Friday, April 5, 2013
By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
I have written on this subject before, but it is good to be reminded of it from time-to-time.
What isn't evangelism?
We need to know what evangelism is. Perhaps telling what it isn't will help us know what it is. Evangelism is not converting others to our political views. It is not convincing others to join our our local church. It is not arguing for the supposed superiority of our denomination. It is not telling someone to quit drinking alcoholic beverages, to quit smoking tobacco (or something else), to quit gambling, to quit using profanity, or to quit some other bad habit.
What is evangelism?
Evangelism is making known to others the good news that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, died on the cross in our place in order to pay the penalty of our sins. It involves telling them that the Lord was raised again from the dead. It involves telling them that he offers full and free forgiveness of sins to anyone who will believe on him as Savior and Lord. It involves telling them that no one can merit salvation by being good. It involves telling that this life is the only opportunity they have to be saved, and that death ends all further opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ. It involves telling them that if they die without having first believed in him, they will spend eternity in a horrible place called hell.
Evangelism in the Book Of Acts
The points just made can be verified by carefully reading the New Testament's Book Of Acts. That book is a record of the evangelistic efforts of the Christians of the first century A. D. It can be verified, also, by reading other parts of the New Testament. But the Book Of Acts is key to the subject because it is a record of the theology behind evangelism worked out in the lives of others. In other words, it tells us of Christians being evangelistic.
Consider a few examples. We read in Acts 8 that Philip the evangelist had opportunity to evangelize people in a certain location, and it says in verse 5 that he "preached Christ unto them." Later in Acts 8, we read that Philip had opportunity to evangelize one man.We are told that in doing so he "preached unto him Jesus." One more example: We read in Acts 16 that a man asked two Christians (Paul and Silas) what he needed to do to be saved. Their answer was simple: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved......"
Pastors should be evangelistic
Even though pastors might not be gifted to be evangelists, they should be evangelistic. They can and should make the Gospel known through their sermons and Bible studies. They can and should at those times give non-Christians an opportunity to act on the Gospel message by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, And those persons should be given opportunity to make it known at once that they have accepted him as their Savior.
Pastors can and and should try and reach others with the Gospel outside of the church services. This can be done in a variety of ways and settings. But it can and should be done. Pastors should challenge their congregations to be involved in reaching others with the Gospel, and should set an example of doing so themselves.
Christians in general should be evangelistic.
Evangelism is not just the privilege and responsibility of pastors and evangelists. Every Christian should make effort to win others to faith in Jesus Christ. This can be done in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples: by speaking to others about salvation, by giving away Gospel tracts, by inviting non-Christians to church services and home Bible studies, at which they can hear the Gospel.
Living a good Christian life is not enough
Every Christian should seek to live a good Christian life, and with God's help we can do so. But non-Christians need more than good examples to follow. They need the Gospel message to believe. A good example can prepare the way for non-Christians to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must not stop with a good example. We must give them the Gospel message.
Perhaps you are not a Christian
Perhaps you are not a Christian, but want to learn more about becoming one. If so, please click on the following link. It will tell you what you need to know. http://www.godssimpleplan.org/gsps-english.html
By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
Homosexuality becoming more common
Quite regularly, it seems, we hear of another well-known person announcing he or she is a homosexual, or is a homosexual who is getting or gotten married. A weather man on a major TV network did so earlier this year (2013). And, we also regularly hear of other influential persons coming out in defense of gay marriage. President Obama is an example.
Common acceptance of moral relativism
This has led to a question: why is there now so much acceptance of homosexuality, even by those who reject for themselves? The answer is simple: it is because there is wide spread acceptance of moral relativism. More and more persons live by the principle that there are few moral absolutes that apply to all persons in all times and under all circumstances. However, they generally have not thrown all moral absolutes to the winds. They have enough sense to know that if that is done, they will have to accept murder, rape, theft, lying, and all other behavior as acceptable, too. So, they pick and choose which behavior to accept and which to reject. At this point in history, moral relativists say murder is wrong, but homosexuality is right for those who like it.
