Tag Archives: Evangelism

Don Knowlton’s Beautiful Feet

More than once when I was in college, I received a check from a friend of my parents named Wally Qualley. Yep, that was his name. I don’t remember anything about this man who sent me at least a couple of checks for about $500 each, except that I had a sense he was wealthy, and wanted to help out the son of old friends. Kinda cool.

Well, one day, some many years later, my dad asked me to read a letter he had written…to Wally. Dad had come to Christ during my college days, and after a time, the Lord put Wally Qualley on his heart. As far as my father knew, his old friend didn’t know Christ, and If possible, Dad wanted to “make an introduction”.

Dad’s letter to Wally captures the spirit of one of the most beautiful passages in Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is found in chapter 10, where the apostle writes…

But how are they to call him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him “of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14, 15

In the spirit of my father’s beautiful feet, I include here the full text of his letter…

June 17, 1997

Dear Wally,

You have been on my mind for the last several days – I know you are hurting and lonely. If you will bear with me for a few paragraphs, I have a short story to tell you.

Sometime in the early to middle 80’s, Eleen and I became disenchanted with our church. She was more discerning than I by far. We had been growing apart for sometime and I believe we were searching for spiritual answers. We watched religious programs, visited churches and generally immersed ourselves in seeking. Eleen and Roger were way ahead of me in coming to the Lord, but with both of their help, I came to the Lord Jesus Christ on March 16, 1986. Eleen gave me a rather abrupt wake up call shortly before that time with the admonition to me saying, “You know what’s right.” (And I did know what’s right.) We have grown much closer together since that time.

Wally, the good news stated in the Bible is that, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

I believe that we are all sinners and need to confess these sins. Christ died on the cross for all of our sins and was resurrected three days later to sit at the right hand of God.

Wally, I spent the first 62 years of my life thinking I was a Christian only to find out that I wasn’t.

You have been a good friend over the years, and I would be remiss in not telling you about Jesus. This has to do with where you spend eternity, and it’s never too late to decide. You have to take action and ask Jesus into your heart. If you have a Bible, I would refer you to several verses. Romans 10:9, Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:13.

I’ve probably done a poor job of explaining the love of God and salvation but it’s true and there for the asking. Please give serious consideration, you’ll never be sorry.



Sometime ago I told about Dad’s letter in a sermon, and then recently, a friend told me that she had written a “Wally Qualley” letter to someone she loved. Maybe Dad (and my friend) are the forefront of a trend.

So get on the wave…who is your Wally Qualley?


If you’re interested (and want to indulge me!), here’s the article I wrote about about how one of the greatest men I have ever known, my dad, came to Christ.

For Friday, April 3rd: Romans 11

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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Testimony: One of the Best Ways to Fish for Men

When I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Chicagoland and the Washington D.C. area during the late 80’s and early 90’s, occasionally I would find myself one on one with a co-worker for a longer period of time. Maybe it was just a lunch hour and two of us made plans to grab a Chicago style hot dog at Luke’s (try it when you’re near the Windy City). Maybe the Vienna, VA office was running out of cars and we needed to get to Gaithersburg to pick one up. Whatever the case, I remember asking a question on a long ride that yielded fruitful conversation on at least more than one occasion.

“John, what’s the story of your life?” I would ask.

“Well, I graduated from Purdue…”

“No, no…” I might counter. “…the story of your life. Go back further…like where were you born? Your family. Give me details.”

And so it would begin. I would ask questions along the way, really trying to draw them out. I’ve found that most people like to tell about themselves, and as long as the questions are not too prying, it can be a great way to get things going.  And for my part, I find people interesting…a great way to pass the time.

Invariably, after chatting through the notorious D.C. traffic and maybe on the beltway for a while, they would turn to me: “OK, now your turn. Tell me the story of your life.”

And I would…Born in Jackson, Mississippi, an only child, moved to Antioch, Illinois when I was 7, became an atheist in middle school/high school. Got an appointment to West Point…

“And you know, when I got to West Point, it was interesting – they suggested we go to church.”


“Yeah, I think they felt it was good for your reputation as an officer….”

And so it went. I would tell about how at the protestant church service, the Chaplain talked about Jesus in a way I had never heard…etc…all the way to when that cadet Bob Maruna dropped by my tent and showed me the Bridge diagram and that verse:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

For those who are uninitiated, what I was doing here is called sharing your testimony, and I have found the testimony to be a really great way of explaining the faith. It’s a method of fishing for men which has a long and honored tradition, starting with a man named Paul in the 1st Century A.D.

…when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women…” Acts 22:2-4 (ESV)

And so, before a hostile crowd of his fellow Jews, the testimony of the Apostle Paul begins from the steps of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. It would not be the only time Paul would tell his story in this manner in the book of Acts – a wonderful opportunity would afford itself before King Agrippa, recounted in Acts 26.

