This post was written by my hero — my husband Clay White. ♡
Recently, I attended a Bethel Music concert. The event was worshipful and set a reverent tone for spending quiet time with the Lord.
However, as the concert concluded and the lights flickered on, the song “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay played through the sound system. I remember thinking at the time, “That is an odd song choice to play after all of the worship music we just heard.”
I heard the song “Something Just Like This” again over the last few days and listened closely to the lyrics. Suddenly, the song made since for the worship venue — at least to me. The words reference heroes and legends like Hercules, Achilles, Batman, and Superman and how the singer doesn’t feel like he belongs in that list. Reading these lyrics provided a profound revelation to my heart. I imagined God singing the lyrics about me: “How much you wanna risk? I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts. Some superhero, some fairytale bliss.”
I have honestly felt several times in the past like everyone else in my Christian sphere of influence has more spiritual gifts, hears God better, is more connected, and so on than I am. What I felt God saying through this popular music song was those people are human just like I am. They are not any more special than I am. God is not looking for a member of the Avengers or Justice League. He is just looking for normal people who are willing to say yes to Him. He wants people who are open to stepping out in faith to be used for His purposes.
If you step out in faith, God will show up. It may not be in the way you expect, but I love that about God. I love that He can take a pop music song or something that seemingly has nothing to do with God and blow your mind with a spiritual revelation.
I want to encourage and challenge you. You may feel like you have nothing to offer God. I know that I feel that way more frequently than I should. There have been many times I had a word for someone that I was nervous about giving to them, but when I finally stepped out in faith and gave them the word, it was total confirmation for them. Take a risk and step out in faith; God will not let you down.
This blog post was written by my better half. May it bless you and remind you of God’s promises, love and mercy. – The In-Place Missionary
One thing I will never understand is how much God loves us. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of His love displayed by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to die for us. He is God. He didn’t have to do that. We definitely didn’t do anything to deserve that love, grace, and mercy.
I have been reading through the Bible starting from the beginning, Genesis, on forward. As I have made my way through the Old Testament, I am struck by God’s love and mercy. He could have given up on man after Adam and Eve sinned. He could have destroyed mankind with the great flood, but he chose to spare us through Noah and his family.
He made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, but they constantly rebelled against Him. They constantly whined while traveling from Egypt, where God rescued them from slavery. When Moses went up the mountain to get God’s commandments, the people made an idol. When they got to the promised land and settled, they constantly worshipped other gods and idols. God always brought them back to Himself.
This brings us back to the cross. The place where God made a way for all who would believe in Him to have a relationship with the creator of the universe. After we make that decision to repent and give our lives to Jesus, we still sin. We still turn from God. But just like in the Old Testament, God is faithful. He still loves us and wants a relationship with us. It is a beautiful thing, this relationship. I cannot begin to describe it. I just hope you believe and experience it for yourself. Then you will know true love, joy, and freedom.
A good friend of mine has been struggling with some negative emotions related to the word “evangelist.” It makes him picture sidewalk preachers who hold signs saying “Repent!” and shout words of judgment about sins and how wicked people are living. It makes him angry, and I can see why he feels that way. Christians who evangelize by yelling at people and trying to convert through fear make me uncomfortable too, especially as a Christian. I can’t imagine how nonbelievers must feel.
I believe evangelists and Christians in general must demonstrate the love and mercy of Jesus to be an effectively evangelist. It can be as simple as talking to someone as a friend, meeting a stranger’s physical needs (like assisting with food, water, shelter, etc.), or looking into someone’s eyes and telling them “Jesus loves you.” The eyes are the window to the soul, and people can see the love of Jesus shine through your eyes even if you never mention you are a Christian. No matter how you talk to someone about Jesus, it is important to always approach people with love and without an agenda.
