Christmas, Evangelism, Holidays (Other)

10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays

Originally published November 24, 2015

share-gospel-during-holidays

With all the hustle and bustle during November and December, it’s easy for the gospel to get lost in the shuffle. But the Great Commission never takes a vacation, and the holiday season provides some unique opportunities for sharing the gospel that we don’t have during the rest of the year.

1.

If your family does the “let’s go around the table and say what we’re thankful for” thing at Thanksgiving, briefly express your thanks to Christ for His death, burial, and resurrection, and for saving you.

2.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, place a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it about giving thanks at each place setting . Go around the table and let each person read his verse before the meal. Here are a few to get you started, or if you like it artsy, try these. If you’d like some gospel-centered place cards for a Christmas dinner or party, check these out.

3.

Donate Bibles to those around the world who need to hear the good news of Jesus. Gideons International and Bible League International are two great Bible distribution organizations to donate through. And if your church supports a certain missionary or doctrinally sound missions organization, consider showing them a little extra financial love, too!

4.

Invite an unchurched friend to church with you. Lots of people are more open to dropping in on a worship service or attending a special church event (like a Christmas cantata or nativity play) during the holidays than they are the rest of the year.

5.

Get a group from church together and go Christmas caroling. Choose songs whose lyrics showcase the gospel (Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and O Holy Night are good ones!) Take some tracts, Bibles, or small gift baskets (containing tracts or Bibles) with you to leave at each home (and don’t forget to invite them to church!).

6.

Donating to a toy drive? Tuck a tract inside your gift or consider donating a gospel-centered children’s book or Bible. These Bibles and The Biggest Story are great, doctrinally sound choices. Or how about The Mission Ball?

7.

Contact your local college campus ministry and find out how to invite an international student to spend the holidays with your family. International students can be curious about the way Americans celebrate the holidays. Additionally, dorms often close during school breaks leaving students far from home with no place to stay. Take advantage of the time with your student to take him to church with you and share the gospel with him.

8.

If Christmas parades are a thing in your area, put a float together for your church and use some awesome gospel-themed throws like Don’t Stub Your Toe, Pocket Testaments, or some eye catching tracts.

9.

Chat with your neighbors, even if you don’t know them well. Shoveling snow together? Exchanging baked goodies? Slow down and take the time to talk (and really listen) with your neighbors. It is amazing how people often open up if someone just takes the time to listen to them. Ask how you can pray for them, and, if the situation is conducive, do it right then. You might even find it turning into a witnessing encounter.

10.

Send out an annual Christmas newsletter? This year, instead of making it about your family’s accomplishments, how about focusing on what God accomplished through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ? That’s the most important news your family could share.

Bonus!

Check out Unique Ways Christmas Helps us Share the Gospel at A Word Fitly Spoken for more ideas for sharing the gospel during the holidays!

What’s your favorite way to
share the gospel during the holidays?


This article was originally published at Satisfaction Through Christ, and has been modified.
Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should My Church Participate in Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Ministry?

Originally published September 23, 2019

Please read this entire article – especially the addendum section – before commenting.

I lead the children’s ministry in our small rural church, and for years our children have participated in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox “ministry.” It has come to my attention that this program may be quite ineffective in spreading the gospel. In fact, I have read that many missionaries refuse the boxes because it causes such chaos and confusion. I would like recommendations of legitimate world mission organizations [we could donate to instead] that would allow our children to look past our sheltered life here to what God is doing in other parts of His creation.

Wait…what? Christmas? It’s only September!

Yep. Christmas will be here sooner than you think, and your church staff and committees are probably already planning for it. And if your church usually participates in Operation Christmas Child (OCC) but might decide to do something different this year because of the information in this article, they’re going to need some time to get their ducks in a row.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of (Franklin Graham’s) Samaritan’s Purse organization, an evangelistic “international relief” outreach. Each fall, churches across the U.S. encourage their members to fill an OCC shoebox with small gifts and hygiene items. OCC collects the boxes, tucks in a gospel booklet, and delivers the boxes to children in various locations around the world. At an OCC shoebox distribution event, an OCC representative shares the gospel with the assembled children and then distributes a box to each child.

There are two separate questions in this reader’s e-mail:

  • Should my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?
  • What are some other good international ministries my church could participate in instead?

Should I/my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?

I want to clarify this question a little bit. I understand what the reader who sent this e-mail means when she mentions missionaries reporting “chaos and confusion” resulting from shoebox distribution, because prior to receiving her e-mail, I had already been reading reports (maybe the same ones she read) of exactly the same thing.

