This is the second in a two-part interview with Josiah B., DSC’s new Minister of Local and Global Missions. In Part 1 we learned a bit about Josiah’s background and how he met Janice. Here in Part 2 we’ll learn a bit about Josiah’s approach to evangelism and missions, as well as some of the larger influences on Josiah’s life.
In Part 2 we’ll focus here on some questions about evangelism. Let’s start where we must: what is the gospel?
The Gospel is the Good News that although we were undeserving hell-bound sinners, God loved us and sent His Son to live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died. This God-man was buried and rose again on the third day, promising eternal life and the forgiveness of sins to all who turn away from their sin and trust in Him alone for their salvation.
In your daily life, in what ways are you cultivating evangelistic opportunities? How have you helped others to do the same?
We invest in our neighbors by taking time to linger and have conversations about life with them, pray with them, show them hospitality. Because I spend a lot of time with students, and they bring a lot of unchurched friends to church with them, I also have the opportunity to build relationships with those students who do not know Christ. I then model evangelism for the students I am discipling by taking them alongside with me as I intentionally have conversations with those lost students. I also try to use the same vendors and build relationships with outsiders in that way. For example, our church in Oklahoma hosts events to attract local kids and families to the church, and my responsibility is often ordering a bounce house. I gladly use this as an opportunity to call a local Jordanian man who happens to rent this type of equipment. He brings the equipment and comes to collect it afterward. Each time he comes, he stays and lingers with me, and we have long conversations. He often asks me questions that give me straight-foward opportunities to share with him the reason for my hope in Christ. It is sometimes hard for those of us who spend the majority of our time in a church building to have meaningful relationships with the lost world, but I have found that if I am strategic and go to the same people each time, then I can build relationships with them and get more opportunities to share the gospel.
What are the two best books you’ve read on evangelism and why?
My perspective on evangelism was really changed through reading both Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by J. Mack Stiles and The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever. First, Stiles showed the value of building an evangelistic culture within the church. Many Christians want to leave evangelism to vocational ministers, or to justify big productions as their sole means of participating in the Great Commission. However, with a biblical approach, the entire church is involved in this Great Commission. The second book by Dever realigned my evangelism strategies. He argues that while apologetics, feeding the poor, inviting people to church, etc. are all good and necessary things, they are not evangelism. When we do these things, we might be tempted to pat ourselves on the back for a job well-done, but Dever reminds the reader that if the gospel is not shared, evangelism has not taken place. This book is a kick in the pants to believers to go and evangelize!
How would you shepherd the person who says, “I don’t really think sharing the gospel is for me. Other people are good at that but I seem to struggle”?
I would encourage a person to re-evaluate how they define success in evangelism. Since we know that ultimately we cannot change hearts (that’s God’s job!), we need to take the emphasis off of the response of the individual, and instead be more concerned with being faithful to what Christ has commanded us. The Great Commission is for all believers, not just for those who are the most persuasive or articulate. Also, for the person who is struggling, I would say that evangelism is like any other discipline in that it requires some practice to feel more natural. Just like I must discipline myself to read God’s Word even in seasons when I don’t “feel like it,” I must also practice the discipline of evangelism, even if it does feel a little awkward at first, because in time it does get easier and feels more natural. If someone is eager to share but has never done so before and is nervous about it, I like to encourage them to practice sharing the gospel with a loved one. There’s no pressure, and once the message of the gospel comes out of our own lips a few times, we’ll find that we are better prepared in a more spontaneous situation where we might feel nervous. God is faithful. He empowers us by his Spirit. We just need to be obedient, and by His grace, He’ll help us.
Now, for some general influences on your life. What’s your favorite book of the Bible and why?
I would say I’m very fond of the book of James. Growing up in the Bible Belt, many people talk a lot about faith, but you won’t hear so much talk about works. There’s a lot of talk about blessings that are often material in nature and the good things God has stored up for a person, but you won’t hear a lot of acknowledgments about how God’s good will might actually involve trial and suffering in a person’s life. Since being a teenager, the book of James has always been an encouragement to me to put on good works through faith. We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. I think this message is especially important for a culture swept away with “easy believism” thinking that having warm fuzzies in their heart at one time in the past and saying a prayer equates having a saving faith in Christ. I am also so encouraged to read James’ admonishment that we can embrace the trials that God allows in our life with joy, trusting that our faith will be refined in our suffering and that He will be brought glory.
What book or author has had the most impact on your life, besides the Bible?
It was upon reading The Pleasures of God by John Piper that I first felt a desire to go overseas in order to preach the Gospel to those that do not have access to it. In this delightful book Piper describes the transcendence and magnificent beauty of God, and he calls readers to persuade others to delight in a God who is worthy of all of our praise. Through this book the Lord stirred up in me a desire to see others delight in God unto His glory. This book ultimately persuaded me to change my M. Div. focus from pastoral ministry to international church planting.
Tell us about the most influential sermon you’ve heard?
The most influential sermon I’ve heard would have been from my pastor when I was a young child. I don’t remember all of the specifics, but he did spend some time talking about hell. At the time I realized that I was separated from God and didn’t have a right relationship with Him. This led me to later talk to my dad, and after hearing the Good News that Jesus died for sinners like me, I repented of my sins and trusted in Jesus and my Lord and my Savior.
How do you like to spend your down time? Any hobbies?
I enjoy cooking, baking bread, and roasting coffee.
Okay, now a few left fielders. What is the dumbest thing you did as a kid?
I was probably around 5 years old, and my brother would have been about 9. He had a fundraiser for school, and my mom showed her loving support by buying a chocolate bunny. She hid it up high in a cabinet, not knowing that someone had been watching! Being the cunning five-year-old I was, I got up in the middle of the night, climbed up high, reached into the cabinet, and procured my prize. I crept through the hallway, slipped into the bathroom, and quietly enjoyed my midnight snack in solitude. When I was finished eating the entire chocolate bunny, I responsibly placed the wrapper inside the trashcan (I wasn’t a barbarian, after all!) for my mother to subsequently find the next day. The dumbest thing about this story? A couple years later my brother got a chocolate snowman, and it disappeared and was disposed of in the very same way.
Any odd talents that we should know about up front?
After years of working in student ministry, I have developed a stare that can make a middle school boy reconsider his actions.
What’s your favorite animal, and why?
Cows, because they are delicious.
Without going to the internet, do you know what a Lobo is? An Isotope? Carne Adovada?
A Lobo is a wolf and the mascot for the University of New Mexico. The Isotopes, if I am not mistaken, are a minor league baseball team. (This came up in my interview!) Carne Adovada is a meat dish. I don’t know what that last word is, but it’s obviously meat.
And, for one last question, red or green?