In the book Do What Jesus Did, Robby Dawkins tells a story about his experiences evangelizing on a university campus. He ministered to people about Jesus by walking around campus and praying for people he’d encounter. In one of his stories, he walked over to a man standing at a bus stop and asked if he can pray with him. The man said he was an atheist but agreed to let Robby pray with him if he could answer one question first. When Robby agreed, the man asked Robby, “If I were to rape, torture, and murder little girls, what would God say to me when I die?” The man was trying to get Robby to condemn him and say he would go to Hell; but Robby, a smart guy who loves debate, felt led to lower himself and ask the man again if he could pray for him instead of getting into a defensive argument. “You know, I can see that you’re really, really smart – way smarter than I am. I probably couldn’t answer all your arguments,” Robby began. “But sir, I am just a simple man, and if you would be so kind as to let me, I would still like to pray for you and bless you.” The man reluctantly agreed, probably just to get the religious guy to move along. Robby prayed over him that God would show the man how much He loved him. When Robby finished praying the man looked at Robby and then burst into tears, weeping for quite a while. What Robby didn’t realize at the time was that the man he prayed for was the head of an atheist group at the university who often spoke out heatedly against Christianity.
Many times, we as Christians try to rely on our own intellect and our own means when evangelizing. Instead, we should humble ourselves and get of the way so that God can work through us to reach people. Talk to people, listen to them, listen for anything the Holy Spirit might reveal to you about the person, and pray for them. There is so much power in prayer. Even if nothing happens, people will usually just be happy that you cared enough to minister to them.
The biggest problem with the street evangelists who hold up the signs and shout judgment is that they are seeing people through their own eyes. We need to pray and ask God, “Father, how do you see this person? What are you saying to this one whom you love?” God loves every person so much and that is what we should be portraying. Jesus said in John 12:47, “For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”
When I think of evangelism, I often think about a famous magician, Penn Jillette, who is an outspoken atheist. After one of his shows, a man walked over to Penn and complimented him on the show and handed him a Gideon’s New Testament Bible. I thought this would have rubbed Penn the wrong way with him being an atheist, but there is a YouTube video where he says doesn’t respect Christians who don’t evangelize. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you; and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Many times, evangelism refers to ministering to strangers; however, evangelism means also ministering to those around you – friends, coworkers, and students. It may involve discussions about Jesus, but it’s possible to evangelize effectively without saying a word about Jesus. You just have to live a life submitted to Jesus; others will take notice.
I will end with a quote my friend always loves to use: “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.”
I hope you enjoy this heartfelt post by a dear friend about his view of the world from an atheist’s eyes. – The In-Place Missionary
Faith, Evangelism, and the Non-Believer by Eternally Grateful
A friend and I were talking one day about life prior to my recent conversion. For most of my adult life, I would have said I was an atheist. For people who have been raised in church, with God being part of their life ever since they could remember, it is probably difficult to understand the atheist’s perspective. After all, how could anyone reject something so important as God? My friend and I found ourselves agreeing it would be interesting to attempt to articulate the view of the non-believer from the perspective of someone who, until very recently, used to be one.
Atheists, Agnostics, and the Hard Numbers
It was difficult to decide how to approach writing this article due to the many misconceptions about atheism. So, I decided to start with the basics and take a look a couple of definitions. Most dictionaries or encyclopedias define “atheism” as a lack of belief in a deity of any kind. Whereas an “agnostic” is often defined as someone who “neither believes or disbelieves” or someone who believes there is just not enough information to determine whether there is a supreme being or not. Atheists and agnostics are a rather small, disjointed group according to a Pew research poll (Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life / U.S. Religious Landscape Survey) conducted in 2007). The poll asked Americans about their religious beliefs and reported 1.6% of Americans said they were atheist; while 2.4% were agnostic. Another 6.3% of Americans claim to be secular unaffiliated. If I were to sum up the numbers, about 10% of Americans do not believe in God. I can confirm the statistics are basically right because I lived it for almost 40 years.
