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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Philosophy of Ministry: Evangelism

This is a topic that I’ve been anxious to cover since the last article that I posted. This topic actually stems from the previous article, but I didn’t want to prolong the discussion or bring too many issues to the table at once. I hope that this is something that I’m not alone in being disappointed over. We will see…hopefully, soon after I post.

The element of most ministries that I have been able to observe (since I’ve been paying attention) that concerns me the most is their evangelistic strategy. I would go so far as to say that the thing that concerns me the most will seem like a normal thing to everyone reading this article, but I believe that it is not only an unbiblical method of evangelism but also a rather ineffective one on the whole. This method, as you may have guessed, is to invite people to church. Whether you meet someone in the store or on visitation night from your church, is your primary motive in evangelism to invite them to church?

Quite possibly, many Christians today believe that they are operating with good intentions based on the idea that the people whom they are inviting to church will get the chance to hear the Gospel. I think that it goes without saying that this idea stems from the concern addressed in my last post. Since when did the Great Commission receive the amendment “…preach the Gospel [by inviting people to the local assembly]?” I actually witnessed a couple of girls who seemed to have a good rapport with a guy at a gas station—instead of telling the man how to be saved—invite him to a festival at their Bible college! What a travesty! This man was in need of being confronted with his sin and directed to the Savior, and the ones who were qualified to inform him left him clueless. I believe that, at times, we can all get cold feet when an opportunity arises, but will anyone disagree with my inference that they were accustomed to inviting people to come hear the Gospel from their preacher or someone else rather than proclaiming it themselves?

Maybe Christians today believe that they need to develop a relationship with an unbeliever before they or the unbeliever can feel comfortable enough to bring up the subject. The first flaw we need to analyze in this form of reasoning is the idea that a believer must develop a relationship with an unbeliever. Does anyone besides me notice the flaw in that reasoning? **2Co 6:15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? ** Perhaps modern believers are using the example given to us in the NT by the apostles in which they developed relationships with those they came across before preaching the Gospel to them? **???Rom. 19:3-7? I Pet. 7:13-22???** I believe that this method is not only unbiblical, but dangerous as well. The second flaw is the idea that we or the unbeliever must feel comfortable discussing these things concerning sin and salvation. First of all, how good of a relationship do you have with your mom? Good, right? Probably better than most. If your mom was an unbeliever, would you feel comfortable telling her that she is going to hell? Probably not. Should this keep you from telling her about the only hope that she has and the reason that she needs to acknowledge this only hope? No, but you will most likely fell a bit uncomfortable in telling her something that will eat away at you until you do. At least I hope it would. The bottom line is that we must and will tell people—all people whom the Lord allows us to be in contact with—about the desperate need that they have if we love them. And if you don’t have a love and burden for the lost, read II Corinthians 13:5.

I’m sure that we all know of people who are “cultural Christians,” right? Many of you reading this article have grown up either in Christian school or around students of Christian schools who were no different than unbelievers in regard to their lifestyles. Basically, these people consider themselves to be Christians because they grew up in church and probably even said the “sinner’s prayer” at some point in their lives. Does this necessarily make them a Christian? Of course not! Consider the neighbor who was invited to church for a “fun night.” The church family got together for games and snacks and a movie at the church—you fill in the activity. Mr. neighbor gets to know the Christians pretty well, and he decides that his new Christian friends are not so stuck up as he thought before. They know how to have fun, and Mr. neighbor doesn’t really have any other friends. Long story short—Mr. neighbor decides to get “saved” in order that he can hang out with them and not be pestered about it anymore. He concludes that they are nice people to be around, and he hasn’t been able to make any other friends since he moved in last summer. Now there is an unconverted member at the local church due to a lack of Biblical evangelism. Not directly because he deceived anyone, but because he was allowed to be brought into fellowship with believers unequally.

I don’t believe that there is any evidence for the validity of this preposterous philosophy of evangelism. Consider the early church: under persecution and fear of infiltrators giving the churches up to the authorities, how many unbelievers were invited to church on any given Sunday? With this in mind, consider the massive growth experienced by the early church. Now taking these things into consideration along with the books being written on church growth and the equally absurd methods of outreach that draw people into the church buildings today, why are we being so dense as to think that we need to find some new way of reaching people and growing our congregations? If it ain’t broke—don’t fix it, right?

Then again, I could be wrong. If I am out of line please let me know. If not, please join me in advocating a shift back into Biblical evangelism.

Allow me to praise the Lord for an example He has given me last night when I was on visitation with my visitation partner, Audrius. We had the privilege of speaking with 3 out of the 5 doors that we knocked on. We were able to leave a tract with one girl who was talking on the phone when we got there, but we had no doors slammed in our face and no one cussed us out. Of the 3 people we had the chance to actually speak to, we gave the Gospel to all 3. I could tell that Audrius had recently listened to Ray Comfort because he was able to bring up sin, hell, judgment, and Christ in the conversation. It was glorious! The Lord gave Audrius the words and nerve to be as straight forward as possible while still being gracious. The next woman we spoke with was just peeking out the door, and when I tried to ask her about sin and her awareness of it she cut me off and replied that she was not interested. I don’t know what came over me, but I froze up and handed her a tract, not wanting to be too pushy. What a disappointment I am! The most important message that the woman will ever hear, and I was ready to allow her to disregard it. Praise God that Audrius wasn’t havin it! He interjected upon my retreat, and told her that she ought to listen and gave her the Gospel as well. This is a good example of why it is important to go in pairs with someone who has experience. The 3rd person we were able to meet had a cross drawn on his forehead with ashes from his Catholic priest. This opportunity was especially amazing for me because I had the opportunity to give him the full Gospel message complete with the demonstration from Scripture that man can have peace with God over against the insecurity of the Roman Catholic system. I had no idea where the words came from, to be honest. I may very well have frozen up again, but the Lord gave me the words and the boldness, so all praise to Him!

This, I believe is the Biblical model in for our day. Why would we escape the uncomfortability of telling people that they need to be saved from their hopeless state by inviting them to a place that we can’t be sure that they will ever show up to? I can’t think of a good reason. How bout you?

Dramatized Exegesis