Friday, 25 January 2008

Always Being Ready

The following is the Introduction to the Reachout Trust Book – Always Being Ready. It is an invaluable help to get you ready to communicate with those that you meet who have a different faith.

The full product can be ordered direct from the Reachout Trust website at:

http://shopping.reachouttrust.org/Shopping/reachout.nsf/(ProductsByCode)/I008

Or it can be downloaded as an eBook from:

http://www.powells.com/s?kw=always+being+ready

Introduction

When we first published this book in 1996, there was some debate over its title; in the end we settled for Open the Door because that is what we wanted people to do. However, as this Introduction shows, something needs to happen before we open the door: we need to get ready. 1 Peter 3:15 indeed shows we are always to be ready:

“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Surely that is impossible! No, because being ready is a process and the clock doesn’t start ticking until you know that you are not ready - then you get ready. It will also be a process, different for each one of us. If my wife and I are due to leave home at 6 and she is not getting ready at 5 – we’re late. That’s not being nasty to my wife; that is living with her for 30+ years. She takes an hour to get ready, but I – 5 minutes before we leave - splash water on my face and put on the clean shirt!

We are all different and so the process for getting ready will be different. We also do not need to feel guilty if we cannot answer the first time we are challenged by the cult member, but the clock starts ticking and we need to put in the time to get ready.

Seated in a comfortable armchair watching top class athletes break world records makes it appear so easy. Out of the starting blocks and a mere ten seconds later it’s all over and fame and fortune await the victor.

The reality, of course, is very different. When they arrive at the start line and are called to their marks, that is not the beginning. They would not be ready without months or even years of training for that one moment. Preparation for the daythat they can look back on with great satisfaction takes time and commitment.

As with breaking world records, witnessing to the cults and sharing Jesus with them does not come easy for most people. If you feel that you can simply walk to the ‘starting blocks’ and just have a go, this book is not for you. This book is for the hundreds of Christians I have met all over the country, who have confided that they do not find it easy to open their front doors and to share Jesus with those in the cults. I have spoken to thousands of people over the past 20+ years in seminars from Inverness to Truro, and from Southend to Swansea. The joy I have is in knowing that many of them are today reaching out to the cults in love. Many have found that with the right training they are ready not only to open the door, but also to lead cult members into the Kingdom of God.

I remember answering the phone one day to hear, in a voice full of jubilation, ‘It works!’ I suspected that this was a new way of selling double glazing or life insurance but intrigued I asked the obvious question – ‘What works?’ It turned out that the lady on the phone had been at one of my seminars a few weeks before. Just that day she had had the opportunity to put the teaching into practice. She had never managed to talk sensibly with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door until then, and she was so excited. There are no five-year guarantees but I can assure you that there are many others who will confirm that it does work.

But it will take commitment. The cults are aware of this and spend much time in training. Sadly, Christians do not seem quite so bothered. Our attitude reminds me of my youngest son Luke – many years ago now – who could not say the word “seminar” and, when I returned from one particular weekend away, he asked me, “How did the cinema go?” It struck me after a while that this was almost prophetic of many of us Christians. We pay our money, watch the main event taking place up front, and maybe even feel some emotion for a while. However, when it is all over, we leave and nothing lasting has really affected us. Next week we need to do it all over again!

Know your enemy

Paul tells us that we are not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor 2:11). Verses like this make me sit up and take notice. I know the content of the verse is forgiveness — if we do not forgive then Satan will have a foothold — but there are many other devices of Satan and sometimes we are only too ignorant of them.

Ephesians 6:11 adds to this that we are to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. How can we stand firm against the schemes if we do not know what they are? The area of the cults is one of Satan’s major schemes, as we will discover in chapters 1–5. Through varying degrees of spiritual intensity and subtly changing doctrines, he brings many into his domain. We need to know about his schemes so that we can both be protected ourselves and help those who may be involved.

Much modern warfare and fight against evil, such as drug smuggling, is based on intelligence about the enemy. Even in Biblical times, warfare was carried out by seeking to get an assessment of the enemy first. The spies in Joshua’s days had a human frame and as such were very vulnerable. The spies today fly high in the sky at hundreds of miles per hour, but both do the same job. How can we have any hope of resist­ing if we do not know where he is coming from? Unless we have some idea of how he will react when we move forward, we do not know what to do for the best. We should certainly not spend hours concentrating on Satan but we should at least know what the Bible reveals about him and what effect that has on us today.

