Million Dollar Question

My favorite way to start a conversation about my faith is handing someone a (obviously fake) million-dollar bill. I tell them that it has the million-dollar question on the back, which is, “Will you go to heaven?” People love the million-dollar bill; I’ve had grown men chase me down and ask me for one. It’s a great way to get a conversation going.

When I ask people the million-dollar question, almost everyone says they’re going to heaven. Then I like to ask this: “If you were to die today and stand before God, and God said, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?” With this question, I believe I’ve already accomplished a lot in just getting the person to think about eternity. Even if he or she were to cuss me out, and run away, I would feel I’d been successful. Plus, he or she would already have a gospel tract in hand. A gospel tract never gets distracted from preaching the truth.

While some Christians say that people know the gospel and that we don’t need to go out witness, I’ve realized after asking this question dozens of times that people have no idea what’s going to happen when they die, and most people are open to discussing it. The majority of the time the response to that question is pitiful. Usually people have no answer. They look around and hem and haw for a few seconds, and I feel like I have to put them out of their misery by moving the conversation along. I ask if they consider themselves to be good people, and then do the Way of the Master routine.

At times people who have no answer for that question claim to be Christians later in the conversation. I understand that they may have been caught off guard by some guy passing out fake money. But the gospel is something Christians should be able to put into words, even on a moment’s notice. If people say they don’t know why they’re going to heaven, and consider themselves to be good people, I ask myself if they are truly saved.

I talked to 30 or 40 people at the state fair a couple of weeks ago, and just one girl answered that question saying that she’s saved. Two or three others answered that they have faith in God. People need someone to give them the answer to this question. It was pretty sad to encounter such a small number of Christians.

By the way, there is only one right answer to that question. If you don’t know what it is, check this out.

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35 Responses to Million Dollar Question

  1. PB and J says:

    i think its great that you are out there sharing the Good News. but remember that many people are turned off by this approach as well. i used to do this kind of thing often, but i found that it was more loving to build a relationship with a person before sharing the Good News.

    the other concern is that the Good News is much more encompassing than just the fact that Jesus died. it includes everything. it is truly good news of a new Kingdom established by the King. this should encompass our entire life.

    just my thoughts. hope they are helpful.

    peter

  2. billphillips says:

    PB and J,

    Most Christians use relationship evangelism to avoid ever preaching the Gospel to anyone. Jesus hung out with people sometimes, and He often preached or witnessed to strangers. We should do both.

    What do you mean when you say the Good News is much more encompassing than just Jesus dying?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  3. PB and J says:

    Bill

    great point. i think you are very right that there are many Christians who excuse their lack of evangelism by calling it relational evangelism and really not even doing that.

    as far as Good News, it is so often taught in evangelical circles that Jesus died on the cross for our sins…

    and thats it. but that isnt it. if Christ didnt rise, then we are to be pitied above all fools. not to mention his entire life was a model of the Good News of being set free from sin(“if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed”). we often forget that Christ rising and ascending means the Spirit descending. i am not referring to tongues, but to the fruit of the Spirit. many Christians neglect to share that a Christian is a “new creation” and no longer in bondage to sin.

    anyway, thats what i meant.

    peter

  4. びっくり says:

    What a fun approach. I can’t see many folks being put off by this, unless they were already strongly opposed beforehand. Thanks for the encouraging message, and don’t lose hope when you find few believers… they still have time, and God has amazing plans for their lives. It took me 33 years, but He was patient and carried me through several certainly fatal encounters. I could have died an unrepentant sinner so many times – talk about amazing grace!

    It is interesting how the I’m basically a good person idea gets propagated. I met an Air Force officer on a plane ride one time. She had no idea about the gospel message, even though she regularly visited a chaplain. When I was telling her about the Romans killing the Christ on a cross, she thought they were the Roman Catholics (understandable since an image of Jesus, dead on a cross, is at the front of most cathedrals.) The chaplain apparently was not Christian and even encouraged people not to attend a church. There will always be hurdles, but we must continue the race.

  5. billphillips says:

    Thanks for your comment, and encouragement.

    Bill

  6. ila says:

    Keep evangelizing! And have a very happy birthday!!

  7. Hit ‘n run evangelism, huh? I think it’s Todd Friel who likes to ask his listeners on an almost daily basis, “Since when is the gospel not enough?”

