Thinking Out Loud

August 29, 2012

Wednesday Link List

This week’s links include:


1 Be sure to click the link inside to the .pdf of the actual pamphlet he created. I wonder how other preachers and evangelists would fare if their language was under the microscope in this manner?

2 It could be argued that this website exists only for the convenience of the people in the church’s local community, but ‘online church hopping’ is becoming a global phenomenon. True the address is actually there in plain sight, but the usual maps and directions escaped me after ten minutes of searching. If I had just moved to the area…

3 This link is valid until after the next show is broadcast, probably tomorrow (Aug 30). There are versions of the song elsewhere on YouTube but this one had the lyrics.

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September 26, 2010

Frontline Ministry

I was going to just casually include this in one of the Wednesday link lists here, but I realized it needed a longer setup.


Tony Miano has a blog, The Lawman Chronicles, which gets its name from the years Tony spent in law enforcement, which I’ve been reading for a long time.   He does a lot of street preaching, and seems to strongly subscribe to the Ray Comfort school of evangelism, sometimes referred to as “The Law and The Gospel” approach to what is termed “soul winning.”

Now right away, I know there are people reading this who I have immediately alienated because that whole methodology is about 180-degrees different from what you believe in.   But you know, I think you need to give the dozen or so minutes it takes to watch the related video because I think we all need to see ministry on the frontlines.

I’m not doing this blog post today because I necessarily agree that this is the best approach, or that everybody should be called to evangelism, or that other methodologies are not as good.   Nor do I do this solely so that we can sit on the sidelines and critique the process like Statler and Waldorf, the two guys in the upper balcony on The Muppet Show.

I admire guys like Tony.   They are doing something, something they believe in with great passion, while other people are doing nothing.   In fact, I would want to disqualify anyone from commenting on this unless they have shared a verbal witness with at least one person in the past fortnight.

Of course, where we might differ is what constitutes “sharing a verbal witness.”    For some, like William Booth, that meant putting a uniform to distinguish himself from the surrounding culture; to take his turf with him so that everyone was meeting him on his turf.    Then, a step or two down from that type of identification there are contemporary street preachers like Tony.   And then there’s people who prefer “witness lite.”

The trouble with “witness lite” is that it’s often neither Biblio-centric or Christo-centric.    It neither draws directly on the source (the Word) nor the object (the Savior) of its intent.

I don’t necessarily agree with “The Law and the Gospel” approach as an all-purpose template.   It seems very formulaic.   Eric, the guy in the video in this link, is coming from a Roman Catholic background, and I think there are ways of identifying and connecting with that personal history and ‘tweaking’ the approach accordingly.

But again, if you’re reading this and you’re not doing anything, you’ve got to have something to fall back on.   The “Roman Road;” the “Four Spiritual Laws;” the “Bridge Illustration;” etc., are all examples of materials you want to always have, at least figuratively, in your back pocket.  Scripture tells us to always be prepared to give a response for the hope that we have.

I also realize that someone will want to note that the video linked here documents a somewhat artificial example of one-to-one street ministry, since Eric was fully aware of the camera; fully aware that he was being filmed.   I thought about that in the first three or four minutes, but I’m not sure it really distorted or affected his responses.   I do question the presence of cameras on this type of outing, though I suppose if this serves as a model for others, it has some validity.

It doesn’t always though.   Some of the other videos of this ilk include some rather tense exchanges involving street preaching to larger crowds.   Occasionally, someone versed in less confrontational approaches will question whether or not this more traditional approach conveys Christian love and compassion.    Sadly, it’s at that point some polarization takes place with the street preachers suggesting the post-modern Christians are “false converts.”

Knowing many genuinely-converted, Spirit-indwelled Christ-followers on both sides of this divide, I can say honestly that at this point it becomes a battle that nobody will win.    The “Law and Gospel” people feel that more modern approaches neither produce an acknowledgment of sin nor do they convey the essence of the hope of the gospel.    The new “Missional” believers are committed to outreach, but know too many statistics proving that guilt and fear produce short-term decisions but not long-term disciples; and showing that many a hasty conversion just doesn’t ‘stick’ over time.

What is the solution?

I don’t believe in formulas or templates.   I believe you should know a basic plan for conveying the essence of the following: (a) that we are sinners in need of forgiveness; (b) that such forgiveness is offered in Christ’s work on Calvary; and (c) how a person avails themselves of this forgiveness and moves, as the older Bibles put it, “from death to life.”   But it should be unique to your personality and flexible to the situation you’re in.   Jesus healed one blind man in an instant, but with another, it was a more tentative, two-step process.

But not everybody has the gift of “closing the sale.”   You may be a major influence in someone’s life, but it may be God’s choice that someone else is the chosen instrument to help that person “cross the line of faith.”   Bill Hybels devotes a chapter — and a moving example — to this in Just Walk Across The Room; and Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel bring no less than 42 different examples of varying forms of witness in The Unexpected Adventure.

My bias is a little toward Hybels, Strobel and Mittelberg; but I raise this whole topic today because I think you’ve really got to watch the video and look at the other things people are doing; not to armchair quarterback their approach or critique them, but to allow it to inspire you to do more.

