Book Reviews

Witnessing to Jews: Practical ways to relate the love of Jesus

Sharing your Christian faith can be difficult – especially when the people with whom you are sharing come from a different cultural background.  Things said and done out of love or concern can take on new meaning; appearing too weak or informal to have any impact or being too blunt or aggressive to warrant being heard.  Only when we take the time to understand the cultures of those with whom we share will we experience the type of Christ-reflecting relationships that have the power to transform lives.  And this is where Moishe and Ceil Rosen’s Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus can help.

Messianic Jews Moishe and his wife begin their volume with a list of myths that frequently prevent Christians from attempting to share their faith.  From confronting fear and insecurity on the part of believers to addressing the level of knowledge possessed by Jews, themselves, the Rosen’s help Christians to understand the practical side of what it means to be Jewish and how they can make a difference in the lives of their Jewish friends.

While many of their tips are practical for any form of evangelism (like the “Witness on the Way” or WOW technique which advocates practical, action-based evangelism), much of the information contained in this volume is culture-specific.  Throughout the volume, you’ll be introduced to the stories of Jews who have embraced Jesus as their Messiah.  Drawing from their experiences, you’ll learn how to avoid accidentally giving (or taking) offense during a dialogue.  You’ll receive an introduction to arguing your faith from the Old Testament (books broadly accepted by the Jewish community) as well as detailed instructions for answering common Jewish objections to Jesus.  Then, see the lessons in action through sample conversations.  If you’re anything like me, by the end, you’ll feel well-prepared to put your best foot forward when it comes to boldly sharing your faith with God’s chosen people!

Published in 1998 by Purple Pomegranate Productions, Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus is an excellent guide for everyone looking to more effectively share their faith cross-culturally with their Jewish friends!  Witnessing to Jews: Practical Ways to Relate the Love of Jesus is available in paperback for $13.43 through amazon.com.

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Evangelism, Evangelist-B-Ware, Hard Case Evangelism

Hard Core

Last week, we discussed the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Case” objectors to Christianity.  This week, we’ll be taking a look at the first (and rarest) of those and discussing how to handle the sometimes aggressive situations which can develop when others adamantly oppose our Christian faith.  We’ll examine what provokes such people and consider some ways to maintain a Christian witness without escalating the conflict into an all-out war.

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus says: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

I confess that for years I found this passage to be puzzling.  Given the Scripture’s emphasis on the importance of evangelism, it seemed odd that something so apparently anti-evangelism would have come from Christ’s mouth.  It was not until I was sitting in a restaurant, trying to blend into the booth as a very hard core anti-Christian loudly berated my faith that I began to understand.

The friend with whom I was sharing was very quick to explain that she was well-versed in the case against Christ.  She was convinced that anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence could readily be talked out of Christianity.  Unfortunately, her conversation revealed that she hadn’t actually done her research.  She had spent a great deal of time reading books written in opposition to Jesus, but had never read the Bible or anything else written in favor of the Christian point of view.  Her case was made in complete ignorance of Biblical teaching or traditional Christian theology.  In order to cover for this, she’d change her position a thousand times during a single debate – sometimes being in favor of the very thing which she had adamantly opposed just moments earlier!  It often felt like I was speaking to a moving brick wall with built in cannonade.  Try to expose her error and “Kapow”, you were flat on your back.

It even reached a point where I began to hesitate to pick up her phone calls.  I didn’t want to spend time with her because I knew the only thing that would come of it was further attacks on my faith.  She was not sincerely interested in discussing the case for or against Christianity, but was merely seeking an argument.

It was then that my father sat down with me and had a talk about “casting pearls before swine”.  I had presented the gospel message to my friend and given her a Bible to read as well as access to other information in favor of Christianity.  To continue the pursuit, especially with her expressed disinterest in earnest discussion, was counter-productive and verging on Bible thumping.  It was wasting my time.  And it was wasting hers.

So what was I to do?  In Matthew 17:14-21, a man came to Jesus’ disciples and asked them to cast out the demon which possessed his son.  The disciples were unable to do so and when they asked Jesus why, He replied: “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

While I don’t believe my friend was demon possessed, I’m not ready to discount the activity of demons when it comes to holding someone in such bondage that they are both unwilling and unable to have a rational, controlled conversation with someone who sees the world from a different angle.  (And yes, there are some Christians who are equally as bound.)  This is what you might call hard-core evangelism and the only way to deal with it is through intense, ongoing prayer.  No fancy arguments or acts of love will win over someone like this;  only the supernatural power of God is capable of doing that.  He must be the One to break down the barriers.

Meanwhile, keeping the conversation from exploding into a profane rant requires a bit of finesse.  Most hard-core anti-Christians have trigger points – those things which bring the Christian faith so much to the forefront that they are incapable of restraining themselves from sharing their thoughts.  In such situations, it pays to learn those trigger points and, when possible, do your best to avoid them.  If that news story about abortion or the Gay Pride parade is going to send your friend, family member, or co-worker into a tirade, have the good sense not to mention it.  If you’ve arranged to get off a bit early to attend a Christian conference, they don’t need to know.  Keep your discussion of religious issues to a minimum.  Live your faith and leave God free to work in their heart.

There will be situations in which a trigger point can’t be avoided without our falling into sin.  In such cases, you will likely have a heads-up about what’s coming.  More often than not, your best bet is to sit and listen.  Hard core anti-Christians are used to those who are Christians attempting to answer each of their questions or rebuff their statements.  These activities only fuel the flames of indignation.  By sitting quietly and hearing what those opposed to our faith have to say, we indicate that their opinion does matter to us.  And by not responding we avoid getting embroiled in a conflict that will yield neither good will nor an honest examination of the case for Christ.  Proverbs 23:9 admonishes, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”  Remember that even our Master kept silent at times.  (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:59-64)

Next week, we’ll be taking a look at “Hard Cases” – those who object to Christianity for genuine moral, ethical, theological, or intellectual reasons.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own accounts of “Hard Core” evangelism in the comment box below!

