about everything is celebrated. So the answer is to help people see that God is personally true for them as well, not repeat the Roman Road presentation enough times until they give in.
This means giving them the microphone so they can voice their questions and doubts. They won’t say anything new, and I promise there are answers and encouragements for everything they might say about why they refuse to believe. Otherwise, Christianity would have gone the way of other religions like Greek Hellenism (Zeus and the other gods living on Mount Olympus). Christianity would have been disproven a long time ago by one or all of the brilliant minds who have set out (and failed) to prove why it can’t be true.
Speaking of other religions, I’m going to tackle a few of those next week.
There will always be room for doubters and skeptics to cling to their entitlement of wanting to understand everything in high definition before believing. But to me, the exercise of removing our pride and entitlement is a must before acknowledging and worshiping anything higher than ourselves.
The story continues with over 350 prophecies given by our Creator to many different educated and highly respected men over the course of thousands of years. These messages were about what He would do to resolve the issue of His creation’s separation from Him. There are also hundreds of years of detailed history in the Old Testament along with those prophecies illustrating just how insufficient our lives are without being in proper relationship to our Creator.
The story climaxes when a man who embodied and fulfilled each and every one of those prophecies (in ways He couldn’t fake… like where He was born). His first goal was to show His own followers how undeniably special He was. His second was to slowly teach them, as the Son of God, how they were meant to live all along and to get used to the idea of living with and following their Lord.
Once Jesus and the things He had to say have some credibility to us, we can take more seriously what He had to say about this life, and more importantly, what happens after this life with heaven and hell. Again, it’s pointless to present this idea until Jesus’ ministry is respected because there are far too many (increasingly) popular world views out there now that claim we all go to the same place through multiple paths.
It’s very clear in His teaching that not everyone goes to the same place when we die. One place is described as paradise while the other includes eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is not only our motivation for presenting the gospel, but also a strong motivation for others to carefully consider how important their decision is to accept or reject these ideas (like an agnostic). According to Jesus, the way we each naturally live to worship ourselves and our own pleasure earns us an eternal assignment in a place beyond our most horrific imaginations.
This brings me to the final point. Jesus willingly took the punishment that we would have needed to pay in order to overcome the separation from God that we naturally suffer from. This part of the story is testified and defended by a number of men who had nothing to gain by its true or falseness. As a matter of fact, they were each killed simply because they were so convinced that Jesus rose from the dead to conquer spiritual death on our own behalf. They could have avoided their gruesome deaths (crucifixion, beheaded, burned at the stake) just by recanting what they said they saw and heard Jesus say. Not to mention the Christians who were publicly fed to lions because they (only recently) confessed Jesus to be who He said He was–the Son of God.
After that, if this person is curious enough, he will come and see for himself. That’s how it becomes his own faith and not a carbon copy of yours. His faith started with questions and will surely continue with questions. But he will nonetheless be on the journey to personally acknowledge who he believes Jesus to be and slowly let his life look more and more like Christ’s.
It will rarely ever be overnight, and we may not have the privilege of seeing it happen. But all the while, our goal should be to serve as a friend who is willing to listen, to help him research for answers, and be an example of faith and courage that he can model his own life by.
To be that friend, from start to finish, is to be an evangelist.