I once went on a cruise with my wife to Mexico. While we were at one of the port cities, we began to do some shopping. I’m not a big shopper, unless it involves books or Red Sox memorabilia. However, I needed to get some sunglasses, so we walked into one of the stores there and found a vast amount of Oakley sunglasses.
When I began to look around, I noticed that there were many that were real, but many were knock-offs being sold as the real thing. Too often, this is the case with evangelism. We put out a “product” that looks good, but it’s not the real thing. I have identified four of the most prominent (at least that I have seen) potential knock-offs to evangelism. I say “potential” because they could be used for evangelism, but often they replace our evangelism. Also, I want to say that I believe these are good, but they’re often misused. Without further ado, here they are:
Please, don’t stone me just yet. I believe that sharing the story of how we came to faith is wise and good. In fact, we see this in Scripture. In Psalm 66:16, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul.” We see in Scripture that it’s good for us to proclaim our story of what God has done in our lives. Why then, is this a potential knock-off?
Too often, when we share our testimony with other people, we contrast how we once lived with how we are living now. We focus on the fruit of our transformation and not the root of our transformation. We focus on behavioral change and not the heart change. It’s good to talk about the changed life, but it’s even better to talk about why we have a changed life.
Why are we now joyful instead of angry? Why are we now forgiving when we were once bitter? Why do we love others now when we were once hateful? The fruit of the gospel should always point back to the heart of the gospel, which is that Christ came to reconcile wretched sinners to a Holy God. Testimony is good, but not if you only discuss behavioral modification. Let us not put out the idea that we become Christians so that our lives would be different, but that we came to faith because we wanted Christ for who He is and what He did.
Mercy Ministry & Political Reform
When I speak of mercy ministry, I am thinking about acts of kindness: giving food to the homeless, providing clothes to the needy, etc. Again, this is not a bad thing. We see this in Scripture when Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).” In my experience, mercy ministries and acts of kindness are more concerned with meeting a physical need, not a spiritual one.
If doing these good acts allows you to bridge the gap to the gospel in the life of another, praise God. However, simply giving out clothes and feeding people is not evangelism. What good is it if all we’ve done is clothe and feed people, but never point them to the gospel? We have simply helped them be warm and full on their way to Hell.
It’s good to talk about the changed life, but it’s even better to talk about why we have a changed life.
Mercy ministry will never save anyone. Receiving clothes and food provides the cure for coldness and hunger, not for being reconciled to God. Hopefully, these acts of kindness will help you in building a relationship with people in hopes to share the gospel with them.
What? passing out tracts is not evangelism? Well, simply passing out a tract is not evangelism per se. If anyone is evangelizing in passing out the tracts, I would argue that it’s the author of the contents in the tract, not the distributer of it. I’m not saying that tracts are bad. We have some good ones in our resource cabinet of our church. However, I do believe that tracts should supplement our evangelism.
I will hand someone a tract if our conversation gets cut short, or after I have shared the gospel with them. I’ll hand them one in hopes that they’ll read what’s inside for more information about the gospel that I had just shared with them. I’ll also put a card in there for them to reach me if they have more questions. Tracts are good tools to aid in evangelism, but passing out a tract by itself is not evangelism.
Inviting People to Church
Is this bad? No. I don’t think it’s bad to invite people to church. Many people attend our church because they have been invited. Why is this a potential knock-off to evangelism? Too often we invite people to church so that they’ll hear the preacher and they hope that he will share the gospel and their friends will be saved.
Church invites often stem from the hope that the non-believer will hear the gospel message from the pulpit so that the Christian doesn’t have to do the work of evangelizing. Evangelism is not primarily the pastor’s role in the church. The pastor’s role is to devote himself to the Word and prayer (Acts 6), and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4).
I invite people to church often. However, my invite usually comes after I have had a conversation with an individual, and I want them to see what it is that I believe and do. I invite them to come around other Christians and see what a result of saving belief looks like.
All of these items are good. I believe in them. I just don’t believe that they are evangelism, but tools to evangelize. These should never be mistaken for evangelism, but should be used as instruments to supplement our evangelism.
Soli Deo Gloria
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