Every Question Is A Personal Question

The other week a student at SLHS asked me a question that comes up a lot in evangelism: what about the person that never had the chance to hear about Jesus? How can God send that person to Hell?

Now, like I said, this question comes up a lot, so I went into one of my typical answers. I talked about God’s sovereignty over all creation, and how all people have been given the ability to see that God exists and respond. And then how God, before he created anything, knew that if he gave all people free will some of those people would never in any possible scenario receive his free offer of grace. Therefore when he did create them he was free to put them in places where they would never hear about Jesus.

I think that is where I lost him. Actually, I know that is where I lost him because he said out loud, “That’s BS!” (Except he didn’t use the abbreviation). No, it’s not BS— it’s Christian philosophy at its best. Nevertheless, that didn’t really matter.

So I said to him with a laugh, “So you’re not convinced?”

And this is where the conversation took a turn. As we continued to talk he mentioned that all of his family is Buddhist. Ah, now things made sense. He wasn’t just asking some abstract philosophical question, he was asking a very personal question. He wanted to know if his family, who in his mind had never heard about Jesus, was going to Hell. That is a very different kind of question.

The mistake I made is a mistake that is often easy to make when talking to people about matters of faith. It is easy to talk about and respond to matters of salvation in the abstract. It is easy to do because often the person asking the question poses the question in this way as a means to protect him or herself.

But what I had forgotten that day is there are no purely abstract philosophical questions when it comes to matters of salvation. Every question asked is a personal question because the answer will always affect the questioner in a personal way. It may affect how they think about their own eternity, or it may affect how they think about eternity for others—but in both cases, the answer matters to them. If it didn’t they would not have asked the question.

When the student asked the question, I should have responded in a more personal way. Here are some examples of what I could have said.

  • “Wow that’s a really great question. It sounds like you are concerned about God’s fairness. If God is fair, how do you think God views you?”
  • Or “Wow that’s a great question. What led you to think about that question?”
  • Or “Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, but if you really want to know, I’d be happy to get back to you with an answer. But what about you? It seems God is wanting to tell you about Jesus. Do you know what Jesus has done for you?”

I’m grateful that God is bigger than my mistakes and missed opportunities. But hopefully this article will help you and me to remember whenever someone asks us a question about salvation, that question is always a personal question. So we need to pray (sometimes in the moment) and ask God to show us how to respond with a personal, not just philosophical, answer.

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Can I Share My Faith At School?

 

I once had the privilege of being schooled about school. Specifically what you could and could not say about Jesus in school.

“You actually can share your faith at school,” he said

“What? I thought there were laws against that,” I said.Winnebago_Lutheran_Academy

It was a discussion between myself and a college student/ministry leader whom I was supposed to be supervising.

I was the Graduate Supervisor. My job was to help guide his ministry team to come up with vision, mission, and goals.

His team was one ministry chapter of a larger ministry called California School Project.  At the time I had never heard of it, but it turns out they did some really cool things.

Here are their objectives:

  1. Give every student the opportunity to hear about Christ, respond in faith, grow as a new believer, and plug into a local church. 
  2. Mobilize the number of gospel communicators actively sharing their faith with their friends on campus.
  3. Gather support from the Christian community and local churches to support and sustain the movement at the campus through prayer, participation, and finances.
  4. Equip student leaders for the movement by involving them in the process of reaching their campus for Christ and proactively training them for future leadership.

So they obviously knew something about ways students could and could not share their faith at school. One of the biggest things I learned from them (as one of their chapter’s supervisors) was there is more students can do than they think.

And the best way to find out what students can and can’t do is to read through a school’s Student Handbook. Most (if not all) of the rules will be laid out there.

So what about in South Lyon, MI?  What does their Student Handbook say about students and faith?

Let’s start with what you cannot do:

1. You cannot harass other students based on their religion [1]

This means you cannot say to another student something like “what you believe is stupid” or worse “you are stupid for believing _______.

2. You cannot distribute publications which are “are grossly prejudicial to an ethnic, religious, racial, or other delineated group”[2] or seek “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect, or point of view over any other religious denomination, sect, or point of view [3]

So you can’t pass out anything that says your religion or your beliefs are more important or better than any other beliefs that may be held by someone else.

That is it.

Which means you can:

  1. Talk openly about your faith with friends, teachers, and other school employees as long as you are being respectful and are in no way verbally attacking them or their beliefs.
  2. Hand out religious material so long as it is not forced on anyone and is in a neutral place and not during instructional time[4].
  3. Share your testimony with people, as long as it is not during class time, and you’re not forcing people to listen.
  4. Use a class assignment to write about your faith or what you believe about a certain topic. Just be respectful and don’t attack the beliefs of others.
  5. Get an excused absence for a religious observance[5]

 

This is how ministries like California School Project can exist. Because it turns out students do have a lot of freedom to talk about and live out their faith at school.

Whether it is students at school or for adults in the workplace, it is always just a matter of following 1 Peter 3:15-16:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

If students respect their school, its rules, its purposes, administrators, and teachers, and if they treat everyone with gentleness and respect, seeking to live a life of good behavior, then they should have no problem making Christ known and drawing others to him at their school.
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[1] South Lyon Student Handbook p.77

[2] South Lyon Student Handbook p.89

[3] South Lyon Student Handbook p.89

[4] South Lyon School Board Policy

[5] South Lyon Student Handbook p.56