Dear Pastor….

Can I critique your sermon this Sunday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

(Note: This post is not about my own church or our sermon Sunday. This is a hypothetical that could be used for what I think are the sad majority of pastors in any church on a given Sunday. No reference to any specific person or timeframe is intended.)

Dear Pastor,

I wanted to talk to you about your sermon. I think you did a good job of showing that the Bible tells us that God loves us immensely. I think you were correct in that we need to live our lives accordingly with what is revealed in Scripture. I think your sermon did have some excellent application to it. Unfortunately, while I agree with that, I have a problem with your sermon.

You see, I write in the area of Christian apologetics and defending Christianity. All that you said is true, but I kept wondering, what if someone doesn’t believe the Bible is true? What does it mean to them? What about someone who could be even wondering if the Bible is truly a revelation from God?

If someone wants to believe in the love of God, can they believe in the message of love if they don’t know if they can trust the messenger of that love? Suppose I go see a doctor who is right, but he’s right 90% of the time. He tells me I have cancer and I need to undergo intense chemotherapy to treat it. Would it make sense to sign up immediately? Should I not consider a second opinion just to make sure? His message could be right, but I would want to know if it was right. If I knew he was right 100% of the time, I would sign up, but what if I have that 10% of doubt? What if he’s right and I have that 10% and never go get a second opinion? That doubt could kill me.

Pastor. Your congregation is encountering this doubt. Now of course, many people are firmly in a position where they will not wrestle with these questions. Many are not. Many of them are watching the History Channel and the Discovery Channel and National Geographic and reading the magazines and they see these specials about the Bible. Every time Easter and Christmas roll around, you have these specials coming out undermining something about the Bible. You had a movie like the Da Vinci Code come out and the book itself was quite popular and even a skeptical scholar like Bart Ehrman had a best-selling book on textual criticism calling into question the reliability of the Bible.

If that doesn’t leave you concerned, you’re not paying attention.

You see, you talked so much about what the Bible says and how to apply its message, but you said very little about the Bible itself. I’m not suggesting your sermon be apologetics, but wouldn’t it be a good opening to explain a little bit about the book you’re exegeting, when it was written, and some historical facts about it? This would not take long and it would also bring the text more to life. As it stands, if people don’t know the history of the Bible and when it was written and such, it’s essentially a text floating in air and it won’t take much to bring it down.

I understand you want to reach that person who is there for the first time also, but what if that person is an atheist? What if they’re a Jew? A Mormon? A Buddhist? You don’t know who they are. I don’t either. I do know that they won’t just blindly believe the Bible. They need some reason to do so.

Application is good and important, but is that all there is? Is the whole point of Jesus dying and rising again just so that we could be good people? I’m all for marriage enrichment and beating your personal problems and so many other things, and we need them, but you can have many of those things without Christianity. Christianity is not about giving good advice. It certainly will give good advice, but Christianity is about Jesus being the King of this world and how we must submit to Him.

If all we have is good advice, well Pastor, we can turn on Dr. Phil or Oprah or anything else and get advice. We’ve also never really been prone to follow good advice. I daresay that most people will leave the church and forget all that they heard in an hour if all they heard was good advice. If you give them a question that could be a thorn in their side that suggests that the Bible could really be from God and God could really have some authority on their lives, that is something that will not be easy to cast aside.

That’s something I want to hear. I don’t want to just hear moralizing from the pulpit because I can get that from anywhere else and from most any other religion. I want to hear what Christianity alone can tell me. I want to hear about King Jesus dying and rising again from the dead and not just what this means for me, but what it means for the future of humanity and the world that we live in. No other belief system can offer that.

Pastor. Let’s also not forget you have young people in your audience. Let’s even suppose the youth are growing up in good Christian homes, which is more and more becoming questionable since even many Christians are compromising in areas of morality, such as living together before marriage or endorsing homosexual practice. Is this young man or woman growing up in a devout Christian home safe? Not on your life.

Imagine them in their bedroom one day on the computer. No. They’re not watching porn, though you should also be concerned that many in your congregation are, but they’re doing something like listening to a song from their favorite Christian band. What do they see on the related videos on the side? “Ten Questions Every Christian Must Answer.” Pastor. What if that’s a video put out by an atheist? What if they get curious and click it? Have you prepared them for what they will see? If you know the answers to these questions and don’t prepare them, do you not bear some responsibility when they fall away? If you don’t know the answers, how can you get up and tell people the Bible is a revelation from God if you yourself have no reason to think that? Are you not the blind leading the blind?

They also won’t fall away for intellectual difficulties. I’m not sure if you watch any TV or movies pastor, but sex sells. It’s big on the big screen nowadays. We just had Fifty Shades Darker come out and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of women from your church went to see it. Believe it or not also, young men and women are greatly tempted to have sex. Women want to have that love and acceptance from a man. Many young men just want to have a good time with a woman and think sex makes them a man.

Do they know enough to know why they shouldn’t? Yeah. We can tell them what Paul said. If they can resist what Paul said on lesser things, such as talking back to their parents or overeating or buying things they can’t afford, why think they will be able to overpower the sex drive? Do you know how strong that is? If you don’t, I think you’ve just said a lot more about your marriage than you intended.

So you might say that when they engage, they’ll feel great guilt and will repent. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. If they don’t, then they will think the church lied to them. What else did the church lie about? Do you know how many of them are being told the church is trying to restrict them? Do you know how many atheists talk about liberation from the church’s teachings?

Pastor. Would it really hurt your church to know the historical reasons for believing that Christianity is true? Again, you don’t have to do a whole sermon on this. In fact, I don’t think you should, but you should at least touch on it. Now if you want to have a class separate from the sermon on this, by all means go ahead. That would be wonderful.

You still have an obligation to prevent your flock from falling away. Please also don’t tell them to just have faith. I cringe most every time when a pastor says that we need to have faith. Faith is a badly misunderstood term and one that an atheist will pounce on in a second.