I have personally found that sharing my testimony is a very effective way of telling someone about Jesus.  Who can argue with it? It’s your story. And the format is pretty simple.  Tell about your life before you met Christ. Tell how you met Christ, and try to include a verse at this point, especially one that meant something to you at the time and helps to explain the gospel (like mine: Ephesians 2:8, 9). Then finally, tell about what has happened in your life since you met Christ.

I hope you’ll give it a try sometime. If it was good enough for Paul, why not you and me?


For tomorrow, Thursday, March 12: Acts 23

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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Advice For That Big College Spring Break Trip

Adolescence Summer Festive Music Fans Concert Dancing ConceptSpring break trips by college students to Daytona Beach and other parts south have become infamous symbols today for full-out hedonistic pleasure. And Sunday I was talking with a young college student from our church who was home for the weekend, and told me he too was heading to the beaches when his spring break came around in the next couple of weeks.

However, this young man was going on spring break with Cru, planning to do ministry to the folks on the beaches from all over the country. I know a little bit about these excursions – in the 80’s, my sweetie went to Daytona Beach with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ back then), and the organization has been heading to Florida to minister to college students for decades. It’s the kind of spring break activity that a pastor can endorse.

Now, for those non-Cru students heading for the sand and sea, we know that there will be a lot of “good times” and laughter and such on the beaches, for surely sin brings pleasure and at least temporary happiness. But of course, for every one person who leaves feeling “fulfilled” from fun, there will likely be an equal number heading back to school quite a bit more broken than they were before, now to carry scars from the “sun and fun” for the rest of their days.

So I’m thankful for the ministry my friend will be doing in a week or two, sacrificing his spring break to reach out to the prodigals and, by the grace of God, bring them home to a loving heavenly Father.

And though I never made an evangelistic spring break trip myself, I’ve done enough cold contact evangelism to know the greatest possible pitfall for believers engaging in such work – it’s discouragement. After two or three people tell you that they’re not interested in doing your survey, or hearing your story, it’s possible to start thinking that no one will ever want to talk. And as I was reading Acts chapter 16, I saw a principle that he and the other Cru weeklong missionaries would do well to keep in mind.

The author of Acts, Luke, tells us that it is a Sabbath day, and Paul along with his friends (one of whom seems to be Luke himself – he starts using “we” in this chapter) are looking for a place to pray in the city of Philippi, where the Holy Spirit has recently led them. So they head down to the river, hoping to find a peaceful, scenic place to seek God. Now, there are some women down by the river and Paul and friends begin to engage them with the gospel. It’s a wonderful scene, and results in the baptism of Lydia and all her household.

But I was particularly drawn to the place where Luke tells us the key to the “success” of this missionary encounter by the river. We see it clearly in verse 14: “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Acts 16:14 (ESV)

Apparently, it wasn’t Paul’s eloquence or theological knowledge. No – the Holy Spirit who had been guiding them all along the way continued leading them (and leading her!) to a fruitful encounter by the waterside. This is always the great key to evangelism.


Now I found out in my conversation on Sunday that my young friend is using a different tract on the beaches than Diane used 30 years ago. Cru is updating and that’s good, I’m sure. But when you get right down to it, there is an even more important consideration than the tract or particular technique a missionary uses.

It’s knowing that the “no one comes to Me except that the Father who sent Me draws Him.” (John 6:44) Keeping God’s sovereignty in mind enables us to move to the next person on the beach knowing that God may be moving in that heart even though the last one was not interested. And it encourages us to do one other thing. You, see, there is an old saying: “Before you talk to men about God, be sure you talk to God about men.” And if there were ever any advice to offer a spring break missionary, or anyone for that matter looking to reach out to a neighbor or a loved one who is far from God, by far the best piece of advice is this: God does the work. He changes lives. So more than anything, we need to ask Him to open hearts today…just like He opened Lydia’s heart some 2,000 years ago.


Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 4th: Acts 17

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


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How to Find Out if Someone is a Christian

I don’t want to freak you out, but whenever I meet someone for the first time, whether it is a counseling situation or a membership interview, or what have you, I am usually wondering about one thing.

This goes beyond my role as a pastor – I’m looking for this when I meet a neighbor for the first time or someone on an airplane or anyone else. And you know what it is, right? I am looking to find out if the person is a Christian.

This is fairly normal for followers of Christ. We believe that there is a real heaven and a real hell, and so the words of C.S. Lewis in his essay The Weight of Glory ring true:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare…”

Clive Staples and I are not alone in this – the Apostle Paul undoubtedly thought about people this way too. In his passage on being an ambassador for Christ, he said, “From now on therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” 2 Corinthians 5:16 (ESV)

Now, if you say that this is judging, and that Jesus said not to do it…well, no offense, but…you’re wrong. This is not about determining whether I am better than them. That point is already solved. I am not. I am a sinner. This new person I am meeting is a sinner. Who cares who has sinned more? We are both broken and in need of the Savior.

