Sunday, July 15, 2012

Re RePeter

Note: occurred to me I never posted the modification of the RePeter youth bible study that we did in the men's group. It added some good discussion, and lead to the Go Forth evangelism study we did this month. 

Go Forth

Note: Our men's bible study this month was a bit different than usual. Instead of our usual digging into scripture, we went through the materials from Evangelism Explosion, which was a James Kennedy program for equipping his churchmembers to talk to people about salvation.  I asked the men to bring the scripture and personal connections to the topic.  As it is, this was way too long for an hour plus. But, going through the basics of salvation was clearly worth it, even for this bunch of experienced guys. I've added a couple of the scripture connections they added in parentheses.

Recent bible studies we’ve done have had a big message or discussion point about sharing Christ with others. Pastor Lee shared his Evangelism Explosion (EE) text and some of his experiences. From the text it sounds like it started as a visitation program to people who had tried Pastor Kennedy’s church.

Presentation of the Gospel
The two questions
1) Do you know for certain if you die that you will go to heaven?

2) If God were to ask “why should I let you into heaven?” what do you think you would say?

The big points
Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
3)    As we go through these, let’s consider how we make sense of it, how we might explain it to someone else, and what Bible verses or stories it brings to mind. You don’t have to know chapter and verse – we’re just looking for connections.

A.    Grace.
  • Heaven is free.
  • We can’t earn it.
  • This completely free idea is the only way it could work.

B.    Sin. Ps 53:3 “Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Matthew 5:48, 1 John 1:8-9)
  • We are all sinners: thoughts, words, and deeds - done and left undone.
  • We cannot save ourselves.

C.    God.
  • God is merciful.
  • God is just.

D.    Jesus.
  • He is God and Man.
  • Salvation is through Him and what He did.

E.    Faith. (Rom 10:9)
  • Not acknowledging Jesus existence, his crucifixion or even his resurrection.
  • Salvation is through Jesus alone. Knowledge, assent, and trust.

Two Passages on this:
Ephesians 2:1-9 You were once dead because of your failures and sins. 2 You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God’s anger just like everyone else. 
4 But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. 5 We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness[a] that saved you.) 6 God has brought us back to life together with Christ Jesus and has given us a position in heaven with him. 7 He did this through Christ Jesus out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come. 8 God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. 9 It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it.

Romans 3: 21-26 Now, the way to receive God’s approval has been made plain in a way other than Moses’ Teachings. Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets tell us this. 22 Everyone who believes has God’s approval through faith in Jesus Christ.
There is no difference between people. 23 Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory. 24 They receive God’s approval freely by an act of his grace through the price Christ Jesus paid to set us free from sin. 25 God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given through faith in Christ’s blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past. 26 He waited so that he could display his approval at the present time. This shows that he is a God of justice, a God who approves of people who believe in Jesus.

4)    What connections do you see between the gospel presentation points and these two passages?

Then what?
5)    In EE and Billy Graham revivals this is where they ask the person to make a statement of faith or pray the sinner’s prayer. What would you do with someone at this point?

Smoothing the Way
Some features of the EE method are to: create a transition to the gospel, earn a right to ask personal questions, find out where the person is, create a desire to hear the gospel, ask permission to share

1 Peter 3:15 “Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.”
  • People argue doctrine; testimony is your personal experience.
  • Chance to share what’s good now about salvation: fellowship, peace, love, forgiveness, new perspective, freedom in a real, concrete way.
  • OK if you don’t remember becoming a Christian. Telling your own story with your own facts.

6)    How does being saved make a difference in your life?

1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Don’t despise what God has revealed. 21 Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good.
  • avoid argument, be positive, acknowledge truth.
  • OK to postpone if it’s extraneous. “That’s a different question. What I was trying to say…
  • OK to answer later. If it’s a relevant question, but you don’t have an answer, say so and that you’ll think about it and get an answer.
  • Common objections:

  • What about all the non-believers?
  • God wouldn’t send anyone to hell/hell isn’t real.
  • Why believe the Bible?
  • It can’t be free/works must play a part.
  • Atheist/materialist/agnostic/pagan.
7)    How do you answer these? What other objections do you hear?

Follow up. It’s about discipleship, not a single big moment. Works come in as a response to grace. A thank you.

In addition to the study, I brought this list culled from some recent blogposts, linked below, from a Christian writer.  I meant these for discussion - please take his notes with a grain of salt.

Cliches Christians Should Avoid. From 3 different articles by Christian Platt. See
I’m uncomfortable with some of these, but his full list (29 items long) includes some things I wish Christians wouldn’t say (like “God helps those who help themselves” or “God must have wanted another angel”) so they are at least worth considering and maybe answering. If nothing else, they show potential sticking points.  For the following: would you avoid these in talking to people about Jesus, or are they important to include?

Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?” Too often, Christians presume we have something everyone else needs, without even knowing them first. Ask someone about their story, but maybe not the second you meet them. Christian evangelism often is the equivalent of a randy young teenager trying to get in good with his new girlfriend. When your personal agenda is more important than the humanity of the person you’re talking to, most people can sense the opportunism from a mile a way.

Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior?” Again, this is not in the Bible. Anywhere. And for me, it goes against the whole Christlike notion of the suffering servant. People tried to elevate Jesus to the status of Lord, but he rejected it. So why do we keep trying? Plus, the whole idea of a lord is so antiquated, it has no real relevance to our lives today. Be more mindful of your words, and really mean what you say.

Jesus died for your sins.” I know, this is an all-time Christian favorite. But even if you buy into the concept of substitutionary atonement (the idea that God set Jesus up as a sacrifice to make good for all the bad stuff we’ve done), this is a abysmal way to introduce your faith to someone. I didn’t ask Jesus to die for me, and if I’m not a Christian, I really have no concept of how that could possibly be a good thing. he whole idea of being washed clean by an innocent man’s blood is enough to give any person nightmares, let alone lead them into a deeper conversation about what Christianity is about.

Are you saved? I’ve addressed the theological understandings of hell and judgment in other pieces, but regardless of whether you believe in hell, this is a very unattractive thing to say. First, it implies a power/privilege imbalance (ie, “I’m saved, but I’m guessing you’re not based on some assumptions I’m making about you), and it also leaps over the hurdle of personal investment and relationship, straight into the deep waters of personal faith. If you take the time to learn someone’s story, you’ll like learn plenty about what they think and believe in the process. And who knows? You might actually learn something too, rather than just telling others what they should believe.

Christianity is the only way to God/Heaven. You may believe this with your whole heart, and I’m sure you have the scriptures at the ready to support it. But consider the possibility that either those you’re speaking with think differently about this, or if they haven’t put much thought into it, that what you’re saying feels like an ultimatum or a threat.  Yes, there are texts to support a theology of exclusive salvation, but there also are some to support a more universalist notion of salvation (John 1:9 – “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”). And think about how such a statement might sound to someone who has lost a loved one who was not a Christian, at least by your standards of what that means. And theologically speaking, it opens up a whole Pandora’s Box in answering for the fate of all those who lived before Christ, who never hear about him, and so on.

Antidotes to the Clichés to avoid:
  1. Listen more; talk less.
  2. Stop trying to fix everything.
  3. See yourself in the “Other.”
  4. Pray.
  5. Quality over quantity.
  6. Share generously of yourself.
  7. Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong.
  8. Apologize.
  9. Own your love.
  10. Make sure your life reflects your faith.