Monthly Archive November 2017

Listening, asking questions and evangelism

Is listening and asking questions a good way to do evangelism?

This was a question I received recently from a student. In this post, I will share a few thoughts related to the question of listening, asking questions and evangelism. It is a good question because we do find passages in the Bible that clearly tell us to proclaim, persuade and also warn people. What is then the place of listening and asking good questions in our efforts to communicate the good news to students at the university? Here are some thoughts that could help.

Warning has a place in evangelism

It is true that warning has a place in evangelism. The student mentioned Ezekiel 33:7-9 where it says that God made the prophet a watchman over his people. The prophet’s responsibility is to warn the people of the dangers that are coming on them. If he will not warn the people then he is not a good watchman. How does this apply to evangelism? It has to do with stewardship and accountability. It teaches that those who have knowledge about a certain situation and do not share this knowledge with others will be held accountable.

Stewardship and evangelism

The apostle Paul expressed similar thoughts about our responsibility as Christians to communicate the good news with others. He says in Romans 1:14 (NIV) “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” Here he talks about our responsibility by using the image of a debtor, someone who owes something to others. The idea here is that God gives something to us so that we will pass it on to others. In this sense, we owe it to them. It is destined not only for us but also for them.* A student ones told me “if it is important for us (Christians) then it is important for them (non-Christians) too.” She was 100% right! Take a few seconds to reflect on this. C.S Lewis once said that “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Initiative and evangelism

Here is the question then, how can we warn others in the university setting? We can warn them by making the effort to initiate conversations about God, the meaning of life and truth. This can be done in a gentle and friendly way. During these conversations, we can listen carefully so we understand what others think. We can also ask good questions and challenge the students to think further. Sometimes a good question can make the whole difference in a person’s life. At the same time, we share what the Christian faith has to say on these topics. In this way, we function in a real sense as their “watchman.” The Apostle Peter reminds us of the importance of a good attitude, ” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15. (NIV)

Different levels of evangelism

It is also important to remember that there are different levels to do evangelism. Lindsay Brown, a university evangelist in Europe, used to say that there are at least three levels of university evangelism that we have to use interchangeably and continuously throughout the academic year. It is like a pyramid, the first level from the ground is person-to-person evangelism. The second level is small group evangelism. The third level is public proclamation. What follows is a short description of these levels.

Person-to-person evangelism

Person-to-person evangelism can be done in two ways. We can share the good news with those we know and meet on a daily basis. But we can also go to the university and initiate conversations, with those we don’t know, by using conversation tools such as a questionnaire, the perspective cards or soularium. During these conversations, we can ask good questions and help students either correct some of their assumptions of the Christian faith or share what we think about it. Sometimes all it takes is an explanation. “Explanation” is important in evangelism and apologetics because there are many myths circulating about the Christian faith. In my experience in university evangelism, this is indeed often the case.

Small group evangelism

Small group evangelism is either a Seeker Bible study, a Student Alpha course or a Christianity Explored course. It can also be an Open House where students meet in an informal way to socialize, eat together and also talk about a topic that the students find interesting. In this meetings, we can openly share what the Christian faith has to say on these topics. It is an enriching experience to have these Open House meetings.

Public proclamation

Public proclamation has to do with presenting a clear Christian view on a certain topic. The talk is focusing on making clear what Christianity has to say. For instance, it can be a topic that has to do with science vs faith, the basis of morality, the dignity of human beings, and any other existential topic that is dealing with origin, meaning, and destiny. At the university setting, this is usually done during a mission week.

Why is listening and asking good questions important?

Listening is important because we first need to understand what other students think about a certain topic. We also need to understand their worldview, their experiences, struggles, and questions. Someone said that in a postmodern society the most important evangelistic skill is listening.

Good listeners wanted

A good listener is always appreciated. We usually get irritated with people who don’t listen carefully and therefore have the tendency to misunderstand us. Alister McGrath ones mentioned that people have different reasons to reject Christianity. Reasons of the mind, of memory, of culture, and of the heart. If we become good listeners then we will be better prepared to understand them and therefore also ask good questions to help them think further. We read in Proverbs 20:5 (NIV) “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”

Asking good questions helps to clarify things. For instance, If someone rejects the reliability of the Bible then a simple question as “have you looked at the evidence about the reliability of the Bible?” can help that person become aware of a “myth” he might have accepted without investigating the resources.

