By: Kelsey Flowers

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15.

The problem of evil is one of the most common objections raised against the Christian faith. It is a question that has both an intellectual and an emotional side. Intellectually, people search for a rational way to reconcile the existence of God with the presence of great evil in the world. Emotionally, people struggle with the idea that God would allow deep pain and suffering to occur in their own lives or in the lives of people around them every day.

While the problem of evil is one that has deep significance for both skeptics and Christians alike, the reality is that Christianity actually provides the greatest solution to the problem.

Antony Flew was one of the most well-known and outspoken atheists during the last half of the twentieth century. One of the primary reasons he doubted the existence of God was due to his struggle with the problem of evil.[i] After living most of his life as an adamant atheist publishing prolific writings in favor of it, Flew changed his mind – moving from atheism to deism. While claiming to be a deist and not believing in the afterlife, intellectually, Flew admitted that if there were a theistic worldview that would make the most sense it would be Christianity.

C.S. Lewis dealt with the problem of pain on both an intellectual and emotional level, writing after his wife’s death, “Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms… But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”[ii] In the end, Lewis did come to terms with his grief and recognized that a loving God does exist despite suffering.

In considering the implications of evil in the world and in the lives of people, two arguments come to the forefront in support of God’s existence.

Without God there can be no objective framework by which to distinguish between good and evil.

In addressing the problem of evil in the world and the existence of God, Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias often replies:

When you say there is evil, you are assuming there is such a thing as good. When you assume there is such a thing as good, you are assuming there is such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. And when you assume there is such a thing as a moral law, you must pause at a moral law giver, but that is whom [you] are trying to disprove and not prove. If there is no moral law giver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil. What becomes of the critic’s question? [iii]

In the absence of God there is no absolute right and wrong that forces itself on human conscience.

When truly thought through, one knows that objective values do exist. Otherwise, we would not recognize that actions like chemical attacks on innocents or mass genocides are not simply socially offensive behavior but moral outrages.

Apologist William Lane Craig points out the following paradox: “Evil actually serves to establish the existence of God. For if objective values cannot exist without God and objective values do exist – as is evident from the reality of evil – then it follows inescapably that God exists.”[iv]

While in one view the presence of evil calls in to question the existence of God, in another deeper sense, it demonstrates His very existence.

If there were no God, evil could not be identifiable.

With God, there is hope in spite of suffering.

In the book of Genesis we learn that God created the world and people to live in peace with Him. However, man broke the law of God through sin, resulting in his fall from that place of perfect peace with God. Thankfully, God did not leave mankind without hope, and ultimately, His plan of redemption brought more glory to Himself and provided the solution to the problem.

Ironically, rather than being disproved by the problem of evil in the world, Christian theism is what actually provides the strongest solution. When considering the evil in the world, one wonders if God could possibly care about people at all. The answer is provided clearly in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God sent His son Jesus Christ to endure ultimate suffering on our behalf, taking on Himself the punishment of the sins of the world, separated from God so that mankind could be reconciled to Him. Because of what Christ did for us in exchanging His righteousness for our sin (1 Corinthians 5:21), the problem of evil is put in a new perspective. The real problem of evil is the problem of our own evil.

William Lane Craig said it well:

Filled with sin and morally guilty before God, the question we face is not how God can justify Himself to us, but how we can be justified before Him. So paradoxically, even though the problem of evil is the greatest objection to the existence of God, at the end of the day God is the only solution to the problem of evil. If God does not exist, then we are lost without hope in a life filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering. God is the final answer to the problem of evil, for He redeems us from evil and takes us into the everlasting joy of an incommensurable good, fellowship with Himself.

God is not disproved by the presence of evil around us; rather He is the solution for it.


[i] Flew, Antony, and Roy Abraham. Varghese. There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. New York: HarperOne, 2008. Print.

[ii] C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (Bantam Books, 1961), p. 4.

[iii] Zacharias, Ravi K. “Atheism Angles for Acceptance.” Audio blog post. Just Thinking. Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, April 10, 2013. Web. May 13, 2017.

[iv] Craig, William Lane. “The Problem of Evil.” ReasonableFaith.org. Reasonable Faith. Web. 13 May 2017.

