Tag Archives: reflections

What I learned from two Mormons

"Elder" by Brian

While I was pulling some weeds in our front yard, a voice piped up:

“Hi there, can I help you with anything?”

I looked up, startled by two men in suits.

“We’re missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

And that was the start of my 2-month journey of sharing the gospel with, and learning from, two Mormon missionaries from Utah.

Here are some things I learned from interacting with Elders Burdick and Muhlestein:

  • In New Zealand, the LDS have between 200 and 250 full-time missionaries spreading Mormonism from door-to-door to anyone that will listen.
  • These missionaries are usually young adults aged between 18 and 25. In our case, one was 20 and the other was 21.  They basically work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for two years, and must fund their own mission.
  • They have a lot of rules that they must obey to gain the “highest level of heaven”, and so they are burdened by rules and regulations. For example, while on mission, they have to stay with their companion 24/7, are banned from TV, radio, movies, books, magazines, newspapers and computers except for LDS-related stuff. I really felt sorry for the weight of the Law they were under.

Missionary's Shrink By Arie Van De Graaff

Initially, these missionaries were really open to reading the Bible (they use the KJV), so we did just that and I was able to explain the gospel when we hit passages such as Eph 2:1-10, 1 Cor 15 and others like it. What a golden opportunity presented when the people you are reaching out to already have Bibles in their hands!

We were able to discuss in detail what the Bible taught about Jesus and what his good news was. I found that you had to ask them to explain what they meant with each term they used, because although Mormons use the same language as Christians, they have a different (and false) definition to each term. This includes the words gospel, grace, salvation, heaven, saved, God, priesthood, atonement and so on. If we assumed the meaning to these words it would sound like we were agreeing to the same things (e.g. “We are saved by Jesus Christ’s atonement”), but meaning very different things!

So it took more questions and more time, but we talked through each term and how the Bible defines them vs. how the Mormon scriptures do. To counter their low view of the authority of the Bible (it’s helpful to them only as far as they deem it to be correctly translated) I wanted them to see that the Bible could provide all they needed to know (2 Tim 3:15-16). Each week I tried to leave them with the fact that the Bible taught things very differently to their other scriptures, and why it was important to understand and believe that.

I also realised that actually, we should explain Bible terms and concepts to anyone we talk to about Jesus, instead of assuming terms. For example, explaining the term Son of God — with its adoptive and inheritance-filled meaning of sonship — would be crucial for Muslims who confuse it with a biological meaning. Similarly, explaining the term gospel is really important for those who confuse it with a musical genre, or have different connotations to it.

Book of Mormon

After about 8-10 evenings of opening the Bible together, eventually I got a letter from the Mormons (no emails allowed!) saying that “we should turn our discussions’ focus more toward the Book of Mormon than we have” – and then they eventually stopped meeting us altogether.

Nevertheless, my hope is that God used the time we spent in the Word to put an unshakable stone in their shoes. Perhaps one day back in Utah, they’ll remember hearing about a gospel message that offered them true hope and security for eternal life, and turn to that instead of the Mormonism they grew up with.

Along the way, I found it really helpful to put into practice several helpful suggestions from a former LDS, John Divito. I think these points would be just as applicable when reaching out to anyone who  to any person you would like to reach out to:

  • love your Muslim/Jewish/Catholic/atheist/agnostic/hedonist neighbour – I initially felt really awkward even considering having Mormons in my house, and thought of them in stereotypes and pop musical-related characterisations. I had to repent of that and extend love to Elders Burdick and Muhlestein in order to share the gospel with them.
  • recognise their need for Christ – As I spent time with these two, it became really apparent that they needed real assurance, and I pleaded with them to accept that the gospel was not about “doing” but was about what Christ had already “done”. So many of us have this same misunderstanding ourselves!
  • study their worldview/faith/culture – I found it helpful to read (discerningly) certain LDS-related materials to understand their unique culture and where their false teachings originate (e.g. Articles of Faith, Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, Ensign – all freely available online). If you were to reach out to anyone, it’s certainly wise to understand their culture and worldview.
  • treat them individually – Yet with the abundance of resources online, it was very easy to start critiquing and debating Elders Burdick and Muhlestein based on what the websites said Mormons believed, rather than asking them what they individually believed, then responding in light of the truth from God’s Word. I had to correct myself several times when I would assume they believed something erroneous when it turned out they didn’t.
  • pray for their salvation and have confidence in Jesus – I love these points by John Divito:

“While we may be tempted to trust in our own abilities when evangelizing a Mormon, we must trust in God to give faith to those who hear the gospel. This critical truth must never be overlooked.”

“The salvation of Mormons is no more difficult for God than that of any other unbeliever. We should faithfully proclaim the gospel to Mormons, trusting in Christ to draw them to himself. Let us rest in his strength to save Mormons for his glory!”

If you can, please join me in praying for Elders Burdick and Muhlestein to know and rest in Christ alone for eternal life!


More thoughts: http://solapanel.org/article/what_i_learned_from_the_mormons/


A high view of God in evangelism

(Syndicated from Cheryl's deviantart journal)
Our church | STAND for the Gospel 2010


At STAND conference 2010 the keynote speaker was Conrad Mbewe, a reformed pastor from Zambia nicknamed "the African Spurgeon." The sermons for the whole conference are available here and are free to download. These are the notes that I personally took from Session 3 - it may not accurately represent Conrad's original sermon.

