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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 12

Providing a witnessing support system 

Mark J. Cares 

After a day of witnessing, we heard comments like these: “My favorite part of the week was the nightly debrief. Not only did we hear some neat stories, we also discussed how to respond in various situations.” Or, “I was dragging by the end of the day because I didn’t get into many in-depth conversations. But it was so refreshing to hear some of the wonderful experiences others had.” Gathering together to debrief provided everyone with encouragement, support, and advice. These sessions were great ways to cap off each day. 

“I don’t know if I could have done it without your ongoing support and advice. Honestly, I doubt if I would have even tried.” We hear such comments regularly from people who participate in our program of witnessing to Mormon missionaries called Please Open the Door. Participants can request a mentor who communicates with them regularly to review their previous visit and plan the next visit. 

Our ministry, Truth in Love Ministry, is dedicated to reaching out to Mormons. A large part of what we do is support Christians around the world who are sharing their faith with Mormons. This ongoing support is one of the keys to our having helped thousands of Christians get excited about witnessing—and not just to Mormons either. 

Unfortunately, such support systems for those sharing their faith are missing in many congregations. Members are encouraged to witness. Classes are taught on how to witness. But far too often it ends thereMany times, people are left to put their training into practice all on their own. 

In most important endeavors, receiving feedback and support is critical to success. Witnessing is no exception. Not only did Jesus send out his disciples two by two, but when they returned, he also gathered them together to talk about their experiences.  

Witnessing feedback and support 

The two ways our ministry furnishes support could easily be adapted to a congregational setting.  

Each year Truth in Love Ministry sponsors a mission trip for people to participate in door-to-door outreach to Mormons. Every night there is a debrief session of the day’s witnessing opportunities. This session could be duplicated in a congregation by forming an ongoing witnessing support groupSuch a group works best if each attendee is presently witnessing or is intending to begin witnessing in the near futureIt also works best if the group meets at least twice a month. 

Meetings can look something like this. Begin with a half-hour Bible study about witnessing. Then have each person report on his or her witnessing activity over the past couple of weeks. People can share ideas that worked or ask for suggestions on how to do something differently.  

Before moving on to the next person, take time to pray for both the witness and the people to whom he or she is witnessing. Talk about creating intimacy and giving support! Those prayers often aren’t just one-time occurrences. Frequently people will continue to pray for every person in the coming week. I have seen more than one person leave such a meeting with a notebook filled with prayer requests. 

Of course, there will be times when some people fail to witness at all. That won’t be a problem if a climate of loving accountability exists. Instead of feeling guilty, they will leave encouraged to witness in the next week. In fact, when someone fails, isn’t loving accountability the secret to success for many support groups? 

Over a period of time, as group members study the Bible from an outreach perspective and discusses various scenarios and individuals, they become increasingly confident and excited to share their faith. 

And their excitement is infectious. Some congregations have started with one small group, only to have it multiply. Eventually, the entire congregation becomes much more outreach focused 

Mentoring 

Another way to provide witnessing support is to offer a mentoring system. One key is having mentors with some experience in witnessing. They surely don’t have to be experts, but they need to have some practical experience. 

The other key is supplying sufficient resources. In our case, we created an entire website with resources dedicated to witnessing to Mormon missionaries. Many resources would work in a congregational setting. 

You can imagine that many people are pretty nervous as they begin witnessing to Mormon missionaries. This is especially true because we tell people not to wait until the missionaries knock on their door. Instead, we have them contact the Mormon church and request a visit by the missionaries. This means a mentor frequently needs to do a lot of encouraging just to have people take that first step of requesting a visit. 

In addition, most people, in the beginning, need detailed instructions. What to expect when the missionaries come, what to talk about, and how to begin establishing a relationship with them are all questions people have. So the second thing a mentor does is remove many of the unknowns. The mentor explains what points the missionaries most likely will make and how people can respond. We even go so far as to talk about such things as where you want the missionaries to sit, what Bible translation to use, how to address them, etc. The more specific the instructions, the more a person’s nerves are calmed. 

After the first visit, the mentor continues to talk with the witnesses. The mentor asks them to send a written summary of the meeting. This is a tremendous help when they chat again by phone or video-conference. The mentor can ask questions for clarification and discuss any questions they might have. After they have reviewed the previous meeting, they then plan the witness for the next meeting. Often the mentor can point witnesses to a specific article on the website detailing how to use a specific passage and approach. The mentor ends the call with a prayer for both the mentee and the missionaries. 

It’s not difficult to see how this can work in a congregation—and how mentors will face many of the same obstacles. Mentors may first have to encourage people to witness and then give them detailed instructions how to witnessespecially in the beginning of the process. But it’s also easy to see how momentum and excitement can quickly spread throughout the congregation. 

Why does God leave people on earth after he brings them to faith? The Bible is pretty clear. Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are his ambassadors, proclaiming the tremendous news that eternal life is his gift to us through Jesus Christ. God keeps us on earth so we can go and make disciples of all nations. 

In this series we have looked at many different aspects of the wonderful mission Christ has entrusted to usEach aspect is important. Bur don’t shortchange the importance of building a support system for witnessing. It is well worth it to take the time and make the effort to give adequate support to each other as we share the good news. 

May God richly bless you as you serve as his ambassadors. 

 


Mark Cares, president of Truth in Love Ministry, is a member at Messiah, Nampa, Idaho. 


This is the finalarticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.  


Learn more about Truth in Love Ministry at tilm.org.


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Author: Mark J. Cares 
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 11

Knowing when to say when 

Jonathan P. Bilitz   

One day about two years ago, the desk phone in my office rang. When I answered, I wasn’t prepared for the conversation that would span the next hour. The caller identified himself as Jacob. He wanted to talk about Hebrew words in the Old Testament and how I (and the Lutheran church) defined and explained those words. 

Don’t be afraid to engage in conversation 

I felt woefully inadequate to answer his questions. But I was intrigued, so I listened and scrambled to find every Hebrew resource I had on my bookshelf! Though I wasn’t sure I could give every answer he might be looking for, I am thankful for my college and seminary training. The Hebrew I learned in preparation to be a pastor allowed me to at least engage in this conversation. 

I remember saying a quick prayer as Jacob launched into his first question. My prayer was simple“Lord, whatever happens in this conversation, give me the words to say so that Jesus and his love for all people shine through.” No matter how able or unable I was to answer the questions, I knew God was at work through his Word. 

Jacob’s first question involved the Hebrew word for virgin in Isaiah 7:14, The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” Jacob asked me, “How do you translate the Hebrew word for virgin? I explained that I thought virgin was a proper translation. He asked, “But doesn’t the word almah (Hebrew) simply mean young woman? How can we know for sure it is referring to a virgin?” 

His question was a good one. The word doesn’t necessarily mean virgin. But the New Testament gives us all the evidence we need to translate the word as virgin. Matthew clearly tells us the birth of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy given in Isaiah 7. He wrote, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means “God with us”)” (Matthew 1:22,23). As the gospel writer speaks about Mary and Joseph, he uses these phrases: “Before they came together” (v. 18) and “he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son (v. 25). Those words clearly indicate that Mary was a virgin.  

Jacob respectfully listened to my answer and did not object to my reasoning. What he said next, however, made me realize this conversation was a challenge. Jacob remarked, “I guess that is a good explanation if you believe the New Testament.” If you believe? I was speaking with someone who perhaps did not consider the Bible in the same way I did. Suddenly I knew that Jacob and I lived in different spiritual worlds.  

As we spoke about some other Hebrew words and I frantically paged through resources to maintain the conversation, he expressed an appreciation that we were able to engage in this way. He mentioned that he had called other places and had not been successful in getting anyone to talk to him.  

Jacob then confessed, “I am the rabbi in the synagogue in town. I enjoy hearing what Christians have to say about the Old Testament and have a personal mission to correct some misconceptions.” His admission didn’t completely surprise me. His Hebrew knowledge certainly surpassed my own. Several times I said to him, “I will have to do a deeper study on that word.” He never seemed put off by my disclosure. His comment from earlier about the New Testament now made perfect sense. 

Look for opportunities to share Jesus’ love 

What could I say? How could I witness to him? I kept asking myself the question, “Where can I direct him so that he can see Jesus as the Savior?” The words of Isaiah 53:5,6 came to mind: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” I asked him for his interpretation of the passage. In my mind, this passage clearly referred to a Messiah who would suffer as a substitute for sinners. 

For the first time in the conversation, Jacob surprised me. He said, “Those verses don’t refer to a single Messiah, but the nation of Israel collectively. The nation of Israel has and continues to suffer for the Lord.” He continued by offering proof. He said that the people alive when Jesus came weren’t looking for someone to suffer for them and even Jesus’ own disciples objected when Jesus repeatedly predicted his death. He went on to claim that the Jewish people in Jesus’ time did not read this prophecy as a Messiah suffering in their place. 

I tried to explain that one of those disciples, Peter, later demonstrated a different understanding, an understanding that was more complete:  ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24,25). Clearly, Peter was referencing Isaiah 53 and connecting it to Jesus. 

Jacob didn’t back down. He was cordial, but he could sense that he wasn’t changing my mind. I was reading him the same way. At this point, I said, “Jacob, I appreciate this conversation. I have learned from you. But I am afraid that we approach the Bible in two different ways. My understanding of the Old Testament is completely influenced by the events of the New Testament. I view the Bible as a seamless account of God’s love for us through Jesus. If we cannot agree about that, we will struggle to agree about much else.” He agreed, thanked me for my time, and hung up. 