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My name is Sahra Lemos; I am a Brazilian architect and urban planner. When I was a student at the University of Brasilia I was introduced to The Great Exchange in a campus ministry meeting. The leaders asked us if someone could translate for a group of American missionaries while they shared the Gospel. So I volunteered, and loved the work the group (The Great Exchange) did. I loved how simple and effective it was to share the Gospel, and of course I loved the people.

In the coming months, another TGE team came from the US and I helped them again. I continued working with The Great Exchange until the day God planned a trip that made us all – Brazilians and Americans – closer as brothers, sisters and friends.  He also showed us we Brazilians should not wait for the American teams to come back to present the great exchange of Christ to people around us. We felt moved and it was impossible to stop it. We met new friends – believers, non-believers and people who just like to talk about Jesus.

Despite whom we are as sinners, God has been merciful and used us in ways we could not imagine. In 2016, The Great Exchange Brazil had more than 300 conversations about God’s amazing plan for us. It is hard to say how many people really trusted Christ, but, as the Bible says, the Word of God does not return void. So we are absolutely sure these 300+ people heard the real truth and had their lives changed. We hear often from unbelievers that they have never had such nice, calm, honest, deep conversations about God and Jesus like they have with TGE Brazil.

The conversations and experiences we have had here in Brazil are not only changing people’s lives that make decisions to trust their lives to Christ, but they are also changing ours. We are being guided by the Holy Spirit and are being changed.

We have met people like Petra, a very special friend from Cameroon. She prayed with her pastor for opportunities to share her faith. Just the day after praying that with him, she saw us in a special TGE event God had planned at the university. On that day, 4 people trusted Christ while talking to her. She is now part of our TGE team and helps us every time she can. We also have Pedro Biagi on our team. He is a strong believer, born and raised in a Christian family. He left his first experience with TGE Brazil with tears in his eyes because in his whole life he did not have so many opportunities to share his faith this directly, respectfully. He had never seen how people so interested in talking about God and how they can be changed by that.

Another example of people we got to meet is Priscila. She also became part of the team and a very close friend. She was already a believer, but was facing some problems concerning her faith when she took the survey. We did the 21-Day Challenge together and God amazingly helped us both in our struggles. We found out we struggled with very similar things and, through the Bible, learned more about how to fight them. So we were strengthened and now have the opportunity to work together as we share what we learned about God’s love with others.

People have been changed. And we have been changed while we are used to transform people’s lives.

We are just a tiny little part of a way bigger plan God is working in our lives and in the lives of those who don’t believe in Him. And it is our honor to be a part of that and to have the assurance that the work we do is part of the kingdom of the King of kings. And it is all just because He loves us deeply.

Pray for us as we go to 2017 with a lot of challenges and dreams. The main goal is to make God’s name known, praised and glorified and to be used by the Lord to change lives. And that is an honor.

God bless you all.

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We want to introduce you to our new administrative assistant, Bri Kittle! Bri is a 4th year student at UNG and has volunteered with TGE since her freshman year of undergrad. She has followed Jesus since 2012 and is passionate sharing the gospel, as well as helping other believers make disciples. Bri attends WFBC where she serves as an intern and leads a college girls’ d-team. She loves studying theology and plans to start attending seminary in 2018. She has served short-term in East 14316806_1197905590248523_4993874282833053512_nAsia and would like to work there cross-culturally. Bri loves her parents, older brother and golden retriever Maggie!

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Discipleship and Follow-up at The Great Exchange

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:1-2

When the Lord inspired the leaders of The Great Exchange to begin this ministry, the primary purpose was to meet a specific need: to come alongside of existing churches and para-church ministries and equip them with practical ways to share the gospel on their campuses and in their communities.

Initiative evangelism through the use of spiritual surveys and positive conversations has been the defining feature of The Great Exchange since Day 1. And while we are primarily an initiative evangelistic ministry, we highly value follow-up and discipleship.

As a ministry, we never hold a Great Exchange event without partnering with a local church or campus ministry. We prioritize this kind of partnership for several reasons, one of them being to ensure that survey participants and new believers are connected to a local group of believers who can follow-up with them after the Great Exchange event is over.

At the end of each Great Exchange, all survey cards with contact information are handed to the partnering church or ministry leaders. We do this so that they (who unlike us, live and minister in close proximity to the survey participants) can follow-up for further conversations and discipleship. These leaders are in a strategic position to invite participants to talk more about Jesus and to attend their Bible studies, services, midweek gatherings, etc.

