Kirk Cameron: The Gospel Truth
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And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (NKJV).
This command of Jesus, as written in, states that believers should be actively witnessing to non-believers. Yet many Christians don't know the first thing about sharing their faith.
According to actor, husband, father of six, and evangelist Kirk Cameron, it doesn't take being a Bible scholar or a student of apologetics to present the Gospel message to today's culture with amazing results. And it doesn't mean you have to water down the original biblical message to make it more contemporary and palatable, as some churches today have erroneously done.
All you have to follow is a four-step process, or what Kirk Cameron and his partner in evangelism, Ray Comfort, call 'The Way of the Master.' Just remember the four-letter acronym WDJD, which stands for What Did Jesus Do? Oh, and by the way, that same passage from Mark 16 is this evangelism duo's motto.
How did this star who went from teenage heartthrob as Mike Seaver on the hit '80s sit-com Growing Pains to Buck Williams in the End times movie series Left Behind become an evangelist -- and on TV, no less? That, along with this exciting way of reaching out to non-Christians everywhere in a biblical and non-threatening manner was exactly what I wanted to find out.
I was scheduled to talk to Kirk face-to-face in February 2004 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was scheduled to host the National Religious Broadcasters media awards, but Kirk got called to film another Growing Pains movie and had to cancel.
When I met up with him by phone at the end of March last year, Kirk said he had been busy dealing with questions about Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ. As he put it, "Everybody has been scrambling around trying to find Christians in Hollywood." Plus, he says he has been what he called 'a sounding board' for MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and was scheduled to give his views on The Passion of The Christ later that night.
It was only natural for me to begin our interview asking about his thoughts on the film...
What did you think of The Passion of the Christ?
KIRK CAMERON: I thought it was powerful. I went to the theater by myself on purpose with a box of tissues, knowing that it would be rough to watch. And it sure was. It made me want to stand up inside the theater at the end of the movie and say, 'Does everyone understand why this man died on the Cross and what you have to do with that?' because it certainly shows Christ on the Cross, and I thought he did such an incredible job, but people need to personalize that and understand that ultimately they are the ones in need of a Savior. The movie doesn't go into a Gospel presentation; it is just sort of a documentary of what happened. But I loved it. I thought it was great.
Speaking of not always knowing why you need a Savior, when you were a teenager, things were going pretty well. You probably didn't know at that point you needed a Savior, being on Growing Pains and having money and being famous. Could you talk about how you got converted to Christ?
KIRK CAMERON: You are right. I really wasn't looking for something better than money or better than popularity. I didn't have a God-shaped hole in my heart that I was trying to stuff with all kinds of things. I had everything that I wanted. Really, it was ultimately when somebody encouraged me to look at my own conscience and helped me to understand that a God who is holy and good, if He were to look in the dark corners of my heart, which He does, and if all my sin came out as evidence of my guilt, on the day I stood before Him I would be absolutely guilty. I wouldn't be able to bribe my way out of a courtroom. I wouldn't be able to buy my way with all my money and celebrity. I would ultimately have to give an answer for the life that I have lived. I could see that it was God's forgiveness and His mercy that I needed, and that was provided through Christ on the Cross for those who will receive Him as Lord and Savior. That is how I came to Christ.
Pretty amazing. You know it is interesting to me that so many people in America don't understand what they are being saved from, so I appreciate The Way of the Master program that you and Ray Comfort are doing. How did you meet up with Ray? How did this happen? This whole evangelizing through TV is kind of interesting.
KIRK CAMERON: I heard a message that Ray Comfort had given and has given for years called 'Hell's Best Kept Secret' and I was so inspired by it and shook up over it that we got together, we became fast friends, shared a concern for the lost, and began ministering together. We have published this book called The Way of the Master, and it is just 25 years of ministry efforts combined into one book, along with personal witnessing stories from me using the methods that we teach in the book that Jesus used. We started a television program so that we could not only talk to Christians, teaching them how to share their faith, but then go on the streets and then demonstrate it. If you go on the Web site, you can watch three episodes online and watch as I share the gospel with gang members, Jews, Mormons, atheist cult members, everyday people on airlines and taxicabs, college campuses, everywhere. You get to watch like a fly in the wall as we do this.