I pray that the testimony about Jesus will change Jacob’s heart. Isaiah planted the seed. God can make it grow. In that conversation, no common ground could be reached. I had to know when to say when.  

Cling to Jesus throughout 

As you testify about Jesus, recognize not everyone has the same capacity for a conversation about every aspect of the Bible. If you don’t know something, you don’t know something. Knowledge doesn’t make you a child of God; Jesus does. If you don’t have an answer to every objection that can be raised, that’s normal. Cling to Jesus and the salvation that belongs to you through him.  

Even when you don’t have the answer, speaking about Jesus and his love for all people is always good. That includes someone who might disagree with you or for whom you don’t have an answer. Most ambassadors for Jesus come to the end of their knowledge and ability. What a blessing to say, “I don’t know about that, but I do know Jesus loves you, me, and everyone!” 


Jonathan Bilitz is pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin. 


This is the eleventharticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.   


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? How did you respond to a know-it-all? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

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Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Jonathan P. Bilitz
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: How I shared Jesus stories

How I shared Jesus 

We asked, and you shared! Here are more stories from you, our readers, on how you let your faith shine in your daily lives.


Witnessing through the written word 

I had the blessings of sharing Jesus with many children for 22 years. I retired from teaching in 2003.  

That year a unique opportunity to share Jesus with adults began. Our daily newspaper has a Public Forum column for readers to share their thoughts. One day a writer accused Martin Luther of removing the Apocrypha books from the Bible, thereby removing evidence of the existence of purgatory. 

 I felt compelled to reply about the completeness of Jesus salvation with Bible passagesThat started a correspondence in the paper on a variety of religious topics that was to last until 2007. 

 In my research on the Apocrypha I learned that St. Jerome was the first to state that seven books in the Old Testament were useful for history but not of the same quality as the other Old Testament books for doctrine. He suggested that these books be grouped together and placed at the end of the Old Testament.  I wrote that Martin Luther was the first to follow St. Jeromes suggestion. Luther did include the apocryphal books in his German translation of the Bible, but it was the Puritans who requested that the apocryphal books be removed. 

 The necessity of purgatory continued to be discussed at least once a month. One day the writer shared this thought: Whenever I pass a cemetery, I pray for the souls there, that they may be received into heaven.  

I replied that it was kind of him to think of others salvation, but it was not necessary to pray for those who have already died believing in Jesus as their Savior. I had already shared Jesus words about passing from death to life. This time I used 1 John 1:7: The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. I ended with this question, If Jesus death purified us from all sins, what is the need for purgatory? 

 That 1 John verse ended the discussion of purgatory.  

Later I discovered one special result of sharing Jesus through the newspaper. A few years ago, I was visiting an elderly friend in a nursing home. The last time I saw him, he said, I have read all your letters, and they comfort me. I want to ask you a question. Do you have to belong to a certain church to be saved? 

 No, I replied, if you believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, when you die, you will be with him in heaven. 

 With tears in his eyes, the gentleman grasped my hand and smiled, thanking me for coming to see him. 

 A few weeks later, my husband and I attended his funeral in his hometown church. I found myself startled to hear these words after the homily: He was a fine Christian man, but when he died he still had icky things clinging to him, like we all do. You can help him be found worthy in Gods sight by praying for him and offering the sacrifice of the mass. 

 Later my husband and I shared our thankfulness that our friend knew the truth: We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).  

 Trudy Madetzke
Zion, Russell, Minnesota


Opportunities at an assisted living facility 

I volunteer at the local assisted living facility. It is a way that us laypeople can share the good news of Jesus. Our witness plants the seed of faith in some. For others it encourages them in their faith.  

I have two memorable events concerning sharing the message of Jesus at the assisted living facility: 

  • I was engaged in conversation with several elderly men.Somehow the topic of discussion shifted to circumcision. The discussion centered around reasons for circumcision. There were the typical comments of ouch. One man said he was circumcised at age six.  

How can a conversation about circumcision be turned into a gospel message? I asked myself. 

My contribution was telling them the good news that we no longer have to follow the Old Testament law of circumcision because Jesus took our place and died on the cross to fulfill the law and pay for our sins. I found it to be a unique opportunity for sharing the gospel message.  

  • After our chapel services, I help push the wheelchairbound residents to their respective lunch rooms. 

One lady complimented me on the service while I pushed her chair. I thanked her and then asked if she got anything out of the message. Her reply? Yes! Lots of questions! 

What kind of questions? I pressed.  

She replied, Too many to ask here. Then there was a long pauseHow can I be good enough? How do I know if Ive done enough good things? she suddenly asked.  

That was my “jailer of Philippi moment! I knelt by her chair and told her, You dont have to. The beauty of it is Jesus has done it all. He paid for all your sins when he died on that cross for you. 

Ministry at assisted living facilities is awesome.  

Jim Baur
Christ, Baxter, Minnesota


Outreach at 35,000 feet 

It was a simple question that normally would have a simple answer. But the young man next to me on the plane did not anticipate my response.  

I was quietly reading my Kindle when he asked. Likely he thought I would say I was reading John Grisham or Danielle Steele. Instead, I told him I was reading a book about the culture war against ChristianityHe seemed surprised. But that answer led to a conversation that lasted for the duration of the flight.  

He was a well-mannered young man in his late 20s or early 30s. I am in my 60s, so I was surprised he engaged me in conversation. Yet, it was clear the conversation was led by someone other than us! He said he was raised in the church and had good parents, but he had not been to church in years. We talked about marriage and its importance, and he agreed that a Christian marriage was important and he would only marry once. I shared that my own marriage was 45 years old, but my relationship with Christ was lifelong. I told him how important church was to my life and how engaging with God’s Word kept my faith strong. We discussed how today’s social upheavals have changed the culture, and I told him these changes resulted in moving “boundary stones” and could destroy our country but not God’s Word.  

The young man was polite and receptive. He did not offer much in the way of argument, and he seemed to be thinking about what he was hearing. As the flight came to an end, he told me he did not feel close to God. I said, “There is a verse in the Bible that says ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you ” (James 4:8). I asked him to keep that verse in mind, and he said he would. 

I have no idea if this nice young man ever thought of our conversation again. I do know that whenever he comes to my mind, I pray for him. I pray for a nice, Christian young woman to enter his life. And I pray that he comes near to his God.  

Mary Snyder
Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tennessee 


 

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? How did you respond to a know-it-all? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 10

Be careful of the facts! 

Samuel C. Degner 

I was lingering in the plumbing aisle when an employee noticed me. “Can I help you find something?” he asked. I explained what I needed. He picked up a part and told me it would do the trick. I had put in a few hours of work that morning and two trips to other stores. I had learned enough to know that he was wrongSo I politely thanked him and kept looking. He had lost my confidenceIt’s not that I thought he was deceiving me to make a sale. But his error led me to question his ability to help me. 

Can we, as ambassadors of Christ, have the same effect on people? 

Our conversations with the unchurched of this world can be far-ranging. Our goal is to proclaim the gospel, but often witnessing opportunities arise in the context of back-and-forth discussions. People ask tough questions. They are skeptical—or even hostile—toward what the Bible says. In those kinds of situations, we may want to reach for outside facts that can help us defend biblical truth. 

Make sure of the facts 

While I think it’s rare for Christian witnesses to be purposely deceptive, it’s probably not as uncommon for us to be careless with the facts we present. That fact that you readthe one that supports your biblical point of view—what’s the source? Where did you hear that statistic? The internet is notoriously fraught with misinformation. That something comes from a Christian source doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, no matter how much we want to believe itA person may have a PhDbut that doesn’t make him an expert in everything. It may not even mean he is respected in his own field.  

This isn’t about biblical truths that can only be accepted by faith, like a six-day creation or life after death. This is about facts that have to do with observation and reasonAsk yourself: Is this information reliable and respectable? You might even go a step further and ask whether non-Christians will find it persuasive—or at least worthy of consideration. If not, that doesn’t necessarily make it untrueit just might not be useful in your witnessing.  

Last summer I took my family to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. This full-scale model of Noah’s ark was built to persuade skeptics of the plausibility of the Bible’s flood accountThe interior is outfitted to demonstrate how the eight passengers could have lived and taken care of the animals on board. Displays describe how the biblical flood could have caused the geological and fossil records we see on earth today. The experience helped us appreciate how big the boat was. It was heartening to see fellow Christians unabashedly proclaiming the Bible’s truth—including the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

Nonetheless, as I walked through the ark, I found myself wondering what a scientist or skeptical layperson would think—not about the biblical message, but about the science they use to support it. I had the sneaking feeling they might shake their heads at some of the theories presented. And while these were offered only as possible explanations of what happened in Genesis, I wondered how many Christians would go home and repeat them as facts in future evangelistic conversations. That might not seem to be a problem. But what if the person they’re speaking with finds valid holes in those facts? What if those particular models are refuted by solid science? It wouldn’t make the flood untrue, but it would make the ones who shared those theories look untrustworthy. 