  8. Henwli says:

    Why do you need cheap tricks to attract people? Is this really what Jesus did? As I see it, you’re dishonoring your heritage, sorry. Still, if that’s your thing, good luck with it!

    Just in case you’re interested how some freethinkers view the Way of the Master routine, take a look at our blog. Cheers!

  9. billphillips says:

    Former Follier and Henwli,

    2 Corinthians 2:15-16 says, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”

    I can only hope that I’m preaching the gospel faithfully enough for people to smell Christ. What do you guys smell when you listen to Way of the Master Radio?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  10. Bill,

    When I listen to WOTM Radio, I smell fear, deceitfulness and mental lethargy.

  11. billphillips says:

    Would you include foolishness? (1 Corinthians 1:18)

  12. Humans pursuing and even claiming understanding of “supernatural” presence? Yes, that is foolishness. I know, I know… Psalm 14:1. It’s convenient that the supposed author of a book condemns those who don’t believe in said book.

  13. billphillips says:

    Psalm 14:1 is speaking specifically about atheism. Not about everyone who doesn’t believe the Bible.

    Since you have rejected the Biblical account of God creating the world in 6 days, what do you believe? Where did matter, time, and space come from?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  14. Bill, unlike you my pride is not hurt by saying that I don’t know the answer to a question. I don’t “know” where we came from (bring on an epistymological argument). What you don’t want to admit is that you don’t either. You believe that the bible account is accurate and have faith in that belief even in light of the copious amounts of scientifc data testifying to the contrary.

  15. billphillips says:

    FF,

    So, are you saying you don’t know where the universe came from, but I’m definitely wrong? I’m familiar with the big bang theory, but that doesn’t even deal with the issue of where the matter contained in the tiny little speck might have come from.

    All I’m saying is that all of the matter in the universe didn’t create itself. It’s painfully obvious that it came from somewhere. You must have put some thought into where it might have came from. I’m genuinely interested in hearing your explanation(s).

    Thanks,
    Bill

  16. Both of our theories must contain one “uncaused cause”, wouldn’t you agree? My theory is that the universe itself and all matter and energy (interchangably so) contained therein is eternal whereas your theory draws supernatural conclusions… god is eternal to you.

    Here’s the paradox… my theory is based on the first law of thermodynamics while yours is based on ancient texts authored by people who were convinced that the earth was flat, supported by four pillars and enclosed in a solid dome (firmament) and draws supernatural (superstitious) conclusions as to its “creation”. I can interact with and manipulate matter. You cannot manipulate or interact with “god” outside of your own imagination.

  17. billphillips says:

    FF,

    No wonder you don’t believe the Bible. You have a total lack of understanding of what it says.

    The fact that atheists even entertain the thought that matter is eternal is why the Bible refers to them as fools. That’s a silly idea, and it has nothing to do with the 1st law of thermodynamics. The laws of thermodynamics contradict the idea of matter being eternal, and it certainly goes against common sense.

    You should really think these things through before you bet your eternity on such an idea, or at least come up with a decent theory. I’m telling you this because I care about where you spend eternity. At least come up with a plausible theory, and if you can’t, take a more serious look at the Bible. It’s cool to be a skeptic, but I would urge you to be skeptical of other skeptics as well. Don’t just swallow what they tell you, any more than you would swallow what I tell you.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  18. In my last response, I told you the “eternal universe” is my theory and have not read up on the matter. I also told you previously that I have no problem admitting that I don’t know. Take those two statments and you can see that I simply gave you an explanation that could possibly make sense in my mind however I don’t preach it to be the “gospel truth”.

    So, to suppose that matter and energy are eternal is silly but to propose that a non-corporeal entity created matter from nothingness (the same nothingness he is comprised of?) and breathed life into it is somehow more plausible? I think you’re a little too old to be entertaining such notions.

    Also, I don’t know how you can make the assumption that I haven’t read the bible. As a matter of fact, I read the bible daily. Perhaps if you read my deconversion story you would have a better understanding of my worldview rather than building and attacking a strawman (portraying me as some gullible dolt who bobs his head in agreeance with whatever the skeptical minds of the day are pushing).

