Category Archives: Ministry and Evangelism

What happens in Vegas… spreads love throughout a college campus.

[a continuation of the lessons I learned in Vegas. more about that trip can be found here.]

evangelism

Loving unconventionally is what Jesus is all about.

His approach to love was strange but needed for the people He came to save; ours should be too.

Our visit to Vegas coincided with what Grace City called “Love Week”: a week dedicated to reaching out to the city of Vegas to love them without restrictions or an agenda. The premise was that God’s love has no agenda. He just loves us. There’s no catch to His grace. One of the most beautiful phrases I heard all week was this: “Jesus died for the catch.” And so, we ought to love others without a catch.

Some of the ways that we reached out during Love Week were a little… atypical. At one point, I wrote “Free Hugs” on a sign, for cryin’ out loud. Two of my favorite ways of expressing the love of Christ were buying people’s coffees and the Compliment Chair.

Continue reading What happens in Vegas… spreads love throughout a college campus.

What happens in Vegas: A Series.

Of course, we had to visit the famous Vegas sign. I thought it would be bigger, honestly.

The biggest, most earth-shattering thing that has happened to me so far in 2015, without a doubt, is a ministry trip I took during spring break to Las Vegas. I didn’t blog about it right away partly due to time constraints, but also because I just couldn’t find the words.

Now that I have some time, I think it’s valuable to share some of what happened. The week-long trip that I and about 20 Liberty students, undergrad and graduate, embarked on was in partnership with Grace City Church, a plant that Liberty sent out a few years ago with the mission of transforming Sin City into Grace City. (I didn’t make the connection until about halfway through the trip. I felt like such a blonde!)

Continue reading What happens in Vegas: A Series.

Manti 2014 Debrief.

A week has passed since I spent five days camping in a small town in central Utah. The laundry has been done, the bags are unpacked, and the tent is stored back in the garage. But the impact has just begun.

manti 2 manti

I’ve attended the Manti pageant outreach for five years now, and every year, I become bolder and more serious about the missions work to which we are called there. In Manti, 200+ Christians gather at the only Christian church in the county with one mind and one purpose: to reach the LDS people for Jesus. These incredible, loving people are currently enslaved in a religion that leads them after a false Jesus, and we seek to shine His light into the darkness of this works-based religion.Our mission is to engage faithful Latter-day Saints in conversations about the Gospel in the few hours before the annual historical pageant.

Continue reading Manti 2014 Debrief.

On the religion your parents taught you.

“Just say no to anything they offer you, and don’t answer any of their questions.” -LDS mom to her children
“Stop listening to what he’s saying.” -An LDS dad as he pulls his intrigued son by the arm away from a Christian preacher
“My mom said I’m not allowed to talk to you. [“Why do you think that is? I just want to share with you from the Scriptures.” I said.] I don’t know, but I’m not supposed to. I have to go.” -LDS teenage girl
“Girls, we need you to go somewhere else right now.” -LDS youth group leader, interrupting a conversation between two LDS teens and some Christian girls and forcibly pushing the girls away from the conversation
“Ummm… I’m not sure… hey Dad?” -LDS teen when I asked her to explain the LDS Gospel to me in her own words
“Even if you think they might be Mormon, just don’t talk to any of those people out there.” -LDS boy to his friends

“I don’t understand it, but I make sure not to question it.” -elderly LDS missionary
“You need to stop asking us so many questions. You just don’t understand. Just pray and read the Book of Mormon.” -Young LDS woman in dialogue with a Christian woman

“My faith doesn’t need to make sense to me. It doesn’t have to be rational or logical; I just believe in my heart.” -Brazilian LDS teen

Continue reading On the religion your parents taught you.

On being called to missions in Africa.

Dear reader,

If God has called you to missions in Africa, I am happy for you. God is going to do great things in that continent through you. Go and change the world for Christ.

