Often Christians actively giving themselves to ministry get so bogged down in the details of their churches and ministries that they fail to see the big picture of what God is doing in the present age. Where has God placed us within his sovereign plan? Within the long-term progress of Godís kingdom, where are we right now?
When we take a step back and look at what God is doing in the world, we come face-to-face with some startling statistics. The Christian faith started with just a handful of disciples following their risen Saviorís calling, but has grown steadily through peace and persecution, alike. While the hottest sellers in any Christian bookstore seem to be the books promising doom and gloom in the immediate future, Godís kingdom is in fact expanding at a remarkable rate.
Percentage of the world professing to be Bible-believing Christians:
1% 1430 AD (1 to 99)
2% 1790 AD (1 to 49)
3% 1940 AD (1 to 32)
4% 1960 AD (1 to 24)
5% 1970 AD (1 to 19)
6% 1980 AD (1 to 16)
7% 1983 AD (1 to 13)
8% 1986 AD (1 to 11)
9% 1989 AD (1 to 10)
10% 1993 AD (1 to 9)
If these numbers are just half true, then we are in the midst of the largest and most expansive spiritual revival in human history. Jesus himself told us that his kingdom would start small like a mustard seed but grow into a mighty tree (Matthew 13). The prophets of the Old Testament had foreseen an age after the Messiahís coming when all the peoples of the earth would come to worship Yahweh (Isaiah 2), and that is what is happening today. Today, almost half the population of South Korea claims to have been born again. A third of the people of Chile, once a bastion of dead, syncretistic Roman Catholicism, are now bible-believing evangelical Christians.
But while millions of people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ, Christians seem to be having less and less impact upon Western civilization. In America, the secular culture becomes more depraved every year. If premarital sex became okay in the sixties, abortion in the seventies, greed in the eighties, and homosexuality in the nineties, what moral barriers remain? While there are more believers than ever, their culture is becoming less biblical in its thinking.
1. The Classical/Biblical Worldview, before 1775.
|We understand something about God through reason and human nature||God tells us about himself through his apostles and prophets recorded in scripture|
2. The Modern Worldview, 1775-1975.
We understand all things through Science and Reason as we study the creation.
God, if he exists, has not spoken. Man lives by Science and Reason (capital-R) alone.
3. The Postmodern Worldview, 1975-present.
There is no true knowledge, only differing perspectives. All truth is relative.
|?||?||Religion is not revealed from God, but is a subjective expression of a culture or individual.|
Within a relativistic postmodern culture, the Christian religion is increasingly coming under attack for its Ďintolerance.í Whereas the baby boomers twenty years ago saw religion as irrelevant, today a generation is being taught that Christianity is not only irrelevant, but outright dangerous. Christianity is blamed today for hatred in the world, oppression, and war. Christians are no longer to be ignored by a secular culture; they are to be attacked and silenced.
And the greatest danger is that the church is tempted to surrender and become like the world. Several denominations met this past year to consider blessing ďholy unionsĒ of gay couples, and some of the oldest denominations in the America now condone abortion and teach that salvation is possible through human religions without faith in Jesus Christ. It is more important than ever that lay leaders in the churches get serious training in theology and apologetics.
You are the generation that has seen the largest increase ever in 2,000 years of the Christian history. But you are also the generation that is watching the churches begin to mimic the worldís thinking. God has called you to help insure that the gains of the past century are solid enough to be multiplied in the twenty-first century. We seek not just saved souls, but transformed lives and a transformed culture. Western civilization as it once stood is dead or dying, and a new synthesis of religion and society is being born.
A new civilization is arising, and you today have an enormous opportunity to impact it, mold it, and press the stamp of Jesus Christ deeply into it. One hundred years from now, what will the world look like? If the numbers of conversions are accurate, we have a better opportunity than ever before to be salt and light in the world. Christís kingdom is expanding, and the future looks bright so long as the church doesnít lose its saltiness.
1. Defending the faith (apologia), not apologizing. Apologetics: The intellectual defense of the truthfulness of Christianity. This requires an examination of the evidencesóhistorical and rationalófor historic Christianity.
2. Christianity has always been under attack, and God has always raised up apologists to challenge the unbelief that is always fashionable.
3. Apologetics on the offensive. We arenít defending a Christian society, but seeking to challenge a Ďpost-Christianí society. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
1. Converting people is 100% Godís job.
2. The responsibility to get the message out is 100% ours.
3. God promises to use you to accomplish his eternal purposes.
4. God calls you not just to present the faith, but also to seek to persuade. Jude 3
1. Respect people even when theyíre wrong
Heís created in Godís image just like you.
Heís a sinner just like you, and deserves Godís wrath just like you.
Sin has had its way with him, just like with you.
He has Godís offer of mercy just like you.
He needs the Holy Spirit to help him believe, just like you.
2. Youíre a helper as well as a warrior. Say you disagree, but donít argue with them. God has put you there to help them see the truth, not to do battle with them. Your battle is with the forces that have control over him.
3. Only use methods that promote the truth. You cannot deceive people into the kingdom of God. Itís tempting to throw in bad arguments if they sound convincing.
4. Always speak to their heart as well as their head.
5. Watch out for smokescreens. They may not even realize thatís what theyíre doing.
6. Challenge their fundamental idolatry. Romans 1.
7. Point everyone to Jesus Christ, not to yourself or your ministry. They may want you to be their mediatoródonít do it! They must approach God on their own through Christ.
Remember: No one is able to repent until they see that God has obligated himself to receive any broken sinner who comes to him with faith in Jesus.
And Don't Forget: No one needs to take your word for it. They need to believe what God says.
What They Need to Realize: Jesus demands your life. What are you doing with Jesus?
And finally, remember the warning C.S. Lewis gave about the devilís tactics with the apologist. The truthfulness of what youíre defending doesnít rest upon your arguments, but on the fact that the truth is true.