The issue is not that Samaritan’s Purse is doctrinally unsound*, or that there’s some sort of false doctrine being included in the shoeboxes or being preached by OCC staffers at shoebox distributions. Although I may not necessarily agree with every point of theology Samaritan’s Purse subscribes to, as far as I know, they are basically doctrinally sound*, as are their materials and gospel presentations. The main issue the reader is asking about is whether or not the shoebox distributions are the most efficient, effective, and biblical way to share the gospel and undergird missionary efforts.

*(Update 9/30/20– Unbeknownst to me at the time I scheduled it, the 2020 rerun of this article coincided with Franklin Graham’s “Prayer March 2020”. At, and in connection with this event, he partnered and joined in prayer with numerous heretics and false teachers, including TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), Matt and Laurie Crouch (heads of TBN), Jonathan Cahn, Jentzen Franklin, Robert Morris, and Paula White, among others, and then unashamedly platformed them on his Twitter feed. This was not a little “oopsie” with one person he disagrees with on baptism or eschatology. These are people who are blatantly immersed in New Apostolic Reformation and other egregious false doctrine. It is inexcusable for a professing Christian of his stature and influence a) not to know this, or b) to know it and ignore it, defying Scripture’s many commands not to associate with such reprobates.

Until/unless Franklin Graham publicly repents of this sin, it is my recommendation that you not participate in or donate to Operation Christmas Child, nor have anything to do with Franklin Graham, nor either of the two organizations of which he is president and CEO: Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.)

So the question is not whether or not participating in OCC is overtly sinful. The questions are: Is this the wisest way to steward our church’s resources – could we get more gospel bang for our buck another way? Is this a biblical model for sharing the gospel? Do shoebox distributions cause problems for missionaries and the communities they serve in?

And for the answers to those questions, I would encourage every church and individual considering participating in OCC to read all of the information at the OCC website and compare what you read to these missionaries’ first hand accounts¹ of how shoebox distributions were handled and how the distributions impacted their work and communities. Then, prayerfully consider whether or not you or your church should participate.

“What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ
is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?”

“In some places, we haven’t been well-received because the missionaries who went there before us presented gifts….and we have no gifts. When those missionaries left, their ‘converts’ also returned back to their old faith and were waiting for the next gift presenters.”

Opening Up Christmas Shoeboxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side?
and
Sometimes the Starfish Story Doesn’t Work
These articles (the second is a follow up to the first) are both by Amy Medina.

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

“When Saddam Hussein was terrorizing the Kurds…an American was in Baghdad meeting with the Minister of Health. The minister abruptly said “I have to go – do you want to come with me? I have to do something for our leader’s birthday.” The American goes with him. They go to a warehouse in Baghdad, and there sit piles and piles of Samaritan’s purse Christmas Shoe Boxes. The Minister of Health is supervising minions to deliver all of them to the Children’s Hospital as gifts from Uncle Saddam for his birthday….a bunch of Iraqi kids got wonderful gifts from Saddam by way of Franklin Graham at Samaritan’s Purse.”

13 Things I Want American Christians to Know about the Stuff You Give Poor Kids by Rachel Pieh Jones

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

…the Operation Christmas Child boxes had reached the warehouse in Ndola and…the Mansa churches needed to come up with eight kwacha per box for 5,000 boxes to receive their shipment. That’s $4,000USD…comments from the pastors ranged from, “We don’t have this kind of money,” to, “Aren’t these boxes supposed to be free?” to, “Next year, let’s just refuse the boxes all together!”

boxing up expectations: reflections on OCC and the church by Bethany Colvin

What are some other good international ministries I/my church could participate in instead?

Whether you’re looking for a ministry to donate to or a way to tangibly serve others, the first thing I would recommend is that you ask your pastor what the needs are in your own church (remember, we serve the needs of our own church members first before serving others). It’s not biblical to overlook the needs of the brother or sister down the pew from you in favor of strangers half a world away.

If everyone in your church is taken care of, your pastor may be able to suggest a local or international ministry that could use your help. Many churches donate directly to various individual missionaries and local and international ministries, and I think you should support your church and its leadership by donating to the ministries they have chosen before looking for other ministries to donate to.

Some of the articles linked above include information on alternatives to OCC.