Pastor. You might want your congregation to be safe and not put in danger from contrary thought. First off, they aren’t safe. Second, they will encounter contrary thought be it in the classroom or on TV or on YouTube or at the water cooler in conversation. Third, we are not called to be safe. We are called to do the Great Commission and the historic Christian church was not safe. They still aren’t. I just saw a highly reliable friend post a study showing that 90,000 Christians were martyred for their faith in 2016. 90,000 are martyred and you’re thinking your church needs to be shielded from contrary thought? These weren’t. They had to live in it regularly and they were incredibly faithful. In fact, they were probably more faithful than even you or I are. When your life could depend on if the Jesus question is true or not, you probably take it a lot more serious and you know, you probably live out that application a whole lot better.

Your congregation is not meant to live in a bubble. They’re meant to do the Great Commission. How can they do it unless they are equipped to do it? It’s not enough to get them to tell their personal testimony. Everyone has a testimony. Even atheists in debate will often open with their personal anti-testimony. We don’t live in a time where testimonies have the same effectiveness. Consider instead combining them with a good apologetic, and you could be on to something.

Pastor. Please take these words to heart. I encounter atheists most every day that used to be Christians and they are often extremely evangelistic and antagonistic. If you’ve ever heard of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, they were established by someone who used to be in ministry as well. The sad thing is many of these questions are easily answered if you just have a congregation that is at least semi-informed. You’re the only one who can determine that. Think about your own standing before God one day. Do you want to be responsible for people falling away and the damage they do? Do you want to risk that you could be?

I’m at your service if need be, but the ball is in your court. Please consider giving us something different. Give us a reason to believe and then to live differently.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Pokemon Go and Evangelism

How will you handle kids coming to church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I happen to be an apologist as readers know, but I also enjoy playing Pokemon. My wife and I are eagerly looking forward to Sun and Moon coming out in November. Not only that, we’ve found some of our neighbors are also devout Christians and play the game. Unfortunately, they’re also moving away soon, but we’ve enjoyed their company for now.

Recently, a new version came out for smart phones called Pokemon Go. This would have been every child’s dream when Pokemon came out years ago. It’s going out into the world and catching Pokemon on an electronic device. What on Earth does this have to do with evangelism?

It has a number of things to do with it. First off, in order to get supplies and a few extra experience points, players have to stop at places called Pokestops. These are well-known locations like libraries and post offices and other landmarks in a town. Oh! Practically every church you come across will also be a Pokestop and you have to get right up next to it in order to get the bonus. Not only that, if you wait just a few minutes, you can get that bonus again.

Second, there are also gyms you can battle at. These are also located at landmarks including, yep, some of the churches. Not every church has a gym, but some do, and players from each of the three teams in the game seek to come and take control of the gyms and that will mean that they are indeed coming to the churches.

To see how this all works, my neighbor and I decided we would go out into town. My wife came along as his wife was working and we went all over town stopping at Pokestops and battling gyms. On the way, we had a number of good conversations and fun times together.

In fact, this Saturday before the podcast, my wife and I are thinking of going out to a park nearby for a Pokemon Go event. Yes. You’re going to have players coming from the Atlanta area all to a park where we will meet each other and interact playing a game. We will be out around noon in warm weather at a park as will many others.

You know parents how you’ve been wanting a reason for your children to get outside? It has come. In fact, your younger children who can’t drive will need you. Take this chance to spend time with your children!

Still, I mainly want to write about churches. What I recommend you do is have someone from your church download the game and look and see. Is your church a Pokestop? If it is, take advantage of this situation. I would like to emphasize some thought over at The Wardrobe Door and some I’ve thought of on my own.

First off, if you have someone at your church who knows Pokemon well, put them to use! Get them out there and have them meeting people that come by. If you want to, set up something outside your church during the week that will indicate your church is a Pokestop and welcome kids to your church.

This could include having bottles of water or small snacks that you can give out to the children. Let them know what kind of church your place is and that will make an impression on the parents. Let them come in and enjoy wi-fi and air conditioning and this can be a good chance to talk to the parents.

Second, allow people to have their events at your church. Host a Pokemon Go event at your church on the weekdays and have kids from all over come by. If you do this, don’t make it a trap by having a sermon preached. Instead, let them come and just enjoy themselves. Try to focus on the parents as well if they stay. If not, let the kids from your church be there who are playing and have them form the friendships that can get the children in the door.

Third, host other kinds of events. Have a tournament around the card games. Have a tournament around the regular games. Be the church that when Sun and Moon comes out, you will be ready.

Fourth, try having some giveaways. Some churches are doing this and you could let people fill out an entry form once a day when they come by for a Pokestop and let them have a chance to win a prize. It doesn’t have to be a big one, but feeling like they won something for going by the church can be an incentive.

In fact, if you want to know if people are coming to the church, just look at some of the material already put out.

 

Not all of these I shared due to language on some, but pay attention. You have people who even can’t stand religion going to a church to collect Pokeballs. If you have an apologist at your church, now is a time to use them when they show up. This will especially also help show your church that Christians don’t cut themselves off from everything. The Gospel is not opposed to fun after all.

I can already anticipate some objections. Some of you will be saying that we don’t need this to do evangelism. That’s true. We don’t, but you know what? We have it. Why not take advantage of it? Why not use it? If this is a way that we can get to spread the Gospel to people who are coming to our church, why not go ahead and do that?

I also hear it being said that the message should be enough to draw people to the church. Yeah. Keep that up. How’s that been working for you? It will be a draw if you’re dealing with people who are Christians who already love the message. You’re not. What you’re dealing with are people who are lost many times and now have a reason to go to church.

Consider raising children. Parents want to raise their children to eat well and study in school. It should be that being healthy and having a successful career is enough of a draw, but it isn’t. Usually, we’ll give incentives and punishments to help children do these tasks until they come to appreciate them on their own. Wait until your children value health or a successful career on their own and you’ll be waiting awhile. Give them incentive and they’ll start doing it.

Some have also complained about dangers of Pokemon Go, such as there are some people hijacking it to rob victims. Yes. Believe it or not, technology can be misused. By that standard, that Bible you have at your church is misused by the cults, so you’d better not use it. Some people are misusing Pokemon Go. You can be the church that uses it well.

