Tag Archives: evangelism

YouTube Tuesday: An Atheist on evangelism

This has been floating around for a while – but I haven’t posted it yet. It’s timely based on the emails I’ve had flying back and forth between my atheist friends and myself today…

It’s magician Penn Teller, renowned atheist, encouraging people who believe in hell to evangelise – and presenting an interesting set of instructions for evangelistic methodology.

“How much do you have to hate somebody not to evangelise…”

The End is the Beginning

Ahh, the Smashing Pumpkins, what a band. Who’d have guessed that that title would stand the test of time and become the title of this post…

So, one more reflection from my sermon today and my thoughts on Matthew 9-10.

One of the other things I stressed was the urgency of the harvest – I picked up this little pointer from Tony Robowtham at Spur in Brisbane last week – but that I should have known given the family I married into – the language of the harvest is loaded with a sense of urgency.

It strikes me that your approach to evangelism is greatly influenced by your eschatology – how and when you think the world will end will profoundly effect how you live and how urgently you approach the task.

Given that I’m of the inclination that the world could end whenever God calls stumps – I’m inclined to priorities evangelism over things like caring for the planet. I can see how that’s a much greater concern if you’re a long term thinker. Probably not as profound as it seems in my head, but worth jotting down for when the idea resurfaces in my head in the future and I search for eschatology on my blog.

Egg citing statistics

Research released by John Dickson’s Centre for Public Christianity has been given widespread media attention today.

The ABC radio’s idea of “objective” coverage was to give the Atheists a chance to use this as a platform to call for a secular society.

But it’s a pretty interesting statistic when it comes to reaching the “unwashed masses” – it seems almost half of the country’s non-Christians could be considered “low hanging fruit” – believing that Jesus rose from the dead.

This survey did not include those who define themselves as “born again” which possibly means it did include church going liberals, Catholics and others who tick the “Christian” box on the census.

Here’s the SMH story on the stats.

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Next ten words

Over at the newly revitalised Sydney Anglicans website there’s an article on an upcoming Sydney media campaign promoting Christianity. The article points out that Dominic Steele – author of the popular “Introducing God” material is nonplussed about the campaign. He likes the catchy slogan – “Jesus: All about life” but wonders what the “next ten words” are that come after the slogan.

It’s a useful question to ask anybody who’s coming up with catchy, pithy slogans – and it comes from my favourite show of all time – the West Wing. Working out your one liner is actually the second step – having substance behind it is the first – a lesson we didn’t really see in action in the recent Queensland election.

Here’s a clip from a debate in a presidential campaign.

There’s a great repository of West Wing quotes – including this one – here.

Moderator: Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is the centerpiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes?
Gov. Ritchie: You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason – the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.
Moderator: Mr. President, your rebuttal.
Bartlet: There it is. That’s the ten word answer my staff’s been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I’ll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while… every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for ten words. I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.

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Things I learned from daytime television

I don’t often get the chance to watch daytime television. Not since my days as a slovenly uni bum anyway when that was all I did. Only I had pay TV so day time television meant sport. Today was one of those odd occasions where I found myself watching the Summer repeat bonanza special edition of Mornings with KAK.

While Kerri Anne herself is an Australian institution – who happened to mention this morning that she’d been doing the show for more than 25 years (only it was a repeat from last year so it’s even longer now) – her show still doesn’t seem to have the basics right. Infomercials are like a car crash – you can’t turn away but you know they leave carnage in their wake. If a family member is affected by infomercials it can be a painful process. On a side note – the Danoz direct oven that was being advertised this morning would make a very interesting coffee roaster… but back to the main point of this little tirade. And it will be little. If you have testimonials from happy customers singing the praises of your weightloss miracle cure concoction – do not. And I repeat. Do not. Have them read their testimonial from an autocue using words that are right out of the weasel word manual.

“It enabled me to engage in a vast array of activities I’d never really considered” might sound impressive to you sitting in your ivory tower of corporate promotional speak where you have to address a board of directors on sales results – but coming from a real woman who is claiming to have lost 30kg thanks to your product it sounds like she’s acting, or at the very least not as glowingly enthusiastic as she should be. Personal testimonies are an incredibly powerful way to sell a product. Unless they are riddled with jargon that sounds like it comes straight out of head office.

There’s a lesson here for all of us. Well providing we’re trying to sell something via an infomercial.

Actually – there is a lesson here for any Christian trying to explain the gospel to their friends/neighbours – avoid in house jargon at all costs. Authenticity depends on you sounding real and sincere – people don’t want a cardboard cut out towing the company line. If you’re going to use the power of personal testimony to sell something – make it personal. Don’t “identify a product that will help you overcome a drastic deficiency in your regular masticating schedule” – tell it like it is. In plain language.