The Great Exchange is composed of a small group of people with limited resources. While we would love to personally follow-up with all survey participants from our events, we clearly cannot do so by ourselves (that would be literally hundreds of people each year!). Instead, we always connect survey participants to the partnering local church or campus ministry who is more than capable and willing to invest spiritually into their lives! We trust that these local believers will reach out to survey participants after our Great Exchange team heads home or to the location of our next event.

We thank the Lord for the fantastic churches and campus ministries that we get to partner with. It is a joy to minister together as we make disciples through evangelism and then long-term discipleship!

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Prayer and the “Altar Call”

– Kelsey Flowers

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14

Dwight L. Moody is remembered as being one of the greatest evangelists of the nineteenth century, often speaking to 10,000 or more people at one gathering and leading thousands of people to Christ. Moody became known for closing his sermons with an altar call in which he called for his listeners to make a decision of whether or not they would follow Christ.

Moody had not always made use of the altar call, and he came to embrace the method after a dramatic personal experience.

On October 8, 1871, Moody preached to the largest congregation that he had addressed in Chicago to that point. His sermon that Sunday evening was taken from Matthew 27:22 and was entitled, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” As he closed his sermon he said, “I wish you would take this text home with you and turn it over in your minds during the week, and next Sunday we will come to Calvary and the Cross, and we will decide what to do with Jesus of Nazareth.” Hymn writer Ira Sankey then began singing a hymn, “Today the Savior calls; For refuge fly; The storm of justice falls, And death is nigh.”

But Sankey was not able to finish the hymn because the service was interrupted by the sound of warning bells and fire engines racing by the church. It was that night the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city, burning Moody’s mission church to the ground. Moody deeply regretted that he had told his congregation to return the next Sunday to decide what to do with Jesus.

He said, “I have never since dared to give an audience a week to think of their salvation. If they were lost they might rise up in judgment against me. I have never seen that congregation since. But I want to tell you of one lesson that I learned that night which I have never forgotten, and that is, when I preach, to press Christ upon the people then and there and try to bring them to a decision on the spot. I would rather have that right hand cut off than to give an audience a week now to decide what to do with Jesus.”  

In recent years, a popular topic in Christian culture has been the debate over the use of what has been dubbed “The Sinner’s Prayer” in evangelistic conversations. The prayer is linked to the altar call in that it appeals listeners to make a decision regarding the message of the gospel.

Many people argue that the prayer gives listeners a false assurance of salvation and should not be introduced or offered at the close of a gospel presentation.

Moody’s experience teaches the importance of driving home the urgency of the message of the gospel. The careful consideration of the gospel is not something that one should push off to a more convenient time. None of us knows how much time we have, and it is important when presenting the gospel to convey the urgency of seeking truth and making a decision to follow Christ.

Not only does the listener need to understand the urgency of Christ’s message, but more important is the understanding of the content of the message and the need for repentance. It is a tragedy that people often misunderstand the gospel so much so that they think they are saved simply by repeating a few words. We know that God understands the heart, and it is with the heart that one is justified, as we see in Romans 10:9-10.

In this well-known passage we learn, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

A person is not required to repeat a formulaic prayer after an evangelist in order to be saved. When someone truly understands his depravity before a holy God, he could respond with a personal prayer to God or may find the simple prayer for mercy to be helpful in finding the words to say. The words of the prayer themselves are not a magic formula that will save someone, but prayer is a way to express one’s genuine faith which will then be exemplified in one’s life transformation.

In other words, if a prayer truly reflects the state of a person’s heart, then it will be an effective tool to help him or her genuinely express that to God.

Moody once said, “Believing and confessing go together; and you cannot be saved without you take them both. ‘With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’ If you ever see the kingdom of heaven you have to take this way.”

If someone walks away from a gospel conversation and having prayed a prayer believes that he is saved because of that prayer, it is not the fault of the prayer, but more likely the fault of the gospel presenter failing to convey the true gospel appropriately.

As we preach the gospel, may we remember to speak with urgency while also being biblically clear so as not to provide anyone a false sense of security before God.

We as Christians should preach the gospel, call listeners to repentance, and leave the results to God.

