Tuesday, April 14, 2020

My new book: What Is A Christian?

Why did I write my new book:  What Is A Christian?  I am eager to explore that, because you and I may have important things in common.  You might decide to read it for yourself!

First, because I have always wanted to bring people to Jesus.  My conversion was a very powerful experience.  I have never been the same!  Immediately after the baptismal waters swirled overhead, I was folded into the circle of Christians singing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus!” while holding hands.  That communicated so much—togetherness and unity, belonging and fellowship, and a challenge to me to cling fast to Jesus if I hoped to keep my place in the circle.

From that moment, I wanted nothing more than to give others the same experience.  But how?  How are others to be brought into the circle?  What should I say (or, not say)?  I could barely understand my own experience.  So I began to pursue the challenge of learning how.  I read and studied Scripture.  I read and studied anything that might help.  I tried to convert others to Jesus, and my efforts were often ineffective (in the book I share some of my mistakes).  I studied at university and pursued a “preaching” ministry.  Yet I had no real interest in public speaking—I just thought that might be a way to bring people to Jesus.  For years, I pursued advanced Bible study, because I knew the secret to success was in there somewhere.  I never had ambitions to be a preacher or a Bible scholar—those were pursuits that I followed simply to bring others a powerful experience with Jesus.  I guess the whole pursuit testifies to my own inadequacy—all along I had a sense that it shouldn’t be as difficult as I was making it.  But why couldn’t I just “get it”?
Call me slow, obtuse, or unenlightened, but I needed lots of help!  If you ever feel challenged like this, I hope you will read the book!

Second, I have to say that other “evangelistic methods” were not helpfully satisfying.  Even if they worked, they didn’t feel right!  Those like me, who struggle with inadequacy, may be tempted to find a “method” to do the work for them—but does it do the job right?  You quickly learn that the “method” itself unavoidably becomes part of the message!  Like one that used the image of a ladder, with each rung representing one of the “salvation requirements.”  Climb the ladder and salvation is yours!  Really?

Sometimes the method feels awkward and unnatural—and such concerns matter when trying to join people in powerful relationship to Jesus.  Converts are highly alert to feelings, intuitions, and sensations!   Remember how awkward the boy David felt when he was outfitted with the armor and weapons of Saul?  Some methods made me feel like that when I tried to make them work.

I tried various methods but always sensed that I ought to do the job personally to get it done right.  And I sensed that it would be fairly simple if I could ever figure it out.  If it’s been a struggle to get programmed methods to work for you, get the book!

Third, I wrote this book because there is so much murkiness about evangelism.  As I looked at how Christians are made in denominational outreach, I had to evaluate each strategy:  --is it enough to “just believe”?  --enough to “accept Jesus as Lord & Savior”? –enough to say a prayer (like the famous “Sinner’s Prayer”)?  Then there were murky issues in theology and Bible interpretation--especially, the role of the Holy Spirit and the purpose of baptism.  Before writing, I worked through the issues until I could see clearly.

And especially, I was troubled that certain Scriptures were being ignored—by ourselves as well as the denominations!  In modern times, becoming a Christian usually costs the convert nothing.  But Jesus must give His life!  We are told that this arrangement is what “grace” is all about.  And told also that asking anything from the convert means “salvation by works” or “legalism” or “merit theology.”  To demand anything produces Pharisees, not Christians…so we are told.  However, what about those Scriptures that demand the convert to take up his own cross, or demand total sacrifice, or demand that the convert also must die—to self and to sin?  In my experience, those Scriptures often were transferred from the category of “evangelism” (as conversionary requirements) to the category of “discipleship”:  “Yes, yes—now that we are Christians we should begin to strive for the ultimate goal of total self-sacrifice!”  But those demands are not taken very seriously.  We think God will be happy with whatever we decide to offer Him.

If you have become bewildered and troubled over such matters, I hope my book will bring you clarity!  By the way—my earlier book Filling The Temple:  Finding A Place For the Holy Spirit sheds additional light on the Spirit’s role in conversion (it also is available on Amazon.com).  

Finally, I wrote to share the secrets of success with people like you.  I’ve known evangelists gifted with eloquence and charismatic attractiveness—you can be a success without those gifts!  You don’t need to be a Bible expert capable of answering any and all questions.  You can lead people to Jesus without memorizing lots of Scripture, word for word.  It requires no amazing technology.

I know what it’s like to feel ungifted, unqualified, incapable of success.  The three things you need are easy to get:  FOCUS, POWER, and SALVATION.  My steady encouragement in the book is:  “You can do this!”  If I can do it, you can too!  Read “What Is A Christian?”—it will save you lots of time and effort.  That is why I wrote the book!