Motivation - Part 5
Different Approaches In Evangelism
Instead of being tempted to think that I am not suited to spread the gospel, we need to appreciate the fact that the gospel can be spread using different approaches.
Direct Approach: “Some people are just waiting for a Christian who won’t beat around the bush, but who’ll clarify the truth of Christ and challenge them to do something about it” (Becoming a Contagious Christian, p. 124). Sadly, in recent decades or years the direct approach has fallen into disfavor and has been labeled as too confrontational or offensive. In reality, this is the approach that was often used by Jesus and His apostles. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, speaking through Peter was very direct and to the point (Acts 2:23,36; 3:13-15; 4:8-12). There are people who have been sitting on the fence too long who need to be challenged to make a choice (1 Kings 18:21). Someone who always wants to hide behind an excuse needs more of a direct approach. God does give us permission to challenge or question the excuses that people offer for not becoming a Christian (2 Corinthians 10:5). One writer notes, “Some people have serious intellectual questions that are preventing their progress toward Christ. Others just like their situation, and they use philosophical-sounding objections in an effort to keep the focus off of their ordinary, old-fashioned sin. When you sense that someone is putting up a smokescreen, my advice is to come right out and call his bluff. Tell him frankly that he seems to be putting more energy into finding questions than answers, and ask whether he’s afraid God will want to change him or make him give up something to follow Christ” (p. 175). In Romans chapter 1, we see that the Gentiles rejected the truth about God, not because of any flaw or inconsistency in the truth, but because they wanted to pursue a course of immorality (Romans 1:21-24).
The Intellectual Approach: This approach can be very direct, and it is the patient laying down of one point of evidence or Scripture after another. Unfortunately, some see this as dry or boring, but the truth of the matter is that the patient presentation of Scripture will separate people who are looking for the truth, from people who have other motives. Paul often argued from the Scriptures and presented on logical point after another (Acts 9:22; 17:3 “explaining and giving evidence”; 17:2 “reasoned with them from the Scriptures”). Noble-minded people will appreciate this approach (Acts 17:11). Some claim that we live in an emotional age and that people will not be persuaded by logical arguments from the Scriptures. But the same accusation could have been made against the culture of the First Century world. The people to whom Paul often preached, as well as the other apostles, were very emotional people (Acts 14:11-18; 19:28).
Invitational Approach: “Many people will never be reached until someone takes the time to build that kind of intimacy with them” (p. 128). A recent poll showed that about twenty-five percent of the adults in the United States would go to services if a friend would just invite them. We see such interpersonal and invitational approaches in Matthew’s Feast in Luke 5:29, and the Samaritan woman of John 4:28-29. “Do you find yourself constantly widening the circle of people involved in your activities?”(pp. 129-130).
Barriers to Belief
Misperceptions: One popular misconception about becoming a Christian is that if you do follow Christ, then you will lose your freedom, individuality, sense of adventure, and any hopes for happiness in this life. Of course, this isn’t true (1 Peter 3:10). Actually, one could argue that if you don’t become a Christian, sin will destroy all of the above things (Romans 6:21; Titus 3:3).
Hypocrites: Some people refuse to listen to the gospel because of someone they knew who claimed to be a Christian, but who was a bad example. First, we need to tell such a person that many people claim to be Christians, who are not (Titus 1:16), and that God will punish such people (Matthew 13:41 “and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling-blocks”; 7:22; 24:51 “and shall cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites” , so their bad example doesn’t have to prevent us from serving God. “Second, live your life as a model that shatters their stereotypes and gives them a new view of Christianity. In addition, anything you can do to get those friends around other authentic Christians will be energy well spent. They need to see that you are not the exception” (p. 168). Third, they need to see their own hypocrisy and be convicted of their own sins. Outside of Christ, everyone will end up being hypocritical, for consistency towards the truth, while being in sin is impossible (Matthew 7:1-5). Unbelievers complain that Christians think they are perfect and then complain when Christians don’t live perfectly! So who is hung up on perfection?
