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Until the church gets its foundation right, it is not going to make a significant impact on the culture, regardless of how successful programs are in attracting people.
The well-known hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ is sung widely in churches. Even though this is a wonderful hymn, and I enjoy singing it, in some ways it actually portrays the world incorrectly.
If you were to come with me to the tropical rainforests of the deep north in Australia, we might encounter a deadly stinging tree. If you were to just brush up against the leaves of this tree, you would receive a painful sting that can last for years. Imagine you were just stung by this tree. So in great pain you rush down the hillside to the nearby ocean to wash your arm. Immediately you get stung by one of Australia’s deadly tropical sea stingers (you could die in minutes). You crawl out of the ocean, and fall into a nearby freshwater creek, and just as you are being taken into the jaws of a man-eating crocodile, you begin singing that hymn—‘All Things Bright And Beautiful.’
In the real world, all things are not that beautiful, are they? Sometimes I think we should have an extra verse to that hymn that goes like this: ‘All things marred and mutated—the Lord God cursed them all.’
When Christians look at the world, it needs to be understood that they are looking at a fallen world. This is not the world God made, but it’s the world He made and then cursed because of sin. It is a groaning world given over to futility (Romans 8:22).
This observation is so important because most Christians today don’t communicate real Christianity to non-Christians because of the foundational change discussed in the last chapter.
Consider this illustration: imagine you, as a Christian, were to take a non-Christian to the Grand Canyon. I’ve been there—it’s a magnificent place. The views are indescribable. As you stand on the edge of this mile-deep canyon, you say to your non-Christian friend, ‘Look at all this beauty. Can’t you see there’s a God of love? It’s such a beautiful world.’
Your non-Christian friend looks at you and responds: ‘What are you talking about? All I see are billions of dead things buried in rock layers, laid down by water all over the area. The layers of this canyon are full of dead things (fossils) representing millions of years of death, disease and struggle. Around the world I see children dying, people starving, senseless killings, terrorism, horrible accidents. I don’t see a beautiful world. I see physical and emotional pain everywhere I look. It’s a chaotic world. It’s a world where only the fit survive—the weak get stomped on. I don’t see a God of order and love. If He does exist, He must be a vicious and hateful God.’
The problem is that you and your friend are looking at the canyon (and the world) through different eyes. If you put on truly biblical glasses, and look at the world through the Bible, then we know that God created a perfect world, but man rebelled. Sin entered the world, and thus death and the Curse came as a consequence of the Judgment of a Holy God. And look what our sin has done to this world: children abused, families splitting apart, mental diseases, rapes, cancer killing our loved ones, etc. It’s a horrible world. But a Christian understands there’s a God of love because even though man rebelled, God sent His Son to die so we can be restored to our Creator.
Sadly, even most Christians don’t have the correct glasses on. They’ve been indoctrinated to believe in millions of years of death and suffering before man. Even though they believe in a God of love, they can’t respond adequately to the questions of the non-Christian. It’s only when a Christian understands the origin of death and suffering because of Adam’s fall, that they will be able to give answers.
Sadly, even most Christians don’t have the correct glasses on.Because most of the church has accepted the teaching that there were millions of years of death and suffering before Adam, they don’t have the answers! But the Word of God has—if only the church would realize it.
And because the non-Christian has been indoctrinated to believe in millions of years of death, suffering, disease and bloodshed, he doesn’t understand how there can be a God of love. This person is not going to understand about a God of love until he puts on the true, uncompromised, biblical glasses, including the timeline of history: from Creation, through the Fall, the Cross and Resurrection, and the final Consummation of all these. Also, until the Christian has put on these same glasses, he will not be able to explain this seemingly contradictory world of death and life, health and disease, and joy and suffering to the non-Christian.
These Christians will probably never understand the believer’s hope of a future state that will again be perfect just as it was before sin. How can there be a restoration to such a perfect state when there never was one to start with? Thus, they don’t long for heaven. They are ‘content’ with a grim outlook on life and don’t really have a clue about real joy. This leads to Christians becoming spiritually bankrupt and lukewarm. They become apathetic—they don’t understand the gospel and what it means. No wonder Christianity seems to have lost its power. It’s because Christians have lost real Christianity, which is based on the Word of the living God.
