By Todd Stiles
In light of the first of two messages in our new series regarding evangelism, two questions arose I’d like to address. (Note: To get some of the background to these questions, listen to the message here.)
1. What advice would you give to children (i.e., teens) who have been believers since a very young age regarding talking about change? How can they make their evangelism more effective since their “story” isn’t probably as dramatic as other believers who have come to Christ laster in life?
This is a terrific question, and one I and our family have wrestled with and experienced personally. In no way do we every want to encourage a “sow your wild oats” mentality in order to “get a good testimony.” Thats insane! I personally believe a simple testimony is a powerful one, and one for which we should be extremely grateful.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that often a simple testimony is difficult to use in conversation about change. So here are some suggestions that have worked for me.
- Understand that, theologically speaking, all of us needed all of God’s grace. Grace isn’t dispensed in proportion to sin, some needing it more than others. Thats how we sometimes think about it, but that’s just not true. All are sinners all the way through, and all of us need all of it! So talk about the truth of God’s mercy and grace from the correct biblical viewpoint consistently and theologically.
- Emphasize attitude change as much as action change. Children saved early in life who follow close to God in their adolescent years can sometimes think they haven’t experienced much change. But the truth is they did—in their desires, attitudes, and motives. So talk about this type of change, review it, itemize it, praise God for it, and affirm the fact that God saw fit to accomplish some steps of sanctification early in them before he had to accomplish it later on them. Remember, as you talk about these inner, attitudinal changes, often these transformations are the silent type that actually spare us from the louder, more visible type later. In my opinion, that’s a good thing.
- Don’t let outward appearances deceive you. Even if there hasn’t been a dramatic, late-in-life rescue from sin’s clutches, don’t fool yourself—God hasrescued and changed your child/teen on the outside. You simply may not know (yet) all the ways. So don’t assume that just because they looked good when you were around that they actually were that good all the time. In fact, kids in homes that have strong, Christian roots can sometimes be the very ones who learn how to “play the game,” so be aware of this and engage them in conversations about this trap. Be ready, though. You may hear things you had no idea existed.
- Be grateful for a “boring” testimony. Though I’m being somewhat facetious, don’t miss the point. There is much to be thankful for about a simple, humanly undramatic story of salvation. So be grateful yourself, teach your kids to be grateful, and express this gratefulness often. It’s one of the best ways to instill the right attitude towards God’s work on the inside no matter how it’s revealed on the outside.
2. Should we only evangelize through what feels natural to do do so?
The answer is a ‘no’ and a ‘yes.’ If by “natural” you mean comfortable, then no. But if by “natural” you mean “unmanufactured,” I’d say yes.
I’d say evangelism should always feel natural, but not always comfortable. Let’s be painfully honest—we talk about what we love and worship. That comes naturally. Without effort. It just flows out of us. Which is precisely why evangelism—talking about God’s transformation in us through Christ—is, for God’s children, natural. But is that natural, unmanufactured conversation always easy? No. Sometimes it can be challenging and difficult to know how to converse about something so dear to us. So in that way it can be uncomfortable yet still natural.
You uncover an even deeper question, however. Is evangelism “naturally supernatural” (meaning we experience the Holy Spirit’s power for evangelism in our normal conversations and interactions), or is it “supernaturally natural” (meaning we experience the Holy Spirit’s power for evangelism in addition to our normal conversations and interactions)? Let me ask it a different way: is it a command or a gift? Or both?
I think this gets to the heart of your question. If we feel evangelism is something that should always be hard and unnatural, then we will probably see it as something outside the realm of our normal life, something for those who are only trained or gifted. But if we see it as something appropriately natural, yet empowered supernaturally by the Holy Spirit as we walk in step with Him, then it is my opinion more of us would see the many opportunities available every day to simply talk about that which we claim is most valuable to us.
Todd Stiles is lead pastor of First Family Church in Ankeny.
This post was originally published at toddstiles.wordpress.com.