Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Evangie-Tales"--baby steps to winning souls.

Like many others, my approach to evangelism has all too often been described as "punctuated terror"--silence through fear most of the time punctuated by the terror of actually being asked about my faith.

Thankfully, that's changing. My church began a "canvassing" effort on its own behalf and that of a church we're founding. Since my wife had frittered away my golf money on groceries, we decided to get a walk through town helping reach people for our churches.

The experience is wonderful. Fresh air, meeting people on the street, and lunch afterwards. For reference, it can be good to have your kids with you--they're a magnet for getting people to talk.

Only one odd or bad experience so far. An older, Garrison Keillor-like gentleman (I am not making this up) pulled into his driveway as I was approaching his door, looked at my pamphlet, and growled "we're Lutherans" and handed it back to me. I wished him a blessed day and walked on. I'll pray that he doesn't become prey to the Bilderbergers.

Many thanks, BTW, to brother and friend Steve Sanchez, for reminding me of my duty here.


Anonymous said...

I'm delighted to hear of your change in this area. Many people desperately fear face to face evangelism. But a church group is an excellent way to be groomed for sharing your faith. As we profess Christ before others, He will profess us with the Father.

Joe said...

I'm very sorry, but I just don't see how accosting strangers for the purpose of proselytizing them can be a positive thing. I hated doing this, too, and I realized the Golden Rule was why. I share my faith almost exclusively in the context of pre-existing relationships now. I get less notches on my Bible but I can look myself in the mirror.

Bike Bubba said...

Actually, there is no "accosting of strangers"--I actually opened up to "Garrison" by apologizing that my daughters were almost in his way. Most of what we did is leafletting.

And if we think it is wrong somehow to talk to a stranger about Christ, exactly what do we make of John 4? Are we to say that Jesus was wrong to strike up a conversation with that woman because it was only to put a check-mark in His copy of the Torah?

Are we to say that the disciples were wrong to go into synagogues with this Good News? Were they also putting marks in their scrolls?

And exactly how are we to say that effectively saying "go your merry way to Hell" is an adequate fulfillment of the Golden Rule?

Joe said...

I apologize, I shouldn't begrudge you what you did as a service to the Lord. I'm glad you had a good time with your church group, but it's nothing I would ever enjoy doing. I'm not even sure I could have participated without sinning against my conscience.

Those are good counterexamples, however I was referring to the term, "winning souls" in your title. I detest this concept and really cannot think of anything more de-humanizing. It strikes at the core of how a person's relates with God and turns it into a target, a goal, an inanimate object. I'd much prefer to win hearts instead of souls. Now I'll not deny that there are people who have come to Christ and grown to maturity as a result of evangelism done by strangers. I do not think this is a good model at all, though. Discipleship requires a close relationship. Let's say a stranger comes to Christ through their work--who will disciple them? How will they be comfortable enough with a stranger for the necessary vulnerability and accountability to happen? If a new believer does not get good discipleship, I think Jesus' parable about the demons who bring their buddies back to the empty house is a pertinent warning.

Let's return to your counterexamples. Sure, you were just dropping leaflets, not mugging anyone, but your purpose was that people would come to your church who knew no one at your church. The disciples that went into synagogues, they typically were not strangers to the others. Even Paul who did this on his missionary journeys spent significant amounts of time in each place. The last thing our missiological template in Acts can be accused of is randomly planting seeds--the parable of the sower characterizing Jesus' ministry of preaching, not the apostles' ministry of disciple-making. The example of Jesus at the well is the best counterexample, and my response is that in addition to the different ministry model of Jesus to the apostles, I recognize that the Holy Spirit can directly lead me to talk to a stranger about Christ. This is precisely why I said, "almost exclusively" above. I have felt like God wanted me to talk to a stranger on occasion, and on one of those occasions a person actually came to Christ. I can't say I wasn't glad, but looking back on it afterwards I didn't like it, either, because I have no idea how he is doing now--but that's God's problem, not mine.

As for the Golden Rule, I would not want Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, etc. trying to get me to switch to their religion, so I'm not going to ask someone to switch to mine. With this stanger evangelizing, that's all you are asking someone to do, simply switch religions. They don't have any idea what Christ alive in your heart means, except perhaps that it makes you get in people's face to try to convert them, because they don't know you. So when I let stangers go by without telling them the Gospel, I am treating them like I would want to be treated. I am not saying, "go your merry way to Hell," I am trusting that God is going to reach them through people who know them, because God is a relational God. It is with the people He has given me to know that I do not say, "go your merry way to Hell," and the way I avoid saying this is by living a Christ-centered life before them. Yes, this means (gasp) that I actually have to become friends with icky pagans. Then, should a time ever come when they bring up the subject or God prompts me to bring it up, there will be a context for evangelism AND for discipleship afterwards. I really do wish I could keep people from going to Hell, but it's not in my power. I have to be patient and wait for God to move--but that's nothing like the patience God has for humanity in general.