14 Reasons to Stop Evangelizing Your Friends

April 8, 2009

Years ago, I decided to stop evangelizing my friends. Here are 14 reasons you might consider doing the same:

  1. It makes them uncomfortable.
  2. It makes you uncomfortable.
  3. It makes you think about how to twist every conversation to Jesus rather than seeing how Jesus is already there.
  4. It makes you believe you’re bringing God to them, rather than seeing how the Holy Spirit has already been active in their lives.
  5. It pressures you into showing an unrelatable happy, plastic face rather than letting God’s grace shine through your struggles.
  6. It makes you focus on talking rather than listening.
  7. It leads you to answer questions they aren’t asking.
  8. It makes you think about what to say rather than how to love.
  9. It makes you think faith is a list of statements rather than a different way of living.
  10. It puts you into the role of “teacher,” causing you to miss things your friends can teach you.
  11. It makes them see you as a religious salesman rather than an apprentice of the Master.
  12. It hurts your friendship.
  13. It robs you of a good time.
  14. It makes you think their lack of interest in your evangelism means they are not interested in Jesus or spiritual questions.

What do you think — do you agree/disagree? What other reasons can you think of?

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More about my approach to evangelism:

Reactions to “14 Reasons”:

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

123 responses to 14 Reasons to Stop Evangelizing Your Friends

  1. great job, you really hit the nail on the head. last night at youth group a jr. higher asked me to pray for him that he’d be better at witnessing to his friends. i prayed that God would shine through him in everything he does, actions as well as words.
    thanks for posting this.

  2. I always liked the quote that says: “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” There is a time and place for speaking out, and often more of a time to keep our traps shut.

  3. Nathan, when we’ve been taught and taught, it’s a tough switch to make. Way to go in praying with wisdom. Who knows what effect it will have on your young friend (and thus his friends).

  4. Amy, here’s another, courtesy of St. Francis:
    “Preach the gospel at all times.
    When necessary, use words.”

  5. Just shared this link on my Facebook page.
    Re your first point: “It makes them uncomfortable.” Yes, absolutely, it does. I have my own set of beliefs (agnostic) that are formed by a long process of conscious thought. I’m not really interested in entering into a conversation when the obvious objective of the other party is to get me to change those beliefs. I have a great deal of respect for many faith traditions and I’ve had very interesting conversations about faith and religion, but I’m only comfortable doing so when I don’t feel as though my own views are called into question in any way.
    It may sound odd for a non-evangelical, non-religious person to say this, but I came to essentially the same conclusion for myself a few years ago, except that my revelation regarded politics instead of religion. Among those who already shared my beliefs, I got enthusiastic support for my efforts to speak out, but among those who held radically different beliefs, I just sounded shrill and annoying. In some cases, that led to frayed or damaged friendships. I’m not aware of a single case where I actually managed to persuade anyone to change their beliefs.
    So, now I’m much quieter about my beliefs, choosing instead to lead by example. I like what you’ve said and the thought process behind it.

  6. Good post John!

  7. Eric, I was wondering if I would get any comments from non-religious folks, and who the first might be! Thank you so much for adding your perspective.
    There are definite parallels to attempts to propagate ideas of any kind (I think of the old “Mac evangelist” job title). The problem of course is not in wanting to spread a certain set of beliefs, but in how one does that. For Christians in particular, while Jesus taught an upside-down way of seeing the world (“Whoever wants to be the greatest must be the servant,” etc.) the tendency is to use existing norms of influence and power, which often run opposite to the way of Jesus! So if the medium is the message, the message itself is getting botched.
    I guess for me, it comes back to Aretha Franklin: r-e-s-p-e-c-t
    And thank you for sharing this on Facebook!

  8. Thanks, Jason! Is there anything you would add to the list?

  9. Awesome and insightful post Jon.
    Like Eric, I fall on the secular side of the fence, after many years of Catholicism and parochial school. I regard my beliefs as my own and very personal.
    Despite the evangelical secular movement, very popular in current public literature, I think that most of the time, gorilla evangelism ends up preaching to the choir. (How do you like that metaphor mashup?)
    Peoples beliefs are changed when they observe something working, not when they are beat over the head with it.
    I have enjoyed our theological discussions. I think I feel comfortable in them because I know they won’t end with one of us catching the other in a trap and exclaiming a philosophical checkmate.

  10. It’s interesting that you used the word “respect” in your response. When I was drafting my first comment here, I wrote a section about respect and then deleted it. I think you hinted at my basic premise: Inherent in the idea that I need to be “saved” from my current beliefs is an assumption that my current beliefs are somehow flawed or not worthy of respect. Or at least that’s what I hear when somebody comes at me with a strong attempt at conversion (either religious or political).
    Liked Tim’s comment about traps and philosophical checkmates. I share Tim’s aversion to trap-prone conversations.

  11. Oh yes!!! All the right reason to stop evangelizing to anyone really! I think the way we live speaks louder than what we can say or try to convince people of… I think its a fake and shallow way to go and more than likely people can see right through it… Good stuff here John!!! Glad to see you found my blog as well! 🙂

  12. Tim, what do you mean when you say “evangelical secular movement”? Do you mean like Mac evangelism?
    I like the phrase “gorilla evangelism.” It’s very visual.
    “Peoples’ beliefs are changed when they observe something working, not when they are beat over the head with it.” Well said! Take Macs: I know people who actively resist Mac talk because they’re sick of being badgered and the sense of superiority that often accompanies it. Whereas I have witnessed the slow conversion of a Windows-only family as one Mac is introduced, then another, then a PC is retired…

  13. Eric, you touch on some important questions: What does it mean to be “saved”? What does it look like, and who does it? Over years, I have shifted away from seeing Christian evangelism as a matter of convincing, and towards seeing it as story-telling. Also naming (like variable naming), in the sense of pointing at experiences in someone’s life and saying, “I think that was God at work,” or even, “I think you were doing the work of God.”
    And nobody likes to be boxed in by a conversation. Christians should really pay attention when someone comes doing door-to-door proselytizing, noting their feelings when the tables are turned.
    Sock it to me, sock it to me…

  14. Hi Nicole, I liked your post, Christian Evangelism – Is It Really Effective? One person on Twitter said that the thing he thought was missing from this list was a statement in the older post I linked to:
    “Is it working? If whatever you’re doing is not working, stop doing it.

  15. Jon,
    I love the 14 examples you came up with of where christian evangelism is kooky.
    On the other hand, what if you evangelize in ways that preserve all 14 of those “evangelistic sins” from being committed? 😉
    As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to love evangelizing because I’ve approached it differently. It’s more me just being real and picking up on where God is already interacting with somebody, and then just sort of pushing the envelope at that point, as it were. It becomes as much of a “God encounter for me” at that moment as it is for the other person, too.. Maybe that’s what it’s all about, learning how to experience God together with another person in such a way that you get the joy of opening the door for the bridegroom when He’s knocking – and you both sit down and eat with Him. Sometimes the meal is a little snack – like cheese and crackers. Person doesn’t come away from that deciding to completely overhaul their life but, the encounter was real and conscious for both of you and you know the stage has been set for more where that came from – and for that matter, the same thing happens for you, the supposed “evangelizer,” because you’re in it with them. Sometimes the meal is totally the Lord’s supper – the blood and body get received and the person trades their life for His.

  16. What I meant by “evangelical secular movement” is the spate of very popular authors like Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) or Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion).
    The seem to be preaching non-belief, or stronger, anti-belief. They appear to have less tolerance for religion than most religious people have for agnostics.

  17. It’s interesting that you used the word “sock” in your response. When I was drafting my second comment here, I wrote a section about socks and then … oh, never mind. 😛
    “What does it mean to be ‘saved’?” – When I wrote this I was thinking of a definition like “to induce someone to share my belief system.”
    “What does it look like, and who does it?” – Ah, this is the key question, really. I’m not sure anyone can “save” anyone else really. We all make our own choices to “save” ourselves or not. Or since I’m not religious, I’ll rephrase that as: We all make our own choices about what to believe and we are all individually accountable in the end for the choices we have made.
    As others have already said here, we respond to what we see that works, what makes sense to us, and those responses are tempered by an inevitable wide variety of individual taste.

  18. Heather, I like the picture you paint of “new evangelism” being a shared experience rather than a one-way thing.

  19. Hey Jon! I hope you don’t mind, but I copied the list and put it on my notes on my facebook! I really think it was a great topic of discussion, and it really produced some really good discussion, even if there was some disagreements… Very interesting how people responded! 🙂 Let me know and I could email you the discussions!
    In Freedom, Nicole!

  20. Nicole, you can also have discussions on Facebook by adding a link to this page. But if you paste it in your notes, I’d appreciate a link back here. Oh, and do send me the discussions after they’ve had a little time, I’d like to see them!

  21. Are you related to Alvin?

  22. Cliff, I’d never heard of Alvin Reid before. But a quick search shows:
    • We’re both named Reid
    • We’re both interested in missional living
    • We both play bass. But I’ve never tried 5-string.
    • We’re both on Twitter.
    Our differences:
    • I do not have a snake neck-warmer.