Some useful resources for students

For a short training on listening and asking good questions and book suggestions, you can have a look at our European website, look for training for evangelism. If you have any questions or thoughts to share then leave a comment.

Notes

* You can find a good explanation of this in John Stott’s commentary on the epistle to the Romans chapter 1.

 

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The dangers of solitude student life for international students

A church service for international students

A church service for international students this coming Sunday, November the 19th, at Mount Zion church in Delft.

I will give a talk as a guest speaker on the theme “the dangers of solitude student life in The Netherlands.”

I will address some of the dangers of solitude student life. I have asked a few international students about the challenges they are facing while studying outside of their own cultural background. I will address some of these from a Christian perspective.

The focus for this church service coming Sunday is for students. Students are warmly welcomed. More information about the time and address you can find in the following here Welcome Service for New Students 2017RF2

For directions see also here

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Family relationships and education

Last Sunday I gave a talk on family relationships and education at ICF Delft.  Here is a summary of the main points of the talk.

Introduction

What is your longing for your children? What is your concern as a parent?  (the audience responded) Know Jesus as savior and follow him as Lord. But since only God can do this, what is your part as a parent?
The apostle Paul says “Who is sufficient for these things?”
Illustration: my mother went to the pastor in tears and said ‘I have the feeling that I am losing my son’. Only God is sufficient. However, he gave us parents the responsibility of godly upbringing. With godly upbringing, we mean ‘upbringing’ that is pleasing to God and focused on the Bible.
Here are some important points related to our theme.

1. Purpose

  • In everything we are involved with it is good to ask the question of “why?” am I doing this or that? What is the purpose?
  • Upbringing, therefore, has a purpose. The purpose is to do all things “In the Lord” as Ephesians 6:1-4 clearly mentions. In the ways of the Lord. With the purpose to know, love and obey God. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus
  • Great example. Monica, Augustine’s mother was a weeping mother. Think about the people who have prayed for you, and here you are today worshiping God. A weeping brother – my brother and parents were praying that I might show some interest in knowing God. Prayer helps us focus on God and seek his wisdom and love in family relationships. God is a relational God and our children should see this love relationship demonstrated in our relationships in the family. This leads us directly to the second point which has to do with “attitude.”

2. Attitude

  • In the spirit of Psalms 127:1-2 (NIV) “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Our human efforts are not enough without trust in the Lord. The question is how to do our part and find rest without being stressed out. The answer we find in this Psalm is “depend on God.” Trust Him in every step. Be aware that you desperately need God in bringing up your children. Therefore Paul mentions “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18. This phrase precedes the long section in this epistle that mentions family relationships.
  • An attitude that is teachable. You will make some mistakes. Therefore you need an attitude of humility Ephesians 4:2. You will make some mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up all the time. Or don’t ignore humbling yourself.
  • Authenticity: Bring them up by ‘modeling’ a love relationship with your spouse and with the children. The context of Ephesians 6:4 teaches about the mutual love expected between husband and wife. Love and respect.
  • Someone said, “give your children YOU”. Make any adjustments necessary so you have enough time, energy and space to focus on your children. Make sure that the relationships are growing and that you are building trust with each other.
  • To the question “Kids what would you like to say to parents?” one of my kids said jokingly, “Don’t shout! Don’t put us at school! Don’t punish us! Don’t put us to early to bed! Gives us lots of candies!” This was funny of course and we laughed together. But it brought home to me that we need lots of good and fun moments. Everything has to be done in a context of good loving relationships.
  • Therefore let us remember the context of Ephesians 6:1-4 it is a continuation of 5:18 with being filled with the Spirit of God and placed between 6:10-18 which is a spiritual clash with the devil. In all these areas the devil tries to hit you. You have to be vigilant, watchful and then resist his schemes and attacks. But above all, you have to be filled with the Spirit continuously.

