Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Clash of Methods

There is a continuing battle between different methods of sharing Christ with people. On the one side there are those who are for aggressive proclamation and who believe that those who do not engage in this kind of proclamation are not doing their job in terms of evangelism. There are others who take a more relational approach and say no one can reach anyone without a prior relationship. Both positions tend to stand on opposite sides, claiming the other way is totally unacceptable.  But as I read Scripture I find it hard to see any particular method legislated. And while I do find more examples of the more confrontational methods (speaking to large crowds for example), I  do not believe that an example constitutes a commandment. Also, I expect one of the reasons we see more of this approach is that Scripture tends to follow the high profile people who tend to use this approach.

It is clear that we need to avoid certain extremes. We are told to present Christ in a gentle manner, which precludes hostile attacks (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:5,6). But Scripture also exhorts us to be bold and not timidly fearing men in our proclamation of  God's truth (Galatians 1:10; Ephesians 6:19; Acts 4:31). Also, the underlying motivation needs to be love for the people involved, not just a mechanical devotion to duty (Matthew 22:36-40; Galatians 5:13,14; Romans 13:8-10). But there is left a broad place between these two extremes which is open for debate. I am convinced there are various options open for different people to use different methods, depending on what is right for them. There are also different people who will be brought to Christ in different ways. There are those who need intellectual answers. There are those who need a friend, perhaps in the midst of difficult times. There are those who need direct assistance and are not open to listening until they receive it. Frequently we need to match the approach  to the person who needs it.

I am convinced that these different approaches depend on the spiritual gifts of individuals, along with their personalities and backgrounds (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12:4-27). Therefore, if someone is a teacher they will try to explain the message so people will understand. An exhorter will encourage people to accept the message. Someone with the gift of service will try to do things for people. Whatever their gift, it can be exercised to bring people to Christ. Now we are called to be involved in helping others find the way to Him (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47). But to try to push everyone into the same box is a mistake. Particularly a box which may not be the one that is really appropriate for that person with their particular set of gifts. But we can all reach out together if we each do it the way God has led us to do it.

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