  23. Jon,
    I actually find it very strange that you, and most of the reliious people I know, acively *avoid* talking to me about it at all, even when asked direct questions. I know I am a resident Athiest and all, but sometimes I just want to ask a question and you (or they) are the only person I trust to give me a thougful answer, not some knee-jerk doctrine.
    I mean, I don’t want you to preach to me 24/7 or anything, that would be creepy, but I also think there’s a balance to it, when someone comes to you with a question out of trust, to answer them about your beliefs, else they get the impression that they are cut off to you on the subject.
    On the other hand, I can see how some of my questions could be taken as…. instagatory and contrary if you didn’t know that I was really just asking because I am curious how the other half lives. It’s sort of academic for me at this point, but my curiosity about what people think often gets me in trouble because those with faith often seem more touchy about it than those not of it.
    I ask a friend of ours a question about being Mormon and she toally freaks out and shuts down. Really, I just wanted to knw if what I was told was true. It’s hard to get a straight answer from anyone sometimes and it sucks that you can’t go to your friends for an honest and thoughtful answer.
    How can you correct the wrong beliefs about what you believe if the people in the know are totally unwilling to discuss it? I fear that I am challenging people to think about things instead of just believeing them and that makes them upset somehow. What kind of faith is one that you can’t actively think about and challenge and still come out believng? I don’t want to be converted, I just want to know what you think.
    *end rant* sorry.
    (Posted while in Santorini, looking at about 3 churches per capita on this island out my window.)

  24. Oh yeah, and all of that said, You are probably the best Christian I know because you don’t actively “Jesus me” all the time. It’s refreshing, and it’s the reason we asked you to marry us.
    I’m just saying, if someone asks you and opens the conversation, why not throw some love at them?

    • And God says in His Word, the Bible:

      “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

      Time to start evangelizing again, please, instead of running from our Christian calling. I’d rather that they feel a little “uncomfortable” here than eternally uncomfortable there…

      • Dominic,
        If you read carefully, you’ll see that I care deeply about evangelism. The problem lies in the things I was taught about evangelism and how it’s done. Those are things I have shed, without giving up my calling.

  25. Noelle, I’m guessing that of the people you talk to, many practice their religion from a sense of obligation, and have never had things questioned. I can understand why they would feel nervous about discussing anything.
    I think you know that is not the case with me. I am happy to answer your questions, and always delighted when you ask. If my answers sound like non-answers, there are reasons for that:

    • Jesus is the focus and lens of my life. I could blab endlessly! I have to guard against overwhelming. (Just ask my kids.)
    • I may not want to give a direct answer because I think it’s the wrong question.
    • I am trying to teach you in the same way as Jesus, through stories and by asking more questions.
    • I am trying to shift from a religion of words to a religion of perception and action. (See reason #8.)
    • I am trying to shift from a religion of doctrinal statements to a religion of life-giving relationship. (See reason #9.)
    • If I err, I want to err on the side of saying too little. If you want more, just ask!

    Here, let me illustrate what I mean by a serious answer that you may regard as a non-answer: You talk about correcting the wrong beliefs of others. What if wrong beliefs are not the problem? What if believing this or that is not what the Way of Jesus is about?
    In case you’re confused: I pray for you often. Having you experience the amazing love of Christ is a deep, deep desire of mine. …Did I just confuse you further?
    Being asked to marry you two was one of the biggest validations I’ve had of the changes I’ve made in my life. I was, and am still, deeply honored.

  26. Great post! Practical and to the point. Going to share this with several of my friends. So many times reasoning gets in the way of common sense.

  27. Thanks Billy, I appreciate your passing it on. See you in Twitterville…

  28. Jon, I understand that you are fed up with fake, propositional salesman evangelism. I hate it too. I know you believe Christ followers are to spread the kingdom of God and I know you deeply care about people. However I feel if one person decides not to share their faith with others, because of these 14 points – I believe it is harming the kingdom of God. These 14 points tear down a certain kind of evangelism and do not offer a clear alternative. I’d rather see 14 new ways that I approach sharing the good news in my life. Below are my thoughts on each of your points.
    1. Sometimes the truth can hurt. But “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Some of the most life giving talks in my life have been painful. It’s quite possible that you are betraying your friend by not sharing with them.
    2. We are not called to do only things that are comfortable. If that were true, I would not be able to walk in my new identity in Christ – which keeps growing and changing. Jesus called us to go into all the world and preach the gospel.
    3. Sharing the gospel is not about twisting conversations, but looking for Holy Spirit opportunities.
    4. We can share good news as it relates to their lives and respond to felt needs. When God convicts me of sin, it doesn’t feel good, but by turning from the sin, I get free!
    5. God never told us to be fake. He tells us to be honest and humble. We share with them so they can know the Love of the Father.
    6. Loving IS listening, if we are not listening then we are not loving, if we are not loving than we are ineffective in sharing the good news.
    7. I hope that God doesn’t only answer the questions I’m asking. The apostle Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” Ephesians 4 says he gave some to be evangelists.
    8. We are to speak the truth in love. The Apostle Paul says, “Christ’s love compels us.” I think that should be the motivation behind evangelism
    9. As Christians we are inviting others into a relationship, not into a set of beliefs. While some have reduced evangelism to that, it’s not what evangelism is in the bible.
    10. We shouldn’t appoint ourselves as teachers. Sharing the good news doesn’t mean we teach, we only can teach people who are willing.
    11. I see you don’t like the word evangelism for what it has become, maybe you want to use a new word but don’t take something that the Bible tells us to do and expose all the bad ways people do it without clearly suggesting an alternative.
    12. Sometimes the truth hurts. It doesn’t mean that truth is bad. Yes, it can hurt relationships if evangelism is not done in love but it can be the biggest blessing ever to introduce your friend to the most awesome Being in the universe.
    13. Life isn’t about always having a good time, though Jesus laughed with sinners and hung out with them. A good time is not the sole purpose for relationships.
    14. That is performance-oriented evangelism, which is all about one’s self, not about Christ’s love.

  29. Helen, thank you for your 14-point reply! I appreciate it. My title was intended to be somewhat provocative, but it is honest: After years of trying to evangelize my friends in all the ways I was taught, I did make a conscious decision to stop what I was doing. With the exception of Becky Pippert’s book Out of the Saltshaker & into the World: Evangelism As a Way of Life, I have had to shed almost everything I was taught. This does not mean it was wrong, but that the context of evangelism has completely changed. In our increasingly post-Christian culture, most of what I do is what we used to call “pre-evangelism.” We need to adopt missionary methods, and that mainly means listening, listening, and listening some more.
    Part of what has changed is that my belief in the gospel is stronger than it used to be. I believe that if we do our job, people will ask us questions about our faith. Conversely, if people aren’t asking us, that means we are not yet living the gospel. For me, this did not take place until I stopped trying so hard. For many years I considered myself a failure as an evangelist. But once I stopped what I was doing and let the gospel do its own work, then I could say to myself, “Maybe I am an evangelist after all!”

  30. Wow. This is refreshing stuff, and it relates to the way I live, but I’m not 100% convinced. It all depends what your motivation is.
    If you accept Jesus’ commission to make disciples and to baptise in his name, then we are an evangelizing people. But the key is making *disciples* not converts. The way I see it is that I’m not called to preach at my friends and family but I *must* be known by them as a Christ-follower. I am always on duty and what I do and say affects their view of Christ. Honesty, brokenness and love are what I hope I “project”, but also some of God’s power and victory.
    I just read 1 Peter 3:15 – really helpful here:
    “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
    That really backs this blog posting up. Naturally, if people ASK then you should know what to say. The reason they ask is most likely because of evidence in you of the difference Jesus makes.
    Anyhoo… I’m going to start waffling on, so I will stop right now. :o) Nice to “meet” you and your blog.
    Twitter: GoGod

  31. Peter, thank you for that verse, it’s perfect for this posting! Yes, the motivation absolutely must be make disciples. I may blog further about this, but I now see evangelism as the process of discipling normal (i.e., non-Christian) people.
    See you over in Twitterville!

  32. Jon,
    I stumbled upon your post, and I have to say that I mostly disagree with what you have to say. I think my stance lines up a lot with what Noelle and Helen said.
    It seems to me that you are watering down the gospel- there are things that a person must do and believe to be saved from what we all deserve- Hell. And it seems that you are saying that we should shut our mouths about these beliefs? No. Faith and works move together, and we shouldn’t separate the two. We shouldn’t only do good things, but proclaim the gospel. Paul said this in Romans 10(I’m sure as a pastor, you know what I’m talking about):
    11For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
    14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
    We need to tell our friends about our belief, if it means anything to us. Not every conversation or day, but it needs to be something normal about our conversation, to plant seeds in people’s hearts so that they may be our family in Christ. And uncomfortable is okay- especially when eternal truth is involved. Jesus never promised that following him would be easy- but that he would provide us with what we need- and that includes what to say.

  33. This is my first time to find your blog, and what a great post! I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments, too.
    I have some anecdotal experience to share. I have been a Christian a long time, and Christ is the center of my life. I have never been comfortable with what my childhood Baptist teachers called “witnessing”. But I have prayed fervently for God to use me in any way He sees fit.
    I don’t announce my Christianity but I do try very hard to live by Christian principles. Several of my friends have told me they were drawn to me because of how I love and forgive. When they learned I am a Christian, they asked more questions about my belief. They have eventually come to invite God into their lives and continue to grow as Christians today.
    I can’t back it up with scripture, but it is my belief that we are not all gifted with the ability to successfully evangelize. My sister is and it works very well. She never offends anyone because of her ability to spread the word in a kind and loving way. My gifts lie in patience, listening and exhortation.

