Friends, I have been very affected after reading the book, 'The Cross and the Switchblade' in the past couple of weeks. (Actually, I didn't read it but listened to it from an audiobook from Christianaudio.com). I have a whole new dimension of thinking when it comes to evangelism now, maybe even a new direction, but not sure where and how, or even when.
Years ago, when I was seeking the Lord, I felt very drawn to learning about the power of God in our lives. I really believed in the power of the Holy Spirit in living out our Christian lives and doing evangelism, but I believe that I have discounted a lot of what I believed to be true, do to the emphasis/teaching in the Christian circles on all the 'false teachers' who were out there carrying on with the spiritual gifts. Don't get me wrong. I still believed the gifts are for today, and they are there to help us minister in the church and bring true glory to God's name. I have seen the spiritual gifts used properly, and people have been edified and encouraged in the faith. I have also seen the gifts used in evangelism and people have no doubt that God is present. So, what am I lacking?
I always believed that we should be Spirit-filled believers, but the meaning is unclear to many of what that really means. I would pray every day that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit, and believed I am Spirit-filled, but still, I seemed to lack power or maybe not quite experienced the dimension I know was there. Not sure of what it was.
For the past 7 years, I have surrounded myself with lots of Reformed teaching and most of it is excellent. I have really grown in my understanding of the Bible in so many ways. But part of my problem started here, I think. I have heard teachings from Godly men saying that God doesn't speak to our hearts any more. That was distressing, for I know God has spoken to my heart. Was it not really God? What about all the people that have used the Spiritual gifts and God has spoken to them and wonderful things have happened? I have put all that on a shelf for a while. When I heard someone talk about God speaking to their heart, I just had doubts about it. I'm not sure God speaks to our hearts any more, except when it comes to salvation.
But as time went on, I learned from these men that the spiritual gifts are no longer in use today. Also, they teach that we receive everything from God the moment we are saved, therefore when we ask for more of God, we are asking wrongly. Finally, one more thing I noticed, was that it seemed like God was just some kind of theory about how we get into heaven. We have to be holy. We have to repent. We have to trust in what Jesus did on the Cross for us. I agree. But it just seems like a formula to get into heaven to be with this distant God that is waiting to judge the world because of all its wickedness. Don't get me wrong. All of that is true, but, what if God wants to have a relationship with us? What if God really is pursing us and what if He wants us to know Him personally? Where is that in all the teachings I have heard?
Is God some kind of distant Being that we just should appease by our repentance and belief in Him? I believe in sanctification and growing spiritually, but, can we grow in our relationship with God and really actually know Him? Can we truly hear His voice and does He truly speak to our hearts? I have to say that I believe the answer is 'yes' to those questions.
We have relegated God to a formula. Instead of preaching about a person, we are preaching the formula we need to follow in order to get saved. It is fine to preach the formula while explaining the Gospel, but God is a person, not a thing.
Anyway, getting back to the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to depend more on the Holy Spirit to help us. I think we are afraid to draw upon the Holy Spirit because we are afraid that the devil will intercept and we will get a counterfeit gift if we are not careful. We have to remember that Satan has no hold on us unless we give ground to him. If we are truly seeking God, would God allow Satan to come in and sneak one of his gifts in instead? Jesus tells us that if we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to them who ask Him (Luke 11:13) Also, it is a reaction of many Bible teachers to the Todd Bentley thing. Todd Bentley believes he hears from God, but does he really? One more thing about this too; the office of the prophet of the Old Testament is not the same thing as the spiritual gift of prophecy. I think both non-charismatics and some Pentecostals believe that they are the same. That makes it even more confusing.
Getting back to the new direction in my thinking on evangelism, after reading The Cross and the Switchblade, I am ready to turn to the people who are weak, poor, needy, and looking for an answer for their sin. I have spent countless hours learning apologetics. I don't regret doing that one bit. But I go back to the story of the Cross and the Switchblade. First of all, David Wilkerson not only trusted in God for help, but specifically asked for the Holy Spirit as he ministered to the gangsters who lived in NYC in the late 1950s. He left the comforts of his home to live among the gangsters and preached the Gospel to them. These gangsters were on their knees! I was thinking of some of the words of a young man at that time, named Nicky Cruz. He came to the meeting only because Israel (the president of the gang) ordered that the men in the gang were going to attend. Nicky was opposed to David Wilkerson probably because he thought erroneously that David Wilkerson's intentions were to break up the gangs. Nicky already showed defiance toward David and he reluctantly went to the meeting along with the other members of the gang. While David was preaching, Nicky thought to himself, 'I want that' and 'I need that'. He was serious. He did a complete turn around and repented that night. Many other gangsters also repented and good fruit came out of that meeting, even though that week of meetings started out kind of rocky.
We live in a town near colleges, so the people around here are very 'knowledgeable'. One problem that comes with being knowledgeable is that we become prideful as well. The Bible says that 'knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.'. When we receive a lot of knowledge, we become unteachable. We can't learn anything new because we think we have already learned everything. So, preaching the Gospel to these people is hard. They already 'know' God, or, they are Atheists and aren't really interested in what we have to say.
Please don't hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that it is wrong to preach to college students or wealthy people. They need to hear the Gospel too. But they are not as open. I think colleges are great places to defend the faith, and to present the truth. Many years from now people may remember what they heard while in college, but they resisted it when they were in school. So keep on going to the campuses. But I am going to look for those whom I can have a conversation with that might end up with eternal results.
You don't have to go very far from my home to find such people to talk to. We have a lot of people who don't even have a car to drive, or a nice home to live in. We have people who are trying to find odd jobs to pay the bills. There are many people who never went to college and are learning in their own way how to make life work. And there are those who are homeless. Some of these homeless people are ripe for hearing the Gospel. Others have seen a form of Godliness and know the talk, but life is still missing from them.
I enjoy so much, talking to people and explaining the Gospel from the book of Genesis through Revelation, and after I talk and converse with people, many of them will say, "I never heard it put that way. Thank you so much for sharing with me." I didn't have to go through a bunch of apologetics of arguing the existence of God with them. I can introduce them to a Person who they need to meet. So, that is going to be where I will look for in ministering in the future.
I will still study apologetics and have my apologetics blog. For some people, this is really going to be helpful. But for those who want to spin my wheels, I will go to another group and leave them spinning wheels until they get tired of it and want to respond to God.