  19. billphillips says:

    FF,

    I never said you haven’t read the Bible, but whether you genuinely misunderstand what it says, or whether you intentionally misrepresent it because of your rebellion towards God is irrelevant. You need to reexamine it with an open mind.

    Once again, you don’t know what to think, except to say that what I believe is wrong. There may be ample evidence for what I believe, but it’s just that you haven’t come across it, yet. I’m seriously interested in hearing a plausible theory for how the universe came into existence without a Creator.

    One thing you might want to examine if you never have, is the resurrection of Christ. There is evidence to look at, and alternate theories, and it’s something you can look at historically to see whether it actually happened. By the way, Christianity crumbles if you can prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  20. You’re right, Bill; Christianity does crumble if you can prove Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. How about you demonstrate how the six biblical accounts (gospels and Pauline epistles) of Jesus’ resurrection can be reconciled with each other without leaving anything out of the series of events. I have attempted to do so (as have many apologists who are far more skilled than yourself) and have been unsuccessful.

    As far as the biblical creation story, the existence of the supernatural must first be established then the existence of the god of the bible within the supernatural realm which will bring you to the point at which you can draw parallels showing that the god of the bible is the creator of the universe. Your attacks on my character or my lack of knowledge don’t prove anything but your ability to lash out when you views are scrutinized.

    Regardless of my stance on abiogensis and natural selection, I still hold no belief in anything supernatural. You can actually relate to me here because, as a bible-believer, you don’t believe in “prehistory” because history began in the first sentence of the bible, correct? Just like you don’t believe in prehistory, I don’t believe in the “supernatural” because all we can interact with, manipulate, test and observe is nature.

  21. billphillips says:

    FF,

    I don’t know what apologists you’re talking about. Are they from the Jesus Seminar? This site should help with your confusion regarding reconciling the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection:

    http://www.carm.org/diff/table_resurrection.htm
    http://www.carm.org/bible_difficulties_5.htm

    I haven’t attacked your character or lack of knowledge. The only thing I keep pointing out is that you have a lack of knowledge, and you therefore assume that it’s impossible for me to have knowledge you lack. While you feign humility in your ignorance, you proudly point out how I’m all wrong. There are answers to every question you have. It doesn’t mean you will accept the answer (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), but they’re out there. Even if you found a mistake in the Bible, it doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing of a book, or that you’re going to stand before God and get off the hook for your life.

    I don’t believe in prehistory, because of what the Bible says, and also because of common sense. There has to be a beginning to time, space and matter. When you even approach a naturalistic explanation for why all that exists, you might have a leg to stand on.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  22. endtimespropheticwords says:

    What a great evangelism idea!

    http://endtimespropheticwords.wordpress.com

  23. Bill… politely fill in the gaps in the Easter narratives, please. CARM.org seems to be skipping steps as well as insulting my intelligence (and your own) by simply shrugging flagrant contradictions off by saying, “Oh, that!? Yeah… umm… don’t worry about that. It’s fine. See? It works together just great.” Give me a break.

    Your assertion that I can’t prove something therefore your notion must be correct is patently absurd. I can’t give you a clear and concise method for splitting an atom but does that mean that some whacko’s “butterknife” explanation is plausible? I think your readers deserve better than these feeble attempts.

    P.S. No, but some of the fellows at the Jesus Seminar are great men, especially Dr. Bob Price.

  24. billphillips says:

    I’m not saying that because you can’t prove atheism, that makes Christianity true. I’m saying that someone who claims ignorance shouldn’t make the claim that everyone must share his ignorance. I’ve said this several times now. Maybe I’m not explaining it properly.

    What gaps are you talking about? What is the point of having four gospels if they all repeat each other verbatim? Each author emphasized the points he thought were important, and they all reconcile beautifully. There are no contradictions.

    John 21:25 says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John admits that he could have written much more.

    Have you truly studied out, with an open mind, the theories against Jesus’ resurrection, and the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  25. Adam Smith says:

    As far as the people you referred to in your blog who say that we don’t need to go out and witness, I would love to hear how they explain Mark 16:15…but then again some people have their own way to interpreting the inspired Word of God, so that verse would probably mean little to them.

