What if I [a pastor] told you that much of evangelism today disturbs me? How would you respond? I ask that question because, much of evangelism does in fact disturb me. Much of our street witnessing and our ploys to have people come to Jesus have caused me pause. I’ve not fully been able to put the reason as to why this is, simply that it is for me. I believe here I can finally share my reason.
I applaud the courage it takes to do street witnessing (and other forms similar) of course, I just feel it is a misguided effort in many respects, especially in today’s culture. I’ve been finding over and over again that relational, life-on-life evangelism is the best way to go.
Much evangelism (street or not) is based solely on intellectual reasoning. The intellect must accept the truths of course, but when we simply try and speak to the mind of a person, we are missing the holistic approach we’re called to. A.W. Tozer once said: “Proof may be convincing to the intellect, but it can never enable the heart to believe. The target is a man’s heart…a proselyte is one who gives mental assent to christ and becomes an adherent of the Christian faith”.
There is a deep problem in Christendom when all that is created in current evangelism efforts is a proselyte. In fact, the major danger is to the proselyte themselves, believing they have attained something they have not attained—namely salvation. They then are inoculated to the deeper truths of the heart believing they have switched allegiances when only their mind has. The target is the heart. “If they believe in their heart…” Paul said…yet we search too hard after the mind alone and convince many a proselyte that they have attained the full measure of salvation.
Tozer goes on to say about this: “We must realize the inadequacy and danger of proselytism. It has done untold damage to the Kingdom of God by keeping people from a genuine conversion experience, which can only come from the Holy Spirit. An imperfect conversion is more deadly than no religion”. When we’ve won a persons intellect, we feel as if we’ve got them. Many rallies, street witnessing and evangelistic youth talks have ended simply on the excitement that they’ve won the battle of the mind. Many pastors and evangelist then knock a few more notches on their proverbial belt and move to the next crowd to do the same thing.
My friends, we are winning some battles but losing the war…the war for the heart! We inoculate their souls and rejoice over this. Tozer hits it on the head when he says: “They [the proselyte] are harboring a false hope that can only bring them to a disappointing end”. This, I believe is even more true with this current generation, the mind, they realize is only a portion of who they are. There is a deep longing to be touched by the divine in the essence of who they are and many realize the mind is not that essence. We, the church only offer fun, entertainment and games as front doors to evangelism and we sell a god that is nothing more than a god who gives me what I want. This is not a helpful gospel, in fact it is a harmful one and many are skeptical of this god we are pedaling. This generation wants more. They desire a heart change, even if they wouldn’t define it as such.
I agree with Tozer then when he says: “The single greatest need of the church today is simple: to be filled with the Holy Spirit–to work in Him and to have Him work through us, using the Scriptures as His channel, to transform the lives around us”. When it comes to sharing Christ, the best way to fulfill that is by living a Spirit filled, Spirit led life before those who do not know the Savior. Living this way will transform the lives around us, they will ask questions of our life as they bump into the divine influence who is guiding us, namely God Himself! When we as believers are hungry for Him and His Word (not in a religious “forced sense”, but in a deep desiring sense) we literally bring God to the world because He is living in us and influencing us. The world no longer needs (if it ever did) proselytes of evangelicalism, but rather deeply needs an encounter with the Presence of God and a filling of His Spirit!
Let me close with this last quote: “Our lives should be so arranged that the Holy Spirit is truly in charge, doing His work through consecrated lives”.
What are your thoughts? Is the current way of evangelism still working? If so, how?
*All Tozer quotes in this post from God’s Power for Your Life pages 189-196