(CNN belief Blog) Carl Medearis–Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing

It may come as a surprise to many Christians that Muslims are generally open to studying the life of Jesus as a model for leadership because they revere him as a prophet.

But now that I’m no longer obsessed with converting people to Christianity, I’ve found that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling.

I believe that doctrine is important, but it’s not more important than following Jesus.

Jesus met people where they were. Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus ”” and let Jesus run his kingdom?

Read it all


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Missions, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

37 comments on “(CNN belief Blog) Carl Medearis–Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing

  1. The Northener says:

    This is one of the best articles I have seen in a long time.
    This guy has truly got his finger on the pulse.

  2. Ian+ says:

    Mr Sedearis writes, ‘What if evangelicals today, instead of focusing on “evangelizing” and “converting” people, were to begin to think of Jesus not as starting a new religion, but as the central figure of a movement that transcends religious distinctions and identities?… Funny thing is, Jesus never said, “Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.” What he said was, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”’
    Mr Sedearis reflects the typical non-sacramental understanding of Jesus. Notice that he stops short of saying in that last line, “… baptizing them in the Name of …” By baptizing new followers of Jesus the Holy Spirit is incorporating them into the Body of Christ– the Church. That is undeniably a new religion for the newly baptized, for religion is from the Latin religio= reconnect. So through baptism we become connected to the Triune God as parts of Christ’s Body. I’m so exasperrated when people talk about wanting Jesus without religion, as if there could be any separation. The Christian religion is all about the baptized being connected to Jesus and one another in his mystical body.
    So #1. Northerner, perhaps you should reread Mr Sedearis’s article in order to see the biblically ignorant liberalism beneath the surface. The title of his book intrigued me, but the article itself has put me off any notion of ordering the book.

  3. Matt Kennedy says:

    Looks like Carl is a selective reader:

    “Jesus the uniter of humanity, not Jesus the divider…”


    “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? eNo, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, ffather against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53

    Mr Sedearis offers platitudinous shallow sloganeering in place of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No thanks.

  4. Undergroundpewster says:

    When he talks about Jesus, does he gloss over certain bits? Like John 14:6 ?

  5. Karen B. says:

    Matt, agreed, faith in Jesus will often cause division in families, and lead to an increase in persecution, etc. We are called to be willing to count that cost, and Carl Medearis knows that well. (I know him personally.) But it is true as well, that in Jesus people from every race, tribe, tongue and nation are made one, that Christ breaks down the dividing wall of hostility – between Jews & Gentiles, Muslims & Christians.

    So Carl’s statement “Jesus the uniter of humanity…” IS true. Christ IS the way for humanity to be united if one chooses to be united TO Him in His death & resurrection. Jesus came that we might be one body, one with Him and the Father.

    Personally, I can’t wait to read Carl’s book, Speaking of Jesus, and it is likely to be one of the first books I buy during my upcoming short home leave. I’m quite excited by it and pray it stirs up a passion for people to share Jesus not “isms.”

    We really can’t and don’t convert people. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. We can and must faithfully testify to Jesus, bring people to Him, invite them to follow Him so He can speak truth to them – like the woman at the well did in John 4. She couldn’t tell the rest of the town all the correct doctrine of who Jesus was, but she could invite them to come and meet Him and hear Him for themselves, and because she was faithful in so doing, many from that town believed.

    I don’t know Carl well, but I have met him, and he has a passion for Jesus that I want to have more of in my life. He’s NOT a wishy-washy liberal from what I know of him…

  6. Karen B. says:

    #4, I know for a fact that Carl believes John 14:6. The doctrinal statement of the organization he used to serve with is very explicit on salvation through Christ alone. I imagine that very belief is what motivated his many years of service in Lebanon.

  7. David Keller says:

    What an odd article. Isn’t inviting people to follow Jesus and then letting Jesus run the Kingdom the definition of “evangelism”? Aren’t Jesus’ disciples “Christians”? The thing that continues to trouble me with the liberals/progressives is they constantly talk about Jesus going around and doing good works. While that is true, that is not the Gospel. Jesus is not a good man who wants us to be nice to each other. He is the atonement for the sins of the whole world including the Islamic world, whether they want him to be or not–that’s the Gospel.

