Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Attitude of Evangelism

How forthright should we be when we share Christ? And how far should we go to avoid offending people? Extreme approaches to witnessing come from the same source: thinking that whether or not a person believes ultimately depends on us.

Scripture clearly teaches that salvation comes not from our ability but God working in people's hearts (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 3:6,7; John 6:44). Now the issue here is not whether God chooses who will be saved, though I believe He does (Ephesians 1:4).  But whether we believe that salvation ultimately depends on God's choice or the person's choice, the one thing it does not depend on is the cleverness of the evangelist.  Now I am not advocating sloppiness and indifference in doing the work of sharing Christ (Colossians 1:28,29: 2 Timothy 2:10; 4:2-5).  But I am suggesting avoiding all forms of manipulation, which can only make false converts (1 Thessalonians 2:5,6; 2 Corinthians 2:17; Ephesians 4:14).  Now part of the problem, at least in the United States, is we have gone from a nominally Christian society to a largely secular one.  This can produce a condition of panic, in which, rather than trusting God (Matthew 16:18; Romans 8:28; Psalms 127:1,2), we frantically look for any method to turn the situation around.  But this is often counter-productive.

Scripture calls for us to be people who speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to proclaim God's truth with boldness (Romans 1:16; Acts 4:29-31; Ephesians 6:19,20).  But we are also told to proclaim it with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:5,6; 1 Peter 3:15).  We are not to be pushovers, but we are also not to try to bully people into conversion.  Often the biggest problem can be our pride, which wants to take credit for a conversion or win an argument. But we need to realize we are just to proclaim the truth in a persuasive matter and trust God to do the  work of actually convincing the person. Otherwise, even if we do not produce false converts, we will alienate people or confirm them in their present behavior.  Now God is powerful and is able to overcome these things.  But we should be those who carry out God's work in the world, not an obstacle He needs to work around.

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