Results tagged “witnessing” from Reformation21 Blog

Defending Door-to-Door and Open Air Evangelism

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I first met Nick Batzig in 1993 when I became the pastor of Golden Isles Presbyterian Church (PCA) on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Nick and his family were members of the church. Nick was sixteen years old and a member of our church youth group. I have always loved Nick and consider him a dear brother in the gospel ministry. Nick is very bright and an excellent writer and I have benefitted from a number of his posts. 

However, after reading Nick's post, "City to City Evangelism"--which recently appeared on Ref21--I believed that I needed to respond to it and defend the use of door-to-door evangelism and open air preaching. First, at the end of Nick's post he gives his "take" on how he believes a church can be most faithful and effective in evangelism. He mentions "equipping the congregation to be outward focused, intentional about inviting unbelievers into their homes and ultimately to sit under the preaching of the Gospel in the local church." He says this might look like a Christianity Explored course. . . hosting a Mother's of Preschoolers group. . . inviting friends to local church Bible studies. . ." And to all of these suggestions I say, "Amen. Wonderful." I have always said that I am in favor of any method of evangelism as long as it is doctrinally sound. By all means, we must equip our people with a desire to reach out to their neighbors, to have them in our homes, and hopefully to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to them. 

I take exception, however, with Nick's assessment that door-to-door evangelism is not for today, that it was probably not taught by Jesus, and that open air preaching was unique, reserved for "the intertestamental period which was a transitional period during which the New Covenant church was being established among unreached people..."

Nick objects to the notion that door-to-door and open air proponents use Jesus and the apostles as the paradigm for such ministry. He says, "The same line of reasoning is, interestingly, made by Charismatics with regard to many of the supernatural practices descriptively outlined in the book of Acts. Anyone reading the Gospels or the book of Acts must surely recognize that these were no ordinary times."

First of all, to compare Charismatic supernatural gifts with open air preaching and door- to-door evangelism is like comparing apples to oranges. Most of us would agree that the manifestation of the supernatural gifts at the time of the apostles were revelatory in nature and thus limited to the Apostolic era, whereas their practice of Apostolic evangelism was their way of "doing business." As Roland Allen states in his classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours, a Study of the Church in Four Provinces all pastors, missionaries, church planters must decide which paradigm of ministry they will choose to use. They may use what seems right to them, what the latest missiological studies may tell us, or they can use the paradigm of Jesus and His apostles. 1 I believe we should and must choose the method of Jesus and His apostles. Allen clearly lays out for us how the apostles and Jesus "got it done." The question is not, "What would
Jesus do?" Rather it is, "What did Jesus and His apostles do?"

Both Allen and Ray (The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary) are very quick to admit that the only explanation for the success of the early church was not their methodology, as important as that was, but rather the vibrant ministry of the Holy Spirit. While I am a strong proponent of door-to-door evangelism and open air preaching I am also very cognizant of the fact that if the Holy Spirit does not "show up" then our labors are absolutely and completely in vain. But the promised Spirit was poured out at Pentecost and every believer is baptized with the Spirit upon regeneration and every believer can and should seek the filling of the Spirit every day in their lives (Ephesians 5:18, Luke 11:1-13). May I state the obvious, the task of evangelizing the lost in any day, and that certainly includes today's post-modern western world, is impossible without the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It goes without saying, that such a truth must drive us to fervent, revival prayer.

Nick suggests that Jesus was not actually teaching door-to-door evangelism in Luke 10, that it was more city-to-city. At the very least, in this passage, we can say that Jesus was sending His disciples to the people of these towns and they did engage them in some form of door-to-door evangelism. Why? Because He told them, "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house. . . and stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you,'" (Luke 10:5,7). And when Paul gives his farewell address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus he reminds them that he did not shrink from declaring to them anything that was profitable, teaching them publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20,21). That sounds like open air and door-to-door evangelistic ministry. Some may suggest that Paul is speaking pastorally here about ministry to believers, but again one does not normally testify solemnly of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ if he is only building up the saints. And after Peter and other apostles were beaten by the Sanhedrin, they were sent on their way, but every day in the temple and from house to house they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42).

When Nick suggests that the Apostolic period was unique and therefore that open air preaching worked then but not now, then again I must strongly disagree. Of course the Apostolic era was unique but this does not mean there have not been many other powerful outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon open air preaching, both before and after Pentecost.