My suggestion would be to give what people need the most: God’s Word:

Bible League International

Gideons International

Pocket Testament League

Whichever ministry you choose to serve or donate to, make sure to vet its theology, and make sure they are sharing the gospel along with whatever relief or goods they are providing.


Addendum: After the original publication of this article, most of the feedback I received was thoughtful and positive. However, I was shocked at the number of nasty, enraged comments and e-mails I received – from professing Christians, mind you – that seemed to elevate participation in OCC to an idolatrous level. What you prayerfully decide to do about participating in OCC is between you and God, but if you are angered by the information in this article to the point that you strike out at me or one of the missionaries who has simply stated her honest experience with OCC, you need to check your heart against Scripture. You are idolizing OCC over loving your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you’re acting in a way unbecoming of a professing Christian.

If you are considering responding to this article with nastiness or rage, please save yourself some time and don’t bother. I will not publish comments like that anywhere on my blog or social media, and I will immediately delete (without reading, and certainly without responding) any such emails.

OCC Shoeboxes: Answering the Arguments


¹These specific articles are provided for their attestation to experiences with OCC, only. I do not endorse any of these sites which deviate from Scripture or my theology as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or contact me. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should My Church Participate in Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Ministry?

I lead the children’s ministry in our small rural church, and for years our children have participated in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox “ministry.” It has come to my attention that this program may be quite ineffective in spreading the gospel. In fact, I have read that many missionaries refuse the boxes because it causes such chaos and confusion. I would like recommendations of legitimate world mission organizations [we could donate to instead] that would allow our children to look past our sheltered life here to what God is doing in other parts of His creation.

Wait…what? Christmas? It’s only September!

Yep. Christmas will be here sooner than you think, and your church staff and committees are probably already planning for it. And if your church usually participates in Operation Christmas Child (OCC) but might decide to do something different this year because of the information in this article, they’re going to need some time to get their ducks in a row.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of (Franklin Graham’s) Samaritan’s Purse organization, an evangelistic “international relief” outreach. Each fall, churches across the U.S. encourage their members to fill an OCC shoebox with small gifts and hygiene items. OCC collects the boxes, tucks in a gospel booklet, and delivers the boxes to children in various locations around the world. At an OCC shoebox distribution event, an OCC representative shares the gospel with the assembled children and then distributes a box to each child.

There are two separate questions in this reader’s e-mail:

  • Should my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?
  • What are some other good international ministries my church could participate in instead?

Should I/my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?

I want to clarify this question a little bit. I understand what the reader who sent this e-mail means when she mentions missionaries reporting “chaos and confusion” resulting from shoebox distribution, because prior to receiving her e-mail, I had already been reading reports (maybe the same ones she read) of exactly the same thing.

The issue is not that Samaritan’s Purse is doctrinally unsound, or that there’s some sort of false doctrine being included in the shoeboxes or being preached by OCC staffers at shoebox distributions. Although I may not necessarily agree with every point of theology Samaritan’s Purse subscribes to, as far as I know, they are basically doctrinally sound, as are their materials and gospel presentations. The main issue the reader is asking about is whether or not the shoebox distributions are the most efficient, effective, and biblical way to share the gospel and undergird missionary efforts.

So the question is not whether or not participating in OCC is overtly sinful. The questions are: Is this the wisest way to steward our church’s resources – could we get more gospel bang for our buck another way? Is this a biblical model for sharing the gospel? Do shoebox distributions cause problems for missionaries and the communities they serve in?

And for the answers to those questions, I would encourage every church and individual considering participating in OCC to read all of the information at the OCC website and compare what you read to these missionaries’ first hand accounts¹ of how shoebox distributions were handled and how the distributions impacted their work and communities. Then, prayerfully consider whether or not you or your church should participate.

“What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ
is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?”

“In some places, we haven’t been well-received because the missionaries who went there before us presented gifts….and we have no gifts. When those missionaries left, their ‘converts’ also returned back to their old faith and were waiting for the next gift presenters.”

Opening Up Christmas Shoeboxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side?
and
Sometimes the Starfish Story Doesn’t Work
These articles (the second is a follow up to the first) are both by Amy Medina.

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

“When Saddam Hussein was terrorizing the Kurds…an American was in Baghdad meeting with the Minister of Health. The minister abruptly said “I have to go – do you want to come with me? I have to do something for our leader’s birthday.” The American goes with him. They go to a warehouse in Baghdad, and there sit piles and piles of Samaritan’s purse Christmas Shoe Boxes. The Minister of Health is supervising minions to deliver all of them to the Children’s Hospital as gifts from Uncle Saddam for his birthday….a bunch of Iraqi kids got wonderful gifts from Saddam by way of Franklin Graham at Samaritan’s Purse.”

