Category Archives: Blog Posts

Bars And Strip Clubs: Why I Bother

Believers Who Object

Several years ago, I started to take the Gospel to the sidewalks near bars and strip clubs in local communities. I immediately met resistance from genuine believers.

“Why do you bother going there?” they would ask.

“What on earth makes you think they will listen?” came the frequent protest.

I don’t think that those who ask(ed) those questions intend for it to sound quite so negative. However, I do believe it comes from a misguided view of the power of the preaching of the Gospel. Furthermore, I believe it also communicates a deeply seated form of self-righteousness.

While the mindset may not be intentionally demeaning; the thought is there. Usually the person that utters these protests is coming from a lifetime of walking the Christian path. Many of them never lived in outright abject rebellion against God. Moreover, many came to saving faith early in life or grew up in Christian homes. Many of those objecting to ministering the Gospel near bars and strip clubs have never known a soul who frequents such places.

They may give ascent to the need for these people to turn to Christ. Yet, they have no grasp of how that should happen.

Unregenerate That Object

If anyone objects faster than fellow believers; it is the unregenerate at the bars and strip clubs. Within minutes the objections would fly.

“Why are you here?” they would ask.

“I suppose you think that you are better than we are?”

“If we wanted religion we would be at church, not at a place like this.”

Or my personal favorite, “Why do you only come around at Christmas?”

That last one was particularly perplexing to me. I had never been anywhere near this place at Christmas.

I cannot help but wonder where these protests were coming from. The easy answer would be to claim it was just the result of hardened hearts. It would be difficult to not feel some conviction.  The sight of a man holding a cross while you are going to look at naked women can be irksome. At least I can only imagine it would be.

However, I think there may be something deep-seated to these objections. Just as the believers who raised objections had certain underlying causes, so does the unbeliever.

The Pharisaical Heart

Modern American or western Christianity is rife with landmines. Whether it be pragmatic compromise or self-righteous-holier-than-thou closed-mindedness. On the one hand the western Church has become a judgment-free-zone wherein no one is allowed to call anything sin. On the other, if you aren’t doing things exactly the way we do them you are outside the camp.

If we are not careful we can easily drift into either of these camps. It isn’t easy to walk a biblical middle ground. How one goes about calling out sin where need be; at the same time not establishing your own standards for righteousness, is difficult.

Moreover, places like bars and strip clubs tend to provoke conflicting thoughts in the modern church attender. Some of us have no issues with sitting down in bar and having a drink. Still others find any consumption of alcohol a deep sin that could result in church discipline. One can only hope that most church attenders would consider going to a strip club a grievous sin.

Granted there are manifold reasons for people seeing strip clubs as dens of sin. Many modern western Christians see strip clubs as sinful because they promote misogyny and objectify women. Still others have an orthodox view and understand that these places promote lust if not full-fledged adultery.

However, despite those varied reasons, many Christians never dream of preaching the Gospel outside of bars and strip clubs. But why?

This will sting. Because they are just like the Pharisees who disparaged Christ for going to the worst sinners in the cities and villages he frequented. They want nothing to do with the dregs of society. They know that these folks are hopelessly lost and desperately in need of Christ. Yet, they refuse to lower themselves enough to go to them where they are.

Their hearts are proud…

Lord I Thank You That I Am Not The Person Who Likes Bars And Strip Clubs

Jesus gives an account of two men in the temple praying. One of them, a Pharisee, stands looking toward heaven and prays. He thanks God for not making him like the tax-collector next to him. The tax-collector won’t lift his head to pray, instead he keeps his head down and confesses his sinfulness.

I imagine most of us can relate to the tax-collector. What I also imagine is that most of us would never relate to the Pharisee. However, isn’t this the heart of the objections people give to me?

Time after time I have been told not to cast my pearls before swine. Moreover, I have been counseled to shake the dust off my feet and move on. Many Christians see any evangelistic effort outside of bars and strip clubs as a massive waste of time. There is a mindset that drives them to see these folks as beyond the reach of the Gospel when in that setting. Furthermore, no anecdotal account will be enough to persuade them otherwise.

Bringing Scripture to bear on them will have no effect. Reminding them that Christ Himself tells us to go out into the highways and hedgerows to compel people to come in is not enough. There is simply no reason to go to the disinterested and wantonly sinful people that frequent bars and strip clubs.

Consequently, they fail to see that they are playing into the hands of the enemy. The unregenerate do not want to hear the Gospel when they are out having a good time. No lost person ever does. The regenerate fail to see how Gospel can influence the unregenerate where they are. Furthermore, they do not want to run the risk of dirtying themselves by mixing it up with the outcasts and lepers.

These are meant to be strong words…

Bars and Strip Clubs Mean They Are Beyond Hope

As strong as my words have been I truly want you, my dear reader(s?), to know it comes from a place of love. Someone recently remarked about my gentleness towards unbelievers and contrasted that with my apparent heavy-hand with believers. It was a valid observation and not without its points. However, I am wont to say that my expectations for my fellow Christians are exponentially higher than for the unregenerate.

I am firmly convinced that we have forgotten that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Additionally, I believe that many today have adopted therapeutic moralistic deism as a precursor to preaching the Gospel. We’ve come to a place where lost souls must clean themselves up to some degree before they will be ready for the Gospel.

Therefore, before we will invest in “sharing the Gospel” with someone they are obligated to demonstrate that they are ready. It is this mindset, whether we recognize it or not, that causes us to look down our noses at those who frequent bars and strip clubs. We see them as beyond hope and incapable of responding to the Gospel message.

Many today would join with the Pharisees in ridiculing Christ for reaching out to the worst of the worst. At least the worst in our eyes. We can protest all we want and say we would never do such a thing. Yet, Peter said he’d never deny Christ because he was stronger than others around him. Look how that turned out.

We are compelled to ask ourselves some hard questions. Do we truly believe that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation? Do we believe that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved? Would we have preached the Gospel to Saul of Tarsus?

Lest We Forget We Were Worse

It goes without saying but the reminder is always good. Prior to conversion, we were as bad if not worse than those who hang out at bars and strip clubs. Unfortunately for us, God does not look at the outside but at the inside. Moreover, this applies to your little old aunt Gladys as much as it does to a stripper.  Is the guy who shows up every night at the bar to get drunk beyond the power of God? No!

David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer from the 1970’s, went into prison a god-hating deranged psycho-path. Yet, someone entered his life behind those bars and proclaimed Christ to him. Apparently, Berkowitz repented of his sins and turned to Christ for everlasting life. Are the folks at bars and strip clubs worse than Berkowitz? Are they any worse than you were before salvation?

In Conclusion

Not everyone is going to be out on the sidewalks in front of bars and strip clubs preaching the Gospel. Just like not everyone is going be out in front of abortion mills. We are all commanded to preach the Gospel. The where and the when will look different for each of us. It is imperative for us to not consider any person beyond the reach of the Gospel message.

We must be cognizant of our mindset and consider what causes us to look at others as being beyond the reach of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Even if we do not ever express the thought that a person is beyond hope, our actions and responses speak volumes.

Are we not glad that others did not consider us beyond hope…?

Therefore, I preach the Good News of Christ to those who frequent bars and strip clubs…

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Law Enforcement Outreach: Why I Choose to Do It

A Personally Vested Interest

I need to be upfront with my motivation for conducting law enforcement outreach. This doesn’t take place in a vacuum. My brother is in Law Enforcement. He has been for almost 20 years. Moreover, he is one of the best LEOs I know. Consequently, I know many LEOs. Furthermore, I rely on them for protection in many situations. They have intervened on a few occasions when I have run into resistance to my evangelistic endeavors in my region. Sadly, not all my open-air preaching brothers have always had great experiences with law enforcement. Sometimes LEOs fail at their jobs just like the rest of us.

Moreover, I want to be upfront about my reasons for writing this article. My desire is to compel my fellow Christians to consider what their witness looks like to the world. Furthermore, I want you to consider what  your efforts towards the world communicate to the world about your view of LEOs?

I will be pointing to a few keys passages to put us in the right mindset for how to respond to law enforcement. I want us to recognize that law enforcement outreach is as much evangelism as any evangelistic activity. Do you want to know how to reach out to LEOs and proclaim the Gospel to them? Read the Great Commission and know the Gospel inside and out. That is how you prepare yourself to preach the Gospel to LEOs. LEOs are drawn from the same pools of humanity as the rest of us…

Kasson MN Dodge County Deputy

Getting Visiting Prisoners Right (Because it Matters)

In Matthew 25 Jesus gives His disciples a list of things that will naturally flow from being His followers. In that list Christ says “I was in prison and you came to me…” This single verse has been the great launching point for most prison ministry in history. However, there is a problem with the hermeneutic behind that motivation.

Jesus wasn’t telling His followers to start a ministry to rightly convicted and imprisoned criminals. Make no mistake, convicts need to hear the Gospel. However, that was not the angle Jesus was coming from. Christ was building on His teachings from the previous chapter where He had been speaking about being prepared for His return. To further illustrate that point He taught parables. The Parable of the Fig Tree, The Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Parable of the Talents.

He prophecies about His imminent return and highlighting the importance of being about the work He has left for us. Correspondingly, He exegetes those parables to give examples of what being prepared should look like.

