Water Cooler Evangelism: Meaningful Existence
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2006 May 11
Christians want to see the relevance of the gospel to their everyday lives and they want to demonstrate that relevance to their friends and co-workers. Primarily, they want to share their faith and do so smoothly and effectively. Many Christians are paralyzed with fear, or a failure to see the connection between the gospel and every day affairs, or an inability to segue smoothly into a conversation about Christ. Let us offer some practical help.
First, choose an issue that is current and interesting. Consider this news item from the weekend: "The Episcopal Diocese of California on Saturday avoided widening a rift over gays in the global Anglican Communion by electing a heterosexual man as its next bishop…the Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus [became] successor to Bishop William Swing, who is retiring after 27 years. Two openly gay men and one lesbian were among the seven candidates on the ballot. No gay or lesbian cleric has been elected bishop since the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003 as bishop of New Hampshire which threw the U.S. church and the worldwide family of 77 million Anglicans into turmoil. 'Your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion -- of gay and lesbian people..' Andrus said. 'My commitment to Jesus Christ's own mission of inclusion is resolute.'"
Persons in this culture are certainly open to talking about a number of issues this story raises. There is the issue of whether or not homosexuals can be considered Christians, whether or not homosexuals should be ordained to the ministry, the stance of the Episcopal church in light of their historical witness and in light of Christianity as a whole, the issue of Gene Robinson specifically, the move at this point to elect Mark Andrus over gay and lesbian candidates, the issue of Andrus speaking of his own commitment to inclusion in the aftermath of his election, and his comments regarding Christ and His so-called commitment to inclusion.
Second, raise the issue of one's source of authority. The discussion over homosexual ministers or whatever subject you choose may lead in several directions. Ultimately, as answers are given, the question of authority must be raised. In other words, ask the persons with whom you are speaking to what authority do they appeal in formulating their opinions? Most persons are their own authority and their feelings and opinions come from a hodge-podge of ideas and notions they have picked up over the years. Those ideas and notions often contradict one another.
Persons can be challenged on at least two fronts here. Initially, you might point out the fact that it is illogical or that it makes no sense to hold opinions that contradict one another. Then, you might point out that unless one has a source of authority and recognizes what that authority is, one is by definition going to be inconsistent on many points. Inconsistency is intellectual foolishness. Most persons don't want to be fools.
Third, now that the issue of authority is on the table, raise the issue of ultimate questions. All people, whether they actually do so or not, if they are going to make sense out of life or have meaning in life, must ask and answer at least four questions concerning ultimate reality. You can raise these questions and help them think about ultimate things. 1) Where do I come from? 2) Why am I here? 3) How do I live while I'm here? 4) What happens when I die?
Fourth, engage in worldview dialogue. On an evolutionary worldview, the view to which most persons in our culture subscribe, in answer to the above four questions, we come from a random chance accident that set into motion a purposeless evolutionary process. We actually have no reason for existence other than ourselves because there is nothing beyond the material world and the material world is here by accident. On that worldview, it really makes no difference how we live because nothing matters. When we die, that’s it, we simply cease to exist.
Those who hold to an evolutionary worldview who then actually try to inject meaning into their existence are being philosophically inconsistent. In other words, when one says, "I exist to better society," you respond by saying "that's inconsistent on your worldview. Bettering society makes no difference and means nothing. You should only live for yourself. It's survival of the fittest on your worldview." One might want to leave a legacy. Again, that makes no sense on an evolutionary worldview. Legacy only makes sense on a Christian worldview.
Evolutionists actually appeal to a Christian worldview in their minds without realizing it in order to make sense out of what they do and why they do what they do. The truth is that a Christian worldview is the only worldview that makes sense out of our reality. Show a person who holds to an evolutionary worldview that he is being inconsistent on his worldview and actually appealing to a Christian worldview to inject meaning into his life and he will either get angry or begin to ask questions and be open to logically consistent answers. That reaction, of course, is up to God. But, you have at lest initiated the conversation.
On the Christian worldview, life has meaning. In answer to those four questions, we are here because a wise and loving God created us. Our purpose is to glorify Him in all things. Therefore, we live in accordance with His will and ways that we might fulfill our purpose. Of course, His will and ways are revealed to us in the Scriptures. Best of all, when we die, we live with Him forever in perfect peace and joy. There is purpose to life and meaning to our existence. The things we do here carry forward into eternity. We are more than mere matter in motion. There is an immaterial world beyond our physical senses.
How does this dialogue work practically for you in light of the fact that you are not a philosopher? Think not in terms of details but in terms of worldview and bring persons back to these four questions no matter what. The bottom line is that on an evolutionary worldview, there is no meaning in life because we don’t know where we come from, why we are here, how we are to live, or what happens when we die. In fact, on that worldview, when we die, it's over. Again, that's meaningless. If they try to say their lives have meaning in any sense, they are not appealing to their own worldview but to a Christian worldview.
Fifth, examine and defend the issue under discussion in light of the Christian worldview by appealing to your authority: the Scriptures. In other words, now that you have engaged in a little worldview thinking and dialogue, you are really back to the issue of authority. At this point, come back to your original discussion concerning your issue: the Episcopal Church and homosexual ministers in our case. No mere opinion will do. Ask ten people their opinion and you will get ten opinions. We need an authority that comes from outside of ourselves. Of course, that authority is what supports and sets forth the Christian worldview you have just outlined: the Bible. Does the Bible speak to the issue of homosexual ministers? Absolutely! The Bible speaks to the different issues on the table in different places and in different ways, all with the same conclusion: homosexual ministers are not permitted by God.
Sixth, make a smooth transition to the gospel. Now that you are dealing with the issue at hand, the obvious related issue is sin and the need for salvation. You can segue from Romans 1 and its treatment of homosexuality to its treatment of sin and the answer to that problem: salvation in Jesus Christ.
All we have given here is a practical way to engage others in meaningful conversation for the purpose of sharing the gospel. Not only do we have good conversation, but we help people to think, and think biblically. We help them to see that the only worldview that makes sense out of reality is the Christian worldview. At that point, we may demonstrate the Christian worldview in relation to the topic of discussion. That demonstration provides a nice segue into sharing the gospel. In so doing, we are living with purpose. We are glorifying God and doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission. We are advancing the cause of Christ. In advancing the cause of Christ, we may break that into two ultimate causes: the glory of God and the good of others. We have the good of others in mind when we give them Christ. And, when we do that, Christ is glorified.
The above leads us to point out that this little practical method of engaging someone in purposeful conversation can be summarized by the acronym C-A-U-S-E-S. This is important for two reasons. First, as noted, we have two great causes in mind: the glory of God and the good of others. Second, this acronym will guide us in our conversation so that we readily and easily accomplish our goal. The acronym stands for: Current Event; Authority Source; Ultimate Questions; Share Christian Worldview; Examine Current Event from Authority; Segue into the Gospel. May you intentionally guide people in conversation that you might guide them to Christ.
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Original publication date: May 11, 2006