Way back in 1981, Pastor Mark Cares was called to serve a small church in Nampa, Idaho called Messiah. It didn’t take long to learn that the church was located deep in Mormon country.
As Pastor Cares and the members of Messiah reached out to their Mormon neighbors, it soon became apparent that popular strategies to witness to Mormons lacked effectiveness and genuine impact. Time, research and experimentation would be necessary to, in the words of Pastor Cares, “crack this nut.”
In 1988 the Lord opened an exciting door of opportunity. Another ministry offered to fund the cost of a second pastor at Messiah for a three-year window of time, allowing Pastor Cares to focus on Mormon outreach strategy.
During the next three years, Pastor Cares conduced exhaustive research. He read all the books and studied the efforts of other Christian groups focused on witnessing to Mormons. He found these inadequate for a number of reasons.
· The methods employed were based on argumentation.
· There was little or no understanding of Mormon culture in the witnessing strategies.
As Pastor Cares tells the story, he committed to trying at least 100 different ways to witness to Mormons. He’s confident he tried at least 70. The first couple dozen, he quips, were all flops.
In the midst of all this, Pastor Cares vividly recalls an encounter on a flight from Salt Lake City to Boise. He was reading Mormon materials when a man sitting next to him remarked, “Oh—You’re a member of “The Church.””
Pastor Cares knew immediately what he meant.
“No,” he answered. “I’m not a member of the Mormon Church. I’m a Christian.”
You already know what the man asked next. “So…Do you think Mormons are Christian?”
Pastor Cares had learned the pitfalls of debating terminology. He explained that “Christian” meant something different to a Mormon than it did to him.
The man responded with the next logical question. “So…What is your definition of Christian?”
Without thinking too deeply, Pastor Cares pondered and responded, “A Christian is someone who is PERFECT!”
That was it. A watershed moment. Pastor Cares smiles when he reflects on the incident. “Most Mormons looked for an escape when I witnessed to them. They wanted to run away!”
But this time was different. The man wanted to talk. He had more questions. He wanted to know how someone could claim to be perfect. He even followed Pastor Cares down to the baggage claim where they spoke some more and exchanged business cards.
Later that evening, Pastor Cares knew he was on to something. When you get past debating terminology and address Mormon stress points like worthiness and perfection—suddenly the door is open for a loving witness. Now people want to talk. Now you can get to Christ.
The approach Pastor Cares developed eventually became the book published in 1993 titled Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons.
Pastor Cares reflects, surprisingly, that this was a time of discouragement. The book was published. The project was wrapping up. But had he “cracked the nut?” Would people understand his approach and put it to practice? It didn’t take long to find the answer.
Various endorsements helped to generate greater interest in Pastor Cares’ book. These included Sandra Tanner, a high-profile Ex-Mormon in Salt Lake City. The most pivotal endorsement came in the fall of 1994 when the Christian Research Journal gave the book a positive review and named it one of the most influential Christian books of the year. The book was also routinely recommended by Hank Hanegraaff on “The Bible Answer Man” radio program.
During the years that followed, exposure and momentum for Pastor Cares’ book and training increased dramatically. In fall of 2004, Messiah’s leadership decided to make the Mormon ministry a separate non-profit organization. Thus, in 2005, Truth in Love Ministry was born.
Since that time, and with the leadership and influence of a number of key board members and ministry partners, Truth and Love Ministry has developed several strategic initiatives. These plans allowed Truth in Love Ministry to implement the distinctive approach developed by Pastor Cares in a variety of communities and formats.
In 2009, Truth in Love began focus on the following vision: By 2013, Truth in Love Ministry will invite one million Mormons to hear the Gospel. This new vision allowed Truth in Love to test the concept of media campaigns in densely Mormon populated communities. The climax of this vision was a full-blown media campaign in Salt Lake City, Utah. This vision included the testing of a variety of web site witnessing strategies. It also led to the door-to-door witnessing strategy in practice today.
Following the successful completion of the 2013 vision, Pastor Cares cultivated another groundbreaking ministry strategy called “Please Open the Door.” Through this program, Pastor Cares has provided “step by step” coaching to over 100 couples and individuals in eleven different countries in order to witness to Mormon missionaries.
All of which led to our most recent vision: Match the Mormon Mission Force 1 for 1 by training 80,000 Christians to share Christ with Mormons.
Along side this new vision, Truth in Love Ministry remains committed to developing spiritual growth materials for Mormons who are interested in learning about Christianity. Pastor Cares’ new book, God—The Ultimate Humanitarian—is one such example.
Pastor Cares is humbled when he thinks about this journey. During the past 35 years, he’s talked to literally thousands of Mormons, hundreds of Christians who used to be Mormon, and even hundreds more Mormons who used to be Christian.
Through all of those conversations, his passion remains and continues. With a heart for people held victim to Mormonism—to speak the truth in love and witness Christ. That, he knows with confidence, will crack the nut.