Some people are concerned that you will draw them in and then use bait and switch with the Gospel. I have a problem when it comes to many Christian movies in that they think they have to shove the Gospel explicitly down your throats. They don’t. Those of you who care about friendship evangelism should like this idea. Get to know the people as people who come by and give them time. Do encourage them and if you see an opportunity, you can talk about it, but I wouldn’t be confrontational in this case. Just be there and if they have questions, answer them. Let your church be the church that everyone in town is talking about.

Speaking of talking about it, what makes me think this will happen. Look at the above tweets. When was the last time you had people tweeting so much about going to church who likely are not Christians? You want to pass up this opportunity?

Also along those lines, please don’t come up with cheesy catch phrase about Pokemon and turn it into Jesus and please don’t try to come up with a Christian version of the game that you can play. Just use the game as it is because when Christians try to copy things like this, they end up for the most part just looking ridiculous. That turns people away.

Some people think that Pokemon Go is being used as a lure in this case. The point is that Pokemon Go is already a lure. The people are already coming and they can’t just drive by at 45 MPH and get the bonuses. They have to make a deliberate stop. If they’re there, talk to them. Take advantage of it.

There are many people talking about so many events in the world that are important. We are talking about the Dallas shooting and we are talking about the Presidential election, but many of us are talking about Pokemon Go. That last one can greatly be used by evangelism. Take advantage of the opportunity. We finally have people we want to reach coming to church. I can only imagine what the Apostle Paul would do if he found a way to get people to come to church of their own accord. What would he do once they got there?

Also, your young people who don’t think they contribute to the church sometimes? They can have a sense of contribution just by playing a game and just by hanging out with others playing a game. Give them an idea that they are significant. Let them help out. You can have it that the kids talk to the kids while the parents talk to the parents. Use this opportunity to tell them about your church and then when in the church, tell them about Jesus.

As for me and my wife, we’re going to be enjoying our game, but I certainly hope churches use this opportunity. You have children coming to your door. Are you going to drive them away, or are you going to be there waiting for them in preparation for getting them there on Sunday morning to give them the Gospel?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Happy Fourth of July

Are you enjoying the 4th of July? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today we celebrate the fact that we are supposed to be a free people and this based on an event that happened 240 years ago. My wife and I will be celebrating by going to see her parents for a cookout. I’m also bringing Apples To Apples with us in case we want to have some gaming going on. Naturally, I’ll have my books with me as well because they tend to go everywhere with me.

Yet today, I wonder more and more if we’re not taking our freedoms for granted here. We’re living more and more in a society where businesses are being told how they must run their business and who they must sell their goods and services to. Whenever this happens, our freedoms die little by little.

I fear a world where we have way too much government inclusion. It’s what I call the nanny state. It’s too often looking like we are implicitly told that we are too stupid to know what’s good for us so we need the powers that be to come alongside of us and tell us what is good for us.

Many of us who are Christians are also worried about what we can do to stop the downward slide in our nation. There are some sadly who think that since Jesus will return soon, that this is what’s expected and this world is going to be done away with anyway so why bother? Sure, this doesn’t match everyone, but I have met too many with this mindset.

What is my advice in this situation? If we don’t like the way the country is going, then what are we to do? My advice is simple. The church has to be the church.

We are too often passive in what we want. We say “We’ll just live our lives and wait for people to ask us about what we believe.” They weren’t like that. Paul went into the synagogues, where he would be challenged by those who would have the most knowledge about what the Messiah would be, on a regular basis and spoke from the Scriptures about Jesus. He went to the Greek marketplace and Mars Hill and spoke about Jesus. Never do we read in Acts

“And Paul went into the city and he lived a good and pleasant life among the peoples and they came to him and asked ‘Why do you not live as we do?’ and from that point on, Paul spoke about how Jesus changed his life and gave him new desires. All the people in the city were impressed and decided to follow this Jesus. Paul won many converts then in that city and went on to the next.”

Paul was one wanting to bring the message wherever he could. Today, we’re living more in response mode. We don’t lead in the culture. We respond to the culture. This is also shown in our Christian bookstores selling what has been called “Jesus junk.” Just take a popular saying of the day, put Jesus in it, and then put it on a T-shirt.

Some of you might be wondering what it will take to get the church to be more aggressive. Now note I don’t mean violently aggressive. There is no place for picking up the sword to do evangelism. What I mean is we are to be pro-active. For that, we need to train our people in what it is they ought to believe and know about Christianity and how to show it and spread it. Our Christianity has often been reduced to moralizing, particularly on sexual issues. Of course we should speak on those, but that is not all that we are about.

If the church gets to be the church again, we can change our culture. If first century Rome can be changed, then who on Earth can 21st century America not be? Of course, this doesn’t just mean doing evangelism alone. Christians should take the lead in charity, and in many ways we do. Christians should take the lead in academia. The best scientists, engineers, lawyers, etc. should be Christians. We should strive for greatness in all that we do.

Christians should also be able to rely less and less on the government. I think one of the sad reasons that we have so much government dependency today is that the church let the government do that job. We are to be the ones to take care of our own. Why aren’t we doing that?

Even if you think this world is going to go away soon, that doesn’t negate your marching orders. Jesus gave the Great Commission to be done. There is no plan B. There is nothing that tells us what happens if we don’t do plan A. We are simply told to do it and if Jesus is our King, then we will do it.

Today, celebrate the fourth, but remember if you want to hold on to those freedoms, don’t look to others. You do what you can in your own power to preserve them. Freedom is worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Should Christians Do In Light Of Cruz Dropping Out

What is the call of the church? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was pretty shocked when I heard the news last night that Cruz had dropped out of the race. Frankly, I hadn’t been too enthused about many of the candidates at all. Still, I did think Cruz was our best shot. As I say that, I know that there are many Christians who do support Trump and if you are one of those, this is still relevant to you.

Many of you were Cruz supporters. You were downcast and saddened last night. After all, we’ve gone through a hard eight years in this country. We don’t want more of the same. Many of us have been discouraged by the decisions of the Supreme Court as well.

In some ways, if you’re shocked, it will take some time to get used to. Our minds tend to jump to panic. I’d like to see I was a paragon of virtue in this. I’d like to, but I’d be lying. I didn’t rest well last night. I do get concerned about America, so what I say to you, I say to me as well.