13 Things I Want American Christians to Know about the Stuff You Give Poor Kids by Rachel Pieh Jones

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

…the Operation Christmas Child boxes had reached the warehouse in Ndola and…the Mansa churches needed to come up with eight kwacha per box for 5,000 boxes to receive their shipment. That’s $4,000USD…comments from the pastors ranged from, “We don’t have this kind of money,” to, “Aren’t these boxes supposed to be free?” to, “Next year, let’s just refuse the boxes all together!”

boxing up expectations: reflections on OCC and the church by Bethany Colvin

What are some other good international ministries I/my church could participate in instead?

Whether you’re looking for a ministry to donate to or a way to tangibly serve others, the first thing I would recommend is that you ask your pastor what the needs are in your own church (remember, we serve the needs of our own church members first before serving others). It’s not biblical to overlook the needs of the brother or sister down the pew from you in favor of strangers half a world away.

If everyone in your church is taken care of, your pastor may be able to suggest a local or international ministry that could use your help. Many churches donate directly to various individual missionaries and local and international ministries, and I think you should support your church and its leadership by donating to the ministries they have chosen before looking for other ministries to donate to.

Some of the articles linked above include information on alternatives to OCC.

My suggestion would be to give what people need the most: God’s Word:

Bible League International

Gideons International

Pocket Testament League

Whichever ministry you choose to serve or donate to, make sure to vet its theology, and make sure they are sharing the gospel along with whatever relief or goods they are providing.


Addendum: After the original publication of this article, most of the feedback I received was thoughtful and positive. However, I was shocked at the number of nasty, enraged comments and e-mails I received – from professing Christians, mind you – that seemed to elevate participation in OCC to an idolatrous level. What you prayerfully decide to do about participating in OCC is between you and God, but if you are angered by the information in this article to the point that you strike out at me or one of the missionaries who has simply stated her honest experience with OCC, you need to check your heart against Scripture. You are idolizing OCC over loving your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you’re acting in a way unbecoming of a professing Christian.

If you are considering responding to this article with nastiness or rage, please save yourself some time and don’t bother. I will not publish comments like that anywhere on my blog or social media, and I will immediately delete (without reading, and certainly without responding) any such emails.

OCC Shoeboxes: Answering the Arguments


¹These specific articles are provided for their attestation to experiences with OCC, only. I do not endorse any of them which deviate from Scripture or my theology as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or contact me. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Movies

Movie Tuesday Double Feature: Hearing His Voice ~and~ New Life In Christ

Note:
I apologize, but I need to temporarily suspend “Project Breakdown“.
This project will be completed at a later date.


It’s a Movie Tuesday double feature! Get out the Kleenex and get ready for a heaping helping of encouragement. These movies will do something most others can’t: introduce you to some brothers and sisters in Christ whom you’ll meet in Heaven. So get comfy and gather the family around for a night of joy!

“Imagine how dark it would be to live out of reach of the Gospel and any of the hope that it brings; to only know Satan’s rule and fear of the spirits, an endless and terrifying cycle of appeasement. Imagine if murder, self-harm, and deception were a part of everyday life.

Hearing His Voice documents the story of what happened when a people group just like this encountered God’s Word for the first time. They were forgotten by the world in the jungles of Asia-Pacific until 20 years ago when a Christian pilot spotted them in the foliage below.

Watch Hearing His Voice to stand in awe of the power of God’s Word as it transforms a desperate people into a joyful community. The hero of this story is not the pilot, or the missionaries, or even a specific evangelism strategy… it is God alone and his precious, everlasting Word.”

Hearing His Voice is a production of Access Truth“We develop training resources for making the truth of the Bible accessible across cultures.”

This year, 2019, marks John MacArthur’s fiftieth year in ministry at Grace Community Church. On February 10, GCC celebrated his many years of faithful service. And as a little homage here at the blog, I thought you’d enjoy this movie featuring Dr. MacArthur, Jubilant Sykes, and members of GCC. All the way from 1979, here’s New Life in Christ.