  34. Kelsey,
    I’m glad you stumbled through. Thanks for taking the time to read it through and comment!
    I am curious what you see as my “watering down the gospel.” I’m not sure if my point came across, so let me try to be clear: The evangelistic methods I learned for another age are now counter-productive (and actually were never effective for me even before). My goal is not less evangelism, but more. Or more accurately, I want more of effective evangelism, and want to see people stop crappy evangelism that actually ruins it for the rest of us.

  35. Beth,
    Wow, what you share is powerful. From your testimony I would say you are gifted in evangelism. It’s just not evangelism the way we were taught: you know, working on your personal testimony, asking certain leading questions, having all the right answers, etc. But you are a living demonstration that if we live the gospel, it will draw people with its own force.
    Some people are definitely gifted more than others. Is your sister still experiencing the same level of evangelism today that she did before? I wonder how the culture shift (which makes your style more relevant today) affects gifted people.

  36. I guess I’ll tell you a story about my sister to explain. Recently she was in a restaurant with 4 of her (female) friends, having lunch. At the table next to them were three women. My sister liked something that one of those of those three was wearing. So she got up, went to their table to compliment the woman. They started chatting it up, and she sat down with them. Because she is so open and approachable, they started sharing and told her that they were all sisters who had recently moved here to all be together after their families were raised. End of the story is that my sister got all their phone numbers and organized a Bible study with them. They are all big friends now, studying the Word.
    Point is, she didn’t go over to the table to witness to them, but she is so gregarious and likable that when she (I’m sure she’s the one that got the conversation around to God) mentioned something, it wasn’t offensive.
    Whenever the family is waiting on her to return from the store, dr’s visit, or wherever and we are wondering why she’s late, someone always says “Oh, don’t worry, she’s just praying with someone”. lol
    I wouldn’t have the courage to go to a stranger’s table even to compliment their outfit, much less, ask them if they wanted to do a Bible study! But as I said, we all have our gifts and as long as we are leading the life that God is guiding us to live, it’s all good!

  37. Beth, wow. That shows the difference between those who are called to evangelize (you, me, and all followers of Jesus) and those who are gifted in it. The same is true of all the gifts of the Spirit. So we’re not off the hook, because if the Spirit is ready to move, he will use anyone who is willing, but (as you point out) in their own way. It’s all good! 🙂

  38. Jon, don’t know how I missed this when you posted it originally, but am so glad I checked it out. Absolutely love it! Could not agree more!! Will try to stay awake and hear the radio show tonight…could be very interesting…

  39. lets say you go fishing with your dad and he tells you not to go into the water and not to go out on the Boat. There are Alligators in the water. He tells you to stay on the dock. After about 3 hours your dad gets up and goes to the car and you decide you have not seen any alligators and it is hot and there is a boat next to the dock. You get into the boat and not 30 seconds after you get into the boat and start fishing the boat gets knocked over and you are in the water with an Alligator. You scream and your Dad hears what is happening and does not think of himself jumps into the water to save you. He gets you out of the water but in the process he dies. He dies for you. You live and he dies. Now wouldn’t you tell everyone that story? How could anyone keep you quite about how your fater died for you? If you were really saved from death how could you not tell everyone?

  40. While I agree with some of these (makes them uncomfortable) and don’t agree with others, I don’t think any of these points are good enough reasons not to tell people there is forgiveness for their sins.
    According to The Bible, those that don’t repent and put their faith in Jesus will have to pay for their sins in Hell. How will they know if no one tells them?

  41. There is a doctor and he knows that one of his patience has cancer. He sees 10 clear signs that the person has cancer and is going to die. The doctor knows the cure for Cancer. He does not tell the person they have cancer and he does not tell them he knows a cure. He thinks to himself. I to not want to make that person uncomfortable. I do not want to be uncomfortable while telling them. I do not want to twist every conversation with the patient twords their cancer. I want to enjoy the patient and my job. I want the person to enjoy coming to the doctor. I just will leave it up to God he will heal them if he wants to. So The doctor who could save the persons life decides that he wants to have fun and not ruin a good thing so he does not tell the patient about his cancer and the cure.
    You would say you curel Doctor. If you are saved you see that a person has broken any of the 10 commandments and the Bible sayes that all liars will have their place in the lake of fire. You know there is a cure for sin it is paid by the Lord Jesus Christ. You know that they have to hear to be able to believe. The Bible askes us how can they believe what they do not know. We preach and so they believed.
    If you do not tell your friends that they have broken Gods law and they are going to go to Hell unless they obey the gospel then you are not much of a friend. You are going to just let your friends end up in hell for eternity? You sound more like an uncaring enemy to me.
    Jesus commands us to preach the Gospel to all creatures. Are you obeying God?

  42. Jenifer Pepling said what I would have said, but only better. I second her comment and applaud it. It is biblically sound. Sorry … but your list isn’t.

  43. Carrie,
    The things I have to do to get you to notice my posts…! 😉
    Glad you liked it.

  44. Jenifer,
    Thank you for your comments, but I’m afraid you may be missing my point. Conventional evangelism may have been effective once, but today, among the people I am trying to reach, it actually closes doors and pushes people away from the gospel; it’s devangelism!
    I am passionate to spread the gospel. In post-Christian society, we must adopt missionary methods, not what may have worked in a different culture and time.

  45. Angel, please see my response to Jenifer. I don’t know if it will clarify things.

  46. Stefano,
    I never said not to tell people that there is grace, forgiveness, and a loving God who is pursuing them! I tried the old evangelistic methods I was taught for years, and it never worked. It was only by stopping those methods that my friends and I could relax, and they could begin asking me questions about my hope and faith. …Do you see the difference?

  47. Jon, I am finding that I am better at evangelism now that I quit doing “friendship” evangelism and started evangelizing the way Jesus did. I am bolder and I am actually doing what Jesus commanded by getting out there and presenting the Law & the Gospel. We have a group at church who go out on the streets and handout tracts, witness to people, and we are even going to step out and actually start street preaching. To me, that is living my life in such a way that it not only glorifies God, obeys Him, but also lets people see what God is doing in my life.
    And, believe me … my friends may not know what to think of all the changes going on in my life, but they sure do respect it. It hasn’t turned any of them off and I don’t push it down their throats. I am just me and they know where I stand. I am more than happy to answer questions, gently correct when necessary, and be the friend I always have … but I will not stop evangelizing because it makes some people uncomfortable. I am going to keep doing it the way Jesus did and let the Holy Spirit do his job as I go along. 🙂
    Plus, while you are looking for new methods … people are dying and going to hell. While you are waiting for them to ask questions about your hope and your faith … what happens if they get hit by a bus and die before they ever do? People are dying in their sins every minute. We can’t wait for them to come to us.
    Just my opinion.

  48. Robert Matheny May 30, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    My friend, I stand in judgment now,
    and feel that you’re to blame somehow.
    On earth I walked with you by day,
    and never did you show the way.
    You knew the Savior in truth and glory,
    But never did you tell the story.
    My knowledge then was very dim.
    You could have led me safe to Him.
    Though we lived together, here on earth,
    you never told me of the second birth.
    And now I stand before eternal hell,
    because of heaven’s glory you did not tell!

  49. I disagree with this blog, the Bible teaches to go into ALL THE WORLD and PREACH the gospel. (Not, go into all the world and BE A GOOD EXAMPLE) I think we are responsible for our friends at the very least…and IF you love your family and friends, you will tell them. However, there are ways to do this without being annoying or obnoxious. You can tell them things in conversation that Jesus has done for you lately or how you got saved, people cannot argue with your personal testimony, they were not there, and have no knowledge to try to tear apart your experience. At the very least you can make them think while not being threatening or annoying. There is always a way to witness, yes, we are to be living examples of Christ, but we are also go GO AND TELL others…so I disagree with this blog.

  50. ps…the main reason to keep doing it, …you said in your first reason it makes them (your friends) uncomfortable…the alternative is Hell, an extremely uncomfortable place. If i can prevent a friend from going there or even just make them think, plant a seed in them, then so much the better. If I were blind and my friends saw me walking toward a cliff or into a highway with a truck coming…wouldnt you expect them to stop me or try to stop me? Wouldnt a REAL friend do that for me? What kind of friend am I to let my friends just walk off into hell without trying to stop them? And thats only one of your 14 reasons.

  51. Sounds like a “Works” oriented, juvenile mindset.
    Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
    The Bible tells us that some people will be offended at the gospel (Luke 12:51-53). However, we are commanded to share the gospel, and there is no excuse for not doing so (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
    We must be willing and bold in our actual sharing of the gospel. Proclaim the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to your friends and family (Romans 10:9-10). Always be prepared to speak of your faith (1 Peter 3:15), doing so with gentleness and respect.
    Ultimately, we must leave the salvation of our loved ones up to God. It is God’s power and grace that saves people, not our efforts. The best and most we can do is pray for them, witness to them, and live the Christian life in front of them.

    • The phrase “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words” is often attributed to Francis of Assisi, but the truth is, he never uttered these words, committed them to paper, or even lived them.

      Part of our Christian witness to the world IS to be the “salt of the earth”, by demonstrating charity, love, mercy and self-sacrifice, but all of that must be tempered with active evangelism, through sharing the Word, not necessarily as a response, but also by initiating the discourse with others, even in a so-called Post-modern world, marked by information overload, self-centeredness, and an overall aversion to the Gospel message. While it is true that the mission field is a harder one than in the past, we are all still commanded to be active (and proactive) in spreading the Gospel to everyone around us – the time is short, and we cannot wait for people to always make the leap from seeing our lives in action, to making a connection to Christ. In a world that is becoming decreasingly devoid of Christ-based perspective, the average person will usually equate your good works to you just being a nice person, and not necessarily a follower of Christ.