This is just one exampleConsider others, like the statistics Christians sometimes present on the effects of divorce, homosexuality, or abortion on people and society. Think of archaeological evidence that speaks to biblical accountsCertainly, it’s refreshing to hear a Christian perspective in fields like science and historyespecially for our young people in secular schools who are constantly bombarded with anti-biblical points of view. It can be gratifying to see God’s wisdom for human thriving confirmed by secular studies. It’s good for people to hear legitimate interpretations of data that are compatible with Scripture. Still, caution is in order.  

In our day, many consider truth to be malleable (like the presidential counselor who coined the phrase “alternative facts”). This is one result of postmodernism’s creep into every crevice of our society. But that doesn’t make it okay to play fast and loose with facts—especially for us who follow the one who calls himself the Truth. It doesn’t excuse laziness in vetting information before passing it along. In fact, it means we ought to be more careful than ever. People are wary of the spin. They know they’re constantly being marketed to. If we’re careless with the facts we present, people may see us as untrustworthy and be less likely to listen to the gospel we want to share.  

Use the one fact wknow 

Yes, we need to be careful about the facts . . . but not so cautious that we avoid conversations for fear of saying the wrong thing. Remember, the sacrifice of the Savior who never once spoke falsely atones for all the times we have done so, even if unintentionally. His resurrection guarantees forgiveness for our imagined need to prop up his gospel with feeble factsMoreover, that same Savior gives us his Word of truthwith which we can navigate this whole issue of facts without fear. Trusting in that Word, we can look for—even patiently wait for—opportunities to unleash its power.  

We have an objective standard like none other. We have a Scripture that “cannot be broken” (John 10:35 CSB). This means that we can compare anything we hear to what God has already said. If it contradicts his truth in any way, we know we need not be influenced by it, no matter what “authority” decrees itIf what we hear is not in conflict with Scripture, we can consider it. We’re cautious, of course. We use our God-given reason and resources to evaluate it. But we need not be afraid of it nor enthralled by it. 

Furthermore, our Spirit-worked confidence in the inspired Word frees us from the need to latch onto any extra-biblical facts that seem to support our messageWe don’t have to search for science that backs up our belief in a six-day creation or a global flood. We aren’t waiting for the latest archaeological finds to confirm that what God said happened or for studies that show God’s commandments are goodThese kinds of facts can be valuable for starting or prolonging conversations with skeptics. But our witness in no way depends on them. God’s truth stands on its own. The gospel is God’s power to change hearts. Jesus died and rose for us—you can never go wrong with that fact! 

Unlike me in the hardware store, many people in this world don’t know what they’re really looking for. We have iteternal salvation in Jesus—and want to help them find it. That desire to share the truth heightens our concern for truth in everything we say.  

 


Samuel Degner, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Thiensville, Wisconsin.  


This is the tentharticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.   


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? How did you respond to a know-it-all? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 106, Number 8
Issue: August 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 9

Responding to the knowitall  

Jonathan R. Hein 

The poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec once wrote, “The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all is the person who argues with him.” That aphorism contains two truths.  

Truth #1Confrontation is a poor tactic when dealing with know-it-alls. Psychologists explain that know-it-alls fall into two categories. Some have a sense of superioritygenuinely believing they know more than others. They will not listen to any argument, for they assume they already have all the pertinent information. Other know-it-alls have an underlying insecurity. If you confront themthey will perceive that as an attack upon their self-worth and dig in their heels. Arguing with either type of know-it-all is going to be ineffective. 

Truth #2When encountering know-it-alls, you want to argue. Perhaps it is because you find their smugness annoying. However, your inclination to argue is more likely because you believe know-it-alls are sharindangerous falsehoods as truth. Perhaps it is a college professor who claims that anyone who questions evolution has been misled by religious zealots into anti-scientific superstition. Perhaps it is a neighbor who, after reading a few books that question the historicity of Jesus, now explains how pointless church and prayer are. We want to quarrel with them because we love our Savior and his Word. Yet quarreling with them is ineffective  

So how do you deal with the knowitall? Here are some suggestions:  

Love the know-it-all deeply.  

It is easy to view the know-it-all as an enemy to be vanquished. Ask the Spirit to help you see him as a soul to be won.  

We think, But that know-it-all is such a jerk.” Look at him or her in a different way. When we come into this world, all of us were dead in our transgressions and sins—spiritual corpses (Ephesians 2:1). But without asking or deserving it, the God of grace intervened. He “made us alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). Were it not for the Spirit’s effort, you would be every bit as opposed to Christianity as the know-it-all. But God used someone to enable you to see the light. That person loved you enough to bring you to the font . . . to witness to you . . . to teach you ScriptureIt is your turn to show love. “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Being that light begins with loving the lost. The know-it-all is desperately lost and in need of love. 

Ask questions that probe why the know-it-all believes what he does.  

Some have compared an argument to a house. In this metaphor, what one believes is the roof. To be held up, that roof needs strong walls. In other words, one must have sound reasons why he believes, or eventually what he believes crumbles. So, ask the know-it-all questions about why he believes what he believes. 

Take that neighbor who read the book questioning whether Jesus was a historical figure. He says, “It is very scholarly. They guy who wrote it has his PhD!” You might respond, “Okay. But most history scholars say there is plenty of evidence that Jesus existed. Why do you value the opinion of this author more than other scholars?”  

Thtrue goal is to get the know-it-all to examine if the rationale for his beliefs is rooted in objective fact or personal desire. If Jesus is who he claimed to be, then the know-it-all is under Christ’s lordship. Therefore, his inclined to accept that author’s claims because he doesn’t want Jesus to exist. A followup question for your neighbor might be, Do you think you are being completely unbiased? Might there be a reason you don’t want Jesus to be a real person?” 

Help the know-it-all to see that Christians are reasonable.  

Some believe that being Christian means setting aside human reason. That is a gross misrepresentation. For Christians, Scripture is supreme. When Scripture says something that conflicts with reason, we simply acknowledge that we cannot grasp all of God’s works and ways. However, Christians still use reason.  

Take Jesus’ resurrection. We believe it is true because through the gospel the Holy Spirit created faith within us. However, in creating that faith, the Spirit addresses our God-given intellect. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:6St. Paul writes, “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brother and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Paul challenges those skeptical of Christ’s resurrection to consider the eyewitnesses. Ask the know-it-all, “Isn’t eyewitness testimony still something reasonable people value?” 

Or take one’s approach to science. I believe there are laws of nature. I also believe that God wrote those laws and is above them. Therefore, I am open to the supernatural. When scientific inquiry suggests that the universe is so orderly that it appears as though it were engineered, the unbeliever must find a natural explanation. So, he theorizes that there was time—billions of years—for the universe to come to exist only through natural means. When I look at the same evidence, I’m open to the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful Designer who created everything supernaturally. I am not anti-intellectual or close-minded. The unbeliever assumes everything came to be without God. I assume God created it. Both of us have assumptions about how to explain things. I’m willing to accept supernatural explanations, but the unbeliever rejects that explanation. I’m actually more open-minded than the unbeliever 

But we aren’t blind. We see everything the unbeliever does. We just interpret what we see differently. At death, the unbeliever sees a corpse. I see a sleeping Christian. The Spirit’s power is why I believe that. But the testimony of more than five hundred eyewitnesses tells me it is also reasonable to believe that.  

Tell the know-it-all what he does not know. 

You may have softened the know-it-all with your love. You have tried to help him understand that the way he views things is not entirely objective but flows from some personal assumptions. And your questions show that you aren’t some mindless zombie. You also think deeply about things. All these things give you the opportunity for conversation with the know-it-all, maybe even more than one.  

But none of this will win the know-it-all for Christ. Only the gospel is the power of God for salvation. So show the know-it-all Jesus. 

The know-it-all thinks he knows what God would be like, if there were such a being. He believes that God would be judgmental and controlling and if you were to fail him, there would be dire consequences. Like all of us, the know-it-all has a conscience. Failing God is a terrifying thought!  

As Christ’s ambassador, you get to tell the know-it-all, “Friend, you do not know God at all!” You get to tell him of a God who had no interest in exacting a pound of flesh but instead took on flesh so that he might also take our guilt, paying for it with divine blood. You get to tell him of a Creator who gave this ordered universe to all humans to enjoy and care for. You get to tell him that God’s Word is there not to control us but to set us free. Sharing this good news . . . that is the only hope for the know-it-all. 

Only a fool argues with the know-it-all. So don’t argue. Love. Question. But ultimately, proclaim the wonders our God has done.  

 


Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling, is a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin.


This is the nintharticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.   


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? How did you respond to a know-it-all? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Jonathan R. Hein
Volume 106, Number 7
Issue: July 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 8

Quiz the intimidator  

Thomas H. Trapp 

In my early years as a full-time campus pastor, I attended a gathering of diverse university religious clergy. Intriguingly, they invited a Christ-centered scholar to speak to a group of mostly skeptical theologians. During the questionandanswer period, one of them quizzed the scholar: “So, what is your view of salvation?”  

I thought to myself, That’s an easy answer. The only name under the sky that will bring salvation from God’s just and holy judgment is Jesus. Faith in Jesus saves! (cf. Acts 4:12).  

Then I realized the person sitting across from me firmly rejected Jesus as God and Savior. How was the speaker going to respond without being accused as a hater of non-Christians and an unloving, narrow-minded bigot? The speaker knew he was being set up to be chopped down.  

If you were that speaker, how would you respond? You may want to do what Jesus often didHe answered a question with a question.  