This one, out-of-context verse, has become the rallying cry of every social justice, social Gospel driven congregation. Moreover, even doctrinally sound churches, have been taken in. Jesus wasn’t exposing His empathy with convicts. Instead He was compelling His followers to look out for other believers. Every example that Jesus gave was pointing to ministering to the needs of the Church.

Therefore, when we consider the imprisoned we must understand them in the context of Gospel ministry. Jesus was telling His own to watch out for one another when we’re imprisoned for the sake of righteousness. Consequently, He was not compelling us to visit those imprisoned for being genuine criminals that got what they deserved, legally.

Why this Matters to Law Enforcement Outreach

There is a compelling reason that this matters to law enforcement outreach. Western Christian culture (WCC) has shifted from recognizing the

beneficial role of LEOs in society. Instead, WCC sees them as a necessary evil. Furthermore, many congregations in WCC see LEOs as tools of oppression used against oppressed classes. Therefore, the WCC sees these oppressed classes as victims and then feels compelled to minister to them as if ministering to Christ.

What is their source material for this? None-other-than Matthew 25:36. This misapplication has grown into an epidemic. Consequently, the LEO community has been pushed off to the side (think James 2 violation). Churches send visitors and food items into prisons and adult detention centers at all the major holidays. There are bible study volunteers in almost every place there is a prison/jail.

LEOs know this, they see it. Make no mistake, the men and women in the corrections end of law enforcement see it daily. The LEOs on the streets hear about it. Yet, there they are, ministers of God’s justice here on earth, appointed by Him to bear the sword with purpose. Tools in God’s hands to quell evil, and WCC often overlooks them, or worse, maligns them as enemies.

These men and women, believers or not, are God’s ministers. LEOs are to be respected and appreciated. They should not be blindly trusted or endorsed as if they can do no wrong. They are sinful human-beings as are all people in all professions. It is this truth that compels me to take part in law enforcement outreach.

Furthermore, our desire should be for their conversion. Paul leaves us with the command to pray for this in 1 Timothy 2. Moreover, the conversion of cops, will be a blessing to society.

Law Enforcement Outreach Brings the Gospel to Bear on Sin

A passer-by in Spring Grove MN stops to hear the Gospel and holds the sign…

There may be no career in the world able to recognize sin and abject evil better than cops. They are not surrounded by the best society has to offer. Sadly, they work in the muck and mire of the worst of humanity. Subsequently, I have met unbelieving LEOs that can give better theological explanations of the Doctrine of Sin than most WCC pastors.

Furthermore, the WCC ignores them. The WCC seems to have forgotten Peter’s words too. In his epistle to the Church Peter commands prayer for kings and all in appointed positions. Why? Because it glorifies God when our good conduct toward those He has appointed to rule causes them to wonder at Him.

It is this that moved me to take up law enforcement outreach. I want LEOs to be saved. I do not want LEOs to be saved because my brother is an officer. Moreover, I do not want LEOs to be saved because I know so many of them. Furthermore, I do not long for the salvation of LEOs because I want their protection. No matter where I am when I am preaching, my motivation is the salvation of their souls because they are Imago Dei.

Cedar Falls Chief of Police and officers

The Scriptures are clear. All in appointed positions are placed there by God. Moreover, it is for the benefit of society to have them there. Should we long for societally moral people to fill these positions? Yes. However, we should not settle for merely societally moral LEOs.

Therefore, for the good of the officers and our nations, we should be involved in bringing the Gospel to bear on LEOs. Likewise, saved LEOs will minister justice with the glory of God as the goal. Saved LEOs will reflect God and work as a sanctifying presence in a sin cursed world.

Law Enforcement Outreach and the Local Church

Please, take a hard look at the make-up of your local body. Furthermore, I want you to think about the current climate of WCC. This climate, or atmosphere, is pressurized right now. It is like a high-pressure front has pushed intersectional storm clouds in. We are hearing about ethnic-diversity and white-privilege and the oppressed-classes from prominent “pastors”.

These pastors are preaching against societal injustice. They proclaim that society and the church need to make amends for the wrongs that have been

Winona Cty MN SO Detective

done. They are calling for a type of societal reparations if you will.

Consequently, many of these churches and their pastors see LEOs as the problem. The Oppressors use LEOs as their tools . I can give anecdotal stories from all over the USA of LEOs confronting pastors in their local churches for just such behavior. Some of these officers are leaving these local bodies in search of congregations that are not jumping on a social agenda. In one case that hits close to home for me, a dear brother in Christ  from Texas left a congregation over anti-LEO remarks (amongst other issues). These remarks were made from the pulpit by a prominent pastor.

Without fail, the officers that I know to be believers, are not asking for special treatment. Moreover, they do not consider themselves better than their fellow Christians. They simply want the church to get back to preaching the Gospel and rejecting Social Justice agendas.

So, as you size up your local church, ask yourself, how many LEOs are part of the local body. Moreover, consider what your church is doing in its drive to be inclusive of all, to be inclusive of LEOs. Comparatively, is your local church body interested in seeing LEOs brought to Christ?

Some Staggering Numbers

At the time of this writing the most complete statistics for LEO line of duty deaths (ODMPLODD) were from 2017. Those statistics are as follows:

Total LODD: 137

9/11 Related: 7

When a tragic incident struck a nearby town, passers-by joined in…

Aircraft Accident: 2

Animal Related: 1

Assault: 6

Automobile Crash: 28

Boating Accident: 2

Drowned: 5

Duty Related Illness: 3

Exposure to Toxins: 1

Gunfire: 45

Heart Attack: 16

Motorcycle Crash: 4

Stabbed: 1

Struck by Vehicle: 4

Unidentified: 1

Vehicle Pursuit: 5

Vehicular Assault: 6

These numbers seem small comparatively. Furthermore, contrary to many of the arguments made today, the overall most dangerous careers are not law enforcement related. Here is a breakdown of the top ten careers with deaths per 100,000 people:
#10: landscaping 18

#9: power-line installers 21

#8: farmers 22

#7 trucker 24

#6: iron workers 30

#5: refuse collectors 39

#4 roofers 40

#3 aircraft pilots 40

#2 commercial fishermen 55

#1 logging 132

The average number of LEOs in the USA per 100,000 people varies from 225 to 275. That seems like a large number and mitigates against the percentage of deaths in law enforcement. However, here is what is missing from the LODD. The number of suicides amongst members of the LEO career:

140

Please note LEO suicides in 2017 surpasses the number of LODD. This bumps 2017 numbers to 277 LEO deaths. Why do I include the suicides? Because officers don’t commit suicide apart from stressors related to their career. LEO suicides, like pastor suicides, don’t happen in a vacuum.

A true Christian will desire to bring the Gospel to bear on any segment of society that has so many suicides. Christian love compels us to ask why and what we can do.

Law Enforcement Outreach and Bringing it all Together

Spring Grove MN Chief of Police

Hopefully this has you thinking. I am not asking you to personally do what I do the way I do it. However, I am asking you to think about what you do and what your local church does. Does it have a ministry to the homeless and the hungry? How about a ministry to the local prison or detention center inmates? Does it have a ministry to the “unchurched” youth in your community? What about to the local nursing home or long-term care center?

If you answer yes to any of those questions I thank God for your concern for those demographics. I mean that with sincerity. However, I am going to ask you about your ministry to the LEO community. Do you see them as valuable as all those other demographics? If you do not, why not?

It is time for the WCC and even sound churches to stop looking exclusively to the traditional forms of outreach to all the traditional demographics. I am not calling for an end to those outreaches. I am calling for a reconsidering of focus.

LEOs are not going to just show up at your church for worship. Many of them are indisposed when you gather for worship. Furthermore, like any

Steele County MN Outreach

demographic, they need to hear the Gospel. That is up to us as individuals. Moreover, it is terribly important that the whole church be involved in this.

LEOs suffer silently quite often and they see things that most of you will never see. Moreover, these things weigh on them and wound them in ways you will never understand. Similarly, as many pastors out there today, LEOs do not think they have anyone they can turn to for help.

Therefore, let the Bride be a place of respite for the ministers of God’s justice.

In Conclusion

If a local grocery store does more for the LEO community than the local church the church has some thinking to do…

I want to end with this. I have explained why this is important to me on a personal level. Moreover, I have also attempted to explain why I see this ministry as so important from a biblical perspective.

Additionally, I want to address this. If you and your church are of the social justice ilk, and you believe LEOs to be part of the oppressive class I want to challenge you to think about this. Isn’t it incumbent upon you to preach the Gospel to LEOs? Moreover, would not SJ/SG view be even more of a reason for you to practice law enforcement outreach? People would move from being oppressors to ministering to the oppressed if they have repented and believed the Gospel. Therefore, it is time for the church to put its money where its mouth is…

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Gospel at Christmas: What Time is Better

Not to Be Cliched

Seriously, I am not trying to be cliched. But Jesus is the reason for the season. In all honesty, which holiday is more widely embraced by society at-large? Easter would seem like a great pick for talking about the Gospel. However, our culture is gradually drifting away from even acknowledging Easter Sunday. Therefore, we are left with Christmas for recognizable holidays. So why can’t we preach the Gospel at Christmas?

