Go?

April 28, 2008 at 11:12 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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As I look at America’s Christian landscape, I am often surprised at what I see compared to what I hope to see. I hope to see our country returning to its Christian roots, being lead by strong Christian men and women. What I see is men and women professing to be Christians and then leading those who are truly looking for Jesus away from Him. I see men and women in positions of authority shaping a “God” to suit themselves, a sort of “golden calf” Jesus that amazingly agrees with everything that they say and do.

 

Evangelism has changed much over the last 100 years. It used to be that when the evangelist came to town, you heard about fire and brimstone, hell, sin, and judgment. You heard about how death was waiting for you and that if you died without the redeeming blood of Christ, you would end up tormented for eternity. That’s how it used to be… now, you very rarely hear about hell, sin, or judgment when the scriptures are preached.

 

One thing that I have been seeing a lot of since I became a Christian (and something that continues to grow daily it seems) is the effort by churches across the country to “reach out” to the lost. You’re probably saying, “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” Yes, that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s not my point though. A lot of the “reaching out” has nothing to do with “reaching”. I see more “Christian events” now than I ever have, but is that “reaching out”? I am entirely frustrated by the modern idea of evangelism. Many church leaders and laymen seem to think that if you have an “event” that is held by a church and sing songs about Jesus and put on dramas with Christian themes that that’s “reaching out”. They seem to think that people will pick up on the “vibe” and become Christians by osmosis.

 

“Hang out with us and you can be Jesus’ best bud!”

 

That may be a little rough, but that’s the basic idea behind many of the events that I’ve seen. There are some that make sure that the gospel is heard, including some “big name” Christian entertainers. But, they seem to be fewer and farther in between. Instead we try to get the lost to come to us by enticing them with Nintendo Wiis and other worldly stuff. We appeal to their sense of greed and covetousness, believing that they’ll forget about that when they get to the event and “hear the gospel” (it makes me sick to write that in quotes…blah). Then, we dress up the event in the most “cutting edge” styles of entertainment the world has to offer. We “rock out” for Jesus in the hopes that just one soul will come to Christ. I mean it’s worth all of the money and time that we spend if just one soul comes to Christ right? Isn’t that the mentality of today? “If just one soul comes to know God…” That makes me sick too because it’s used as a cop out for the lack of true evangelism. Let’s say you have a two-hour “Christian event” coming up. Now, let’s look at some common scenarios:

 

#1) The event starts with fun and games. It has prizes and, throughout the event, there are announcements as to the “amazing” and “awesome” things that will be given away. There is Christian music blaring in the background and everyone is laughing and having a good time. At the appointed time, the games are stopped, the crowd is gathered, and the people are shown a drama or two and some other common youth ministry efforts. The people then hear the gospel for about 5 minutes and told that if they just “ask Jesus into their heart”, everything will be ok and they will go to heaven. After those five minutes are up, the people are herded to the main event, after which they leave and are never seen again. If “just one soul comes to Christ”, was that worth it? Was that effective evangelism?

 

#2) A Christian event is advertised to take place once a month. It is known to be a “rock out” type of event where there are hundreds of people who stand shoulder to shoulder dancing and singing and jumping and shouting. After about an hour and a half, the plea is made for funds to help the ministry continue and then the “preaching segment” is started. In this segment, the guest preacher stands up and delivers their view of scripture. Their manners and method of delivery make the presentation an emotional event that stirs up the heart and gets people “connected” to the preacher. The truth of the gospel is never preached. Instead, it’s replaced with a “gospel lite” about how those who are hurting and broken can “be free” (with John 8:36 often quoted). The “congregation” hears about how they can come to the front and be prayed over to receive healing, freedom, and even a “fresh anointing” of the Holy Spirit. Is this effective evangelism?

 

#3) A church hosts one day a month where they give away food to those who are less fortunate. They structure it in a way so that while those who are there for food wait for their order, others come in and minister to them. They may or may not hear the gospel. They may or may not get seen to. Some of them may “accept Christ”. They will all get food and have their physical needs satisfied. Is this effective evangelism?

 

These scenarios are not the only ones that take place. There are good things that happen at each, but are they effective evangelism? There are many others, but all of the ones that I’ve seen have some common issues and some that are specific to that scenario.

 

The first thing that all of these scenarios have in common is the direction people are going in and who’s doing the moving. In the modern church, the church makes the effort to draw people to them. It is the lost that are doing the moving in the direction of the church. This is one of the main problems of modern evangelism. In Matthew 28 and Mark 16 Jesus says to His disciples that they are to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. It is Jesus’ followers that should be the ones moving. They should be making the effort to go to the lost and preach the gospel. Sadly, much of the church isn’t doing either. They aren’t going to the lost, they’re trying to get the lost to come to them! It’s like the churches want the lost to see the wonderful building that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on and to hear the amazing sound system that they have in their sanctuary. It is almost as if they think that the lost have to come to the church because that’s where the presence of God is…Not only is that not true, not only is it not scriptural, it seems awfully arrogant to me. As Christians, we have the promise of eternal life given to us and we are commanded to go and tell others about it!

 

The second problem with those scenarios is the fact that the gospel is not being preached. The truth of the gospel isn’t just the “love” of Jesus. I put love in quotes because many pastors and other Christians don’t seem to understand the love of Jesus anymore. The gospel is not about the “love” of Jesus alone. It is about the fact that God the Son was willing (before the foundation of the earth!) to come down and die for the world that we might be reconciled to Him. It is the fact that our sin separates us from God and we can do nothing to cleanse ourselves. It is the fact that salvation comes through Christ and Him alone and not any other belief system. It is the fact that without Christ, our sins will cause us to spend eternity in hell. It is the fact that we can be forgiven of sin if we repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ. THAT’S the gospel! That’s not what’s being preached though. Instead, many churches are preaching another gospel. They may preach the prosperity gospel about how “God wants you blessed”. They may preach the “love gospel” where that’s all God is and there is no judgment or justice or fear of consequence for our actions. They may preach about how we all have a “God-shaped hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill”. None of those are the gospel! We were commanded to preach THE gospel not A gospel. Paul says that any man or angel (Muslims) that preaches a gospel other than the one he preached (the one that Jesus preached); they are to be accursed! That word accursed is anathema in the Greek and means banned or excommunicated! Paul is saying that if anyone preaches a false gospel, they are to be banned or excommunicated, and yet how many preachers, pastors, evangelists and teachers are preaching a false gospel? Can we really be surprised at the lack of response? Can we call this effective evangelism? I don’t think so…

 

We have adopted a wrong attitude toward evangelism. We try to lure the lost in with worldly things and then wonder why they aren’t impressed. If we happen to see one person saved, we can’t understand why they are back into a life of sin a couple months down the road. This happens because we aren’t preaching the truth. We are making them comfortable and tickling their ears. We are telling them what they want to hear or what we want them to believe instead of telling them the truth. We aren’t going out into the world and preaching anymore. We’re trying to get the lost to come to us. If we adopt a biblical understanding of sin and hell, and then preach that to the lost, we would see more than “just one soul” when we go. If we truly care about the fates of the souls of the lost, then we will stop playing around with the lives of others and spend our time going and preaching THE gospel!

 

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