Earlier today, a good friend of mine and a member of our congregation sent me this link to an article in USA Today entitled, “How to sell Christianity? Ask an athiest.” Here’s the link for your reviewing pleasure…
Here’s the skinny: Jim Henderson is a progressive pastor in the 21st century who is reacting against the conventional/traditional approach to evangelism – that is, the bait ’em and hook ’em approach. Now, I completely understand that we don’t need to manipulate people into saying something they don’t mean, and I know that many times the hit ’em fast and hit ’em hard approach used by traditional personal-encounter evangelists is wrongfully and rather awkwardly executed. And I am ALWAYS for discovering new and more innovative ways to share/communicate/deliver the same gospel truth that has effectively changed people and impacted eternity for millions of lives throughout history. I am all about developing meaningful relationships with lost people… But the “just live like Jesus and don’t say anything controversial” approach is ineffective, and more seriously, unscriptural. Jim and others of this mindset believe we are not to speak condemning truths or hurtful messages that might isolate non-believers and make them uncomfortable. Instead, we should just live a “good” life, help people out, and stop sharing the controversial message of the gospel. After all, Jesus was all about “love” and “happiness,” right?
The pastors and Christians in general of my generation are infatuated by this “love-them-to-Jesus” approach. A few years ago, I read Steve Sjogren’s book, “Conspiracy of Kindness” which suggests that Christians and churches do generous things for people and develop deep relationships and just wait until they ask about Jesus and, virtually, lead themselves to Christ because of your “witness.” They point out that Jesus met people at their need. He gave them what they physically required (ie: food, water, healing, physical life). What these guys fail to realize is that Jesus didn’t only meet their physical needs. In fact, every time He met a physical need, He used it as an “in” for sharing the Truth that could impact their lives for eternity. For a quick biblical journey concerning this, check out these passages: Matthew 8:5-13, 9:1-2, Mark 2:1-5, 5:35-42, 8:1-10, John 2:1-11, 4:1-26, 5:1-14, 8:1-11. In all of these passages (and arguably in every miracle of healing or provision recorded of Jesus), the ultimate purpose is for the kingdom. Many times (in fact, most times, I believe) before, during, or after one of these miracles, Jesus directly addresses the issue of sin in the recipient’s life.
Let me ask the question… are we becoming stingy with the gospel message? I mean, honestly, I wish I could meet every physical need of every person on the planet. And I also really like to be people’s “friend.” But what the lost actually NEED goes so far beyond an electricity bill payed, a person who will listen to them speak their mind, or some uplifting speech on a Sunday morning. They need Jesus. Eternity is coming, and they will spend it in one of two places. We have no problem sharing our goods, our money, and in more recent cases, our time with the lost. But when it comes to actually sharing the gospel, we are a stingy people.
Do you realize that God has you in your specific environment for a purpose? You have around you a circle of influence that God has ordained. He wants you to meet their physical needs. Yes. But He also wants you to SPEAK THE WORDS THAT BRING LIFE! “Love ’em to Jesus” evangelism is a cop-out. A scripture for the meditating:
The “new thing,” I guess, is to ask the lost how they want to be evangelized. That’s what Jim Henderson did. That’s what Steve Sjogren advocates. I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but that’s utterly ridiculous. The gospel message is offensive by nature. It tells the non-believer that he is wrong, and he needs to submit and surrender his life to the Lordship of SomeOne else in order to be significant. That is tough to hear, and what the lost are saying is, “we don’t want to hear it.” But it’s the Truth. Speak it. To some that hear you, you will be a fragrance of death. Ah, but to some, a fragrance of life (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).
Jim Henderson and others of this thought are hindering the advancement of the gospel. I have many friends who are lost. And I share with every one of them the hard truth of what God requires for salvation. And you know what? Every time they have life questions, and every time they find themselves in a difficult situation, they come to me. And I again tell them the hard truth. You know why? Because it’s the truth that makes a difference. Don’t be stingy with it. Give it away as freely and as often as possible.
I’m afraid that in our quest to be inoffensive, accepting, and loving, we are meeting people’s immediate physical and emotional needs at the expense of their eternal salvific needs. Let’s be a people who lovingly but honestly share the truth that can change eternity for our friends. Let’s not be stingy with the Truth. Let’s answer the call to “do the work of an evangelist,” (2 Timothy 4:5). No matter what is popular, no matter what is easy, no matter what is noncontroversial…
Grace and Peace,