Evidence and Evangelism

Am I willing to put myself in my unsaved loved ones’ shoes?

Imagine that you have a friend who is Buddhist.  This person is always thoughtful, and kind. Naturally, you would be drawn to such a person.  You become friends. You begin to talk about deeper things.  One day, your friend wants to share something with you.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls a small booklet.  He begins, “Buddha loves you and has a wonderful plan for your next life.”  “Humanity has done many bad things, and has brought bad karma upon itself, therefore we can never experience Buddha’s love and his plan for our next life.”  “Following the Buddha’s teachings is the only way to go to Nirvana and avoid the pain of being something lower in the next life.”  “We must individually, follow the Buddha’s plan so that we can go to Nirvana.”  Between each statement he reads a quotation from the Buddhist scriptures.

After twenty minutes of explanation time, he tells you his testimony.  He was on drugs and had a bad family but finding Buddhism changed his life and had given him self-control and peace.  He states that he has a video on the life of Buddha if you would like to watch it sometime.  After watching the movie, he asks if you are ready to become Buddhist.

If the preceding story actually happened to you would you convert from Christianity to Buddhism?  What would converting to Buddhism cost you?  Would it cause problems with your friends and family?  Most likely, you would not convert to Buddhism.

Even though your friend is nice and you like him, every reason he has given for converting to Buddhism is subjective. Personal testimonies and relationships are often highly subjective because they are based on feelings.  If you had some problems that he could solve for you or if you were lonely, you might convert based on the strength of your respect for her but if he disappointed you, you would likely turn from Buddhism and return to your former ways.

On the other hand, imagine if someone could give you logical evidence from history, science, mathematics, archeology, and logic that Buddha was real and that Buddhism was true and that Christianity was false.  If you loved truth and truly wanted to know and follow the truth you probably would be willing to risk everything to follow it even if it cost you everything.

Interestingly, many Christians evangelize in the same way as the “Buddhist friend” who just tried unsuccessfully to convert you to Buddhism.  They live good lives that earn them the right to be heard.  They are kind and exhibit Christ’s love to their friends.  They are prepared to share the basic doctrines about how to accept Christian but they are afraid of the critic and the skeptic and often flee from any objections or difficult questions.  Yet, they are often frustrated because the people that they witness to either do not accept Christ, or are weak in their faith when faced with opposition from their families and friends.  Also, many Christians know they should be bolder in sharing with their friends, co-workers, and families but are often afraid to share because they are afraid that they will be laughed at or even worse that someone will ask them a question they cannot answer and they will look dishonest or foolish.  They are afraid of the science teacher, the skeptic, and the cult member down the street.  They only show their faith when they are surrounded by believers but then quickly cover it up when they leave the church door.  If they do witness, it is often with great fear of being contradicted and is often done out of duty more than a sense of excitement. This is not to say that our witnesses and personal testimonies are not important, and the ability to communicate the simple plan of salvation is not important. They are vital but one leg is missing evidence.  Integrating evidence (apologetics) into the evangelism process will help accomplish four things:

1) Open the seekers’ minds as they see that there are some legitimate logical proofs that support Christianity which their own belief systems lack.

2) Help the new believer to withstand any repercussions because their faith is based on experience, relationships, and evidence.  Experience is important but it can often become clouded in the midst of difficult circumstances.  Relationships to the body of Christ are also vital, but if the new believer only believes in God because he/she trusts a Christian or a group of believers, will she/he still believe if that individual or group disappoints or fails them or will he/she fall away?  However, if one’s belief system is supported by experience, relationships and evidence it will likely withstand the storms.  In essence it is loving “the Lord your God with your heart (relationships/emotions) soul (spiritual experience) and mind (evidence) Matt. 22:37.”

