Saturday, June 16, 2007

Accosting People or Evangelizing?

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.


Halfmoon Girl said...

I am going to post on an awesome book on evangelism that I have been reading. Sometimes we can do more harm than good when we try to evanglize. I would have to say that I have now decided that the biggest mistake is the sin of silence- not saying anything at all.

Heather said...

Great testimony of your husband. I am in agreement with you about the evangelism that you are talking about.


Karen said...

When I read your post on FIAR I thought of this video that I saw a few weeks ago.

I struggle with this myself because in general I don't speak to strangers at all.

I love what your husband did. This is a wonderful example of loving people the way Christ commands us to. But, I think there are many ways to evangelize including street preaching. I do not agree with screaming at people on a street corner though.


Karen said...

The whole link didn't show in my last post.

nsremom said...

Well though out. You most definately have been thinking deep about this. Sadly, I've been in my own little world lately and haven't put any real thought into theology/evangelism at all.

I liked the story about your husband. Even if the end result was that the man was not there. Cause you see, the glorious point in your story to me was the obedience that your husband showed. That's all he's supposed to do, right?

Pastor Chris said...

I like the questions you raise and example of your husband shows alot. His example is a case study in life sytle evagelism.

Pastor Chris

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

I still believe the absolute best way to evangelize anyone is to live your life like an open Bible. Sounds trite and cliche, but it really is true---you may be the only Bible, the only church, the only Christian someone ever knows. If you live your life as humbly, as holy, and as plugged in as possible, I think we are excellent examples for those around us.

A long time ago when we first started going to our church, our Sunday School class was HEAVY into door to door, street evangelism. We had a watermelon meet-your-neighbor party in our neighborhood and we invited some church friends. They practically ran off all our neighbors peppering them with the standard questions (how do you think you get to go to heaven? Is being good important?)

It made me so angry! I say offer a cup to those who are thirsty. Give charity and love where it is needed. Give credit to Almighty God in ALL things. Live your life with clean hands and a clean heart and you'll win more people that way.

As my grandma says, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar! :)

The Carnegies said...

Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself! Well, said. I agree wholeheartedly. I don't beleive there is a "formula" for evangelizing. I think we need to do what your husband did. Act as you feel led, and be careful not to ignore the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit when he prompts us!

Jenny in Ca said...

I am nodding my head in agreement about this new style of evangilism.

wow, that story about your husband and the food...just wow! Really wonderful.