Some people would have you believe the country is over-run with atheists and secular humanists. Obviously, there are a few small groups who make attempts to draw attention to themselves or injustices they see. Some groups are even attempting to ‘evangelize’ using methods normally attributed to an aggrandizing televangelist; however, the number of atheists and agnostics is relatively small by my standards.
What Does It Mean to be an Atheist?
In the end, the term “atheist” is just a label. Like all labels, it just makes it easier for us to categorize things; however, when one looks deeper, things are not as they appear nor do they always fit nicely inside a box. Just like Christians, the atheists I’ve met were a diverse group, and they came from all walks of life. Some had religion in their childhood, some did not. Some were liberal while some were conservative. Some were highly educated, some not. Some believed in spirits or other forces that come to play occasionally in the realms of man. Others did not.
For me personally, being atheist meant:
There is no all-knowing, all-powerful being who was creator of the universe.
I walk alone, and I was good with that.
I don’t care (apathy) regarding the human condition. It is what it is.
I don’t matter. In a universe that is billions of years old and populated with an uncountable number of galaxies where each is populated by an uncountable number of stars, my 50 plus years of existence on this rather smallish planet is really quite insignificant.
My Negative Perceptions about Christianity
As an atheist, I felt religion was not the basis of morality or justice, but was based on a social contract between individuals. I saw Christians lie, cheat, and steal just like everyone else, so what was so special about them? Experiences throughout my life furthered my negative perceptions about Christianity when it became apparent that at least some had hidden agendas. The Christians I encountered were often judgmental and hypocritical and tried to “convert” others to their specific brand of Christianity instead of genuinely loving people without any strings attached.
Public prayers during secular sporting events, public meetings, etc. were extremely uncomfortable for me. I always felt like it created an expectation to “go along” with it even if I didn’t agree. If I didn’t participate, I was “bad.” The “moment of silence” made me feel even worse because I viewed it as an attempt by Christians to get other religious groups to gang up on us non-believers. To this day, even as a born again Christian, I still cringe sometimes when there are secular events with public prayers because I don’t want unbelievers to feel excluded or forced like I did.
It would be easy to blame others for chasing me away from God; but, in the end, it was my decision. At the time, I just didn’t see or feel the way Christians said they did. I didn’t feel the Spirit, and I didn’t want to pretend about what I felt just to fit in.
Looking in the Mirror
I was speaking to a friend of mine recently who lives in the UK. In talking to him, I realized he and I had been going in opposite directions. While I had recently embraced the Message and become born again, he had been slowly drifting away from the Church. He said he was “living the lie” by the motions without truly believing. Although he is a secular humanist, he still takes his 86 year old father to church.
As we were chatting, it became obvious he was trying to steer me away from my new path. In effect, he was evangelizing me! My friend cited Christopher Hitchens as an influence and suggested I read his books or at least view his many Youtube videos with the idea that we would talk again on the issue. I was unfamiliar with the name; but after our conversation, as I had promised, I googled his name and watched some videos.
Mr. Hitchens is a rather well-spoken author known for negative views regarding religion. As I watched the first interview, I could see he was a thoughtful, well-educated man. I could also see a very sick man in the last stages of a battle with terminal cancer. Hitchens passed away in 2011. In all honesty, I would have to say I agreed with about 95% of what he said in the interview about man, human society, and religion. I’m willing to bet most believers would agree with a lot of his comments as well. I haven’t read his books or seen all of his public commentary, so it’s possible there are a few inflammatory statements associated with him; however, I’m sure there have been more than a few unkind words thrown in his direction by believers as well. All unkind words and inflammatory statements aside, I am reminded we are still all God’s children.
If someone says they are not a believer, do we really need to criticize them for being honest? They are just telling you what they feel. They have no connection to God. Why attack the messenger, especially when they are telling the truth? If someone tells us it is raining, should we be critical of them because we would rather hear it is sunny outside?
Today, as I write this, I thank God for the opportunity to hear Mr. Hitchen’s words spoken so honestly and eloquently, as they reinvigorate me to find a way to reach those who need Him most. I also pray for mercy for Mr. Hitchens, as I do for my parents and other family members who may not have known our Savior. In my heart, I know I can do no less.