Again, both the non-Christian and the Christian are thinking like ‘Greeks.’ They need to begin thinking like ‘Jews’ before they can fully comprehend the message of God’s love.
Let us now consider the solution. Carefully observe the following castle diagram labeled ‘The Solution.’
This is basically the same castle as the previous one, except this time notice that the Christians have aimed their guns at the foundation of the humanist castle, as well as at their weapons, and at the issues. At the same time, Christians are rebuilding the foundation of God’s Word.
What I am saying again is this: issues such as abortion are just symptoms of the foundational change. Thus, one can’t change the culture back to a Christian philosophy just by attacking the issues. Christian morality can’t ultimately and consistently stand on the wrong foundation of evolution. If the approach is merely to try to get politicians to change the laws about abortion, homosexual behavior, and the like, it won’t work in the long run. Even if some laws were changed to be more consistent with Christian thinking, what happens if new legislators who don’t accept Christianity get voted in? They’ll just change the laws back again.
You can’t change a system from the top down when it has changed from the foundation up. Fighting the issues may bring these things to people’s attention. And it may stimulate much discussion and debate. But in the long run, this approach will not change society.
What is the solution? The Great Commission and many other passages tell me to preach the authority of the Word of God—to preach the gospel and see people saved.
If someone truly is born again and builds his thinking on God’s Word and develops a truly Christian way of thinking, then he will apply this thinking in the culture. The more people do this, the more the culture will change. Surely this is part of being the Bible’s ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in this world.
Notice that on the diagram, I show the Christians doing four things:
Rebuilding the foundation of God’s Word. Christians need to accept the authority of the Word of God beginning with Genesis. It’s vital that they reject the compromise so many Christians have with evolutionary ideas. The church can’t even begin to bring about a foundational change back to the Word of God until they believe all of the Word of God.
As a part of this, the church also needs to be teaching people how to defend the Bible, how to answer the questions of the skeptics, and how to present positive solutions to contemporary issues that are used to undermine the Bible.
God’s people need to understand Christian doctrines and their foundations in Genesis. They need to know how to build these doctrines in their lives and the lives of their children. 1
Christians attacking humanism at its foundation. They need to understand that evolution is an anti-God religion. They should become familiar with the simple arguments of science that can easily refute evolutionary teaching. 2
Christians fighting the weapons that are being used against them. They need to come up with programs to counteract the education system, television programs, magazines and other means used to disseminate evolutionary propaganda. 3
Christians standing against the evils of abortion, homosexual behavior, pornography and the other such ills that plague our society. But we should stand against them knowing how to defend our position. We shouldn’t be seen just to be against them because we think they’re wrong. We need to think foundationally and know why these issues are wrong, and why non-Christians don’t understand why we think this way. 4
In summary then: first, it’s vital for the church to understand that the culture as a whole has changed foundationally from being like the ‘Jews’ to being like the ‘Greeks.’ Evangelistic methods must take this into account, or they will become increasingly ineffective.
Second, the church itself needs to recognize that it has become like the ‘Greeks.’ This is why the church hasn’t understood the foundational change in the culture. And this is why many Christians aren’t successful in reaching today’s people with the gospel.
Now some might say, ‘But I attend a church where we have a great outreach program. We see people being won to the Lord each week. Admittedly we are not talking about large numbers, but our evangelism program works.’ I agree that this does occur in many churches. However, we need to understand that there still is quite a remnant of Christian influence in many of our Western nations. In America, for instance, there are still millions of non-Christians who have some vestige of Christian influence in their background.
But at the same time, we must look ahead and understand that this Christian basis is slowly disappearing. Years ago, there was much plowed ground—plowed by the churches and even the schools.
The enemy, however, has sown seeds of destruction. Much of the plowed ground is now covered with the trees of evolutionary biology and the rocks of evolutionary geology. Although there is still some plowed ground, it is disappearing at an alarming rate. Many of the younger generations are coming through an education system that has trained them in an anti-Christian philosophy.
