Given the sort of work that I do, there can be encouraging times, and discouraging times. I might go weeks without seeing anything positive come out of what I do, but then I’ll also have times where I see people’s lives dramatically changed. One of the most encouraging things in my life right now, strangely enough, is marking a particular assignment.
I teach a class on how to defend the Christian faith using reason and evidence (apologetics). I spend 12 weeks teaching my students how to have effective conversations, how to answer difficult questions, and what sort of evidence exists to prove our belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Right near the end of the course, one of the assignments my students have to do is to go out and evangelize to two people, and then write a report on it. Each week during class I pray for God to give them opportunities to be a witness, and then for this assignment, I actually get to read about the opportunities that have come about.
While reading the reports, I not only get to see how God often times provides amazing situations where someone gets to hear the Gospel, but I also get to see the impact my teaching has had on my students. Realistically, I give this assignment to help my students get over the fear of evangelizing, and also to help cement the course material in their minds. That said, the added bonus is that it ends up being incredibly encouraging for me.
Here’s a few of the things that come up in these papers that particularly brighten my day. I get to see my teaching leading to real moments of evangelism.
Most people today think that Christians have to have blind faith; an irrational belief in things that are more unlikely than likely. My students are able to correct this idea, showing how the Bible actually commands us to be able to give reasons for our faith, and that faith is more about putting our trust in Jesus.
Another common misunderstanding is that the Bible was written hundreds of years after the events, or, at the very least, it’s been translated and copied so much that we can’t trust it (these ideas are mostly found through memes on the internet that are just quotes from comedians). I get to read these reports where my students can present actual information to people, showing them that the Bible was written shortly after the events it describes, by eyewitnesses of the events, and that there are thousands of very early copies, showing that the text is incredibly reliable by historical standards.
Many of these students have never really shared their faith before, and so they are understandably a bit nervous (or even terrified!). In most cases, as they write about their experiences, they tell me that they feel excited about sharing their faith in the future. I love seeing a passion develop in these students, and to know that this could spark an ongoing and lifelong commitment to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
One other point that boosts my confidence in the future of the Church, is that my students are doing all this with an attitude of humbleness, respect, and inquisitiveness, while at the same time being bold enough to challenge people’s thinking, and ask difficult questions that lead to very interesting conversations. These aren’t dogmatic, closed-minded, ignorant arguments that are taking place. It’s young people with an eagerness to learn, getting a chance to have an excitingly scary experience. These are conversations where both people get to challenge the other person’s most deeply held beliefs, and they are doing so in a positive way.
I get the amazing opportunity to read about my students going out there, and sharing these things with other people who I will never meet. It’s incredibly encouraging to hear about the Gospel message being shared with people who probably wouldn’t have heard it otherwise, and I got to play a part in that. It’s also enjoyable for me to read about my students actually using the content from our class in a real world scenario, and seeing the awesome results that come out of it.
Thank you to my students for giving me such an uplifting experience in marking these papers (as odd as that sounds). I thank God for the opportunity to be a small part of your ministry, and I continue to pray for God to use all of you in amazing ways.