An Appropriate Method?
I felt disturbed.
And that is what disturbed me.
Because why would I feel "disturbed" about the message of the gospel? Was I afraid these guys would give me a bad name? Why would I be ashamed of these men who became fools in the eyes of the world to proclaim the good news that I believe very strongly that everyone needs to hear? Did not Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, and the prophets before them—use similar methods to bring the Word of the Lord to people? “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” is about as urgent and in your face as it gets. So I entered an internal debate with my conflicted self.
Part of me thinks that there has to be a better method. To me, these particular street evangelists seemed condescending and borderline aggressive. The tolerant and perhaps post-modern side of me (which likes to avoid anything that could even be interpreted aggressive at all costs) suggests that the gospel message must always be communicated in love and gentleness. How did Jesus treat the prostitutes and tax collectors? He dined with them. He met them where they were at. He served them and He cared for them, and it was out of that relationship that He drove home his message. Yes, Jesus was harsh with the religious elites, but I believe that was because they deserved to know better.
I go on to think to myself, “what if a Muslim Imam was preaching in a likewise manner to me on the street? What about a Buddhist monk or a New-atheist?" They would most definitely garner a negative response from me, with a quicker pace and added eye contact evasion to boot.
The other part of me wonders if I need to have the sort of passion and zeal of those street evangelists. People are perishing for lack of knowledge today in my streets and in my work place. Have I become too comfortable with the world around me, desiring acceptance from the culture, that I reject any approach that would yield mockery from the world? Is my lack of evangelism in general just the fruit of me casually making peace with the devil instead of being a needed voice in this day and age? Is all my talk of "showing love and care like Jesus did" really a guise that allows me to avoid sharing the gospel at all?
This is all something I am currently thinking and wrestling through, and though I do not have a definitive answer on an appropriate method, I think you will agree with me that there needs to be balance between the two extremes.
I will not condemn the men described above for their presentation of the gospel. I will not criticize them for doing something that I frankly do not have the courage to do. I do wonder if had they been a bit more compassionate in their presentation, bringing some measured grace along with the necessary truth, I probably would have felt a whole lot better about the whole ordeal. Maybe I would have even thanked them for their ministry. But it can be easy to critique those who are doing stuff, while I comfortably lounge on the sidelines in a lazy boy doing nothing. I would like to avoid doing that.
We can be sure, however, that the Western church needs to grow in boldness. We need to get a bit more uncomfortable with the world around us, and not be so afraid of stepping on people’s toes while eternity is at stake. But we also need to grow in love. Sever one from the other our message is incomplete. Let us therefore pray that God will give us all added measure of boldness and wisdom to present the gospel with both grace and truth, as we get off the sidelines and into the game.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
Let me know your thoughts below!