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This Thursday, August 11th, a TGE team will head to Gordon State College to partner with the BCM for a Great Exchange event! Here are some quick facts about Gordon so you can know how to pray:

1. GSC is located in Barnesville, GA.
2. There are approximately 5,000 students (3,600 full-time, 1,400 part-time) enrolled.
3. It is a close-knit community with an average class size of about 50.
4. At past TGE events we have loved getting to know these welcoming, enthusiastic students! The BCM students love sharing their faith and meeting new students.
5. Jason Teal is the BCM director at Gordon College and does a fantastic job discipling and leading his students. To learn more about the BCM at Gordon State College, visit their website at http://bcm.gordonstate.edu

If you happen to be free this Thursday, join us in Barnesville as we partner with the BCM to share the gospel with students at Gordon State College!

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From Vic Doss, College Pastor at Watkinsville First Baptist Church:

“Do you have time to take a quick survey?” I watched as a young freshman girl asked another college student that question.  What happened over the next few minutes of that conversation has been repeated thousands of times over the past several years and it has transformed our college ministry.

I’m the college pastor at Watkinsville First Baptist Church. We regularly see about 600 students in our weekly worship gathering, but it hasn’t always been that way. Several years ago we were struggling as a ministry to develop leaders and challenge our students to grow deeper in their walk with Christ.  Around 6 years ago we partnered with The Great Exchange so we could share the gospel on the campus of UGA.

It was an amazing experience. Our students were sharing the gospel with their peers and hundreds of students were getting to hear the life changing news of Jesus. But something else happened. Our partnership with The Great Exchange was actually doing what no discipleship program could do; we were developing leaders as a result of students being active in sharing their faith.

Paul writes in Philemon 6, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  We were seeing that happen right before our eyes. Students were becoming confident in the gospel and the truth of the Bible. Isn’t that what we all want for the people in our ministries? We want them to more fully understand the beauty of the gospel and how in impacts their life. Paul tells us that occurs when we share our faith.

The Great Exchange isn’t a program or a gimmick; it’s simply a tool. A very, very effective tool for engaging a generation in gospel conversations. If you want to transform your ministry or your church, you need to be sharing the gospel with 20-year-olds. And The Great Exchange is a great way to do that.

I know the arguments: “What if they offend someone?” (We’ve all seen/ heard the guy with the bullhorn yelling repent). That’s not The Great Exchange. The Great Exchange is simply asking people to have a conversation. If they say no you just move on.

“I don’t know these guys. Can I trust them?” I would trust Jon Deans and his team with anything.  Jon has decades of ministry experience and genuinely loves college students and the gospel.

I want to urge you to consider partnering with The Great Exchange to take the gospel to this generation of college students. They’re open and it’s as easy as asking them “Do you have time to take a quick survey?”

 

Vic Doss

College Pastor

Watkinsville First Baptist Church

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From Rich Suplita, with Truth on Display Ministries:

The 2015-2016 academic year presented several opportunities for Truth on Display to partner with The Great Exchange to engage students at the University of Georgia with the gospel. An undeniable mutuality emerged with the large Truth on Display banners catching the attention of students passing by, while spiritual surveys and gospel conversations were taking place at the adjacent Great Exchange table. At one point, over one-hundred students stopped to hear Tom Short present and defend Biblical truths.

Another day, when Tom (the preacher) wasn’t present, several students who had stopped at the table were able to hear Truth on Display interns give their testimonies publicly. On that day in particular, it was a tremendous benefit to have The Great Exchange literature table set up right next to the banners. Those seeking God’s truth were able to pick up a copy of the New Testament, the entire Bible or an apologetics books such as Josh McDowell’s classic More Than a Carpenter. Moreover, it provided an opportunity for the public sharing of the gospel to carry over into private conversations (at The Great Exchange table) about how to know God personally. On behalf of the Truth on Display team, I want to express our deepest gratitude to The Great Exchange for helping to host us and accompany us on the campus of UGA. We’re praying for many similar opportunities as the Lord leads for the upcoming academic year!

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An Update from Sahra Lemos, TGE leader in Brazil:

“A few months ago someone told me ‘Sahra, there is not going to be a team from the U.S. going to Brazil in March. However, we have a proposal for you: do The Great Exchange by yourselves, as the Brazilian team. What do you think?” Many people say I am crazy, so I decided to give them more reason to think so: I said, ‘yes!’

