An Appropriate Method?


As my friend and I were entering the Verizon Center for game two of the Flyers vs. Capitals (a miserable game for several reasons) we were confronted by an interesting spectacle. There were your usual pregame festivities going on. Fans were walking throughout the streets donning their favorite player’s name on their backs. There were a couple of guys drumming on plastic buckets, adding some needed rhythm to the pregame energy as people ate pizza outside. There was a general sense of excitement in the air, and I was excited! This is the NHL playoffs, Let’s go!

And then my friend and I heard some shouting and my attention was drawn to a man holding a massive sign with the words “Repent, wrath is coming” and below it “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.” On the back of the sign there was another message which stated “the pope is an antichrist.” Another man with a megaphone was speaking (very boldly) to the masses about the nature of sin, the reality of hell, and the hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ.

Strangely enough, I, a Christian who believes much of what was proclaimed outside of the Verizon Center found myself very uneasy. The man kept shouting the truth with a more confrontational tactic than I would prefer (and from what I heard most of it was the truth), and I found myself looking at my toes and scurrying inside for cover. A couple Flyers fans unsurprisingly jeered, "God is not real!" Some Caps fans simply enjoying their pizza and beer checked their watches as if to wonder, "how much longer is this guy going to spew this stuff?" As I entered the stadium the woman behind me asked a rhetorical question: “I wonder if he has ever convinced anyone?”

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!

Comments

  1. Daniel, your inner struggle with how best to share the gospel is nothing new. Specifically, is the technique you witnessed at the Verizon Center an effective way or is it really counter-productive to changing the hearts of pagans. I know of no one who has been saved by the method you witnessed.

    I have personally participated in a Billy Graham Crusade, Jack Van Impe Crusade, numerous Christian movies (World Wide Pictures), Christian Business Men's Committee, Evangelism Explosion, street evangelism, and door to door evangelism. All of these styles had a measure of success and saw many folks come to Christ. However; the one most effective method for me has been the one on one sharing of the gospel.

    Having said that, and witnessed similar scenes such as you did, I am reluctant to castigate another for standing on a street corner and shouting truth as you saw. Gods word has power and someone hearing it even from someone shouting in the street just may be the stimulant to cause one to further seek Jesus.

    I always advise folks to find a gospel technique (there are lots of them) that they like. Learn it and learn it well. Memorize it, continue to review and practice it as a life long endeavor. Thus; when the opportunity arises, one will never be at a loss for words in presenting the Good News.

    Personally, after trying The Four Spiritual Laws, The Roman Road, The Navigators hand illustration and others I cannot remember, I settled on the Evangelism Explosion method. This one takes a bit of work but when mastered is very effective.

    I must confess that I have never tried the street shouting technique. However; they say one is never too old to learn.

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    Replies
    1. Dick,

      I remember in college one of my friends was a bit of a "gym rat," and we were talking about different work outs--the pros of some and the cons of others. Then he asked me, "Daniel, do you know what the best work out is? It is the one you do every day."

      I think the same is true for evangelism, there are plenty of good models out there, and perhaps the best ones are just the one on one "script-less" conversations as you pointed out above. But the point remains: am I doing any of them?

      If I am honest with myself, I need to grow a lot in this area!

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