I was talking with someone last month at a restaurant and he asked me about our country. I gave the same answer I always give. How do we turn our country around? The church has to be the church. We unfortunately have not been being the church.

We have become so individualized we do not think beyond ourselves. I find this best modeled in the lady I heard in a small group once say that she’s saved and her children are saved so she’s just going to wait for Jesus to come. What a horrible attitude! What about your neighbor’s children? If your children go off to college, will they remain Christians?

When we become the church, we will be living as Jesus lived. We will give as He gave. We will sacrifice as He sacrificed. We will care about the things that He cared about, and there are many areas I have to improve on that personally. A pastor at our church gave a sermon on prayer lately that showed me that yes, I have a long way to go. We all have many such areas.

Bart Ehrman actually gives an interesting example of this. He’ll give a talk to his incoming students in his classroom. Keep in mind, this is an agnostic saying this. These classes will have about 400 people in them. He’ll ask how many of them agree with the proposition that the Bible is the Word of God. WHOOSH! Nearly every hand goes up. Then he’ll ask “How many of you have read The Da Vinci Code (Or whatever the book of the day is. I’ve heard Harry Potter used for instance). WHOOSH! Nearly every hand goes up. “And how many of you have read the Bible from beginning to end?” A few scattered hands go up. Ehrman points out that he can understand wanting to read a great novel, but by their own admission, these students have just said the Bible is the Word of God and they don’t seem to care to read what He has to say. How many of us are much better?

As I went to bed last night thinking about the church being the church, I thought that it’s a shame we put our hope in politics so much. Of course, it’s not that politics is unimportant. We should care about politics. It’s that we already have a savior. We already have a Lord and Master. We dare not say “If our political candidate does not get elected, then all hope is lost!” No. The world will still go on. The Gospel will remain unchanged. Let’s list some facts we believe as Christians.

Fact: Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of the universe.

Fact: God is enthroned in the Heavens and laughs at attempts to usurp His power.

Fact: We have the Great Commission to do.

Let’s keep these in mind. Christ originally gave the Great Commission to His followers and you know what? They didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have cars and planes that could travel the Roman Empire. They didn’t have the best education. (In fact, the most educated among them could have been Matthew the tax collector who would have worked WITH the government as a tax collector) They were fishermen and they were told to go into all nations and make disciples.

All nations would include Rome.

You know, Rome, that empire that ruled the world. That empire that came to persecute Christians. That empire that demolished every attack against them. They were to give the most bizarre message that would have been given and they would have done so without being able to look back on past generations of Christians who had done the same. They didn’t even have a New Testament to preach from!

Of course, the scholar Paul joined the party later on and he did a great work, but he did it without all that we have today. He had to be the original pioneer in many ways. Can you imagine what Paul would do if he had the resources that we had today? Paul had no hesitancy in going to Rome even though he knew he was going to die.

We act like all hope is lost meanwhile based on an election that hasn’t even happened yet in a country where we are not yet fearing for our lives.

You see, it doesn’t matter if Trump or Hilary or Sanders gets elected or if Cruz or Rubio or anyone else had got elected. Our mandate is the same if Ronald Reagan is in office or if Barack Obama is in office. Our command is to be the church. We are to do the Great Commission. Our marching orders haven’t changed and maybe we panic because we have put our hope in government.

Unfortunately, we’re also great hypocrites with this in a lot of ways. When we talk about bathrooms, we say that people are not of the opposite sex just because they feel like they’re a woman in a man’s body or vice-versa. I agree. We dare not give authority to our feelings to tell us who we are. We look at Mormons and say the burning in the bosom is not the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and I agree. Then after all that, we look and say “Well I don’t feel like we can do anything and our country is doomed.”

Your feelings and mine do not overpower Scripture. You can have those feelings, and it’s likely you will, but we must work to overcome them. We do not determine the truth of God by how we feel and if we start doing that, then we are placing our feelings over Scripture. If you have a feeling that disagrees with Scripture, well so much for your feelings. They’re simply wrong. This is why we also need to preach the Gospel to one another and remind ourselves of the truth.

I also thought last night of how Jesus said that in this world we would have troubles in John 16:33, but He has overcome the world. Note that. He has overcome it. It’s not a future thing. It’s a done deal. We don’t see all the results of it, but Jesus has overcome. Ultimately, we’re on the winning side.

We’ve had a lot go wrong in our country, but perhaps things aren’t gloom and doom as much as we think. Years ago the Supreme Court defended abortion. Today, you’d find that more and more people are turning against abortion. I suspect the same thing will happen with their recent ruling on homosexuality and marriage. If our case is right, and I am sure it is, then we need not live in fear. A worldview like this can’t live for long. It will self-destruct. Some of us think we’re seeing this start in the whole transgender issue.

In fact, let’s look at the homosexual community. They make up a small portion of our population and yet, when they made a plan and acted on it and charged forward in the face of opposition and fear, look at what they accomplished. Now we claim that we have the God of the universe on our side and what are we doing in response? We are a far larger portion of the population than they are. The truth is the homosexual movement is doing more for their behavior than we are for Jesus Christ.

So what am I going to do?

I’m going to keep doing my blog.

I’m going to keep doing the podcast.

I’m going to keep doing apologetics the way I’m supposed to.

I’m going to keep doing the Great Commission.

I’m going to continue to love the wife God gave me.

I’m going to continue to strive to walk as Jesus walked.

And you know what, I’m going to do that regardless of who gets elected? I would do that if Cruz got elected. I will do it if Trump or Clinton or Sanders gets elected. I would do it if somehow Obama got a third term. I would do it if somehow Reagan came back from the dead and got elected again.

By all means, vote and be active, but don’t put all your eggs in the political basket. If you think things are going to be harder, well that just means we have more of a challenge. It doesn’t mean we have a big game over.

My wife and I like to watch The Flash for instance. Now if you have seen recent episodes, and we haven’t seen last night’s yet, we saw where the Flash lost all of his speed and it went to the villain speedster recently. My wife and I did not turn off the TV then and say “Well that was a good series. Looks like it’s all hopeless for him now.” No. Instead we look and say “Dang. I don’t know how he’s going to get out of this one, but he’s going to find a way and he will defeat the villain in the end.” Why? Because we know that’s how these stories work. The authors do not write stories where the good guys lose like that. We don’t have to know how the author will pull it off. We just know that he will.