People Expect to Hear the Gospel at Christmas

What do I mean when I say that people expect to hear the Gospel at Christmas?

People have an expectation that during the Christmas season there will be some talk about the birth of Christ. Even atheist recognize that this holiday is a Christian holiday. Even when they try to show Christians how foolish we are for “believing myths”.

Moreover, droves of classic Christmas movies and TV specials refer to the coming of Christ in Bethlehem. There is even an old stop motion cartoon from the 50’s that has Santa talking to the children about Christ. Not to mention the iconic Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus recites Luke 2 to the crowd.

Granted the further we get from the Incarnation of Christ the more secular the season becomes. Yet, the vestiges of the spiritual nature of Christmas are still there. One can hardly make it a day during the Christmas season without a recitation of Isaiah 9 or Matthew 1.

Furthermore, as we go about our Christmas shopping we are surrounded by the reminders of Christ. There are kresh for sale in gift shops. Live actors stand in drive through Nativity scenes in hundreds of little towns across the country. Moreover, bell ringers fill the entryways and foyers of countless stores all over the western world. Who do these bell ringers ring for? None other than the Salvation Army of course.

Therefore, the reason we celebrate Christmas is on the minds of every person.  Advance the Gospel at Christmas, people are expecting it.

The Truth of the Gospel at Christmas

Too often we western Christians think of the Gospel in terms of what took place on Good Friday. Furthermore, we separate the rest of Christ’s earthly life from the events surrounding Passover week.

What tends to come to mind for us is “Jesus died on the cross. Christ was buried. Jesus arose from the tomb.” Moreover, we tend to make this the way we present the Gospel. Consequently, we miss something pivotal when we talk about the Gospel.

Therefore, Christmas is a perfect time to bring that missing aspect back into the conversation. Far wiser and more studied theologians than I will ever be, speak often about the active obedience of Christ. Consequently, I want to talk about the Gospel at Christmas and this profound truth.

As you consider the ways and means of preaching the Gospel at Christmas, think about how important the Incarnation is. There are always trite little statements that ring throughout Christendom. One of those is this little gem, “There is no Easter without Christmas.”

Is this true? Absolutely. Particularly, what does it mean and how does it relate to the Gospel at Christmas? At the core of that little comment is a profound truth that I think is lost on so many today. The person who tosses it out there isn’t thinking about theological depth. Often, they are trying to make a point when debating the topic of saying Merry Christmas at some major retailer.

What they are missing, and what is missing from most Gospel presentations today, is that Christ did what we can’t. Having been born into a frail and cursed body of flesh, Jesus was like us in every way, but without out sin. He suffered all our temptations and yet remained untainted by His sufferings. That is active obedience.

Away in the Manger and The Gospel at Christmas

In the second stanza of “Away in the Manger” the composer (not Martin Luther, sorry my Lutheran friends.) we read that Jesus wakes up surrounded by livestock and piously makes not a single cry. Why the composer felt this necessary I do not know. Moreover, it is ridiculous and seems to imply that a baby crying is sinful and therefore beneath the infant Incarnation.

Balderdash I say. Christ was an infant. He was born with the same bodies that we are born with. He would get hungry. Furthermore, being a human infant, He would have the same bodily functions as we do. This meant that even Jesus had to communicate His needs in some way. He didn’t have a divine telepathic shortwave radio that He used to communicate with Joseph and Mary.

Jesus as an infant cried and babbled just as any child would. The profound the truth in this is that even His crying was sinless. There was no selfishness in the crying of the infant Christ. Do you see where I am going here?

Here we have the Word made flesh. God Incarnate living with all the problems and ailments that come with being human yet living in perfect obedience to The Law of God. Jesus, the creator of all things, was subjected to the effects of the curse having no sin of His own.

This is the active obedience of Christ. This is the profound truth of the Gospel that is so often left out when we present the message. Furthermore, we have an open door to talk about this deeply powerful theological truth as we celebrate His Incarnation. Imagine singing this song and then looking at your friend and explaining what I just explained here.

People are primed to hear the Gospel at Christmas.

Your Joy in Advancing the Gospel at Christmas

We sing so many hymns and other spiritual songs at Christmas. Moreover, many of these are sung with little to no thought by so many today.  We show up to a worship service and sing the lyrics and move on. Or we hear a beloved Christmas hymn on the radio or in a store and we give it little thought.

However, it is imperative for us to think about what these songs communicate. Consider the lyrics to “Joy to the World”:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing…

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ!
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy…

No more let sins and sorrows grow!
Nor thorns infest the ground!
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found…

He rules the world with truth and grace!
And makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness and wonders of his love…

Consider what the composer is telling us here. This is wonderful news. Furthermore, it isn’t just good news to a few people. This is good news, joyful news to the world. Consequently, it is incumbent upon us to preach this good news to the world.

I published an article titled “Joyful Obedience: Preaching the Gospel”. What I attempted to convey in that article is that the great commission isn’t just a heavy burden. It is a delightful duty that should bring us great joy. While “Joy to the World” doesn’t explicitly preach the Gospel, it does communicate a beautiful outcome of the Gospel. Furthermore, it reminds us of our King and His work through the Gospel at Christmas.

In Conclusion

Whether-or-not you celebrate Christmas or choose to debate whether Jesus was Incarnate in December or September, don’t miss the point. This time of year, affords you and I a beautiful and joyful duty. That duty isn’t to debate the validity of the holiday. Furthermore, no matter your position on the topic, swaying someone to your view won’t impact their eternity.

Moreover, you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity if all you focus on is your position on the matter. I would urge us, no matter where we are on this issue, to focus on the Gospel at Christmas. In fact, if we spend all our time on this in-house debate we only belabor a point. We essentially strain at gnats. The same can be said for others. Those who are prone to want to force the cashier at Target to say Merry Christmas instead of season’s greetings.

I want to compel each of us to remember the birth of the King of creation and the message of the Gospel. Let us joyfully embrace the duty of heralding His birth and His active obedience to the Father. Let us be consumed with thoughts of the Gospel at Christmas. There are 11 other months for us to hash these differences out.

Therefore, go into the whole world and preach the Gospel. Call everyone you meet to fall at the foot of the cross of Christ in repentance and faith. Herald the good news of the Gospel at Christmas as if you are angels singing to shepherds in far-off fields.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Coward According to Christ

John Allen Chau was not the Coward According to Christ

Several weeks ago, news broke of Christian missionary, John Allen Chau’s martyrdom at the hands of Sentinelese natives. Since that saddening news reached the western world, and the ears of the Western Church, reactions have been varied. Some have critiqued John’s theological and doctrinal views, perhaps rightly. Even more have questioned the wisdom and the timing of his attempt to reach the natives of that island. More still have debated the legality of his trip. Yet, the more disturbing responses have been from those professing Christians who have mocked Chau and others like him.  The coward is who I want to speak about and too with this article.

So, if you would bear with me as you read this I promise you, I am going somewhere important. Hopefully, the place I arrive at is my planned destination. Furthermore, it is my hope that when we arrive at that place, you will be encouraged, edified and challenged in your thinking. It is my hope that reading this will have worked to conform you more into the image of our Savior than where you were when we started.

Jesus Calls out the Cowards

In Matthew 10 Christ tells His Apostles about the hard road that is facing them for following Him. After giving this warning He tells them something that should be utterly paralyzing for the reader. “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before My Father.” This is a stark and staggering contrast to what we are told about the intercessory work of Christ in Hebrews 7. In that profound passage we learn that Christ will save those who have called on His name. He lives to make intercession for them constantly. Yet, in this passage, Christ warns us, He will not intercede on the part of the one who denies Him.

Furthermore, we read another staggering warning in Scripture in Revelation 21. Here the Godhead declares who will burn in hell eternally. Who leads off the list? None-other-than the cowardly.

Yet who are the cowardly? Who should we understand these folks to be? Often, we consider cowards to be those whom have inordinate fears. Sometimes the coward is the person who runs instead of staying and fighting. Some men have been called cowards for refusing to go to war. Are these the folks that God is warning in Revelation 21?

Moreover, is simple cowardice a sin? And does the way society defines what it means to be a coward really matter to what Christ has taught us. In a moving if not corny song from the 70s Kenny Rogers tells the story of Tommy, the coward of the county. Tommy promised his dad he would walk away from trouble after his dad admonished him to turn the other cheek because it didn’t make him weak.

So, who is Jesus calling out when He speaks in Matthew 10? Who are the cowards in Revelation 21?

Explaining Who isn’t the Coward

In a previous article about how we are to respond to persecution, I worked to remind us of Christ’s precepts. We are never to resist persecution with violence. Moreover, resisting our persecutors with violence indicates a huge problem with our hearts. It is Christ that commanded us to turn the other cheek, and to go the extra mile. His Word has told us to heap burning coals on the heads of those who hate us.

Are these acts of cowardice? Furthermore, is God contradicting Himself when He commands us to follow these precepts and then calls out cowards in other passages? Not hardly.

Usually, when we are faced with an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is time for us to shift our thinking. We strive to bring our thinking and reasoning into subjection to Scripture. So, in this case, we need to understand what the coward isn’t, to better understand exactly who the coward is.

