Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, June 04, 2007

Apologetic Evangelism Methodology 101 (pt 7)

Readying Ourselves to Engage the World (Part 1)

I have been attempting to provide a basic understanding of apologetic evangelism. Previous posts on the subject are available here.

It is my contention that Christians lack the motivation to evangelize because they lack confidence confronting unbelievers with the gospel. That lack of confidence, I believe, is due largely in part to the lack of proper instruction on the subject of evangelism and apologetics.

As I noted in my last couple of posts on this subject, doing apologetics and evangelism requires a good defense for the faith and a good offense to challenge the hearts of unbelievers. Defending the faith begins with a life saturated in God's Word that shows forth godly character submitted to Christ's Lordship. Challenging the unbeliever involves directly assailing the worldview he has created for himself by confronting his heart and mind with the truth of God revealed in Christ. Hence, effective apologetics and evangelism will utilize both defensive and offensive tactics to proclaim the gospel of Christ.

With this bit of background, allow me to get practical with these principles so we can ready ourselves to engage the world with the gospel. I believe there are three primary areas to address: Our preparation, our practice, and our pitfalls. I will address the first point with this post.

Our Preparation

There are two important points we need to grasp in order to get prepared,

First, Know your Faith.

This is an unspoken given. So why even mention it? Simply because evangelical Christians are spiritually illiterate when it comes to their faith. Some folks even seem to be willfully ignorant. It's as if they don't really care about learning the Bible, or key doctrines, or any theology at all. I find this attitude of self-imposed ignorance mystifying.

I would think any person who genuinely experiences a spiritual awakening would immediately desire to know the faith he or she just embraced as true. This was my experience when the Lord saved me. Yet sadly this is not the case for many Christian. Older, more seasoned Christians are often times even more ignorant.

They tend to only listen to CCM and rarely if ever think to listen to good biblical preaching. They may attend a weekly Bible study, if one is even offered, but the study is superficial. Church has become a routine done on Sunday mornings. A good service is judged by how well the pastor captivated the audience, or perhaps how much the music moved the people to experience "glory bumps." Now, there are probably legitimate reasons why this lazy attitude exists in Christians, say for example, poor pastoring from the pulpit or insufficient discipleship, but whatever the case, a Christian must stir from his spiritual stupor and begin knowing his faith. How can this be done?

Begin first by regularly reading the Bible.

The Christian must get into the disciplined habit of reading the Bible daily.

Cultivating a habit with reading scripture is an absolute, a"no other options" must for a Christian's life.

You can never defend anything you know nothing about, and you can certainly never proclaim it to others either with any authority. Neglecting the reading of scripture is inexcusable, because there are many helps available in our day and age to aide a person in this area. For example, there are a number of "Through the Bible in a Year" outlines, including reasonably priced editions which break the scriptures up so a person can begin on January 1st, and if read faithfully every day, the entire Bible will be completed by December 31st.

A person doesn't have to get up at 4 AM to read the Bible. Find whatever time works best for you and start reading it through. I personally like the evening hours. Even if a person has reading disabilities and takes TWO years to read through the Bible, well fine, if that is what it takes. The important thing is reading it.

Once you have read through the Bible a few times, I would suggest find a short, NT book you happened to like and picking up a short, but soundly written commentary, and do an in-depth study on that one book. One year, I wanted to learn Galatians. I picked up maybe 4 or 5 commentaries, short in length and written by solid guys, and spent a year (along with my daily Bible reading) studying Galatians. I have done this with Romans, though not extensively as Galatians, 1 - 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and the Pastoral epistles of Paul.

Also, listen to good preaching, particularly expository preaching, either by listening to the radio or purchasing CDs, tapes or MP3s. Excellent expository preaching is a fantastic way to learn the Bible as you read it regularly.

Second, supplement your daily Bible reading with reading good, biblically rich books written by solid men and women.

Along with the Bible, you want to gather around yourself good books written by solid men and women whose doctrine and ideas are shaped by the text of scripture. These are not the devotional style books found on the top 20 lists available at the local retail Christian bookstore which is usually overstocked with religious paraphernalia like Precious Moments figurines, footprints plaques, and all the CCM a person can humanly listen to.

The books I am talking about here are often written by individuals who are dead, like the Puritans, but their work is still in print because of the genuine value of their books contained. They cover important doctrinal subjects like God's attributes, the authority of God's Word, or the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, the doctrines of salvation, and Christian sanctification. Those are the books you want to find and read, for they will help familiarize you with the teaching of scripture.

I can recall the first time I met John Piper when he spoke during one of our seminary chapel times. He had given a heart stirring message on the personal priorities of a pastor and afterward, I had occasion to ask him which Christian books and authors impacted his faith. I remember him pausing and then replying that rather than picking a variety of authors and books, he recommended finding a man who has written extensively and has been tried by time as being a faithful theologian and teacher, and read everything he wrote available in print. At the time, Piper had just finished the works of Jonathan Edwards and was then studying the life works of John Owen. (I still stagger at that thought!). I was encouraged by his words, because I had read much of A.W. Pink's printed materials and was starting to immerse myself in the printed sermons of Thomas Watson. Piper provides excellent advice for supplementing consistent Bible reading.

Third, get yourself a good systematic theology.