      My last thought on the dialogue started here is that it is a discussion that is probably not being shared in other parts of the world – the American church (along with other Western counterparts) experiences comforts and that often completely separate us from (and blind us to) the challenges other believers are experiencing in other parts of the world, where they are actively engaging others and sharing the Gospel under harsher conditions than most of us experience day-to-day (save for American missionaries who see these things firsthand, while taking the Gospel to unfamiliar people in unfamiliar lands, in sometimes dangerous conditions). These believers face severe persecution and even death, but still actively evangelize. Yet here, in America, we worry about how openly sharing the Gospel might annoy or alienate someone.

      Of course, we don’t want to be counterproductive to growth of the Kingdom by using poor methods of sharing the Gospel message with others, but we commanded to be actively making disciples, and equipping them to do the same, while we, ourselves are being discipled, by others, through the Word and the counsel of the Holy Spirit. God can use even timid people (think Moses, or even Paul) to share the Gospel boldly.

  52. Jon Please!!
    If any one on this blog has a friend suddenly die after they have lived and not shared with an earnest heart, Law and Grace, you will rue the day you had the chance, and decided Jesus made you uncomfortable.
    Don Woods nailed down the Bible verses, let me tell you about my friends that got to know me and not know Jesus. Jim Green had a chance to know me and died of cancer I was too ashamed. Chad Swisher one of the heavy weights I coached died in a car accident. Doug Bennetts he got to read my “what if” shirt for nearly 9 hrs. heart attack. Were are my friends now because they got to see? and not hear what Jesus did for them and why!!
    Who ever does not share the gift of salvation with everyone he sees (and there friends), HATES (and I mean HATES) that person,why would you chance some one (especially someone you know) going to Hell??? Why??? What do you really believe???
    Posted by: Jake Farber | May 31, 2009 at 07:52 AM

  53. Angel,
    Thank you for following up, and sharing from your own life.
    I am curious about a couple of things:
    • Twice, you talk about evangelizing “the way Jesus did.” Would you elaborate on that?
    • You present “the Law & the Gospel.” This phrase “presenting the Law” seems to come up in this circle, and it startles me. Is that the “bad news” portion, followed by the “good news”?

  54. Robert,
    Cute song. Is it danceable? 😉
    But seriously, stopping crappy evangelistic techniques has allowed me to share the gospel freely and frequently with my friends.

  55. Michele, you say disagree with what I wrote… but I’m not sure you made it past my provocative title and first reason. If you read on, you may see that my concern is to improve evangelism and have more of it by stopping stuff that actually hinders it.
    Skip to my last one then, number 14. What are your thoughts on that?

  56. I’ll agree with Jon that we don’t stand on a box and use a megaphone with our friends at the dinner table or sitting around the living room. The method is adapted.
    But, the message is the same.
    I think we can (and should) adapt our communication to the best way for people to respond to us. And, everybody responds to different styles. If we care about people and actually listen to them, we can be much more of a friend and not immediately get a wall between us.
    BUT, no matter how we communicate, the gospel is the same.
    God is holy.
    God hates sin.
    We are sinners. (This is the part people really need help understanding)
    We deserve God’s wrath.
    Though no merit of our own, God is willing to punish Jesus instead of us.
    Evidence of that will be repentance/faith/willingness to reach out to others.

  57. 1. Twice, you talk about evangelizing “the way Jesus did.” Would you elaborate on that?
    No problem! First, you relate to the person you are talking to in the “natural” realm. You can talk about the weather, comment on their dog … basically have a casual conversation with them.
    Second, you bring up the things of God. Ask them if they know any good churches or if they have a Christian background. You can offer them a gospel tract.
    One of my favorite ways to do this is actually to talk about politics. Joke around about all that stimulus money that all these businesses are getting and then asked the person if they have gotten an Obama Million (a tract you can purchase at LivingWaters.com). I usually joke about how it will be the only stimulus money they will be getting. 🙂 On the back is the Million Dollar Question and that is “are you good enough to go to heaven?” And, I will tell them that the question is on the back and ask them if they think they will.
    Third, the Law. Asking a person if they have ever broken the Ten Commandments and explaining that it is God’s standard by which He will judge us. Usually, this brings conviction because none of us can say that we have never broken the Ten Commandments. I will then ask them that if God judged them by the Commandments would they be innocent or guilty? Would they go to heaven or hell?
    Fourth, then I reveal Jesus to them. I explain to them how Jesus died for our sins so that we would not have to go to hell and that if we repent, and trust in Him, our sins will be forgiven.
    Now, how is this the way Jesus did it? Jesus related to people naturally. He created opportunities (or took advantage of them) to talk to people about spiritual things. He used the Law to speak to their consciences and He revealed Himself to them.
    He didn’t spend months getting to know them and developing friendships with them so that they might ask Him about God or His faith. He didn’t shoot the breeze for weeks on end so that He could invite them to church. He told them the truth in love and didn’t hold back.
    2. You present “the Law & the Gospel.” This phrase “presenting the Law” seems to come up in this circle, and it startles me. Is that the “bad news” portion, followed by the “good news”?
    I wouldn’t consider the Law to be bad news. 🙂 Without it, how can we know sin? How can we know how we have sinned against God? We can’t.
    Yesterday, I had a group of kids I was able to present the Law & the Gospel to. They didn’t even know what it meant to honor one’s parents or that God had a law about lying. They thought that it was okay to tell “little” lies and stealing “little” things was okay.
    I guess once you realize that you have sinned against God and that hell is your destination … that is bad news. Of course, the Gospel is the best news! Nothing compares to it!
    Hope that answers your questions. 🙂

  58. Don,
    As with your well-written comment on my older post, I can’t find anything with which I disagree. Except here, you add a peculiar opening statement: “Works” oriented, juvenile mindset? I can’t tell what you’re talking about (especially since I agree with everything else)!

  59. Jake Please!! You don’t need to leave identical comments on multiple posts. Here, for the sake of others, I will repeat my reply:
    I am sorry for your friends’ deaths, but also for the guilt you carry. It is unnecessary. We are commanded to spread the gospel, but in the end, an individual’s salvation is a matter between that person and God. Be faithful, but rest. It’s like the Zen of evangelism (though I doubt you would like that phrase).

  60. Dru,
    Ah, therein lies the biggest difference: I do not think that the outline you laid out is the gospel. For a certain people at a certain time, yes. That is one contextualization of the gospel. But this is probably a topic for another time.
    Meanwhile, I want to thank you again for putting this on your show. For all our theological and missiological differences, I was very happy with the graciousness you showed me in your rebuttal.

  61. Angel,
    Thank you, those were very clear and helpful explanations!

  62. Robert Matheny May 31, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Cute? I don’t think that’s the idea. I didn’t write it though, as far as I know it’s anonymous. I agree, I don’t think anyone should use any methods for evangelism, just make sure it’s biblical.

  63. Robert, it’s actually a poem by D.J. Higgins called “My Friend”

  64. Jon, If they were interested then they wouldnt mind me talking about my Lord, I do agree in that we are not to beat them over the head with the bible, however, to never say anything to our friends about the salvation of Jesus is a crime against the friendship. How can we tell a perfect stranger about Jesus but not the ones who mean the most to us? We should want to save our friends and loved ones from certain death and hell more than anyone else. The only thing I can even remotely agree with you on is not to shove it down their throats every time you are together, however if the opportunity presents itself to again plant a seed, then grab the opportunity, and there are ways to do it without being judgemental or annoying…thats all im saying. But to never say anything is unbiblical and you are not being a true friend. All I know is that if I were headed for destruction I would expect my friends who say they love me to do all they could to stop me…or are they really my friends at all??

  65. Michele,
    Again, I do not think you catch my point. It was not “never say anything”! Rather, it is this: If you stop trying so hard, your friends will feel comfortable talking about spiritual things with you. But as long as you keep trying, they will avoid you because they know where that leads: your soapbox.
    And I don’t mean stop being intentional. I mean stop being weird, where weird means an inability to relax and enjoy your friends.
    …Does this begin to make sense? I am not looking for agreement, but for clarity.

  66. I agree we should use Missionary methods. I go to a Christian Missionary Alliance Church and what the pastors do in Africa is go into the middle of town and open up their Bible and Preach the Gospel. I must have mis understood what you were saying. The Pastors that go into the Bush learn the language of the people of that town and then they go and preach in the town square or they take someone with them that will translate for them and they preach the gospel in the town square. They explain that there is one God and they explain about Mosses and the law and Judgement. Then they explain the Plan that God had from the begining to save those that repent and trust in the death of Jesus Christ to get to heaven. So the Missionary style is to preach the Gospel in public places that rocks.

  67. Jenifer,
    “So the Missionary style is to preach the Gospel in public places”
    Ah, not quite. In some places, certainly. But it all depends on context.
    I’d say the missionary style is to respect, learn, and adapt to the culture, looking for the keys that God has already placed there.
    That is what we must do in in the U.S. Don’t just go out into a public place and start talking loudly. We have to learn the culture to discover what works. Simply taking what worked in one culture and repeating it in a different context is a classic missionary mistake. It can take months, years, decades to recover depending on how strongly the mistake was pushed.

  68. To all who keep trying to quote Saint Francis of Assisi please stop and do research. There is not evidence he ever said that.