The Bible shows Satan, among other things, as a deceiver (Rev.12:9); as the one who causes doubt in God (Gen.3:1-5). A liar, indeed the father of lies (Jn.8:44). The tempter (Mt.4:1) and, if he is allowed to be, a devourer (1 Pet.5:8). We must understand and be aware of how all this affects our Christian life.

I attended a large Christian meeting a few years ago where a well-known controversial speaker was in full flow. “We don’t need all these anti-cult groups; we just need to preach Jesus,” his voice rang out. Why did he say that? I suspected then, and have had no cause to change my mind since, that it was to defend his own position and to make sure that no one checked on his teaching. However, there are those whose ministry is not just anti-anything but a positive calling as ‘watchmen’ within the body of Christ. They are not there to criticise everyone who does not hold their views on, for instance, the return of Christ. Nor are they there to find a demon under every new preacher’s notes. They are there to give a warning to the body of Christ where teaching or action is not Biblical. Reachout Trust, I believe, has been called to be a help to the body of Christ in this area.

People have accused Reachout Trust of being a ‘negative’ ministry. My answer is always the same ‘tongue-in-cheek’ reply: “If sharing Jesus in a relevant way is negative, then I agree with you.” What we are doing is not negatively saying someone is wrong, but positively showing them there is something and indeed Someone better.

This book will not provide you with scare stories of those who have been involved in hideous cults, or testimonies of ‘great escapes’. This is not the purpose of the book. What we are aiming to provide is an overview of what you are likely to find behind the public face of your town. From this, each of us will be better prepared both to pray and to warn young or ignor­ant Christians of the dangers. Most importantly, we will be ready to be used as messengers of the love of God to the people caught up in these areas.

Know your faith

Chapters 6­–10 will help make sure we know our own position in Christ. This section is the heart of the book. Here we will look at building ourselves up in our own faith. These chapters are the ‘meat’ in the sandwich. Without this section we have nothing to get our teeth into; we cannot help others if we do not have a firm foundation ourselves.

The two greatest excuses - or occasionally genuine concerns - for not talking with people involved in the cults are ignorance and fear. Ignorance of what the cults believe will be covered in the final section. A positive knowledge of what we believe must come first and this will be covered especially in chapters 9–10. British ambassadors abroad always need to know what the government is thinking and doing in Westminster. Without constant briefing, they would be commu­nicating their own ideas and not being the representatives of Britain. It is no different when we are ambassadors of heaven in a foreign land on earth. We need constant briefing from the Lord to know what He is thinking and doing. This way we will be representing Him and not just our own ideas.

This section will also help deal with any fear. Most have a fear of being beaten in a ‘Bible-bashing’ contest. Many, too, have a fear of looking a fool for not knowing an answer or, even worse, being convinced by the argument of the cult. These fears are, of course, brought on by the one who is the author of fear: the devil. Knowing the One Whose love casts out that fear, and knowing the Word ourselves are the basis for our sharing without trepida­tion. These chapters are not a complete guide to theology but they will give an excellent beginning. Learning from God is a daily ongoing experience.

Know the cults

The way we express what we know is also vital; we are not called on to Bible-bash. ‘Wimbledon-witnessing’ produces little, if any, effect. The Christian serves his best text that is almost an ace. Somehow the cult member dashes across the baseline and returns the ball with interest. The top-spin almost fools the Christian and he finds himself on the defensive, and on it goes.

Occasionally someone scores a point, but we seem always to return to deuce and no one ever wins the match. This, as we shall see, is not the way to win these people to Christ. If, however, we are firmly anchored in the Scriptures, I do not think there is any need to pretend we are on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. We can take a calm approach to the subject being discussed and ask questions rather than just firing accusations at 100 mph.

Chapters 11 onwards will give an overview of the beliefs and lifestyle of several well-known cults as well as some ideas about how to approach them. They will also give Biblical refutation to some of the most used arguments of the cults. This form of witnessing will probably be more akin to running the marathon than the 100 metres – the quality of staying-power is usually necessary with the cults. We trust this book will go a long way to getting you in shape.

There will be other groups that are not mentioned here and you will probably have more questions. Reachout Trust is a ministry that is here to help individual Christians and churches in any way we can. Do not hesitate to ring or write and we will try to provide the information you require.

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