  8. David Keller says:

    ps–I know about the Lebanese Christian militias–in 1976 they were shooting at me! Although the Muslim militias were too. Beirut was a very interesting place in 1976.

  9. Karen B. says:

    Since the CNN article is so short and geared for a secular audience, perhaps those interested in this thread might want to read more detailed responses from Carl. There’s a good interview with him on the Biblical Missiology blog, whose authors disagrees with Carl on certain matters of missiological approach to Muslims… so it makes for an interesting read, and the interview asks good, important questions.

    You can find the whole interview here.


    But I want to highlight this portion to lay to rest ideas that Carl would deny that salvation is through Christ alone. Here’s what he says:

    [blockquote]Question 4 ) In building relationships with a Muslim what is your ultimate goal? If it is not conversion then what?

    Carl’s Response: :

    Let me be clear about two things. [b]Muslims, without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are doomed to the same thing that those who call themselves “Christians” (or anything else) are.[/b] Secondly, I do think that tearing down walls, building friendships and bridges is inherently a good thing. A God thing. Blessed are the peacemakers Jesus said. So there is an intrinsic value in that.

    [b]However, my hope is always that Muslims (and us) would come to fully know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection.[/b] We just have to be careful to know what we’re asking them to “convert to.” If it’s a new religion called “Christianity” then I’m against it. I also have no desire to make them more “Muslim” then they are. Both miss the point. I don’t like my friends who have come to Christ to continue to call themselves “Muslims who follow Jesus” or “Muslim Background Believers” because it undermines their status as a new creation in Christ. That’s what we want – to be found in Christ. Not to be either Muslim or Christian.[/blockquote]
    (emphasis mine)

    Some of this is semantics, sure. But you have to understand, that semantics are a huge issue when dealing with Muslims. Most Muslims I know think “Christians = Westerners” and therefore that Christians promote drunkenness, immorality, immodesty, etc. etc. etc. I have to refute that notion almost daily… so getting Muslims to look beyond “Christianity” to Jesus Himself is actually really important!

  10. David Keller says:

    Karen–Carl is a little confusing. I am assuming he must you coded language to keep people from thinking he is one of “those” Christians, including CNN. It seems to me he could be a little more straight forward so we don’t have to guess what he is talking about. He really seems to be a Christian and an evangelist, but doesn’t want anybody in the liberal elite to know it. I suppose that’s OK if he garners a convert. After all, I belong to a demonination where you have to actually apologize for being a Christian, so who am I to criticize?

  11. Karen B. says:

    David, sure, I agree with you that Carl is playing word games to some extent to try and win a hearing from those who are “anti-evangelical,”
    but breaking down prejudices and getting a hearing to talk about Christ are important.

    It’s not a ministry approach I think most should or could adopt, but I do think Carl has an important message. Carl certainly doesn’t hide the fact that he was in Lebanon as a “missionary.” He is not claiming he “only” did humanitarian work, etc. So, I don’t think he is being deceptive, but trying to get people to move beyond knee-jerk responses.

  12. David Keller says:

    Karen–I agree he wasn’t being “deceptive” but it is a bit “confusing”.

  13. Matt Kennedy says:

    Karen, when one surrenders himself to Jesus Christ, he is then spiritually a member of his Body and called, commanded, to belong to a local visible manifestation of that Body called a congregation. Those who do such things were called in Acts and are called today “Christians”. Why on earth would anyone who follows Christ seek to distance himself from these things or disguise them?

  14. RobSturdy says:

    I was blessed to sit on the sidelines of a missions organization that was highly focused on reaching the Arab world with the Gospel. From that experience, I would entreat fellow Christians to give Medearis the benefit of the doubt on this one.