The author of this story is God. He’s the one in charge. If I can have trust that the writer of a TV show will bring about a good ending, can I not do the same with the greatest author of all? He’s  in charge. Life is still an adventure. There will always be challenges regardless of who is in the White House, but we can still do great things if we’re willing to just get up and do them.

Your marching orders are still the same. Be the church. If you want to see the change, be the change. You will either be part of evangelism or a hindrance to evangelism.

I plan to be a part of it. How about you?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 4/30/2016: Luke Cawley

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Evangelism is sometimes said to be a lost art among evangelicals. We live in a world where we don’t really interact as much with people and make evangelism the focus. The early Christian church spread in an empire where there was no internet, few people writing apologetics works, and great persecution. We have so much more than they and we do so much less than they did. What can we do to improve our track record? How can we better reach those around us?

In order to discuss that, I have decided to bring onto the show Luke Cawley. Who is he?

me on stage

According to his bio:

I am a writer, speaker, trainer and the director of Chrysolis, an organization I helped start in 2012 with the aim of enabling others to better communicate the Jesus story.

Much of my time is spent in contexts where God is not typically discussed in depth. I love interacting with skeptical audiences in universities, schools, bars, cafes and theaters, and anywhere else I’m invited.

I also enjoy enabling individuals and Christian communities to better engage those around them with the story of Jesus.

I have spent most of my adult life founding and developing (missional) Christian communities on university campuses in Britain and Romania and am a regular speaker at conferences and outreach events in different countries.

I was previously part of the writing team at InterVarsity Evangelism and a columnist at the Church of England Newspaper. My first book, The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians and the Spiritual but not Religious, was published by InterVarsity Press in 2016.

I have an MA in Evangelism & Leadership from Wheaton College and a Certificate in Theological and Pastoral Studies (concentrated in Christian Apologetics) from Oxford University. I’m married to Whitney, a lovely South Carolinian school teacher, and we have three young children.

Luke is the author of The Myth of the Non-ChristianThis book is not about some kind of idea of universalism. No. It’s a book about how to do evangelism and reach three different types of people. Those people are the ones who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, atheists and agnostics, and then nominal Christians.
Cawley’s book is one that certainly got me thinking about evangelism and does so still to this day and with my wife and I having a new church here in the area we’re attending, I’m thinking of implementing some ideas if given the chance. Cawley’s book does have apologetics in it, but those are more resources in the back. Instead, consider it a book to be more like Greg Koukl’s Tactics in that Cawley teaches you more how to do apologetics and it depends on the person that you meet.
We’ll be discussing these kinds of matters. Why is it that some evangelistic encounters can fall so incredibly short? Is there a proper time to answer someone’s questions and a proper time to just cut through the questions? How does apologetics play a role in the process of evangelism? What do you do when you encounter people who say they are Christians but who do not really live lives that seem to match Christianity and you fear that they could be Christians in name only?
I hope you’ll be joining me this Saturday for the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also leave a positive review on ITunes.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: One Gospel For All Nations

What do I think of Jackson Wu’s book published by the William Carey Library? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Would you like to hear the good news of the Gospel? You would? Okay. Long ago our ancestors Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished from His presence. In order to bring us back, God sent His Son to us. He lived among us and died on a cross, but God raised Him from the dead and all who believe on Him can find forgiveness in His name.

Such is the way that a Gospel presentation can usually go. Now of course, when presenting the story of the Bible, one cannot give a full presentation of everything in the Bible, but isn’t it amazing how much is left out of this? Where is the history of Israel in this presentation? Does Israel have no purpose in God’s story? Where is the mention of Jesus being a king? You can see Him as savior, but will you see Him as King?

Jackson Wu is a Chinese scholar who writes about how to interact with Scripture in a more practical way to present the Gospel to all nations. After all, such an approach might work fine here in America to an extent (And that extent is lessening), but go to a more Eastern mindset and you could find it less effective. Wu primarily shows his own people of China as a different culture that contrasts heavily with our modern Western culture.

In doing so, Wu takes us back to Scripture and says we must look for the themes of covenant, creation, and kingdom. Whenever the Gospel is presented, we will find something of this there. You might not find all the themes, but you will find at least one of the themes.

This means also that when we go to another culture, that we can see how they interact with Scripture and find grounds of agreement first. We can disagree with the Marxist ideologically for instance, but could we find something we can agree on? We can agree with the desire to find a perfect society together. We can agree with the idea of removing distinctions that separate people. We can then show that these are also part of the new covenant in Christ.

The book also contains some interesting insight into Chinese culture where the goal is often to save face. How you look to the people around you means everything and if you don’t have a good reputation, it is as if you were already dead. There is also emphasis on how one treats their family, especially their parents. Picture going to this culture with the Gospel of the man who talks about how He must be more important to you than your own family and suddenly those ideas take on a whole new meaning.

Wu’s approach is contextualization. It means that we don’t just read the Scripture at face value alone, but try to interact and see the culture behind the Scripture as well. An honor-shame context is a better approach to understanding the Bible and as Wu shows by an example of Chinese culture, is still very much active in the world today.

Wu’s book is an excellent resource for missionaries or for anyone serious about evangelism. After all, to do missionary work today, you don’t have to go to another country. You can find people of another culture in our own neighborhood and you can turn on your computer and find people of a different culture. Wu’s book is one to read to better understand how Scripture and culture should interact together.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why They Don’t Go To Church

Why are there people identified as Nones? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I had a trip this morning and when I turned the car on, it was on talk radio, which I normally prefer to listen to because I really don’t care for most of the music today. We live in Tennessee and we’re still in the Bible Belt so we heard a conversation about nones and most people calling in to this local show were talking about material that would not have any interest to the nones. The nones are people who when asked to give a religion say none. It does not necessarily mean they are atheists. It just means that they do not choose to identify with any religion and the whole discussion on the show was based on a statement that only 18% of people attend church weekly.