Seriously people. Is it that hard to not automatically become a robot in front of a camera.

I did manage to flick over to Business Today or something like that on ABC 2 – where a terrified telephony lobbyist was trying to explain that communications companies will not be affected by the recession in the same way that other companies will – they’re a diversified bunch now.

He delivered a deadpan line of company speak gobbledygook that made little to no sense even to the business minded journalist asking the question – so little that she asked him to clarify – and his idea of clarification was to repeat verbatim what he’d said to the earlier question. An answer so filled with corporate double speak that none of it managed to penetrate my cold addled brain. Oh, and he reckons we should invest in communications companies. After a compelling sales pitch. I think it’s pretty funny that “communications” companies are developing a reputation for their inability to clearly communicate and articulate their business. Mobile phone contracts are a triumph of obfuscation. “Communication company” could well be a latter day oxymoron if all our modern day companies can do is trot out weasel words.

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It’s the end of the world as we know it…

So the large Hadron Collider has been turned on. While I may have spent yesterday running around yelling “Panic Panic!!!” and singing Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole… they’re not actually colliding any serious particles until later this year.  

The idea, for the unconcerned among you, is to recreate the conditions of the big bang by colliding particles travelling at close to the speed of light. The intention is to find the Higgs Boson or the “God Particle” – how Mr Peter Higgs name became synonymous with God is beyond me.

When you perform a task of this magnitude a lot of nut cases come out of the wood works – there’s a group convinced the experiment will create black holes which will destroy the world. They made a youtube video – which I haven’t seen so won’t link to. There are crazy Christians who seem a little concerned this will somehow “disprove God” or help atheists in their thinking. And then there are the stupid, ignorant atheists – perhaps my favourite group in this situation who provide comments like this on the news.com.au forum:

“I love how 99% of the negative comments about the LHC are all from Christians. I’ll Believe Physics, thats been proven, over christianity, which hasnt been proven, anyday…Christians: Look at it from a ignorant christian perspective. They are spending 11billion to prove that God created the earth. Meanwhile i dont see Christians spending money to prove that Science didnt create the earth..” – Alex from Adelaide.

Thanks Alex for your valuable insight.

Christians do not argue that science didn’t create the earth because to do so would elevate science from a study of observable phenomena to a sentient being able to perform the act of “creation”.

My other favourite was this one:

“The church must be soiling itself waiting for the day that scientists proove there is no god and that we were created from the big bang and they have the hard and fast proof. The biggest business in the world “the church” will be bankrupted. Unless of course religion can actually proove god exists. Science will have the hard and fast proof very soon. Posted by: Andrew of Australia

Andrew is obviously pretty angry at the church – angry enough to make a claim about science’s ability to prove or disprove the metaphysical.

Atheists, in the main, are a fairly ignorant lot, often influenced by militant atheists to “believe in science” as some form of religion. Here’s the thing Alex, and other atheists out there, us Christians also believe in science. Some Christians even engage science as a weapon (think Creation Science Ministries or whatever those guys call themselves). Scientific outcomes are driven by starting hypotheses – and these are driven by the organisations funding the research. Science is not an objective entity. Science is a broad church. The reality is that science is now driven by ideology and commercial imperatives more than any church I know. Throw money into the mix and see what sort of “scientific findings” we can come up with. Most churches are driven by a goal to spread the gospel – for free. Most churches I know are “not for profits” and their “wealth” is tied up in physical assets used for the cause. Would you have churches meet in our “public” school buildings Andrew?

Not if the Sydney Morning Herald has its way. I’m no Hillsong apologist – in fact I have massive problems with their “prosperity” theology and their music, and and endless list of other gripes that I won’t go into. But this article on public schools as secular institutions being no place for any form of religion is dangerous and stupid. It’s also the worst piece of ideologically driven journalism I’ve seen for a long time, and it belongs in the opinion pages – not the news.

Quotes from the article below:

“A teacher at one public school said students had returned to class after an Exo day concert complaining about attempts to convert them, while the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations says it is an attempt to sneak evangelism into schools and reveals the need for new laws.”

“The NSW Education Act says that “instruction” at public schools must be non-sectarian and secular except in designated religious education classes.”

“A spokeswoman for the Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Association said religious recruitment in schools was inappropriate. “We need to ensure that children when they go to school aren’t exposed to discreet evangelism,” she said.”

I would think that an opt in program clearly run by a church group openly trying to promote the bible is hardly “discreet evangelism” or “instruction” or an attempt to “sneak” evangelize.