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OPENING THE DOOR
By RON BENNETT LARRY GLABE
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2006 Ron Bennett and Larry Glabe
All right reserved.
PrefaceFor most people the thought of doing evangelism produces the same emotional reaction as imagining a two-year-old running loose in a china shop-fear, anxiety, an instant aerobic heart rate, sweaty palms, and frantic glances for the exit signs.
Evangelism-induced anxiety (EIA syndrome) can result from several things. Like the parent of a toddler in a china shop, most fear a disaster as mild as embarrassment or as extensive as bankruptcy.
Many excellent books exist on the subject of evangelism. It would be redundant, if not presumptuous on my part, to add to the list. My purpose is simply to reduce the EIA syndrome by providing a user- and receiver-friendly tool.
I am not an evangelist. My desire to reach the lost comes from my own personal relationship with Christ and my understanding of Christ's Great Commission. I have learned by observation, practice, mistakes, failures, and more practice. I've adapted, experimented, and persisted. Out of this journey of discovery, I developed this material.
I have also learned that to mobilize the body of Christ to reach our world, evangelism cannot rely on the professional or the gifted. We must understand that evangelism is a process and not simply an event. Everyone, regardless of gifting, can contribute.
That process is part of everyone's spiritual journey and involves sowing, cultivating, and harvesting. Forsome, the journey is short and straight. For others, it is long and serpentine.
Evangelism recognizes these stages and seeks to deliberately contribute to the process. Each phase requires different strategies. For those who choose to be part of a planned, strategic outreach, developing proper skills and tools for each stage becomes critical.
In order to find the appropriate tools, we must understand that there are basically three responses to the gospel:
1. "I'm not interested-get lost,"
2. "I understand-help me," and
3. "I'm not convinced-but interested."
Paul, the great evangelist, received the same responses in his address to the crowd on Mars Hill in Athens.
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." ... A few men became followers of Paul and believed. (Acts 17:32-34, emphasis added)
The first two responses are the easiest to deal with: "Get lost" and "Help me." However, most people are in the last category-curious but not convinced. So what tools can we use to share the gospel with them?
Harvesting tools, those that summarize the gospel and bring people to a point of decision, are the most familiar. Tracts like Peace with God, The Four Spiritual Laws, or summary illustrations like The Bridge are designed to harvest what is mature. The purpose of these tools is to draw a line in the sand, to test to see if the harvest is ripe, to encourage a decision. Yet in the process of coming to Christ, many people are still in the cultivation stage: exploring, seeking, asking, wrestling. They need understanding-not a line drawn in the sand prematurely.
We need a tool that exposes seekers to the reality of Christ in the Scriptures so their faith can grow. "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
Opening the Door is a cultivation tool that will progressively help people discover and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Opening the Door will help a person answer four critical life questions:
1. Who is Jesus Christ?
2. What does He say about putting life together?
3. What are the implications for me?
4. How will I respond?
No tool is effective by itself. There is no substitute for prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. My hope is that Opening the Door will fit as one quality tool in your expanding ministry toolbox and help you overcome EIA syndrome.
There is a growing concern that the church today is strategically poised for a ministry of irrelevance. A polar drift is occurring putting distance between our society and the church.
The scene in America is like a culture lost in the mountains while the church is operating in the valley. Strategies and tactics effective in the past are now becoming increasingly irrelevant and ineffective in today's mountain culture. If Christians are going to be salt and light in this decade, we need to undergo a radical change in vision, values, and lifestyles.
Classified WANTED: Mountain climbers to join expedition for search and rescue operations in the highlands of America. Training provided.
The need of the hour is for a band of mountain climbers conditioned and equipped to climb in the mountains of our society. Their mission is not survival, photography, or recreation. Instead, their mission is to search and rescue the survivors trapped in the avalanches of sin, self, and secularism.
Caleb was an Old Testament climber, a real mountain man. Moses originally sent him and eleven others to survey the Promised Land. He and Joshua gave the minority opinion on the feasibility of possessing this land. The majority opinion broke faith in God. They viewed the giants and walled cities as insurmountable considering their own resources. God's judgment on that generation was to hold them to their decision. For the next forty years they roamed in the desert. God gave the privilege of entering the Promised Land to the next generation.