Before too long, callers were calling in to argue over when the Sabbath was and verses were being misapplied left and right. Then we had the caller calling in to talk about salvation being only in Jesus. Okay. I agree with that, but that says squat about the nones. In fact, as I listened, I realized that this was the problem. Imagine going to someone who is a none and telling them salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. They might first wonder what you’re talking about with salvation and then if anything you’ll be told that they’re happy you found something that works for you, but it just doesn’t work for them.

Or picture the lady who called in and wanted to talk about sodomy some and how our nation is under judgment. (I use the term sodomy also because that is what she used.) Do I think homosexual activity is a sin. Yes. But here’s the problem. You go up to someone today who is a younger person and you tell them that homosexual behavior is wrong. Why? If all you have is “The Bible says so” then they will just be “So much more reason to not trust the Bible.” You could also get told about eating shrimp or mixed clothing or something of that sort. (In fact, this lady speaking had no problem with speaking about Old Testament Law and covenants as if there was a one-to-one parallel.)

But what about the Bible? Well if you tell them that the Bible is the Word of God, they’ll want to know why. What reason can you give? God says so? That’s entirely circular. If you point to your personal testimony, well many of the nones will be glad to tell you a personal testimony of how they went to church growing up and it just doesn’t work for them. Outside of the nones, I can show you plenty of Mormons who have a personal testimony. Do you accept their testimony that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God?

The problem is we’re not reaching the nones because they don’t really think they have something that we can provide for them and we have made church one of the last places that they want to go to. Many of you might be familiar with the work of Michael Patton from Credo House. He wound up getting addicted to pain killers and went to rehab and found that church would be a lot better if it was like that. People were open and honest and able to admit their failures. No one would bother trying to look good around everyone else because hey, if you’re in rehab, you already have some issues and you know it’s a safe place. Why don’t they do that in church?

Because church is not a safe place and so many Christians seem to think that if they are true Christians, they will show they do not have any major problems in their lives.

Church is also seen as a place that’s really pretty boring, and how many of us can relate. How many times is it that nagging can be called preaching? Why is it that the word “preach” has such a negative connotation to it? Frankly, if we think about something that we would want to do for entertainment, most of us would not go and sit down and listen to somebody speak for about half an hour. It’s just not something that we do. Add in especially that you don’t want to go and hear someone talk about how you’re supposedly doing everything wrong in life. Most sermons you hear at church are things you’ve also heard before if you grew up in the church. Church becomes a habit or a routine and you go mainly because some people are there that you like hanging out with.

Let’s also hit the big one. The question of truth is no longer discussed. Christianity has been reduced to an ethical system, as if Jesus just came to show us how to love one another and that was it, which entirely misses the point of the cross. Oh wait. The cross was just so we could go to Heaven when we die, which entirely bypasses any idea of “What am I supposed to do in the meantime?” We act as if the Christian life is just being a good person. You don’t need Christianity for that. The Greek and Roman teachers of the time of Jesus could have taught you how to live a life of virtue. Was Jesus highly advanced in His teaching? Absolutely, but most Romans, Greeks, and Jews were not going around in the first century struggling with an internal sin problem. They knew they weren’t perfect, but they had systems set in place already.

Absent from the church is any notion that Christianity is, you know, true. It’s completely foreign to our thinking to consider that we believe that a man came who was fully God in nature, lived among us and taught the Kingdom of God, died on a cross, and then rose again in a new and glorified body. We somehow forget that this is not just Star Wars happening long long ago in a galaxy far far away. We claim that these are events of history, and yet we have no reason normally for why we say that they are history beyond “The Bible says so” and when we got to why the Bible should be taken seriously, there is nothing. In fact, we seem to treat it like a virtue if we believe for no reason. After all, that is what faith really is.

Well no, that’s not what faith is. Faith is more trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. Believing for the sake of believing is not a virtue. It would not be a virtue to marry someone without having any reason for thinking they’re marriage material. It would not be a virtue to hire someone to watch your kids without any reason to think that they’re competent. It would not be virtue to send your child to a college without any reason to think that it’s a good college for them. Yet here we take an even more important decision, such as our eternal reality and say “But in this case, it is a virtue.”

Believe it or not, the nones don’t want to check their brains at the door and they think they have to. They think that if you are going to be a Christian, it means you have to have a prudish attitude towards sexual matters just because the Bible says so. It means that you have to be someone who opposes science because the Bible says so. It means you are a closed-minded bigot because the Bible says you have to be right. Most of them already believe it makes perfect sense to remove the gender requirement for marriage and since many supports the transgender movement, they really don’t even place much stock in gender anyway. Why should they take you seriously?

And this is where the church has failed. We have not kept up our intellectual standards. We have in fact fallen into the individualism of our culture and we are doing evangelism in the 21st century as if we were living in the 1950’s where all you had to do was go and say what the Bible said and speak about the love of God and give your personal testimony and that was enough. It’s not. I’d say they treat the Bible about as seriously as a newspaper, but most of them would trust a newspaper more. Why should they believe the Bible? Haven’t you read the Wikipedia entry on the Bible?

When we forsook our intellectual convictions, we ultimately turned the church into a self-help therapy session. In fact, listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian music today. A lot of it is therapy. It’s meant to build us up and help us feel better about ourselves instead of inviting us into the grandeur of God. This is just as much our individualism. Now of course the Bible itself says radical things about who we are in Christ, but the focus is the in Christ. The focus is not us. If I want to feel better about myself, I can just go to a therapist today. I don’t need to go to church.

This is also why the Sabbath debate was so concerning to hear. The nones do not care about when we observe the Sabbath. They do not care about it any more than we care about finer points of Muslim doctrine. If we want to look at how salvation is found in Christ, the nones don’t care about that either. They don’t see any need for salvation because hey, what kind of God would judge you so much? Isn’t God love? Most people really have no idea what to do with these people because they have not studied the issues and have no idea how they can reach people on these kinds of issues.

