Friday, October 13, 2017

Josh McDowell: That’s My Story (and I’m Sticking with It)

During a recent sermon at my (the Other Chad) home church, our pastor shared delivery methods for evangelism taken from Bill Hybels' “Becoming A Contagious Christian.”  The delivery methods described were:

·         Confrontational (ex. Chuck Colson)
·         Intellectual (ex. Josh McDowell)
·         Interpersonal (ex. Becky Pippert)
·         Invitational (ex. Ruth Graham)
·         Testimonial (ex. Corrie ten Boom)

Interestingly enough, I have been reading Apologetics for a New Generation by Sean McDowell.  Sean’s father, Josh, has a chapter in the book entitled “A Fresh Apologetic: Relationships That Transform.”  While Josh McDowell may be well known for his work presenting the evidence for the truth of Christianity, many might be surprised to learn it was actually “God’s love” that drew him in.  Below is an excerpt from the chapter:

Most people assume I came to Christ through the intellectual route.  Certainly, there can’t be more than a few people who have documented more evidences for the faith than I have.  And yet, all the evidence I have documented- on the reliability of the Bible, the deity of Jesus Christ, and evidence for the resurrection- never brought me to faith in Christ.

That’s right.  The evidences did not bring me to Christ.  The evidences got my attention, but it was God’s love that drew me.  It was the love I saw between a group of genuine believers who loved not only Jesus Christ but also each other- and even me!

The evidence got my attention, but love drew me.  When I think back to that night when I realized it, I still get chills.  It was a Saturday night in a university dorm.  I was a total skeptic and an absolute heathen.  Only God and the Holy Spirit could have shown me that if I were the only person alive, Jesus still would have died for me.

I’ve said often that I grew up with a father who was the town drunk.  I’ve told how I had to watch him beat my mother.  I’ve shared that I hated him and took my revenge on him when I got old enough and strong enough.  But I never shared the following until recently.

Between the ages of six and thirteen, I was severally sexually abused by a man named Wayne Bailey.  When I was six years old, he was hired on the farm to be a cook and housekeeper.  Whenever my mother would leave or my folks would go downtown or go away for a few days, my mother would always march me to Wayne Bailey and say “Now you obey Wayne.  You do everything that he tells you to do or you’ll get a thrashing when I get home.”  So I was at Wayne Bailey’s mercy.

When I was nine years old, and again at the age of twelve, I told my mother what had been going on.  She didn’t believe me.  I can’t describe the pain and abandonment I felt, on top of the abuse, when my own mother refused to believe me.

Finally, however, at thirteen years of age, I was strong enough.  My parents had left for the weekend, and I went into the house and backed this man against the wall.

“If you ever touch me again,” I said, “I will kill you.”  And I would have.  Two weeks later, he left.  I remember my mom and dad talking that night around the dinner table.  The asked each other, “I wonder what happened”  Why did he leave?  Why didn’t he give notice?”
I sat there thinking, Why didn’t you believe me?

Wayne was gone, but of course by that time, the damage had been done.  I had nothing going for me and everything going against me.  A worse-than-absent father.  Abandoned by my mother.  And horribly abused on top of it all.  I should have become the victim of victims.

But when I went to Kellogg College in Battle Creek, Michigan, I met a group of Christians who exposed me for the first time to the love of God.  Oh, how they loved each other.  And I wanted what they had so badly that I would have paid anything for it.  I would have pawned my soul to have what they have.  That love- and the desire for that kind of relationship- paved the road of faith for me, and thus began my journey of faith.

Some time later, I met the pastor of a tiny church, Factorville Bible Church.  I went to him and shared what happened to me.  And he believed me!

For six months after that, he walked me through Scripture after Scripture, verse after verse, on forgiveness.  When he finished and finally said “Josh, you need to forgive him,” I answered “No way.”  I wanted him to burn in hell, and I wanted to escort him there.

Obviously, if I had not encountered God’s love in that student group at Kellogg College and experienced it again through that pastor’s friendship and mentoring, I would have been content to hate Wayne Bailey for the rest of my life.  But the truth had taken root in me as a result of those relationships.  I’m convinced that all the evidence in the world, all the most powerful arguments and most convincing proofs, would never have gotten through to me if the transforming power of God’s love had not reached my heart through that student group and others, including the pastor at tiny Factorville Bible Church.  In fact, my mind continued to rebel long after my heart knew what I must do.

But, steeled by that pastor’s loving support, one day I found out where Wayne Bailey lived.  I drove to his house.  I knocked on his door.  I introduced myself.  And, though I must admit I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t want it to be true, I forgave Wayne Bailey and told him that Jesus died for him as much as He did for me.1

 While my story may not be the same as Josh McDowell's, one thing they have in common is the influence of loving relationships.  That combined with the compelling evidence for the truth of Christianity are the anchors of my faith.

1: Apologetics for a New Generation: A Biblical and Culturally Relevant Approach to Talking About God  p. 65-67

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