BUT. If you are reading this right now and God has not called you to Africa, you must not be spiritual enough and you should try harder to hear God’s calling in your life so go read your Bible because I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

God is still going to use you.

Continue reading On being called to missions in Africa.

On how to evangelize the “right way.”

Recently, I was asked my opinion on the best and most effective way to do evangelism. I tried so hard to just make a list with a few bullet points, but that never happens with me! Haha. This is my opinion, based on my experiences in Manti, with Worldview Academy, with non-Christian friends, etc. Disagree if you would like, and we can have a fruitful conversation about it.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Let us begin.

Continue reading On how to evangelize the “right way.”

Letter to Liberty University re: Mitt Romney

To whom it may concern:
I will be transferring to Liberty University as a junior in the fall of 2012, and I respect the school and its foundation on the Word of God. However, I have just learned that Republican candidate Mitt Romney will be delivering the commencement speech at this year’s graduation ceremony, and I am concerned about this decision from my future college for a number of reasons, all stemming from the fact that, in case you didn’t read all of the man’s Wikipedia page, Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In other words, he is a Mormon. He served a mission for his church, tithes regularly to the church, and even served as a bishop over a ward.
The first reason why I am upset about this decision is that it gives the university the appearance of acceptance of the man’s ideologies. Granted, the university may align with his political views and his presidency campaign is currently in the media spotlight; however, I would expect that there are many other conservative Republican men who could have been chosen by the school to speak at such a prestigious event. By allowing an actively practicing Mormon man onto the Christian school’s stage, it would seem that the school has given the man its approval, thus giving his religion approval on the school’s campus.
Even if this is not the university’s intention, as Christians we are to abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thes. 5:22), and the appearance by allowing this man to speak at the ceremony is that the LDS religion is acceptable and tolerated on the campus. I pray that this is not the truth. To help you understand why I am so vehement regarding this subject, allow me to explain. My family lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where my father serves as a missionary to these very people with whom Romney associates. My family’s lives, as well as our partners and Christian friends in Utah, are devoted to helping Mormons see the darkness and lies in this religion and show them the truth of the Gospel. I would grieve for any of that work to be damaged as a result of such a prominent Christian university blurring the lines between evangelical Christianity and Mormonism any further than has already been done.
The second reason why I do not approve of Gov. Romney’s invitation to speak is more out of concern for the students. I think that it is important for the speaker at a commencement ceremony to enforce what students have been learning for the past four years of their lives, to encourage them in their faith, and to commission them to go impact the world. I do not believe that Gov. Romney is in any position to offer students encouragement to go live as “Champions for Christ” if he himself is not a champion for Christ at all. He is a champion for a false gospel and a god who is, according to his Scriptures, not the only God nor has he always been a god at all. I am uncomfortable with a man like him addressing so many Christian young people who are so capable of impacting the world for Christ. Why not have a man such as Billy Graham, Ravi Zacharias, or John Piper – men who have impacted the world with their leadership and are truly champions for Christ – encourage the young people of this school and set a Godly example for what they may someday become?
I understand that, with planning so far underway for this ceremony, it is a difficult decision to reverse. However, I would implore you to reconsider Mitt Romney’s invitation to speak at the 2012 commencement ceremony. I believe it will do more harm than good for the Christian community, especially for those of us who are deep in the trenches of spiritual warfare here in Utah and strive to be a set-apart light to the followers of this religion which is void of hope and truth.
Thank you for reading and considering my request.
Carissa
LU Class of 2014

Preach the Gospel at ALL times.

My dad had a poster on the wall of his 11th grade apologetics Bible classroom. It was a quote from a prominent figure in Christian history, St. Francis of Assisi, and it read,

“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

I happened to think that was pretty darn clever of this saint guy, I committed it to my junior high memory and cited it as my “favorite quote” whenever asked for the next few years. As I understand the quote, Christians should act like a Christian and allow their pure, Christlike lifestyle to be the testimony that draws nonbelievers to Christ.

