Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thoughts on Evangelism

Hell is not Good News
Under law everyone deserves hell. Under grace everyone deserves salvation but must choose to trust Christ to receive it. Rejecting Christ is like being given a house but never moving in.

Evangelize means to "proclaim or announce good news." The gospel of Jesus Christ is literally good news. The gospel isn't about hell it is about Jesus Christ taking away our sins so we can know God. People don't have to be warned about hell if you introduce them to our wonderful loving God. The message of Jesus was "Trust me and LIVE!" not "Trust me or DIE!" The gospel message isn't, "You're in danger of going to hell." The gospel message is "God has already bought for you and is offering you every good thing. Trust Him and you will have more joy & experience more love than you ever thought possible."

The book of Acts doesn't mention hell thus we see no basis for it to be used in evangelism. We cannot convince anyone but we can tell them the good news. I think that is why hell never comes up in Acts. If someone doesn't respond positively to the good news of what Jesus has done for them what more is there to say? I would see anything more as manipulation because you feel obligated to "get them saved" because religion teaches that you must or you are a failure.

Fear of Hell Does Not Result in Relationship with God
Using "if you don't trust Jesus you're in danger of going to hell," even after sharing the true gospel, is adding an appeal to human fear at the end rather than letting the gospel rest on God's love. The last thing you say is often the most memorable because it is the most recent. I falsely got baptized based on my fear of hell. I wasn't choosing God or trusting God. I did not know God because of it and I was not saved until 5 years later. Adding "if you reject Him you're in danger of going to hell" every time you share the gospel is sorta like offering someone a million dollars at gun point. Let the riches speak for themselves! If you truly believe the gospel is Good News why would you need to threaten someone into it?

Churches Seek Religious Servants rather than Disciples for Christ
Some say, "Well Jesus talked about hell more than he talked about heaven." I don't know if that is true but I do know that He talked about His Father & His relationship with Him most of all because that is what salvation is, an eternal love relationship with God. I've pretty much never heard anyone evangelize like that. Rarely do you hear, "Jesus wants you to know & experience the love of His incredible Father." Why is that simple truth so rare? Because religion runs on the performances of its people. If people think God already completely loves them and approves of them the minute they are saved then there is no reason to serve a religious system to earn His approval. God did not set up a religious system. I'm not saying this is done maliciously but church attendance/service/membership is almost always included in the sales pitch. "Pray now and you will not only avoid hell but you can go to my church free!"

The Christian Sales Pitch
Most people never see evangelism exemplified. We only see public preaching that is so impersonal & non-interactive that preachers are forced to make blanket statements & assume people's answers because people aren't allowed to personally answer during a sermon. So likewise we may approach evangelism as a "prepared message" rather than a conversation where we listen to the person we are talking to and we listen to the spirit. In churches I've only seen evangelism taught as an intellectual formula to win an argument. Honestly it leaves God out of it. If you have x amount of things to say when does God get a chance to lead you? "Evangelistic training" in the church is basically something used to calm people's fears (which Christ Himself should be doing) & it is a practical substitute for listening to God. Christians are seen as another form of manipulative salesmen by the world & rightly so because that is exactly what they are taught to be.

Getting someone to pray "the sinner's prayer" is how you "close the deal." And just like a salesman you may never speak to this person again after closing the deal because you got them to pray the prayer and show up to your church. Planting and watering are part of a gradual process of care, growth, and relationship. Most Christian witnessing carries the mindset of applying miracle grow so we can quickly add a tally to the conversion board.

Oxymoronic Witnessing
Not only does most "witnessing" end in trying to get people to go to your church but even more often "witnessing" is inviting someone to church to hear a sermon. A "witness" is one who can give a firsthand account of something experienced. A prepared sales pitch is not a witness. Getting someone to go to church in hopes that they will get saved is like a salesman only inviting someone to an infomercial taping. People don't witness because they haven't witnessed anything. If your entire witness is based on what you've read in the bible, you probably haven't witnessed anything. Just because you read about a crime in the paper, doesn't mean that you can go to court during the trial and be a witness.

Several times Jesus told people not to say what He had done for them but they couldn't help themselves because they witnessed the living God, the Messiah. The news is not good if God is not knowable. If I am a witness that means I have seen God's love for me. The good news is that Jesus took away our sin on the cross so that we could know God. As Jesus said in John 17:3, "Knowing God is eternal life!" Witnessing flows from a relationship with God.

Being Motivated by Guilt
If I'm sharing Jesus with my neighbor because I'm going to feel guilty if I don't then it is still about me, its not about them, and they're not going to hear it. Religious obligation turns evangelism into, "I'm gonna feel bad if I don't witness so I'm going to run over there and witness." If your witnessing is motivated by guilt or fear of guilt you in no way exude the gospel. The gospel of Christ removes guilt. If you fear your inactivity will produce feelings of guilt then you need to understand the gospel yourself.

The Gospel Message as Presented by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5-6
"God the Father was in Jesus Christ on the cross making relationship with Himself available to the world by no longer counting people's sins against them. Christ died for all. God has given us this message of relationship to tell others. We speak on behalf of Christ when we plead, “Come to God!” Christ never sinned, but God made Him become sin for all so that all could be made right with God through trusting Christ and become the righteousness of God in Him.

God says to all, “At just the right time, I hear you. On the day of salvation, I help you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. Now is the right time to call out to God. Today is the right day to be helped. Do not put it off. By knowledge, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, & by the power of God we tell these things to all."

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