Jesus asked questions 

Jesus knew that questions force antagonists to rethink their positions. Religious leaders once asked Jesus why his disciples didn’t follow their religious traditions and wash their hands before eating. Jesus responded with a question: Why are your man-made traditions more important to you than God’s commands? (paraphrased from Matthew 15:3). With that question, he was calling them to repentanceWhat were they doing wrong before God? Instead of using their money to take care of their parents (the Fourth Commandment), the Phariseebragged that they gave their finances for God’s work. It was a “religious” excuse to break one command of God in order to obey anotherand “look good. Have you ever experienced being more spiritual than others and hoped others noticed itI can hear Jesus ask: “Why does your obedience make you arrogant?”  

During the week before Jesus was crucified, the hate-filled, resentful religious leaders heard children in the temple area singing to Jesus: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus response? A question: “Yes, have you never read [in Psalm 8:2], From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” (Matthew 21:16). Of course, they knew Psalm 8. They were scholars of the Scriptures! It’s a passage about the coming Godman Messiah (Hebrews 2). Jesus was sending them a clear message: I am that Messiah of Psalm 8. Follow me! “Haven’t your read . . . ?” was a question of love, even though these religious leaders didn’t love him. Jesus wanted his enemies to rethink the words he spoke to them and the miracles he showed them and join the children in singing his praise. 

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” a wealthy man asked Jesus (Luke 18:18). The man of means felt he was living a holy life and on his way to heaven. Jesus answered again with a question: “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone” (Luke 18:19). Jesus was redirecting the man’s false reasoningIf you think I’m good/God, then give all your riches to the poor and follow me. The man loved money and walked awaybut Jesus penetrating question gave him something to think about. Interestingly some think this rich man was Joseph of Arimathea who eventually committed his life to Jesus and buried the Lord in his personal tomb. Who knows?  

Jesus faced many challenging and attacking questions, even from his own disciples. One dark night the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee when a furious storm came up and made the waves start flooding their vessel (Mark 4:35-41). It’s hard to imagine, but Jesus was sleeping in the back of the rocking boat. The disciples woke him up with an accusatory question: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus answered: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Faith in what? In him! They just saw him perform divine powers of healing and casting out demons. Why wouldn’t he also have power over the wind and the waves? Have you ever asked Jesus: “Don’t you care about me and all the troubles in this world?” Jesus asks us: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? King David was once terrified of getting killed. When he turned to God’s promises, he wrote: “I lie down and sleep; I awake again, because the LORD sustains me” (Psalm 3:5). It’s not good fortune or luck that keeps us alive. It’s the Lord. He alone will also determine when we go heaven. Do you believe this? 

The goal of questions 

Questions make us rethink our doubts and unbelief. Questions also help people who don’t know God to rethink God. A number of years ago during a television interview, a movie star challenged a Christian theologian: “I understand that you think Jesus is God? Well, that’s your opinion! His response: “Do you really think that’s my opinion?” Then he paused before saying. It’s not my opinion. Either Jesus is or isn’t.”  

Our goal is the Lord’s goal: It’s not to win an argument but to win a soul . . . with truth and love. Intimidators of believers may have no love for us or interest in what we say, so to get their attention, you need to make them question their questions.   

A young Christian woman who came to our campus ministry at UW-Madison lived in the dorm with an atheist. The atheist was nice and friendly, but she loved to challenge Christians. One day she confronted her Lutheran roommate with this question: “As a Christian you must believe that I’m going to hell, right?” Our student sat quietly for a moment and then responded, “Yes, I do believe you’re going to hell as Scripture says.” Then she asked a question that eventually changed her atheist roommate’s life: “Did you know that my family really loves you and is praying that you might come to know the love of Jesus and go to heaven?” Her unbelieving roommate was stunned. She never heard any Christian give such a blunt answer and follow up with such a caring question. The entire family was praying for her?  

Out of curiosity she came to our campus ministry and started to ask me many, many questions. As we searched the Bible together, the Holy Spirit eventually touched her heart. She told me she fought the Spirit-filled words of Scripture for a long time, but one day she woke up believing iJesus as her Lord and SaviorThen she asked to be baptized. The Chapel celebrated that day along with all the angels in heaven! 

When people want to belittle our faith or attack it, develop a penetrating question from their question. Make them think. Then be ready to give them answers from God’s Word, with loving “gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). 

Now here’s a closing question for you: If antagonists ever quizzed you, asking, “So what’s your view of salvation?”—what question would you ask them? 

 


Thomas Trapp served as campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel at UW-Madison for 38 years. The Lord called him home in March. We are saddened he is gone from us but rejoice he has found complete joy in his Savior’s presence. 


This is the eightharticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.   


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? Did you employ the KISS method? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Thomas H. Trapp
Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 7

Face opposition with courage and confidence 

Eric S. Roecker 

It was a fabulous fall day. The sun was shining. Brightly colored leaves were floating downward from the trees. The air had just a hint of the crispness that makes fall feel like fall. 

It was a fabulous fall day. And I was doing what I lovedwalking a neighborhood near our church, handing out invitations. Where there was no one home I would leave the invitation at the door. But where someone was washing the car in the driveway or trimming the bushes, I would hand out an invitation and say, “Hi! I’m the pastor at the church down the road. I just wanted to invite you to visit us sometime. We would love to have you!” 

Often people responded to my little speech with a smile, a nod, and a wary thank you. I could see in their eyes and the way their body seemed to stiffen what they were thinking. I could read their thoughts as if I were reading a book. “I hope this guy isn’t going to waste the next hour of this beautiful day talking to me about religious stuff.”  

But once in a while, the person lit up like a Christmas tree, eagerly taking the invitation and asking, “Where is your church?”  

“Just down the road. The one with the tower.” 

“Oh! Sure. I drive by every day on my way to work. It’s beautiful. I’ve actually thought about stopping in some Sunday. We haven’t been to church for quite a while and have been meaning to get back into it. So what kind of church is it?” 

And we would be off and running. I would share information about the church. My new friend would ask questions. I would do my best to answer. Sometimes the conversation lasted five minutes. Other times it lasted an hour. Every time it was exhilarating.  

So there was a bit of a bounce in my step as I made my way down the sun-drenched street of the subdivision that Saturday, looking forward to my next adventure. Whom would I meet? What would they say? What would they ask? Where would our conversation lead? God only knew.  

I certainly didn’t know. And it is probably good I didn’t. Otherwise, I might have been tempted to turn around, get back in my car, and head home for the day.  

He was standing in the middle of his front lawn, rake in hand. There was nothing extraordinary about him. He was middle-aged, brown haired, wearing khaki pants and a flannel shirt. He looked like he belonged there. Just your average middle-class American homeowner doing his weekend duty taking care of his yard. 

I approached cheerfully and began my now-familiar speech, “Hi! I’m Eric Roecker, the pastor at . . .”  

I didn’t say another word for 20 minutes. I couldn’t. The air was too full of other wordshis words.  

He began with a general tirade against religionall the evils it had brought into the world, all the cruelty, from ancient Christian crusades to modern Islamic terrorism, from the scandals of televangelists to the scandals of Roman Catholic priests.  

I had heard his objections beforemany times. What surprised me was the anger. I was completely unprepared for it. His voice grew louder and louder. This man was angry. 

What should I do? What would you do? How should a Christian react when facing such opposition? Although the Bible does not give us a playbook that spells out the specific steps to handle every uncomfortable interaction with an unbeliever, it does tell us the following: 

  • “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”(John 3:16). The red-faced man screaming at me in his front yard was loved by Godso loved that God sacrificed his son to save that man’s soul. 
  • “We love because he first loved us”(1 John 4:19). Rather than hating this man for hating people like me, I loved him and wanted him to know the joy and peace and comfort I know because I know my Savior. 
  • “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”(1 Peter 3:15,16). 

So, what did I do? I listened. By God’s grace, I didn’t get angry. I didn’t shout back. I just listened.  

Eventually, his tirade reached a kind of climax, and he began to speak more quietly. He was still angry and still attacking, but he was losing steam. Finally, he stopped. Now I was able to respond.  

I did not respond to everything he had said. Instead, I decided to address the last point he had made to see where it might lead. He had pointed out that there were many different religions in the world and they all basically taught the same things. Christianity wasn’t anything special. 

“Well,” I replied, “You are right, of course, that there are many different religions in the world. However, they are not all the same. Hinduism, for example, teaches that there are thousands of gods. Christianity teaches that there is only one God.” 

“So, who’s to say Christianity is right!?” he shouted angrily. 

“My point isn’t that Christianity is right,” I answered. “I am simply pointing out that Hinduism and Christianity cannot both be right. Either one is right and the other is wrong or both are wrong. But they cannot both be right.” 

He thought about that for a moment. His face was now closer to its original color than the crimson red hue it had been for the past few minutes.  

“I suppose that’s true,” he said. 

“Obviously, as a Christian pastor, I believe that the Christian teaching about God is the true teaching about God. And that truth about Godwho he is, what he’s like, what he has done for you and for meis incredibly comforting. I don’t want to take up the rest of your afternoon, but would it be alright if I very briefly shared it with you?” 

He never did visit our church. But he did hear about Jesus that fine fall day. And, where the good news about Jesus is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit of God is at work. 

Remember this the next time you face opposition when witnessing: You are not alone. In the very last verse of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus promised, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20).  