The coward is not the person that, when faced with persecution, lays down and dies or takes the blows silently. Moreover, cowardice is not meekness. Cowards are often portrayed by society as being these soft-spoken, milquetoast, panty-waisted sissies that flee from all conflict and aggression.

Lest we forget, Christ stated plainly that the meek shall inherit the earth. Meekness according to the Word, isn’t a spineless jellyfish waiting to be pushed around. Chiefly, the meek are those who are in humble submission to God. I have often heard meekness described as power-under-control. Is this not the very epitome of the example that Christ left for us? Consider the cross.

Society does not get to define coward. In fact, societally, the coward is the very last person most would expect. Particularly, the coward is not the weak and feeble person we suspect.

Just Who is the Coward

So, having explained that the Word is clear on what a coward isn’t. We are left to discuss what a coward is instead.

I will posit, and I believe that biblical scholars would agree, that the coward is the one who denies Christ before man. As I was considering the comments and statements about John Chau by professing Christians, I was left saddened.

“Why was he there?”

“He was breaking the law by going there. The authorities were only trying to protect the natives.”

“He was a fool for going to some place where he knew he could die.”

“Why would he want to go somewhere and force his beliefs on others. I mean I am a Christian, but that’s between me and God.”

“He got what he deserved. He knew they were violent and he didn’t care. Not to mention the fact that he could have killed them too, if he was carrying a virus.”

“Just another example of my fellow Christians trying to colonize another land in the name of Jesus.”

Yes, I read all these comments and more. Every single one of them is patently a rejection of Christ. These statements are blatant denial of Jesus in favor of being accepted by man.

As I previously mentioned, Matthew 10 is a powerful charge and warning to the Apostles. Consequently, this includes us. Christ is clear about what He wanted them and us to know. Persecution is going to come for the sake of the Gospel. The world is going to seek ways to kill you to silence the Gospel. Flee or die, but you must go.

It is the response to the promised hatred and persecution that defines who the coward is.

The Coward in Two Examples

It is my assertion that the Word describes the coward in two ways. Both of examples of the coward that will find their way to the lake of fire, effectively deny Christ.

The first example of the coward is the person who refuses to proclaim the Gospel before man. Now, the definition of ‘proclaim the Gospel’ can be a little broad. I have defined active Gospel work in several previous articles. However, I will state with conviction, that any person who believes or teaches that they are preaching the Gospel in the context of friendship runs the risk of being labeled a coward.

Too many today have determined that they must first befriend a person before they can preach the Gospel to them. This is placing the relationship at a higher premium than the Gospel. This is the sign of a coward. A truly bold Gospel witness front loads the Gospel in each relationship. This person does so even if it risks losing a friend or severing the relationship. Remember the part where Jesus tells us that children will hand over parents for execution and parents their children. If you aren’t willing to risk this for the sake of the Gospel, you are the coward.

The second of the two types of coward is the one who is unwilling to die for the sake of preaching the Gospel. In Matthew 10 Jesus tells us to not fear the one who can kill the body but will destroy both body and soul in hell. This is Jesus’ way of encouraging those about to face severe persecution or martyrdom. Those who would advocate violence against their persecutors are cowards according to Jesus. Those refraining from preaching for fear of what others may think or do to them are cowards according to Jesus.

Taking the Gospel to the World and Dying

In Acts 21 Agapus prophecies that Paul will be bound and delivered to the Romans. No sooner does this happen than Paul’s friends begin to weep and beg Paul not to go. Paul would have none of this and made it clear that he would go even if it meant his death.

This is the act of a man who is fully committed to the work of the Gospel. As I think about men like Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Peter Fleming I am reminded of Paul. Moreover, I am also reminded of John Chau. These six men all went into perilous climes facing uncertain outcomes for the sake of the Gospel. Their love for God and fellow Imago Dei drove them to risk making the ultimate sacrifice. In the end, each of them paid with their lives.

In the case of Operation Auca from 1955-1956, those 5 bold witnesses sacrificed their lives bravely for the sake of the Gospel. The fruit of that sacrifice was the near perfect rate of conversion of the tribe that murdered them.

In the case of John Chau there was no doubt that he knew the risks. He made several forays to the island interacting with the ethnos there by singing hymns and giving gifts. In one entry of his journal he wrote:

“God, I don’t want to die, WHO WILL TAKE MY PLACE IF I DO?”

John died, for the sake of the Gospel hoping to see the North Sentinelese islanders saved. In many ways, John reflects the words of Paul when he says that he is willing to die for the sake of the Gospel. At the end of Romans 8 Paul quotes from Psalm 44 and expresses joy for being counted as sheep to the slaughter.

The Coward or of the Faithful

Much has been made of the apparent foolishness of men of Operation Auca and John Chau. Yet that foolishness is a concept defined by the world and not by Scripture. There is a reality in which we must wrestle with willingness to be identified with Christ or with the world. A coward chooses identification with the world, with their friends. The coward chooses to use force to defend himself. The coward chooses to stay home instead of going out to preach the Gospel to strangers. Moreover, the coward chooses comfort and ease over trial and tribulation.

Consequently, you will be able to identify yourself in one of the two categories rather easily. Is your life marked by progressive boldness in the face of opposition to the Gospel? Or, is your life marked by example after of example where you have chosen to remain silent about the Gospel to not look the fool.

Not every Christian is called to go to North Sentinel Island and die with John Chau. Moreover, we are not all called to die. However, we are all called to go and boldly proclaim Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Your obedience to that command is what will mark you as the coward or of the faithful. You may be able to lie to me. Similarly, you may be able to lie to your friends and fellow congregants. Heck, you might even be able to lie to yourself. However, you cannot lie to God.

So, ask yourself, am I the coward, or the faithful?

In Conclusion

I want to conclude this article with an admonition to think about John Chau and how you responded to the news of his martyrdom.

If you thought to yourself, “Man what an idiot. Why would you risk your life on such a fool’s errand?” You stand every likelihood of denying Christ before men when push comes to shove. You may be a coward.

If you thought to yourself, “Man, I would not have gone down without a fight. They may have killed me, but I would have taken a few of them with me.” You too stand every likelihood of denying Christ before men when push comes to shove. You too may be a coward.

If you thought to yourself, “Man, I would go there myself, but golly gee it is illegal so there is nothing I can do about it.” You also stand every likelihood of denying Christ before men when push comes to shove. You may also be a coward

If you thought to yourself, “LORD, I am terrified to even approach my neighbor or the cashier at the grocery store with a Gospel tract. But LORD I want to tell everyone around me about you, but LORD I am scared.” Then you are in the best place to not deny Christ before men and instead be obedient to the command to go. You are not the coward, you are a Christian.

Examine yourself in the face of the John Chaus of the world. Your response to this biblical reflection says more about you than you will ever know…

Brethren, do something; do something, do something! While societies and unions make constitutions, let us win souls. I pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work and quit yourselves like men. Old Suvarov’s idea of war is mine: `Forward and strike! No theory! Attack! Form a column! Charge bayonets! Plunge into the center of the enemy! Our one aim is to win souls; and this we are not to talk about, but do in the power of God!’

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Proper Responses: Persecution Reflecting Christ

The Sad and Mad Reason I am Writing This

As I was perusing one of the social media accounts that I use I came across a status from a friend. This friend had posted a picture depicting the apparent aftermath of some personal attacks on him. These attacks appear to stem from some recent evangelistic endeavors he has engaged in. Save one, all the comments were proper responses to the reality of persecution. However, that one response was a doozy.

I was appalled at what I read. This person stated that he carries a concealed weapon when he open air preaches with his wife and child along. Why? Because of the threat of persecution.

If I could insert the sound of squealing brakes in here I would. I could not comprehend what I was reading. I was dumbfounded to say the least.

Moreover, I was left wondering if my internal response mechanism was broken. I posted my own status. I was not prepared for several of the responses I received. Moreover, I made it clear I believed it was sinful for any person to advocate using violence to resist persecution. Some of the accusations leveled at me for what I know were the proper responses were astounding.

Proper Responses Don’t Make Me a Pacifist

Yes. You read that right. The accusation was made that my position is pacifism. Furthermore, it was deduced that I believed Christ to be a pacifist.  How did they arrive at these conclusions? Simply because I stated that Christ did not allow for resisting persecution with violence. People jumped to improper conclusions about my overall position. A position based on clearly defensible and reasonable conclusions from the Bible regarding what makes for proper responses.

I want to be clear. I am not a pacifist. Moreover, I don’t know if Christ was or was not a pacifist. Furthermore, I don’t know how anyone could stake a conclusive claim on the topic. The Jesus that commands us to turn the other cheek, used a scourge to chase people out of the temple. Additionally, the Jesus of the Book of Revelation is coming back to slaughter His enemies with a sword. However, He is the same Jesus that commands us to heap burning goals on the heads of our enemies. (Contrary to popular American Christianity this is an act of kindness not vengeance.)

Taking Christ Seriously

Likewise, because I take Christ seriously when He tells us to pray for those who persecute us, it doesn’t mean I am a pacifist. Paul tells us to bless and not curse those who persecute us. Yet by my estimation, the greatest act of cursing someone who persecutes you would be to resist them violently.