Christians believe in moral absolutes
But if we had a set of moral standards that apply to all persons, in all times, and under all circumstances, how differently we would live our lives! Well, the fact is that Christians do have such a set of standards. And Christians do not consider these moral standards to have been dreamed up by one person. or by many persons, who then have attempted to govern the world by them. Rather, Christians believe these moral standards have been set by Almighty God, who has made them known to us in the pages of one book, the Bible, which they consider to be God's infallible Word in written form. And it just so happens that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality a number of times. The Bible addresses this subject, as it does many subjects, in a way that it is beyond justifiable dispute that God considers homosexuality to be wrong for all persons, in all times, and under all circumstances.
Moral relativists will dismiss this view of homosexuality and the Bible.
But for those of us who know the Bible is the Word of, we must accept what it says on this and any other subject subject. The Bible is the Christian's moral standard. We might not always live up to it, but we believe it is always right.
Read what the Bible says about homosexuality
Those who want to read for themselves what the Bible says about homosexuality should start with the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. He discusses the matter in verses 18 - 32. If you are new to the Bible, the index will help you locate this letter by Paul.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
On a recent TV news program, the point was made that there is always widespread interest in any new documentary about the Bible because people have an ongoing interest in its contents. They might not believe what is in the Bible, but they are always curious about it. Therefore, they watch the documentaries.
What came to mind abut this public fascination with the Bible is that so few seem to realize they can discover its contents for themselves by simply reading it. We don't need a new documentary every few years. We just need to read the Bible, and we need to read for what it is: the Word of God.
This does not mean that documentaries about the Bible are a bad thing. Most of us learn from visual presentation of any subject. Bible documentaries can be good or bad, or good and bad all in one. It all depends on whether or not the documentary is true to the Bible itself. They must be done in such a way as to not misrepresent or distort the Bible's contents by what is left out or added.
So, back to my main point: We don't need a new documentary every few years. We just need to read the Bible, and we need to read it as the Word of God. But we must read and re-read it to master its contents. The Bible is not a big book, unless it is in giant print and has a lot of explanatory footnotes. However, it still needs numerous readings for us to get really familiar with its contents.
We can read through it once a year by reading four chapters a day. New-comers to the Bible might do well to start by reading the New Testament portion of it. The table of contents will tell you what page that starts on. Once the New Testament has been read through, go to the beginning and read its first book, called "Genesis." The New Testament makes frequent reference to Genesis. Then continue on from there.
It is important to not get bogged down by all the details in the Bible. Just do what is called survey reading the first time through it. Have the goal to read it through in a year, and it will get done. You might enjoy it so much that you will read it all in six months or less.
What follows is brief information about some respected Bible translations.
- The King James Version (old English).
- The New King James Version (modern English).
- The New American Standard Bible (updated in 1995, modern English).
- The English Standard Version (modern English).
- The Holman Christian Standard Bible (modern English).
- The New International Version( 1984 edition, modern English).
What follows are brief warnings about two "Bibles":
- The New World Translation (This produced by the so-called Jehovah's Witnesses. It is in modern English, but reliable Bible scholars reject it because it deliberately distorts the Bible in many places to support the false teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses.)
- The Message (modern English, and better than The New World Translation. But it distorts too much of the Bible to make it appealing to modern readers. Earlier in 2013 I made a posting about this paraphrase of the Bible. If you want to read it, look for this title: "The Message Is Not The Bible.")
In conclusion, remember that documentaries are not a good substitute for reading the Bible.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
Is the Bible an allegorical book? This subject came to mind this winter (2013) when watching the Bill O'Reilly TV program. Although he is right on many subjects, he was wrong when he said the Bible is an allegorical book. If he had simply said the Bible contains many figures of speech, he would have been correct. But he clearly said it is an allegorical book. That is false. I can say this from firsthand knowledge of the Bible, having read it numerous times. I know what an allegory is, and the Bible is not an allegorical book.
