Q&A with Anthony Cook

Q&A with Anthony Cook


Rev. Dr. Anthony Cook is Executive Director of United States Ministries for Lutheran Hour Ministries. He has served as a parish pastor and advised numerous organizations on curriculum design and development, distance learning, internet technologies and sharing the gospel through various forms of multimedia. Tony served as Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Concordia Seminary, specializing in education, pasto-
ral theology plus leadership and postmodern studies, including courses on preaching to postmoderns, post-liberal theology and emerging Christianity. He also served as Concor- dia Seminary’s Director of Curriculum Design and Development.

Q: Many Christians are feeling more hesitant to share their faith, compared to Christians 25 years ago. In your view, what tools and skills could help believers feel more confident and prepared?

First, we can remind ourselves what exactly it is we are called by God to do. We are not called to convince, cajole or convert. We are simply called, as 1 Peter 3:15–16 states, to revere Christ as Lord and be prepared to gently and respectfully give the reason for the hope that lies within us. That’s it. The more we free ourselves from false responsibility of “converting others,” the less fearful and hesitant we can be.

Second, we can learn how to gain a hearing for the gospel before we start sharing it. In a world where personal perspectives rule, we gain a hearing by engaging in spiritual conversations that are open, honest and conducted within the warm light of friendship. This approach helps us earn the right to share our faith, opening the door for God to do his work.

Finally, we can practice connecting stories from our everyday life with the story of salvation in Jesus. Learning to see and narrate our everyday life through the redemptive lens of God’s grace helps us to share the gospel more naturally and relevantly. Christianity is more than a belief system. It is a way of life.

Q: Given your expertise in education and background in pastoral ministry, what are your thoughts about how church leaders can effectively equip Christians for sharing faith?

Evangelism training has traditionally focused on providing the learner with an understanding of the salvation narrative, techniques for sharing that narrative and basic apologetics. This, however, is not enough. Equipping Christians to have spiritual conversations is a multifaceted process involving all three educational domains: cognitive, affective and behavioral. While the knowledge and skills we’ve traditionally focused on are certainly important, they are of little worth if the learner is not motived to use them. Learner motivation is one of the most overlooked aspects of Christian education.

So where does motivation come from? I was once told that “people do what people want to do”—in other words, people do what they value. Value development is at the heart of motivating Christians to have spiritual conversations and is a vital component in any equipping process. But it is neither quick nor easy. Developing values related to spiritual conversations means helping Christians to develop an awareness of spiritual conversations, to acknowledge their importance, to commit to engaging in them, to organize their priorities in order to make time for such conversations and to talk about spiritual matters in a natural and consistent manner.

A Christian is not equipped to share the gospel of Jesus Christ unless the value of engaging in spiritual conversations in their daily lives has been instilled within them.

Q: There is a clear connection between strong spiritual practices and an eagerness to engage in faith conversations. Why do you believe these two are linked? How do you see them feeding into each other? 03

The rhythm of engaging in both spiritual practices and spiritual conversations creates a powerful virtuous cycle. We strengthen faith by sharing it with others. Over the years, I have come to believe that evangelism is not something that should be reserved for the mature in faith. Instead, it is at the core of the maturation process itself. When Christians are intentionally involved in both spiritual practices and spiritual conversations, faith deepens and eagerness to share that faith grows.

Why does the connection work? I believe the answer is both theological and sociological. Theologically, we know that the Holy Spirit is at work in both spiritual practices and spiritual conversations. As the Holy Spirit works through God’s word, he strengthens and sanctifies us in the faith. In fact, living our daily lives immersed in the word of God is at the heart of the Christian life.

Sociologically, we have learned that when we are exposed to the salvation narrative we begin to take that narrative on as our own. Over time, it shapes our identity, values and ultimately behaviors, giving us a new way to see ourselves and the world around us. This change in identity and perspective is further strengthened and solidified as we give voice to that narrative. In the end, the more we share our faith, the more we understand who we are and the more confident and eager we become as Christians.

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