We know the Old Testament prophets preached in the open air. While building the ark, where else would Noah have preached but outdoors? And Jude tells us that Enoch, from the seventh generation after Adam, came with thousands of His holy ones to prophesy, to proclaim God's judgment, and to convict the ungodly (Jude 14,15). There were no synagogues at the time. Enoch and his fellow preachers clearly preached outdoors. Even after the building of the Tabernacle, Moses preached outdoors. All the prophets almost exclusively preached outdoors. The revival in Nineveh through Jonah's preaching was done outdoors (Jonah 3:4). Ezra's sermon which God used to bring revival was preached in the open air (Nehemiah 8:1-6). And in the New Testament era, it is true that Jesus apparently preached His first sermon in a synagogue (Luke 4:14- 21), but after that He mainly preached outdoors. Where was His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) preached? How about the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24,25)? Furthermore almost without exception the sermons mentioned in Acts were all preached outdoors. Obviously we need preaching behind a pulpit in a church building on the Lord's Day. That's a no brainer. But where in Scripture are we ever told to preach only on the Lord's Day? The gospel is to go forth daily, everywhere people gather.

Okay, so now I hope you see my point that open air preaching was done in both Old and New Testament times. But what about in more modern history? In their book A Certain Sound: A Primer on Open Air Preaching,2 Ryan Denton and Scott Smith cite Michael Green who in his book Evangelism in the Early Church says there is ample evidence to prove that open air preaching continued from the time of the apostles through the second century A.D. To go further, a preacher named Aldan, in the seventh century went from town to town on horseback preaching in destitute regions. And of course George Whitefield, Daniel Rowland, Howell Harris, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and William Tennent all preached to thousands in the open air in the Eighteenth Century. The great Reformed Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon devotes two chapters of his very instructive book Lectures to My Students on the viability and necessity of open air preaching. So to discount the practice of open air preaching is to dismiss a vital method of reaching the lost. I am not saying that open air preaching and door-to-door evangelism are the only means by which we should evangelize; but I am saying that we have no right to dismiss them as impractical in today's world.

I make a strong case for both open air preaching and door-to-door evangelistic ministry as well as answering the objections many have to open air preaching at Forget None Of His Benefits. 3 You may wish to read further there. 

I am sure Nick means no harm to the work of reaching the lost in our communities, but I fear that most of us, frankly, are looking for any excuse not to evangelize. Let's face it, most of us are cowards and don't want to face rejection and ridicule. I get it. So when a thoughtful brother like Nick questions the viability of door-to-door and open air preaching then it discourages people from actively engaging in regular, consistent evangelistic ministry. So, by all means, let's encourage our people to have an outward focus, to get to know unbelievers, and to have them in our homes, but at the same time let's champion those faithful evangelists who go door-to-door and who faithfully and Biblically proclaim the excellencies of Christ in the open air.

 

1. Roland Allen, a missionary in Uganda around 1925, wrote both Missionary Methods and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Both are must reads for any missionary, church planter, or pastor. May I also recommend another book which goes into even more detail, The New
Testament Order for Church and Missionary, written in 1947 by Alex Rattray Hay, a missionary in Buenos Aires.

2. Published by Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
3. "An Irrefutable Argument for Open Air Preaching," April 18, 2019;
Answering Objections to Open Air Preaching, April 25, 2019; and "A Case for Door to Door Evangelism," July 6, 2017.

 

Al Baker is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America, serving as an Evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship. He is the author of four books--Evangelistic Preaching in the 21st Century, Seeking a Revival Culture, Revival Prayer, and Essays on Revival. Al has also served as the organizing pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church, West Hartford, Connecticut; and, prior to that, as the pastor of Golden Isles Presbyterian Church, St. Simons Island, Georgia.

How many baptisms upon profession of faith have you administered or seen? I asked my church, as well as fellow pastors and ruling elders in the PCA, the same question. Overall, the answer was, 'very few.' Now, one of the easiest things to do is rationalize the numbers by explaining why they are so low (e.g., We do not re-baptize. Therefore, if someone was baptized as a teenager but came to faith in her thirties under our ministry, we do not administer the sacrament again). Examples like that do occur, but with the growing number of non-Christian households in this nation (i.e., USA), we would need far more instances like the aforementioned to sweep our shallow numbers under the proverbial rug.

I have announced to my congregation, on several occasions, that we want to see non-Christians come to saving faith and be baptized. And as I have been considering how to mold our church, humanly speaking, into a people who are zealous to see that occur, I was struck by the exhortation found in Colossians 4:5-6. Here is Murray Harris' expanded paraphrase of that passage.

