1917: Reflections on Evangelism

In the epic World War I movie “1917” (2019), two soldiers are tasked with sending a message to another battalion to stop them from attacking the Germans. Why? Based on army intelligence, it was a trap and the British soldiers would be massacred. There lies the tension – Would the two young soldiers survive the dangerous journey across the war field? And even if they did survive, would they reach in time to inform their comrades? It’s a nail-biting movie and I won’t give any spoilers!

But it hit me that the theme of “1917” relates directly to evangelism. Evangelism is telling others about Jesus and turning them away from death and destruction. See the connection with the movie? All of us as Christians are given the mandate in the Great Commission (Matt 28) to tell others about Jesus and to turn them from their sins before it’s too late.

The first element is danger. Just like the two soldiers who braved perils along the way, we too must brave dangers. Some may be in the form of ridicule, rejection and for missionaries, even death. Are we willing to bring this message of hope to dying people? God gives Ezekiel a responsibility to be a watchman to warn people to turn from their sins:

Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 (NLT)

The second element is time. In “1917” the message had to be delivered by dawn the next day. There wasn’t time for chit-chat or giving up. Time was of the essence. If they were too slow, people would die. Similarly, people need to hear about Jesus before they end this life. Now ever more so in this Covid-19 situation where life is so unpredictable. But nothing can stop us from telling others about Jesus whether in person or through technology (Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, blogs). The time is now. As Paul says:

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT)

Will you brave the dangers to tell others about Jesus?

Will you sense the urgency and grab every chance to tell others about Jesus?

If two soldiers would risk their lives to save people from physical death, would we risk all to save people from eternal death?

Danger and God’s Open Doors

Image result for killer waiting behind doorMost of us run away from troubles. If you see a gang fight, you stay away. If you see a storm brewing, you stay sheltered. If you see mobs burning churches, you stay home. But we might also be missing out on God’s greatest work. What if God’s greatest work coincides with Satan’s greatest opposition? Would you go? Paul was such a person. We read in the last chapter of 1 Corinthians:

For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

1 Cor 16:7-9

This is an amazing statement by Paul! He’s giving the Corinthians the reason why he’s choosing to station himself in Ephesus. I understand the first part where he says that “a great door for effective work has opened for me.” If there’s a readiness to hear the Gospel, that’s a good sign!

But the second reason stumps me. Scares me even. “…and there are many who oppose me.” What? Are you serious Paul? Don’t you know that your life is in danger if you stay there? We often don’t see opposition as a sign that God has called us to a place. Instead, we run away from opposition. We bolt at the first sign of trouble. Of course, people should oppose you for the right reason. Right reason – preaching the undiluted Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wrong reason – insulting their religion or cheating them of their money.

When we consider where God may be leading us, it is intuitive to find the place where there is an open door for the Gospel to be shared and churches to be planted. Jesus said that the fields are white for harvest. But what is not so intuitive is choosing to stay in spite of opposition to your message and work. It takes guts, thick skin and God’s divine protection to keep on working in the midst of dangers. When people are maligning you. When people are disturbing your family. When people send you nasty messages. God’s open doors may not be trouble-free.

Paul was that kind of person who entered the open door in a hostile land. He accomplished God’s greatest work in the midst of Satan’s greatest opposition. May God guide you to where he may be calling you to serve him. Do not be afraid. Paul, near the end of his life, recounted the protection of God and may this be true for you too:

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will rescue me from every evil action and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Tim 4:17-18

Basic Mandarin for Sharing the Gospel

I’ve found this series taught by an American (Pastor Rory Butler) to be a great start for a beginner. I included the mandarin pinyin of the words used in the video to help you in the pronunciation. God bless!

image

Video 1

耶稣基督 (Yē sū Jī dū) Jesus Christ
上帝 (Shàng dì) God
神 (Shén)God
神祝福你 (Shén zhù fú nǐ)God bless you
神爱你 (Shén ài nǐ)God loves you
耶稣爱你 (Yē sū ài nǐ)Jesus loves you
圣经 ( Shèng jīng)Holy Bible
教会 (Jiào huì)Christian church
基督徒 (Jī dū tú)Christian

Video 2

 (Tiān táng) Heaven

 (Dì ) Hell

十字架 (Shí zì jià) Cross/crucifix

相信 (Xiāng xìn) believe/trust

我相信耶稣。(wǒ xiāng xìn yē sū) I believe in Jesus.

