The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
- Proverbs 4:18-19
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- Acts 1:7-8
“A young woman worked at a factory which was about ten blocks from where she lived. She could walk to work, but to do so she had to cross a railroad bridge which was treacherous going when the sun began to set. During the winter months it was doubly dangerous due to slippery conditions as well as darkness. The woman would have avoided the crossing altogether had it not been for the crossing guard. Each evening as the woman approached the crossing, the guard waved a lantern to signal that he awaited. Using the powerful light, he would lead the woman by the hand across the bridge. Throughout her life the woman never forgot the kindness and help of the older crossing guard.
“The lives of those people who are touched by the love of Christ are like guiding lights to others who have yet to find Christ in their lives. They can provide guidance and help, and they shine forth as bright examples of how good life can be. God’s light can shine through us if we will only let it. We have the opportunity to show others the difference that Christ can make. When we live life empowered by the light of God, we live as He wishes we would.”
- Dan and Nancy Dick, Daily Wisdom from the Bible
I have heard so much said in recent years that Christian evangelism must change with the times. (And many will argue that the message should never change, for God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.) But those calling for change state that people are not buying the idea that “God is love.” People hate hearing that they sin. Sin is a “four-letter” word, but I have a math issue with that. People have so many reservations regarding the Christian narrative that we must span a gulf of disinterest and unbelief on an intellectual basis before we can ever start evangelizing on a spiritual basis. And then there is the relationship or lifestyle evangelism method where do not have to say anything, ever (but not really).
The crossing guard story might point to the relationship / lifestyle evangelism method in that the guard helped the young lady every day, but the guard got her from point “A” to point “B” in a physical sense only, at least as the story goes. He provided a service. His gentle touch was a nice additional service. And remember that the author used this as a metaphor for how God interacts in our life, not an example of evangelism. We need to live a godly life as much as possible as this story illustrates. Others are watching. Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, said in an interview that no one led someone else to Christ by just being a good person. It does not work that way. You must open your mouth and let them know that God is your guide, your light, your reason for being a good person.
I listened to a Moody Radio program, In the Market with Janet Parshall, the other day and her guest was Rev. David Robertson, the Wee Flea. He talked of his father, who had recently passed to the Lord, and he quoted his father who ‘quoted’ D. L. Moody. He did not get the quote exact, at least according to what I found. A man had complained that he did not like the way D. L. Moody evangelized. This is Moody’s response.
“It is clear you don’t like my way of doing evangelism. You raise some good points. Frankly, I sometimes do not like my way of doing evangelism. But I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”
- D.L. Moody
The last sentence is very close to what Rev. Robertson said. And that is the point. Regardless of our method, system or simply our way of evangelizing, the wrong way to evangelize is to not evangelize.
And Jesus did not give us an option to opt out of that task.
But back to relationship / lifestyle evangelism, I read a book by Joseph C. Aldrich, Lifestyle Evangelism. In the book the author clearly states that we must open our mouths at some point. He even gives a chart that fills an entire page of the book. The chart is a series of questions, each one digging a little deeper, starting with “Do you ever think about what your purpose in life is?” At least, I think that was first. With that question and with each successive question, if there is an obvious discomfort with the conversation, you should back off and try again later. My point is that even in this idea of “being good and maybe someone will notice” evangelism, you must be prepared to talk about Jesus, and that moment may be raised by the person you are becoming friends with. You better have an answer.
In another book, Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness, he breaks down the evangelism of modern skeptics into two stages, maybe even with different people doing each stage. The first stage is done by an apologist, in Guinness’ view, someone who can tackle the atheist / agnostic arguments of the day. For example, “If God is good, why do bad things happen?” There are many more questions, and each has a great answer if you are willing to believe or at least listen. I have met those who start a second conversation during my answer, just to show their utter disrespect for anything I had to say.
Guinness then talks of the evangelist taking over once the intellectual arguments are out of the way. This is sort of how C. S. Lewis came to the Lord. He first jettisoned his atheism, believing in God. But then it was some time later before he accepted Jesus. The intellectual barriers had to come down before the spiritual work could even start.
Note that the Guinness book title mentions “fool.” Fool’s talk, and fool for that matter, refer to the Biblical definition of “fool” as being someone who is foolish about spiritual matters – not in the book learning sense or the ability to learn sense. Two psalms (Ps. 14 and 53) start with the idea that a fool says there is no God. These psalms are not calling someone a bad name as much as they are providing a definition of the word. Now let’s look at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells us to never call anyone a fool, but might His meaning be “Do not tell anyone to go to Hell”? With the Biblical definition of “fool” there is little difference.
But how is evangelism done anyway?
Do we save people? No. God does that. Is it our job to point out every sin that person has committed? Absolutely not, unless you want a black eye for the trouble. The Holy Spirit needs to work within that person long before you ever begin the conversation.
Now for all those “do” things and “don’t” things, it comes down to the last sentence in the last paragraph. There are things you should probably never say, and I would need a few hundred pages to list them all, but if the Holy Spirit is working within that person, and the Holy Spirit is working within you, you will say the right thing. Hopefully you are prepared, but at times I have said something, and others wondered where it came from. But I do not remember saying it, so how would I know where it came from other than the Holy Spirit giving me the right words at the right time. Do not count on it. Study your Bible and know what to say.
When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I was at such a low point in my life that anyone could have thrown me the smelliest, most rotten life preserver, and I would have grabbed it, hugged on tight, and never let go.
You do not need a new technique to be up with the times (which is probably the worst thing to do). The Holy Spirit needs to be working in the other person’s life, and you need to listen when the Holy Spirit tells you to go talk to that person in the corner of the room.
If they are convicted of their sins, will they get upset that you say that all people are sinners? No. In saying that, you will have a connection with the pain in their lives, that pain that is deep down and they keep hidden. The Holy Spirit has already torn down that barrier.
Much of our fear in spreading the Gospel is in two areas. We do not know our Bible as well as we think we should (but maybe well enough), and we have not done our due diligence in praying that the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting.
As D. L. Moody said, I prefer my way that I evangelize to your way of not doing it. My apology to all the evangelists out there.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.