I have benefitted from the investment of many in my life as an apprentice of Jesus.
Rich Clay, Doug Smith, John Palmer, David Fisher, Tom Riffe, and many friends at New Life Assembly of God in Athens, OH contributed to me getting off to a good start as a growing disciple of Jesus. David Olshine, Keith Wasserman, and many friends at Central Avenue United Methodist Church in Athens also helped me grow up in Christ and become a faithful follower and disciple-maker. Andy Puleo, director of the Navigators helped me learn and practice valuable transferable concepts like The Wheel, the Hand, and scripture memory.
Paul Little, a campus evangelist with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship introduced me to learning and answering basic questions many outside Christian faith were asking. Two of his books, “How to Give Away Your Faith,” and “Know Why You Believe,” were instrumental in helping me answer key questions like: Is There a God? Is Christianity Rational? Is Christ God? Is He the only Way to God? Did Christ Rise from the Dead? Are the Bible Documents Reliable? How can Miracles be Possible? And Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?
Read 1 Peter 3:15.
Being able to answer those fundamental questions is still a necessity for Christians. It also contributes to their ability to help those considering putting their faith, hope and trust in King Jesus to be able to find suitable answers.
But I have learned from the example of Jesus and Paul in Scripture that people and culture change. We need to know what people are asking in order to point them to the way, the truth, and the life that Jesus provides. Rick Richardson, another InterVarsity colleague has helped me be aware of questions people are asking that are tougher because they require a longer process of establishing trust with someone outside looking at faith.
Questions like: Why are Christians imposing their beliefs on others? (a question about power and motive); Doesn’t the Church legitimate certain hierarchical structures in culture and society (i.e., gender, racial, educational, etc.)? Why do I hurt? Why is there so much pain and violence in our community? Why should I trust you? How can I trust anyone associated with a Church that has done so many terrible things in the name of Christ? Why is there so much hypocrisy in the Church? Does your belief transform lives? Does it make any difference?
I continue to learn that connecting with people around me demands I ask more questions about them, their situation, what questions they are asking, how they arrived at the conclusions they currently have, and/or the objections to faith they are wrestling with.
I need to be a better listener and avoid the stereotypes a person away from Christ may have already formed about me. It requires me to have “thick skin” and a “soft heart” so I am not easily offended by a person’s initial response to my inquiry about their faith journey.
Think theologically. Know what you believe and why. Cultivate a love of people and of their hard questions. The gospel is exclusive, but my intent is to build bridges to people in order for them to find answers to their questions as we journey together forward in life. Pay it forward.
Love is a verb,
©2019 by Mike Olejarz