I have always been told by the Christians in my life who seemed to want to encourage me that the direct result of being a good person will be my friends asking me what’s “different” about me, thus swinging the door of opportunity open wide to share the Gospel, pray with them on the spot, and ship them off to Africa to do missions work. And all you had to do, especially in a place like San Diego, was hold open the door for a handicapped person or carry a little old lady’s groceries across the street instead of dealing drugs at the local middle school, and you were deemed a saint. Those magical interactions with nonbelievers never actually happened to me, but you’d think it’s the easiest thing in the world by the way other Christians talked.

But then I moved to Utah.

Suddenly, I am surrounded by charity volunteers, faithful church potluck attendees, and young adults who all go on two-year missions trips. Being a Christlike human being tends to get lost in the sea of good religious behavior around here, and “preaching the Gospel” with your actions will simply make people admire your apparent devout LDS convictions. Because Mormons truly believe that they belong to just another “Christian denomination,” it consistenly takes me a case of totally humble Christ-speaking-through-me conversation to even establish the fact that I hail from a different religion and worship a different God. How am I supposed to tell them “Jesus loves you” when they already have a version of Jesus in their religion whom they believe loves them too?

Our time is too short to spend loving people and being a good person if people never understand Who makes us that way. I won’t deny St. Francis – As irrelevant as it is to the truth of the Gospel, people tend to disregard everything someone has to say if their actions don’t speak as loud as their words. But if your actions are going to say something, let your words say it too! You can treat AIDS in Africa, you can hand out water to homeless people, and you can counsel pregnant teenagers to your heart’s content, and it will undoubtedly glorify the Lord because He has said that whatever we do for the least of these, we do as unto him. But listen: People need healing for their spiritual sickness as much as they need physical help! It drives me crazy when Christian teams do something wonderful like building homes in China, then leave without uttering the name of Jesus Christ once. We are called to heal the spiritual sickness and fill the spiritual hunger within people! What good does it do to make someone’s life more comfortable on this earth when, once they die, they will suffer eternally? This is of too grave importance to simply put on the back burner. Your life – words, thoughts, and actions – should revolve around Christ and Him crucified to the point where it is apparent to others.

Preach the Gospel at all times with your words and your actions.

A Response.

Recently, I posted on my Tumblr blog about the upcoming US presidential election and its effects on Christianity and Mormonism. I received one response which I would like to address because it raises some very common and important objections to what I said. I’m thankful that people are thinking about what I write, as it makes for what I consider enjoyable conversations. In the true spirit of my dad (who’s a blogger who receives criticism all the time – like here) I’d like to systematically respond to each of her statements one-on-one. Her writing is in bold, mine is regular.

So what do you mean by Christian? By the definition, they absolutely are.

In my post, I reminded Christians to clarify what someone says when they say they are a Christian by asking them what they mean – I love that she turns it back on me. (I’m normally a very sarcastic person, but I assure you I’m being a hundred percent genuine throughout this entire post.) It’s only fair that I share the burden of proof in any of these topics.

A Christian believes in one God from all eternity to all eternity (Isaiah 44:6-8, Psalm 90:2), whose Son is Jesus Christ – God in the flesh, the second part of the Trinity, and the Savior of the world (Matthew 1:21; Titus 2:13). While on earth, he was fully God and fully man. Because of His death on the cross, man must simply believe in His name (nothing else; John 1:12) and he will be granted eternal life and deliverance from damnation (John 3:16). From this belief should be an outpouring of gratitude, manifested in good works, but it does not affect someone’s salvation (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:21).

Now, let’s take this a step further. If Mormons can be considered Christians, can Christians be considered Mormons? If I was a Mormon, I would have to believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is Scripture – yet I don’t. Why do LDS missionaries show up at my door if I’m one of them? Because I’m not. So by definition, I would claim that Mormons are absolutely not Christian.

It does not make its members miserable, and you have no basis on this idea.

