Proclaiming the message of Christ in South Africa
[Note: Since the Please Open the Door initiative first began in September, Christians from fifteen states and five countries have been coached by Truth in Love Ministry and used our approach to share God’s Word with Mormon missionaries. The following story is from a young lady who lives in South Africa. According to the most recent statistical report from the LDS Church, there are about 60,000 Mormons in South Africa consisting of 152 congregations, three missions, and one temple in Johannesburg.]
My name is Precious Pono. I am a mixed race South African (Srilankan and Xhosa). I grew up in a small town called Whittlesea with a Christian upbringing though I did not know Christ personally. I decided to attend Grahamstown Rhodes University to pursue a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. Little did I know that God actually brought me there for a plan far bigger than I could imagine.
In my second year in school, I gave my life to Christ and my new life in him started to unfold, blessing after blessing. The biggest blessing was to serve the Lord in the various areas He was calling me to. One area that has been the most exciting and also uplifting for my faith has been my involvement with Truth in Love Ministry and witnessing to Mormon missionaries.
I got involved with Please Open the Door when a friend of mine was considering leaving our church and joining the LDS Church since her boyfriend she was intending to get married was Mormon. She invited me for one of the lessons the Mormon missionaries were giving her. At the time, I knew nothing about the LDS church. I remember my mom calling them a cult, but I always thought she was superstitious. As the missionaries were giving the lesson on their plan of salvation, I found most of what they taught confusing and contrary to what I already knew about salvation. It sounded like they were saying we have to contribute towards our salvation and I had believed it was a free gift that I could not possibly earn even if I tried. I voiced my opinions and pointed them to a few scriptures, but decided to not meet with them again. I prayed hard for my friend that she may see the light and by his grace she did.
About a month later I was reading a book titled “Out of Mormonism” that my friend had found at our church library. It was written by a lady who was an ex-Mormon and she was sharing her experience as a LDS member. As I was reading that book, my heart broke and I started to intercede for the missionaries I had met with my friend. Scripture after scripture God was clearly showing me that those kids were lost and they needed someone to share the gospel to them. I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t know how. I searched on the internet for approaches and they all seemed harsh, so I typed in my search engine “sharing the gospel to Mormons with love.” A link to Truth in Love Ministry popped up and I sent an email to the ministry asking for help.
It has been an honor and a privilege to receive coaching from Pastor Mark Cares. He would diligently answer all my questions and was very dedicated to our Skype sessions which I thoroughly enjoyed. Everything he taught me was useful as I witnessed to seven different missionaries throughout the year.
Coming across Truth in Love Ministry and the Please Open the Door initiative was very exciting. I could not believe there were other Christians in the world who were concerned about our lost LDS brothers and sisters. In South Africa, people either don’t know about them, don’t care about them, or generally stay away from them. I think this is a great ministry and I am planning to get a few more of my friends and members of my church involved in reaching out to the LDS.
People would ask me why I hang out with LDS missionaries so much and wonder what I was doing. They would say that I am wasting my time. I explained about Truth in Love Ministry and all the other people in the world who are involved in this ministry. I am sharing with fellow Christians in my own community about what we’ve been doing and get all the willing people involved. I appreciate all the materials Truth in Love Ministry has prepared and the discussion forums on pleaseopenthedoor.com are pretty insightful too. It’s good to have other people who care about the same things I do.
It’s scary to put your faith out there especially to people who are most likely going to try and convert you. But knowing our Heavenly Father wants us to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and trusting the Holy Spirit guides us every step of the way, has been more than comforting. In all honesty, it is he who does the work. We are just vessels offering ourselves to be used by him. I encourage every Christian to always be ready to share about the hope we have in Christ so that our feet that spread good news may be blessed.
Visit www.pleaseopenthedoor.com to find out more on how to share God’s Word with Mormon missionaries.
Sharing God’s Word with Mormon Missionaries: A pastor’s perspective
I was just putting dinner on the table when the doorbell rang. Sunday evenings are not the usual time for salespeople. The nametags and nice dresses gave them away. They were female Mormon missionaries. Immediately my heart started racing. After explaining we were about to eat dinner, we agreed on a better time to meet later in the week. The following Saturday my wife and I were ready to greet the missionaries at our door.
Opening the door is the first step, but it feels like the scariest. That is why the Please Open the Door initiative from Truth in Love Ministry is very helpful. They begin by offering reminders from God’s Word that you don’t have to be afraid. Opening the door and showing love by providing water and snacks are easy steps to take to begin speaking the truth in love. Fear and worry largely come from not knowing what they will say or ask. But most Mormon missionaries follow pretty much the same script, so Truth in Love Ministry has built their plan based on their script. Their plan allows for knowing when to inject the topics of faith, salvation, the law, and the gospel into the conversation. This helps produce confidence in knowing how to share God’s Word with Mormons.
