Thursday, December 6, 2012

Responding to Greg Stier: Seven Reasons Why America Has Not Been Reached For Christ

First of all, I have to admit that I am not sure what Greg means by the phrase "reached for Christ." Does he mean that most Americans have never heard of Jesus Christ? Is he implying that the majority of Americans are completely oblivious to the historical story of Jesus? I wish Greg would have told us what he means by the phrase. Surely, with over 70% of Americans claiming to be Christian. He cannot mean that America has not heard about Jesus Christ.

Greg says the first reason that America has not been reached for Christ is because Christians allow those who are gifted to evangelize when everyone should be doing it. He refers to "the professionals" of evangelism, the "big wigs" as he calls them. I have no idea what he means. Who are these professionals that come into our towns and churches and evangelize? I have never seen a guest speaker come to town to speak and then head out into town to execute a formal evangelism strategy. This is quite confusing.

Greg then says that we have lost our sense of urgency. We don't witness to people like their souls depend on it. Like their eternity depends on it. I think he is on to something here. I agree. But why don't we witness to people? Why don't we speak to people about the gospel? Are we ashamed? The reasons I think are more complex than Greg makes out. While we should witness to folks when we have the opportunity, and we should do so with urgency, the issue resides in the opportunity. Evangelism at work is a no-no with most employers. They did not hire you to come in and preach the gospel or to hold bible studies. They hired you and they pay you to work. So give them your labor in return for the agreed upon wages. If evangelizing at work creates a hostile work environment, it could cost you your job. Is that persecution for the gospel or is it a business simply wanting to maintain its business. It could be both. But it isn't ipso facto persecution. You could get fired for causing any number of disruptions, not just for upsetting people with your Christian views. So maybe we don't witness because the opportunity is not as great as it once was with our busy schedules these days where both parents work, kids are involved in athletics, etc. There will still be opportunities and we should capitalize on them when they present themselves. But I think Greg is right on the urgency and perhaps too simplistic on the reason we don't witness as much.

The third reason Greg lists is that we are ashamed of the gospel. This one is shocking! No genuine Christian is ashamed of the gospel. However, we don't like making people uncomfortable and perhaps this is closer to what Greg means. We do not like to confront people in these postmodern, post-Christian times. This is the product of years and years of self-esteem non-sense being stuffed down our throats. The worse thing you can do in American culture is offend someone. Get over it!

The fourth reason Greg gives is that many Christians cannot explain the gospel. And he is spot on here. For years pastors have been talking about your best life now, having a better marriage, better family, better kids, better career, feeling better about yourself, that they have entirely neglected the gospel. There is no excuse for these men who don't belong in the pulpit anymore than a running back belongs in mission control at NASA.

The fifth reason Greg lists is that Church leaders are not leading the way. In many cases that is true, but in most cases, that isn't the real problem. Church leaders are leading all sorts of efforts to reach the community. The problem is that they are not reaching them with the biblical gospel. They are reaching them with a social one! The church is reaching America with a moralistic version of Christ that is far from the biblical Christ.

Greg says that sixth reason we are not reaching America is that we have forgotten how to pray. Indeed, we have neglected prayer. What Christian would ever say, "I pray too much," or "I pray enough." I can't think of one that would say such a thing. The problem with Greg's perspective on prayer is that he focuses on what he calls intercessory prayer. This is actually causative prayer. In other words, Greg implies that pray if the church prays longer in the service, God will soften men's hearts and they will be converted. At bottom, more people are going to hell because the church isn't praying enough during the worship service. We need to pray more as believers, but not because it is going to produce some kind of change in how things turn out. Rather, we need to commune with God, to express our hearts to Him, to petition Him, etc. We need to do these things because this is what Christians are called to do. While God uses prayer as one mechanism to carry out His secret will in the earth, it is an extreme overstatement to say that some people will be lost on account of our lack of prayer. God's sheep will never be lost, not even one of them.

The last reason Greg thinks we have not reached America is because we have not mobilized our young people.Greg points to his ministry at "Dare 2 Share," saying "We do it through large-scale training events, cutting-edge resources and powerful evangelistic tools." The condition of most youth groups across the church is that most of these young people are some of the vilest hypocrites you could ever meet. I went to school with many young Christians when I was a teenage and I know how they behave when no one is watching. They joined in the world's persecution of me and my brother at the time. Even today, I have encountered young people who had a certain reputation at church and an entirely different one at school. The first step for the youth is discipleship and catechism. God is responsible for their salvation. For the ones who know Him, the focus on their training and discipleship has to be radical and intense. They must be prepared for the extreme skepticism that awaits them at university.

We all need to more aware of our incredible responsibility and privilege to share the gospel. We must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in this endeavor. I am not going to give my neighbor the gospel at every encounter. If I am given the opportunity, I will give the gospel to my neighbor once. I will probably not give it to him or her again unless the situation turns in that direction. I want them to hear the truth, to know the truth that I stand for, and to watch me live out what I have told them I believe. I don't want to beat them over the head with evangelism every time I see them. They already know what I believe. I trust the Holy Spirit will do His work in their heart if they are elect. That could look like them initiating a conversation, asking questions, and doing some more inquiry on their own. And I will pray that God would open their eyes and grant them repentance. Remember Lydia!

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