  69. I think the Book of Acts shows us how to do it. Why would we do anything else other than that which is in the Bible. The Preached in the Temple and they preached in the streets. They told them Gods word. Gods word will not come back void. So reading Gods word and teaching Gods word. That seems to be what God wants us to do. What would you have people do other than learn about who God really is?

  70. Jason, I stand corrected. But I still love the quote, because it reminds me to live into an awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is continually at work. Our job is to go with his flow.

  71. Jenifer,
    The book of Acts is wonderful training material, especially as they wrestle with the Gentile question (how the gospel plays out in a different culture).
    For a more recent example of a missionary puzzling out the gospel in a different culture, I recommend Peace Child. Also, get to know a missionary and listen to their stories.

  72. How timely: Check out this blog post discussing the quote, Preach the Gospel at All Times.

  73. I know lots of Missionaries. That is what my church does is supports Missionaries.

  74. In the book of Mark chapter 16 verse 15 Jesus commanded ALL belivers to “Preach the Gospel to EVERY creature.” that includes your Friends.
    If your friends die without their sins forgiven they will go to HELL.

  75. IrishPreacher June 5, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I guess Paul the Apostle was wrong then when he said, “God has used the foolishness of the message preached, to save them that believe.”
    Good job, you’ve just reduced the gospel to pragmatism. We preach the gospel not for the results but because the Bible tells us to do so.
    If you have just read this post… please, please, please take it with a grain of salt. Don’t use it to make your Christian experience more “comfortable.” That is not what Jesus has called us to… He said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.”

  76. ‘If I speak the language of men or of angels, yet have not love, I am as a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’ 1Cor 13:1
    That is my verse to remind me of how my attitude must be to evangelize. That being said, I must disagree with all of your points for why we should not evangelize . Notice I said “not evangelize”. Because these points you have made only encourage us to do exactly what most people do now…nothing. And people will die and go to Hell.
    I understand your premise; that these “talking points” are to encourage us to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us where He wants us. However, the Holy Spirit will never contradict the words of Jesus, and He said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20
    And “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15
    It makes them uncomfortable.
    What can be more uncomfortable than eternity in Hell? The Bible teaches that all men are guilty before God and completely unable to turn from their sin without Christ.
    As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Rom 3:10-12
    All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of god. Romans 3:23
    If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1Jo 1:8
    God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one. Psalms 53:2-3
    And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight– Col 1:21-22
    It makes you uncomfortable.
    Sharing the Gospel does not make me uncomfortable, NOT sharing does.
    It makes you think about how to twist every conversation to Jesus rather than seeing how Jesus is already there.
    I am not sure I understand how the person can appreciate Jesus being there if they don’t know Him.
    “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” John 10:26-27
    It makes you believe you’re bringing God to them, rather than seeing how the Holy Spirit has already been active in their lives.
    The people we are sharing with are unbelievers. They are, therefore, perishing. Condemned. Enemies of God through wicked works. The Holy Spirit is sent from Jesus to us when we put our trust in Christ, for the conviction of sin.
    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-
    the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17
    It pressures you into showing an unrelatable happy, plastic face rather than letting God’s grace shine through your struggles.
    I think if we are faking our attitude, we should ‘Examine yourselves [as to] whether you are in the faith.’ 2Cor 13:5
    I tell people the truth about my pains and struggles, so they can understand that walking with Christ is not a promise of earthly gain or pleasure, but heavenly.
    For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost…Luke 14:28
    “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;…” Matt 6:20

  77. part 2 of previous post
    It makes you focus on talking rather than listening.
    I agree that we often talk too much, but we are often talking about issues that are not important. Talking about Christ is not happening nearly enough, and yet it is the MOST important talk we can ever have with someone. EVER! 150,000 people die every day, and we need to talk to more of them.
    It leads you to answer questions they aren’t asking.
    Agreed, somewhat. Problem is, most people don’t give much serious thought to their eternal destiny. They are as sheep to the slaughter…oblivious. So, unless we bring out the hard topics, the question might never be raised.
    It makes you think about what to say rather than how to love.
    Again, 1Cor 13:1.
    It makes you think faith is a list of statements rather than a different way of living.
    It puts you into the role of “teacher,” causing you to miss things your friends can teach you.

    What will they teach me? How to sin? How to live completely contrary to the teachings of the Word of God? I know how to do those things, and that man was crucified when Christ made me a new creation. I don’t want what the world teaches.
    Therefore if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2Cor 5:17
    It makes them see you as a religious salesman rather than an apprentice of the Master.
    If I am, as you encourage, preaching the truth in love, then I am obeying the Master.
    It hurts your friendship.
    Is my goal to preserve a friendship or to lead the sinner to knowledge of Christ than can save him/her from eternal damnation?
    It robs you of a good time.
    I really don’t see where the good time is coming from…does that mean doing things with people that we know are heading straight to Hell, having a good time with them, and then standing before Jesus and saying “I did not want to rob them (or me) of a good time”?
    It makes you think their lack of interest in your evangelism means they are not interested in Jesus or spiritual questions.
    The non-believer is not interested in Jesus or spiritual questions unless their are under conviction. They may feign interest, but unless they are drawn by the Lord, they are faking their interest.
    No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44
    It seems to me the main issue here is that your 14 points seem to assume that people are good by default. I don’t know whether you believe that or not, but it is my impression from your post. However, scripture consistently shows that man is, by default, wretched, sinful, selfish, and completely unable to change with God as his focus. We are sinful from conception, and completely deserving God’s wrath for all eternity. That’s what makes Christ’s sacrifice so amazing! ‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Rom 5:8
    No one will come unless he is called by the Lord (John 6:44).
    For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

  78. The blind leading the blind.

  79. Matthew,
    I’m not sure if you read past my title. If you had, you might see that by stopping my overzealous efforts (which led nowhere), I am now able to share the gospel with my friends quite often.

  80. IrishPreacher,
    Why yes, I am trying to be pragmatic: I stopped what was ineffective and counter-productive. I want to do what works, what actually helps draw people closer to Jesus.
    Let me explain a bit more about being “comfortable.” You know how they say dogs can sense fear? My friends could tell whenever I was doing something that made me feel awkward or weird, which is not a good testimony of the gospel. Instead, I now enjoy relaxed conversations which often naturally lead to spiritual matters, just because that’s who I am.

  81. Paul,
    Thank you for your detailed response — I appreciate it. Of my critics, I think you are closest to seeing my intent: “to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us where He wants us.” Exactly. And anyone who does so will, of course, share the gospel through word and deed, not, as you say, “do nothing” which I am not advocating at all.
    Let me explain what may seem to be my weakest point, #13: “It robs you of a good time.” What I mean is that in a social setting, I used to worry about how I might share my testimony, and so I was not really enjoying what was taking place and being fully part of it. It’s like my mind was elsewhere. Now, while still being prayerful and keeping my “spiritual antennae” up, I make sure to be wholly present in whatever is going on — food, laughter, fun conversation, and people I genuinely enjoy and am proud to call my friends. Opportunities to talk about spiritual things arise naturally because my friends know that’s a big part of who I am.

  82. Matt,
    “The blind leading the blind”? Gosh, I wish I had a snappy biblical put-down in response, but I don’t know what you mean because you offer no explanation.
    But your put-down makes me think of the scene in Star Wars where Luke is first trying out his light saber. At first, he is messing up because he is trying too hard. It is only when he can’t see that he first begins to use the Force. So I say: Go with the Holy Spirit’s flow. If you’ve ever practiced a martial art, you may know what I mean.

  83. IrishPreacher June 6, 2009 at 11:04 am

    We are not called to pragmatism… we are called to obedience to the gospel.
    Pragmatism often leads to error because it is a way of skirting around theology and doctrine.
    The Bible’s doctrine is clear, “Preach the gospel.” I preach it and it works… you know why? Because I’m empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.
    Maybe instead of doing what works, do what the Bible says and rely on the Holy Spirit.

  84. IrishPreacher, if an approach and mindset which may have been effective is unthinkingly applied to another culture, the result can actually be a setback in advancing of the gospel. I agree that pragmatism is not good when people focus on the wrong thing (such as “number of people attending Sunday service”). But if the focus is on the gospel, pragmatic contextualization is absolutely necessary to the missionary enterprise.

  85. Jon,
    I must say you have a truly gracious way of responding to everyone, whether they are “for” or “against” your points. It is very refreshing and greatly appreciated in this age of blogwars…
    I notice a recurring reference to a “missionary” mindset. I agree that we, as Christians, are to always be ‘on mission’; proclaiming the Gospel in our Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. (Acts 1:8). But, I am not sure I understand what you mean by the statement that some are applying “an approach and mindset which may have been effective”. Perhaps I would have a better understanding if you could address the following questions:
    1. What was your previous evangelistic “method”? (I wish I had another term besides method, because I realize it is not a script.)
    2. Does your current method (there is that word again) ever make the person listening “uncomfortable”?

  86. IrishPreacher June 7, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I don’t think that a “pragmatic contextualization” of gospel preaching is necessary.
    I’ll let Spurgeon explain, “In the great Day, when the roll is read, all those who were converted through fine music, splendid church décor and architecture, or religious exhibitions and entertainments will amount to the tenth part of nothing. But it will always please God “by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Believe in preaching the love of Christ; believe in preaching the atoning sacrifice; believe in preaching the new birth; believe in preaching the whole counsel of God. The old hammer of the Gospel will still break the rock in pieces. The ancient fire of Pentecost will still burn among the multitude.”
    I think I’ll go with Spurgeon on this one. : )

  87. The St Francis quote is actually not true, Catholic Historians can not find any writings that have that quote from St Francis.
    this link will help edify those who think it is.