Evangelism, Missions

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

Originally published September 12, 2014

PicsArt_1465478533543

 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

This passage in Matthew is called The Great Commission. It is Christ’s mandate to all Christians to preach the gospel, clearly and verbally, as often as we can, everywhere. Some of the most important ways we can do this are sharing the gospel with our friends and loved ones, praying for our missionaries, and giving missions offerings at church. But while you’re doing these things, did you know that there are a lot of other little ways you can get involved in missions and evangelism? Here are some I’ve tried and loved:

Good Newsfeed– Get the good news to all five thousand of your closest friends simultaneously by posting a short gospel presentation video to your Facebook page. The two I like best are here and here.

The Main At-tract-ionLiving Waters has some awesome, attention grabbing tracts that make it easy and fun to start a gospel conversation. I like to use “Celebrity Millions.” As a Christian author, I sometimes have the opportunity to do book signings at secular venues. I lay a bunch of those “Celebrity Millions” out on the table, and it draws people like flies. (Sometimes, people are more interested in the tracts than my book, which is ok with me–they’re getting the gospel!) It’s fun to try to guess who some of the less identifiable celebrities are, and if you can’t get a foot in the door with a verbal gospel presentation, all you have to do is say, “There’s a great message on the back. Be sure to read it!”

Missions on the Amazon– Are you familiar with Amazon Smile? It allows you to designate a portion of your Amazon.com purchase for donation to the charity of your choice. I like to donate to the “International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention” (copy and paste that into the Smile search bar if you’d like to donate to the IMB).

Left Behind– If you’re new to sharing the gospel with strangers, an easy way to do it is to leave a tract or a New Testament (preferably one with a page that explains the plan of salvation, or tuck a tract inside) behind when you go somewhere. Some good places to leave one: waiting areas of doctors’ offices, hospitals, airports, the DMV, salons, restrooms, on a park bench (in a plastic bag in case of rain), or at a restaurant (with a GENEROUS tip). Use wisdom with regard to any rules the business may have about litter or soliciting, especially if your (or another) church’s contact information is printed on the tract or Bible. When I leave a Bible, I like to write a note on the inside (“I’m not lost, I was left as a gift for you. Please take me home and read me.”) so the person who finds it knows she’s free to keep it. You can purchase Bibles inexpensively at the dollar store, or ask your pastor about ordering them in bulk.

Be a Twit– Tweet gospel centered Bible verses, and, if appropriate and safe, let people know they can contact you (maybe via a designated, anonymous e-mail account?) if they want to know more about the gospel.

Throw Me Somethin’, Mister!– Down here in Louisiana, we have tons of parades, and in good Mardi Gras tradition, we throw things to the spectators. Instead of worthless plastic beads and trinkets, how about throwing New Testaments, or little bags of candy with tracts inside? If parades aren’t the thing in your neck of the woods, you can also give tracts and Bibles away from your booth at the fair, festival, or flea market, at your garage sale, at your kids’ lemonade stand, etc. And if your church does fundraisers like bake sales, car washes, or other events that are open to the public, be sure there are church members available to share the gospel and pray with people who are open to it.

Memorial BiblesGideons International has a wonderful program that allows you to donate Bibles in memory of a lost loved one. If you think it would be meaningful to the family of the deceased, consider donating Bibles instead of sending flowers. “…flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Be a Designated Donor– If you own your own business, have garage sales, sell craft items, etc., commit to setting aside a percentage of each sale for missions. The more specific the focus, the better. For example, adopt a particular unreached people group or give to an organization that focuses on getting the gospel to a certain focus group (such as victims of human trafficking or ESL students). Learn about the people the money will help and briefly tell your customers about them with each transaction. This may also open a door for sharing the gospel with your customers!

Group Project– Looking for a great evangelism activity for your youth group or small group? Join up with The Biggest Project. It’s an operation that aims to get an awesome DVD gospel presentation called “The Biggest Question” into as many hands as possible by handing them out on college campuses, at sporting events, or anywhere else there’s a lot of foot traffic. Like the idea but your group isn’t quite ready? You can sponsor DVDs for groups who want to distribute them but can’t afford the cost to order.

Join the Club- The Bezeugen Tract Club, that is. Sign up to receive a free 30 day supply of tracts every month, take the daily tract challenge, share Bezeugen’s e-tracts via Facebook and Twitter, donate to supply others with tracts, or volunteer to help with their monthly mailing. This is a great little ministry to take part in.

 

There are probably more different ways and opportunities for sharing the gospel and furthering mission work now than ever before. Get creative, get out there, and let’s get the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

What are some creative ways YOU like to share the gospel
with others or contribute to missions work?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST, and has been modified.