悔改 (Huǐ gǎi) repent

永生 (Yǒng shēng) eternal life

 

Video 3

罪 (Zuì) Sin

罪人 (Zuì rén) Sinner

赦免 (Shè miǎn) Forgive/pardon

神赦免罪人。(Shén shè miǎn zuì rén.) God forgives sinners.

耶稣爱罪人。(Yē sū ài zuì rén.) Jesus loves the sinner.

耶稣赦免罪。(Yē sū shè miǎn zuì.) Jesus forgive sins.

 

Video 4

圣诞快乐 (Shèng dàn kuài lè) Merry Christmas

复活节快乐 (Fù huó jié kuài lè) Happy Easter

恭喜发财 (Gōng xǐ fā cái) Happy New Year greeting

洗礼 (Xǐ lǐ) Baptism

受洗 (Shòu xǐ) Being baptised

圣灵 (Shèng líng) Holy Spirit

 

Video 5

教会(Jiào huì)Church congregation

教堂 (Jiào táng) Church building

天国 (Tiān guó) Kingdom of Heaven

神的国/神国 (Shén de guó/Shén guó) Kingdom of God

耶稣是神的儿子。(Yē sū shì shén de ér zi.) Jesus is the Son of God.

上帝是真神。(Shàng dì shì zhēn shén.) Christian God is the true god.

佛教徒 (Fó jiào tú) Buddhist

佛教 (Fó jiào) Buddhism

基督教 (Jī dū jiào) Christianity

 

Video 6

上天堂 (Shàng tiān táng) Go [up] to heaven

下地狱 (Xià dì yù) Go [down] to hell

灭亡 (Miè wáng) Perish [in your sins]

得救 (Dé jiù) Saved

神迹 (Shén jī) Miracle

 

Video 8

审判 (Shěn pàn) Judgment

审判日/末日 (Shěn pàn rì/Mò rì) Judgment Day

万王之王,万主之主 (Wàn wáng zhī wáng, wàn zhǔ zhī zhǔ) King of Kings, and Lord of Lords

耶稣是神的羔羊 (Yēsū shì shén de gāoyáng) Jesus is the Lamb of God

救世主 (Jiù shì zhǔ) Saviour

耶稣基督是救世主。(Yē sū jī dū shì jiù shì zhǔ.) Jesus Christ is the Saviour.

偶像 (Ǒu xiàng) Idol

佛像 (Fó xiàng) Buddhist idol

无神论/无神论者 (Wú shén lùn/Wú shén lùn zhě) Atheism/Atheist [no religion]

佛经 (Fó jīng) Buddhist sutra

古兰经 (Gǔ lán jīng) Muslim Koran

神的话语 (Shén de huà yǔ) Word of God

Missionary Principles Series, Part 4 of 11: Training of Native Christians

This is the fourth part, in a series on Missionary Principles. Simply stated, the principle is:

The chief work of the missionary must be the training of native Christians

I believe there is a place for traditional missionaries who settle into a different land, culture and sometimes, spend their whole lives there. This is called ‘incarnational’ work, just like Jesus, who incarnated as a human and dwelt among us. This is needed especially in a place where there are no Christians.

However, not everyone can afford to move for a long period of time. Some may have standing obligations at home whether it be work or family. But don’t let that be an excuse for you do nothing and leave it all to missionaries.

You can do this: Empower locals to spread the Gospel.

I call this the ‘Empowering Mission Trip’ or EMT where you use your short-term trip to train workers. Train a few, and the far-reaching effects spreads out.