    #2, avoiding the language of baptism is simply good policy. The topic of baptism in the Arab world is not only touchy, it’s dangerous. I remember one heartbreaking story that one of our missionaries told us of how he baptized one new Muslim convert only to discover that her father had thrown her from the window only 24 hours later. She died. What did we learn from this? We learned that talking about Jesus is largely acceptable, talking about baptism can be quite dangerous. So the missionaries talked about Jesus openly, but about baptism privately.

    As for Medearis cloaking his language from the liberal elite, I suspect it has more to do with presenting his topic respectfully, in a very public forum to those in the Arab world that he is clearly still in relationship with. To become a Christian, or to join a church is for many in the Arab world synonymous with becoming a Westerner. Thus that type of language is avoided because it does not accurately convey what we’re aiming for. The language of “following Jesus,” seemed to be far more productive with our missionaries.

    And yes, as Kennedy points out above, Jesus does divide but apparently he’s done some pretty good work uniting as well (Eph 2). Thus I wonder if its a bit of an overstatement to say that this man, who we know so little about, only offers “platitudinous shallow sloganeering” in place of the Gospel.


  15. Karen B. says:

    Matt, I totally agree with you that it is essential for those who follow Christ to be a part of the local Body, and to identify with others who follow Christ.

    For the record, I would stand against any missiological approach that allowed people to continue as “secret believers” and I disagree with quite a bit of “insider movement” thinking if it means that a belief in Jesus just gets “added” to existing Muslim beliefs. I believe that a clear identification with Christ and recognizing of His calling to us, His followers, to be part of ONE body (Eph 4: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism…), is essential. I want the local believers I meet with here to know the joy of being part of that universal Body, to have a connection with the saints throughout history, to stand firm on the faith once delivered, the foundation of the apostles’ teaching.

    I just taught a group of 5 women I’m discipling from Acts 11 yesterday, so I know that believers were first called Christians at Antioch… Actually, I think that’s a relevant passage to this discussion, along with Acts 10. For at least a decade after Pentecost if I’ve got my Acts timeline correct, it was still thought that to be a follow of Jesus, one had to come through Judaism, and most if not all believers were ONLY preaching to Jews! (Acts 11:19)

    It takes something pretty dramatic by God to convince Peter and the rest of the Apostles that new life in Christ was for the Gentiles too, and that one did not have to come to Christ through the religion of Judaism. So, a new word was coined at the church in Antioch, where many Gentiles were turning to Christ, that disassociated followers of Christ from Judaism, they were not just some Jewish sect, but they had a whole new identity in Christ.

    Yes, I want all believers to identify with Christ and love His Body and rejoice at being part of it. I had a wonderful time of worship with my local sisters yesterday as we rejoiced at being one in Christ in spite of our different nationalities, races, (the group I teach is multi-racial) and religious upbringings… that’s precious. But if the idea of “Christianity” is loaded with a lot of unwanted and unhelpful baggage and actually leads people mistakenly to reject Christ, which I DO see happen daily here in the muslim city where I live and work, I think Carl’s approach to focus on Christ and not the “religion” of Christianity has some merit.

    Look at how we Anglicans had for years to disassociate ourselves from the word “Episcopalian.” “Yes, I’m an Episcopalian, but not one of THOSE Episcopalians. I’m actually a Christian…” Episcopalian became an unhelpful identity that we often had to explain away to get a hearing for our faith. I’m SURE you’ve experienced that. That’s what I experience daily re: the label of “Christian” in this muslim context.

  16. stevejax says:

    The discussions here seem very similar to the ones that Paul and Peter were having in the first century. Paul was out bringing the good news of Jesus to new people groups and nations, while Peter remained in Jerusalem and built on the structure of the previous system. There is much that the western/american chruch can learn from Carl.

    Disclosure: not only am I an “evangelical” Anglican, but I used to work in North Africa with the same organization that Carl did during much of his live in the Middle East.

  17. RobSturdy says:

    In many instances, there is no local body to join. Attempts to create them take on various manifestations, some more succesfully than others depending upon the context. You would want to distance yourself from such bodies, or disguise your affiliation with them because you may not be ready to give your family, your job, or your life for your new found faith. I think this deserves prayer, compassion, and understadning from Western Christians who operate in relatively safe contexts in comparison.