I was not alone on that lawn. My Jesus was right beside me, giving me the love and patience I needed to tell this angry man that his God loved him. And Jesus will be right beside you every time you tell others about him


Eric Roecker, director of the WELS Commission on Evangelism, is a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  


This is the seventharticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.   


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? Did you employ the KISS method? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Eric S. Roecker 
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: How I shared Jesus – submissions

Through several different seriesForward in Christ authors have been providing tips and encouragement from their own personal experiences about how to share God’s Word with people who desperately need to hear about God’s grace.  

We asked for your feedback, and several of you have shared your own tips, encouragements, and outreach stories. Take a look:


A waiting room opportunity 

Betty Pfeiffer, a member at Heritage, Gilbert, Arizona, shares her story of praying dangerously for the opportunity to tell someone about God’s love [“Praying dangerously,” Feb.]. 

My husband needed an eye exam, and it was going to require dilation of his pupils. I went along to drive him home. I was in a hurry and walked out without a book to read. None of the magazines in the waiting area held any interest for me, so I sat there figuratively twiddling my thumbs. 

Until an older man sat next to me and started a conversation. He asked me if I believed that the world is billions of years old. 

I replied with a smile, “No. I’m a Christian.” 

“Well,” he responded, “do you believe in spirits that live in heaven and come down to earth to inhabit earthly bodies?” 

“No. I don’t believe it that either.” His premise was becoming clear to me. He was a Mormon. So I asked, “Are you a Mormon?” 

“Yes, and we believe . . .”  He started to tell me about the necessity of good works to get into heaven. 

When he paused, I (more or less) responded, “I know that’s what you believe, but you see, I can’t find any scriptural foundation for that. Remember Christ said on the cross that it is finished. That is, he completed all that was necessary for the forgiveness of our sins.” I went on to quote the book of James that says faith without works is dead, but that means only that if we don’t love one another enough to help them in ways we can, we don’t love Jesus enough to follow his commandments. Our works come from our faith, through our love. They won’t earn us anything more. Christ has done it all. To think we can add something more or better to our salvation than when he said “It is finished” is arrogant. 

I quoted a couple more passages as the gentleman sat there quietly blinking. Then he was called in for his eye exam. 

I have prayed that God would give me opportunities to share his good news, but I never really expected an encounter like this. Did I say anything that would change his beliefs? Only the Holy Spirit knows. But I am glad that I forgot my book.


Coffee evangelism 

Scott Albrecht talks about a unique evangelism program at Beautiful Savior, Grove City, Ohio. He writes:  

Coffee Evangelism is a weekly meeting of evangelists at our local diner where we fellowship over coffee briefly but then get it in to-go mugs as our meeting is half fellowship/half evangelism (half and halfhonestly didn’t see that joke coming). 

One of our members maps out a neighborhood near the diner. After our coffee, we hand out coffee sleeves to those who answer the door and leave them for those who dont. The sleeves have information about our church on one side and an invite on the other side to join us at the diner next week to learn more about our church—coffee is on us! 

After a year we have visited over 1,600 households. Many friendships have been madeand visitors at our church are on the rise.  

The level of skill or education to go door to door is not daunting. The presentation is easy: The ask is to have a cup of coffee for free with church members or attend a service if they do not have a church home.  

I pray this idea may inspire others to come up with creative new ways to share God’s message


A meaningful day 

A story from Thomas Gumm, a retired pastor, shows that you will never know when God will give you an opportunity to proclaim his name. You just need to be ready.  

Yesterday I had a young man come in to get info on a storage unit. After talking with him, he told me he was a pastors kid but was the black sheep. We talked for an hour. He was guiltridden and unable to forgive himself. This was causing great problems in his marriage. I took him for a walk to the cross. I explained Gods forgiveness. I also explained that God loved him because God wanted to love him. Tears flowed a number of times. It was a very meaningful day.


 Taking time to reflect  

In his article “KISS them” [March], Ken Brokmeier recommended that after an evangelism opportunity, we should take time to evaluate and reflect on the encounter.  

Ann Behrs, a member at Christ Alone, Mequon, Wisconsin, shares that she writes down a synopsis of each encounter she has. As part of her summary, she asks and answers some simple questions—questions ranging from What can I do to start a conversation? to How did the conversation transition to something spiritual? to How can I get to know this person better? She says, It’s a great way to try to understand if it was effective, what worked, and what didn’t.” 


Lessons from the county jail 

Dan Krueger, a member at Mt. Zion, Kenosha, Wisconsin, leads a Bible study in a county jail. He shares the following things he learned from his experiences: 

  1. The men at the weekly meeting have different experiences than me, and not just because they spend their days and nights in a cavernous room of 70 bunk beds, a few tables,and a TV, with others who are accused of breaking the law. They ask my opinion about personal situations that are new to me. When you talk to other people, they may bring up something in their past that surprises or even shocks you. But it’s an opportunity to point out the biblical principles that address the situation. You can plainly state you don’t have a simple answer but offer to help them look at what God says. 
  2. The people you meet may not know their Bibles well. If you are talking to others about Jesus, look for opportunities to assist them in opening a Bible so they can read it for themselves. 
  3. In the county approved sessions, we have a strict warning to avoid doctrinal differences. Your unchurched friends may ask about something unique to their church background,but it’s likely they are just trying to put things into perspective. You can stick to the basics of sin, grace, and peace in Jesus.   
  4. The faces at the prison Bible study can change from week to week. It can be daunting knowing that you may only get one meaningful conversation, one opportunity to tell them what Jesus has done for you and what Jesus can do for themIt’s a good reminder that our task is to get involved and then let the Holy Spirit continue the work.   
  5. Feeding yourself at Bible study, especially at church, is huge. The pastoral insight on the context of passages and how they relate to our modern culture gives you confidence, credibility, and flexibility when witnessing. The other benefit is listening to the questions and answers of other members. Just like the unchurched people we want to reach, other members may view the question from a slightly different perspective or background than your own.  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231.


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Author: Various Submissions
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 5

KISS them 

Kenneth L. Brokmeier 

We are ambassadors for Christ. Our mission? Preach the good news (cf. Mark 16:15). Previous articles in this series directed us to be ready by studying the Word. We know about praying boldly, confidently, and even dangerously for God to open doorsWe recognize that listening carefully is a must. And it can be helpful to ask some clarifying questions so that we can properly crystallize the issueSo . . . now what?  

Kiss them! Well not literally kiss them but use the KISS approach! KISS, an acronym employed by many, commonly is explained as Keep It Simple, Stupid (or Silly or Sugar). Using the KISS method can help one think through and complete a difficult task.  

Witnessing or standing up to someone assaulting our faith can be daunting, especially the first few times we try itTo help, let’s explore the KISS motto—with a minor adaptation.  

KEEP 

Keep can sometimes mean to stay, continue, or persevere. If someone is attacking your faith or they simply want to know about your faithremember to keep going. Stay the course. Don’t be so quick to give up, as tempting as that may be. As Christ’s ambassadors, keep plugging away, even when facing verbal hostility. After all, God promises that he is your helper, and others really can’t harm you (cf. Hebrews 13:6).  

Keep also means storing or retaining. No two evangelism experiences are alike. After you have an evangelism opportunity, make the time to evaluate and reflect on that encounter. Store it away, including what you might do differently. Reflecting on and evaluating that experience can often prepare you for similar circumstances in the future.  

Likewise, stash and store Bible verses in your memory bank so you can have them on the tip of your tongue. Granted, this calls for an investment of time and effort, but you don’t need to memorize the whole Bible. Arm yourself with a handful of carefully chosen verses from Scripture. Keep them at your disposal. Build the list from your experiences. The time you invest in knowing a few passages and where they are located in the Bible can reap great dividends as you become engaged with those who have questions and are seeking answers. A great starting point would be to learn some of the basic passages from God’s Great Exchange, a simple way to tell others about Jesus. (If you are not familiar with God’s Great Exchange, ask your pastor or check out a simple brochure at nph.net.) 

IT 

Keep It . . . note it is singular. There are times and places to discuss a wide variety of religious topics, but when dealing with an individual who is asking you questions, try to stick to only one topic at time. Limiting the number of topics can help you and the other person to focus on what is most important.  

Keeping it to one subject can be especially beneficial if you are lacking in personal witness experiences. Focusing on many different issues at once can prove to be overwhelming. Besides, leaving some “loose ends” can also open the door to have future conversations with this same person. Certainly, acknowledge and keep track of other themes or issues the other person wants to chat about. Then study them and get together in the future to talk more.  

It will also compel us to remember that finally there is only one main topic we must discussJesusWhen we center our dialogue on Jesus, sooner or later many other subtopics will naturally flow from that discussion.  

Jesus underscores that point for us when he rather bluntly asks, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)What a person knows and confesses about Jesus reveals the faith withinWe want to keep itthat is, Jesus, as the main point.  

SIMPLE  

Keep It Simple. Here’s an example: Do you know what denticity is? If you studied chemistry, you might. Denticity is the number of donor groups in a single ligand that bind to a central atom in a coordination complex. Funny thing, I read that definition, and I still don’t know what denticity is!  