  88. Paul,
    What I mean by “missionary approach” is more than being “on mission,” but a question of how to do it. The problem is that what works in Jerusalem might kind of work in Judea but may utterly fail in Samaria! For millenia, faithful missionaries have wrestled with how to incarnate the gospel into a culture so that it is not a foreign religion, but a native expression of the truth. You can see the early church wrestle with this in the question of what to do with the Gentiles. You can see Paul changing his preaching in Acts 17 on Mars Hill.
    The problem of how to translate the gospel into a particular culture (not just language) used to be only for foreign missions. But the American context has changed to the point that it is no longer enough to be a minister or an evangelist; to do either, one must also learn to be a missionary, because the cultural context has changed dramatically.
    In answer to your questions (and these answers will be far too short):
    1. My 14 Reasons are not a critique of an abstract straw man, but a description of what I used to do. I studied Evangelism Explosion. I practiced my testimony. I distributed tracts. I did contact evangelism on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale during spring break. I did open-air preaching. (None of these are necessarily wrong! But they largely ignore the cultural context.)
    2. Oh, probably. But not uncomfortable with me as a friend. This is my prayer.

  89. IrishPreacher,
    Missionaries. Ever heard of them? Go back and read their stories. You can start with Paul if you like. It has little to do with ornamentation, and everything to do with incarnation.

  90. dnvr96lac, you sure have a strange name.
    It is true that Catholic theologians cannot link the quote to St. Francis. So I will not attribute it to him any longer, but I will continue to use the quote because I believe in it. I reject strawman excuses of “hindering the gospel” and see it as, well, see my reason #9.
    I found another link to be more informative about St. Francis.

  91. Jon,
    The message or means of getting the message out has not changed because God has not changed nor have people truly changed.
    People are still sinners who need so desperately to hear the gospel lest they perish and suffer eternal torment in hell!
    You can make a case that your ‘method’ is more ‘comfortable’, more ‘natural’ but in the end of the day the gospel is URGENT. People are really dying and going to hell every single day.
    So please, put away your big words and tell others about the only message that can save.
    It occurs to me that you would not use your ‘method’ if a family of five were trapped in a burning house. Why then would you use it when it concerns eternal fire?
    Finally, please provide scripture to back up your point of view. I notice that your post doesn’t give any.

  92. IrishPreacher,
    I prayerfully meditated on what you wrote. (I hope you might do the same with what I wrote.) I appreciate the passion and urgency you communicate. Is it possible that my pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, that I am too lax in sharing the gospel? Yes, it is. Just today, I missed an opportunity to discuss spiritual things with a friend over lunch, so I thought and prayed about that. Thankfully, because he is a close friend, there will be many more opportunities to share, both in person and by what I write on this blog.
    But it saddens me that you dismiss incarnational missionaries so out of hand. Both you and I owe our salvation to them. I recommend a re-reading of the book of Acts, paying particular attention to Gentile believers and how Paul adapts his approach on Mars Hill. I highly recommend you take a Perspectives course the next time it is offered anywhere close to you (perhaps by your own church). Barring that, you could buy the textbook yourself, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
    Regarding your “burning house” analogy: I have heard variations of this repeated many times on the radio shows critiquing me. Though I believe in hell, I do not think these are helpful analogies. At its core, it is drawing a line from the wrong starting point. A hell-centric message produces shallow converts focused on an extremely narrow slice of the gospel. Where is the glory, the incomparable beauty and love that existed in the Godhead before Genesis 1 and endures beyond Revelation 22? Jesus, my friend, is the center.
    (A book that may tweak your ideas about hell is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.)

  93. Jon,
    Thank you for being so thoughtful and for taking into consideration my concerns.
    Also, thank you for being honest about a missed opportunity today… it speaks volumes about your integrity.
    Let me explain why i am so aggravated by the tone of your post… I am a street evangelist and a pastor. Most of my work involves training up Christians to share their faith in Christ. I have seen considerable fruit from this ministry.
    It’s funny that you mention re-reading the book of Acts… I’m teaching from it right now. It’s a book that I believe is VITAL in evangelism training. Acts 17 (Mars Hill) is probably my favorite chapter in the whole book!
    Mars Hill is a testimony to how to relate to people so that one can share the gospel! It is the opposite to most incarnational approaches. Paul went to the Areopagus to preach… no doubt about it. He related to them through idols only so he could bring up the idea of repentance and faith in Christ.
    Honestly, Jon, the only perspective I need is God’s. He has revealed His heart through His word and that is all I need to reach a dying world. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding…”
    I believe firmly in reaching people where they are at. I don’t just give them the truth… I do it with as much love as I possibly can.
    I do get rejected, but truthfully, i get more positive reactions than negative ones.
    Believe me, Jon, I know where you’re coming from. I was once very much against ‘street evangelism’ and all that went along with it. The guys that did that always seemed to be a little weird or eccentric. I knew I would never be that way, i’m a pretty normal guy (relatively speaking).
    Then I went to Ireland about 3 summers ago and I realized something… if I only reached out within the Christian community – i’d only be working with a very small group of people (Christians in Ireland are few and far between). It was then that I believe God moved on my heart that i should get out there on the street and at my work to share the gospel. I was amazed with how God used me and taught in how to be natural when sharing with people. It actually flowed!
    When I returned to the U.S. I endeavored to build teams through which I could equip Christians to share their faith effectively.
    Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I have raised up three teams that share the gospel throughout the week and bring people into the family of God.
    Man, I know this one is looooong. I’ll just touch on the last point you raised before I quit.
    Hell is more of a motivation for me to share the gospel than it is a tool that i use to ‘make people Christians’. I am more urgent to get the word out when I realize the stakes… that’s all.
    It’s not that I treat them like they are in a burning house (that’s where the analogy stops), it’s that I will present the truth to them in a more sincere and fervent manner because of my conviction that without Christ they will spend eternity in hell.
    Do you believe that those without Christ will go to hell? If not, i can understand why you take the stance that you do. If you do believe, I think we should be on the same team.
    God bless,

  94. IP/Karl, thanks for the added depth. Yeah, this back-and-forth could become a book, or its own blog or something! 😉
    I appreciate hearing your heart and your story. God bless you and your ministry.

  95. IrishPreacher June 11, 2009 at 8:57 am

    God bless.

  96. Jon,
    I love the conversation that you have going. I love your heart and appreciate our friendship. Thank you for getting people to think and just be themselves as they pursue relationships.

  97. David,
    Ah your language betrays you. 🙂 See, to me, relationship is the goal because salvation is relational, not propositional. (See the book review I just posted for more on this.)

  98. I’m not a Christian. And I’ve been evangelized to more times than I can count. When people make an effort to “show me Jesus”, they only drive me farther away. And I’m not the only one. The ones who make a huge effort to evangelize, leave most people walking away hating church, hating the bible, and hating Jesus. Heck, if all of that causes a person to need/want to be so outrageously annoying and offensive, then it all must be as well.
    I think somewhere they must know this. They don’t evangelize to bring people to the church, or else they would not make such an effort to be absolutely aggravating. They want to turn more people off so that they can walk away feel smug and better than. The more people they annoy enough to turn away from the church, the more people they can hold their noses up over.
    That’s how it looks on this side of the fence.

  99. And, I have to add, to the ones who claim if they do not preach then people will never know: THEY KNOW. You are not the first person. If they live in America, they know. It’s all over TV, the movies, in books, in magazines, in the loud corner preacher that doesn’t stop harassing passerby. There is no one who is going to say “No really, I’ve never heard of Jesus.” It’s like telling a person with short hair that some people prefer long hair. Trust me, they already knew. You are not the first person on earth to know about Christianity, you do not have super-secret knowledge that no one else has ever heard of. Stop trying to make yourself feel superior by telling yourself that so-and-so has never heard of Christianity or Jesus before, it only makes you look like an idiot which turns more people away.

  100. Summer,
    Thank you for sharing from a non-Christian perspective, I really appreciate it! I’m afraid there is some truth to your statement, “They want to turn more people off so that they can walk away.” There is are certain (loud-mouthed) groups that believe that:

    • God picks certain people to save, and others to damn.
    • Our job is to put it out there so things go one way or the other.
    • If people walk away offended, it just shows they are damned and I did my job.

    But Summer, please keep in mind that this is not representative of the Jesus I am trying to follow; they just happen to be in your face because they’re the loud ones. I encourage you to keep an eye on other Christ-followers.
    Your second comment intrigues me, because on the face of it, yes, America is a totally Christianized nation. But what some people of faith are discovering is that the process of becoming Christianized actually stripped Jesus out of the equation. As soon as believers are the people in charge, the people with power, there is an automatic danger of running against the teachings of Jesus, who taught us that true power lies in emptying yourself of such pretensions. So I think America is deeply in need of (and largely ignorant of) the Way of Jesus. I just happen to include Christians in that statement.