  18. Matt Kennedy says:

    I agree that Christ unites as well as divides, but unity comes after all other foundations of unity are eschewed in favor of discipleship…the unity he brings is one of a redeemed people…”Christians” from every tongue, tribe and nation. And there is no redeemed unity apart from a full world/family/nation dividing declaration of allegiance to Christ and, as a result, membership in his Bride

  19. Karen B. says:

    In reference to my comment above in #6, just for the record, here are a few excerpts of the doctrinal statement Carl once signed on to…, I have no reason to believe he could no longer sign on to this.

    [blockquote] We believe in the absolute deity of Jesus Christ … His work of atonement for the sin of the human race by His vicarious suffering and death; His bodily resurrection and His ascension into Heaven; … His lordship over His Church as its supreme Head.

    We believe in the justification of the sinner, solely by faith, on the ground of the merits and vicarious suffering, death, and bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    We believe in the necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction of sin, regeneration, and sanctification, as well as in ministry and worship.

    We believe that the true Church is composed of only those persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united together in the body of Christ of which he is Head.[/blockquote]

    Just in case it helps put this discussion into perspective…

  20. Karen B. says:

    I’m going to have to sign off soon, so I’ll subscribe to this thread and try to catch up on additional comments here tomorrow. Apologies if I’ve dominated the discussion at all. This is a topic that is of intense personal interest…

  21. Katherine says:

    Having lived in a Muslim country for two years, I can see the difficulty Muslims have with connecting with the local Christian church. The cultural differences are very tough to get around. If an Egyptian Muslim looked at following Jesus as becoming a full-fledged Copt, for instance, a group against whom his entire family may have harbored prejudices for generations, a group with radically different cultural habits, this would cause him serious troubles. If this is what Carl and others mean, they’re right, I think; I only wish it didn’t sound like something else as published on a liberal American site.

  22. MichaelA says:

    “My take” on this is that Mr Medearis’ article is rather confused. I am not saying that he himself is (I wouldn’t know), but I can only read his words as they appear in this article.

    [blockquote] “Jesus was the master of challenging religious prejudice and breaking down sectarian walls. Why do so many Christians want to rebuild those walls?” [/blockquote]

    This is broad language, and Mr Medearis never explains what he means by it, so this is not much help to the evangelical reader.

    [blockquote] “Even the Apostle Paul insisted that it’s faith in Jesus that matters, not converting to a new religion or a new socio-religious identity.”

    Again, this broad language doesn’t tell us what Mr Medearis really means. Depending on the sense in which he uses “religion” and “socio-religious identity”, it could cover a whole spectrum of meanings.

    [blockquote] “Funny thing is, Jesus never said, “Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.” What he said was, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” [/blockquote]

    Christians are allowed to use words that aren’t in the bible, believe it or not! “Christianity” means the process of following Jesus, and “conversion” means what Jesus taught about the need for a radical change in our very being before we can escape God’s just sentence on us.

    [blockquote] “Encouraging anyone and everyone to become an apprentice of Jesus, without manipulation, is a more open, dynamic and relational way of helping people who want to become more like Jesus — regardless of their religious identity.” [/blockquote]

    This was not actually Jesus’ message. He was happy enough for people to admire him as a great teacher or prophet, and to “want to become more like Him”, but his message was that without God doing radical surgery on men’s hearts, they won’t be able to do any of these things in a way that pleases Him.

    By all means use “low key” evangelism – many missionaries do, as appropriate to the particular situation they are in. But that should not involve confusing the nature of the basic message.

    [blockquote] “Just because I believe that evangelicals should stop evangelizing doesn’t mean that they should to stop speaking of Jesus.”

    Sure, but so what? Satan “speaks of Jesus”. So do pagans. We are not commanded to just speak of Jesus, we are commanded to evangelise, i.e. tell people the gospel. This can be done in all sorts of ways depending on culture, and some ways would be entirely inappropriate to certain cultures. But Mr Medearis does not appear to confront this issue.