But what is an allegory? Here (in red) is what an old Funk And Wagnall's dictionary says an allegory is: "1.The setting forth of a subject or the telling of a story in figurative or symbolic language requiring interpretation; especially a narrative veiling a moral by symbolic devices, such as personification, metaphor, etc. 2. Any subject or story so presented; loosely, any symbolic presentation in literature or art; an emblem."
Here (in red) is what the same dictionary also says right after that definition: "Synonyms: fable, illustration, metaphor, parable simile, story. Antonyms: chronicle, fact, history, narrative, record."
A famous example of an allegorical book is John Bunyan's "The pilgrim's Progress." It was written as an allegory, and must be read as one.
I'm not sure why Bill O'Reilly says the Bible is an allegorical book, but I do know that some readers say that because they do not want to accept its controversial contents as "chronicle, fact, history, narrative, record." So, they say it is to be interpreted to mean something different than what it says. This allows them to accept the theory of evolution, and to reject the Biblical account of the divine and miraculous origin of all things, just as we read in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and many other places in the Bible. This allows them to say the story of the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a large fish (sometimes referred to as a "whale"), and then being vomited out alive by that fish, and then telling others about the ordeal, could not be literal, historical narrative. They say those things could not have really happened, and so the story must be an allegory from which we are to learn certain lessons.
But it is quite significant that the Biblical account of creation and of the story of Jonah were both referred to as fact by none other than Jesus Christ himself. You can read his affirming references to these controversial subjects in the 12th and 19th chapters of Matthew's Gospel. Those of us who believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth, the Savior of sinners, the wisest man who ever walked this planet, the one who physically rose again from the dead, unhesitatingly say that we believe the Bible's presentation of these controversial subjects are historically accurate because we believe Jesus Christ knew what he was talking about. As has been said, he was either the Lord. a liar, or a lunatic. We know he was/is the Lord. Therefore, he was/is always right.
It is true that the Bible uses a variety of symbolic language. But it is primarily "chronicle, fact, history, narrative, record." And it is usually easy to tell what is presented as symbolic language, and what is not.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The following excellent article was written by Earl Brubaker, and is published in the March/April 2013 issue of VOICE magazine. This is a publication of Independent Fundamental Churches Of America, International. It is posted here with permission. Mr. Brubaker sent it to me for use on my blog spot, and it has a few differences from how it reads in VOICE magazine. It is posted here exactly as he sent it to me, with a few formatting changes: I put the title on the left side, put his name under the title, and put the title in bold print to differentiate it from the rest of this posting. It has also been justified on both sides, as it is in the VOICE magazine. I also used the phrases from the VOICE article that identify subject matter. They are in bold print, too.
Here is the biographical information about Mr. Brubaker as found at the beginning of the VOICE article: "Earl Brubaker is a veteran church planting missionary in the NW United States. He was General Director of Northwest Independent Church Extension located in Tacoma, WA and now is president of IFCA Board OF Directors."
Learning People Skills
By Earl Brubaker
During the afternoon of an IFCA Regional Conference, several regional leaders interviewed two young men who were preparing for ordination. Since I knew the young men and had recently been through that same process, I ask Dick how the interview went. Dick Schwab was a man 25 years my senior, a long-time IFCA member, and a member of the founding board of Northwest Independent Church Extension (NICE) with which I served. He loved details, and ardently but graciously defended the faith. He chose his words carefully.
“I have observed,” he began in answer to my question, “That many more men fail in ministry for lack of people skills than for lack of theological training.”
I have long since forgotten the remainder of Dick’s comments in that conversation, but I often recall his assessment of the importance of people skills. Over a period of years I observed Dick defending his convictions about such often debated issues as cessationism, eschatology, and dispensationalism. I appreciated his scholarship as well as his commitment to the truth. It was his defense of those views without alienating those who disagreed, however, for which I most remember him.
I grew up with four brothers. We loved to argue. Our father was a skeptical, suspicious, often bitter man who did not join our arguments but whose attitudes fueled them. Since people skills did not come naturally, I have sought to learn them by observing and emulating people like Dick. I have also watched and sought to avoid the ways of those whose caustic, abrasive words offend others. Dick is with the Lord now, as are each of the people who are mentioned by name in this account.
