I have been thinking about evangelism lately. I think mostly due to the death of Mrs. Ruth Bell Graham. There is a movement in the Christian community right now that I’m not sure I like. I have thought a lot about it actually, but could not really put together my thoughts until recently. I think maybe it is because I am pitting this new evangelism against Billy Graham’s style.
This new evangelism style is to hit people with their sin so they see a need for a savior. It is used mostly in street evangelism I think. I am not a huge fan of street evangelism in general. I think I’d rather chew off my own arm than walk up to a total stranger and tell them anything, much less that they are dirty, rotten, sinners. But that is just me.
I don’t necessarily have a beef with the theology, just the methods these people employ. The idea is to basically ask people questions about their sin. Can they keep the ten commandments, have the they lusted, have the coveted, do they think they’re a good person, then hit them with the condemnation verses after they’ve admitted they do indeed sin according to the rule of law in The Book.
Here is my thing. Wouldn’t this just make you defensive? When any of us are hit with our own sin or wrongdoing, or mistakes, isn’t it human nature to justify ourselves?
I am not saying this is a right response; just that it is the natural one. So if that is true, aren’t you just shooting yourself in the foot if you are hitting people with their sin then telling them to turn to God? Won’t it just make them more defensive, not less?
This is a word picture my husband came up with to describe this type of evangelism. It is like you are taking Gods amazing grace, putting it in a bag and tying it to the end of a big stick. Then you walk around hitting people with it.
“Can you keep the whole law?” WHAM!
“Have you ever lusted?” WHAM!
“Have you ever told a lie” WHACK!
“Well, me too, so here is the good part, you can accept Gods grace and go to heaven. I just happen to have it right here on the end of this big stick I have been whacking you with and it is yours for the taking!”
Not very appealing is it? I personally ascribe to the idea that you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar.
I’ll tell you right now, from experience, that when you have made a glaringly bad choice (or two or five), and you deserve punishment, and instead you get grace; from other Christians and from the Almighty God you have wronged, it is a powerful thing. Nothing will bring a person to their knees faster than NOT getting what they deserve, but getting wrapped in God’s grace instead. Believe me; I know this to be true.
Let me tell you a story to show you what I mean.
My husband works in downtown Fort Worth. It is a large city and it has lots of homeless. He is often asked for money. I’d say he is approached for money at least 3 or 4 times a month. He has a policy; he does not give out cash. If he feels led, he’ll buy them food or gas. The latest ploy is to come up to a guy pumping gas and tell them a sob story about how you just need a few dollars to put in your tank to get you home. My husband usually replies by telling that person to go ahead and fill their gas tanks and he’ll go in and pay the cashier. 9 times out of 10 the guy either drives off or only can fit a few dollars in his tank because it is not actually empty like he has said.
One time a guy approached my husband at a gas station and asked him for cash. He said he needed the money for food. My husband was in a hurry and said no. They guy kept asking and was commenting on my husbands shiny new truck (the company’s truck) and nice work clothes and surely he had some change to spare. My husband said a final no and started to get in his truck. This man started cussing him out! Truly! All manner of curse words came flying out of that man’s mouth. He rained curses down on my husband because he would not give him money. Needless to say my husband was a bit miffed!
As he drove off, incensed at the gall of that man, he felt the tug of the Holy Spirit to buy that man some food. He argued for a while, but finally relented. He went to a fast food place and bought the biggest triple hamburger deal on the menu, then drove back to the gas station. He was sure the man would be gone by now and was none to happy with God for asking him to do this.
Well the man was still there and my husband got out of his car and took him the bag of food and the drink. The man stood, dumbfounded, with his mouth hanging open, speechless.
When he finally found his voice, he asked my husband why he would bring him food after he yelled at him. My husband’s reply? “I am Christian and God tells me that I am to love my enemies, do good to those who hate me, bless those who curse me, and pray for those who mistreat me.” (Luke 6:28) He handed the man his food, smiled and said, “I’ll be praying for God to reveal himself to you” then he turned around and walked back to his truck.
My husband said the man could barley speak but managed a whispered “thank you”.
I’m telling you right now that what my husband did for that man was ever-so-much more effective in pointing him to the cross, than pointing out to him his rottenness.
I hope I haven’t offended anyone; these are just my evangelistic ramblings.