I honestly believe that I do have basis on this idea, simply because I go about my daily life among its members. I live in “the Mormon homeland,” as my Californian LDS friends like to call it, just outside of Salt Lake City itself. I daily interact with dozens of LDS people, and what I have learned is this: So many of them are spectacular at putting on a mask of perfection when they are broken inside. I’ll let the Book of Mormon and Seventy Claudio Zivic explain to you why they’re broken from his October 2007 General Conference address: “Nephi taught us clearly what we ought to do. He said, ‘For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). I believe that the first thing we have to keep in mind in doing ‘all we can’ is to repent of our sins. We will never be able to reach our divine potential if we remain in our sins” (http://lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/after-all-we-can-do?lang=eng). To reach their divine potential, members of the church must, according to Moroni 10:32, “Deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength,” because… “then is his grace sufficient for you.” I cannot even imagine the pressure of living in a society where grace is only sufficient for me if I lead a fully Godly life.

Another piece of evidence that causes me to believe that the members of the church is a woman I talked to who came out of the church a while back and put her trust in Christ. She told me that the church “tells its members to put on a happy face,” no matter what’s going on inside. That can cause someone to become miserable pretty quickly.

And to prove even further that many LDS members are miserable: Utah residents currently use more antidepressants like Prozac than any other US state’s residents. Utah has been reported by the Mental Health of America organization to be the “most depressed state in the nation.” It has been factually correlated with the fact that about 70% of Utah’s residents are Mormon.

Let me clarify: The simple fact that there are depressed people in the church does not alone make the religion false. It’s a peripheral subject, really, but it simply addresses the point I am trying to make here.


They absolutely do back it up, and in fact they would be happy if you asked them; what difference does it make if you’re wrong?

Once again, thank you for turning the questions back on me! It would be so terribly unfair of me to ask questions without having my own answer for them based on the Bible. If I’m wrong, and Mormonism is right, then in the afterlife I will still have it pretty good, according to many missionaries I have spoken to. Granted, I won’t be allowed into the celestial kingdom, but the terrestrial is still considered heaven and the presence of the Son is there (D&C 76:77).

On the other hand, if I’m right and you’re wrong, there is an eternal, unending, torturous consequence called hell that is the fate for every nonbeliever, which will be eternal separation from God. One of us has to be wrong. Whose side would you rather be on?

How dare you make such an accusation upon any church; at least at LDS churches they teach that you shouldn’t judge anyone based on their beliefs, practices, or opinions. Bishops and general authorities in Utah, on a regular basis, condemn homophobia, even if it is against LDS doctrine.

Since the conversation has the option to get a bit heated right now, I’m going to be careful with how much I say here. Obviously, my original post was not the gentlest way of phrasing things, but I believe it is the truth nonetheless.

I would venture to say that any religion that sends out missionaries with the intent to create converts (my own included) must believe that there is something wrong with the religions they are witnessing to. By definition, that might be considered “judging” based on their beliefs and opinions, but is it necessarily wrong to do so? Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

If, by “judging” or “accusing” a church, I bring to light the truth and save a soul from destruction, I would rejoice more than if I had kept quiet and allowed for peace. However, I am doing it wrong if I lead you to believe that I am judging unfairly and without good intent, and if that is how it appeared, I apologize.

Also, regarding the homophobia issue, I believe that homosexuality is a sin, just like lying or stealing. To not love someone because of that would be hypocritical; to condone the sin would be wrong.

Since I’m a bit angry, I’ll give you some generalizations about Evangelicals then:

(Once again, my intent was not to stir up anger, as I believe it tends to be unproductive, so I apologize for doing so.)
They’re racist, and homophobic, much like the Westboro Baptist Church.

They’re judgmental.
They hate anyone not like themselves.
They look down on anyone who won’t go to “Heaven” just like them.
They’re ignorant and hateful, like Michelle Bachmann, who is an Evangelical.