My course in people skills began in earnest when, just out of Bible College, I served as a Pastor in Training in a Northern California sawmill town of about 250. A troubled church, it closed two years later when the sawmill burned down and many people moved away.
Bessie, an author, pianist, song writer, Bible teacher, church treasurer, and retired school teacher, was the church matriarch. Her talent was rare; her commitment admirable. It was easy, however, for even a novice such as me to see the control she exerted in the church. I also learned that she had a reputation for being caustic, unbending, and using her writing skills to author what some described as “poison pen” letters. Almost inevitably, it was not long until something I did earned her ire.
One afternoon on the way home from a neighboring town, I made a quick stop as I often did at Frank and Bessie’s home. On this day, my reception was icy. Without inviting me to be seated, Bessie assailed me for being dishonest, lying, two-faced, uncaring, and therefore unfit for pastoral ministry. Any response I attempted was drowned in a continued torrent of words. Stunned, I beat a hasty retreat. The point of contention was my appointment of a Sunday school teacher for two pre-school age girls, the only children in the church. When Bessie objected to my choice, I agreed to present the matter to the next church business meeting. When not even one person showed up for the meeting, I assumed they just did not care. I proceeded with the appointment.
Driving home from the encounter, I began to prepare my defense. I knew that people rarely won a showdown with Bessie, but my motives were right, I reasoned, and teaching two little girls who had no Bible background was important. Besides, Bessie had hurt too many people already. I told myself I would win this, not for me but for the health and reputation of the church.
Slowly, however, the spotlight of conviction turned to my own heart. I had said I would present the matter at the business meeting. However justified I felt my actions to be because nobody cared enough to come to the meeting, I had violated that commitment. Did I genuinely care for people or was I merely concerned to use this training time to validate my ministry? Would it be right to be as ruthless as my attacker in order to win a battle? Was there any response that would restore our relationship and strengthen the church at the same time?
With Paul’s words to Timothy running through my mind --“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.” (2 Tim 2:23-24) – I returned to Bessie and asked her forgiveness for reneging on my word. I did the same at a church business meeting, and then together we worked through the issue. The church confirmed my appointment, but more importantly, Bessie became our friend and continued to serve faithfully in the church. Winning disputes, especially with caustic words and attitudes, alienates people and destroys ministry. The principle that Paul taught Timothy so many years ago is still important.
A Second Lesson
On another occasion, Henry’s wisdom and Omar’s insight taught me to wait for God to change hearts and attitudes rather than to rely on my own position or persuasiveness. Henry was
a hard driving, demanding, young business man who later became a much loved pastor and the first Director of NICE. Omar Glass, a former pastor, was chairman of the church board
Columbia View Bible Church was a small congregation in the heart of an established residential neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. After several of years of decline, we were experiencing growth once again. One of the problems the church leaders identified was that previous pastors had not lived in the community in which the church was located because rentals were few and expensive. When they extended a call to us to serve there they stipulated that we live in the community. The high cost of renting made purchase of a home very attractive, and such a move would ensure the pastor’s continued presence in the community. After months of informal discussion, I proposed to the church board that we purchase a home to serve as a parsonage or facilitate such a purchase by the pastor.
Three of the four board members immediately objected. Though the church had begun to grow and this proposal addressed a problem they had identified, they were unwilling to consider anything that would tap their quite comfortable cash reserves. The silence of Omar, the most influential man in the church, was most troubling. During the months of informal discussion he agreed with the need to make the purchase. I was certain that he and I together could have answered the objections. He did not object, but without his support the proposal died. I was crushed. How long could I serve a church that said they wanted to reach their community but were unwilling to do what they all agreed was needed to make that a reality?
Pastor Henry Boyd, having retired from his responsibility of Director of NICE, was serving an interim position in a small town nearby. I went to visit him to talk about what had happened and how it surprised and discouraged me. Henry had two bits of counsel for me: drop the matter of purchasing property for a while and teach scriptural principles that would help people grow in their trust that God is at work.
