Category Archives: Evangelism

Thoughts on Jonathan Edwards and Witnessing

So, in my American Literature class the last week we’ve been looking at Jonathan Edwards and the inevitable Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Something the (very atheistic) prof mentioned was that when Edwards delivered this sermon, it was done in almost a monotone. He likely read it directly from his notes and hardly made eye-contact with his audience at all. It’s a little mind-blowing that it had that effect it did when you consider that. Then again, there was another factor he mentioned that might help explain it.

To the modern reader, Sinners is filled antiquated language and illustrations and obscure Biblical references. To the congregation Edwards preached to, it was completely different. That was their everyday English, slang and all in one or two places. The illustrations of arrows and rotten coverings over deep pits would have hit very close to home for an American congregation in 1741. And the way the Puritans, even at that point when they were (in Edwards’ mind) backslidden, puts this Bible college graduate to shame. The audience was familiar with what Edwards had to say. He was speaking their language right at their level.

Then it hit me that the same thing probably answered something that had confused me about my classmates. You see, despite how the professor was teaching it- basically analyzing the style and surface meaning and breaking down the concepts of the sermon- it had a far deeper impact on me. From prayer and self-examination to intense conviction about the need to be witnessing, the study affected me like a sermon. For my classmates, they were just bored with it. I couldn’t understand at all how they could miss the significance of what Edwards was saying to us from hundreds of years ago. And then it hit me. They were totally unfamiliar with the ideas being discussed.
I may not be a Puritan, but I have enough of a background in the church that Edwards’ preaching impacted me much as it did them. It was at a level that I could understand and grasp easily and that effected me because of that. But for my classmates, it went right over their heads. They didn’t have the tools they would need to really understand it.

Which brings me back to my own conviction in the whole thing. Witnessing isn’t as simple as it sounds. I remember one of my teachers back at CCBC saying that if you can’t explain the Gospel in terms that someone with absolutely no religious background could understand, you probably weren’t being much of a witness at all. Telling people the truth in a way that I feel is powerful isn’t good enough. If it doesn’t reach them at a level that they can truly grab onto and understand, then they’re no better off than my classmates: people who can have an educated conversation about the idea that we could die and go to hell and any moment without ever wondering if they should do something about it.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

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Lillian

It’s so strange the way that people come and go in our lives. Some people never really come, we’re born into a family and have a group of people around us who we can’t seem to get rid of. Some come almost out of nowhere and never leave, faithful friends who stay by us for a lifetime. Some come for a season of our lives, staying with us through highschool or college. Others step into our lives for a very short time, and then disappear again. I find myself wondering why. Why would God give us someone for just a few weeks and then take them away?

I met Lillian toward the end of last semester. A friend of mine had been cleaning her house all semester for her Community Service class and was looking for someone to help her out over the summer. In the middle of May, I walked to her house, met her, and agreed to work over the summer. Come mid-June, it was time to make good my word. For the next month and a half, me and one of my best friends walked up the hill behind campus once a week to Lillian’s house to vacuum, mop, make beds, hang up laundry, and do anything else she needed help with. We loved and dreaded spending time with her. She was the funniest, spunkiest little old Jewish lady I’d ever met. She was ninety-four-years-old and had a ninety-year-old boy friend. She had a little bit of a dirty mouth, and some very unusual theology, but we loved her and kept going, kept talking, kept trying to help her understand what we believe, and kept praying for her. She was so old and set in her ways, and it was discouraging sometimes, but we loved her, and that made it all worthwhile.

Then she disappeared. A week went by without her calling to let us know what day she’d like us to come up. When we tried calling her that weekend, there was no answer. We assumed she was out, left a message, and waited for her to call back. Another two weeks passed with no call from her and no answer at her house and we got worried. We went up to Lillian’s house and knocked on the door. No answer. Everything about the house looked too clean. We knocked on the doors of the houses on either side of hers. No answer. We went across the street to the house directly across from hers- there were cars in the driveway there at least. We knocked and waited impatiently, nervously, to see if someone would answer.

Finally the door opened, and a bewildered looking old man stared out at us. My friend politely explained that we were looking for Lillian, the lady whose house was across the street, and that we wondered if he knew anything about where she was. He seemed confused, but told us that he thought her daughter had moved her to a retirement home, but she certainly did not live over there anymore. We spent the next week and a half trying everything we could think of to track her down. The only contact information we had was for the empty house. We had no way of knowing where she was, but we did our best. But it was the third week of August. School started, and we didn’t have time to look for her. We moved on with life, thinking about her, wondering about her, and praying for her every now and then, but sort of giving up on hearing from her.

Today, the director of the Community Service program told us a story. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady named Lillian who they had been sending girls up to clean for for years. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady who said she gave her life to God last semester. A story of stubborn old Jewish lady who disappeared toward the end of the summer. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady who was moved to a nursing home by her daughter. A story of a stubborn old Jewish lady who passed away a week and a half ago. And I started to wonder.

When I talked to Lillian, she said she was not a Christian. She said she thought she would go to heaven because she was a Jew and had “Jesus’ blood in her veins.” But she told the girls who cleaned for her before us that she had given her life to God and asked Jesus into her heart. And who knows who she met and talked to after she vanished from my life. The Community Service director said we should praise God that Lillian is heaven now because of the faithful service and witness of so many girls over the years. And I didn’t know what to think. I honestly have no idea whether or not Lillian is heaven right now. It breaks my heart not to know. I would love to believe she is and that we’ll get to see our beloved crazy old Jewish lady in heaven someday. But I keep hearing her voice echoing in my head saying that she didn’t need Jesus to die to save her and Jews would never kill Jesus.

