Next summer we will be hosting the Amplify North American Evangelism Conference from June 25-26 at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. Amplify has become the largest evangelism conference in North America and one that I am proud to host.
Next year’s theme will be “Preoccupied with Love” and will feature key leaders today such as CJ Rhodes, Alan Hirsch, Colin Smith, Trillia Newbell, Jenny Yang, James Choung, Sam Owusu, and more. Dr. Jerry Root, Professor of Evangelism at Wheaton College, will be talking about ‘A Gospel for the Burned and Bruised by the Church.’ Below I speak with Jerry about his thoughts on evangelism and prayer today.
Ed: It’s hard to deny that we are living in challenging times culturally. The church’s influence is fading, and we are struggling to find answers to some hard questions. What’s your take on the health of the church today, especially as it relates to our witness?
Jerry: Throughout history, times have always been challenging. Since the Fall, there has never been a time when all went perfectly well. Cultures are in a state of constant flux and change. Like swells on the sea, there are ups and downs, so too, culture is always moving. If we waited until all was still and steady—that is, if we waited until conditions were just right—we would never get started with kingdom work.
The church has never progressed well when its ministry is determined by surrounding circumstances. It functions best when it keeps its eyes on Christ. Jesus said, “Go make disciples.” It was said in challenging times.
The church obeyed and thrived even when the sledding was tough. The command to make disciples still stands no matter what the times are like.
Billy Graham, interviewed by People Magazine, was asked if he was a pessimist or an optimist as he looked at the world’s situation. Graham responded, “If I only had the world to look at, I’d be a pessimist. However, I have my Bible, and I have read the last page and have seen that it all turns out all right. I’m an optimist!”
That is the right spirit. However, perhaps optimist is not the right word. Professor Jeff Davis said, “Hope is a better word.” I think he is right. Those who lose their sense of hope lose their sense of purpose and mission.
As for the questions the culture might be asking at any given hour, the church cannot huddle together fearful of the questions. We need to stay engaged. Listen to the questions first hand, in daily conversation with those around us. Then, we must let those questions drive us to dig for answers—that is, applications of biblical wisdom to the need of the moment.
Furthermore, no question should ever end a dialogue. In fact, the questions others ask give us opportunity to actually continue the discussion and show our love. We can dig, discover, and return to the one who asked the question and say, “You really matter to me, and so do your questions. I took what you said seriously and this is what I discovered.”
The conversation begins again in a context where people see that you really do care. When Christians respond in ways like that, it shows the church is functioning in a healthy way even if the world is in a fevered state.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer