Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Evangelism - it's just telling people they're sinners!

I have had the most entertaining email from someone (who will remain anonymous) who wanted to 'put me straight' on the 'twaddle' (their word) I have written recently (something I always welcome) on the issue of evangelism.

Apparently (and I quote) the lifestyle evangelism methods (servant and friendship evangelism) form 'part of the pathway to hell' and by my sponsorship of them I am merely making people believe they are Christians and 'setting them on the path to hell!' The reasons for this thinking finds its roots in the belief that: 'The only true evangelism is that which tells people that they're sinners and bound for hell... It is this that brings people into the kingdom, for it is the righteous fear that the Bible speaks of!'

I have to be honest and say that whilst I understand the writer's concerns I do think that they are just a little misguided for I know of people who have become Christians because of relationships with Christians that caused them to stop and rethink their attitudes. They were in the company of people who spoke about Jesus, prayed in His name and sought to live in the way the Bible commanded.

The very best person to tell someone that they are caught up in sinful thoughts and acts is that person themselves. Prompted by the example of others and the move of the Holy Spirit, this is the self-discovery that leads to the discovery of a new self in Christ.

But this is, as my correspondent tells me, not the way to 'save souls'. What is needed is to, 'Get them so petrified at the thought of damnation and hellfire that they come running to Jesus and a place of safety.' Whilst I do believe that we need to warn people of the effects of their living outside of that which God calls them to be, I find the idea of getting people to come to Christ as a life raft rather unappealing. After all, I want them to come to Jesus as a Saviour and friend - not a means to a better end.

I have often struggled, as I have said before, at those who come to Christ because of the benefits that such a decision brings. There are places around the world where the profession of faith brings housing, jobs, schooling, health care and the like; bit there are places in the world where becoming a Christian spells the very opposite and invites oppression, persecution and death too!

I don't want people to come to Christ because of fear: Not fear of God - Not fear from God - Nor fear for eternity and hell.

Jesus brings a perfect love and this love, we are told (1 Jn 4.18) 'Casts out fear!'

I don't want to stand out there on the streets telling people that they are doomed and destined for hell (and why is it that the person who wrote to me, like those who often push this view, used the KJV?). I want to stand out there on the streets and tell people about how they are loved. Loved so much that they were considered worth dying for - what a thought, Jesus thinks that each of us (individually) is truly 'to die for!' - and this makes Him worth living for.

Evangelism is (in the words of Charlie Spurgeon) merely 'One beggar telling another beggar where there is bread!'. It takes the words of Galatians 6.1:

'Fellow Believers, suppose you find someone who is caught doing something wrong. You who have God's Spirit should set them right, but in a spirit of humility, keeping an eye on yourselves so that you won't be tempted to use righteous anger, condemnation or pride. For after all we all sins and can compound the sins around us by joining in and treating others wrongly'

Evangelism - it's done and dusted with that statement and the subsequent reading:

Evangelism = love, example, humility, acceptance (to them and from Him)

It really doesn't get any simpler than that does it?


UKViewer said...

I happen to think that you're right that relationships build disciples.

If I were to drill down, I'd say that all that a Christian does, outside the walls of the church, could and should be evangelism.

As you describe, someone living in a that single, unique, personal relationship with Jesus Christ will somehow give example and encouragement to others, that might just get them to question themselves enough, to ask the right questions about God.

And, even if they never darken the door of a traditional church, but go to a Fresh Expression, that will still be an experience of God's grace at work in and through others and their personal relationship with him.

I know that Church is about our communal faith, belief and prayer building God's Kingdom, but each individuals prayers count in to that with that great column of prayer networked through the Holy Spirit through the ages, rising to heaven.

I believe that we should celebrate every soul that is save, however it happens. And, if we believe that God's mercy is for all, not the select few who believe, than perhaps our hope can be extended much more widely than those in Church. Let's go for it!!

Terry said...

The warmth of the Lord Jesus Christ, compared with the 'fires of hell' are far more attractive. We do not need to scare people into the kingdom athough there are times when we should point out the altenative of a life and death without Chrst. I fell in love with Jesus many years ago and it is His love that keeps me