Unfortunately I look at the work of evangelism today in my own life and in what I’m seeing out there and I think we (the Church, Christians, Brothers & Sisters in Christ, the Family of God, Believers, the Born-Again...) have added a few things to the salvation mix that don’t work too well.
I’ve lived an admittedly sheltered life and I’m pretty much thankful for it. It’s kept me from some missteps that I would be quite capable of left to my own devices. Then again, it’s also left me with a poor understanding of people who haven’t had the cocoon experience I’ve had and so I have to learn how to be effective when telling people about Christ.
I may launch a semi-annual series on this blog about the things Christians do with good intentions and rotten results.
Let this be number one in the series.
We try to convince people who don’t know God to stop sinning.
Now, not sinning is a good thing whether one is a Christian or an atheist or a Democrat or whatever. The world will definitely benefit from less sin. The problem in the approach is we seem to inadvertently skip the salvation message and go straight to the condemnation stop the sin message which is nice but ultimately ineffective to the individual life.
First of all, many unbelievers will have a hard time embracing the concept that what they are doing is sin. It’s kind of a contradiction of the thought process to reject the need for forgiveness but accept the rejection of sin. You might need to go back and reread that. It’s kind of redundant but it’s true.
If they truly believed they were sinning, they might just be willing to look at the need for redemption.
Also, the ability to cease sinning., at last for this chick, is completely dependent upon Christ exercising influence in my heart. I can’t just knuckle down and stop it. Maybe I’m exceptionally weak-willed or something. It creates a cycle of self-loathing and frustration to try to “be good” outside of Jesus.
Secondly, no matter how good we are, without the blood of Christ we remained condemned. What good does it do if I convince Johnny Sinsalot to knock it off but he never accepts the Lord? So he lives nicer but dies lost. The only benefit might be that I am more comfortable around Mr. Sinsalot because now I don’t feel quite so compelled to talk Jesus to him. We can more readily pretend that all is right in his heart.
I discovered this anomaly in evangelism when I re-entered the work force. Prior to this I had pretty much been surrounded by Christians as these were my friends and most of my family. But when I went to work I had no choice about who I was spending my days with and over time; you start to hear how they live their lives. The sheltered Christian in me wanted to try to convince them to stop sleeping with people they weren’t married to, stop swearing, stop whatever I identified as wrong. But none of that will get them to the throne. Salvation is first.
The bonus is that with a relationship with Christ, the “stuff” that offends gets dealt with in its time as a result of the relationship. It’s really hard for me to convince someone to change, but when they get on the receiving end of the love of God; they want to change. The Holy Spirit does a much better job of it than I do.
Convincing unbelievers to stop sinning: Stupid Evangelism Trick #1
Encouraging Reconciliation with Christ: Evangelism 101.
2 Corinthians 5 (New International Version)
The Ministry of Reconciliation
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.