My wife and I shared God’s Word of truth with the two sister missionaries. First, we listened closely. Mormons change the definition of Christian words so they tend to look like they are agreeing with us. Part of the Truth in Love Ministry approach is to get past this apparent agreement and concentrate on letting them explain what they mean by certain words. We then took the opportunity to explain what the Bible teaches and why the two understandings are different. This is challenging, but very important.
The same Mormon sister missionaries continued to come to our house for four weeks and we kept opening the door. The conversations were pleasant and respectful. Both my wife and I grew to care for them very much. We saw their need even if they didn’t. After listening the first few weeks, as suggested by the Truth in Love approach, we started taking a bit more control of the conversations. We began to share Bible passages that said God demanded perfection and that we couldn’t achieve that alone. We told them that because of Christ we were already perfect in God’s eyes. We shared how this was all free, that God paid the price by sending Jesus to the cross. We silently prayed that the Word would crash through their work-righteous thinking. Maybe later questions or doubts would rise regarding the crushing burden of work-righteousness in Mormonism.
Eventually our meetings came to an end. God brought these two sisters to our door. They needed to hear God’s demands for perfection. They also needed to hear how we could say we were already perfect in Christ.
The Mormon sisters were not baptized in our kitchen, but I wouldn’t say the visits were a failure. In fact, quite the opposite. We showed love and shared God’s truth. I can do nothing to make the message of God’s Word work. Not slick talk, perfect examples, or great reasoning. What I could do was bring the Word of God to their hearts. I could use the Truth in Love Ministry approach to find places to speak God’s law and gospel, while being respectful of their beliefs. Knowing God’s promises for all Christians who share God’s Word, plus receiving encouragement and instruction from Truth in Love Ministry, I could open the door.
By Rev. Craig Born
Pastor, Gethsemane Lutheran Church (WELS), Oklahoma City, OK
Visit www.pleaseopenthedoor.com to find out more on how to share God’s Word with Mormon missionaries.
The Most Precious Blessing
When inviting Mormon missionaries into your home for the first time, you don’t really know what to expect.
My wife, Amanda, and I invited missionaries to our home as part of the Please Open the Door initiative with Truth in Love Ministry and the LDS Church sent us two sister missionaries. Our Truth in Love Ministry coach provided a constant reminder that the only goal we needed to accomplish was to bear witness to Christ and the work of salvation that he has already completed as our substitute. What we didn’t realize is what bearing this witness would accomplish in us.
The sister missionaries have been visiting weekly for over two months now and our lives have been dramatically affected. The visits are dominating our schedules. We meet with our coach, we meet with the sisters, we write a journal, we study, we study some more, and then the process repeats the following week. It is exhausting! I’m ashamed to say that if we would have known the amount of effort and time that would go into this, I’m not sure we would have done it; after all we have two young sons, I work full-time, my wife is a part-time RN, and we home school, so our time is very precious to us. Thankfully, we didn’t know how much time it would take going in. As a result, God has used the experience to teach us a valuable lesson: the most precious blessing we have ever been given is His Word.
Quite frankly, His Word was a blessing that we had been failing to appreciate. With schedules as busy as ours, it’s easy to fall into the temptation of giving God the scraps of time you have leftover (if there even are any). We had nightly devotions with our boys, but serious Scripture searching was not a normal activity for us.
Within the course of our visits with the sisters we’ve taken part in many fascinating conversations and they’ve asked us some difficult questions. All of the conversations and all of the questions have directed us back to the truth of God’s Word. Through this we’ve gained an intense yearning to go back to the source to learn more about the wonderful story of God’s love that is laid out beautifully within the pages of Scripture. And the more we continue to read and study, the more we marvel at that love and the more we appreciate the blessing of His Word. God knows that. It is why the Great Commission that Christ gave in Matthew 28:19-20 was not, “Go read the Bible.” No, he commanded us “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (ESV) God knew that the best way to keep his children in the Word was to give us the responsibility of sharing it with others. So please, go and share the Good News with others. You won’t regret it. I know we haven’t.
Throughout our ministry to the sisters our Truth in Love Ministry coach has provided encouragement, guidance, materials to aid us, and prayers. We are truly grateful for the blessing that Truth in Love Ministry has been to us. Their support has been invaluable. More importantly, this ministry has centered us back on God’s Word and has brought it (possibly for the first time) to the ears of these two sister missionaries. Please pray with us that the Holy Spirit will progress that message from their ears and plant it deep inside their hearts.
By Jon Walker, Dallas, TX
Member, Our Savior in Arlington, TX
If you’d have asked me five years ago whether or not I would be regularly meeting and sharing the gospel with Mormon missionaries I would have laughed at the idea. And yet, by the grace of God, I now not only have regular meetings with the missionaries, I find myself seeking other opportunities to be with them as well!