"Be tactful and wise in all your relations with unbelievers; buy up every possible opportunity to influence them for the kingdom of God. Let your conversation always be graciously winsome and seasoned with the salt of wit and pungency, so that you may know how you should give an answer suitable for each occasion and each need to each separate individual" (198).

Before considering that a bit more, however, please allow me to say, 'thank you.' This is my final post at Reformation 21. No one has asked me to leave. In fact, I am surprised that I was never asked to leave. Next to Carl Trueman and Mark Jones, I may have caused the most trouble, especially with my posts about ethnicity and sex. Despite the unrest I may have created, I will no longer write for this blog simply because I have decided to refocus my attention a bit. Having a young family, planting a church, working toward my PhD in Hebrew, and many other things keep me quite busy. And writing for this great blog does take a percentage of my time that I can utilize in other places. Regardless of my reasons for leaving, again, I say, 'thank you.' Thank you to the readers, but also to Robert Brady, Gabriel Fluhrer, and Derek Thomas. You all have been great to me. You took a risk. You knew that I would write about things that are unpopular in our circles and that have not been previously considered on this blog. So again, thank you. 

At any rate, in a sermon titled, "And the Nuts and Bolts," Dr. Dale Ralph Davis, of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, in response to Colossians 4:5-6, said that Paul is exhorting Christians to responsive evangelism. Dr. Davis said, 

"Keep walking in wisdom toward those on the outside. Now, those are pagans, those who are not Christians. And you're snapping up the opportunity. Well, what opportunity might that be? Well, he mentions in verse 6 [that] your speech must always be with grace, seasoned with salt that you may know how you ought to give an answer to each one. It's talking about your relationship to pagans, those who don't share your faith. Don't look on them as a hurdle; don't look on them as a hinderance; don't look on them as a frustration; nothing like that but snap up the opportunity that they may give you. Dick Lucas makes a helpful point. He says basically what you have is responsive evangelism.... There are opportunities that come to you. You don't have to concoct them; you don't have to try to worm your way into them. It's something that comes as presented to you and you snap up the opportunity. And you did it with speech that is both gracious and seasoned with salt."

Provided Paul's exhortation to the church, at least in this epistle,  is to integrate 'responsive evangelism' in their, and our, lives, how can we do this if we do not spend much time with non-Christians? How can we do this if we do not cultivate relationships with pagans so that we can snap up, or buy up, every opportunity to "influence them for the kingdom of God"? 

This is another deterrent to evangelism: Christians do not spend much time with non-Christians. 

Christian fellowship and hospitality are amazing. The glories of spending time with other saints is one of the blessings of being a part of Christ's Church. And yet I believe we should also spend time with non-Christians. We need to snap up the opportunities that are given to us in order to share the gospel and invite non-Christians to church. How can we do that if the majority of our interactions is with Christians?

If that is you, that is you spend very little time with non-Christians, let me suggest two ways to change that.

1) Start local. Unless you live in Grand Rapids, MI, (that is a joke), you have non-Christians on your street. Begin by reacquainting yourself with them. Invite them into your home for a meal. Get to know them better than you do now. That will require you to spend more time with them.

2) Consider those at work. Consider inviting those at work into your home for a meal. Be hospitable to them.

As you begin getting to know other image-bearers, it is my prayer that the Lord will enable you to snap up every opportunity to influence them for the kingdom of God, and in his perfect timing, may he bring those persons to saving faith that you may rejoice with the angels in witnessing their profession of faith and baptism.

Sharing the Gospel is Inconvenient

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As I was walking from the restaurant to my car, I had one gospel tract in my pocket. I had purposed to give it to someone in route to my vehicle. Literally, that was my plan. I wanted to place the tract in someone's hand, continue walking, get in my truck, and leave. That did not happen. When I gave the tract to a man standing in my path, he asked, "What's this?" 

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Prov. 16:9).

When he asked me to explain the material newly placed in his hand, I felt like he was inconveniencing me. I did not have time, or so I thought, to explain the law and the gospel to him. If he had just read the card, he would have received all the information he needed.

Although I felt inconvenienced, I am thankful the Lord ordered my steps in a different manner. I was privileged to share both the law and the gospel with him. Once the conversation ended, he said, "This is what I needed." I was shocked. He later began attending church with me.