Most of us also are not doing the work. I have written about how we have an escapist mentality with my main example being a woman in a small group who said “I’m saved and my children are saved so let’s just wait for Jesus to come.” Yes. That is entirely what the Great Commission is all about. Get yourself and those you love taken care of and who cares about the rest of the world? Note also the emphasis on getting saved. The emphasis is on God forgiving you. The emphasis is not on spreading the message of the Kingdom of God and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.

We all realize that if we want to witness to people in another culture, we need to learn the language and customs and such of that culture so we can speak to them. What we have not realized is our neighbor is often that other culture. You have totally different worldviews residing here in America. How are you going to do that evangelism? You might actually have to learn what your neighbor believes and why they do. Believe it or not, you could also bear to learn what you believe and why you do. Have you ever thought about why you believe what you believe? If you haven’t taken the time to think about why you believe what you believe, why should anyone else take such time?

The nones are a sign that we have failed in our intellectual mission in the West. We have abandoned the rich heritage of the church before us and come up with a church that is all about me and does not provide anything the nones think that they need. They have better things to do on a Sunday morning and throughout the week than waste time in their eyes on religion. They are good people in their eyes and need nothing more. If the church wants to reach the nones, the church will have to learn to be the church. We must return to our intellectual heritage. This does not mean we forsake our ethical principles, but we don’t have them floating in air. We back them with why we believe this and make our stand.

The Kingdom of God requires it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Three Things Youth Need To Relearn

Has youth ministry gone the wrong way? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, Addie Zierman wrote an article that appeared in Relevant Magazine about three things she had to unlearn in youth ministry. Unfortunately, looking at the list, it looks like three things that we still need to learn about youth ministry.

So let’s look at the first. The first item to learn is that youth are not going to be persecuted for what they believe. So what is Zierman’s evidence for this?

I spent the duration of junior high and high school braced against the entire student body, sure that they secretly mocked/hated/despised me. I wore Christian T-shirts like some kind of bullet-proof vest. I memorized all of the brilliant apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity in case any teacher or student ever cornered me in the hall and forced me to debate my faith.

But no one ever did.

What actually happened is that I distanced myself from everyone who didn’t believe like I did. It wasn’t that they didn’t like me—it was that I had barred my arms in an eternal defensive pose, and no one could even get close. So after a while, they stopped trying.

So all we have is her anecdotal evidence. Okay. If that’s what counts, then I will give anecdotal evidence of people coming to me talking about youth or youth themselves talking about how they receive this exact same treatment. I could point to how young atheists like David McAfee are developing followers among their own young people. I could talk about how you can find many teenagers and other young people on YouTube more than happy to tear apart anyone who does anything Christian. I could talk about how many young people on Facebook and even some in ministry that I saw had the equals sign on their Facebook page showing they were interested in redefining marriage and how my own wife had people going after her because she dared to do something horrible like go to Chick-Fil-A on Chick-Fil-A day. I could also point to the numerous people who go off to college and lose their faith because they were not intellectually equipped when a challenge to it came. Yes. All of this is going on.

I could also point to the research done by sociologists like George Yancey on the problem of changing attitudes towards Christianity and Christians, and they’re only getting worse. While I think it’s an insult to call this persecution in light of real persecution going on around the world, it is foolish I think to look at our world and think it’s not coming and each year, people are getting more and more hostile to the Christian message and that is going to affect our youth.

So the first lesson to learn for youth? You are a soldier of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world is radically opposed to the Kingdom of God. If you are not ready, then you will be ineffective or you will be a casualty.

The second lesson is that your friends’ salvation does not depend on how well you can defend Christianity.

It’s a wonder Zierman knows the friends of people she’s never even met before.

Zierman in this part refers to our giving of trite answers which yes, I must admit happens too often, but I would say I’m more impressed that anyone is actually giving answers because when I was growing up in youth group, no one was discussing this kind of stuff, and I know of many who have undergone the exact same situation. Zierman wants us to understand that we are not the savior and we are not going to save anyone. (This despite Paul said he lives in such a way in 1 Cor. 9 that through all possible means he might save some. Apparently, Paul didn’t have the hesitancy of language that many of us have today.) Of course, if this is meant to say no one can give an argument to force someone to convert, then this is absolutely true.

In the same way, no one can do a loving action to force someone to convert either.

So by that standard, we should cease to be doing loving actions for other people as a means of evangelism.

If trite answers are a problem, and I agree that they are, how about giving real and effective answers that will help those outside the faith to be refuted and to provide assurance for those that are within. Zierman goes on to say

Later, when they begin to grapple with the inconsistencies and the doubts and the hard things in their faith, it won’t be trite answers that see them through. It will be that glimpse they’ve had of the beauty of God. It will be the muscle memory of having dived deep into something real. And if and when their friends question them about their faith, it won’t be about showing them a diagram. It will be about showing them Jesus.

It’s really sad that I can picture Mormon leaders saying this to Mormons. It would work just as well. “You might come across challenges to your faith and inconsistencies between archaeology and the BOM or the BOM and the Bible or other such things. When those times come, do remember that you have a burning in the bosom and let it be that people will see that passion you have for Jesus and know that your faith is real. Show them Jesus.”

Of course, I have no opposition to showing people Jesus and I have no opposition to people having powerful religious experiences. What I have opposition to is the foundation being someone’s own personal experience. This feeds into our rabid individualism that is destroying the church. I can already tell you is that if all you have is the love of Jesus, new atheist types out there will chew you up and spit you out. They will not be persuaded. You might get a “Well I’m happy you found something that works for you” or they could just think you’re still a deluded person and your delusion will be harmful if it spreads.

There are people like Peter Boghossian out there who want to get 10,000 street epistemologists out there and each one is to have the goal of deconverting 100 people. These people will not respond if you simply point to feeling the love of Jesus. Well, they will respond, but it will not be in the way you’d like. Also, when someone comes home from college having been hit with Zeitgeist or evil Bible or Jesus mythicism or the problem of evil or any number of problems, it won’t be feeling love that will get them through. It will be having an intellectually robust faith where they know that there are answers and those answers inform how they live.

The third belief we need to get rid of is you have to do something to make a difference for God.

Yes. She actually says that.

Now I do think she is right when she says

The Christian walk is a long journey—so often mundane and difficult, putting one foot in front of another—seeing nothing, feeling nothing. And linking faith with extraordinary actions and extraordinary feelings makes it so much harder for us when we slam into the inevitable ordinary.