Furthermore, Peter dictates what our proper responses to persecution should be. The passage most quoted as a defense for apologetics is really about our proper responses to persecution. In 1 Peter 3:13-22 Peter lays out an overpowering argument for suffering persecution peacefully and meekly. Peter compares this patient and peaceful enduring to the enduring of Christ.

Do we remember this?

“Father forgive them…”

Loving Your Neighbor and Your Enemy

I am in not a pacifist. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I carry a sidearm almost everywhere I go, with one exception. I do not carry a sidearm when I am actively engaged in planned evangelistic outreaches. I have never, nor ever will do so. Furthermore, I have faced threats of personal violence and death. I simply will not respond to persecution with violence.

So how do I love my neighbors and my enemies? Moreover, are loving neighbor and loving enemy necessarily exclusive. Particularly, the greatest way for us to love neighbor and enemy is to proclaim the Gospel to them. This was the mission Christ left us with.

A Hard Decision

However, what does it look like when the enemies we love come into conflict with neighbors we love as well. Consider this scenario:

You are in your backyard when the screams of your next-door unconverted neighbor lady pierce the stillness of the evening. You rush to look over the hedge that divides your property and you see that your neighbor is being beaten with a bat and about to be raped by an unrecognizable assailant. Knowing that you have little time to respond before the assailant has hit her enough to take her life, you act swiftly. You rush to the break in the hedge picking up an axe handle as you go. As you run across the yard to the aid of your neighbor you are screaming for the attacker to stop. He fails to comply, and you are left two choices. Hit him in the head with the handle and possibly take his life or let him continue and take hers. Jesus would remind us that both people are our neighbors.

Who do you love in this moment? What does that love look like?

Proper Responses in Loving Your Family Well

I want to go back to the comment that sparked this entire discussion. There is nothing wrong with a man planning an open-air outreach in a potentially hostile environment.  Furthermore, planning such an event should include contingencies for how to respond to hostilities. Moreover, knowing your audience and the potential mindset, one needs to consider the wisdom of including a wife and minor children.

My wife has offered on many occasions to go with me as I head out to preach the Gospel in several nearby bar districts. Her offers are sincere if not enthusiastic. (She has seen the sorrow and burden on my face as I have had to go alone on so many occasions. I know this breaks her heart.) Each time I have declined her offer. Furthermore, I have explained to her that I expect to face serious opposition and persecution. I have explained that my heart is touched by her offer. However, I cannot willingly drag her into what I know will raucous encounters. Some question the wisdom of even going myself.

My wife and son have been with me to an abortion provider.  The threat of opposition in these places is real? Yet, it is a calculated risk. My son has gone with me numerous times. I cannot think of a time when we have not discussed proper responses when faced with opposition. The one thing that my son knows beyond any doubt, I will interpose myself between him and any assailants. He knows I will never raise a hand to one who attacks us for the sake of the Gospel.

Yet wisdom and love require that we weigh the places where we take our loved ones.

Nate Saint and Proper Responses

Not many people remember the story behind the death of Nate Saint and his fellow missionaries. It is an emotional and inspirational story for Christians. Nate and four other men, including Jim Elliot, were martyred by a tribe of primitive Amazonian natives. They lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

However, there is so much more to the story. In the movie “The End of the Spear” Steve Saint tells the story from his perspective. In one of thee most heart-wrenching scenes Steve watches his father prepare to leave for an encounter with the Huaorani people. Nate is carrying a rifle and little Stevie asks, “Dad will you shoot the Huaorani if they attack?” Nate gets down on his son’s level and replies, “No Stevie I won’t shoot the Huaorani. The Huaorani need Jesus Stevie. We already have Him.” (Paraphrase)

A short time later the bodies of all five men were found along the banks of the river. They were all murdered at the end of spears. Later many of the tribe came to Christ for salvation. Many of them gave testimony that they could not understand why the white men did not shoot them as they attacked.

These five men died so that the Huaorani could live and eventually come to Christ. These were the proper responses of men who were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot tell you that I know the pain of the women and children left behind when these men were martyred. What I can tell you is that their willingness to die for the sake of the Gospel touched the hearts of hundreds if not thousands of Ecuadorian natives.

You tell me, what else would have been proper responses in these instances?

Modeling Christ in Proper Responses

Holy Writ describes Christ going to the cross and suffering beatings without raising a word of cursing against His persecutors. As He is on the cross and being mocked He offers a prayer on behalf of his persecutors. In maybe the most staggering example of all proper responses Christ does the unthinkable. Peter rises and cuts the ear from the head of the high priest’s servant. Jesus rebukes Peter and then heals the man’s ear.

These moments were the culmination of three years of public ministry wherein Christ spoke extensively about coming persecution. Moreover, Jesus always spoke of persecution in a positive sense, extolling it as something virtuous suffered by the righteous. Furthermore, His call was always to suffer persecution with patience and forbearing.

In the book of Acts we see Stephen preaching the Gospel in the synagogue in Jerusalem. Stephen holds nothing back. The Jews despise his message and they take him out to stone him to death. Stephen embraces the model of His Lord and Savior and lifts a prayer for his persecutors. Consequently, this becomes the model for the early Church. Furthermore, I would insist that this is the model for us even now.

Proper responses in differing situations are always influenced by our worldview. As Christians our worldview is to be wholly biblical. Sadly, this isn’t always the case for any of us. We will respond according to the flesh at any given moment. Therefore, knowing this about ourselves, it incumbent for us to always be thinking about what proper responses will be.

The only biblical conclusion for the true believer facing persecution for the sake of righteousness is to accept it or flee. Heaven forbid, and God please intervene if we choose to take up arms or offer insult for insult.

In Conclusion

We may differ on certain issues of self-defense. I believe that there is a time and place for such actions. Those moments will prayerfully be rare.

Thus, my conclusion is brief. To summarize, I believe that any person taking exception to my position bears the burden of proof. You must demonstrate where God allows us to violently resist those who will kill us for the sake of the Gospel. You will be forced to concede that the Word does not make such an allowance. A desire to be molded into the image of Christ demands we reflect Him in our proper responses to those who would curse or kill us for His Name.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Todd

Bearing Fruit: When You Aren’t Seeing Any

What Prompted This

A few weeks back a man who has become a good friend read an article of mine. This article focused on why we preach the Gospel. He expressed some level of frustration over the reality that his Gospel work doesn’t seem to be producing much fruit. I can relate. In all my years of preaching the Gospel in public I have maybe seen one convert. Furthermore, I have often wondered if my labors are bearing fruit.

Moreover, I have often had to remind myself that I do not preach the Gospel merely to see converts. In the article that prompted this I spoke about the truth that we are to rest on Isaiah 55:11 and 2 Corinthians 2:16. However, laboring often feels as if it is in vain and it can become burdensome when you long to be bearing fruit and don’t see it.

Bearing Fruit of Doctrine

I think the most important point for the believer to keep in mind is that we aren’t in control of responses. This point alone is what drives my sharp focus on doctrine. I don’t mean to say that I focus on doctrine when I go out to proclaim Christ to the masses. However, doctrine is vitally important to how I preach the Gospel.

If we enter Gospel ministry with the wrong view it can have an adverse effect on Gospel preaching. Furthermore, if we have the view that bearing fruit only means conversions we are likely to modify the Gospel message. When we do this, we preach a different Gospel. Paul makes it clear in Galatians that when we preach any Gospel contrary to what we were taught we preach a heresy.

Instead, we need to have our primary focus on bearing fruit of obedience. As I have stated in so many ways, Christ left us with a command to preach the Gospel. The outcome of obeying that command is not in our hands. It is strictly for us to obey.

Moreover, we preach, not only to be obedient, but to glorify God. As the Westminster Confession so powerfully yet simply states, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This should be our primary and driving motivation when obeying the command to evangelize.

Furthermore, if we have the right view of Gospel preaching, guided by a sound doctrinal approach, we will preach the Gospel properly. Therefore, the study of doctrine is vitally important. Doctrine isn’t just to fill our heads with knowledge that we can vomit out. Studying doctrine and then applying it to your life protects you from straying.

Being Faithful to Proclaim

One of my earliest memories of public evangelism took place in Preston Minnesota at the Fillmore county fair in 2004. A sister church in Preston sponsored a traveling evangelist and his wife. They would travel from county to county across the Midwest setting up a booth where they would speak with interested people.

I was immediately excited and couldn’t wait to join them some night at the fair. The first chance I had I headed to Preston and met them at their booth. They walked me through their system and explained that the wife was the only one allowed to counsel women. Moreover, we were not supposed to approach people as they passed. Instead, we were to wait for people to approach us.

This part perplexed me, and I just couldn’t sit by and let people pass without engaging. That night a young lady and her boyfriend walked by and I called out to them as they passed by the booth. I engaged them in a conversation about their beliefs about God and was able to walk them through the Gospel.

To this day I remember the young lady’s name, Crystal. Crystal seemed to be touched by the Gospel. She displayed signs of regret over her sin. The man’s wife to spoke with Crystal and later informed me that “Crystal made a decision to accept Jesus as her Lord.”

I do not know what happened to Crystal. I never saw her gain. My hope is that Crystal was genuinely converted, and she is now faithfully serving Christ. What I did know even then was that I needed to be faithful to the Gospel message. Bearing fruit was not foremost on my mind.

