Yes, Jesus Would
L. L. (Don) Veinot Jr.
Holy confrontation has become a lost art, in part because we misinterpret 2 John 1:10–11: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.”
Some Christians use this verse as a reason to not invite Mormons into their homes. But this stance ignores the passage’s context. In the early church, churches met in homes. When Christian teachers arrived in a community, they looked for the home in which the faithful met. The Lord instructed the disciples to do this. In today’s language, we would write, “Do not take them into your pulpit.” It is a warning to not let false teachers into authority where they could mislead the unwary.
As a missionary to members of cults and new religions, I reach out to those who are not Christians and know they are not Christians (atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews); those who think they are Christians because they go to church; and those who are not Christians but are in pseudo-Christian groups (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses).
People in this last category use the Bible and Christian terms but with different definitions. An aspect of proclaiming the gospel is exposing these differences. That is our task in confronting—not to shame, embarrass, or manipulate.
Paul gives excellent guidance on how to sanctify confrontation in 2 Timothy 2:24–25. First, never be quarrelsome. Apologists and defenders of the faith must take this advice to heart. We should not be ready to argue at the drop of a hat.
Second, offer kindness to everyone. Demonstrate a generous demeanor. The individual on the other side of the conversation is lost. How I treat this person may be just as important as the words I use.
Third, be skilled in teaching. Do we know what we are talking about? Do we grasp what we believe, why we believe it, what the key theological ideas are, and what the full meaning of a key text is? With Mormon missionaries at the front door, we can literally teach people into Christian faith.
Fourth, show self-restraint when wronged. We may be wronged quite a bit in these exchanges. Someone in a false religious system is emotionally tied to the group and will view us as the enemy trying to harm them.
Finally, offer correction with gentleness. We live in a shout-out culture. But the God-honoring, still, small voice of truth can make a deep impression. The process of correcting false ideas with the truth from God’s Word should never induce fear.
The entire purpose is to lead persons to know the truth and repent, the same way Jesus would. Each day, Mormons leave their group and call on the name of the Lord for salvation—even at our front door.
L. L. (Don) Veinot Jr., cofounder of Midwest Christian Outreach in Wonder Lake, Illinois, is president of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions.
No, But Try Pointed Questions
Lynn K. Wilder
Two gangly 19-year-olds in crisp white shirts and dark suits carrying the Book of Mormon bounded up onto our front porch. Smiling broadly, they said, “We bring a message about Jesus Christ. May we mow your lawn?”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is missionary focused. My husband, Michael, and I were looking for a Bible-believing church. Assuming the Mormon church was one, we joined. After 30 years of leadership—I was a tenured professor at Brigham Young University—God called us out of the Mormon church when our son Micah challenged us to read the Bible in the same way a child would.
All our sons served LDS missions. Please—engage these missionaries when they knock. Love them, feed them, and teach them the gospel of grace from the Jesus of the Bible. Micah was converted by just such an encounter while on his Mormon mission. Confront them? Not if you can avoid it. The Book of Mormon teaches that contention is of the Devil.
These missionaries will use the same religious words that biblical Christians use, but the words do not have the same meaning. The Godhead is not the same. Jesus, grace, Atonement, heaven, salvation, none of it. So avoid religious speak.
Mormons do not completely trust the Bible. Christians should have on hand the historical and archeological evidence that proves its people, places, and events. The Book of Mormon has no such corroborating evidence. With missionaries, ask questions and when confronted with a teaching contrary to the Bible, kindly point it out.
Present Scripture up against LDS doctrine in a way that causes these missionaries to pause. Unveiling Grace has a doctrinal comparison chart to utilize with missionaries. Know your own testimony and Bible verses that impact you, and recognize what is not biblical. Read online the missionary guidebook Preach My Gospel. Courteously ask pointed questions. Watch for departure from the orthodox Christian faith: Both God the Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith and have bodies of flesh and bones? Doesn’t that make them separate gods? The Bible teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same divine being.
There was a great apostasy and the church fell away until Smith restored it? Refer to Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” If Jesus said that, how could there be a falling away for 1,800 years?
Has Jesus always been God? Read John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Wait a minute. If he was God from the beginning, he can’t have worked his way to godhood as Mormon scripture teaches.
The Bible is often not translated correctly? Jesus himself says in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
What worked for me? The Word.
Lynn K. Wilder is author of Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church and coauthor of 7 Reasons We Left Mormonism.
No, Try Bold Humility
Cory B. Willson
I hate it when anyone, but especially a salesperson, knocks on my front door. I often work from home, so when missionaries come to the door—whether Mormon or Southern Baptist—I have to resist succumbing to my irritation and temper. If there is anyone who has a predilection for confrontation, it is I. And yet the gospel of Jesus calls me to something more.
First Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” This passage reminds me of what Chuck Smith, the late Calvary Chapel pastor, wrote regarding debates about predestination: “If you have come to a strong personal conviction on one side of a doctrinal issue, please grant us the privilege of first seeing how it has helped you to become more Christlike in your nature, and then we will judge whether we need to come to that same persuasion.” His words have rebuked my abrasive disposition many times.
US evangelicals need to engage Mormons with persuasive reasoning and respect. This is what Martin Marty, Richard Mouw, and others have called “convicted civility.” Such principled engagement is much different from direct confrontation, and it’s based primarily on two teachings.
First, each human being is created in the image of God, and his or her uniqueness is precious to God. This uniqueness demands my respect (Gen. 1:27; 9:6; James 3:9). As we consider the Mormon missionaries at our door, we would do well to remember that these young adults are image bearers of God and someone’s son or daughter.
Second, the gospel is intended to woo us and stir our desires for God. Engaging our neighbors should entail more than confronting them with the truth. Scripture teaches us that God is active not only in Scripture but also in the moral consciences and restless longings of every human person (Rom. 2:14–16; Acts 17:26–28).
Just as we share in the human experience of restlessness for God, we also know what it is to distort God’s revelation through our unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18–23). Paul argues that the gospel meets us in our restlessness for God, but also rebukes us for sinfully distorting God’s revelation.
We evangelicals must first preach the gospel to our own hearts and address the deep roots of sinful rebellion operative in our lives. While we must remain bold in teaching that the Bible tells the true gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), we are also called to humility because we know our own sinfulness (1 Tim. 1:15). When the gospel confronts our own lives with its power, the Spirit can do mighty things through our witness to others.
Cory B. Willson, a PhD candidate at Fuller Seminary, is cofounding editor of Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue and an elder at Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach.
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