    [blockquote] “As founder and president of a company called International Initiatives, my work is aimed at building relationships among Christian leaders in the West and among Muslim leaders in the Middle East. … But now that I’m no longer obsessed with converting people to Christianity, I’ve found that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling.” [/blockquote]

    Now he finally writes something that is both clear and sensible. Relationship building is a valid way to spread the gospel (which is all that “evangelise” means).

    [blockquote] “I believe that doctrine is important, but it’s not more important than following Jesus.” [/blockquote]

    Jesus taught us that following him means following right doctrine, so this is not a distinction that He would recognise.

    [blockquote] “Jesus met people where they were. Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus — and let Jesus run his kingdom?” [/blockquote]

    Where does Mr Medearis get this idea that evangelicals “try to figure who’s “in” and who’s “out”? I am sure there are some who do – it’s a broad movement after all. But not all, or even most. Yet Mr Medearis paints with the broadest of brushes.

    And “simply inviting people to follow Jesus”? That is all that evangelism is.

    And yes, Jesus runs his kingdom, but he has also commanded us to be actively involved in the process (its called the church).

    [blockquote] “Inviting people to love, trust, and follow Jesus is something the world can live with.” [/blockquote]

    A very revealing statement. Where are we told that Jesus’ teaching is or ought to be “something the world can live with”?

  23. MichaelA says:

    I should add, that my concern in this is primarily for the large numbers of third world Christians (particularly those in Africa, Asia and the Middle East) who are actively involved in witnessing to Muslims. There are far far more of them than there are westerners involved in this ministry.

  24. Sarah says:

    It is an interesting discussion. It sounds as if Carl is advocating evangelism through relationship building. That seems good — I’m certainly all for that. But then why say that we should “stop evangelizing”?

    I am sorely sorely tired of Christians sounding off in generalities about how Christians should stop doing certain things or start doing certain things, all in a seeming effort to appeal to various non-Christians and also do cute things with language.

    It would be like my saying — in a pious tone — “we readers of T19 must stop denouncing Asian handicapped persons. We should rather love Asian handicapped persons and invite them more often to dinner.” I could title my article “Why T19 Readers Should Finally Be Gracious To Asian Handicapped Persons.”

    T19 readers would rightly be confused over what on earth I was talking about because I’d be speaking in broad generalities, and the T19 readers wouldn’t even admit that they *were* engaged in denouncing Asian handicapped persons.

    I have no idea whether Carl is himself either orthodox/traditional or not.

    I’m also not an expert on the Islamic religion. But I do think that Christianity is “the most materialistic faith in history.” That is deliberately so as it involves the incarnation; we are uniquely engaged with the material world. It is that foundation that leads Christians to be — [i]by Islamic standards[/i] — “drunk, immoral, and immodest.”

    Part of coming to faith in Christ is throwing off gnostic pietisms and anti-material/incarnational beliefs. While there actually *is* a Christian definition of “drunk, immoral, and immodest” and Christians in the U.S. eschew such behavior, particularly the behavior of the predominant secular American culture, the Christian definitions are no more the definitions of those of the Islamic religion than they are of the Heaven’s Gate cult or certain separatist dispensational Protestant sects of the mid-20th century.

    When a person denounces Christians as “immodest” for not wearing ankle-length skirts or not having long uncut hair, I do not accept that definition of “immodest.” So while it is certainly understandable for Christians to be mistaken for our secular culture, there is a certain amount of ultimate redefinition of those words involved with Christian conversion.

  25. rectorstbarts says:

    Rob, I don’t understand your comment about baptism. Using your illustration of the young woman who was murdered by her family, are you saying she shouldn’t have been baptized or that she shouldn’t have told her parents? Sensitivity to culture is very important, but so is baptism and I don’t see how we could say, “follow Christ, but don’t be baptized.”

