A recent post at sbcIMPACT has generated strong emotions and great consternation from opponents of the article. In the post, the author (known as From the Middle East – FTME) shares an example of an initial witness to Jesus Christ which he would use in the context of bringing the gospel of Christ to a muslim setting. Mainly because of the language used (for example – use of the word “Allah” in place of the word “God”) a plethora of commenters queued up to point out the short-comings of the testimony. Some addressed the specific words used, others have been convinced that FTME did not address the deeper theological truths that we know. From the discussion, I can only assume that the majority of the participants hold several commonalities—they are Americans, trained in American theological seminaries (for example).

Additionally, the good folks over at SBCToday enlisted a teacher of theology to respond to the original post. I would encourage you to read both posts (with comments) if you’re interested in the whole shooting match.

And now to my thoughts—I am not here defending or rebutting FTME (others are more capable of arguing against him than I, and FTME is well able to defend himself). Instead, I would like to develop a few thoughts that were sparked by the overall discussion. It will probably take a few posts to say all I intend, so be patient.

To begin with, whenever we are engaging someone new in the conversation leading to Christ it is important to get on the same page. We must not assume that their understanding of the Christ is the same as ours. Often we must not expect that they mean the same thing with their words as we do although we may be using the same words. I have discovered that whenever someone says what they mean, I interpret it with my understanding of the words they use and often hear what I hear—which isn’t always what they said. Therefore, it isn’t any wonder that our witness is often hampered when we use language that is ambiguous at best to our unbelieving friends and acquaintances.

I recall a time of particular evangelistic zeal we experienced in my high school youth group. One of my friends (a Catholic in background) approached me with concern in her face. She had literally be accosted by one of my fellow youth group members with the hearty question, “Are you saved?” and then left to ponder the question while he went merrily on his way. Her question to me, “What did he mean? I don’t understand.” I don’t recall my answer, but I remember thinking There must be a better way to find out somebody’s spiritual situation—one that doesn’t require damage control.

My advice at this point: write a dictionary for yourself. Include all the terms that you use specifically addressing spiritual condition. Define those terms without using language from the church. Then stop using the terms as part of your testimony, but only in the church setting where everybody’s on the same page.

(More to come.)