Bearing Fruit Like the Sower

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the parable of the sower. This is a profound teaching and I dwell on it often. The moments when I am likely to dwell on the “lack of fruit” in the ministry are buffered by this. So what encouragement do we take from the sower? Furthermore, is this what Gospel work should look like today?

Jesus seemingly describes a foolish approach towards Gospel work if we dwell on the agrarian nature of the sower. No farmer in his right mind would scatter seed haphazardly the way the man in this parable does. Moreover, what we see in the sower is a lack of sound stewardship of resources that God has granted him.

I used to make this mistake frequently when contemplating this parable. I grew up in an agrarian culture. Having lived in small town Iowa I was quite familiar with farming methods. It was easy for me to read into this text. However, Jesus wasn’t teaching us about farming.

So, what lesson was Jesus teaching us? Christ was teaching us about faithfulness in the task of preaching the Gospel. Moreover, He was teaching us about trust in a way. The sower in the parable was trusting that seed was going to find purchase in good soil. Furthermore, the sower was about being obedient to the task at hand, and he trusted the Master to provide the increase.

Bearing fruit, for us, much like the sower, looks far different than what the world expects. “Reasonable and rational” people don’t scatter seed on hard-packed dirt roads and expect results. Yet the sower, just like we should do, faithfully went about the work given him by the Master.

Bearing fruit, looks far more like obedience to the granted task than it does actual production.

When Bearing Fruit is the Only Thing on Your Mind

Having spent countless hours engaged in evangelism in a variety of settings I can attest to one thing. It is far too easy to want to aim for calculated results.

Several years ago, I was selected by representatives of Wretched Radio and TV to be part of the Biggest Question Project. This project was funded by gracious contributors who wanted to see college campuses saturated with the Gospel message. The ministry would send out several hundred DVD copies of the Biggest Question to those selected to take part. When I received my first shipment I was raring to go. I knew where I was headed, and I had a plan in mind.

One of my first trips out left me deflated. I was rejected dozens of times. I think I was disheartened because I was aiming for immediate results. It felt as if I was not only failing the ministry of Wretched, but as if I was also failing God. I perceived success as immediate signs of bearing fruit.

I think this perception was what really held me back. Bearing fruit had a specific look to me. Keep in mind that I was doctrinally settled before I ever took part in the project. I was firmly ensconced in my theological positions. However, the flow of information from my head to my heart was stifled. No matter how much I trusted God to oversee the results, I still felt responsible to produce.

Having had time to look back on this, it is clear to me that I was possessed of an over-reliance on myself. I simply believed that I was not bearing fruit unless I was seeing immediate results. Bearing fruit, tangible fruit, i.e., seeing converts, was all that mattered to me.

In time, this can become disheartening.

The Proper View of Bearing Fruit

So, what is the solution to this quandary? How do we go about bearing fruit and keeping a proper perspective? Jesus answers this for us in a profound way in John 4.

Having met the Samaritan woman while at the well, Christ is faced with disciples that weren’t getting it. This was common with Jesus and his followers. Consequently, Christ explains to the disciples that every believer is tasked with the same job. However, the results will be different for each of them.

All disciples are tasked with going out and Advancing the Gospel.  Yet, not every disciple will see the same results. Some may sow the seed that is later harvested by another. Christ’s concern is that each follower remains faithful to the bearing fruit of obedience. Therefore, Christ tells them that His food is to do the will of the Father.

This is what bearing fruit looks like when preaching the Gospel. If we misunderstand the focus of Gospel proclamation we will always be disappointed. We will expect to see a harvest each time we preach the Gospel to anyone in any situation.

Is it inherently wrong to expect fruit when we preach? No. Is there a better focus for us in the preaching of the Gospel? Yes. Our soul focus is to do the will of the Father and trust Him for the results. Paul emphasizes this for us in 1 Corinthians 3.  He reminds us that he planted, and that Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

This is what the proper view of bearing fruit should be. We go out to the world, no matter the setting, and we trust God for the increase. So, whether it is with our neighbor across the backyard fence. Or with a stranger on a college campus. We trust!

When We Measure Bearing Fruit 

The thing we need to take away from this is a proper understanding of our role in Gospel Advancement. Bearing fruit, in the case of evangelism, is not the same as bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruits of the Spirit are manifest and tangible. Bearing fruit when evangelizing is harder to define.

In our current outcome-based culture, we want tangible readily observed results. This is not how God works in Gospel Advancement. Furthermore, I would posit that He has planned it in just such a way because He knows how prone to pride the human heart is. If we were to always see converts whenever we went out to evangelize, we would quickly begin to boast.

This happens all too often already. I have observed services where “evangelists” have bragged about “decisions” made for Jesus at the last revival. Droves of “ministries” exist where they tally “conversions” and brag about bearing fruit.

Moreover, they explain their methodology and highlight how they have led people in a prayer. They declare these folk disciples based on nothing more than an emotional response to musical manipulation.

My friends, this is not bearing fruit. This is decisionism that works to jointly make both parties feel good about themselves. I am convinced that God often works to hide conversions from us, just to keep our pride at bay.

Charles Finney was notorious for gaining decisions for Christ. He was so “good at it” that entire regions came to be referred to as the “burnt over district”. People were so emotionally manipulated by the tactics of Finney and his followers that they became immune to true Gospel preaching. Many church leaders refused to allow Finney access to their flocks for fear of the damage he would do.

Finney wasn’t bearing fruit biblically.

In Conclusion

I know my heart as much as any person can know their own. I would make notches on my belt if I started to see converts on a regular basis. So maybe this article should just be pointed at me and not you. However, I venture a guess, and wager; your heart is not much different than mine.

I suspect that like many others, both of us would take great pride in being able to count all the people converted under our preaching. I suspect that deep-down inside of our hearts, we want to be able to boast.

Yes, long for souls to be saved! However, do not long to see them converted under your ministry. Moreover, long instead to be faithful in bearing fruit by being obedient to preach the Gospel to all of creation. Leave the results in God’s hands. After-all, that is where the responsibility lies anyway.

For my dear brother Ezrah who has been a godly  encouragement to me since we met in the summer of 2018.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Dealing with Error and Moving On

Why I Started

About two months ago I started an expose series on the book ReThink by Brad Brisco. I started the series after being exposed to the author and the book by the elder of my now former congregation. The decision was made to go public with my thoughts after being rebuffed and told I was overreacting. I simply believed I was dealing with error.

Moreover, my salvation was called into to question for daring to offer critiques. There were calls for unity and to love because that was what God would want. It became abundantly clear that sound doctrine and standing for the truth were to be sacrificed on the altar of unity. People that I was used to standing alongside of while dealing with error were now walking away.

There were several email exchanges and private conversations. Eventually there was a meeting between the sole elder of the congregation, his ministry assistant and my wife and me. The meeting only showed there were deeper divides than I originally believed.

Within two weeks of the meeting I received and email from said elder directing me to not come back to the church. While the email was written in a non-hostile way, it was clear that the view was that I was the problem.

Moving On

I read the entire book despite being asked to not come back to the church. Accordingly, I wrote several articles and published them. I did what I perceived to be the right thing in dealing with error. I have also recorded several videos dealing with error in those affiliated with the author of the book.

Sadly, this has been incredibly hard on me emotionally and spiritually. There have been moments of abject depression in losing those I considered dear friends. Some of these have been close friends for ten years or more.

I’ve decided to move on from writing the articles. I have pages and pages of notes, and there may be more videos to come, but I am moving on. I can’t be responsible for dealing with error everywhere I see it. That does not mean I won’t stand for truth or sound doctrine. Moreover, it doesn’t mean I won’t tackle problems when they come my way. I am just moving on from this one. I am washing my hands of it. Please feel free to reach out to me

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Abortion and the Gospel: Why I Don’t Affiliate with Abolish Human Abortion

I am an Abolitionists

I want to make it clear right here and now I am an abolitionist. Yet, I do not think that abortion and the Gospel are inextricably linked.

I believe abortion to be murder no matter when it takes place. There are no justifiable grounds for the murder of the pre-born Image Bearers of God. Furthermore, I believe that abortion should be made a crime because God sees abortion as murder. He hates the hands that shed innocent blood.

Moreover, I tend to believe that much of the reason that abortion is so rampant today is because the Church has done little to combat it. Instead of battling abortion we have slunk off to our comfortable enclaves and closed our eyes to its horrific legacy.

Instead of dealing with the sin of murder head-on, we have placated murderers. An expectant mother may be the victim of a horrid crime such as rape. However, the moment she contemplates and plans the death of her preborn child she has moved from victim to perpetrator. She has become an accomplice to murder along with the doctor who takes the life of the child.

Not only should laws be passed to deal with this, but Christians should become emboldened to proclaim these things as true. Abortion and the Gospel should be in direct conflict with one another, often.

What is AHA

So just what, and who exactly, is AHA?

That’s an excellent question. Moreover, it may be one of the hardest to answer.

While AHA claims they are not an organization and that they have no leader, there is certainly a semblance of structure to it. Furthermore, they have a well-maintained website that explains their beliefs and practices. They also maintain a “store” where they sell AHA labeled gear and materials. Someone, somewhere, is responsible for organizing this and maintaining it. (The store seems to be shut-down for a rebuild.)