Some Christians are going to say, 'Yeah, yeah, that is you. You are famous. But me, I can't do that kind of stuff. I don't know the first thing about evangelizing.' Some folks don't even know what that means. How do you begin?
KIRK CAMERON: What I would say is Jesus came to save lost sinners like you and me, and if Jesus Christ has a burning desire to seek and save the lost, then you should, too, if Christ is living within you. If you don't have a concern for the lost, then I am concerned about your salvation because the Holy Spirit wants the lost to come to Christ. So what I am saying is that first of all, it is your responsibility. Jesus commanded all Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. If you are simply afraid and feel that you are not sure how to do it, that is understandable. Many people have never been taught, and that is what The Way of the Master book will teach you. It will put tools into your hands to give you confidence, help you overcome your fears, and do what Jesus did. You will find non-Christians thanking you for taking the time to explain the Gospel in a way that they can understand.
I agree, and I thought that it was very interesting the difference between 'biblical evangelism,' which is what you guys do, and 'contemporary evangelism,' which is what a lot of our churches are doing. Could you explain that difference?
KIRK CAMERON: The church as a whole has strayed quite far from biblical evangelism; that is, sharing the Gospel in the way that Jesus did, the way the Apostle Paul did, and the rest of the disciples and prophets in Scripture. Basically, think of it this way. You have two people on an airplane, and the first person is told to put on a parachute because it would improve his flight. The guy is thinking, That's a little nuts. How is that going to improve my flight? But I will give it a try. So he puts on the parachute and figures out that the thing is awkward, it is heavy, and he can't sit straight up. People start laughing at him because he has a parachute on. He decides that it is a lie. It didn't improve his flight; in fact, it made it more difficult. He rips it off his back and throws it on the floor, deciding he is never going to put one of those things on his back again. The second guy is given a parachute, but he is told to put it on because he is going to have to jump 25,000 feet out of a plane. So he puts it on. He is grateful for it, he doesn't notice that it is uncomfortable, and he doesn't care that people are laughing at him because all he can think about is how thankful he is he is going to be saved from sure death. Those are the two methods of evangelism today. Modern evangelism says, 'Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. He will improve your flight, and He will give you love, joy, peace, happiness, and fulfillment.' People try Christianity, and they figure out that people start to laugh at me, it makes my life harder. Jesus even promised you will suffer and experience persecution and trials because you are a Christian, so then they say, 'Man, I am walking away from this Christianity thing. It is not all it is cracked up to be. It makes things harder. My problems didn't go away.' Then they become one of these bitter backsliders. However, if we explain to people that they are going to have to jump through the door of death, and on the Day of Judgment, they will be found violating all of God's moral laws, and when they collide with eternal justice, they are going to perish, but if they put on the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be saved. If they come through repentance and faith, they will be found righteous on the Day of Judgment because Jesus paid the price for them on the Cross. Now they are grateful for salvation. You couldn't rip Jesus off of their back because they are clinging to Him for dear life. It is a completely different motive for putting on the Savior, who is, in essence, the parachute.
Sometimes, for those, like me, who work in the Christian bubble, we get so used to the Christianese and everybody being saved that we completely forget that we need to repent, too. We are saved by grace, but you guys talk in your book about the Ten Commandments and the Law and how important that is. Maybe you can explain that a bit better.