In a sense, I picture the ‘creation evangelist’ as one who is using a bulldozer to plow the ground, first to rid it of rocks, trees, and debris that have prevented the seed from taking root. Evolution is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, stumbling block to people listening to the gospel today. This stumbling block must be removed. The enemy has taken over the territory, and we need to claim it back. Plowing the ground and preparing the foundation—that’s what ‘creation evangelism’ is all about.
Even though evangelistic efforts still reap some harvest, I suggest that it’s not what it was generations ago. In most instances today it is not the harvest of Acts 2.
Now, I’m not saying that pioneer evangelism (or pre-evangelism or ‘creation evangelism’) is the only method of evangelism. There are many methods. In the Bible we see that the apostles and Jesus Christ used different methods to reach different people. And that’s the point. We need to understand people’s biases. We shouldn’t be using just one method of evangelism. Creation evangelism is not the only method in the toolbox, but it is one that must be a predominant tool for today’s ‘Greek’ culture. I believe that pioneering evangelism needs to be adopted on a large scale (as part of a church’s normal evangelistic approach) if we are going to continue to reach people with the gospel.
To put it another way, the ground Peter was working with (in Acts 2) was soft ground (i.e. prepared soil, ready to be planted). However, in Acts 17, Paul encountered much harder ground. Today, I believe the ground is harder than it was in Paul’s day: not only are people lacking the foundational knowledge of the Bible and Christianity, but because this is actively taught against, it is much more difficult to get people to respond to the truth of God’s Word. I was reminded of this when a missionary to an isolated Indian tribe in Mexico visited our church in San Diego. He felt it was easier to reach this Indian tribe with the gospel than university students in California, saying, ‘At least the Indians still believe in God.’
Today there is also a lot of ‘bad’ Christianity. Compromise is rife throughout the church. In a real sense, this culture would be easier to approach with the gospel if it was totally pagan.
Creation evangelism, though, works to overcome these very difficult circumstances—which shouldn’t be surprising, for it was given to us in the book of Acts as a pattern to follow. A selection of testimonies from our files is given in chapter 14 to substantiate this.
If we don’t start reclaiming the ground Christianity has lost, then in generations to come there may be no plowed ground remaining. We must also recognize that there is no quick-fix solution to combat more than a century of evolutionary indoctrination.
Remember when the armies of a number of countries went to Kuwait to reclaim the ground taken over by the enemy? The United States ‘drew a line in the sand.’ In a similar way, there is a spiritual battle taking place in our culture today when we attempt to retrieve ground from the enemy (Satan).
Isn’t it interesting to note how emotional the creation/evolution issue has become? You can talk about all sorts of topics in public schools, but as soon as you mention creation/evolution, there is an almost instant reaction. This is because the humanists know where the real battle is being waged. There is no more foundational message than God is Creator. After all, if God is not Creator, then nothing else matters. All is meaningless.
The fact that the creation/evolution issue evokes such emotional and vocal responses should speak loudly to the church that this is the real front line of the battle between humanism and Christianity. It even creates division among Christians because many have compromised with millions of years of history or other aspects of evolutionary philosophy. Some claim that we should only teach things that unite, not divide.
After I had spoken at a Christian college, some of the students informed me that on the day before, one of the professors had tried to preempt my lecture by informing the students that creation ministries are divisive—the implication being that those who accept a literal Genesis are divisive, but those who insist on other positions are not divisive.
The Creator of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, during His earthly ministry, brought division: ‘
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’ (Matt. 10:34–35). In Luke 12:51 we read, ‘
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.’
And what happened as a result of Christ’s ministry? ‘
So there was a division among the people because of him’ (John 7:43). ‘
There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings’ (John 10:19). I am sure that some of the religious leaders of the day accused Christ of being divisive.
The point is that the truth is divisive! Because Christ is the truth, His ministry was divisive. Because the Answers in Genesis ministry insists on the literal truth of Genesis (God’s Word), then those Christians who have compromised with evolutionary ideas and/or millions of years call us divisive.
Many people think that people like myself are biased and thus divisive, but that others are just neutral. However, it is important to understand that God’s Word tells us there is no such thing as neutrality. We are told that we either walk in light or in darkness—there is no in-between. In Matthew 12:30, we read, ‘
He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.’