Moreover, despite not having a leader they certainly do have at least one very public face. This titular head is known for radical tirades and vitriolic attacks on other Christians for daring to challenge him on almost any issue. This model of behavior bleeds into the interactions that those who admire him have with others.

AHA rightly promotes the presence of Christians at abortion mills as they plead for the lives of the preborn. In addition to this they have also established what they call the “Church Repent project”. More on that later.

All of this is done under the guise of being a loosely affiliated group of like-minded Christians. Subsequently these Christians are rightly bent toward bringing abortion and the Gospel into conflict with one another.

Abortion and the Gospel, My Concerns

If you are astute, you will have picked up on the fact that I have deep concerns regarding AHA. These concerns are not with abolitionism, but with AHA and her practices. Furthermore, AHA practices seemingly foster a very unorthodox mindset towards ecclesiology.

In a recent conversation on social media I was told by several promoters of AHA that it is imperative to preach about abortion. When I asked for clarification the answers were resounding. Even when open air preaching in the public square one must preach about abortion. One individual went so far as to suggest that to not preach about abortion when preaching the Gospel is to not preach the Gospel at all. This mindset demonstrates that AHA has blurred the lines between abortion and the Gospel.

Furthermore, another individual clearly stated something staggering:

“In every conversation that I have every day I talk about abortion.”

I asked if this was hyperbole and maybe overstated. The individual doubled down and asked me why I would not speak about abortion to every person I speak with daily. One person compared not preaching about abortion when preaching the Gospel to not preaching about homosexuality at a gay pride event.

Time and again AHA and those who seem to orbit around her link abortion and the Gospel. For AHA, abortion is the greatest of sins. According to AHA, to fail to preach on abortion is to miscommunicate the Gospel.

Any Christian familiar with Paul’s epistle to the church in Galatia is also familiar with the Galatian heresy. AHA borders on the this heresy with their view. I know many who would state that AHA doesn’t merely border on the heresy but has fallen off into it willingly.

Abortion and the Gospel Leads to Church Repent

As I previously stated, AHA has a project they refer to as Church Repent. This project has a two-pronged approach.

The first prong is aimed at apostate congregations and denominations actively promote abortion. These congregations will frequently twist the bible to support their positions. As recently as the last several years many high-profile leaders in the ELCA, UMC and the PCUSA, have blessed abortion clinics. I am not entirely opposed to the idea of preaching outside of such places and calling them to repent.

However, this isn’t enough for the AHA folks. They are convinced that even sound congregations need to be “exhorted to do more”. I have at least three friends, two of which serve on my board of oversight, that have had their local church bodies accosted during worship services. AHA defends this tactic claiming that they are merely encouraging sound Christians to do more.

In several instances, AHA folks showed up outside of some theologically orthodox churches with an active presence at abortions mills. They did this several weeks in a row. They held signs that would lead people to perceive that the church AHA was “exhorting” was supportive of abortion.

When pressed to explain this tactic AHA supporters try and pass their actions off as being misunderstood. “We aren’t protesting these churches we are encouraging them to be more active.” Of course, the standard that AHA has established is their level of activity.

It has been suggested to me that I am not doing enough if I am not at abortion mills every day they are open. When I suggested that I have a career that helps provide for my family and that it would be sinful for me to neglect that calling I was accused of complacency and idolatry. My salvation was even questioned.

Abortion and the Gospel; When You Aren’t Doing Enough

AHA tends to define anything other than their exact methodology as being insufficient. In some cases, I find this not entirely without merit. I have been accused of this when it comes to evangelism. Furthermore, when Christians will drive hours to watch an athletic event but can’t be troubled to travel across town to go to an abortion mill we have a problem.

However, AHA doesn’t seem to be able to stop there. In a recent video shared with me and several others, a group gathered outside of a PP location. Their purpose? They had a “church” service. Sounds innocuous enough right? Yet it wasn’t. Moreover, this “church” service became a long rambling political screed wherein the “pastor” railed on local churches. He went so far as to question if those local bodies even met the biblical definition of what a church is.

This is normal rhetoric for AHA. Any Christian and any local body that does not meet the standard of AHA level abolitionism is apostate. As I mentioned before, abortion and the Gospel must be preached with equanimity for AHA supporters to be satisfied.

I was recently preaching outside of a college football game during the tailgating. For me to meet the apparent AHA standard of Gospel work, I should have been holding graphic signs and preaching about abortion.

However, from my perspective, I wasn’t there to deal with abortion. I was there to preach the Gospel to lost folks who needed to hear the Gospel. Holding a graphic sign depicting abortion at a sporting event isn’t the answer. What purpose does it serve?

Abortion and Gospel go hand-in-hand in certain settings, but not in all settings.

Keeping My Distance From AHA

I know that there are many genuine Christians that align themselves with AHA. I also know that for many of them the heart behind why they do so is genuine. Abortion is tragic and devastating, and it is abject rebellion against our God.

Much as genuine Christians fought against the African slave trade in the 1800’s and the NAZI agenda in the 1930’s and 40’s, Christians are obligated to fight this battle now. How can we claim to love God with every fiber of our being and neighbor as self and not be invested in this fight?

When it comes to abortion and the Gospel, I will keep the main thing the main thing. Furthermore, I will not affiliate with any person or loosely bound group that targets solid local churches with calls to repentance. Especially when those calls to repentance are built on personal subjective standards.

AHA has melded abortion and the Gospel into one thing. Abortion has been tacked onto the Gospel as a standard that they hold all other Christians to. Moreover, they have appointed themselves the arbiters of what meeting that standard looks like. Furthermore, unless your efforts are equal to theirs, your efforts are lacking.

Therefore, I will keep my distance from AHA and any person who supports their tactics and their rhetoric. Trust me, If Only Even One is not above being labeled radical by the broader church. However, you will never find me picketing a theologically orthodox church who doesn’t send open air preachers out on the streets. I will not publicly accost other Christians for failing to hand out tracts. I will not engage in AHA tactics.

In Conclusion

The ministry of If Only Even One supports the work of abortion abolition. Abortion like any other sin is dealt with head-on through the proclamation of the Gospel. I will never compromise on how wicked abortion is.

On the main page of the website you will find links to strong ministries fighting for the lives of Preborn Image bearers of God. Those two ministries are Preborn and End Abortion Now. These two ministries are biblically solid and Christ exalting works.

If I can be of assistance to you or your local church in establishing an abortion outreach, please reach out to me. Or if I can travel to you I will. If I can connect you with genuine brothers and sisters who understand the clear distinction between abortion and the Gospel I will.

I know I run the risk of coming under fire from AHA for this. I have seen their handiwork many times. However, I am willing to run that risk. I believe them to be doctrinally dangerous and theologically misshapen. The best thing that we can do is pray for the most ardent of their folks to turn away from blurring the line between abortion and the Gospel. When this happens, I believe they will be profoundly used of the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Joyful Obedience: Preaching The Gospel

Preaching To Those Who Believe

From the very first moment of my salvation I have been on fire for evangelism. This is not to say that I am better than others. Conversely, I am painfully aware of just how much sin remains in me. Sadly, I have not always allowed my zeal for evangelism to motivate me properly. I have often heaped condemnation on others. In my article, My Confession, I sought forgiveness for coming down too hard on other believers when it comes to evangelism. In some respects, I was fostering an almost legalistic approach to Advancing the Gospel. What I am writing to you today is meant to inspire a joyful obedience instead.

Therefore, if you have felt guilt or shame in reading the articles I have previously published please keep reading. I want to preach to your soul today. It is my earnest plea that you would take heart in my message to you. Moreover, I want you to know that my desire is to bring the joy of Christ to bear on this topic. Furthermore, as Christ obeyed for the joy set before Him, I want you to see that same joy on display before you as well.

A Brief Word On Obedience

As I have established biblically in many of my previous articles, the Great Commission is not a mere suggestion. It is a command that flows out of the two greatest commands. One cannot read that we are to love God with every fiber of our being and our neighbors as ourselves and then justify interpreting the Great Commission as a suggestion. It is clearly an imperative pointed at the believer.

On one end of the two great commands we strive to obey in fear and under our own power. The lost but moralistic person trembles under the weight of the law. They know nothing of joyful obedience. On the other end of the two great commands we obey out of love and joyful duty. Even in keeping the commands of God we can take great joy. Furthermore, that joy is complete in Christ who kept all the commands perfectly for us.

Sadly, much like many of the other things taught in the Scriptures, evangelism is made a heavy duty. It weighs down the hearer of the command with guilt for failing to obey. We begin to see God as the demanding father who expects the house in perfect order when he arrives home from work. Moreover, evangelism then becomes a routine engaged in with no compassion or empathy. Instead, it comes off as cold and detached.

This is the child who obeys while dad is away for fear of being beaten when dad comes home. That child is not obeying out of longing and expectation of seeing their father. Instead, a child who longs for their father’s smile and warm embrace obeys and rushes to the door when he arrives home.

These two perspectives help us see the divide between joyful obedience and obedience from fear of disapproval.