  26. Scatcatpdx says:

    The problem I have with Mr. Medear, like may in the seeker sensitive movement, is how the muddle the message of the cross; Paul and Peter did not preach relationship but :

    1st Corithians 1: 18-25
    18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
    20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,[b] 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, [u]both Jews and Greeks[/u], Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God[/b]. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    Romans 1:16
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    In addition I think of the book of Acts; in tracing Paul’s journey form Jerusalem to Rome he had contact with many cultures but he did not change the message to fit the culture. The problem those who preach relevance and relationship ultimately change the message of the Gospel of Christ death to sin and proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sin to something more therapeutic and often christless.

  27. Karen B. says:

    Good morning all,

    Having had a chance to think about this further overnight, I’m reminded of the difference both relationship & context make in reading and responding to something like this.

    First – Relationship: I know Carl, know his background, know his passion for Christ, so, it’s easy for me to give him the benefit of the doubt and read into his words something of what I know of the man, even though his words may not be clear.

    Second – Context: the fact that this was posted at CNN led many to assume that Carl is some kind of liberal. If these words had been posted on a blog about missions, I doubt they would have received quite the same criticism (let alone the attention!).

    So, it’s helpful perhaps to try and strip away the relationship and the context and get away from those distractions, and just focus on the words he wrote.

    In doing so, I agree with Sarah that there is quite a bit of fuzzyness there, and perhaps Carl doesn’t actually focus on Jesus as much as I’d like. If I’d not known anything about Carl, and just read the article cold, I’d say it would be likely that the article above wouldn’t leave me wanting to know Jesus more, it leaves most readers wondering who Carl is and what his agenda is. So, I’d say it’s quite weak on that score after all. Paul may have contextualized his message to the Athenians, and if you read parts of Acts 17 stripped from their context (affirming their poet’s words about “being God’s offspring”), one might take offense, but Paul leaves no one any room for doubt, even with his “sensitive” presentation as to where he stands, and he issues a clear call for repentance. So, lost marks to Carl for fuzzy, broad words for sure.

    But in trying to think about what Carl IS trying to say, and why I think this article is actually very important, can I make a plea as one who looks in at the evangelical church in America – and yes, evangelical Anglicans – from a bit of an outside perspective?

    I am increasingly frustrated by the “us and them” mentality that Carl is pointing out, particularly towards Muslims. I read so much fear-mongering by evangelicals, and so much about how Muslims are bent on world domination and out to kill people. Look, I KNOW personally much more than most of you do, that there ARE radical, extremist Muslims. One of my close friends and colleagues was killed by some of them, and dozens of other friends have left the field because of threats by them…. but we are called to LOVE Muslims, love ALL of those who hate and persecute us, to love them enough to become friends with them and share Jesus with them.

    I think Carl’s passion is that we would stop focusing on Muslims as enemies, (that we have to “beat” them, stop them from winning, warn people about them…, stop them from building mosques in our neighborhood) and instead remember that they’re people who really do need to meet Jesus, not just hear our doctrines about Him.

    Going back to my reference to John 4 in one of the comments above, Jesus risked ostracism and censure by talking with the woman at the well out of love for her. He started with where she was, didn’t “condemn” her, yet in meeting Him, she was transformed.
    Truly, from a distance, I don’t see a lot of love and compassion for Muslims among those in the church in the U.S. It concerns me more and more whenever I am on home leave. Please hear my plea, and why I care about what Carl is trying to share. Please stop talking about “Muslims” and start going to them in love and start talking about Jesus to them.

  28. RobSturdy says:

    Thanks for asking the clarifying question. I suppose I might first point out that it wasn’t an illustration, but an event. We weren’t talking about how we would respond to it hypothetically, but we actually had a missionary who was successfully sharing the Gospel in an environment where one of his new converts had been killed. Faced with the possibility of this happening again, the organization had to advise the missionary on how best to proceed in the future. It was determined that baptism should be delayed until it could be administered safely, or until the missionary could do enough relational work with the locals where such an activity would not provoke violent action. Thankfully, through the steadfast work of this one missionary, the village eventually did permit several folks to be baptized and even permitted a Christian school. To answer your question about following Christ but not being baptized, I hope you see that’s not what we did. Nevertheless, and I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but my hunch is you’ve probably never had to advise someone on baptism where the consequences were quite this high. It’s not as simple as just saying “follow Christ, get baptized.”