And since she already acknowledged that these are generalizations and, for the most part, aren’t true, I’ll just respond with a quote from the camp director I served under at Worldview Academy, Brandon Booth: “I’m a Christian because I’m a hypocrite. If I wasn’t a hypocrite, I wouldn’t need God.” Christians are not perfect, nor have they ever claimed to be. All of the things listed here are wrong; however, as a Christian I know all of these things could easily be part of who I am and I am more grateful to Christ because He loves me unconditionally despite all these things.

And it’s a bit ironic that you’re quoting the Bible, considering that Mormons absolutely and one hundred percent believe that it is the word of God.

Joseph Smith disagreed with you in the Eighth Article of Faith, when he wrote, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God” (emphasis mine). Now, I have to agree with this. However, Joseph Smith believed that the Bible suffered some major errors in the original Hebrew and Greek, and that the Book of Mormon was more correct than the Bible. He even went as far as to make his own translation to correct these mistakes. So I don’t think that a church doctrine-adhering Mormon would believe it is fully the word of God.

Rumors and ignorant remarks such as that are not “out of love.” They’re out of hate. Maybe you should not only open your ears but open your mind. I’m not asking you to convert. I’m asking that you listen.

Cynthia, I hope you feel that I have listened to you and that I am genuinely not trying to spread rumors or hatred – simply the truth. If not, than I have not acted as a Christian should.

In Christ,

Carissa


So two LDS sister missionaries walked into my house…

It would be so legit if they had any idea whose house they were actually in. You know, one of those anti-Mormon houses filled with witchcraft symbols and burning Book of Mormons strewn throughout the living room. (More like tennis balls and laundry… you get the picture.) But they don’t have a clue, which creates a beautiful opportunity.

When the two missionaries rang our doorbell, I was home with my sister Janelle, so we invited the two college-aged girls inside and gave them glasses of water, then our dogs got their luscious golden fur all over their pretty skirts. We spoke a little bit about Mormonism – after they invited us to a Polynesian fireside choir event, they gave us their testimony and how the Book of Mormon has changed their lives and the lives of so many others, and I told them how the Bible has changed my life and so many others… Nothing deep and intellectual, just our individual rehearsed spiels.

But after a little bit of small talk, we established that they’re going to come by and talk with us at length tomorrow evening! If I could explain my excitement… it would be gushing all over this page. The opportunity to speak truth into the lives of these incredible people doesn’t often just fall into my lap this easily, but man, I love it when it does! Such a God thing… like you have no idea. His hand is evident in every moment that Janelle and I spent talking to these girls.

I would really appreciate your prayer for this meeting – I was so compelled by compassion and Christlike love for them as I was talking to them. I can tell that they are both passionate and intelligent, but they are so hopelessly lost and it broke my heart simply to talk to them. My heart was simply overflowing with a desire to tell them how beautiful grace is. They need it ever so desperately!

Please pray for boldness, because I know that this is one of the situations in life where the most loving thing in the world that I can do for them is to tell them the truth, if only to get them studying deeper in the true Word of God. But also, pray that I’m constantly reminded that nothing I can do or say will change their minds; the Holy Spirit is the one who is going to work in their hearts and I need to trust Him fully. When engaged in this kind of conversation, it is so easy to fall into the trap of either letting them go on and on without explaining to them what the Biblical truth is, or scaring them away with intimidating debate. All I really need, however, is the words of the Holy Spirit to be my words. This is something I struggle with so often. The control freak in me wants to take the reins from God, get out there, and conquer the world for Jesus all by myself. But in reality, what am I? I am a broken vessel who needs Him just as much as the people I’m talking to. Please pray that no matter how hard it is, I’m reminded that constantly tomorrow as Janelle and I pray and prepare and as we’re talking to them.

That’s all I have to say. All of this simply goes to say, please pray for us tomorrow. For all the male missionaries I’ve talked with, I’ve never gotten the chance to talk to female missionaries before, but I’m very excited to get do so… as long as the Holy Spirit guides my words.