We have seen God directing every step we have taken through establishing The Great Exchange in Brazil. Our first question was, “To what universities will we go?” We have already been at Universidade de Brasilia (UnB) and Universidade Catolica de Brasilia (UCB) over the past year, but my heart’s desire was to go onto more campuses. So, a great friend of mine and I decided to request authorization to do TGE there, but that was denied. We were disappointed, but the certainty that God was using that situation to do something bigger overcame our disappointment. Unfortunately we had a week filled with bad news of tragedies on campus, proving UnB was in a position to see its need for the word of God and his wonderful and merciful plan to save us through Jesus Christ.

It was at this point that my craziness appeared: even though UnB is a broken place and needs to hear about Jesus, we know that other campuses, places and people also need to hear about the name of Jesus. So why not plan a simultaneous event in a place where we have already had what we needed, including authorization and a team?! That led us to contact the UCB team and agree on making TGE at the same time on both campuses.

Obviously, some doubts like ‘will everything would work out?’ came along with the decision. But God has been teaching me about valuing what really matters and what we truly want as we do things like TGE, is to get to share the true, simple message of the gospel. “Talk about Jesus, walk in Spirit and leave the results to God” was something I learned from Mr. Deans and it was time to put that in practice. I am confident that the work that matters most was accomplished by God through all those who joined The Great Exchange that week.

I learned some good lessons from those days, which can be summarized in only one lesson: ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it penetrates even to dividing soul and of the heart’ -Hebrews 4:12. From the many conversations we had throughout the day, I could see a transformation on people`s faces that really caught my attention. The more that people realized we cared about what they were saying, the more they were willing to share their thoughts and listen to our beliefs. However, it is true that many of those people don`t believe in God the same way as we do. From the moment when some saw the New Testaments in front of them, they tended to be ‘defensive’ in our conversations, but as the conversations went on in a respectful way they became less defensive. There was nothing that could change people`s hearts other than the Word of God. And once they confronted themselves with their own personal questions and thoughts, there was nothing more effective to penetrate into their hearts than the Word of God itself.

For example, I saw an atheist go from being very defensive in the beginning of our conversation, to being much more interested. He was even late for his lunch in order to finish our conversation and finally said, “hm, now I understand, you have a beautiful view of what you believe. I will take this 21-Day Challenge.” What is the challenge? To read the God`s Word. And it is through that first step that God will penetrate into hearts and do His work. This is how lives are changed: not by our own strength and abilities, but God was using us as tools to speak His words.”

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The Survey Approach to Evangelism
– Edmond Caouette

Since being involved with The Great Exchange (TGE) over the past year, God has brought many opportunities to have significant conversations about the gospel with various people: nominal Christians, agnostics, atheists, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, including people from other countries.

Having served in various church positions and ministries, including church planting, evangelism was always a challenge. Do I pass out tracts, street preach, do friendship evangelism, knock door to door, canvas the neighborhood for prayer requests, etc.? Of course all the above methods of evangelism are valid and should not be neglected. But I have found that The Great Exchange’s use of survey questions is an effective conversation starter, or should I say “method of listening.”

The Scripture declares that we should be “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Most people, especially non-Westerners, like it when we ask personal questions, while we like to tell people what we think or feel about issues. I believe the Holy Spirit had this in mind when He directed James to pen “be quick to hear, slow to speak.” When I have used TGE questions on college campuses (USA, Germany) and in park settings holding special events, the information gathered from the survey helps me to personalize the Gospel to that individual. It is the same Gospel but with individual focus.

In using this method the respondent rarely stops me from sharing the gospel. If he/she does not accept the Gospel truth, at the very least the verses of Scripture are implanted in his/her heart for the Holy Spirit to “convict … concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). For example, I sent an email to a young man I had met to meet for coffee to further discuss Jesus; it was 103 days later that he responded to meet with me.

I would highly recommend any Christian congregation, ministry group, or college student organization contact Jon Deans from TGE (WWW.TheGreatExchange.org) to set up an event in their location. Such organizations will have an additional method to engage local Christians in sharing the Gospel in their area. They will be amazed to experience what the Holy Spirit will do for them and for the people with whom they share the Gospel.

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