And even though my interest in Mormonism began as the result of losing a friend into the sad and burdensome legalistic doctrine of the LDS Church, God used that difficult experience to show me the fundamental differences between the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ and the gospel that Mormonism espouses. I’d grown up going to church every Sunday, and yet I truly never knew the gospel until it was contrasted with Mormonism. God literally used Mormon doctrine to teach me the gospel of grace! And once I learned all that Christ did to secure my salvation and reconciliation with God, I gave my life to Him completely.
Then in God’s infinite wisdom, He took my newly transformed heart and placed within it a deep love for the Mormon people. Since you are reading this, God has probably done the same for you. I won’t lie to you; I am scared every time I have an interaction with a missionary or a member of the LDS Church. They seem so confident and assured; so nice and focused on God. And yet, as I have spent time with them, I have found them to be scared, lonely and mostly unaware of what Mormonism teaches. They may love God, but they have little or no understanding of how infinitely He loves them. These young men and women are miles from home, interacting with strangers who are usually less than welcoming, and without any regular source of love or emotional support. And even though they don’t always seem to be, they are hungry for people to listen to their problems, empathize with their situation and offer them a good meal. As a mother, I find myself filled with compassion for these young people. I long to offer them love and kindness and to help them to know the truth about all that God offers us through Christ.
It’s difficult to believe that offering these young people a warm meal and an honest conversation can make a difference after the countless hours they’ve spent being indoctrinated into Mormonism. But as Christians filled with God’s love for us, we have a chance to love them fully and honestly. As one of our young friends said when he left to return home a few weeks ago, “I never considered the idea that there aren’t any limits to how big we can love one another.” The fact that we were able to love him without any hope of reciprocation was unfathomable to him. It also opened the door for us to have difficult discussions about the differences between the gospel of Mormonism and the gospel of grace.
So while loving these young people is the easy part for me, I find it more difficult to present the idea the concerns I have about the lies they believe about God and what their beliefs mean for their eternal position with Him. When I began having these conversations I tried to arm myself by knowing everything about Mormonism. But inevitably I would get caught up in a discussion about some LDS doctrine I didn’t understand, and our conversation would grind to a halt. As I have matured and trusted God more and more, I have found that the best preparation for our discussions has been for me to learn more about God and the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ. While it is helpful to know something about Mormon doctrine, it is far better to be well prepared with God’s word instead. By keeping my focus on all God offers me through Christ I am able to clearly see the contrasts between our beliefs and ask better questions as well.
So if you are feeling led to interact with your local missionaries, I would encourage you to give it a try. Remembering that God uses all things for good helps me to have faith that even the seemingly most unproductive conversations with my LDS friends and acquaintances have the potential to help them to come closer to our loving God. I am a prideful and a sometimes thoughtless person, and yet I have seen the hearts of missionaries softened and readied for God’s deep grace. So if God can use a wretch like me, He can surely use you as well!
I was daunted at the thought of inviting LDS missionaries over to talk with them. Thousands of questions flew around in my mind, but they always revolved around this one question—what am I going to say? I had conversed with LDS members before and didn’t know what to say. How will this be any different? That was two months ago. Today, the words on my lips are, “God is great.” He has blessed me in many ways. I don’t always have the right words to say or say them in the most eloquent ways, but God comforts me in the fact that he uses clay jars, just like me, to proclaim his saving message.
The first thing Pastor Cares told me to do was get a friend to come along so we would be a team talking to the missionaries. What great advice! Matt has been an awesome partner. It relieves the pressure of always having to be the one talking or asking questions. Matt also has a completely different way of approaching topics or ideas so it adds a fantastic dynamic that I would not be able to add myself. I love talking to him about our discussions, sharing our ups and downs. We grow together as we learn how evangelize LDS missionaries.
We talk to Pastor Cares before almost every meeting we have with the missionaries. I love this. He is our coach. He knows the plays. He knows how people have done it in the past. He knows what strategies to use. More than that, he is an eager encourager with great passion for the ministry to the LDS. How wonderful to talk and be encouraged like this before every meeting.
One of the greatest challenges of talking and sharing faith with the LDS is that you really have to know your Bible. Many times, I have had to relearn the precious simple truths of salvation, searching the Scriptures, gathering passages and support material. My faith has blossomed in the process. Meeting the LDS drives you into God’s Word and there is no better place to be.
Not only have I learned more doctrine and have grown in my faith, I have learned to articulate it better. When you talk to the LDS, terminology is paramount. Many of the doctrines and themes the LDS use are convoluted and so you have to learn how to lovingly and patiently explain, illustrate, and proclaim the truths you rest upon. It’s hard at first. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always revisit topics during the next visit. The important thing is to kindly persevere in your proclamation of the true Gospel.
Most importantly, you get to share the true Gospel with people who really need it. Matt and I have visited with our pair of missionaries six times. We are now friends. We have discussed many deep and important topics with them. We have also laughed and joked around before and after talks. These missionaries are now our friends which is all the more reason to share the gospel. God loved them before we did and we want them to know the true extent of God’s love for them.