However, as a result of Caleb's faithful service, Moses gave a promise. Caleb's inheritance would be the land he viewed on that original mission.
When Joshua began to allot the new land to the various family tribes, Caleb asked for the high country, the mountains of Hebron, which included the walled cities and giants he had witnessed forty-five years earlier. It was tough terrain, the hard job, the job yet unfinished. Unlike other tribes of Israel who settled for the easy land east of the Jordan, Caleb went for the mountains.
What qualities made Caleb a real mountain man? First, he was Confident in the Promises of God. "Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day" (Joshua 14:12). Caleb believed God's promise made decades earlier (Joshua 14:9). Time had not diminished the validity of God's word. The basis for requesting his inheritance was not his own merit but the promise of God.
Caleb was also Content in the Providence of God. "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years" (Joshua 14:10). Thankfulness in God's sovereign goodness was still his attitude at age eighty-five. He could have reflected on the injustice of spending forty years living in a sand pile with a bunch of losers. He could have been bitter over being penalized for the mistakes of others. He could have easily considered the best years of his life wasted ... for doing right!
Yet Caleb's view of God's providence was one of humble acceptance. He simply accepted the cards God dealt him with gratitude and humility. Content in the providence of God, Caleb seized the moment of opportunity.
Too often, resentment over circumstances blinds us to the opportunities of the moment. Chained to the past through attitudes of ungratefulness and resentment, we fail to see what God is doing in the present. These attitudes deplete our emotional energy. We become weary and confused. Contentment with God's sovereignty made Caleb like the Energizer bunny. He just kept going and going and going.
In addition, Caleb was also Competent in the Presence of God. "Now give me this hill country ... and their cities ... large and fortified ... the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said" (Joshua 14:12).
No illusions of grandeur here. Oh yes, he was still an eager and wiry warrior. However, his strength was not the basis for success. Caleb knew that he could be victorious only if Yahweh went with him. Maybe it was the model of Moses that left this principle indelibly etched on his mind. "If you do not go with us," Moses had said to God, "then do not lead us out from this place" (see Exodus 33:15).
Caleb was not referring to God's omnipresence. Caleb was dependent on the experiential, personal presence of God that results from union with Him.
No mountain venture, no matter how commendable, can succeed without the presence and power of God. The dangers are too real, our resources too inadequate, the job too big. To climb in the rugged mountains of our society, we need to find our competence in His presence and power.
Caleb was a person with the faith and courage to take on the tough job. Highlighted in biblical history, he was one who made a difference in his generation.
This generation also needs Calebs, people who have the vision and courage to take on the tough job of climbing into the mountains of our culture. God is still looking for people with a vision for the high country, people not paralyzed by circumstances or popular opinion.
We cannot remain in the valley and send messages to those stranded in the mountains. Get-well cards and road maps are inadequate for those trapped, starved, and without hope. Ski trips, nature tours, and photo sessions still leave lost people isolated, injured, and scared.
The need of this hour is for men and women to leave the comfort and security of the valley. Their mission: to climb into the mountains of our society to reach people who need Christ. Few lost people today will accidentally wander out of the mountains into the valley to find the help they need.
Those who would follow Jesus into the mountains in our day must be Calebs who are AUTHENTIC. When Jesus described what it meant to be His disciple, He used the word "tested" or "proven" disciple (John 15:8, PH). He was referring to a follower who was real. A follower of Jesus takes on Christ's nature and character. Discipleship is not a spiritual version of behavior modification. It is real life change ... from the inside out.
Jesus said a trained disciple will become like his teacher. Followers of Christ who are in personal, dynamic union with Him are in the exciting process of inner change. They are more than "change agents"-they are "changed agents."
However, being authentic doesn't mean perfection. It does mean progress. It means to be proactive, not passive. It means that we are "working out" that which God has placed within (Philippians 2:12).
Authenticity is the spiritual prerequisite for mountain climbing. No wise person would venture into the mountains if he were not in good physical shape. Union with Christ as a daily growing experience is the spiritual conditioning needed to survive in the mountains of our culture.