STAND 2010 Session 3: A high view of God in evangelism

Conrad starts with

1. Some wrong motivations for evangelism:

  • Is our motivation numerical? If your primary motivation for evangelism is to bulk up church numbers, without checking for true repentance, you'll fill up the church with the spiritually dead.
  • Is our motivation to depopulate hell?
  • Claim evangelism effectiveness?

No. The only true motivation for evangelism is: the glory of God. Anything less than that is idolatry.

2. A true motivation: the glory of God

  • In the coming ages, God will have His boast in sinners turned into saints. It is transformed lives that evidence His power and glory, not numbers.
  • What kept Jesus going in the garden of Gethsemane? He looked beyond His own death to see multiplied thousands upon thousands of souls.
  • The work of evangelism and missions is not easy. It may mean many years of barrenness and/or persecution. If your motivations are not right, it may mean repeated deaths of our inner self (leading to depression, discouragement). UNLESS: God gives you an appreciation that your work, however fruitless, is for His glory.

3. An example from the modern age - particularly convicting for dA I felt!

  • In the modern church we seem to forget the highness of God in evangelism and outreach. Evangelism becomes us-centred, statistically-minded, calculative.
  • The great Shepherd seeks the sheep. But self-centred modern churches seem to think that since sheep have 4 legs, any other 4-legged creatures are close enough - goats! camels! Come right into the fold!
  • On the other hand, there is also a tendency, particularly in America, to identify ourselves according to a very narrow denominational definition: "Hi, I'm Calvinistic, pre-millenial, dispensational, ... " (etc). This then extends to evangelism. Pity you if you think of church planting in denominational terms!!
  • Everywhere there is worship of anything other than God: music/film stars, causes and activism, expensive "toys." Is the church blind? Shouldn't it grieve us that souls are spending their precious lives on nothing - dust! - that which is here today and gone tomorrow?

4. So what to do?

  • We need gospel-saturated churches, challenging darkness not with our wits or clever ways but Christ's gospel.
  • Must be clear about the highness of God in evangelism.
  • So what are our motivations?
    • Father, glorify Yourself that You might be known.
    • I know where history is going, and I want to put my building block to the edifice of the church of Jesus.
    • To make my life to Your immortal glory!! Even if it is to be a carpet on which souls wipe their feet as they enter the kingdom.


STAND conference is "Stand for the Gospel." The one thing Christians can unite on is the gospel; the one thing Christians can claim any righteousness is the gospel; for the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16). That is that:

  1. We are all sinners and thus necessarily punishable by a holy and just God.
  2. God sent Jesus, a perfectly righteous Man, to suffer the punishment for sin on our behalf.
  3. Through faith in Christ's atonement and responding in repentance, we can wear the perfect righteousness of Jesus as a free gift of grace, and thus be reconciled to a holy God.


Reflections on leading worship at STAND2010

In my previous post I put up the music set list for STAND 2010, a bible conference we hosted at HBC. This was the first time I had been tasked with organising all the music for an event of this size. I’m certain that God really used it as an opportunity to teach all our musicians, sound and media crew on how to use our gifts to better serve the church.

For what it’s worth, here’s some of the things I learned, put into practice, or noticed this year.

1. We can stand firm on solid, Christ-centered singing. I enjoyed choosing and singing songs that proclaimed the gospel with clarity, and was easy to sing. This meant anything from a rocked up arrangement of “Crown Him With Many Crowns”, to a take on Sovereign Grace’s “Let Your Kingdom Come” complete with brass chorus, to a pared back version of the Getty’s “Behold the Lamb” with violins and a piano.

2. We can stand together with a love of Christ-exalting music, no matter what our church background. From the early days of planning the teams, we had the opportunity to pull in gifted musicians from other churches. With early planning and sufficient practice we benefited and learnt from these musicians and the strengths they brought to the team. It’s also a practical way of demonstrating our unity in the gospel – for example, when three of us, from three different churches, joined together to lead “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” on the close of Saturday night. It was a powerful moment.

3. Hymns aren’t so bad. Some of the most powerful times of worship was when the music was pared down to just a couple of voices leading the congregation in some classic hymns of the faith. On Saturday morning, we used a mens quartet and an organ to supply the hymns we sang with rich, four-part harmony – something not common in many churches today. The only complaint we had was from people that wanted to hear us sing on our own next time!

4. Committed sound crew are integral to the musicians leading well. On the first night, we had a few problems with balancing the sound for the praise band. To their credit the sound crew (led by Jared Ambrose and Craig Starrenburg) worked hard to balance the sounds from the atypically large team and did a great job in fixing the balance problems. This meant that Saturday night’s music was wholly focused on the singing and the words, and the instruments added colour but didn’t “steal the show” as much.

5. No one worship style is sovereign over our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the whole weekend we deliberately chose a variety of music styles. It’s no problem to have personal preferences – I have my own too! But if we’re uniting on the gospel of first importance (1 Cor 15), then deferring to our brothers and sisters on secondary issues like musical preferences becomes easier. It was heartening to see (and hear) conference attendees sing through a range of Christ-centred songs, whatever the style. No one style can fully capture God’s majesty and glory, and I for one am looking forward to hearing what musical genre our refrains of “Holy Holy Holy” will be in Heaven….

As always the more you do something, the more you’ll learn: that’s certainly true when it comes to leading worship. By God’s grace He’ll continue to refine our ministry and work, so it better glorifies Him – and I’m grateful for that!