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Category Archives: Evangelism

Some people really irritate me. If they find out someone isn’t a Christian, or that the person was a Christian but has left the church for some reason, they think they have the job to start evangelizing outright to the person. Many assume that they know all the answers, and that all the person needs to do is just listen or something like that. I’ll admit, I’ve been there.

Surely, sometimes it is all that’s needed. But this isn’t always the case. I would imagine that it’s rarely the case, in fact. Often, people have been turned off by false gospels such as that of the Health and Wealth movement in the Evangelical church. As Fr. Thomas Hopko puts it, these are the people who teach that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’ll be healthy, you’ll have plenty of money, and your color TV will work.

Some have been utterly disgusted by the antics of people who call themselves Christians while shouting messages of hate, all in the name of expanding the Kingdom. Recently, here on the campus of UT, there was a demonstration staged by a travelling ministry called Soulwinners International. How did they go about “winning souls”? By preaching on the pedestrian walkway in front of Hodges Library with signs and t-shirts saying “Homos Go To Hell.” This went on for a couple of days, and eventually escalated to a shouting match with the UT chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

As a Christian, this disturbed me. It’s entirely contradictory to preach that “God so loved the world…” and then say that someone who is gay is going to Hell, simply for being gay. Now, I’m not going to debate the concept of homosexuality being a sin or not. But, if you consider it to be a sin, then bear in mind that it’s no worse than any other sin. Cheats, liars, thieves, and adulterers are also sinners, and I don’t see anyone condemning them to Hell on the sidewalks of my campus. So often, evangelicals will say “Sin is sin. No one sin is worse than the others.” Yet, when it comes to that sin, they’re all going to burn without question. I don’t get it. Besides…have they forgotten verse 17 of John 3? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world…”

When it comes to presenting the Gospel to those who don’t rightly know it, we are commanded to do it in love and patience. (cf John 13:35, 1 Cor. 13:4-8) The God that is revealed by Christ, who is our ultimate model, is one of love and not judgement. Is he the Judge? Absolutely. But, as Fr. Stephen says, we know nothing of God’s judgement, only his mercy. If we are to show what we believe is Truth to others, we have to do it within the truth that is contained therein, that “God is a good God and loves mankind.”

St. Francis of Assisi said, “At all times and to all people, preach the Gospel. Use words if you have to.” If someone is really looking for answers, searching for truth honestly, that’s all you have to do. I’m utterly convinced of this. If they really are running hard after the Truth in spite of their preconceived notions and the junk that they carry with them as a result of whatever previous misrepresentations or abuses of the Gospel message, then they’ll respond to it if they can manage to have an encounter with it. That encounter doesn’t need to include a list of everything wrong with them; many of them already know all of that and hear it from the rest of the world, making any such approach no different from what they’d find elsewhere. Instead, that encounter should be filled with honesty and love. “I don’t know” and “I don’t really understand why you feel that way, but I understand that it’s where you are in your life, and sometimes things like that take time to deal with,” and like assurances are essential. And it shouldn’t be done duplicitously, just so you can say you’re being a good witness. It takes grace to do this, and we should all seek it daily and moment by moment.

Moreover, you don’t even have to quote scriptures or the Fathers or the homily you heard last week. Sometimes it’s just enough to take someone in and tell them that they’re human beings and worth attention and love and grace, and that you want to give it to them as best you can. By what I see on TV and have heard from some minsters and just everyday people over the past few years, it’s a rare occasion that this happens anymore.

In his first epistle, John says to love “not with words or with tongue, but in action and in truth” (3:18) He also says that “God is love” (4:8). So, it seems to me that, if you can love someone in what you do for them, they will see God. I’m starting to believe this is the only essential task. (Of course, along with things in our spiritual lives that serve to change us more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.) Their conversion is between them and God. But, as I said, if they’re looking for it, and this really is the Truth, then it just follows that it’s what they’re looking for, so it’s only a matter of time, however long that period of time may be. More to the point, we evangelize and God saves in His good time.

I’ve been reminded of the simplicity of this several times recently, and I felt it was worth saying here. I hope it makes sense. 🙂

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