I have been pondering some things since I have been on Facebook and studying evangelism. One thing I consistently notice is a hostility of people, even Christians, to Christianity, evangelism in particular. Many would rather just serve people in love in order to accomplish evangelism, but as I meditate on what people have said concerning the need to preach the Gospel, I see another angle.
A couple of years ago, I was sharing the Gospel (or rather, trying to) with a group of college age kids. They informed me that Jesus wouldn't like what I was doing. They didn't believe in tracts. They said what I was doing was offensive. One even said that she wouldn't want me to talk to her unsaved parents. At the end of the conversation, she recommended that I read Rob Bell's book called, Velvet Elvis.
I looked up Velvet Elvis and found an indepth critique on the book. My conclusion of the book was that Rob Bell abhors evangelism, and more specifically, Open Air preaching.
I found a video called, 'The Bullhorn Guy' or something like that, where Rob Bell tears apart a street preacher who has a bull-horn. It was very interesting to note his observations.
Although not many have come right out and said the Open Air preaching is really offensive, I have a clue that many Christians lump evangelism in with Open Air preaching, but not the kind of Open Air preaching that is Biblical. It is based upon the type of activities carried out by Westboro, and Micah Armstrong. There are others as well. If you were to study the video clips or see these people in action, you would be turned off as well to evangelism. (Westboro is the group that holds up signs saying 'God Hates Fags' or 'God Hates Islam'.)
What does the Bible say about evangelism? Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. He also told us that we would be His witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We are to tell everyone we can the Gospel. Where then is this disconnect between those preaching the Gospel today that is so offensive and what the Bible tells us to do?
Two things to keep in mind; 1. The Gospel message is offensive. It is hard for people to come to grips with the fact that they cannot save themselves, or that they really are not good people. 2. Because the Gospel itself is offensive, that does not give us the right to be offensive. This is where the disconnect is. I will explain why.
This actually is a very simple problem, but solving it will not be, but it will help us in understanding why people think the way they do, if we can understand ourselves what this problem is. There is another Gospel out there. It looks much like the Gospel of Jesus Christ but it isn't. It is the Gospel of Pelagianism.
Pelagians believe the salvation is two-fold. They believe that we must believe in Jesus Christ as our atonement for sin. We believe that as well. But they also believe that a person must follow God in obedience. But the part that is causing the problems, especially in evangelism and teaching others in evangelism is this; Pelagians do not believe that people are born with sinful hearts. They believe that a person chooses to sin, if he or she does sin. They talk strongly of God's judgment, but never talk of His love. Nor do they talk about God's grace in helping a person overcome sin. In a sense, they seem to think they are God, or some kind of prophet for God. They are very condemning in their interactions with people. For example, one of them who I mentioned above, was doing his open air work, when a woman came by wearing a short skirt. He called out to her, 'Hey slut...'.
This is the reason I believe Open Air work has gotten such a bad name. There is no evidence of God's mercy to the hearers. This indicates that the open air worker probably doesn't think much of his or her own sin. He or she doesn't realize the seriousness of his own sinful heart, because he doesn't believe his has one. Remember, people choose to sin, and these people believe that they are able to keep God's Commandments.
For those of you not familiar with Westboro or Micah Armstrong, they do Open Air work, but not by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather preaching on God's judgment on America or individual people. They use humiliation in their preaching. (Open Air work is simply a person preaching outside to a group of people).
Friends, we need to be preaching the Gospel, but we need to have the love of God overflowing our hearts while we do. We give away what God has given us. God showed us His mercy and we are recipients of His mercy, so we mercifully share the Gospel. Those of us who have sinned greatly know the grace and power of God to forgive sins, and we share that with others.
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:1-7 ESV
Do not let this false image of evangelism to shape the way you believe about the work of evangelism. God doesn't call us to hate or manipulate people. He calls us to love and serve one another, even unbelievers. Those who do Open Air evangelism in a harsh way are arrogant. Pride is an abomination before God. Not all who do Open Air evangelism do so in this way. Many are compassionate and full of mercy. That is how God wants us to operate. We speak the truth in love. We don't take the truth and kill people with it. Grace and truth go together and produce liberty for the captives. They will listen to us, even with a hard message like the Gospel, if we show love and mercy. That is how God is, and we are His representatives. Let's represent the God of love to others.