Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Turning Conversations to Christ

The following was recently posted by Michael McKinley on the 9Marks blog:

In his Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God (page 81), J.I. Packer tells us of the evangelitic rule of H.C. Trumbull:

Whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another, the theme of themes (Christ) shall have prominence between us, so that I may learn of his need, and, if possible, meet it.

Packer then comments:

The key words here are: 'whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another'. They remind us, first, that personal evangelism, like all our dealings with our fellow-men, should be courteous. And they remind us, second, that personal evangelism needs normally to be founded on friendship. You are not usually justified in choosing the subject of conversation with another till you have already begun to give yourself to him in friendship and established a relationship with him in which he feels that you respect him, and are interested in him, and are treating him as a human being, and not just as some kind of 'case'.

McKinley then observes that the above quotes are "both challenging and clarifying."

I have found the concepts discussed above (which I believe are in line with biblical wisdom) to be challeging and clarifying as well. I think that they are challenging for the exact reason McKinley mentions: that I often fail to turn conversations to Christ when I am justified in doing so.

I think that Trumbull and Packer's statements are clarifying in, perhaps, a slightly different way than what McKinley discusses. McKinley writes about earning the right to choose the subject of conversation. In his sentence about earning this right, McKinley mentions that one may just have a "quick providential 'connection'" with a person, which I think properly qualifies Packer's comments that may, taken alone, lead a person to believe that a relationship must be developed over a long time before the Good News of Jesus Christ is discussed/proclaimed. But I think that the concept of earning the right to evangelize can be in itself somewhat suspect. As a friend once explained to me, we are commanded by God to preach the gospel to everyone, and so we have the absolute right to speak the gospel at whatever opportunity we find. (For all I know McKinley may agree with this concept, but I'm seeking here to take away an opportunity for excuses regarding our failure to evangelize.)

On the other hand, I do think that Trumbull, Packer, and McKinley make a valid point about being justified in choosing the subject of conversation. There are times (for example: when I am teaching an assigned subject matter to my students, when I am in a work-related conversation with my boss, or when I am participating in a training exercise) when I am NOT justified in choosing the subject matter of the conversation. It would be inappropriate for me to stand up and preach the gospel in such situations. On the other hand, in private conversations (even with bosses, students, fellow employees, or people I have just met) I should sanctify Christ in my heart in such a way that if, in the natural ebb and flow of conversation, I am able to choose the subject, I may direct people to discuss the best, most important news they could hear: the message of who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of sinners.

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