Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Helping Friends Find Christ

Everybody lives by it—even skeptics and atheists!

That’s right. Everyone you know trusts something they believe in but can’t prove or know absolutely. They take it on faith. And if you want to talk to your friends about your faith, it helps to understand what they believe and how they got there. Because badgering people to change their minds just doesn’t work.

Based on Mark Mittelberg’s book Choosing Your Faith, the Faith Path workbook and DVD set builds on Mittelberg’s sensible, evenhanded approach to evangelism. Inside you’ll meet six fascinating people who looked at the world in six different ways before they embraced faith in Christ. Very likely you’ll recognize people you know—and you may even recognize yourself.

Work through Faith Path and you will:

• Understand people who approach life differently from you
• Recognize the danger of paths that lead away from Christ
• Deepen your own faith in Christ and reinforce your reasons for believing
• Gain confidence in talking about Christ with others

Relativists, traditionalists, mystics, authoritarians, and others…they’re all here. And after you understand how these folks think about faith, you can help them find a trustworthy pathway to truth. Because no matter what your friends believe, they still matter to God.

Mark Mittelberg explains the 6 Faith Paths (adapted from an interview with NewManMag.com):

As Christians, we need to understand that the people we’re trying to reach think in differing ways when they consider faith. And if we don’t learn to speak to what they value, it’s almost like we are speaking a different language. For example, if all we want to do is give testimony, but they think like scientists and want the evidence, then we’re not going to connect.

So the best way I know to share about this is to go through the six paths people take when they are considering faith, and the six best ways to help them.

· First, for example, is the relativistic path. A person on the relativist path basically decides what they want to believe and calls it truth. This one’s popular on college campuses. They decide what they want to believe, and that mystically becomes true for them. Their truth may not be the same as your truth, and they think that’s OK. So what do we say?

What I try to show is that relativism does not work in any other area of life. For instance, try running your investments based on relativistic, wishful thinking. Would you pick a company out of the blue and invest in them without doing any research into their finances or outlook? No, because you would eventually go bankrupt. Your belief does not change reality. If your beliefs don’t change reality in the realm of daily life, why would they change your spiritual life?

· The second approach is traditional. This one says, “I believe what I believe because that’s what I was taught when I was growing up, period.” How do we respond?

Congratulations on honoring your father and mother, but let’s be honest, someone’s mom and dad were wrong. You’ll never know if your traditions are true unless you test them. Which of your relatives figured it out once and for all for your family? If I look around the table on Thanksgiving, there’s no way I would want to trust my eternity to any of my relatives.

You’ve got nothing to lose by examining your beliefs, because if they prove true, you will only reinforce them, and if they prove not to be true, don’t you want to know? Jesus warned in Mark 7 not to let tradition get in the way of the truth of God.

· The third path to faith is authoritarian, which is similar to the traditional in that it’s a hand-me-down, but this one has a lot more force. This one says, “You will believe this.” One example, and it’s not the only one, is a friend of mine who was raised in the Muslim faith, where he was taught that Allah is God, Muhammad is His prophet, and you will accept this. He did growing up, but he reached a point where he realized he needed to weigh whether he could trust the authorities that were telling him this.

That’s what we teach—the need to help everyone really evaluate whether they can trust the authorities in their lives. It’s not anti-authoritarian; we just want to make sure we have the right authorities. I think when you compare the religious authorities out there, you will see Jesus that stands up to scrutiny like no one else. That’s what my friend, the former Muslim, found as well, and today he is a follower of Jesus.

· The fourth is the intuitive faith path. This is the person who says, “I don’t need all your arguments and evidence because I know in my heart what is true.” It’s the Star Wars approach: “I feel the force.” And it’s sort of the Oprah Winfrey approach, where she teaches in her classes to get rid of doctrine and just follow your heart, or your spirit.

The wisest man who ever lived, named Solomon, warned us in the Old Testament that there’s a way that seems right to a person that ends in death. People tell you to follow your heart, but the Bible says that the heart is deceitfully wicked.

Intuition is like a flashing yellow light on a dark intersection at night. It can warn us to pay attention, but it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know. We still have to look around and figure out what the situation is. When it comes to your spiritual life, don’t just look at your heart but look at the information available to you.

· The fifth one is the mystical faith path. This is the one that says, “I know what to believe based on what God has told me.” Someone in this mindset feels that their spiritual experience trumps everything else.

So what do we say? First, we don’t deny that God can speak to us today. God did not lose His voice 2,000 years ago. I think we need to be seeking His voice and His guidance in our lives daily. But not everything that feels spiritual is from God.

First Thessalonians 5:20-22 says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” That’s a very appropriate warning for this discussion. We shouldn’t ignore something that is from God, but God Himself tells us to test it very carefully and to hold on only to what we know to be from God.

· The sixth one is evidential faith path. This one can be misused, but when applied correctly, it can lead us into truth and help us test what we’ve come to believe from other faith paths.

I give priority to this one. It relies on two undeniable vehicles of truth: logic and evidence. I say “undeniable” because you can’t argue with logic without using logic. It’s through logic and evidence that we determine truth in every other area of life.

When it comes to spiritual matters, logic and evidence can point us in the right direction. For example, I’m convinced that historical and archeological evidence will support the Bible in ways that don’t support the Quran or Book of Mormon. The evidence for the Resurrection supports the authority of Jesus in ways that make Him unique among all spiritual leaders. The evidence of science points to the reality of a Creator who made us.

Mark Mittelberg is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and a leading outreach strategist. He is the author of Choosing Your Faith, coauthor (with Lee Strobel) of The Unexpected Adventure, and coauthor (with Bill Hybels and Lee Strobel) of the Becoming a Contagious Christian curriculum. He previously served as the evangelism director for Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association. Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Heidi, and their two teenage children.

I've flipped through the workbook and watched a couple of sessions of the DVD, and I can tell this is a good study for personal evangelism. The DVD sessions run from eight to twelve minutes long, leaving plenty of time for group discussion. There is essentially no homework, and the presentation is easy to understand and not theologically heavy. The description of the various types of faith paths provides insight into these viewpoints while pointing out their flaws as a belief system, making it easier to identify ways to open a discussion with individuals.With eight sessions to the study, this would work great for a short-term Bible Study or book club.

You can purchase the DVD and workbook directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

Thanks to The B&B Media Group for providing a copy of the workbook and DVD for my review.


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sara said...

what a small world! As I am reading down your blog and get to the picture of the author....oh my gosh, that is Mark Mittelberg! His dad was a member of our first church in Minot, ND. cool.

quilly said...

And how does one present faith to a scientist? That's something I would really like to know.

A Stone Gatherer said...

Sounds interesting. Wondering about if for our small group.