Sharing the gospel takes time, time we often do not believe we have. Sometimes we are so concerned with ensuring our plans are completed, we do not stop to consider that the Lord may have other ways he would like to utilize us. Sure, we know in theory God "establishes [our] steps," but when the theory becomes a reality, it rattles our me-centered paradigm. That is one reason why some of us may not share the gospel very much, if at all. It is inconvenient, rattles our self-centered approached to life, and thwarts our plans. 

It takes time to answer people's questions about the Bible, sin, judgment, and Christ. It takes time to establish a relationship with people, invite them into your home, not just on your good days but also when your house is messy and your children are ill-behaved. It takes time to call people, particularly unbelievers, and remind them of the law and gospel and set up times to have coffee with them. It takes time to invite them to church. It takes time. 

Do you have it? More specifically, will you make it?

If this is true about you (i.e., sharing the gospel is an inconvenience), what can you do to avoid this mentality? One suggestion is to pray because you have a heart problem. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your disposition toward how you see your time and how you see non-Christians. I am certain he will answer your prayer.
In 2011, hip hop artist, Shai Linne, released his album, titled, "The Attributes of God." In one of his songs, "Taste and See," he said, "The world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?" Good question - why? I believe many Christians are conditioned to retreat into the cocoon of quietness. "Don't talk about religion," many people say. Therefore, in an attempt to keep peace with our neighbor in the world, we embrace that mantra. But "the world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?"

I wear Christianity on my sleeve. That is what helps me evangelize. Whether it is with my neighbors or those whom I newly meet in the marketplace, I look for ways to insert my religion and declare the gospel (Col. 4:4-5). Depending on the circumstances, the way I approach the conversation may look different. Regardless of my approach, however, I do not want to seem forceful. In other words, I do not desire to fit an unbeliever's image of what it looks like to "force my religion down his throat." That is a difficult balance, and in some cases it is unavoidable, as the mere mention of Jesus may seem like you are being forceful. In those instances, there is really nothing you can do.

One of the things that helps me share my faith and invite people to church, all of which can be subsumed under the category of wearing Christianity on my sleeve, is be observant. Watch and listen. Look at what people are reading and wearing. Look at their tattoos. Listen to what they are saying, publicly, to the barista at Starbucks. Observe what people are purchasing at the grocery store. Look at their jewelry, body language, and just about anything else you can observe. As you do this, remain as natural as possible. You do not want to seem as if you are staring or being rude. Despite the potential awkwardness this may bring (i.e., watching and listening), chances are you are already doing this; however, it may not lead to a witnessing conversation. How do you get there?

As I am watching and listening, I try to determine if I have anything in common with those who share the same public space, or if there is anything they can teach me. If I notice tattoos or interesting piercings, that is always an easy icebreaker. "What do those mean?", I ask. The person, in turn, responds and teaches me something about his or her life. Since I have tattoos and piercings, we share those similarities, and during the conversation, Lord willing, I may be able to talk my tattoos, which entails a brief history about their significance. The significance of some of my tattoos naturally leads to the gospel message. For those who do not have tattoos or piercings, this may not help. Take the principle of finding ways to relate or be taught by others and apply it.

The shift from a general conversation to a spiritual one is likely what makes things the most difficult. How do you transition from talking about a football game to Jesus? How do you take a conversation with your neighbor about high school and move it toward the gospel? To be clear, a one-size fits all approach should not be adopted. What I do may not work in your context. It may, therefore, require some adaptation.

Despite all the programs that are available, which ensure easy icebreakers and a fluid conversation from the natural to the spiritual, I am tired of the artificial segues to conversations about Christ and his Church. In my opinion, they are a disaster waiting to happen. For instance, if someone is drinking a glass of water and you desire to engage them in spiritual conversation, entering a conversation by asking, "Have you heard of the living water?" is not likely the best approach no matter how closely you desire to resemble the conversation in John 4.

An approach more natural to my personality, which still allows me to wear Christianity on my sleeve, is to ask questions. In the midst of a normal and general conversation, I will ask people, "Do you attend church?", "What do you think about religion?", or "Do you mind if we talk about God?" It is a simple and straight-forward way to approach the subject. Interestingly, at least in my context, most people are willing to have those conversations with me. Perhaps they respect my direct approach, or maybe they have been wanting to have this conversation, but no one approached them about it?