Reaching Out to Others
So, how does one reach an atheist or like-minded person with the message of salvation? That’s not an easy question to answer. I’ll tell you first what doesn’t work. Preaching “fire and brimstone” or trying to force the message on a non-believer does not only fail, but would likely be counter-productive. The harm done by this is incalculable, in my opinion, for the audience will often reject the message as well as the messenger.
I think it’s better to engage each person in a positive manner. Throughout my life, I have found the tone of dialogue changes as one person gets to know another. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect his or her point of view. Try to look at things from the other person’s point of view. Everyone has to deal with the pain of living. Let us not cause someone to close his or her mind to the message and thus the door to salvation.
Also, what do non-believers know about you and your faith? Are you modeling Christ or a persona with perfect hair and flashy charisma? In my experience, people tend to avoid the high pressure salesman; but they will listen and even enlist input from people they trust like close friends. If they see the way you live and the peace you have, they may at some point say, “Hey, I think I’d like to know more about that.” And if the time is right, at some point they may decide they want that too.
Through New Eyes
Less than a year ago, I became born again. I was conquered by love, not fear. One of the things that became almost an obsession with me from the start was to address what I see as a major problem with the Church as a whole. Specifically, we Christians need to do a better job of reaching out to
non-believers. We must live the gospel and reach out with love in our hearts. God loves all His children, and we must never forget that.
For those who have spent all or most of their life in the Church, let me say this: We must remember a nonbeliever does not know the joy we know through Him. We must also remember a non-believer may also bear scars from prior encounters from our fellow Christians. We must be inclusive and empathetic, open minded and thick-skinned, and most of all, we need to love on non-believers as we do believers. As I look at my lost brothers and sisters, I feel their pain and loneliness; however, because God loves ALL his children, I am forever grateful and hopeful.
Our time here on earth is all about relationships with other people, as well as, our relationship with God. It’s important to invest the lives of others and sincerely get to know them. We can say things as a friend we cannot say as a stranger. It is impossible to know someone’s needs until you get to know the person. Listen to the still, small voice and remember to use a still small voice in your relationships with others. Colossians 4:5-6 NLT:
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.
I realize as I write this post how much I need to work on forgiveness. How can I expect God’s forgiveness yet not forgive others who hurt me when I was a non-believer? I know I’ve got a long way to go; but with God’s help, I will get there.
Two final thoughts:
The first is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” I love that saying! One must absolutely live the gospel first.
The second thought is inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 and came to me first through the gift of music (Proof of Your Love, by For King and Country):
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day,
and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
The blog post below was written by my husband. Enjoy!
– The In-Place Missionary
I grew up always going to church. My parents were both Christians and were always heavily involved in the churches we attended. We were members of three different churches throughout my childhood and my late twenties. The churches were of different denominations, but I would consider all of them traditional and conservative. The Sunday morning services were structured and usually similar – sing a few hymns or praise songs and listen to a sermon. There were also different things going on at times other than on Sunday mornings, such as a Wednesday night supper, small group meetings, student ministry activities, etc.
In all my years growing up in the church, it always seemed the sermons were always basically about how I should act and live my life – I should tithe 10% of my income, I shouldn’t curse, I should do this list of things to be a better parent, etc. I don’t say this to imply that there is anything wrong with that. Those things are true. There is nothing wrong with getting instruction on how to “be a better Christian.” The problem was that I didn’t realize there was so much more to God than what I had experienced up to that point in my life.