My parents and church have been doing EMTs for years with much fervor. From what I learnt, there are several advantages of EMTs:

  • No need to stay overseas for months or years. Short-term trips are possible.
  • With a translator, you don’t need to learn a new language. But I advise you learn basic phrases to build rapport with the locals.
  • Local missionaries know the culture, language and can survive at lower costs than a foreign missionary. Supporting a local missionary is usually cheap and effective.
  • One missionary can only do so much. But if a local group of missionaries are trained, the web of contacts is dramatically increased.

Can you imagine, Jesus left the Gospel into the hands of 12 disciples to evangelise the world? And for 3 years, Jesus spent most of his time training his disciples. That can be our strategy too.

Here are two recommendations to implement EMTs:

  1. Equip the local missionaries with useful skills.

There are an endless number of things you can teach them on an empowering mission trip.

  • Bible knowledge
  • How to evangelise
  • Business generation
  • Handling money
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking
  • Hygiene practices
  • Music skills

First of all, check with the local missionaries if the topics are of interest or needed. I’m sure you or your church members are blessed with skills that can empower the locals.

Preparing lessons or a short course for EMTs takes effort and time. Are you willing to invest in the eternal kingdom of God? God blessed you so you can bless others.

2. Support a local missionary

Based on real needs, provide for them as they do the Lord’s work. Make sure you choose carefully who you support that they are really advancing the Lord’s kingdom. Some locals due to their poverty, ask for money constantly for their own wants. It pays to keep in contact to find a trustworthy person to support. If they prove unable to handle money well, cut off all giving to them. There are many other true missionaries to support.

Missionary Principles Series, Part 2 Of 11: Our Work Must Be Evangelistic

This is the second in a series of 11 posts on Missionary Principles.

In this post, I will be concentrating on keeping our mission work evangelistic. This means, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the saving of souls.

Dr. Smith highlights that though social reforms are good such as the building of schools, hospitals and other helpful institutions, they cannot be our primary focus.

Our primary focus is to preach the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul stated emphatically:

1 Corinthians 9:16b

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Paul made it his central aim to preach the Gospel. Whatever he did had one goal – the saving of souls. That must be our goal too.

It is a trend this day to engage in social work to help the less fortunate. In fact, many non-profit secular organisations are involved and can do a much better job than the church. This is about improving people’s lives. Unfortunately, the church has followed the same mentality of doing social outreach works without sharing the Gospel.

I’m not saying that social outreach efforts are wrong. In fact, I’m thankful for them as they open a bridge from church to community. But there must come a point in time where the Gospel is preached. Secular organisations do not share that viewpoint and some forbid religious themes in the name of tolerance and respect.

If the church doesn’t preach the Gospel, who will?

If the mission team doesn’t preach the Gospel, who will?

Romans 10:14

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

For people to be saved, they must hear the Gospel preached. It is so easy to be bogged down in social work whether local or overseas and forget the real reason why we are there. Mission trips can be diluted into mere social work with little eternal impact.

We have to share the Gospel.

Knowing this, let me suggest a few steps you can take:

1. Keep the Gospel in the forefront of all you do

Social work is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. The Gospel is the end. The problem is when we expect gamblers, drunkards and child abusers to change without giving them the Gospel first. That’s impossible! When they are saved by God’s mighty power, then they will change.

2. Organise evangelistic rallies

One of the best ways to spread the Gospel is to organise evangelistic rallies and services. Preach the Gospel and give an invitation for people to come forward to accept Jesus. This may pose a difficulty in certain restricted countries so it depends.

3. Know how to share the Gospel

I’m alarmed that many church-goers do not know how to share their faith. They leave it to the pastor to do it. This is terribly ineffective. A pastor is limited in terms of time and energy. And most of his contacts are Christians. Imagine if every church member is equipped with the skills to share the Gospel to their own circle of contacts. There would be an exponential increase in the Gospel being preached!

Do you know how to share the Gospel? If not, here are some useful resources (click on the links):