Those who compromise the Bible to fit evolution/long-age philosophy often exhibit what my friend Carl Wieland calls ‘the herd mentality,’ the desire to win approval from the world: ‘The herd says Genesis is to be taken as myth or allegory.’
I remember an incident in England after speaking to a prestigious Christian group on the campus of Cambridge University. During my lecture on the importance of Genesis, a young man jumped up and blurted out, ‘But you’re coming across as if what you’re saying is true!’
I replied, ‘I wouldn’t be saying these things if I didn’t believe them!’
I spent time with this young man discussing the problem he had with what I was saying. He wanted me to allow for other opinions, and not just sound as though what I was saying had to be the truth. He accused me of being narrow-minded and biased, while he claimed to be open-minded, allowing for other opinions.
When I asked him if he was ‘open-minded’ enough to allow for my opinion, which dictated that Genesis had to be taken literally, he realized we had reached an impasse. He was insisting that I allow for the possibility that my position was not correct, and that other opinions should be put on the same level. I asked if he were open-minded enough to allow for my position, which stated that all other positions were wrong! My position was intolerant of his—but his position was also intolerant of mine!
This reminds me of Christian colleges whose spokespersons state that they allow all views on Genesis. However, they refuse to permit the view that only those who take Genesis literally have the correct view! Such colleges, like the opinion of the student above, have taken a dogmatic stand that does not allow for the position that one must take Genesis literally (at face value) and that all other positions are wrong.
As long as the creationist ministry exists in this world, it will be divisive. The truth always is! When we shine light in a dark world, division must occur.
One should not judge a method or message on the basis of whether it is divisive or not, but on the basis of whether it is truth and based on the Bible. Creation evangelism, as divisive as it is, is a light shining in a world of darkness. Christians need to come to grips with this and begin using this powerful method of reaching people with the gospel.
I’ve actually had some Christians say to me, ‘Okay, even if what you’re saying is true, what you are advocating takes a lot of time and work. The Lord may come back anytime. We just need to get people saved. There’s no point spending years dealing with this foundational problem. If it’s taken years for this foundation to change, it could take years to change it back. In the meantime, millions of souls could be lost. No, we need to just get people saved, even if they don’t understand Christianity totally. It’s more important to get them into heaven.’
I recall a conversation I once had with Dr. Henry Morris, from the Institute for Creation Research. Dr. Morris was giving me some background on the book The Genesis Flood, authored by Dr. Morris and Dr. John Whitcomb. This is the book that greatly stimulated the formation of creation ministries worldwide. I remember Dr. Morris telling me that he nearly did not write this book, as he thought it was more important to preach the gospel and see people saved. He recognized that the emphasis of this book in counteracting evolutionary philosophy and restoring the biblical foundation was a really long-term vision. To change a whole way of thinking in the church takes such a long time. Surely, he reasoned, the Lord will come back soon—maybe we should just preach the gospel.
As a result of Drs. Morris and Whitcomb’s book, written over 30 years ago, creation organizations have formed around the world, and millions have now heard the gospel through them. The Genesis Flood was, in reality, a creation evangelism thrust. What a mighty work this has been in seeing people fired up for the Lord and souls won!
When I think back to the time when my wife, Mally, and I made the decision for me to leave teaching and begin a full-time creation ministry in 1979, I never realized then the real power of creation evangelism. In fact, when one considered the inroads evolutionary teaching had made in the education system, and society in general, it seemed an impossible task for a small group of people to combat this seemingly invincible giant. But the Lord blesses those who stand uncompromisingly on His infallible Word. The Lord has used this ministry to win many souls and fire up Christians to be involved in this battle for souls.
From a biblical perspective, and recognizing God’s sovereignty, we know that not one of the souls given to the Son by the Father will be lost (John 17).
From our perspective of human responsibility, we are to do our best to reach the lost. And here is where I have a big problem with the claim that we just need to get people saved. I’ve seen some research studies that indicate that the divorce rate among people who call themselves born-again Christians is higher than that in the world. 5 The abortion rate is also very high in the church.
