“Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said ‘I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.’”—–Acts 26:28-29
Starting off, I want to say that by no means do I believe I am the best at evangelism. Even to the point, when I was younger I used to think that evangelism was for those “gifted” in evangelism and not necessarily for all followers of Jesus. But where I was afraid, weak, and timid, God has shown me through His Word and put me into a place where I have now believe evangelism is necessary for every believer and also how it is God’s plan for His followers to share their faith as a means to participate and grow in our own faith.
So that being said, what we see being done today is a great divergence away from true evangelism. Instead of the hard work of sharing the Gospel with people, many have traded it in for a replace-and-repackage approach. Instead of using technology to help better declare the Gospel, many have abused technology by trying to make Jesus and the Church more appealing to the masses. This has been done through efforts of advertising, watering down what it really means to believe in Jesus, and many other countless ways.
Rather than turning to the Bible to better know and understand the Gospel first ourselves, people have turned to those successful in business and marketing to put a “new face” on Christianity, the Church, and other so-called ministries. Taking a look around, it might even be said that everyone in one way or another has been influenced in this type of approach and thinking. Just see how much time, energy, and resources are spent so that we have the facade that isn’t “old school”, but is trying to stay current with the times.
From logos, flyers, Facebook, Twitter, videos, websites, podcasts, artwork, and whatever else in-between, we all have bought in at some level to this type of compromise. I’m not saying that these things in and of themselves are wrong or sinful or even that we can’t use them to further the Gospel in some way, but what I am saying that with so much value put into these things, the Gospel ends up being just a footnote if anything to what is being promoted today. We have bought into that these things are necessary to reach a world that needs a new “app” for that and which can show that the Church is truly in touch with the world desires. But I think if we are truly honest with ourselves we have ended up believing the clever lie that Satan wants us so distracted that all we have given is false assurance to people believing another gospel about a Jesus who they really don’t know.
Not only has our advertising and repackaging efforts affected those outside churches, it has also affected evangelism inside churches. Where the Bible tells us to “go and make disciples”, churches are now embracing this style of “come and make”. (I am careful not to say “disciples” because I don’t always know really what is being made.) So instead of raising up and training all believers on how to go and share the Gospel with those they encounter, it is left to whatever leaders inside churches to do whatever evangelism they can. Much of the time it is left to a 5 minute or so presentation at the end of a church service whereby the listeners are left with a message about going to heaven over hell and Jesus dying and forgiving the wrongs they may have made in their lives. But can we really expect the masses to really know why Jesus had to die for their sins and rise again 3 days later?? Can we really expect people to wrestle through all the questions and doubts they may have about Christianity in 5 minutes and then believe we have all these new people added to the Kingdom of God??
Not that God can’t use our faults and lackings for His glory and that there may be a few people that do put their faith in Jesus and know what it really means to believe in Him. But shouldn’t we be really careful and seek to be more effective than the cheap gimmicks that are giving false hope and assurance to a perishing people?? Sure a gospel whereby no one needs to repent of sin, but only blindly accept Jesus and heaven will appeal broadly to many, but those that continue to cheapen God’s grace and the Gospel will still have to give an account for not only themselves, but those they have led astray.
From advertising to the easy-believism of our day, these methods and beliefs are truly destroying the Church. Until people wake up and realize that real Christianity is being grossly undermined and repackaged for something which isn’t Christianity at all, we will continue to see the Truth eroding away. We are in danger of continuing to see those speaking up and standing for the Truth of God’s Word being pushed aside and seen as irrelevant because many are in search something more appealing.
So what is the solution to all of this?? We must first recognize how we have turned away from the Truth in search of trying to make this “Christianity” thing more attractive for everyone to believe and embrace. While we do desire to search for new and better ways to share the Gospel with those in the world, we must be extremely careful that we don’t fall into the trap and exchange the Gospel for some man-made efforts to bring people in through our advertising efforts rather than people repenting of their sins and believing the Gospel.
We must also re-evaluate if and how we use technology. Technology can be beneficial if used in moderation and not simply a ploy to just get people “in the door”. Everything should be evaluated by whether or not it is or can be a stumbling block to people believing in Jesus and growing in their faith. I suspect that most everything is and is becoming more of a stumbling block with the use of media and technology within Christianity today rather than being helpful to point people closer to the Lord. We would do well to eliminate many of the things we use for the sake of better use of our time, energy, and resources as well as even the content that we put in them.
Lastly, it is critical that we commit to the time and investment of real evangelism as individual believers. Much of what we see today is being promoted as “outreach”. Outreach ends up really meaning humanitarian efforts which may help people physically, but people are still left dead spiritually not knowing the Truth about Jesus. Instead of our constant corporate efforts on such large scales, maybe we would do well focusing our efforts on how we intentionally invest in those we each encounter in our daily lives. When we see those we live around, those we work with, those we go to school with, those on our sports teams and clubs, and even those we come across to and from as our mission field it becomes less overwhelming and more practical to each of us.
What I think has happened is that in search of a quick fix for evangelism, the Church has compromised in major ways and even with the Gospel itself. While rightfully being concerned about seeing people and the world falling apart spiritually and physically, we have for far too long given into the desires of the world in order to be more relevant and appealing. But at the cost of being more relevant and appealing people easily can say they believe in Jesus, but not really knowing what that means.
We must no longer use or become stumbling blocks just to have an audience, but rather we must remain faithful to the Truth. We must commit ourselves, not to large scale community organizing and outreach events as the focal point for evangelism, but raise up and train each individual believer to know how to share the Gospel with those they encounter throughout their lives. It is by intentionally investing in those around us and being able to walk along side people in their lives that, by God’s grace, we may see people come to faith in Jesus. Evangelism cannot be replaced by a flyer we get in the mail or some advertising sales pitch with a 5 minute presentation, but through the preaching of the Gospel in Truth. Just as Paul mentioned in Acts 26, that whether it takes a short time or a long time, we must continue in perseverance as we declare the life saving and life giving message of Jesus. May we all continue to grow in our desire to see those around come to know the Lord and look for opportunities to share the Gospel with those we encounter throughout our lives!!