When I wrote Out of the Saltshaker 40 years ago, it was such a different world. What’s changed today? Well, we’re dealing with the lethal distortion of post-modernity. There’s been the collapse of absolute truth in the West. There used to be an understanding of authority, but now it’s completely personal preference. There is this […]
When I wrote Out of the Saltshaker 40 years ago, it was such a different world. What’s changed today? Well, we’re dealing with the lethal distortion of post-modernity. There’s been the collapse of absolute truth in the West. There used to be an understanding of authority, but now it’s completely personal preference. There is this approach to developing your beliefs that’s sort of cafeteria style. I’ll pick a little of this, a little of that, and let’s have a little karma here. It doesn’t matter that the views are completely in conflict with each other. I knew I needed to write a book that would help Christians today to know how to live and share and do the gospel for such a time as this.
We are often reluctant to share our faith, though. We do not understand that God is the great evangelist, and He’s delighted to use us in our weakness. Many Christians still think evangelism means preaching some memorized outline to a victim and then running away. But we need to engage with non-Christians and find out who they are. We have to understand their questions and their obstacles to faith. Today, we’re much more open to having a relationship, but we’re very weak on truth. In the past it was all truth and no relational love.
Part of the difficulty is that we’ve redefined evangelism. What I hear in the West is that our task is to demonstrate the gospel, not tell the gospel. Now, it’s very important to demonstrate the gospel. But what I hear endlessly quoted is the idea Christians often attribute to Francis of Assisi, and they say, “As Assisi said, preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.” Well, there is no historical evidence that Assisi ever said that. Even if he did say it, he was wrong! Biblical evangelism involves three things: It is who we are. It is what we do. And it is what we say. All three are required.
We forget that Jesus commanded us to evangelize. Jesus didn’t say, go ye therefore all ye extroverts, all you scripture memory buffs, all you evangelists, and all you clergy, go and make disciples. Jesus did not say one word about gifting, about temperament. He said where to go, and to make disciples of all the nations. Jesus calls everybody to do it. Now, everybody’s inadequate. God is the adequate one, and we are weak. But what did the Lord say to Paul? My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I believe the first qualification to being used by God is celebrating our weakness, because we know who to lean on. God is the great evangelist. We have the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Secularism cannot address or answer our deepest human longing for identity, for meaning, for purpose. So I believe our age is the greatest opportunity for Christian witness since the time of Jesus and the Apostles, precisely because our culture has become so secularized. The more secular it gets, the hungrier people are. We need to recognize that there really is a hunger, and we need to not get intimidated by culture and hostility.
It is critical to understand our times and what is happening. The world has changed, but our message must not. There is a spiritual openness I haven’t seen in my non-Christian friends before. Why? Because catastrophe at the level we’ve experienced in 2020 gets everybody’s attention. It’s as if the fog has lifted, and all of a sudden, we can see reality more clearly. That’s for both Christians and non-Christians. And what, particularly, are non-Christians seeing? They’re not in charge.
An agnostic friend of mine called recently. She said, “I always thought I am in charge of my destiny. I am in control. I don’t need some God to depend on. What COVID-19 did is open my eyes to see that I am not in control. If a simple invisible organism can bring the entire planet to a halt, my eyes have been opened. I am not God.” For the first time in all the time I’ve known her, she is open to looking at the person of Jesus. We’re going to do a seeker Bible study together online, because for a while we can’t meet.
How do you do evangelism when you can’t meet in person? First you pray. God, show me who in my neighborhood, or maybe in the class I was taking, or at the gym, are you already at work in? And then call them, and ask, “How are you doing? I really want to know.” Whatever it is, really express care. It may not happen in the first conversation, but pretty soon, you’ll be saying to them, have you ever actually looked at one of the biographies of Jesus? Maybe it would be interesting to find out what He says about anxiety? What does He say about finding peace? Whatever their need is, address that, and share some Bible story about Jesus. It’s the prayer, care, share model. We just have to think of new ways to do it if we can’t be in each other’s presence. But it’s very doable. It really is.
If I’ve learned anything from all the years I’ve been at this, it’s that No. 1, evangelism is easier than you think because people are hungry, especially right now. They’re frightened, and God is at work. God is the great evangelist, and He’s the one who’s going to help you. But it’s also much harder than we imagined. Why? We’re living in a post-Christian, post-truth culture. Every generation has unique challenges, but they all share a common enemy. Satan will try to terrify us or intimidate us or block the unbeliever. But we have a power that’s greater. We can ask God to rebuke the enemy in the name of Jesus and to open their eyes. God never gives up. Not ever. He is always, always at work. So keep witnessing. God is with you and is still pursuing the people in your life. Don’t give up.
Rebecca Manley Pippert is an international speaker, evangelist and the author of 12 books, including Out of the Saltshaker, a best-selling book on evangelism. Her latest book is Stay Salt: The World Has Changed—Our Message Must Not (The Good Book Company). BeckyPippert.org.