Of course, there won’t be constant mountaintop experiences and exciting adventures every day. Not everyone is going to be a famous evangelist or apologist or what have you.

But if you want to make a difference for God, yes, you have to do something and yes, you should be striving to do more than you are. Zierman goes on to say that

You can’t do anything to make God love you more.

You can’t do anything to make God love you less.

You are already enough.

God is already doing amazing things through you—even if it all feels hopelessly average.

How does Zierman know God is already doing amazing things through the reader? Maybe the reader really isn’t growing and striving in their faith at all. Maybe the reader never says a word in evangelism. Maybe the reader has no prayer life and does not study the Bible and simply comes to church because their parents make them. An article like Zierman’s can lead to great complacency and notice where the focus is at the end of this.

God can’t love you more.

God can’t love you less.

You are enough.

You are already being used by God for amazing things.

You. You. You.

And this is part of the problem. Most of us in our culture think way too much of ourselves already. You can’t do anything to make God love you more or less. Okay. I agree. So what? What does that have to do with your evangelism and how you are to live? Do you really do what you do because you’re wanting God to love you more or less? You have a pretty bad theology already if you do. Would such an attitude work in a marriage if you had it? “I don’t really need to strive to do something amazing for my spouse because they already love me as I am and they think I’m amazing enough already.”

God have mercy on me if I ever approach my Allie with that attitude.

Should I give God any less?

All the things Zierman says she thinks we need to unlearn, I would prefer if we relearn them and actually teach them.

We have too many casualties already and it’s only getting worse in America. The individualistic ideologies being thrust onto our youth will only compound the problem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 3D Gospel

What do I think of Georges book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

3D Gospel

If you have an interest in missions, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding other cultures, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding the Bible and how it would be read in its own context, buy this book.

If you have an interest in seeing the Bible beyond your own cultural perspective, buy this book.

So yes, I want you to buy this book.

The 3D Gospel refers to the three different types of cultures we see in the world. Here in the West, we live in a guilt-innocence culture. Unfortunately, we often think so does the rest of the world, including the world of the Bible, and read our modern culture, perspectives, and individualism into the Biblical text, which can often produce disastrous results. There are two other kinds of cultures.

There are also honor-shame cultures. These are cultures where honor and shame are the main forces at work as people live seeking to cover up shame and claim honor. In these cultures, what happens in the group is of utmost importance as you want to maintain not just your honor, but the honor of your group, and you do not want to be shamed by the people of your group. What you do reflects on everyone who identifies with you. This viewpoint is in the Middle and Far East.

Then there are fear-power cultures. In these cultures, unseen powers play a big role. This is not just God, but also demons, angels, spirits, dead ancestors, etc. In these cultures, you seek the means to gain power over the unseen world and the defenses to protect yourself from what happens in this world, such as following what steps it takes to avoid curses, perhaps visiting someone like a shaman. This is in some southern nations and tribal nations.

It is important that we learn how to interact. As Georges says on location 161, “For cross-cultural workers, a truncated gospel hinders spirituality, theology, relationships, and ministry We unintentionally put God in a box, only allowing him to save in one area.”

And this is the main theme throughout. Georges writes this so that we can understand the Gospel better and realize that it has something to say to all three cultures and we dare not just go by ours alone. If you go to a culture that is honor-shame and start talking about the Gospel in individualistic terms, you will not get much of an audience. You will need to appeal to the need of honor for people, You will need to relate to them passages about honor and shame in the Bible and about seeking the honor of God rather than the honor of men.

If you go to a fear-power culture, you do not want to talk about gentle Jesus meek and mild. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus who in Colossians 2 disarms the powers that are against us and triumphs over them by the cross. You might also need to be prepared for some real work with prayerful preparation as you could really encounter darker powers in places where this viewpoint is prevalent. What we call power evangelism really plays a role here.

This book is also not long. You can read it in a day easily. That will be a day well spent as you will get some excellent insight into how these other cultures work. Note of course that this is just a start. From there, you need to move on to the best works of scholarship in the field, but if you want to get your feet wet, this is an excellent start in order to do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles Creed: And is Seated

Does it really make a big deal that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we go through the Apostles’ Creed, the next statement we find is that Jesus is seated. Now where He is seated we will get into more the next time we write on the creed, but what difference does it make that he is seated? After all, if any of us come home from working all day, we will often just sit down and relax and turn on the TV. After all, our work is done and we want to have a rest from our labors.

Precisely.

In fact, this is the reason that Jesus is seated at the right hand. Jesus has sat down because His work is done. We dare not lose sight of that truth. Jesus came and did the work of teaching about the Kingdom of God. His death and resurrection have paid the price for sin and His kingdom has been established. Because of that, His main work is done. He has now given us the Great Commission in the work that it is that we are to do.

Hebrews makes an important mention of this in the first chapter. Later in the book, it points out that all other high priests were continually working. They would not have a chance to sit down while they were doing their priestly duties. They had to be on the move constantly. Jesus is the only one who could sit down and the reason that he sat down is that in fact his work was done. He was the one who finished making atonement for sin. The price is paid in full in Jesus.

Another important aspect of this is that we look at the world and we know that there is still work to be done. Jesus got it established, but right now He is seated. So if it is not Him who is to do the work, then whose responsibility is it to spread the message of the Kingdom of God?

If you want to know, go look in in a mirror.

Yep. It’s your job.

That does not mean Jesus is irrelevant to it. We will do everything by the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, but neither will do the work for us. We sadly have this idea in Christianity that is exceptionally lazy. Who will tell us what the text of Scripture means? The Holy Spirit. I have often had people tell me that I don’t need to defend the faith. Just let God do that. I always ask the same question. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?”

Christ is seated and has passed along the responsibility of the Great Commmission to us. While we can discuss the question of those who have never heard, it’s important to point out that this is never explicitly answered by the Bible. Why? Because Jesus has given us our marching orders. The Great Commission is Plan A? What’s Plan B? There isn’t one. There will be no excuse for failing at the mission that we have been given.

In Christ,
Nick Peters