Personally I believe there has been so much ‘easy believism’ (i.e. just trust in Jesus) in churches and evangelistic thrusts that our churches are full of people who have added Jesus in with all their other ‘gods.’ People can easily have an emotional experience, and decide to trust Jesus, but if they don’t know what that means—if they haven’t had true repentance, for instance—then are they truly converted?
Let’s be honest. Many times these people have not properly understood their sin. Perhaps, they came forward in a last-ditch effort to escape from their pain. They never had a clear understanding of their sin. After saying a prayer, they go on to live just as they lived before! For truly effective evangelism and dedicated discipleship, we must use ‘creation evangelism’ so they understand sin and the need for repentance. Then they also need discipling to understand what it really means to be a Christian and have a Christian worldview.
Let me illustrate this with a practical example. New Tribes Mission is a missionary organization that has documented an enormous problem they faced in their efforts to reach pagan tribes. 6
Like most other missionary organizations, their missionaries concentrated on the New Testament when teaching native people about Christ. They called for commitments, and thought many were converted. As time went on, they realized that there weren’t many sincere conversions at all. Eventually, New Tribes changed its method of approach. They started teaching the Christian message from its beginnings in Genesis. They realized that these tribal people had no Christian basis at all. So how would they really understand sin, and why Jesus died?
New Tribes developed a chronological teaching curriculum that enabled the missionaries to teach from Creation to Christ. 7 They started at the beginning!
It is really such a simple concept. One can’t fully understand what happened on the Cross until there is an understanding of the history in the Old Testament (the significance of the Passover lamb, for instance).
New Tribes found that after laying this foundation, when they did get to the message of the Cross, the response was overwhelming. The commitments to Christ were many and sincere. 8
When we read a book or watch a movie, we don’t skip the first half and then read or watch the rest. We start at the beginning so we will understand the story line correctly. Why is it, though, that most Christians, when they read the Bible, start towards the end?
I remember one lady in a church who came up to me and very excitedly told me what my message had done for her that morning. She said, ‘I have been a Christian for two years. I was told to study the book of John. But I just didn’t really understand what Christianity was all about. After your sermon on Genesis, I feel as if a light bulb has suddenly gone on in my head. Because you took me back to the beginning, now I understand the plot. For the first time I am understanding what Christianity is all about. No one ever suggested I start reading the Bible at the beginning.’
And here is another practical suggestion for evangelism today. Many times, we hand out the New Testament, perhaps with the Psalms and Proverbs as well. However, without the Old Testament, and particularly the book of Genesis, there is no foundation for the New Testament. People who have been taught evolution will not be able see the true account of the history of the universe and life to understand that what they believe is wrong. At the very least today, we need to ensure that people get the first 11 chapters of Genesis along with the New Testament.
In fact, I’ve often thought that a good tract to hand out would be the passages Genesis 1, Exodus 20 (the Law), John Romans, 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 21–22. In a sense, these excerpts from the Bible would give someone a complete understanding of the foundation, power and hope of the gospel.
There is another vital aspect of creation evangelism: it is also a powerful method for reaching pagan tribes.
I think many mission organizations have not understood the underlying reason why certain peoples have responded positively to the gospel, and thus these missions have failed to capitalize on a powerful way to teach God’s Word.
Years ago I was visiting an aboriginal mission station in Australia. Because of my background in the creation ministry, I knew that most cultures around the world (American Indians, Fijians, Eskimos, Hawaiians and the Australian Aborigines for example) had legends handed down from their ancestors that sounded like the Noah’s Flood account and other accounts in Genesis. This to me, of course, was evidence that these cultures had all descended from Noah and had handed down these stories based originally on the true accounts, but changed them somewhat over the years.
The missionary was explaining to me how difficult it was to reach the aboriginal culture with the gospel. I asked him whether he had heard of dreamtime legends about a flood or a creation account. He thought for a while, and then started telling me some of the stories the Aborigines say were handed down for generations. As we spoke, the missionary said he’d often thought about why these legends sounded so similar to the creation/Flood account in Genesis. But he had never really put it together. His missionary organization knew of such stories, but never suggested they be used as part of their evangelism.