  101. A friend, Tim, recommended your blog, and I thought I’d check it out. I think you hit the nail on the head with the 14-point list above. However, I have to admit that I’m actually a little taken aback by some of the comments that you’ve received.
    Way back in my college years, I would have been proud to say I was an agnostic. We had a constant stream of “fire and brimstone” evangelists yelling at us in the commons while we ate our lunches. To me, it was a cacophonous recitation of biblical verses, out of context, cut-and-pasted together to fit their chosen message of the day. One summer, I had an opportunity to work on an archaeological dig at a California mission that was still an active monastery. For our keep, we had to contribute some labour to the monastery. I was sent to work in the garden with Brother Joachim, a young 70+ with the energy of a teenager. I never heard him talk scripture or recite verses, but we would talk about nature and how fascinated he was by the way God designed grape vines, and soil, and all the little pieces that came together to provide food. It seems that he brought me closer to God almost without ever mentioning His name.
    Anyway, I really do appreciate your 14-point list above. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’m surprised by some of the reactions from your fellow Christians. As a health care worker, I see people dying of, or suffering from, all kinds of illnesses, especially heart disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, all too often completely preventable. I could “evangelize” to them, as in “You should NOT SMOKE!” You should eat properly” “Eat a SALAD!!!” Now, granted, it is my job to (to the best of my skills) “save” my patients. But, unless I choose my words wisely, if I don’t listen to them FIRST, but instead start preaching at them, then I will lose their attention and respect completely. I would have been better off saying nothing at all.
    Thanks, Andrew

  102. Andrew,
    I remember “fire and brimstone” evangelists from college. I used to go out and confront them, and — believe it or not — tried to do my own counter-preaching. Brother Jed, Sister Cindy, and the elder statesman of them all, Brother Max.
    I think what you see in many of the comments here are from people operating along those same lines: namely, that “People are in a burning house, and it’s up to me to warn them, even if they don’t like it. Their liking it is not the goal.” To me, this completely undercuts any notion of relationship, which I find to be central to the whole idea of salvation in the first place. I mean, isn’t that what people are being saved into?
    But as for hitting the nail on the head, I think that goes to you with your health care analogy, and sharing the difference you saw in the example of Brother Joachim, eyes wide with wonder and appreciation.

  103. Wow, great post and discussion – before I was halfway through reading it, I had so many thoughts to respond to “when I was done” that I knew I’d forget… Please forgive if any of this is covered ground.
    Jon – you’re so right about the *how* question of evangelism. Early in my walk I had this false sense of guilt that I hadn’t led someone in the sinner’s prayer, I was a second class Christian, a virgin past the time its socially acceptable… I came up with a 30 second infomercial / radio spot that illustrates the issue: “Embarrassing sin stains? Not a problem! You’ll be white as snow with Salvation by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ!” We treat Christianity as a product, the church as a business, and ourselves as salespeople who have just returned from training on how to be “hard closers for Christ”.
    I really like discussing what I believe – but I also really like discussing what other people believe, I’m fascinated by people’s life story and how they came to think the way they do, I’ve learned a lot from people who have a different perspective than I do.
    I am especially encouraged by Noelle’s post, as I share the sentiment, and often times because I’ve got a particular view, it does seem to be an obstacle to bring up the topic. Even within Christian boundaries, sometimes you can’t ask someone why their church does or thinks this or that, because they will become defensive, when you really just wanted help understanding. Trust is a key issue, and it can take time to develop that trust within a relationship before certain topics can be shared. A longer story for another time, but a Hindu friend pointed out on one occasion, as I was complaining, that if things were so difficult I must not really believe the things I espoused – he had a point.
    I think Heather W really described it well in terms of how evangelism is to be experienced – it is a sharing of love, not with a purpose to trap or contain, but to reveal or explore what is already going on between God and us *in the moment*. If there’s nothing going on, we can’t force that or make it happen.
    Tim has a great point about anti-theism, which I’ve experienced, but which I hope doesn’t degrade or entrench either side to the point that we can’t have a discussion, or to at least come to a point where we can agree to disagree. I have more respect for people who take the time and have the curiosity to see what they are rejecting rather than rejecting the straw man they have constructed.
    At the end of the day my faith is not yet complete, I’m a work in process, and I don’t know *all* the Bible in *all* its proper context or how to effectively apply it to my life as circumstances come up – its both a study/learning and trial and error process, including the evangelism activities I engage in.

  104. Dana,
    You actually read 100+ comments? You’re a trooper! And still, your contribution is fresh, because of the stories you have (or hint at). And much of good evangelism, I think, revolves around respecting the fact that everyone has their own story. The puzzle that I try to solve (and pray through) is to discover what God is doing in their lives, so that I can partner with him.
    Boy, your statement, “We treat Christianity as a product, the church as a business, and ourselves as salespeople who have just returned from training on how to be ‘hard closers for Christ'” speaks volumes. Have you seen the movie The Big Kahuna?

  105. Caught me, I never did go back to read the rest of the posts!
    Sure, you can use that quote – I’ll post my whole shpeal if I can find my notes. Haven’t seen Big Kahuna, I’ll have to put that on our Netflix…

  106. Your list suggests that perhaps you have an inaccurate understanding how to “evangelise.” For example, Mark 16:15-16 reads, “Go ye,(as you go really,)into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” It is your instruction to, “share the good news,” not browbeat into submission. Your friend is free to accept or to reject. If he sees that you have something that he needs to have, he will wisely accept. Take Philip and the Ethiopian. As Philip explained Jesus, the Ethiopian asked, Here is water, what hinders me to be baptized? Again the same thing happened at Pentecost when Peter was preaching. The people listening asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” It was their decision to make. It must come from the heart. You are to share with love.

  107. Bob, I think you are missing my point — which is not hard, because I posted this list with little to no explanation. My hope is to decrease ineffective evangelism and increase effective evangelism. The trick is that you can’t learn a new way unless you stop the old way. And part of what I really want is for people to spend more energy listening — especially listening to the Holy Spirit. (The story of Philip and the Ethiopian is especially close to my heart, as it resembles the way I came to the Lord: a miraculous encounter with a stranger.)

  108. I would agree and disagree with you. Like some others have said and quoted ‘go and preach, share the gospel, etc etc..” I would think that this is still an ‘effective’ means in certain areas of the world where they have never heard of Jesus. Although, just going to Africa and living your life like Jesus did, is bound to get some questions asked of you- and then you could respond.
    On the other hand- In the U.S/europe and other like places at this place in time, I do not think it helps to smash any one over the head with it. If anything, it is counterproductive.
    And I would have to disagree with Angels comments rather strongly. I’m sorry, but if I were having a conversation with you and 5-10 minutes later you pulled out a tract or linked whatever it is we were talking about to your agenda- I would see right through it and then automatically surmise that the only reason you are talking to me is so you can convert me.
    There are certain kinds of Christians out there who are only friends with ‘heathens’ because they ‘need’ to be- otherwise, who would they convert? They don’t see these people having inherent worth in their own right, able to contribute to a relationship. And I’m generalizing here, but I wonder how many Christians stop being friends/communicating with someone because their secular friend has turned down their offer of Jesus. “Well that didn’t work- might as well move on to the next person”.
    This all coming from a Christian who hasn’t attended church regularly in quite some time and to be honest, trying to figure out how all the Jesus stuff fits in my life.
    Great post! I found your blog randomly- And now I will probably stalk!

  109. SuzRocks,
    Thank you for your comment — so are you agreeing, or disagreeing? 🙂
    I am writing mostly from the perspective of sharing the gospel in post-Christian cultures. And when I speak of adopting a missionary mindset, my background is Japan which has been resistant to the gospel. So I guess I don’t know how things work in more receptive cultures, but I would caution people against treating the gospel as spreading ideas; we are spreading Life itself. It spreads and grows organically, not mechanically. …Am I making sense, or have I completely gone off? o_O
    I hope you don’t stalk too long without saying something. Hurray for (nice) random encounters!

  110. In relation to “14 Reasons to Stop Evangelizing Your Friends” there are two basic principles that I’d like to mention, which I believe are crucial in understanding evangelism.
    First comes from Matthew 28:19-20. The verb “Go”. There is no expectation from this command that we are supposed to wait for people to come and ask us to share the Gospel with them. It is the “messenger’s” responsibility to think of effective ways and methods to make sure that people (friends, coworkers, family and those we don’t know)know the meaning of the Gospel. It is not the messenger’s responsibility to change people’s hearts.(convincing people or as someone above said converting people – that should not be our motive). Successful Witnessing is taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and LEAVING the results to God.
    The second principle comes from Romans 10:17
    “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
    Christianity is the only “religion” that has a message. We have a real story to tell. And stories are communicated by words, not by works, not by behavior. That is what other religions like Muslims do, try to do good works because they have no message to share. Many times their behavior is way better then ours. And if we expect people to be influenced by our behavior, I believe they will go to Muslims first and ask them what makes them different.
    So I do not agree that we need to stop evangelizing our friends. What we need to do is to find effective ways (methods) to make sure that they know the Gospel. That’s it.

  111. Baniba,
    I agree! My purpose in telling people to “stop” their ineffective evangelism is so that they can be teachable, listening with spiritual eyes to the sounds of the culture around them. Then, with the Spirit’s guidance, they can “start” to explore other means that are more effective.