And, as Lewis suggests, there is actually a very good reason for asking this question about any new acquaintance. I need to know if someone is a Christian so I can determine if I need to explain the gospel to them. And so, as Lewis closes his point about possible gods and goddesses: “All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

That’s right, and yet, the question is, how do you do this? How can you tell if someone is a true Christian so you can help them to the right destination? Well, of course you can’t know for sure, but you can get a really good idea because there is one great key, and the encourager, Barnabas, knew it.

In Acts 11, some evangelists have traveled to Antioch and proclaimed the gospel, and word came back to the leaders in Jerusalem. So in response, they sent Barnabas to determine if this was a real work of God. In other words, they wanted to find out if these folks had really become Christians. Now, take notice of what Barnabas was looking for:

When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, Acts 11:23 (ESV)

When I get into a conversation on an airplane, or when someone comes to me for counseling, or when I get stuck with someone in an elevator, there is one thing I want to determine – like Barnabas, I want to know if I can see the grace of God.

Now, the $64,000 question is this – how do you see the grace of God in someone’s life?  And this is my best answer – you must get to the heart of what they are trusting in to be accepted by God, to get to heaven. I often use some form of a question like this (I think this comes from Evangelism Explosion): “If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and He was to say, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?”

If their answer is some form of, “I’m a good person,” or “I’ve tried to do my best,” then you know you have a person who is depending upon their own works. You’ll need to explain the gospel.

But sometimes they say this: “I don’t deserve to go to heaven. My only hope is in the cross of Christ where Jesus died in my place. My hope, therefore, is in God’s grace toward an undeserving sinner.”

When you hear an answer like this, then praise God. Of course, it’s not everything – someone who really is trusting in God’s grace will respond to his grace with good works (Ephesians 2:8 – 10) – but in all likelihood, like Barnabas, you have good reason…to be glad.


Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 25: Acts 12

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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Letter of Thanks to My Godly Aunt on Her 80th Birthday

(from mid March)

Dear Aunt Ruth,

I wish I could be with you at the celebration today, but this brief note will have to do. It was really great being with you and yours at the wedding last year and I would have loved a repeat. Maybe next year, huh?

I’ll get around to the standard greetings on this big day, but I wanted to start with a thank-you. The truth is that I have much to thank you for, but it seems fitting that I should sum it all up with Keith Green.

You might not know why Keith means so much to me, but it starts with you. Do you remember? You sent me one of his albums during my high school years. I think it was “So You Want to Go Back to Egypt”, but I wouldn’t swear to that. It doesn’t matter because I didn’t listen to it. Back then it was just one of those religious books or records that Ruth and Jack would send along for a birthday or Christmas. I rolled my eyes every time I received something of this nature and proceeded to put the item in a closet or corner somewhere.

And that’s where I found the album when I returned from West Point a new creature in Christ. I quickly became a Keith Green fan.

Now, some might be tempted to think that your extensive evangelistic efforts were a waste of time, but I know better and I trust you do too. For to me, Keith Green is representative of a woman who was undoubtedly praying that the Lord would remove the veil from her nephew’s eyes, and of course…He did.

And then there’s Mom, who would surely send greetings of a similar spirit if she were able. I stopped to see her over lunch today. She asked me who I was. I told her I was her son. She was glad.

I helped her a bit with the meal – of course, she can feed herself and does usually, but her eyesight is not so good, and I occasionally help as I did today with the meatloaf and jello. Anyway, as she ate, “The Old Rugged Cross” came on the CD player in the dining room, and she began spontaneously singing along in between mouthfuls. I sang along quietly, helping her with the words just a bit while trying not to disturb her fellow residents lunching at the Christian Homestead. You’ll remember that while no Sandy Patti, Mom sings with gusto, and today was no exception.

Me…she’s foggy on, but she remembers the songs of her Savior.

And you led Mom to Him. More gratitude…from her, surely, but of course, from me as well.

And finally, my gratitude will never cease that today, almost exactly 5 years after his death, Dad (you’ll remember – the guy who bristled at being called “brother” upon coming into Water St. Church) is in fullness of joy. How about that? From you…to Mom and me…and from us…to Dad. Glory to God alone, but we are His instruments, and it’s amazing what a few words and an album can do.

The words of one of my favorite Keith Green songs come to mind:

Do you see, do you see, all the people sinking down?
Don’t you care, don’t you care, are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb not to care if they come?
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Well, Ruth…you didn’t. You didn’t close your eyes, and you didn’t pretend the job was done, and you didn’t let us drown…and you did care…about the most important thing.

So aside from all the Thanksgivings, and weekends during college, and great conversations and love, I thank you on this day for being a faithful witness to the Knowlton family, and I’ll bet to a whole lot of others too.

You, dear Aunt, have run this course well, and I will forever be thankful for that. So, on this your 80th, Happy Birthday from all of us in still wintry Wisconsin!

You are very loved,


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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


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