Friday, September 25, 2009

If you want your evangelism program to fail, read this.

If you want your evangelism program to fail, read this.

Programs with a focus on converting the lost, however well-intended, are going to fail.
In our post-modern culture (and all around the globe where pre-modernism and modernism is still in vogue for that matter), recipients of evangelistic efforts are savvy enough to know when they are being targeted for conversion. And the natural impulse will be to run! Far away! 
No one wants to be a project, a notch on the back of someone's King James Bible.
If you want your evangelism to succeed, stop counting nickels and noses.  Stop keeping records.
You mean my goal shouldn't be to convert the lost?  
I can hear the criticism:  but Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission to make disciples.  Go into all the world!
I get that.  Believe me, I do. I've been there, working on a foreign soil. For years.
And I'm all for the Great Commission. 
What I'm saying is that our goal shouldn't be to convert the lost.  Our goal should be to LOVE the lost.  And if we do......guess what? Conversion will follow.
When Jesus talked about love, he instructed us in the strongest language:  "A new COMMANDMENT I give to you."  (Capitalization is mine.)
This is the missing ingredient in failed evangelism programs. If our goal is simply to love (work benevolently on behalf of someone else for their benefit, not yours) the lost, they will be closer to conversion than if they heard a set of four spiritual laws or the Roman road. 
I've come back to 1Corinthians 13 over and over and over.  You can do everything, even give all your money away to the poor, work tirelessly walking door to door, preaching a message, but if you do not love, your words and actions will not sound a clear message. It will be as effective as a cracked cymbal.  
I know from personal experience that especially in cross-cultural, cross religion (Muslim) evangelism efforts, love in deed will carry your message much farther than a factual word alone.
I'm not against evangelism programs. I'm only saying that they must be grounded in a heart of love for the lost or all program efforts will be ineffective.
OK, I've vented now. I'll get off my soapbox and go back to writing.
        And I hope, loving my readers well with a good story. 'Cause if I'm not loving them with a good story and only "messaging" them with the Gospel, my communication will be ineffective, see?
Harry Lee
PS:  The picture is a friend of mine, Mark Newton, MD, showing love in ACTION. I've been with Mark on numerous trips into a country closed to open evangelism.  But guess what? No country is closed to love!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget!

     On the morning of September 10, 2001 my wife and oldest son discussed the plans for the day. Should they visit the twin towers on the 10th or the 11th? After some debate, they decided to visit on the 10th, never knowing that they would be some of the last tourists to ever set foot on the top of the towers.

     That evening, as we sat watching the pouring rain in Yankee stadium, we ate overpriced hot dogs and waited for the game to begin. Eventually, Joe Torre came out onto the field shaking his head and the game was cancelled. I'll forever remember my words of comfort to my disappointed son, who had wanted to see a major league baseball game. "Don't worry, Joel. Tomorrow we have tickets to a Broadway show. That won't be cancelled for rain. Nothing cancels Broadway."
     Little did I know.
     Of course, Broadway was cancelled on 9/11 because of the unthinkable. America was attacked. And many of us felt vulnerable for the first time.
     For most of us, it was our first up close and personal encounter with radical Islam.
     I've often thought it a bit ironic that I would end up reaching out to the people who hold fast to their Muslim faith. In Kijabe, Kenya, many of my patients were Muslim and I learned a lot in my dealings with my Muslim patients:
     Most Muslims want Islam to be judged by things other than violence. Most Muslims want to exist peacefully with their neighbors. (Most Christians do not want to be judged by dark chapters in our history such as the crusades either!)
     Most Muslims cannot be converted with an intellectual argument, pointing out inconsistencies between the Bible and the Koran, even when other historical books have proven the authenticity of Christianity's sacred writings.
     Most Muslims from Africa that I've met believe they understand Christianity, but in reality, they know little about the gospel message. All they have been told is that our book is corrupt, that we worship multiple Gods and Western culture is confused with our faith.  Just as they don't want me to judge their religion by 9/11, I have to ask that they not judge Christianity by popular US culture!
     Love is the best way to begin to relate to a Muslim. If they sense that you have an agenda beyond this (i.e. conversion), evangelism falls flat. Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13? All evangelistic efforts fail if they are void of love!
     Nonetheless, there are radical groups with a violent jihad philosophy, with a goal of Muslim domination by force. For these, we can only pray, and hope that if our lives intersect with theirs, they will realize that they are loved (by us and by our Savior).
Anyway, I'm beginning to ramble. I really only wanted to remind my readers to make love your highest aim. Let's let 9/11 be an anniversary that prompts us to remember that there are many, many Muslims who are dying in need of a Savior. Our job is not to correct their doctrine, or preach. Our job is to love. Someone smart once said, "people will not care what you know until they know that you care."
     I'm including a photograph. It's my son and my wife, a souvenir photo taken on the top of the twin towers on 9/10/2001. 
     I know I'll never forget!