Today's mountain climbers also must develop INTEGRATED lives. God desires to integrate kingdom living into every facet of life. Jesus never separated life into the sacred and secular. Climbers cannot survive in the mountains with a compartmentalized, segmented approach to life. The kingdom of God lays claim to every aspect of life. Living by the values and principles of the kingdom is not simply a creed; it is a lifestyle.
Scripture is God's manual for integrated living. The Scripture is more than sermon material for pastors. It is the practical handbook for every generation and every individual who claims to be a follower of Christ. "The Scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God, and fit him fully for all branches of his work" (2 Timothy 3:17, PH). It sounds strangely hollow when a person claims to follow Christ and yet fails to practice (or even know) what God says about conducting the affairs of life.
Today's spiritual mountain climbers are also CONNECTED. No one survives the hazards of the mountains alone. One of Satan's favorite strategies is to isolate us from the support of the body. Search and rescue teams tie themselves together for support, encouragement, and protection. "Two are better than one.... If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Being connected means more than casual fellowship at church on Sunday morning. It means regular personal accountability and encouragement with fellow climbers. Climbers work together with those of like heart and vision. Committed to each other and the mission, climbers form a working unit. They experience the dynamics of unity while focused on a specialized task. Each person, as part of the team, brings to the whole his or her gifts and strengths.
Climbing teams are needed. The easy job has been done. Reaching those who live in the valley has largely been accomplished. It is the mountain country that remains to be possessed. God is looking for the Calebs of this generation who will leave the security and comfort of the valley and venture into the mountains.
REACHING PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE
Jesus excelled at going into the mountains. One of His outstanding characteristics was that He went where people were. He chose to encounter diverse people in diverse situations. At home, the marketplace, the temple, a meadow, a lake ... all were strategic to Jesus. He had the knack (or strategy?) of meeting people on their turf-where they were comfortable.
The gospel records show that wherever Jesus went He drew a crowd. So magnetic was Jesus that people, having met Him, brought others for a firsthand look. Philip found Nathaniel and said, "We have found the one Moses wrote about.... Come and see" (John 1:45-46). A Samaritan woman, having encountered Jesus at the local watering hole, returned to her relational network and said, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did" (John 4:29).
With various motives, they came. They listened. They watched. Some touched. Some wondered. But having come, no one left the same. No one who encountered Jesus could ever be neutral.
In a society drifting in a sea of relativity and the fog of humanism, we need to introduce people to the One who came as the Author and Restorer of Life. Too often we have subtly and erroneously focused on presenting church, religion, ourselves ... rather than Jesus.
In a society that increasingly regards the institutional church as irrelevant at best, we need a new strategy and new tools for reaching those in the mountains. Since many are now a second and third generation outside the church environment, we need to recognize their shifting worldview and lack of biblical knowledge. We need a strategy that brings people into contact with the Jesus of the Bible, one that allows Jesus to meet them where they are, on their turf.
Opening the Door is a Bible discussion guide that enables those who are seeking truth for their lives to take a firsthand look at the records regarding Jesus. This guide helps people get to know Jesus "up close and personal," exposing many to Scripture for the first time. It enables people who are seekers to look at Jesus without first becoming skilled in religious tradition and knowledge. The questions in each Discovery Guide will help people better understand what Jesus did, said, and implied.
LEARNING THROUGH ILLUSTRATION
To reach those in the "mountains" of our society, we need to understand that most adults learn best through self-discovery. Most of us react negatively to being told what truth is. We want to discover truth for ourselves. Many adults also resist a fill-in-the-blank approach to discovering biblical truth. They suspect having views forced on them. What many need is the opportunity to look at the biblical records, discover, understand, and come to their own convictions. Our role is to create the opportunity for guided self-discovery.
Opening the Door studies a series of incidents in the life of Jesus where He demonstrates and teaches truth. In that original setting, people had to deal with His claims. They reacted as people do today. To a seeker, these reactions help them identify their own journey.
Excerpted from OPENING THE DOOR by RON BENNETT LARRY GLABE Copyright © 2006 by Ron Bennett and Larry Glabe. Excerpted by permission.
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