Now imagine what it could be like for people who really don’t know about Jesus and, perhaps, even less about the Bible. When their ears hear terms like justification, sanctification, incarnation, salvation, or redemption, what goes through their minds? Even words like mercy, grace, sin, law, or gospel may immediately conjure up meaning and pictures for us. After all we spent two years in confirmation class thoroughly learning themBut remember that the person you talk to doesn’t have that background and may even have the wrong definitions for terms familiar to you 

Make no mistake. I’m not against learning terms. I ask students in my confirmation class to learn them. They are important. But for someone who didn’t grow up knowing and learning the lingo, those words probably sound like denticity does to me.  

The solution? Don’t use those technical terms. Instead be ready to describe them. Remember a good place to start is with your catechism. Take it off the shelf and review those terms so yocan describe them without using theological jargon.  

SINCERE 

Keep It Simple (and) SincereHere is a quote worth learning for friendship evangelism“People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. If people sense that you are a fake or a fraud, it may be impossible to maintain an audience with them to tell them about Jesus. After all, if others sense you are insincere, why should they want to believe anything you might say about the Bible or Jesus? 

Practice sincerity even when talking to antagonists. Show them you have a genuine interest in their eternal wellbeing. Such sincerity may leave them with something to think about 

Sincerity implies truthfulness and honesty. When having a religious discussion, it is okay to say that you don’t know the answer to a question. Of course, ian answer is to be found, go and find it in God’s Word, but sincerely saying“I’m not sure” may help people to see that you too are still growing in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18). And remember, when you say you will trto find the answer, it gives you a chance to talk to them again.  

An example 

Does the KISS method work? Four years ago, Sally from East Asia attended my churchSally knew English but was not familiar with the Bible or biblical terms. I had to employ the KISS method as we met almost daily for usually 60 to 75 minutes for five monthsSince her return to her country we studied the Bible for the past three and a half years about ten times monthly via the Internet. Two years ago, her spouse joined our study.  

Does the KISS method work? I think it does. After all, God certainly keeps his main message about Jesus simple for us. And there is no doubt about his sincerity to save us.  


Kenneth Brokmeier is pastor at Our Savior, Brookings, South Dakota.  


This is thefiftharticle in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.   


Sidebar:  

What’s your story?How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear from you. To whom in your life did you reach out? Did you employ the KISS method? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


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Author: Kenneth L. Brokmeier
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 6

Speaking the truth in love 

Justin C. Cloute 

“The Bible is just a bunch of made-up stories written by deadpower-hungry men!” 

These words echoed in my mind as I tried to think of what to say next. I was a young pastor serving at a mission congregation and had been canvassing our neighborhood with the help of a mission team from another congregation. While most of the people I talked to that day were friendly, I had recently experienced a cold reception at a couple of houses.  

The young woman standing in the doorway continued, “It’s nothing more than a bunch of myths made up to give comfort to those who are too weak to deal with life’s realities!” I physically felt my pulse begin to rise as blood rushed to my head. 

I knew I had a more informed answer, I just couldn’t think of it. In a tone that was anything but gentle, I asked, “Have you ever even read the Bible?”  

She hesitantly said, “No . . . not really.”  

Sadly, I responded, “That’s ridiculous!” The door quickly shut in my face. 

Don’t respond in anger 

While what I said was truethe accusation was ridiculousI failed to respond to the objection with gentleness and respect. I cared more about my own emotions and putting the other person down than patiently dealing with the objectionI suppose the Holy Spirit could use even my sharp response to lead this woman to rethink her accusation and perhaps open the Bible. God has often used human failure for his good. But that’s no excuse. I could have done better.  

The apostle Paul encourages believers to “[speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)and Solomon reminds us that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). One of the goals of apologetics is to extend the conversation in order to share the gospel. We can show that we care about someone by addressing the concerns they may have. However, when we respond with anger to an objection, not only does it stir up anger in the other person but it also often ends the conversation. It cuts off the discourse before we get to what is most important—Jesus.  

Understand your frustration 

In order to help us better respond in the future, it may be helpful to address a few of the reasons we might become frustrated when responding to objections.   

We make it about us, instead of Jesus.

Sometimes we respond in anger because we are personally offended. We feel like the person we are talking to is challenging our intelligence. That may be. But remember what your Savior saysBlessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). 

Memorize these words or write them on a notecard and put it in your pocket before you are going into a situation where your faith may be challenged. Remember that even if you feel stupid and all alone, Jesus says that you are “blessed” because this is proof you are connected to him. There is no reason to get angry.  

We care more about winning the argument than the person standing in front of us.  

We all like to be right, especially when it comes to the big questions in life. But it’s not just about being right. It’s about sharing the gospel with someone who desperately needs it. Sadly, it is possible to win an argument but to lose a person. If you are tempted to feel proud about being right, remember that you didn’t come to accept the gospel by your own intellectual powers. Even your acceptance of the gospel is a gift. It’s a gift that God has given you and a gift that he wants to share with all people. 

There’s nothing to be proud of, except your Savior.  

We are unprepared to respond to the objection.  

Sometimes we may respond to an objection with frustration simply because we don’t have a good response. I believe that this was at least part of the reason I responded the way that I did. I had spent four years in college and another four at the seminary studying to take the gospel to people like this. I had learned Greek and Hebrew and translated large portions of Scripture. I had daily been in God’s Word, yet I wasn’t prepared to immediately respond to this objection. Perhaps I was more upset at myself than at the person who had the objection.  

Remember that you don’t need to have an immediate answer to every objection. I could have said, “You know what? I’ve heard that before. Would you mind if I look into it and get back to you? From everything that I’ve studied, the texts of Scripture are very early and reliable, and I am more than happy to sit down in the future to discuss what the Bible says.” This type of response shows that you care about the person and her objection.  

You need not fear, because you have Jesus. Ultimately you want to lead others to him as well. Many of the objections that people raise are just a distraction from the deeper issues of sin, guilt, and the need for salvation. As you lovingly respond to an objection, look for ways to turn the conversation back to Jesus. Whether they admit it or not, everyone you talk to needs him.  

Speak the truth 

Why would we go through all this trouble? It’s not easy to keep your cool when facing objections. When Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, he faced one objection after another from his opponents. First, they asked him how he knew so much about God without having studied. Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me” (John 7:16). After this, they called him demon-possessed. Can you imagineGod himself being called a demon? But never once did our Savior blow up in anger or send out a fiery retort. John tells us, On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them’  (John 7:37,38). He speaks in a loud voice, but it’s not to hurt or destroy. It’s to invite. It’s to invite even his opponents to drink the living water. 

There will be times when people object to the teaching of Jesus. They may even aim their insults at you. But there’s no need to get angry or frustrated. By a miracle of the Holy Spirt, you have been led to drink from the living water of Jesus. This water forgives our sins of anger and our failures in speaking the truth. It calms and refreshes our souls and gives us the desire to lead others to Jesus as well.  

Keep on speaking the truth in love.



Justin Cloute is pastor at St. Luke, Watertown, Wisconsin. 



This is the sixth article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.



What’s your story? How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear your stories. To whom in your life did you reach out? What barriers did you have to overcome? How do you prepare yourself for these outreach opportunities? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: How I shared Jesus. Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Justin C. Cloute
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 4

Ask Questions Before You Confront 

Jeremiah J. Gumm 

When Michael first walked through our doors, I wonder if he even knew what he believed. One thing was certain, his search for answers had left him with a confused “religious” worldview. Growing up, his family had been Episcopalian, but in late junior high, he became an atheist. A teacher in high school helped him return to the Episcopalian church. In time, he got fed up with the liberal teachings of his church. So he started dabbling in Islam. Michael was a security guard and a couple of his co-workers were Muslims. He found Islam’s strict, morally conservative teachings to be attractive and fascinating. He considered converting, but was not quite ready to take the plunge. 

He started checking out Lutheran churches. Liberal Lutheran churches failed to provide the answers he sought. Then one Reformation Sunday, he showed up at our church for worship, full of questions, misguided views, and searching for truth. 

I have to admit that my initial conversations with Michael were rather frustrating. I had difficulty identifying whether he was raising an actual objection or if he was simply playing devil’s advocate from the perspective of Islam, atheism, or a liberal, progressive Christianity. I would have been wise to remember what James wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (1:19). Unfortunately, I tended to be slow to listen and quick to speak, which caused our early conversations to circle round and round without actually getting at the heart of Michael’s objections and questions. 

In time, though, the Lord taught me to listen to Michael’s objections, to ask questions to better understand what his objections actually were. For example, when Michael and I would discuss Christ’s death on the cross, he would often bring up an objection that likely came from his conversations with his Muslim co-workers—an objection he himself could not answer satisfactorily. “If Jesus is God’s son and God the Father had Jesus die on a cross, then God would have to be an abusive father since he would be putting his son through so much suffering, torture, and pain.” By that logic, Jesus’ death on the cross would make God no better than an abusive father. 

How do you respond to that? Without taking the time to unpack that objection with thoughtful questions to get further explanation, it would be very tempting to attack that objection with a vengeance. After all, this objection blasphemes our God! But what was at the heart of Michael’s objection? What questions could be asked “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15b) that would peel away the layers of misunderstanding and help Michael to truly see the compassionate love of God for sinners demonstrated in the sending of his Son Jesus Christ? What questions would help me understand the source of Michael’s objection and enable me to respond? 