KIRK CAMERON: Sure. You would never try to give a cure to a patient who wasn't convinced of his disease. You try to give a very severe and intense treatment or cure to a patient who doesn't think he is sick, he is not going to appreciate it, and he is probably going to throw it away, thinking that you want his money or you have some ulterior motive. What you first do is convince the patient of his serious condition. Then he will appreciate the cure and appropriate it. What we have done with modern evangelism today is we tell people, 'Come to Jesus, and He will give you peace, love, joy, happiness, and all this kind of stuff.' Well, there are plenty of people running around who are happy living in sin. They are making a good living, they are sleeping with their girlfriend, they are having an affair, they love their booze, they love their sex. They wouldn't trade it for the world. Therefore, you try to say that Jesus will make things better for them, but they are already having a great time. They are not going to appreciate the blood of the Cross. Some people even say, 'I do have an alcohol problem, but I am still drinking, and I have even accepted Jesus as my Savior and it is not helping.' The reason is Jesus didn't die to fix your alcohol problem. He died to make you righteous on the Day of Judgment. So what we need to do is convince the sinner that he is in desperate need of forgiveness. And the way we do it is by following in Jesus' footsteps. Hold up the mirror of the Ten Commandments, God's moral standard, and let a person see with their own eyes that if they have lied, that makes them a liar, and if they have stolen, that makes them a thief, and if they have even looked with lust, that makes them an adulterer in the eyes of God. God sees their thought life. Let their conscience convict them, and the Law of God will condemn them. Then they can see that they are in desperate need of a Savior and appreciate the cure.
Amen. So you can't give grace until you say, 'Hey, buddy, you have fallen short of the glory of God,' right?
KIRK CAMERON: Well, you can tell a person that, but most people think that they haven't. They will say, 'I am a good person -- I have gone to church; I give to charity; I help the poor.' But when you look into the moral mirror of God, let them examine their own heart according to God's standards, then they can see for themselves that they fall short. And they will say to you, 'I am a sinner. I am wicked in the eyes of God. I do fall short of God's standard. What do I do to be saved?' And then you can lead them to the Savior.
What feedback have you had from the Christian community? Because some of them are going to say, 'Gosh, we don't want to scare them away,' or 'This doesn't match with what I learned in church. This isn't based on human tradition.' It kind of does that when you first read it. I was thinking, 'Wait a minute.' 'This isn't what I know.' But you have to stick with it.
KIRK CAMERON: It is the missing piece to the whole evangelism puzzle. If you have been afraid to share your faith, if you feel silly trying to sell people a Jesus that they don't really want, if you feel like you have to be an expert in apologetics and answer every question that the skeptics ask and you wish there was a simpler way, there is. We call it The Way of the Master because it was what Jesus did. Jesus did not get stuck in intellectual arguments with people. He did not go for the intellect; He went for the conscience. He spoke to that part of the person that knows the difference between right and wrong instinctively. He did it in Mark 10 with the rich young ruler and He went through the commandments, and again in Matthew 19 and Luke 10. If you want to reach your friends and your family members effectively without having to memorize a zillion answers to a zillion questions, learn The Way of the Master and speak to a person's conscience instead of their intellect. It is extremely powerful. Great preachers of the past used this principle -- Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards. These famous guys were so effective because they didn't use modern methods. They didn't follow the modern tradition of 'God has a wonderful plan for your life.' They spoke to the conscience by using the Law of God, which would lead them as a school master to Jesus Christ. You will see for yourself that this is the piece of the puzzle that has been missing. You will wonder why no one ever showed it to you before. I said, 'Wait a minute! This is so radically different. What planet is this guy Ray Comfort from and why has no one told me this before? But it makes sense.'
I wonder why it isn't being taught so much.
KIRK CAMERON: Basically, the church got rid of the use of the Law about a hundred years ago, and it has been propagated by some preachers today. People got the idea that somehow we need to change the message in order to appeal to people today, but that is just a misunderstanding of the function of the Law. We go into it a lot, but basically people are concerned and I was too that 'Wait a minute. We are not under the Law. We are under grace. We are no longer under that covenant. We are under the New Covenant,' which is true. Christians are no longer under the penalty of the Law. We are under the covering of grace. But the same standards of the Ten Commandments still are the standards by which non-Christians will be judged on the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judgment, God still hates lying. He says that liars and thieves and adulterers and blasphemers will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Those are references to the Ten Commandments. Lying, stealing, adultery, blasphemy, idolatry -- those are the ones who will be cast into the Lake of Fire. In order for thieves and liars to understand that that is what they are and that they need a Savior, they need to be confronted with the standards that God will judge them by on that day. And that is what Jesus did throughout the Scripture. So it is understanding the proper function of the Law. The Way of the Master book will explain that very clearly to you. When you learn to put those principles into practice, it will convince you just by experience. People will say, 'Wow! I never thought of it that way.' You find that people won't be offended. They will thank you, even though you are talking to them about sin, Judgment Day, hell. They say, 'Man, that makes so much sense.'
So, when you went out your first time using the Way of the Master technique, were you scared to death, or did you feel confident? How did it go?
KIRK CAMERON: I was very nervous because I had never experienced the results before, but once I got into the real world and started sharing the Gospel with people, I was just blown away because, like you will see in the testimonials, these are the kinds of things that people tell us. And it has opened up a whole new world of sharing my faith. Many of those stories of witnessing to people are included in The Way of the Master book. They are interspersed throughout the teaching.
Is it becoming more of a lifestyle? You know how you wake up and you pray a lot, and the more you do it the more you think about it?
KIRK CAMERON: Absolutely. Everywhere I go, everyone I talk with, everyone I think about -- their salvation is what is on my mind. I love fellowship with Christians, but I can't become preoccupied with the pleasure of fellowship when I know that sinners are sinking into hell. I carry Gospel tracts around with me. I am constantly thinking of ways I can bring up subjects in the news, like Mel Gibson's The Passion, so that I can gear the conversation toward the Lord.
This is a key time right now, too, especially since the release of The Passion of The Christ.
KIRK CAMERON: Absolutely. How easy is it to say with anybody, whether you know them or not, 'Hey, did you see the movie The Passion? Man, that thing is huge. What did you think about that?' 'Oh, I don't know. I think it is pretty violent, pretty controversial.' Then you say, 'That depends on your perspective. I mean, once you understand how much we have sinned, it makes sense. Would you consider yourself to be a good person? Do you think you have kept the Commandments?' And away you go.
So when you go out and do this, you are tagging onto their conscience, but you are trying to make it relevant to what is going on in their life. It sounds like there are some basic questions that you ask them. It is not like a formula exactly.
KIRK CAMERON: What we do is we have provided some stepping stones to help guide you through a conversation. If you can remember four simple points, it will help you get from the beginning to the end of a conversation and lead you through witnessing to somebody. Who do you know that is not saved? Do you have a good friend who is not saved who you have been trying to witness to? It is easy to call them up on the phone and say, 'Hey, how is it going? How is your family? How is your job? What is going on?' That is simple. But you are thinking, Man, how do I talk about his or her salvation? That is the hardest part. One of the things that we suggest is bring up the movie The Passion of The Christ, and then use that as a springboard to say something like, 'That movie never would have made sense to me if I didn't understand how exactly I had sinned against God,' or 'Mel Gibson says he wants people to watch the movie so that they will read the Book. What do you think about the Ten Commandments? That is a pretty high standard. Do you think that you have kept it?'
Once you get there, then we have these four stepping stones. Get into the conversation any way you want and then the four stepping stones are WDJD, which stands for What Did Jesus Do -- not What Would He do, but look in the Bible and see What He did do:
W -- Would you consider yourself to be a good person?
D -- Do you think that you have kept the Commandments?
J -- Judgment. If God judged you according to those Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?
D -- Destiny. So, do you think you would go to heaven or to hell?
Again, in the book, it leads you through those four WDJD and helps you go through that. There is tons of stuff on the Web site. You can get the first eight episodes of the show with a study guide for your Bible study class.
Plus, you have got an online course. It sounds pretty interactive, like you and Ray are answering questions a lot.
KIRK CAMERON: Yes, we have an online chat room and forums and we have an evangelism boot camp, where people from all over the country come out for a few days and we go out and evangelize with them and teach them. The online school has about 3,000 people enrolled from around the country. We have a kids' academy that is up there too for kids to learn how to share their faith.
That's great. Do you ever go back and tag some of those people who go online and say, 'Hey, man, I noticed you took that class. Are you interested in witnessing and putting it into practice?'
KIRK CAMERON: We primarily do that through our newsletter. We stay in contact with everybody and give them updates and opportunities to get involved through our newsletter.
I appreciate you spending time with me on this topic. This is just really important.
KIRK CAMERON: I appreciate you taking the time, too.
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