I pointed out to him that this could be a real starting point for presenting the truth of God’s Word. After all, these people had similar stories to the Bible.
A couple of years later, I met this missionary again. He related a fascinating story. One day he was sitting down with an aboriginal elder. This old man told the missionary that the Aborigines believed that the first woman was made while the first man was asleep. The missionary then read the account of the creation of Eve from Genesis. The Aborigine looked shocked and asked, ‘How come you have the same story we have? And your story is better.’ Sometime later, this missionary led this Aborigine to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Don Richardson, in his well-known and classic work Eternity in Their Hearts, gives many examples of people who had been unreached with Christianity, yet responded to the gospel because there was enough knowledge of the true God still retained in their culture. 9 He writes that the greatest missionary successes have come when missionaries identified the Creator God in the people’s own legends with the true God of the Bible.
Yet, most missionaries and missionary organizations have neglected this approach. Richardson comments in his book, ‘Followers of Christ around the world and down through the centuries could have had 100 times more missionary vigor if seminary professors, pastors and church school teachers had understood and communicated this central theme as the Bible communicates it.’ 10
And then there are countries in which missionaries work in societies with religions that deny the existence of one holy transcendent Creator and are evolutionary in their beliefs. For example, they begin with a belief in preexisting matter.
Until the Church gets its foundation right, it is not going to make a significant impact on the culture, regardless of how successful programs are in attracting people.
These people, too, need a creation evangelism approach. Missionaries need to counteract their evolutionary views and establish the right foundation for the structure of the gospel. I believe that one of the major reasons that missionaries have not used a creation evangelism approach is because they have been so influenced by evolution or millions of years that they don’t see Genesis as essential or useful in evangelism. Thus, they don’t see the importance of such a method. They have missed the foundational problem. They still have this idea that the only way to present the gospel is to preach the New Testament message of sin, repentance and trust in Jesus Christ.
Even within creation evangelism itself, there are different approaches depending on the particular background of the people being reached.
Another important point to note about Paul’s pioneer evangelism is that when ministering to ‘Greeks,’ one wouldn’t expect them to come to where the ‘Jews’ were. Paul didn’t invite the Greek philosophers to a service in the local synagogue—he didn’t start his meeting with them in a word of prayer, or hand out song sheets to sing hymns. Paul met them ‘where they were.’ He even used quotes from their own poets and playwrights. At the same time, he didn’t water down the teaching of the Word. Instead, he used a method of teaching to get them to the point of understanding the Word of God. Their church attendance would come later.
Today, many churches in our Western world have recognized that they are not reaching the world. They try to bridge the gap between the church and the world by emphasizing entertainment programs with which the world would be familiar. Thus, the emphasis is on getting people in so that they will ‘enjoy themselves.’ In most instances, this only results in a ‘watering down’ of the teaching of the Word.
Even many seminaries and Bible colleges are recommending this entertainment approach. Rarely do we see pastors and church leaders today who are trained in teaching God’s Word verse by verse and applying it in the culture. Expository preaching is becoming a lost art.
Of course, many of these church leaders and seminary professors would claim that we are ministering to a different culture. Their needs are different. I agree, but not in the way these leaders understand. They are not thinking in terms of ‘Greeks’ rather than ‘Jews.’ They are thinking more in terms of this being a technology-driven culture—people are influenced by television and are not as interested in spiritual things. Materialism is their God. But most of the church is missing the foundational reason for this culture’s philosophy.
Until the church gets its foundation right, it is not going to make a significant impact on the culture, regardless of how successful programs are in attracting people.
Compounding this problem is the fact that to many Christians, numbers are a measure of success. However, people living consistent Christian lives, being salt and light, separated from the world (but in it and influencing it), should be the measure of success. This will, in the long run, also lead to greater numbers of true converts.
Some of the ‘mega churches’ may attract large crowds with their extravagant programs. Yes, some people may even be saved, but in the end, if the correct foundation has not been laid, it will amount to very little.
So where should we start? If what I’m saying is correct, it seems to be an almost overwhelming task. Where can we begin to turn the tide?