3. Skills

  • Not by being harsh. Meaning of μη παροργίζετε To Anger. Exasperate: irritate intensely, infuriate (make extremely angry and impatient).
    • How not to discipline our children: not capriciously. Not without listening and understanding. Not unreasonably. They are entrusted to us, they belong to God, as everything else. Not so that they may reach the goals we have for them. Also, not with pressure.
    • (NIV ZSB Notes) Parents (see NIV text note), especially fathers, should not be unnecessarily harsh or domineering (Col 3:21). Colossians 3:21 (ESV) Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (NA28) ἐρεθίζετε means to stir up, provoke, arouse; embitter, provoke, irritate. (NA28) ἀθυμῶσιν means to be discouraged, lose heart.
  • But by good training and instruction Meaning of ‘bring them up’. Meaning of ἐκτρέφετε (imperative) to feed, nourish; to bring up, rear (children). (MED) ἐκτρέφω ektrephō promote health and strength, Eph. 5:29; to bring up, educate, Eph. 6:4*
    • Upbringing. How to bring up our children: with gentleness and firmness. We do need to set a standard, communicate it with words and actions. Also, help the face the reality of their decisions. There are some consequences. Above all by giving the example.
    • (NA28) ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου Here is the firmness, but in the Lord. (NA28) ἐν παιδείᾳ discipline, training (NA28) νουθεσίᾳ warning, admonition; instruction.
    • Your example: you may react in anger and insist they should not react with anger. Well, humble yourself and let them see that you are sincere and open about your mistakes.
    • Bible reading and prayer.
      • How often? Deuteronomy 6:4-9 can help us. But also in moments that the whole family can gather around the word of God. We practice this once a week in our family and it has helped us grow closer to each other and to God. We usually read a whole book of the Bible, one chapter each time we meet. The gospels and acts are a good starting point.
      • We are also using more often lately the New Catechism. It is a good way to learn the basics of the Christian faith.
  • A misunderstood verse on ‘training’ Proverbs 22:6 Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This is not a good translation. The word “Should” should not be there. It is rather “Train a child in the ways of his, and even if they are old they will not turn from it.” (my paraphrase). If you will not train your child then it will continue in “his own ways” even when it is old. It is not a promise then but a warning. The warning is that if you will not train your child then it will continue in ‘his’ own way.

Conclusion

What will be the result of this kind of upbringing?

  • No automatic conversion. It takes regeneration, new life. Only God can do this. Samuel in the Old Testament was a good example of a godly man. However, his children were not like him, 1 Samuel 8.
  • You are growing and maturing, not only your children. You are living out the new life God has given you with those next to you. You are walking in love and truth. You are pleasing God in this way. Your children can see the transformation that is taking place in your life. You are in need of God’s grace daily. Let them see it. Be open with them. Share some of your struggles, as much as it is appropriate of course.
  • You help the children understand reality, be in touch with reality. They are better prepared to face reality outside the home. They have a better chance to understand, love and follow God.

 

 

Talk on Family Relationships at ICF Delft

ICF Delft is in a series about Relationships. November the 5th 2017

 

Coming Sunday the theme is Family Relationships and Education. See below a short description of the talk.

Coming Sunday will be the third service in our series on relationships.
Christian parents are sometimes confused or overwhelmed with the responsibility they have to bring up their children in a godly way. Parents are stewards and don’t own their children. But parents are responsible for their upbringing. Part of this upbringing is to educate them in the ways of God. They aim to help their children not only to be well-behaved but to come to a knowledge of the truth. This is to help them know God’s love and hopefully make a commitment to follow Him.

What does the Bible say about ‘educating’ our children in God’s ways? How is this to be done? How is this not to be done? What if the children will not follow God? How can this process of bringing up children in a godly manner help parents grow in their own relationship with God? We will try to touch on these questions and study a few passages from the Bible that shed some light on these issues. You are warmly welcomed to our Sunday service to discover more about this! Join us on November 5 in the Génestet church, Oude Delft 102, at 12:15 pm.

For more information about ICF visit their website here

 

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