Michael’s objection started from the premise that God is a holy God of power and control who forces people to submit to his will. That is a commonly held view of Allah among Muslims. Tied to that initial premise is the question whether Jesus Christ is truly God or not—another Muslim objection to the Christian faith. Jesus is acknowledged to be a prophet, but he is not Allah. From that perspective, Michael’s objection makes sense. If Jesus is actually God’s son and if Jesus did actually did suffer and die on the cross, then God must be forcing his son to suffer and die, rightly earning him the charge of “abuser.” 

Yet what was Michael missing? He was missing a complete picture of the God of the Bible—the God who is love—described in 1 John 4:9,10, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” That is not the God of Islam. Yet Michael needed to see the God whose love for sinners moved him to act on our behalf, to sacrifice what was most precious to him—his one and only Son—to reconcile us to himself. Michael needed to see that that God is not an abusive father forcing his son to suffer, but the God who loves us even when we were dead and hostile in our sins. So questions needed to be asked to help Michael see the God of love he was missing. 

Yet Michael still had objections and questions—objections that required further investigation, further questions to sort through the confusion of his religious worldview, further discussions on what he actually believed and what others tried to convince him to believe. Related to the last objection, Michael would sometimes say, “If Jesus is God and if Jesus willingly died on the cross, then he is a suicidal God.” To that I would often ask him, “What about the parent who pushes their child out of the way of an oncoming truck only to be struck themselves and severely injured or killed? Were they ‘suicidal’ in that moment? If not, then what would you call that?” “What of the soldier who falls on a hand grenade tossed into a mess tent full of soldiers? Was he ‘suicidal’ in that moment? 

If not, then what would you call that?” While there was logic to Michael’s argument, he was missing the element of love and concern for others. He again was missing the most important element when it comes to any discussion on the death of Christ—the love of God for undeserving sinners demonstrated in the death of Christ our Savior. 

So what can you do when others object to Christianity? Being prepared “to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15) means you need not cower in fear at their objections. In fact, many objections to Christianity actually do not make sense when you explore them further. Ask questions to help you understand what they mean. How does that person support their opinion? Why do they believe what they believe? Do they have proof for their objection or is this just opinion? Are they just parroting what they have heard from others? Much like trying to understand the context behind an objection, it is vitally important that we ask questions to understand the actual objection that is posed to us. 

At the same time, we do so “with gentleness and respect.” We do not rush to confront the one who poses the objection. Instead we take time to explore further, to better understand why that blood-bought soul before us has these objections to what God’s Word has to say, to take time with people like Michael. 

In the end, Michael eventually moved on. Yet after we had spent considerable time studying God’s Word together and sorting through all his confusion, for the first time in his life, he recognized that the alluring teachings of various “-isms” and Islam did not have what he sought. The Bible was the only reliable source for truth. The questions asked helped Michael to see that. So don’t be afraid to ask if someone objects to your faith. The Lord may just give you an opportunity to help them see the truth for the first time in their lives. 


Jeremiah Gumm is pastor at King of Kings, Maitland, Florida. 


This is the fourth article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith. 


What’s your story? How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear your stories. To whom in your life did you reach out? What barriers did you have to overcome? How do you prepare yourself for these outreach opportunities? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: How I shared Jesus. Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Jeremiah J. Gumm
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them find Jesus : Part 3

When we share our faith, every situation—and every person—idifferent. 

Jeremiah J. Gumm 

“If your God is so almighty, why is there poverty in Africa?”  

I was a new pastor fresh out of the seminary. I had just walked into George’s living room for an every member visit. George’s wife was a longtime member of our congregation, but George? At the time, he had little use for God or the church. When I walked into his living room, George was sitting on the couch watching television. A commercial for a charity helping children in Africa appeared on the screen. George turned to me and fired off his challenge before I could even introduce myself as the new pastor. 

So how did I respond? I would love to tell you that I responded in a way that reached George in that moment in his life. But looking back, I’m not sure how I answered. I know that I made some quick, fumbling attempt to address his question rather than taking the time to get to know George better and to understand his story.  

Why was George so quick to question God’s ability to provide for his world? Why did George seem so angry, so bitter, so hardened toward God and his Word?  

No silver bullet 

Trying to answer George’s challenge with a silver-bullet answer from the Bible—and a poorly fired one at that—failed to get at the heart of George’s objections to God and his Word. In time, I got to know George and the story of his difficult life. He had lost his parents at a young age, dealt with the hardships of living in Nazi-controlled Europe as a young man, and then started a new life from the ground up in America. As I listened, the Lord provided opportunities for me to give the reason for the hope that we have. In time, the Lord worked through his Word patiently shared. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a silver-bullet response to fire at every objection that comes your way? “How can there be a good God in such an evil world?” Zing! “Doesn’t science discredit religion?” Zing! “Why should I believe in the Bible? It’s so ancient and outdated!” Zing! “There are many paths to God.” Zing! Wouldn’t it be nice to simply turn a page of your Bible and drop another silver bullet in the chamber ready to cut down the next objection that comes your way? It sure would. 

While such an approach may win an apologetic argument and give you another notch in your belt, it rarely wins the war for that person’s soul. Rarely does it convince someone of the importance of the gospel, of sins forgiven and heaven opened wide through the blood of Christ. Rarely do such responses work if you do not take the time to get to know the person and his or her story. 

Building the bridge 

To truly help people find Jesus, you need to build a relationship with them. You need to spend time getting to know them and giving them the opportunity to get to know you. You need to spend time getting to know their story—their background, their life experience, their personality. You need to ask questions and actively listen.  

Why? You have the most precious treasure of all in the gospel. You want that person to enjoy that treasure for all eternity.  

Think of it this way. If you had to carry a priceless artifact across a deep and dangerous ravine, would you want to cross that ravine on a rickety, jungle bridge with planks breaking beneath your feet? Or would you prefer to cross that ravine on a strong bridge made of steel and concrete that can bear the weight of even the heaviest trucks? Unless you are Indiana Jones, you want to carry that priceless treasure across the bridge of concrete and steel. So too your sharing of the gospel. Patiently building a connection—no matter what the objections—enables you to convey the gospel in such a way that is personal, respectful, and understanding. 

Building that bridge to that person who objects to our God and his Word is so very important because every person is different. While the gospel is the same, how you respond to questions and opportunities to share it will likely be very different, depending on the person.  

Responding to George was very different from responding to an agnostic former scientist that I once met in a hospital waiting room. The man had retired from the Canadian Ministry of Science. Growing up, he had attended church. He had learned about the Bible. At one time, he had even believed what the Bible said. Yet for much of his adult life, this man had been a proponent of evolutionary theory. He had accepted the argument of evolution that dismissed the Bible as legend and myth. He understood the science and agreed with what the Ministry of Science put forward as fact. Yet something bothered him as he got older. “I know the science, but I hope that what I learned as a child is true,” he said. That was all the confidence he had as he got older and the possibility of dying became more of a reality. There was a sadness about the man. At that moment, I knew exactly what he needed to hear, but sadly, he was not willing to listen. I did not have another opportunity to speak with him. 

How do you reach people where they are? How do you convey the gospel to those who reject or misunderstand God’s Word? You get to know them. You learn their story. You seek to dig beneath their objections. What life experiences made them so bitter toward the church? What happened that made them so angry at God? Why do they reject God’s Word so sharply? How did they get to this point? What is their story?  

To learn someone’s story takes God-given patience and compassion. It means keeping that silver bullet response in the chamber to let Christlike love for that person’s soul keep the bridge open. It means recognizing that no matter how frustrated you are, you need patiently to keep that bridge of communication open for the next opportunity the Lord might present. It means going out on a limb and asking tough questions that peel back what is really the story behind a particular objection. It means taking advantage of even the slightest opening or opportunity that the Lord presents. It takes gentleness and respect for each person. It takes understanding of that person’s situation. Ultimately, it takes love for his or her soul to connect that person to the Savior.  

To share Christ’s story, learn their story! 


Jeremiah Gumm is pastor at King of Kings, Maitland, Florida. 


This is the third article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith. 


What’s your story? How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear your stories. To whom in your life did you reach out? What barriers did you have to overcome? How do you prepare yourself for these outreach opportunities? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: How I shared Jesus. Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

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Author: Jeremiah J. Gumm
Volume 106, Number 1
Issue: January 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus : Part 2

So many need to hear about Jesus. Pray for them and for the opportunity to share Jesus with them.  

Kenneth L. Brokmeier 

“Prayer changes things!”  

Go ahead! Google “phrases about prayer.” You quickly can find yourself immersed for hours sifting through the sites, uncovering little snippets about prayer. Some excerpts are authored by well-known believers like Martin Luther, and other quotes are by those who aren’t even Christian.  

Prayer is an important part of our calling as Christ’s disciples. We pray because we are connected to Jesus. But like so many other facets of our Christian life, sometimes prayer can seem almost non-existent . . . until crunch time. You know what I mean. Suddenly there is trouble! That’s when we take God’s invitation to call upon him (Psalm 50:15) rather seriously. 

Those on the wrong road 

Well, there is trouble out there right now. There is a whole world without Christ, and they on the broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). Jesus knew it. He described them as harassed and helpless—sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36)—people misled by the lies and philosophies of the world and, sometimes, even the church. Before his very eyes were souls who were still looking for answers because their own solutions always brought the same dead-end results. Jesus had compassion on them because they didn’t even realize their great need. They had numbed themselves into thinking that there is no God or that Jesus can’t be God’s answer.  