Since there are so many ways to approach a conversation about Christ and his Church, it is difficult to state, concretely, how it ought to be done in all circumstances. Tailor your approach based on your personality and discerning the situation. Keep in mind, however, conversations about spiritual things may not happen immediately upon meeting someone new or even with a neighbor. Perhaps discernment dictates that the conversation should wait until you get to know the person more. Regardless of how the conversation unfolds, remember, "The world is not subtle, why should we be subliminal?" It is okay to wear Christianity on your sleeve. You have nothing to hide regardless of what the world says.

Witnessing to Homosexuals

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How do you witness to homosexuals? The answer is, "Like anyone else," but perhaps for some that is an over simplification. Regardless, we can at least agree on two things. 1) The use of the law in witnessing does not change, and 2) The gospel does not change. As an aside, regardless of the person to whom I am witnessing, there is a particular format I utilize. It is simply, God as creator, God as judge, and God as redeemer. You can learn a bit more about that here. You can see an example of that here.

Years ago, my wife and I used to visit an area in San Diego, CA that was heavily populated by homosexuals. We made a routine visit to this area at least once per month to share the gospel. Personally, it was a rich time. I had some amazing conversations with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

During that time, and since then, I have realized you have to be prepared to do two things while witnessing to some homosexuals. In part this was discussed in Rosaria Butterfield's book. Each of these things can tend to make you a bit uncomfortable, one more than the other.

In my experience, it almost never fails that homosexuals ask some version of the question, "Is my lifestyle sinful?" If you are reading this blog I hope we have the same answer; however, I am reminded of what my mother used to say, "It is not what you say but how you say it." You can respond with, "Of course it is! The Bible says..." or you can be more sensitive to the situation and brace, or prepare, that person for the answer so that you have a greater chance the conversation continues.

I have responded with the former enough only to know the conversation hardly remains after that point. Now, I say the same thing (yes, homosexuality is sin), but I attempt to prepare that individual for the answer by making a statement and asking a question prior to providing the answer. Borrowing from D.J. Kool, "It goes a little something like this."

"Is my homosexual lifestyle sinful?"

My response: "That is a good question to ask, and I intend to answer it, but you have to promise me that whatever my response we will still continue our conversation and even development a friendship afterward. Will you make that promise?" Depending on that person's response will dictate how I proceed in the conversation. 

Some homosexuals have a hard time being your friend if they know you believe what they are doing is sinful. They cannot maintain that level of discontinuity in their relationships with others. Notice I said, "some." It is not all. Either way, I want to establish that we should not think less of each other, especially as image-bearers, though we do not have identical convictions.

The second area, which for some tops the charts with an astounding, "I will not do that," is one that I find extremely beneficial.

Invite them into your home.

Have you invited homosexuals into your home?

This probably raises all types of questions. "What if he brings his boyfriend?" "What if she uses inappropriate language?" "What if he wears inappropriate clothing?" They are sinners; what do you expect? Asking "What if" questions is the responsible thing to do, but often times it can lead you into doing nothing.

In my experience, homosexuals are not as terrifying as some sections of the media portray them. They bleed red like everyone else and they have a conscience. In fact, some homosexuals have told me that they know their lifestyle is wrong. They prefer to live this way because they enjoy it.

For some, inviting a homosexual into your home is much different than a heterosexual idolater or adulterer. For my family, it is not. By that, I do not mean to remotely infer that all sin is the same; however, my family has decided that we want to dine with sinners (i.e., unbelievers) of all stripes. In our home, drug dealers, prostitutes, homosexuals, bankers, professors, and homeless persons are all welcome. Or as one rapper put it, I want to hang out with the wild things.

Our children will grow up around all brand of sinners (i.e., unbelievers) in our home, but that is okay. Can it be dangerous? Should we be cautious? Yes! But in most cases, that caution has not stopped my family from befriending sinners and inviting them into our home in order to get to know them and share Christ with them.

Ministry is messy. All you have to do is read the Gospels. Based on my experience, if you are hospitable to homosexuals, like anyone else, that enables the potential for a friendship to develop and for conversations about the gospel to continue. This is what has worked for my family.

The Death of Witnessing

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There are many impediments to witnessing (i.e., sharing your faith). Many of us are absolutely terrified. Beads of sweat begin to moisten our backs merely at the thought of evangelistic outreach. Sometimes we think it is better left to the professionals. They will say the right things; they will have all the answers; they will navigate the witnessing conversation appropriately. The list of impediments, some of which may be better categorized as excuses, is extensive. However, when you finally muster the courage to talk to others about Jesus, there is another force that prohibits you. In fact, it is not something you can control. It is technology.