False Doctrine: “Many people carry around inaccurate portrayals of God, because, formally or informally, they’ve been taught wrong ideas” (p. 168). We need to allow unbelievers to explain what they believe to be true or what they have been taught about God, the Bible, Jesus, Christianity as so on, so we can correct any false impressions that they have. When one writer encounters someone who says, “I don’t believe in God”, he answers, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in. Maybe I don’t believe in Him either”. The best way to counteract false doctrine that is preventing people from turning to the truth, is to have them read the Bible for themselves. It is amazing how many objections are overcome once people see the truth for themselves.
Moral Issues: That is, people balk at obeying the gospel because they must give up some work of the flesh. This type of person is operating under the assumption that they will lose more in becoming a Christian than they will gain. At this point it might be wise to run a “cost-benefit analysis on their life”, so they realize that they will be gaining good things and only losing bad things. For example, the person who likes to party on the weekends, needs to consider the following: 1. I end up saying and doing things I later regret (Romans 6:21). 2. My hangovers are downright painful ( “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? 30Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. 31Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; 32At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. 33Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things. 34And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. 35"They struck me, but I did not become ill;
They beat me, but I did not know. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink” (Proverbs 23:29-35). 3. It costs me good money, not to mention time and energy. 4. I’m risking eventual liver disease (or at least a beer belly!). 5. There’s a high probability of alcohol addiction. 6. It impairs my ability to drive, which risks not only property, but also could cost somebody his or her life. 7. It will only bring eternal misery (Galatians 5:19-21). The same type of cost-benefit comparison could be used with any sin.
Intellectual Roadblocks: These are questions and doubts that people have or have been told concerning the existence of God, the authenticity of the Bible, alleged Bible contradictions, and so on. First, we need to be prepared to answer such questions: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). “The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16). Be impressed that 1 Peter 3:15 is not a suggestion, rather, it is a direct command that applies to every Christian. “If we fail to come through with a rational response, we risk becoming just another excuse for that person to disbelieve” (p. 171). Don’t resent or fear such questions, for such questions demonstrate that at least this person has some interest in Biblical things. First, a person with such questions needs to remember that God hasn’t given the answer to every question that might arise when reading the Scriptures. For example, we can speculate concerning where Cain got his wife (Genesis 4), but in the end, God doesn’t tell us whom he married. Some things have not been revealed (Deuteronomy 29:29). Secondly, people need to realize how “small” some questions really are in the eternal scheme of things. For example, what person in their right mind would turn down eternal life with God in an eternal paradise because they didn’t know where Cain got his wife? Third, an honest person with questions will do their homework and will look for answers and not simply another question (Acts 17:11). “Once our friends have done their research and weighed the facts, we need to encourage them to act on what they’ve found. This means not lying to themselves about their findings, or hiding behind the excuse that they haven’t answered every possible question” (p. 174).
Let’s Just Agree to Disagree: In our society, we are probably hearing this excuse more and more. The sad fact is that the person who says this to you, will probably continue to attack the truth behind your back. At this point we need to press the issue: “There’s a day coming and it won’t be long when we’re both going to find out who is right. We’re banking our lives and eternal destinies on totally contradictory ideas. We can’t both be right. One of us is going to reap eternal rewards and the other is going to be in remorse for eternity. In light of what is on the line, why don’t we continue to study the issue. Rejecting the truth is a big deal! (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel”; 2:10 “for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved”). “Five seconds after each of us dies, we’re both going to find out who believed the truth. And I’m betting my eternity on the One who came back from the dead” (p. 136).
Starting Spiritual Conversations
Many of us have no problem in talking to other people, rather, our problem is an unwise use of what we talk about. In Romans 10:14, the point is made that people are not just going to naturally figure out what God expects of them. They need to be taught! In John chapter 4, we find Jesus spending His time talking about spiritual matters. Here is a sample of things to say to get a conversation going in a spiritual direction: “I’m curious, do you ever think about spiritual matters?” “Who, in your opinion, was Jesus Christ?” “What’s your spiritual background? Were you taught a particular religious perspective as you grew up?” “Do you ever wonder what happens to us when we die?” “What do you think a real Christian is?” “Where are you heading in your spiritual journey?” In addition, we need to seize split-second opportunities. When someone asks, “What are you doing this weekend?” Realize that you have an opening! You can either talk about secular pursuits, or say something like, “Well, among other things, I am really looking forward to the Bible study this coming Sunday”. Get into the habit of including God and spiritual things in your everyday conversation with people.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017