There is nothing more delightful to me than sharing the good news of Jesus with someone. It is rewarding to watch as they discover the love the Father has toward them and to see how it changes their lives.
However, in my earlier years I practiced a popular ritualized version of personal evangelism based on a shallow understanding of our relationship with to Father.
The Personal Evangelism Method
This system consisted of a series of proof-texts from the Bible to demonstrate a narrow view of reconciliation with God. The presentation was to show that:
We are all sinners and cannot save ourselves
Sin leads us to eternal torment in hell
Jesus came to save us from our sins and hell
The objective was for the hearer to then pray the sinner’s prayer and be saved.
In our church, faithful personal evangelists gathered at the church, separated into teams, and went out to witness to people in their homes. Then we regathered, counted the results, and rejoiced!
Next time we did it all over again.
There is nothing wrong with sharing the good news of Jesus; in fact it is very important. But after fifteen years I began to realize that this system had enormous relationship problems.
Problem #1: Mistaken View of Relationship with the Father
The first problem is a misunderstanding of our relationship with the Father.
This model assumes we are estranged from God because of our sin (original sin plus our committed sins). We are, therefore, unacceptable to God and will be punished in hell forever. Jesus, however, came to live a sinless life and die in our place as a sacrifice for our sins. In this way, we can be ‘saved’ and avoid hell by accepting Jesus.
This concept is mistaken on many levels.
2. The emphasis on being ‘saved’ as an instantaneous event doesn’t recognize the development of our relationship with the Father as a process. This is why, no matter where people are in their journey with the Father, program evangelists think they must get the person ‘lost’ before they can get them ‘saved.’; some seekers already have a sense of sin and failure, but others have some sense of relationship with the Father and this must be destroyed before they can pray the sinner’s prayer.
3. This system also paves the way for legalism, as the view of salvation itself is legalistic.
Problem #2: Mistaken View of Our Relationship to Seekers
The emphasis of many programs is on saving as many people as possible. So some personal evangelists do limited follow-up with those they ‘win’; they may call them to encourage them to come to church, or they might turn them over to a separate ‘follow-up’ team.
But the mere sharing of the good news has an enormous element of personal relationship between the one who shares and the one who hears. Once that relationship is established, it is natural to continue as a mentor to the one who has received the good news. If we try to pass that person to someone else our relationship is stunted, and a relationship with the second person might not develop.
This is not personal evangelism; it is impersonal evangelism—it’s about numbers.
I’ve heard people say, ‘I look forward to being greeted in heaven by so many people thanking me for winning them to Christ and saving them from hell—some that I didn’t even know were saved because of something I said.’
I had a different dream. I could imagine all the people I had won meeting me in heaven and saying:
‘Where did you go? Why did you abandon me? I had questions and I needed support. You shared the good news of Jesus with me and then disappeared. Did our relationship mean nothing to you? My growth would have been so much easier had you been there for me.’
Who gives birth to a baby and leaves them to survive on their own? Sharing the good news involves relationships—it is not about numbers, fear, and manipulation
A Better Perspective on Sharing the Good News
There is a better way to share the good news than randomly confronting people with their ‘sins’.
1 Peter chapter 3 says:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
As we develop relationships with neighbors, those in our organizations, and other acquaintances, questions will come up. If we are known as someone who follows Jesus, people will ask about it at some point. But even then there is no need to hit them all at once with some presentation. In addition, it doesn’t hurt for us to watch for opportunities to work it naturally into conversation as our relationships develop.
Just be ready to give good answers. Let people grow at their own pace. There is no urgency; we are all on a journey and the Father loves us at whatever stage we are.
This is the purpose of my blog: not to persuade others or defend my beliefs, but to answer those who ask about the good news of Jesus. But what is this good news?
We will talk about that next time.
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Have a great day! ~Tim