Wednesday, February 22, 2006

American Evangelism

After a brief hiatus, Slacktivist has written another of his infamous "Left Behind" commentaries. This week, he spends a fair amount of time decrying the American Christian subculture's attitude toward evangelism.
...it is not "one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread," but rather one fat man trying to convince another fat man that he's a beggar in order to close the sale on another loaf.
This is a criticism I've often had myself about many Evangelicals I've known (although Slacktivist states it more eloquently). Contrary to what some Christians say, there really isn't hardly anyone in our culture that "hasn't heard" the Christian message. Yet many Christians persist in trying to tell their "unsaved" friends about the dangers of sin and hell in well-meaning (but generally futile) attempts to get them to convert. They try to convince their friend that their sin is a problem, because it is only after the problem has been recognized that someone might be willing to look at the solution to that problem (in this case, becoming a Christian).

There are at least a couple of problems with this tactic: 1) Many non-Christians don't define their behaviors as "sin" and/or see nothing wrong with continuing to behave as they've always done. After all, it's worked well for them so far, right? 2) While some non-Christians may understand what Christians mean by "sin," and while they might possibly even agree that the behavior is self-destructive, they see the "solution" as at least as bad as the "problem." After all, why join a group of people who will shame you for something you already know is bad? That's just adding to the pain, which is certainly not what these people need.

Slacktivist suggests that while Christians do have an imperative to evangelize, we've missed the point. He quotes what we Evangelicals often refer to as the "Great Commission": "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20) There's no imperative to scare people into heaven here. No mention of "hell" in this passage. Rather, by "obeying everything" Jesus commands us as believers, we are to live lives of hospitality. We feed the poor, visit those in prison, care for the widows and orphans, etc. And make no mistake, American Evangelicals have a lousy track record when it comes to caring for these whom God commanded us to love. We may use the language of "love," but we don't seem to really know what it means.

People should be able to look at the lives that we live, and want to live as we do. Instead, we're rightly mocked for telling non-believers that they have to follow a strict list of "thou shalt nots" in order to avoid an eternal punishment they may not even believe exists in the first place! Why should the non-believer listen to us?

2 comments:

  1. The church needs to get back to Biblical evangelism. Go to
    www.livingwaters.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, "getting back to Biblical evangelism" would rather be the point of the post. However, you really can't just say "Biblical evangelism" and come to any consensus on what is meant by the term. Too many people evangelise, yet ignore the texts on helping the poor (as I noted in the post), but are still convinced that they are performing "Biblical evangelism."

    Perhaps a call for basic Biblical literacy would be appropriate?

    ReplyDelete

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