    As Karen points out above, I would not want that one incident I described to color what is actually happening with the Gospel in the Arab world. The environment is quite complex. In some areas the work goes how I described above. But in general, I have been stunned by just how hospitable people in the Arab world have been to our missionaries and how receptive they are to hearing about the person and work of Jesus. All this to say, neat and clean “us vs. them” mentality simply isn’t a proper description of the lay of the land and probably isn’t becoming of a Christian anyway.

  29. The Northener says:

    Karen B
    We may have disagreed on earlier threads but can I thank you for your balanced approach to this discussion and for your eloquent defence when challenged. That is not meant to be or sound patronising, it is genuinely appreciated…by me anyhow…I can’t speak for anyone else.
    It really helps that you know him personally and you are making a very good job of trying to see both sides of the argument so to speak.
    I’m also glad that is not just my responses which Michael A dissects so forensically. That makes me feel a bit better at least!

  30. The Northener says:

    Karen B
    I have just re-read your last comment and it sums up how I feel in a much better way than I could have done. Thanks you.

    Rob Sturdy and Katharine
    Thank you too…I think you both are fairly on the money with regard to this topic also.

  31. Karen B. says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Northerner. I don’t often get a chance to comment on blogs much these days, but I’ve enjoyed this discussion and it’s been good food for thought and prayer.

  32. The Northener says:

    # 31
    It has indeed Karen.
    It has been a good discussion..and it may not be over yet I feel…

  33. MichaelA says:

    [blockquote] “I think Carl’s passion is that we would stop focusing on Muslims as enemies, (that we have to “beat” them, stop them from winning, warn people about them…, stop them from building mosques in our neighborhood) and instead remember that they’re people who really do need to meet Jesus, not just hear our doctrines about Him.” [/blockquote]
    Karen B, respectfully, Carl didn’t write anything like that, except in so far as at a few points he used broad language that could have meant anything.

    If that is what he means, its fairly simple to say so.

    It also doesn’t help if he and you attack evangelicals for what appear to be, in many cases, actions and reactions by others.

  34. rectorstbarts says:

    Actually, I am very familiar with the world of the Middle East and its complexities and I fully understand that following Jesus can and often does cost converts their lives and that’s my point. To acknowledge Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior is to, in many circumstances, place one’s life at risk, even from families and we do a convert no good to say follow Jesus, but don’t join the body of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism and fellowship. Talking about Jesus can be quite safe and acceptable, conversion, with our without baptism, can be deadly. However, just committing one’s life to Jesus without joining the Body seems ill advised.

  35. rectorstbarts says:

    Follow-up to #34 Please don’t hear me being critical of any particular organization or of anyone’s particular actions. I am not trying to be an armchair quarterback. 🙂

  36. Karen B. says:

    #33, Michael A, agreed Carl didn’t say those things I wrote about his “passion is that we would stop focusing on Muslims as enemies, (that we have to “beat” them, stop them from winning, warn people about them…” in this article.

    I was extrapolating from what I know of his ministry beyond this CNN op-ed piece.

    As I said above, I agree that I’m not sure this CNN piece really says much clearly, except perhaps trying to get people to think outside the box about what “evangelism” really is and what “evangelicals” should be known for.

    In my comment #27 I was merely trying to explain why I actually think it’s worth giving some of Carl’s OTHER work and writings the time of day. I think he has an important ministry and that his call to “peacemaking” is actually a very important part of seeing Muslims come to know, love and follow Christ as Savior & Lord.

    I’d moved beyond what Carl wrote on CNN. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. I am mostly pleading that in our real & needed concern for correct doctrine and standing for truth that we don’t lose love and don’t lose an opportunity to be heard when we do share about Jesus.

  37. MichaelA says:

    Karen B.

    Many thanks, I can see where you are coming from.

    I will try and catch up with some of Carl’s other writings in due course.