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Evangelism, Evangelist-B-Ware, Hard Case Evangelism

Hard Core or Hard Case?

I looked awkwardly around the restaurant, pleased that it was mostly deserted.  The few customers who were there were staring at our table and I had to admit that I couldn’t blame them: I’d be doing the same if the shoe were on the other foot.  My friend had risen from her seat and in a voice that was far from conversational, was letting me (and everyone within a city block) know exactly how she felt about my Christian faith.

At some point during your evangelism adventures, you’re likely to encounter an adversarial situation.  The person may get angry and start yelling or calling names (as my friend did) or they may simply listen to you and then disdainfully walk away.  They may present you with rapid fire questions and allow you no opportunity to answer any of them or, if they do, may show an unwillingness to actually listen to the answers that you give.  Such people may be hard core anti-Christians (those who are unwilling to examine any evidence in favor of the faith and who are committed to its extermination) or they may simply be hard cases (those whose opposition is rooted in genuine questions and concerns about the faith).  While both may express themselves through similar words and actions, each must be approached differently.  For the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at what it means to be “hard core” or simply a “hard case” and discuss a few methods for defusing conflicts with both.

Before I begin, however, I need to take a moment to differentiate between “hard core” and “hard case”.  It is important to realize that true “hard core” anti-Christians are a rarity, despite their unique ability to attract the attention of the media.  These are people who really mean exactly what they’ve said against the faith and if Jesus Christ, Himself appeared before them, they’d spit in His face.  They may or may not have done their research, but they’re certain that nothing will cause them to ever become a Christian and their aggression towards those who are is truly genuine.  They view Christianity as a threat to a well-ordered and tolerant society or a truly religious society, depending upon which part of the world they hail from.  This doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time to share the Gospel with them, just that the techniques you use will be a little different.  Our God is big enough to convert even the most adamant of His opposition – just look at the Apostle Paul!

The more common of the two, however, is the “hard case”.  Such people often have sincere intellectual or moral questions about Christianity.  Their belief that these questions cannot be answered may lead to very adamant and direct statements such as, “Even if you could prove to me that it’s true, I will never become a Christian”.  What is usually meant by this is that they genuinely don’t believe that you can provide them with any serious evidence to that end that Christianity is true, not that they actually would reject the faith if such evidence were provided.  Many times, these are the true intellectuals among the “opposition” – they try to think things through and they aren’t going to bite unless a substantial case is made in favor of a given position.

It is also likely that their objections run deeper than what they’re expressing.  They may have had some unpleasant encounters with Christians in the past (face it, some who claim the name of Christ are a bit aggressive, themselves) and may feel awkward around those who appear to have proven themselves incapable of living peaceably with anyone who disagrees with their world view.   “Hard cases” may have grown up in a professing Christian home that failed to live up to the Biblical vision or have “done time” in a church seemed to do more harm than good.  It’s also quite possible that their understanding of Christianity is limited to what they’ve seen on PBS and the evening news – two generally reliable sources.  (It is important to note that such people aren’t getting their information from conspiracy websites.  “Hard cases” are not a part of the lunatic fringe and should never be treated as though they are!)

Taking the time to determine whether your friend, co-worker, or family member is simply “spouting off” or is quite sincere in what they’re expressing is the key to determining whether a person is “hard core” or a “hard case”.  It requires a delicate touch, a loving heart, and an immense amount of prayer!  Next week, we’ll begin taking a look at how to handle “hard core” situations and I’ll be sharing the rest of the story with which this article opened, but for now, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

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Evangelist-B-Ware

The Strategy of Distraction

Patton. Napoleon. Caesar. Alexander. Great warriors are remembered not for the size of their armies, but for the use which they made of them. Their excellence stemmed not from their power, but from their strategies. It was their careful, studied knowledge of their enemies: their strengths and their weaknesses, which gave these men the edge that they needed to win. And the same holds true for us today.

One of the single most important keys to effective evangelism is an understanding of our enemy: who he is, how he operates and why. Without this knowledge, we cannot hope to gain ground. Perhaps, this is why God took such pains to tell us about our enemy in his Word. The Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 6:12 that:

“…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

In short, our battle is not waged against a physical enemy, but a Spiritual one. That this presents a difficulty for corporal (bodily) beings is not to be questioned. It always has been (and probably always will be) easier to throw a punch, fire a pistol, or drop a bomb than it is to contend with an enemy which we cannot see. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that one of Satan’s primary strategies in the war for souls is to refocus our attentions on a more “concrete” adversary. And sometimes the “enemy” he chooses isn’t who we’d expect!
Jesus told us (in a somewhat different context) in Mark 3:25 that:

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Knowing this, Satan’s first approach nearly every time is to entice Christians to fight each other, drawing their attention to issues concerning the lack of Sanctification (Christ-like behavior) in other believers, details of “minor” doctrines (those which may be important to an Orthodox view of Scripture, but which have no bearing upon Salvation), or administrative programs within the body (such as the organization of the Sunday School department or the music to be played during morning service). By disrupting the unity of the body, he shifts the focus of believers away from the ultimate goal of presenting God’s message of Salvation to the lost… and the battle is over before it has even begun.
For this cause, Paul tells Titus to warn the believers on Crete to:

“… avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9)

Instead, we are to:

“[Fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Only by understanding Satan’s strategy and endeavoring to preserve the unity of the body by keeping our focus on Christ will we ever be capable of accomplishing the mission He has given us!

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