  26. It’s not ignorance that I claim, Bill. I am very knowledgable of the bible as you would already know had you visited my site. I read the bible daily because I need to know what I’m rejecting. I also read the Qu’ran, Book or Mormon, Bhagavad Gita, etc. They all amount to the same thing… archaic hogwash. Feel free to devote your life to an ancient text written by Bronze Age goat herders that believe in talking serpents, satyrs, unicorns, behemoths and zombies if you like but I won’t be sharing in your idiocy.

  27. billphillips says:

    FF,

    You’ve claimed ignorance over and over. You might want to read back over your comments. You’ve also demonstrated your ignorance of the Bible quite clearly.

    You’re a fulfillment of many prophecies, and the Bible has you all figured out. Reading the Bible to know what you’re rejecting, and reading it to determine whether it’s true are two different things.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  28. Bill,

    I read the bible for 16 years as a fundamentalist certain it was true in every way. I’ve continued to read it since my deconversion because it is the key for my unbelief. Each time I crack the book open, I find more and more abhorent claims, assertions and commands that strengthen my position as a faithless former “follier” of Christ.

    I don’t fear the hell of the bible in the same way you don’t fear the hell of Allah, a hell that is sure to be ten times as hot for infidels as YHWH’s hell.

    Can you give me one bit of evidence as to the bible’s divine authorship? You must realize that using the bible to prove the bible is unacceptable (the same can be accomplished for all world religions) as it is circular reasoning. Tell me why you believe the bible to be the “Word of God”.

    –Former Follier

  29. billphillips says:

    FF,

    Using the Bible as evidence of itself isn’t circular reasoning. The Bible is 66 separate books compiled under on cover. If one book makes a prophecy, and it is documented to have come to pass in another book, that is clear evidence that at least the book that made the prophecy is supernatural.

    You’ve read the “Is the Bible Trustworthy” entry, already, so you know my favorite evidences. My absolute favorite evidence is the resurrection of Jesus. If that’s true, we know there is a God, Christianity is true, and the Bible is true. Entire books have been written on this topic, both for and against. To me, the theories trying to explain it away seem silly. But you have to decide for yourself.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  30. Aaron says:

    Former Follier, I’m curious. What evidence if any would persuade you, or does the evidence really matter? I’m not sure what a perfect synthesis of the resurrection accounts really proves or gets you. Maybe you can explain.

    The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. If we answered your particular question would you then change you belief about Jesus and God?

    One of the most powerful apologetics, if you will, is how I see people radically changed by God and living that out on a daily basis. A friend of mine has become a foster parent to help redeem the lives of kids from broken homes. Another adopted a child from Vietnam for similar reasons. Others have moved all over the world to share their faith. I’ve seen acoholics turn their life around. I’ve spent time with homeless. And the list goes on. I think this kind of selfless living is the best witness of the truth of Christ.

    Our lives are literally filled with God. Think about it. Joy. Love. Music. Numbers. Beauty. These are all things that cannot be proven if you will by science and show us what God is like.

  31. Aaron says:

    BTW, one thing I should point out is that I’m not opposed to science. Rather I generally accept what science tells me. There are some things science can’t tell me; this is the area of philosphy … which is my point with that last sentence above.

  32. Bill,

    I can prove to you that Harry Potter exists an actually attends Hogwart’s and plays quidditch in his spare time. Therea re several books written years apart and they all agree. Sound reasonable?

    Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls work to the Christian’s detriment.

  33. billphillips says:

    FF,

    Are you a big Harry Potter fan?

    There is a lot of history in the Bible that is confirmed by archaeologists and other ancient books and historians, including aspects of Jesus’ life. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide manuscripts of Isaiah that predate Jesus. There are many prophecies concerning Jesus in the book of Isaiah. Further, the DSS show that no meaningful errors were added to the Old Testament between the time of the DSS and the oldest manuscript at the time.

    Have you examined the evidence for and against the resurrection of Jesus?

    Thanks,
    Bill

  34. No, Bill, I’m not a Harry Potter fan at all. I’ve never even cracked a J.K. Rowlings book.

    This form of discussion is very cumbersome. Look me up on Skype (Former Follier) and we can have a nice, long discussion about whatever you choose. You can feel free to post excerpts from our discussion on your blog, if you desire.

  35. billphillips says:

    FF,

    I think I’ve banged my head against the wall long enough. I can’t tell you anything that Friel hasn’t already said. Feel free to leave a comment anytime, though.

    Bill

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