  112. Here’s the unabridged version, I recorded this Christian shpeal on KLRD’s listener line circa 1995, yep, it got some air time 🙂
    Available now! The single most important thing a person can have – Salvation! That’s right, Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ! If you call on Jesus’ name now, you’ll receive forgiveness for your sins.
    But wait! There’s more! You’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables you to live a Christian life! Now how much would you pay?
    Embarrassing sin stains? Not a problem! You’ll be white as snow with Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ!
    Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ is NOT available in stores! Your heart of stone will be a thing of the past with Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ! Now count the cost, how much would you pay?
    Pray the works-free sinner’s prayer now to receive a righteous standing before God and eternal life in heaven. Receive the Bread of Life and drink the Living Water and never hunger or thirst again!
    It’s amazing!
    It’s a miracle!
    It’s a new life in Christ!
    It’s Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ! Don’t delay!
    (next section chanted like the circa 1970’s TV ad for “Martini & Rossi Asti Spumonti”):
    Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ
    Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ
    Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ
    Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ

  113. One reason to evangelize your friends.
    1. Jesus said to.
    Anything else is not from God.
    1/2. “It makes them/you uncomfortable.”
    Not nearly as uncomfortable as you and they will be if they spend eternity in hell because you did not want to tell your friend the gospel because you might be uncomfortable. Real friends/Christians talk about Jesus to their unsaved friends.
    3. “It makes you think about how to twist every conversation to Jesus rather than seeing how Jesus is already there.”
    That’s is a shallow statement. If Jesus is truly already there then evangelism has already happened.
    4. “It makes you believe you’re bringing God to them, rather than seeing how the Holy Spirit has already been active in their lives.”
    If the Holy Spirit is truly active in a person’s life they will be trying to live a holy and righteous life that shows the fruit of the Spirit. Those persons have already been evangelized and have allowed the Spirit to work in them. Those persons who are unrepentant do not know Jesus or the Spirit, they must be evangelized.
    5. “It pressures you into showing an unrelatable happy, plastic face rather than letting God’s grace shine through your struggles.”
    Another shallow statement that seems to assume that all of those who evangelize put on “happy, plastic” faces and are without grace. The truth is I can talk about Jesus to my friends while showing God’s grace through my struggles.
    6. “It makes you focus on talking rather than listening.”
    7. “It leads you to answer questions they aren’t asking.”
    These two reasons actually present us with two fallacies. Fallacy one, those who evangelize the Gospel of Jesus Christ are unable to do so while listening and then giving Godly and appropriate responses. Fallacy two, those who evangelize needlessly answer questions that were not asked. The truth is, the act of evangelism may very well involve saying things that the person being evangelized has not thought of or asked. But, those who need to hear the Gospel do not know many things about Jesus and must first be taught so they might then ask the correct questions.
    8. “It makes you think about what to say rather than how to love.”
    Evangelism is one of the greatest acts of love a Christian can perform.
    9. “It makes you think faith is a list of statements rather than a different way of living.”
    Another baseless assumption.
    10. “It puts you into the role of “teacher,” causing you to miss things your friends can teach you.”
    Yet another baseless assumption. The best teachers are those who are constantly learning. There is nothing at all wrong with teachers or those who are in the role of a teacher. If a friend is unsaved having never known Christ or they are backslidden to the point where they no longer live a Christian life then a true Christian and a true friend will certainly begin to teach them the Gospel.
    11. “It makes them see you as a religious salesman rather than an apprentice of the Master.” I suppose that would depend on the level of spirituality of both the person and the person being evangelized. The writer unwisely used a broad brush to paint all evangelists.
    12. “It hurts your friendship.”
    13. “It robs you of a good time.”
    Only a person with no idea of who Jesus is could think this way. True Christians see that there are more important things than temporal relationships and moments. BTW, if your friend is unsaved and comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus because you had the coverage to evangelize them, your friendship will them be eternal.
    14. “It makes you think their lack of interest in your evangelism means they are not interested in Jesus or spiritual questions.”
    There are certainly times when this is true, right? The truth is we need to plant the seed so that the Spirit can then water it.
    This is either written by a person who is not a Christian or it is intended as a satire. The real Christian understands an believes what Paul wrote, “How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them?”

  114. Steve, thank you for your point-by-point reply. We are clearly seeing things from quite different perspectives. I won’t address each of your points in a single comment. Maybe we can start from the bottom:
    “This is either written by a person who is not a Christian or it is intended as a satire.” Well, it’s not satire, and I am a Christian. In fact, I have a passion for evangelism. The problem is, I think most evangelism is nothing but hard-sell, reducing the problem to hellfire and redemption to fire insurance. Not only is that a narrow gospel, I have found it is actually counterproductive, turning people away from the gospel. If efforts are counterproductive, are you okay with that? Please don’t write off people as “hardened” just because they are not responding to your style.
    I’ve noticed that hard-sell types who respond tend to be Reformed. Are you? I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself Wesleyan, but one thing I appreciate from Wesley is the idea of “prevenient grace”: That the Spirit of God is wooing and drawing people before they are even aware of it. This is sort of what I am addressing in point 4, and I am always surprised when people argue that no, the Spirit is obviously not at work in unrepentant people. But then, how is anyone saved?

  115. Jon, Thank you for your response. I actually tried to delete my post, after I had written one that was not so hard and which showed more grace. I ask you to forgive me for the harshness of that post. Though I was probably scripturally OK I did not show any grace or love, my apologies.
    I do go to a Wesleyan church (saved in a Church of Christ) and I agree with nearly every aspect of the Wesleyan denomination’s doctrine. Prevenient grace is one area where I might not agree with Wesley, but I would not agree with Calvin either. The question my study of scripture causes me to ask is “does the Holy Spirit draw people to God by working in the unsaved, or by working on the unsaved through those who are saved?” Paul’s dialog in Romans 10 indicates, to me, it is the latter.
    You asked “But then, how is anyone saved?” I believe that in Romans 10 that Paul explains they (the unsaved) hear the word (they are evangelized) and then they have a choice to make. Acts 2 is an example of what I’m saying. Peter preached, the people listened and some chose to accept the truth.
    You said that you think our perspectives are different and you are correct. While I do not think that that the guy on the corner yelling at car is always the most effective evangelist, I will say that he will reach a few and plant seeds in others. If you truly believe the Holy Spirit is at play within the sinner then why would that person not be effective? No two persons will receive the same message the same way. We must depend on the Spirit to lead us in how we evangelize, if we do we will find He will use us according to what works for the person who is receiving the message. Telling others about the gospel is not formula based.
    I guess that I see in your reasons that there is the possibility you do not truly think the Spirit is at play. (No harsh tones, just putting a thought on the table.) Your 14 reasons suggest that evangelism is a work of men and not the Spirit. The Spirit led person may be led to evangelize their friends in any number of ways. I have a friend who got saved because a Christian told him he would burn in hell if he did not. That was in 1980 and my friend is walking the walk to this day.
    We must have extreme love and an extreme sense of urgency.

  116. Steve,
    Thank you for your gentle response. I really appreciate it, along with your commitment to the Scriptures.
    You ask, “Does the Holy Spirit draw people to God by working in the unsaved, or by working on the unsaved through those who are saved?” I see that as a false dichotomy, because my answer is yes! Both. Anything less diminishes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, who leads people to repent — and before that, to even begin to repent. (John 16:8) We must take the Scriptures as a whole, not as isolated formulas.
    (As an aside, an example of taking the Scriptures as a whole is the whole Armenian/Calvinist conflict on predestination. Do we choose God, or does he choose us? Yes! Both.)
    Can God use anybody, even an obnoxious street preacher? Sure. God can use an ass. That doesn’t mean we should be asses. The problem I face is that lately, I find most of my evangelism is damage control. If an evangelist manages to reach one person but turns off ninety-nine in the process, that person should shut up.
    Evangelism, as we learned it, is not enough, because the methods were for a different culture. We need to learn from our missionaries, and do what they have been doing for decades — but do it in our own neighborhoods.

  117. Good morning Jon.
    The reason I asked the question “Does the Holy Spirit draw people to God by working in the unsaved, or by working on the unsaved through those who are saved?” is because of the way we see the salvation process work in the book of Acts. But then Jesus did say that no person comes to the Father unless the Father draws them, so you are correct.
    You wrote, “God can use an ass. That doesn’t mean we should be asses.” I think it important to understand that God does not use asses because we choose to be asses, but because sometimes an ass is what is needed.
    I hear what you are saying when you write “I find most of my evangelism is damage control.” I think any person who is dedicated to evangelism will come up against that. We must be careful though and remember that many who are unsaved resent not only the gospel message but the messenger of the gospel. I read the comments to your original post and I can see that resentment in some of those comments. We are either for Jesus or not, there is no in between. Knowing that, I think we need to be very careful about the way we respond to the input or comments from the unsaved. The unsaved will nearly always complain about the gospel and will never run out of reasons why their complaining is valid. Of course we need to allow the Spirit to help us discern what complaints are valid or not.
    We, as Christians, also need to be careful about how we view those fire and brimstone evangelists. We do not know their hearts or how the Spirit has led them. He may have put that evangelist at that place at that moment for the benefit of only one person. I wonder how many of the commentators here would have rejected John the Baptist?
    No person is guaranteed a tomorrow. Jesus said we must labor while there is still daylight. We need to balance our sense of decorum with a sense of urgency.

  118. Anything that is motivated by guilt or obligation is going to be much less effective than something that flows naturally out of relationship (my relationship with God and the relationship I am developing with another person).

  119. True, Martha. But I rarely operated out of guilt or obligation. Mainly a sense of well-intentioned urgency. And maybe that’s something we need to examine: How urgent is it? I love what you say about flowing naturally out of relationships, and that you name both directions. Urgency really mucks up relationship! So that well-intentioned approach is actually undermining the very means through which the gospel flows.