Is Lillian in heaven? I don’t know. But I guess that’s okay. If I needed to know, God would have told me. I do know that God is good, and that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. He had a good reason for bringing Lillian into my life, even for just a few weeks. And I learned how very true the opening lines of one of my favorite songs are. “We laughed out loud ‘til we cried and the tears were sweet. Midnight melted to morning, a moment faded to memory. All these days just slip away through our fingers, so don’t let go, hold on to every moment…”

This moment is really all I have promised to me. Yes, eternity is coming and in a sense I certainly have that, but once I get to heaven everything is final. For now, I have the chance to change things. I have the chance to reach out to people like Lillian. But who knows how long I have that chance. People come and go through my life as abruptly as Lillian did. Some stay longer, some I’ll never have more than a single conversation with, but almost everyone leaves eventually. Will there be things I wish I had said to them? Will there be tears of regret when I hear second-hand that my chance to reach them is gone? And most importantly… What will I do with this moment?


So Many People

Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten to go on a couple of trips, hence the sparseness of posts for a while. One trip was to southern California, and the other was South Dakota. Both were great, very enjoyable and relaxing after how hard I’d been pushing to finish out the school year. But there was something I couldn’t seem to escape. At Seaworld, at the beach, at Mount Rushmore, everywhere I went, there were people. Crowds of human beings rushing through life. Yeah, I know, of course the crowds are going to impress a little Midwestern girl from a small town, but believe it or not I have encountered masses of humanity before. But this year, it was different.

When I looked at those throngs of men, women, and children, at the “sea of faces” as Kutless might say, I saw individuals rather than just a crowd. I’d see a young couple with a baby and wonder if they would stay together long enough to raise her in a good home. A girl on a cell phone would walk by sounding worried and I would wonder what was going on her life. I’d see a group of teenage boys and wonder how many of them where just goofing off to hide what they were really feeling. I wanted to know their stories- all of them. I wanted to hear about the long chain of iron or gold that had made each of them the person they were. For the first time, it seemed so real that behind each face were the memories of a lifetime full of experiences. Each of them had felt happiness and sorrow, triumph and failure, love and rejection. I wondered how many had had the Gospel clearly explained to them by someone who truly cared, and how many knew the love of the Savior.

This world is so full of people, precious people for whom Jesus gave His life. People who live out their busy lives looking for fulfillment, yet never realizing that what they’re searching for is only a prayer away. How can I let a day pass without sharing with someone? How can I be so cold hearted to the suffering they’re all destined for? I’m so guilty of apathy in the area of evangelism. Please, pray for me as the Lord continues to open my eyes to the needs of those around me.


“My Friend”

My friend, I stand in judgment now,
And I feel that you’re to blame somehow.
On Earth I walked with you day by day,
And never did you point the way.

You knew the Lord in truth and glory,
But never did you tell the story.
My knowledge then was very dim;
You could have led me safe to Him.

You taught me many things, that’s true;
I called you “friend” and trusted you.
But I learn now that it’s too late,
And you could have kept me from this fate.

We walked by day and talked by night,
And yet you showed me not the light.
You let me live, and love, and die,
You knew I’d never live on high.

Yes, I called you “friend” in life,
And trusted you through joy and strife.
And, yet, on coming to this dreadful end,
I cannot, now, call you “my friend”.

~Author Unknown


How Shall They Hear?

Her name was Anna.* The first time I saw her was at church a few weeks ago. As usual, I’d been in the back with the little ones all morning. When I came out for worship practice, there she was, standing next to the worship leader, getting ready to sing with us. The whole thing struck me as strange, but I went on without commenting. We went ahead and practiced, Anna sang along, and life moved on. Later, I found out that before that Sunday, Anna had never set foot inside a church. She was fascinated by everything, seemed lonely, and started coming regularly, which has been very eye-opening.

The day after she first came, Anna attended our youth Bible study. We were going through John, and came to a reference to “the Jews” wanting to kill Lazarus because Jesus had raised him from the dead.

“Wait,” said Anna hesitantly, “isn’t Jesus a Jew?”
“Well, yes,”
I replied quickly, “but these are the Pharisees.”
“The who?”
“The Jewish religious leaders.”

She got this sort of dazed look on her face. She had no idea what I was talking about. We spent the rest of our study time that day going back into Biblical history all the way to the flood and giving her a crash course of everything major we could fit in. She had so many questions and was so eager to learn. That was one of the best studies we’ve had in a while, but it was so convicting.

I’d been, as Keith Green would put it, “sleeping in the light.” Somewhere along the line, I’d decided subconsciously that I wasn’t really needed in evangelism. After all, I live in the United States. Hasn’t everybody heard the gospel at some point? I guess not. Anna hadn’t even heard that Easter had anything to do with the Bible. How could I go merrily on with life, never even realizing that there are kids right here in my little hometown who have never heard the good news? How can I be so blind to the suffering they’re destined for?

One of my most heartfelt prayers right now is for evangelists right here in America, and for the courage to be one of them. On my own, I know I’d never have the strength to tell someone that their beliefs are wrong, but I trust the words in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

In looking at the pain, apathy, and wrongs of my generation, I see a desperate cry for a savior. To a large extent, those kids are turning to the wrong methods of survival because the right ones have never been presented to them in an understandable way.

For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe if they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? ~ Romans 10:13-14

 

*name changed