The years and the faces may have changed, but the problem is still there. It’s not just on the other side of our planet but right in our own families, friends, and neighbors. It is on the campuses and classrooms of not just colleges, but all levels of education. Do you see them? The sheep? Sheep who think they know better, even though they were once Jesus’ little lamb. Sheep who are wearing the glitter and glitz of their own self-righteousness. Sheep who think they have all the answers to life’s questions because of their education. Sheep who are quick to tell you to your face you are foolish for following your Good Shepherd. Sheep. And all of them are unaware they are lost because they don’t have the heavenly Shepherd named Jesus. What’s a person to do?  

Listen to Jesus. Pray! That is what Jesus tells his disciples to do—pray, literally beg the Lord to send out more workers.  

Our prayers as God’s ambassadors 

But wait! Are you ready for this? Jesus instructs his disciples to pray for more workers and then he sends those same disciples out as those workers (Matthew 10). When we pray, he sends us out as his workers. 

Knowing that we are the answer to our own prayer leads us to pray more fervently and zealously to the Lord, “Help!” And he does. We have examples from Scripture of ambassadors praying to the One they represent for help. Look at Daniel (chapter 6). Daniel knew the king’s decree that anyone who prayed—except to the king—would be thrown into the den of lions. Yet Daniel continued to pray to God three times a day, just as he had done before. I can imagine Daniel begging God to be with him so he could testify boldly when he stood before the king. God answered Daniel’s prayer.  

Paul and Silas prayed (Acts 16:25). They had just been beaten and locked up, and yet they prayed and sang hymns. Can’t you just picture Paul begging God to open doors for the spread of the gospel? God answered Paul’s prayer. He not only opened the prison doors but also the heart of the jailer to believe in the Lord Jesus!  

God also promises to answer our prayers as his ambassadors. So pray! Ask boldly that God will give you wisdom so that you may know him better and trust his incomparably great power that is at work in you (cf. Ephesians 1:17-22).  

When you pray, trust that God will keep his promises that he will never leave or forsake you (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5) when you are called upon to witness.  

Pray dangerously. Challenge or beg that God would permit your life and the life of the one for whom you are praying to intersect so that you can be God’s ambassador. Then look for God to open those doors to encounter others with whom you can share the news of Jesus. Most of all, be ready to walk through those doors when he opens them!  

Pray with urgency. After all, billions are still in the state of spiritual darkness or unbelief. Scripture clearly teaches that if they remain and die in that state, their destiny is more than just darkness. It is the eternal misery, pain and suffering of hell, where “their worm that eats them will not die, the fire that burns will not be quenched” (Isaiah 66:24).  

Our personal connections 

Sometimes that sense of urgency can wane, can’t it? We don’t always picture the mass of humanity on the other side of the world who are hellbound without Christ. After all, we are busy with our lives of tweeting, texting, or updating our status on Facebook with the latest picture of what we deem to be important.  

But then it hits us. A friend. Someone with whom we have broken bread at many meals. Someone with whom we went to Lutheran grade school and high school. Slowly they have stopped coming to church. Or they head off to college and we lose touch and, before you know it, they are caught in the web of ungodly philosophies.  

Or it might be a family member—a parent, sibling, child, niece, or nephew. “What happened?” we ask ourselves. We might, humanly speaking, know the answer. But, more important, we know the solution: Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus!  

So pray! Because “prayer changes things.”  

My family knows this to be true.  

There were six children in my family growing up. We all had received the blessings of a Christian upbringing, including attending a Lutheran grade school and high school. But something happened, spiritually, with my brother. He made poor choices and drifted, slowly but surely, away from his Savior.  

Those who loved him—his parents, siblings, relatives, pastors, and teachers—spoke words of concern, warning him he was on that broad road. He would often respond— sometimes saying the right things—but his actions were also speaking, unfortunately, louder than his words. The drifting continued.  

Those who loved him prayed for him. We prayed boldly. We prayed dangerously. We prayed with urgency!  

God answered . . . with an accident. An accident that suddenly found my brother teetering between life and death. An accident that would leave him needing care 24 hours per day for the nearly 16 years remaining in his life. But, most important, God answered our prayers with an accident that opened the heart of his blood-bought child to once more hear, believe, and completely trust that Jesus is the only Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). 

And so, as his ambassadors, we pray!


Ken Brokmeier is pastor at Our Savior’s, Brookings, South Dakota.  


This is the second article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith. 


What’s your story? How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear your stories. To whom in your life did you reach out? What barriers did you have to overcome? How do you prepare yourself for these outreach opportunities? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: How I shared Jesus. Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Kenneth L. Brokmeier
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus

When we defend our faith, we have to be ready. We must study the Word. 

Jonathan P. Bilitz 

“You always go back to the Bible. I like that,” Dylan said as he plopped himself on a chair in my office for the third time that week. He wandered into our building a few months earlier, and we formed a friendship. Through our visits, one thing had become glaringly obvious: Dylan hungered to hear about Jesus’ love for him. 

Dylan expressed a frustration with his church. He felt organized religion let him down. He had been raised in a religious system where rules needed to be followed and threats for disobedience were real. He felt stifled by the rules and concluded that he was a complete failure. He needed help. He needed hope. He needed truth. The purpose and meaning of life became his quest. He needed Jesus. 

I panicked a bit about what to say. Do I defend the merit of belonging to a church and ease his discomfort with organized religion, or do I explain to him the errors of his previous church body? I decided to do neither but to read through Ephesians 2:1-10 with Dylan. He posed many questions. He listened. We read over some of the verses again. He wanted to hear again especially verses 8,9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Those words led Dylan to an eye-opening conclusion. “So,” he said to me, “living a good life doesn’t save me?” 

Dylan and I have conversed many times in the year or so since that meeting. We read the Bible together. I pray for him. He asks questions and tells me what he thinks a verse from the Bible means. He even came to church a few times. He still is not sure that he is ready to commit to join another church, but he enjoys hearing again and again the good news about Jesus. He visits me to confess his sins, because he yearns to be told he is forgiven in the blood of Jesus. He often remarks how free he feels because he is required to do nothing to be saved. Jesus has done it all. 

The Bible and the Holy Spirit 

It may have been our third meeting when he brought his Bible along with him. He had been reading it and had some questions on things he was reading. I thought that was amazing! Why? I’m not sure. We never want to underestimate the power of God’s Word. That Word changes hearts. It changes lives. It never returns to God empty but accomplishes what he desires and achieves the purpose for which he sent it (cf. Isaiah 55:11). God had provided me a front-row seat to watch the Spirit go to work in this young man’s heart. He did that work, not through my words, but through the Bible’s message. 

“You always go back to the Bible,” Dylan said as I tried to find a section in Scripture that answered his questions. His words were a revelation to me—a sudden sincere comment I had taken for granted. I had shared the gospel with him, and it was not just human opinion. The message had divine origin. 

That’s the Bible—the God-breathed words that give life and salvation. The Word is the way God reveals himself and his will to us in this world. The Bible delivers vital information that is found nowhere else. What God highlights in his Word is Jesus. He enlightens us to see Jesus as the way to be saved. The apostles said it this way: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 Evangelical Lutheran Heritage [EHV]). Yes, what the Bible contains is grace, the promise of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus and his cross even when—especially when—we fail.  

Dylan’s hunger for the life-giving gospel brought him into our building. God did the rest through his Word. He filled the emptiness with God’s love. He replaced fear with trust, and despair with hope. That’s the power of the Word. That’s the power of grace. Human words are no replacement for the message of Scripture. 

To our world, wisdom is not found in the cross, but in the intellect of human beings. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Maybe we fall victim to that trap more often than we care to admit. “If only I could say the right words . . . If only I could come up with the best arguments.” We don’t have to come up with the best defense. God does not require us to craft the finest sounding arguments. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (cf. Romans 1:16). 

Release the lion 

Charles Spurgeon, a 19th-century preacher, compared the Bible to a lion. To defend a lion, you simply need to let it out of its cage. So it is with the Bible. Spurgeon, when asked about defending his faith, offered his advice this way: “Many suggestions are made, and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and then another. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.” 

That quote illustrates an important lesson when we consider defending our faith. We have the perfect defense: God’s own words. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “For even though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war in the way the sinful flesh does. Certainly, the weapons of our warfare are not those of the flesh, but weapons made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down thoughts such as all arrogance that rises up against the knowledge of God, and we make every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 EHV).  

When sharing with others the hope that we have, our greatest weapon is being grounded in the Bible, the source of truth. Study the Word. Continue to be a student of the Bible. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. In your own heart, set apart Jesus as Lord. When it comes to answering questions, find comfort that it is not based on your own ideas but on what our Mighty God has revealed in the Bible. 

“You always go back to the Bible.” May God bless us through his Word so that others who listen to the truth about Jesus from us recognize the Bible as the source of all blessings—especially forgiveness for sin and the sure hope of eternal life. 


Jon Bilitz is campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.  


This is the first article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith. 


What’s your story? How have you shared Jesus? Every encounter is different, and we want to hear your stories. To whom in your life did you reach out? What barriers did you have to overcome? How do you prepare yourself for these outreach opportunities? E-mail responses tofic@wels.netwith the subject line: How I shared Jesus. Include your name, congregation, and contact information. Questions? Call 414-256-3231. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Jonathan P. Bilitz
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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