Laptops, cell phones, loud stereo systems - I enjoy it all, but unfortunately some technology is the death of witnessing. Of course that is an overstatement; nevertheless, that is how I sometimes feel. To make matters worse, the technology to which I am specifically referring is one for which I have an affinity. It is the "i." If I had the money, my home would be full of "i" everything: iPads, iPods, and iPhones. They are all glorious. 

Prior to getting married I was a PC guy. My wife quickly and effectively converted me. I am thankful for her persistence, but as I go into the community to witness of God's marvelous works in Christ it is the "i" that causes me trouble.

Earlier today, when I boarded my flight from Washington, D. C. to Atlanta, Georgia, I was pumped to talk to the person sitting next to me about the gospel of Christ. He was not going anywhere; I was not going anywhere. We had over an hour to talk about the truths of scripture, but that did not happen. The "i" got in the way.

At one point I tapped him on the shoulder to ask him a question. He removed his earbud, answered my question, and quickly thereafter placed his headphones back on. He hardly gave me the time of day. He was not interested in having any type of conversation, let alone a religious one. I do not blame him. I blame the "i." I am quite disgusted that something I enjoy is contributing to the death of witnessing. Therefore, it is imperative that I get something off my chest.

Dear iPod,

I love you. I think you are great. You provide a variety of music and videos. You are there when I need you. You help me get through my work out, but sometimes you get in the way. Will you please be more sensitive? There is something much more important than your music, namely the gospel. In the future, will you consider when I am in your presence and quickly shut down? I want to talk to that person. Hopefully he will not be upset if you malfunction. If you condescend to my request, I will forever be grateful.

Yours truly,

LMB

Open Marriages and Drug Usage

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My wife tells me that I frighten people. Whenever we are in public and I meet someone new, I ask, "What's going on?" in a somewhat loud voice. It is not the content of my initial greeting that frightens people but the volume. I do not plan on changing. It is a way to break the ice with strangers and make people laugh. Typically at some point in the conversation, I try to transition from small talk to Christ and his Church. As a pastor this is fairly easy to do. Once I tell those whom I newly meet my vocation, the dialogue eventually migrates to the things of God. I prefer to establish my relationship with strangers on the gospel, or perhaps more accurately put by telling them the gospel during our initial interaction, so that as we get to know each other and the topic is approached again, they will not be surprised. Matt Chandler put it well. (Watch the first two and a half minutes).

Today (January 6, 2014), I had the privilege to bring up the things of God with someone whom I have known for about a year and a half. This extremely nice lady knows that I am a pastor. Therefore, she expects our conversation to eventually move toward the Bible. Almost every time I see her, we dabble our dialogue about Christ and his Church. To my shame, I have not walked her through the entire gospel message. Perhaps it is because I continue to interact with her while she is working. I do not know. I pray, however, that I will have the privilege to share the life-giving message of Christ with her. 

Meanwhile, I said something to spark her interest today about church that I have never said to anyone else. Normally, I give people a hard time when they use novice one-liners to introduce people into a spiritual conversation. Perhaps you have heard some of those one-liners. Someone has a glass of water and in an attempt to break the ice and pursue a spiritual conversation, a well-meaning Christian asks, "Have you heard of the living water?" Or if you find out someone enjoys rock music, you eventually get around to asking, "Have you heard of the chief cornerstone?" Years ago you may have heard something similar to these one-liners slip out of my mouth. I am too sophisticated for that now. Instead, I say other ridiculous things. Today was one such example.

When I saw this lady (let's call her, Susie), I invited her to church. Susie responded, "The church might burn down if I come." With a smile on my face, I said that she needs to come. "This Sunday," I said, "we are preaching about open marriages and drug usage." "What?" she asked. I repeated myself only to have her follow by saying, "I have not been to church in a long time; it will burn down." I retorted, "We have plenty of water." She laughed; I left. I did not think much of it. Minutes later she tracked me down and asked, "Can you tell me about what you are preaching on again? You have sparked my interest."

I do not know if I will ever tell anyone that I am going to preach a sermon on open marriages and drug usage again (see Genesis 29-30), but I am thankful that she was interested. I pray she accompanies my family to church this Lord's Day.

I guess you can throw this in the pile of, "Stupid things Leon says." Children: do not try this in your home town.