Henry assured me that if the need to purchase a home was genuine and the proposal sound, it was very likely to resurface later as somebody else’s idea. He urged me not to be miffed when that happened, but to rejoice that God was at work. He also warned me that scriptural principles needed to be taught for the purpose of changing lives, not for the purpose of changing votes. If the board members perceived that the aim of my teaching was to make them change their minds it would galvanize their opposition.
The proposal of property purchase vanished from the radar screen. We mobilized a group of eager college students to initiate an outreach ministry for children in our community. I taught principles of faith to help us persist with this ministry when it began slowly but became fruitful through perseverance. Several months passed. Then one night at a church board meeting Omar quietly said, “When are we going to go ahead and purchase that property we need?”
Almost without discussion, the other board members agreed. Very shortly thereafter we purchased a home near the church. The home had an oversized, detached garage nearly as large as the house. The garage became a meeting place for the children’s ministry we had launched.
A Third Lesson
On another occasion, in what could have been a major church crisis, Ray and Goff taught me to respond with compassion and understanding to the negative reactions we sometimes face. Ray, one of the church trustees, taught in our Christian Day School. Goff, the church treasurer, was a retired Los Angeles County fireman.
I sat in my study that Monday morning with a heavy heart reflecting on a Sunday evening congregational meeting that turned ugly. No violence, no overt threats, just ugly. Midway through a building expansion, we discovered that an additional piece of property was available. Most folks saw it as a great opportunity to complete the block of property already owned by the church. Others thought adding that final corner to our property was a merely cosmetic, large, unnecessary expense. The discussion got heated, voices raised. Charges of waste, deceit, and trying to control the church through private negotiations were all aired in the tense exchange. In the end, calm prevailed and the congregation voted by a large majority to complete the purchase.
Now as I reviewed these events and contemplated the impact they might have on our building project, Goff, who was among those opposing the purchase, entered my study. Sitting down, he took a deep breath, and got directly to the point.
“Pastor, I am not exactly proud of what I just did,” he began, “But I don’t know any other way to make my point about how serious this is.”
He went on to tell me that he had just written himself a sizeable check from the church building fund to pay off a loan he had made to the church for the expansion project. We both knew that the effect of this was to put a stop-work order on the project. Words like obstinacy, dishonesty, theft, and fraud leapt to my mind. I wondered how this man who was a strong supporter of our Christian Day School could so callously stop progress on the facilities the school desperately needed. Remembering my first lesson in pastoral people skills, I held my tongue as he rambled on about how terrible last night’s decision had been.
Late in the evening of that same day I related these events to a hastily called meeting of church Elders and Trustees. Ray broke the stunned silence when he said, “I know Goff well. He is an honest man, and I think there must be something more behind this. May I have your permission to go and talk to him and see how we might solve this?” We readily agreed, and after a time of prayer went our separate ways.
Goff had not cashed the check. The loan he had made to the church, Ray learned, was from his retirement fund. With health issues looming, Goff feared he might not have enough to meet his own needs. The church set up an accelerated payment schedule, and Goff voided the check. This was soon followed by adoption of new financial policies to ensure that such an incident would not recur. Goff resigned as treasurer, but remained a faithful participant in the church and volunteered hundreds of man hours working on the project he almost derailed. It was Ray’s willingness to take the time to understand Goff’s concern that deterred this faithful man from completing an action that he would have regretted. Ray’s quiet response also kept the church leaders from taking quick, decisive action that may have threatened the progress of the church.
One Final Lesson
Arnold Wall, another faithful IFCA pastor and NICE Board member taught me one of the most simple and most effective people skills that I use often.
“Pause,” he told me. He went on to explain that a pause before answering a question says the question was important. A pause before responding to an accusation indicates humility of spirit. A pause gives you time to weigh your words carefully. Sometimes a pause is needed just to think of a meaningful response.
I am still learning. I do not always speak wisely and carefully. Even wise, careful words and actions do not guarantee that the results will always be positive as the incidents I have related. My list of such encounters, both positive and negative, could be lengthy. But I have learned that people skills are the practical application of godly character clothed with humility, faith, and patience. That should occupy my attention until the day God calls me home.