As Christians in the United States, in the 21th century, we often send groups to other countries to help them physically (with doctors and medicine), economically (building and teaching them valuable skills), and spiritually (bringing them the truth of God’s Word). As important as this work is, our nation too needs missionaries of the gospel, revolutionaries who, like the apostle Paul, are willing to turn the world around them upside down by shining the light of Christ around them, even they are mocked, ridiculed, or worse.
What We Have to Face
In other countries (especially those run by atheistic and Muslim governments), Christians face horrific treatment, including torture, imprisonment, and possibly even death simply because of what they believe. We often don’t face this kind of treatment in the U.S., but in fact we do have to face the spiritual equivalent. Ours is a society based on pride, materialism and greed, when the Bible teaches to put others in front of you and that money is the root of evil.
Christianity in America during the past quarter-century has had to face terrible image problems. 9 out of 10 people on the street will tell you that Christianity is little more than a bunch of rules: Basically, going to church, tithing, obeying the Ten Commandments, this kind of “going through the motions.” Plus, the image of the “fire-and-brimstone” preacher, condemning people and screaming that they will be going to hell is engraved in many people’s minds; like they say, “It’s easier to catch a fly with honey than vinegar.”
Another problematic image the Christian community must fight is that of the hypocritical preacher; I personally have seen people put down Christians because of a few high-profile people like Jimmy Swaggart (who was caught with a red-haired prostitute) and Jim Bakker (who committed adultery and, along with his wife Tammy Fae, was charged with fraud).
It would not be inaccurate to say that the Word of Faith movement, a heretical movement within Christendom which is supposedly a branch of Pentecostalism but is instead a mixture of the gospel, greed, and Eastern mysticism, is responsible for a lot of bad press. Yet other images include the Catholic Church (which many think is representative of all Christianity) with its recent sex scandals, and the Protestants (specifically Pentecostal) penchant of speaking in tongues, rolling on the floor, making people very uncomfortable and turned off to the truth of God..
If you are open about your faith, you will not only face verbal abuse, but in some circles, you may lose your job because voicing your faith may be construed (sometimes not necessarily truthfully) as proselytizing—which would be illegal at that place of work.
How Do We Go About it?
Sometimes the best way to describe something is by saying what it isn’t. Witnessing IS NOT:
· Grabbing someone and yelling: “YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!”
· Dragging someone to church with you.
· Telling people with bad reputations that they’re scum. Everybody has sinned, including you and me. The only Person that has never sinned was some Carpenter from Nazareth two thousand years ago.
· Carrying a big ol’ Bible around with your school books, and force-feeding Christian music down your friend’s throats.
I have heard people say: “Preaching the gospel using words is necessary.” When someone becomes a believer in Christ, a remarkable change comes about:
“Therefore, in anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
Believe me, people will notice this change. Not only will they notice, they’ll want to know what happened to you, why you have changed. This will be one of the best opportunities we have to be witnesses of Christ. You can tell them about how God has changed you, and that they can find this change as well.
Of course, we also can find opportunities to tell people about Christ. I once went to the National Holocaust Museum with my history class. I sat down with one of the kids in the class, a German exchange student, in the room with all the shoes. It is possibly the saddest thing I have ever seen, and I am starting to cry now as I write these words. I was touched most about how the atrocities Hitler committed for those few years, will be repeated by Antichrist during the Tribulation; not only will it happen in just Germany and Poland, but globally.
I told this fellow student, the one from Germany, about how this will happen, about the Rapture and the Tribulation. I hope I somehow reached him for God. I was not pushing/dragging Him to Christ, nor was I warning Him, saying things like, “Accept Him now, or you’ll be damned to spend seven years of hell on earth,” but I did tell Him about Christ. I pray that it touched him. Also, when I worked at Boy Scout summer camp the summer, I remember the first week of camp leading a young camper, maybe 10 years old, to Christ, praying the prayer with him. We can find opportunities to tell people about the love of God everywhere.
Get Out There! Yeah, YOU!
How can one be a witness, doing their own ministry? Well, there are lots of ways. I list several examples below of people using fairly creative ways to minister the gospel, including myself. Here are several general ideas:
· Prison ministry, helping those behind bars find freedom in the Lord.
· Military chaplain, providing our fighting forces with spiritual armor in the war on terrorism.
· If you’re into music, start a Christian music band, or go solo. It may not be as big as groups like dc Talk, Avalon, or Steven Curtis Chapman, but it’ll impact some lives.
· Start a Christian radio station (need not be music). You could do it locally, or run a shortwave shack, proclaiming the gospel all around the world. Stories are told of Russians and Eastern Europeans finding wholeness in Christ behind the Iron Curtain, because of shortwave broadcasts in West Berlin, and Chinese finding the freedom found in God through shortwave radio broadcasts based in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
· The Internet is currently filled with pornography, terrorism, and the occult. Internet-based ministries, given a good ad campaign, would be really successful. Imagine someone looking for naughty pictures online, and instead stumbling on a Christian site, finding the Lord through you.
· Help serve the persecuted church through the world by sending Bibles, clothing, medical supplies, and similar items. A local drive to help with this could be wildly successfully and a huge blessing.
· Obviously: become a Sunday school teacher, deacon, etc., at your local church, to help your congregation.
· Strange as it sounds, you could help prepare the Tribulation saints, even before the Rapture. How? Building and stocking an underground bunker. You could build it (make sure it’s nuke-proof) and put in secret rooms (to hide from the secret police, if they ever find it). Make it self-sufficient by stocking it fully and installing satellite communications, a power generator, and its own sewer and well (may work for your own home pre-Rapture). Save up lots of money for them to buy supplies with before the mark of the beast comes out to complete the deal. Obviously, not a cheap prospect, but it would be an incredible blessing to those Tribulation saints that would use it.
· Young people (my generation) have a great need to know the gospel. Teen missions, youth groups, and prayer meetings at junior and senior high schools are greatly needed.
I cannot tell you how many churches and believers here in the West in fact sit on their hands and do nothing, while their locality is hurting and in need of the light of Christ. I am the manager for my high school basketball team. When going to a big game at our rival’s home court, a private Christian school, I was horrified to see signs (remember, it’s a Christian school) saying things such as “Hammer the Hawks” and “Pluck the Birds,” referring to our school mascot, the Hawks, right below Bible verses. This was absolutely disgusting! A big problem I personally have
The Greatest Commandments
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV).
Live the Life
The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. —Brennan Manning, Free at Last: The Movie
I cannot tell you how many people have become turned off by the gospel because of some “bad apple” Christians, those that stumble. Some in my own family have been turned off to God because of it. I am certain that the high-profile scandals of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker caused many people in the West to reject the gospel, because it appeared that Christians were little more than “phonies” and “hypocrites.”
We must live and walk blamelessly in the sight of other men, because if we do not, they will be turned off to God. Especially in the area of lust, a terrible vice for us men (which, in many cases, make up a majority of the Christian leaders). Swaggart and Bakker were both caught in and lost their ministries because of extramarital affairs.
We will and fall—this is certain because of our nature—but we must control it and at the very least keep these so few and far between that people would be more likely to focus on our positive actions (i.e. our proclaiming the gospel, causing them to look at the gospel) then the negative ones. The best advice that I can give (which I follow myself daily) would be to just keep on loving Him, serving Him, and proclaiming Him with mercy and love, so much that we cannot lose sight of Christ.