The turning point for me began when I went to a conference at a local church that was actually very close to my house. My wife had a friend at work who told her about the conference, and she agreed to go. The conference was Friday night and Saturday morning. I missed the Friday night service because of work. My wife got a friend to go with her on Friday; I joined them Saturday morning. When I first walked into the building, I noticed you could feel God’s presence overwhelmingly in the church. The service started with worship music, but it was not the kind I grew up experiencing. I wasn’t familiar with the songs, but it wasn’t the songs or the musicians or singers that struck me. It was the way the people in the congregation were worshipping. I could tell they were really singing the songs to God and pouring their heart and soul into worshipping Him. They were crying out to God and sometimes shouting and dancing, but I sensed it was not for show. During worship services I had previously experienced in other churches, people stood around and sang, a small number of people might close their eyes, or a couple of people may lift a hand while singing. It was completely different from what I was familiar with.
This is the part where I should say I am an introvert. I am usually pretty quiet and reserved. I must admit I was a little bit uncomfortable attending this church at first. Yet something about it drew me in, and I felt called to regularly attend there. I tried to resist and told God it was uncomfortable, but God instructed me to step outside of my comfort zone in order to really grow. The fact that it was uncomfortable for me was the point.
I have been going to this church every Sunday now for about nine months. It has really changed everything I thought I knew about being a Christian. I have seen and heard many testimonies of the sick being healed, even the dead being brought to life. I have seen people, including my wife, receive visions from God. I have seen people give prophetic words over others. I never experienced any of this in the first 30 years of my life growing up in the church. It seems a lot of churches worship God and talk a lot about Jesus, but they put the Holy Spirit in a box and don’t allow His power to work.
Jesus says in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (NLT). Jesus performed all kinds of miracles, from healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and casting out demons all the way to bringing people back from the dead. Yet He says if we believe in Him, we can do all those same things AND EVEN GREATER WORKS! Not growing up being taught these truths, it blew my mind to think I could lay hands and heal people in Jesus’s name. The way I grew up, prayer was a passive act, meaning you only asked God to do things like heal people. You didn’t actively go to the person, lay hands on them, and say “in Jesus’s name, be healed!”
I am still learning a lot about the power of the Holy Spirit, so much so that I almost feel like a new Christian. I am diving in though because I want God to work through me to impact the lives of others through healing, prophetic words, or even just encouraging others. I have seen Him work through others at my church through healings, prophetic words, and speaking in tongues. I long for Him to use me like that. Once you have tasted and seen the awesome power of God, there is no going back to worshipping God passively and distantly.
I think two sentences from a book titled The Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark sum up my feelings: “Just as Jeremiah criticized the Israelites for creating with their hands gods who were helpless, modern man has created a “god” who is helpless to act in this world. A god this writer refuses to worship.”
One evening, my wife and I watched a video we borrowed from a friend called Finger of God.Finger of God is part of a trilogy of short films put out by Darren Wilson. The trilogy is a documentary where Mr. Wilson and company travel to meet people around the world in attempt to ask a simple question: who is God?
I was touched by one scene in Finger of God in particular. A group of Christian missionaries were visiting Turkey. One of the missionaries named Heidi Baker began talking to a Muslim woman through a local Christian pastor who was interpreting for her. The woman suffered from blindness in one eye which Heidi asked permission from the woman to pray for. As the missionary and local pastor prayed, the woman was healed from her affliction. Afterwards, the woman praised Allah. In response, the local pastor tried to correct the woman by saying it was Jesus who had healed her, and he seemed quite annoyed the woman kept praising Allah. Finally, the missionary pulled him aside and asked him not to continue to correct her. The point was the woman was healed.
As I watched the scene unfold, I thought, “Yes, the missionary is absolutely right.” The fact God loves all His children and He just healed one from her afflictions without any conditions attached was the point. The healing was a gift, no strings attached. The local pastor was so focused on getting the old woman to acknowledge the healing was done through Jesus, he missed the most important part of it all. It is so obvious to me it’s like the 300lb gorilla in the room; yet he missed the point. With great sadness, I feel I can’t say it enough.
Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the details of something that impassions us that we lose focus on the big picture and what we were trying to accomplish; therefore, I will ask an important question. Do we know what we want to accomplish? Maybe more importantly, what is it that God really wants us to do?