Here is the link to the video, and also embedded in the comments section of this very post.   But if you link to Tony’s blog, take some time to click over to other posts and get a feel for what he is doing, because the major take-away from all this is that he is, in fact, doing.

You can also click through from the video itself (see comments) or from this direct video link to more than two dozen other videos the group that filmed this have posted at YouTube.

Related post on this blog:  Considering Deborah Drapper (May 15, 2009)

May 15, 2009

The Law and the Gospel

One of the joys of blogging is that you get to experience sectors of the Christian world that you might otherwise miss.    Even if you’ve been walking with Jesus for years — or in some cases, like mine, decades — there is always something new to learn.

Deborah DrapperSeveral weeks ago I linked to the YouTube postings of a BBC documentary on 13-year-old Deborah Drapper.    Her story is a mixture of elements:  A somewhat isolated, innocent, homeschooled girl in rural England who somehow has no fear when it comes to wading into a group of partying teens on a Friday night to ask them some serious faith questions.    Her style is forceful and direct; a style gained from listening nightly to podcasts from Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master website.

So when I learned this week that Deborah had a blog, I took a few minutes to scan it, and in that short time a phrase somewhat jumped out at me several times:

The Law and the Gospel

Having seen the entire BBC show helped here, and if you haven’t you’re at somewhat of a disadvantage,  but Ms. Drapper’s style begins — always — with the Ten Commandments as an example of how peoples’ beliefs that they are “good” can never possibly line up with God’s “Big Ten.”

That’s a fair approach.    I’ve heard Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley do the same, and I was on the same track a few weeks ago when I preached in a Toronto church on the story of the rich young official (or rich young aristocrat, or rich young bureaucrat, or rich young ruler.)   He felt he had kept all ten commandments, but then Jesus helps him to see the impossibility of human righteousness — “there is none good but God.”

But watching Deborah, I got a slightly different vibe.    I’m not sure if it was just a reaction to her formulaic approach — she is only 13, after all — but I think it was her total reliance on the “big ten” as the basis for her verbal witness.   The British Teens she spoke with would wake up the next morning  remembering the message of the Ten Commandments, and not the grace of God in sending Jesus, or the ability of Jesus to meet us at our point of need.

(As an aside, this is why we don’t hire high school students where I work.   There are too many complex “life issues” that people are facing that younger people haven’t necessarily dealt with.)

Unsure what vibe I was sensing, I was finally able to articulate it when I saw the phrase “The Law and the Gospel,”  or “The Ten Commandments, The Law and the Gospel” so clearly printed on her blog.   The nuances of adding “The Law” so distinctly to the presentation are not part of my previous experience.  (Google the phrase for examples of other places where it’s used online.)

Again, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to quench everything that God is doing through Deborah.    And I’m not here to debate the effectiveness of The Way of the Master, or even The Four Spiritual Laws, or even apologetics in general.

The only point I want to make today — and ask your response to it — is that there seemed to be something awkward about going out for an evening of evangelism with the premise that you’re going to share “The Law” with people; and I say that recognizing that “The Gospel” is only good news in light of the condemnation that the law puts everyone under.   There seemed to be something definitely not postmodern about it.     Read the first page currently up on her blog, and tell me if I’m over-reacting.

Visitors:  You may not be here by accident! If you got here from a WordPress or search tag and you’re not a Christ-follower, please understand that in critiquing the approach I’m not minimizing the message or its urgency.   All of us are constantly looking for ways to help the broader population confront the eternal questions that need to be faced.    At the end of the day, Deborah, Ray Comfort and I would have you reach the same conclusion, namely that Jesus’ claim to be God was true, and therefore his message needs to be clearly heard and individually applied.     God is a righteous judge, but also rich in grace,  mercy and compassion.   To hear a presentation like Deborah’s, continue to this site.

February 9, 2009

You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence…

…But You Can’t Make Him Think – Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics

ray-comfortLike other Christian authors before him, Ray Comfort, author of dozens of apologetic-related books and sometime co-author with Fireproof star Kirk Cameron,  is about to take his message to a wider audience thanks to WND Books, the publishing arm of WorldNetDaily.Com  (Author Don Piper did the same thing, adapting the Christian market book 90 Minutes in Heaven into Heaven is Real for general market Berkley Publishing)

This isn’t a review of the book, but its significance leads me to mark its publication this month.   WND also published Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope.

Here’s what the publisher marketing has to say:

In this entertaining and enlightening new book, Pastor Ray Comfort, author of the million-selling The Atheist Test, “talks to the atheists” and reveals not just the weakness of their arguments but the solid foundation upon which the Christian stands.

The book releases in hardcover at $22.99 US.

(Okay, I know what some of you are thinking; “I know Ray Comfort’s books and I don’t know anything called The Atheist Test that would have sold a million copies.”  We got curious, too.   It turns out the test is adapted from the book God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists. Not sure if that book sold millions, or if the test was circulated in reprint form by the same ministry that circulated a faux million-dollar bill which turned out to be a witness tract. )

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