By Mark A. Taylor
Today I’m remembering insights about faith-sharing in last month’s Beyond the Standard online interview. Plan to tune-in to this month’s discussion, “Ministry Today” with CHRISTIAN STANDARD columnist Eddie Lowen, this Thursday, July 31, 11 a.m. Eastern.
My eye fell on a small tract, propped against the mirror on the shelf above the sink in the public restroom I was using. “Where Will You Spend Eternity?” the leaflet asked. And I remembered my own tract-distributing phase many decades ago.
On one occasion, with fevered prayers, I had slipped a salvation tract into the magazine pocket behind the airplane seat in front of me. I didn’t think to strike up a conversation with the person sitting beside me, or to save the tract till I had built a strong relationship with a nonbeliever who would want to talk with me about God.
Ben Cachiaras mentioned he had once been assigned in a seminary class to go door-to-door distributing tracts. “I’m not sure I would advocate that today,” he said. Instead, as he explained in last month’s Beyond the Standard online interview, he challenges Christians to “engage the culture with love and selfless deeds.”
The program’s theme was not evangelism, but apologetics. But we soon came to the evangelistic potential and purpose of apologetics, whose desired end is pointing people to God—not winning arguments or convincing ourselves that our positions are correct.
Cachiaras mentioned four “longings” he believes are present among many in our world today: substance (a reason for faith), selflessness (the willingness to humbly listen and engage in real dialogue), a social connection (more meaningful than social media, a community patterned after what we see in Acts 2), and service to the world Jesus came to seek and save.
“All of this flows out of relationships in a way I don’t think we fully realized earlier,” he said. “Substance travels over relationships and humility.”
Richard Knopp, project coordinator of Room for Doubt, a new ministry sponsored by Lincoln Christian University, said apologetics should not be an isolated study, and it’s not just for intellectuals. “Apologetics is part of the fabric of how we live in the world generally.”
We talked about achieving a balance between substance and example. Street-corner preachers don’t win many converts, but neither does a loving Christian who won’t tell the truth about the One motivating his good deeds. Casey Tygrett, spiritual formation pastor at Parkview Christian Church, Orland Park, Illinois, said, “The claims of Christianity are true in the context of story.” The energy expended to defend our own positions takes us away from the energy required to rub off on another person and show them how our lives have changed, he said
While not disagreeing, Knopp pointed out that personal testimony alone would not have had the impact contained in Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost or Paul’s teaching in Athens. He reminded us that Paul perfectly wove together his testimony with declarations of truth (see Acts 22, 26).
I doubt I’ll ever again anonymously distribute tracts, and this 60-minute discussion reminds me that better options await me. Paul urges us to “speak the truth with love” (see Ephesians 4:15). And I know more than one person who needs to hear—and see—it.