Why Joyful Obedience

One great error made by many Christians is believing that Christ lived His earthly life as an example to us. There is a reality in which we can see His life in that way. However, Christ lived as far more than an example. He lived to accomplish what we could not ever accomplish. We had no hope of the perfect obedience that He lived out.

Accordingly, when we look on Christ in Scripture, we should see Him as the propitiatory sacrifice that He was. However, we can still look to Him for an example as well. The key to looking on Him as our example is to not confuse His exemplary life with His sacrificial work. In-other-words, Christ’s perfect active and passive obedience are beyond our ability to accomplish. Moreover, any attempt on our part to live out those aspects of His life is insulting to His glory.

Therefore, looking to Him as an example is freeing for us. When we see Christ proclaiming the Good News of Himself to the masses, we can be stirred to follow that example. Moreover, that example comes with the joy of knowing Christ as both Lord and Savior.

Christ is the perfect example of joyful obedience for us. As we are taught in the Scriptures, it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. While our obedience does not cause our salvation but instead flows from it, we are able to obey in joy. Why? Because Christ did.

Our salvation produces joyful obedience in all areas of our life.

Joyful Obedience In Advancing The Gospel

Since Christ laid down His life as a wonderful and awe inspiring propitiatory sacrifice we have the obligation to tell others. Yet, that obligation does not come with a threat of disapproval if we fail. That obligation flows out of the joy that we find in the completed work of Christ.

Christ has said to us on a deeply personal level, “come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The burden there is not merely things that weigh us down emotionally. The burden is the weight of our sin. It is the weight of our efforts to try and please God through our own works. Wherefore, Christ comes to us and cries out, “It is finished!” All our labors must cease. We must lay down that burden and take up Christ’s yoke because it is easy.

This beautiful burden of bearing the cross frees us to find our joy in the completed work of Christ. Therefore, being filled with joy, we run out to tell others. Consider the woman at the well. Christ confronts her with the embarrassing nature of her adultery. He tells her that He is the Messiah promised in the Scriptures. She rushes back to her village in joy and confesses her sin to everyone there and proclaims Christ to them.

This is what joyful obedience looks like. Should we not be the same? How much have we been forgiven? Should this not compel us to look on the world with pity and speak the truth in love? Since our Savior could endure the cross with joy, we should be able to overcome discomfort and preach the Gospel in joy.

Therefore, no longer will Advancing the Gospel be a burden to us, but joyful obedience to Christ.

In Conclusion

I want to end with this thought, and it will be brief. Your Lord and Savior has left you with a command to preach the Gospel. How you do this will look incredibly different for each person. Some of us will stand on proverbial soap-boxes. Still others will sit down in a coffee shop and proclaim the Gospel over a cup of salted-caramel mocha-chino. Whatever the case may be, be about that work with joyful obedience.

As Ray Comfort is often heard to say, “I go out dragging my feet but come back clicking my heels.” Let this be the case for each of us. The more we strive for joyful obedience the less burden we feel and the lighter the yoke of Christ becomes…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Todd

Live The Gospel: Stop Blaspheming Christ

Excusing Disobedience

Whenever the topic of evangelism comes up I am met with varied levels of resistance. To be sure I am wont to bring the topic up often when around other Christians. Shocking I know. For the most part, when I broach the topic with other Christians they quickly want to shift the subject to anything else. The most frequent statement I hear from others about the topic is “I live the Gospel in my daily life.”

This is simply an excuse to justify disobedience to the Great Commission. Moreover, I do not think that most who use “I live the Gospel” mean what they say. They are simply looking for a way out of an uncomfortable situation.

Look, let’s be honest. When we are confronted with an area where we are in sin, we want to hide from the light. This is the normal response of any person. In particular, we see this played out most evidently in the lives of unbelievers. However, it also affects the believer. I deal with it often. I hate having my sin exposed, and my wife can attest to that.

Furthermore, I don’t want to say that I am okay with people making excuses, but I understand. Accordingly, I will listen patiently to what I know are merely excuses for their disobedience. Moreover, God is incredibly patient with me when I sin and make excuses. I am glad He did not strike me down at my first sin. Furthermore, it isn’t my role to strike anyone down.

Conversely, it isn’t good for any of us to sit silently listening to excuses without pointing those excuses out. Moreover, we are not loving our brothers and sisters as Christ loved us, if we do not speak to the sin directly.

But How Is It Blasphemy

Some of you may be asking how is it blasphemous to say, “I live the Gospel”? Trust me when I tell you that I know it seems rather heavy handed. However, I believe I can make my case if you bear me with for just a bit.

Biblical blasphemy is an attitude of disrespect that finds expression in an act directed against the character of God. Having typed out that sentence I feel as if I could end whole article right there. However, I am not sure any of you would find that answer sufficient.

Therefore, I will start with the deity of Christ. In numerous places in the Gospels Jesus declares Himself to be God. In fact, in several instances when Christ does this He is accused of blasphemy. The Jews saw any act where a mere man attempted to make himself an equal to God as blasphemous.

Moreover, in being fully God (Hypostatic Union) and fully man, Christ was doing something that none of us could accomplish. He was resisting every temptation that any of us would ever face. Subsequently, having encountered every temptation and resisted it He did what was required of us. He kept the Eternal Moral Law of God perfectly.

Christ was not only the Word by which everything was created. He was also the Perfect Law Keeper. Moreover, in being that Perfect Law Keeper, He was able to be the Perfect Propitiation. He was the Wrath Absorbing Lamb.

Consequently, His death, burial and resurrection could only be executed by Him. No other could ever be all these things. Therefore, Scripture refers to Him as the Lamb of God and the Lamb slain before the foundation of the Earth.

So, when people say “I live the Gospel” they are claiming the ability to do what only Christ could do. This is blasphemous!

Stealing Christ’s Glory

It is imperative for us to get this right. No matter the reason for saying it, the one who utters the words, “I just live the Gospel”, is insulting Christ. They are showing rank disrespect for God the Son. This may not be their intent, but it is the result of such a statement.

Consider what it means by considering this; and this will be terribly lacking. Imagine that I spend a year building a beautiful bedroom set for my wife. I labor over this project for hours and hours every day. I finally present it to her and she is stricken by its beauty and the craftsmanship.

The next day visitors come to our home and my son is showing them around the house. As they come to the master bedroom they see the beautiful handcrafted furniture. They speak of its beauty and the work that had to have gone in to making it. They look to my son and ask, “Who did such fine and beautiful work?”

My son replies, “Why it was me. I labored over that work for hours and days and months. It is a display of my love and dedication to my mother.”

Don’t Steal Christ’s Glory

The visitors would at that point cease lauding the beauty of the hand-crafted furniture. Instead they would shift their praise to my son. They would comment about his dedication and his creative mind. They would shower him with undeserved compliments. He has stolen my deserved praise.

This is what you have done when you say, “I just live the Gospel”. When you are confronted with the truth of your failure to be obedient to the Great Commission and instead claim Christ’s work as your own, you are insulting The Son of God. You are blaspheming Christ.

Why You Cannot Live The Gospel

Just like the son in my analogy above, you have taken credit for something you did not do. It is only the Perfect Son of God who can live the Gospel. That is because Christ is the Gospel. He is the perfect work of obedience to the greatest of commandments. Christ alone honored and loved God with every fiber of His being. He was the perfect embodiment of the second greatest commandment. He alone loved neighbor as He loved Himself.

Furthermore, it was Christ and Christ alone who accomplished that work. Instead of insulting Him by claiming His work as yours as an excuse to continue in sin you should instead repent. You simply cannot live the Gospel. It was only Christ that could do such a thing. Moreover, He did it with such fervent dedication to the task He shed His own blood in the doing.

Therefore, until you have resisted temptation to the point of the shedding of your own blood, you cannot live the Gospel. Make no mistake, you will never resist temptation in the way Christ did. You will never love the God the way Christ does. You will never love neighbor as yourself. Moreover, you demonstrate your lack of love for God and neighbor when you excuse your disobedience to the Gospel Command by claiming you just live the Gospel.

There Is Grace

As heavy as this may seem as an accusation, I want you all to know that I say and do things I should not all of the time. I am prone to passive aggressive posting on social media when I am upset. I tend to make myself the judge of righteousness when I think someone is wrong. Moreover, in writing this article I have had to check my heart and make sure I was not sinfully directing it at any one person.

I had a dear brother, one of the men on the board of the ministry, review this for me. He pointed me to the Gospel and encouraged me to point my readers there as well. Ironically, in an article about the Gospel, I forgot the Gospel.

Therefore, if you are like me, and I am sure you are, there is forgiveness for the sinful things we say and do. Even if they are not fully intentional. Christ died for our self-righteousness as much as for our blasphemy. When you catch yourself in one of those moments where you are about to say something like “I live the Gospel out in my neighborhood” turn to Christ and thank him for interceding for you.

In Conclusion

I will simply end with this. Guard yourself against allowing such blasphemy to escape your lips in the future. To that end, from now on, when I am confronted with such a statement I will hold the one who utters it accountable and point out their blasphemy. I would ask others to do the same for me when I am in sin.

If you take exception with this thought I welcome your thoughts and critique. All I ask is that you not bring ready made excuses to the conversation. Let’s delve into Scripture together and see if we can reason together.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd