Monday, September 09, 2013

Paul R. Fink 1930–2013

Paul Fink (2/6/1930-9/7/2013) went to see our Lord this past Saturday, September 7, 2013. He was 83.

One of my first memories of Dr. Fink was a School of Religion business meeting at Liberty University. Dr. Fink was suffering from a very serious heart condition, such that he could die at any moment. The doctors couldn’t operate because of his diabetes, so they were trying to figure out a way to fix the condition. Dr. Towns asked him for an update and he said this: It’s an amazing feeling knowing that at any moment I might open my eyes and be in the arms of my Savior, Jesus Christ. They found a way to fix the problem and he taught for several more years. He retired in May.

At Columbia Bible College and Liberty University
Where he began his training and where he served the Lord for decades
Paul Fink received his B.A. from Columbia Bible College in the 1950s (now Columbia International University). He completed both his Th.M and Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, with an Adv. M.Ed. from the University of Southern California. He did some post-doctoral study at Purdue University.
Before getting his training as a minister of the gospel, Dr. Fink served in the United States Navy from 1948-1952. He taught for 55 years (see list below for details).

He was also the Founder and President/Instructor of Amherst County Bible Institute, Madison Heights, VA 1983-1989; 1996-2013. This ministry provided free education to mainly minorities in the Madison Heights area. Dr. Fink did this free of charge, just desperately trying to help these aspiring and active ministers to be more fully trained. One of his biggest concerns in the last few years of his life was finding someone to replace him in that ministry. The last I heard, no one was willing or able to fill his place. He was also an interim pastor of over 17 churches.

Dr. Fink threw his life into teaching, mentoring students, and his Bible Institute. But he did find some time for writing (see his list of publications below). Dr. Towns, the former Dean of the School of Religion at Liberty University, who attended Columbia Bible College with Dr. Fink in the 1950s, would travel around the world, find a Liberty University graduate, and ask them: “What was your favorite class while at Liberty?” He said that the consistent response was: “Inductive Bible Study Methods with Dr. Paul Fink.” Over and over again, that was what he heard.

Dr. Fink and I at his retirement party
I shared an office at Liberty University with Paul Fink in his last year of teaching. He moved to part-time and so he would use my office on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. My name was on the door, but I took my name out and put his name in. He would then take his name out and put my name in. This went back and forth for over a month or two, until he found a way to put them BOTH on the door. He was a very humble, prayerful man. Heaven just received a true vessel created for honor (cf. Rom 9:21). He will be missed by his wife, Mary Lou (married for 62 years), his six children, and his twenty grandchildren. Please be in prayer for them.

I rejoice that Saturday, Dr. Fink opened his eyes and finally saw his Savior, the One he truly put his hope in, the One he served for over half of a century, the One he loved above all others, the One he sought to bring glory to every day of his life.

Southern Bible Training School, Dallas, TX 1958-62
Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, IN 1963-79
Adjunct Faculty at BIOLA College, La Mirada, CA 1969-70
Professor of Biblical Studies and Pastoral Ministry, Liberty University 1979-2013

Contributor to the Liberty Bible Commentary: 12 Minor Prophets
Contributor to The Open Bible: wrote 35 articles.
Contributor to Wilmington’s Survey of the Old Testament: wrote over 90 articles.
Contributor to the Christian Life Bible: 2 Peter
Contributor to The Annotated Bible: Minor Prophets, Romans, Pastoral Epistles, and Petrine Epistles.
Contributor to The Teachers’ Bible

Friday, September 06, 2013

Beloit List

What stuck out to me in the Beloit List about the class of 2017 (college freshman this year):

Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.
GM means food that is Genetically Modified
As kids they may well have seen Chicken Run but probably never got chicken pox
They have known only two presidents
Courts have always been ordering computer network wiretaps
With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address
There has never been a national maximum speed on U.S. highways
Don Shula has always been a fine steak house
Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated
They have never really needed to go to their friend’s house so they could study together
Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Some Thoughts on Presenting the Gospel

I love sharing the gospel with unbelievers, both in large settings and individually. I've taken courses in seminary on evangelism, both at the M.Div. and Ph.D. level. But my suggestions here are really based upon my experiences in witnessing one-on-one.

First, you don't have to present the entire gospel in 2 minutes or less. I think Christians feel pressure to make their gospel presentation very short. When they do this, they sometimes (inadvertently) cut out some important truths. It's better to present well what you have time for than to short-change the entire presentation. For example, if I were using Gilbert's model (God, Man, Christ, Response), I would much rather do a thorough job with the first two points and then, if I'm running out of time or they have to go, make an appointment to complete the conversation.

Second, ask questions. I am familiar with many different methods for evangelism: Evangelism Explosion, The Four Spiritual Laws, The Bridge, Share Jesus Without Fear, and The Way of the Master. While I don't use any of them, I use all of them. What I mean is, I don't just stick to one model, but I have a conversation with the person I'm witnessing to. I ask them a lot of questions. I show a genuine interest in them, who they are, what they think. I'll ask them questions for as long as they want to answer. The questioning usually starts with where they are from and how they were raised, to the kinds of church experiences they've had, to their thoughts on the after-life. I try to continue asking questions (both theological and personal) until we hit a dead-end. Every time I've done this, at some point, the person will then say: tell me about you. Since I've shown a general interest in them, they now want to do the same. I just respond with: what do you want to know? And they usually will jump right to the end: what do you think about the after-life? I then usually repeat the question, making it clear that they really do want to hear my opinion. They nearly always repeat the question. So now I have an unbeliever almost begging for my testimony and the gospel. I have their ear, because I've earned it by showing an interest in them.

Third, rabbit trails are good and bad. I try to stay away from issues not central to the gospel (like speaking in tongues for example), but if they have a genuine interest in an area, again, I will show that my care is for them as an individual not just to get "my presentation" out. So if they really want to go down a rabbit trail, I'll follow them for a short time.

Fourth, ask if they understand. I try to be super-clear when presenting the gospel, so this question can be painful. Why painful? Because the person typically says either: 1) "Yes, I understand." But they really don't, or 2) "No, I don't understand ....". How do I know they really don't when they say they do?

Fifth, once they believe they understand the gospel, ask them to explain it to you. This is where you have to listen very closely for many reasons. You want to make sure that they have truly understand the central components of what you've told them. You want to look for a works-based salvation on the one hand and an easy-believism gospel on the other. Some people will describe back a gospel based on works, not because that's what you presented, but because lost people have a difficult time understanding God's grace. Others will describe an easy-believism gospel because that's all they've ever heard. Make sure you correct their misunderstanding.

This fifth point, I have found, is a missing key in most evangelism. People can answer "yes or no" questions easily. Give them a multiple choice test and they'll do fine. But ask them to explain the gospel and you'll quickly hear what they don't understand. Doing this helps them to really grasp what the gospel is AND helps us to understand what we might have said that was unclear. This part, while it can be painful to hear a mutilated gospel at time, can be so amazing as you hear an unbeliever explaining to you the gospel. 

What about a response? There are many ways you can lead people in a response to the gospel and I do it differently for different people. My favorite way is the following:
1) Ask them if they believe what they've just explained.
2) If they say yes, ask them if they believe in Jesus, who the Bible declares Him to be and that He paid for their sins. Ask if they have repented (make sure you define this term).
3) If they say yes, I ask if they think they are a Christian. This gives another opportunity to clarify the gospel. If they say "no," I can then ask why. If they say "yes," then ...
4) I ask them to "pray the gospel" back to God, praising Him for what He has done for them. I don't lead them in a prayer, but I lead them to the One who saves. So they pray to God and give Him honor and praise.

Sixth, keep Christ the focus of everything. Don't be sidetracked by the pitfalls I described in earlier posts. Stay focused on the glory, wonder, and love of Christ. Show how beautiful and glorious He is and let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts to convict them of their sin and lostness. Don't be manipulative, but be loving and Christ-centered.