3) Give the believer more confidence in their own faith because they know that it is really true and so they can more easily trust and apply the promises of God. If the emotionsfade and their relationships disappoint, they still have the evidence.  4) Give the believer more confidence and boldness in witnessing because they are no longer afraid of the scientist, skeptic, or cultist. In fact, they often seek out the most skeptical people and share with them.  Instead of seeing objections to Christianity as a closed door to evangelism, they begin to see objections as open invitations to share.  It is easier to reach the skeptical than the apathetic.  Skeptics do not believe, but if their objections and questions are answered properly there is a chance that they will open their minds, which  prepares the way for their hearts to be opened as well. The apathetic may listen
politely but they don’t think what you have to say is important enough to question or object.

The problem with modern evangelism is that we tend to use “tried and true” techniques with the assumption that a tract, video, or seeker study that worked in the United States decades ago will work in today’s post-Christian world.  Although the “Four Spiritual Laws” are a very clear and concise presentation of the plan of salvation they are based to three assumptions: 1) God exists and is the creator of all. 2). The Bible is true and infallible. 3). Jesus really came to earth, died, and rose again.  These three essential truths are no longer taken for granted as being true, evolution, secular humanism, secular archaeology, liberal theologians, and the media have planted many doubts in the minds of people through out the world.  If we as Christians do not counter these often unspoken obstacles to belief, our non-Christian friends will listen politely but will never truly make the step of faith.  This is precisely why I encourage my non-Christian friends to voice their objections.  I tell them, “During this study if there is something that you don’t understand or don’t believe, tell me. I know that if you went to church you might be afraid to ask the pastor because you don’t want to be impolite, but with me there are no impolite questions.”  To get the discussion going, I give them a list of difficult questions: “Does God exist?” “Is the Bible fact or fiction?”  “Is Jesus real?” and others.

Before you begin an apologetics-based study you need to be personally equipped to answer objections from several directions.  To answer these objections, there are three books that you should read in addition to two more that you should use as a reference.  These books are all easy to read and are written in such a way that you should be able to remember the arguments.  The best book in the world will be of little use to you if you cannot understand its arguments and use them effectively in conversations without notes.

Recommended Books
Evolution/Existence of God, Lee Strobel, Case For a Creator

Diety of Christ/Validity of New Testament- Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ

Church History- D. James Kennedy, What if Jesus had Never Been Born?

Evidence for the Bible/Christ-Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict

Cults-Walter Martin., Kingdom of the Cults.

Evangelism- Ken Ham Answers in Genesis,  Creation Evangelism

Beginning the Study

Using apologetics does not replace traditional evangelism materials.  Instead, it provides a factual support for them so that they are taken more seriously.  In other words, traditional evangelism can be the nail and apologetics can be the hammer used by the Spirit to drive the nail of the gospel deep into the heart.

It is always good to begin with establishing why it is important for our non-Christian friends to make their own decision about religion because it is the most important decision they will ever make. Next, it is important to find out what your friend believes about the basic questions of life: Were we created by God or merely the result of chance?  Is the Bible God’s word  or just a book?  Is Jesus really God? Does your friend want to know more about Christianity? After that, you should spend some time answering your friend’s questions. Finally, you can present the plan of salvation from creation to the cross.

Our non-Christian friends will pay a price for accepting Christ as their personal savior. Some will lose friends.  Others will have family problems.  In extreme cases they could face more serious persecution.  We owe it to them to give them the best evidence for Christianity that we can so that they can make an informed decision. The Golden Rule of Evangelism is this:  Before you share your faith, ask yourself, “What would it take for me to be converted to my friend’s religion or worldview?”  Then work backwards.

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 and Luke 8 remind us of our role in evangelism.  We must be faithful in sowing the seed of the gospel into the lives of the people that God has placed in our path.  The original audience for that passage came from a farming society.  They would have understood that the good soil did not happen by chance, it had to be prepared.  We need be available for God to use us to prepare the hearts and minds of the lost by plowing, removing rocks, weeds, and other obstacles to the Gospel.  God will be faithful in his part.  We need to be faithful and available so that He can use us to be faithful in our role the process as well.