A systematic theology is one of those real thick books with itty-bitty print and are generally more expensive that your regular book. For the laymen, they can be scary. However systematic theologies do what it's title proclaims: it systematizes theological subjects by organizing biblical doctrine in to logical categories and showing how they all function in a comprehensive whole.

A systematic theology may be intimidating for some because it is so overwhelming in volume, but don't let size discourage you for securing a couple of different ones.

The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns is a good starter, as is the classic Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. A couple of more recent ones which are more in-depth, but geared for laymen and are easy to read, are Robert Reymond's New Systematic Theology and Robert Duncan Culver's Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. You may not agree with every conclusion a particular author makes with his points of theology, but a good systematic theology will help immensely with framing a theological structure built upon a strong foundation of daily Bible reading.

Realize that you will not be an immediate expert in all things theological and apologetic. But, you will be developing habits which will serve you well when you evangelize.

Second, Know Your Friend.

A second important truth to keep in mind as you prepare to engage the world with the gospel is to remember you are engaging unbelievers. We tend to forget this sometimes. Even though you have a friend who is sweet and nice, he or she is a sinner in need of a savior and it is the main reason a person is resistant to your message of salvation.

I mentioned the state of the unbeliever in the second article I wrote in this series, so I would review it, but to remind us of some basic facts concerning the unbelieving friend you are about to engage:

- Your friend will be deceived by the world's wisdom of this age. He may be enamored with so-called experts perceived as authoritative in his life. These authorities can take many forms: false religions, pseudo-Christian cults, secular personalities. Who, or whatever, this authority is will hold sway in your friend's heart by forming his perceptions and presuppositions about reality.

- As a result of sin, your friend is darkened to spiritual truth (Ephesians 4:17 ff.). He doesn't properly understand spiritual truth, and may in point of fact think you are "nutty" for believing any thing spiritual to begin with.

- Your friend is also hostile to God. He is opposed to the Law of God and ultimately doesn't want to have anything to do with it (Romans 8:5-9). His hostility may be mild or severe depending upon the person.

Even though he is darkened to spiritual truth and hostile to God, you still must persevere with giving him the gospel. You possess the only message by which your friend can be saved. Only the gospel can bring him to a place where he is reconciled to God and live in a spiritually functional life pleasing unto the Lord. Additionally, you engage him in the power of the Spirit. Hence, God has mandated His people to present the gospel and He equips them with the ability to be effective, so regardless of how resistant your friend may be, God's Spirit can easily break through the hardness of heart.

With my next post, I'll consider some application. Now that you are prepared, what does a person do?



Blogger Ebeth said...

Thanks. This is really helpful.

8:21 AM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Interesting Fred. Fred, I think that those who say they've been Christians for a long time and don't know the Bible well are false converts. I think the probability is high. Does not the fact that a person says they've been a Christian 10+ years and they don't know scripture prove that God's preserving power isn't in their life? I think it's as you said, Fred. If you're truly saved you will enter into a personal relationship with Jesus and want to know him. A person will strive to know their lord. They will strive to understand what God requires of them and God's nature. Fred, Peter told us that if a person is not growing in goodness, knowledge, self control, preservence, godliness, brotherly kindness and love; that they are near sighted and forgotten they've been cleansed of their sin. Fred it's a narrow gate and I think it's true that few find it. Most who I know who say they'er Christians think of God as "the man up stairs". They would claim to be a "baby in their faith" even after saying they'er a Christian 20+ years. Fred their Bible is the TV. The TV is what shapers their world view and it's where they get their presuppositions. If they don't read their Bible and pray to the Lord for help to understand then where is their reverence for God? If they go to church on sunday and turn into Mr(or Ms) Hyde then come home an hour later and go back to being Dr Jeckel they'er full of hypocrisy. Jesus warned the disciples of the "leven of the pharisees". It only takes a little to go through the whole lump. Fred, most also think that a Christian who knows the Bible should be a pastor or teacher. They think this as if it's not their responsibility to know the lord and live for his glory. Don't you think that this proves they have belief but not faith, Fred?

1:16 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I believe you are generally correct with your assessment. Many folks who don't read their Bibles are probably not Christians.

But, I do recognize this is not necessarily true in all cases. What I have in mind are individuals who are biblically illiterate primarily because they may not attend a Church where serious Bible study is encouraged.

I have many acquaintances who attend churches with a seriously relaxed view of Bible study. Their understanding about God comes from programs, or materials that are not necessarily biblical or even grounded in the Bible.

I have one buddy back east who attends a church where the main discipleship program is Neil Anderson's "Bondage Breaker/ Devil Chaser" nonsense. It may teach the Bible, but does so inaccurately. Hence the person is misguided as to what the Bible teaches. I would not conclude individuals who were led into that program as being unsaved, but just misled.

Moreover, I had a dear friend in college who had never been taught the Bible formally at her rural church where she attended in Arkansas. During her first year at college, she encountered a bunch of us Christians with a high view of scripture and it totally caused her to come alive. She was saved, just her spiritual growth was stunted. She didn't read the Bible, because it had not been encouraged for her to do so by her pastor. Her positive response was her being awakened to the reality of scripture.

Those are the types of folks I have in mind.


1:33 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger Pastor Chris said...

I thought this was pretty well thought out. Just came across your blog today for the first time.

It is very wise advise to know both what you believe, and why you believe it. I think they why question might be more unique for each person, as it often gets into their own testimony.

Pastor Chris

11:12 AM, June 06, 2007  

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