Monthly Archives: March 2012

It’s probably no surprise that street evangelism is unappealing to most Christians because you don’t see much of a return on your efforts. For one thing, strangers you encounter on the street are highly unlikely to cross your path a second time. In addition, people on the street are often apathetic and sometimes hostile to Christian outreach. Finally, there is often no visible fruit, so it is often like sitting in a fishing boat for hours without getting a single bite. Simply put: Public evangelism can be discouraging and disappointing. I have felt this myself at times.

The truth, though, is that our discouragement and disappointment in evangelism are not justifiable. Although we naturally want to see positive results from our labor and desire to be liked by others, could it be that these expectations reflect an unwillingness to suffer for the name of Christ? Are we more interested in seeing positive results from our efforts than being obedient and faithful even to the point of suffering? Will we settle for nothing less than mass conversions, acceptance by non-Christians and cheerful responses to the gospel? Do we want the glory without the cross? If so, we need to replace those misguided expectations with a willingness to suffer for our Lord because the reality is that, more likely than not, our evangelism will be met with stern opposition. Jesus said to His disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20). Paul wrote these sobering words to Timothy: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Dare we think that we are so high above Christ that we are exempt from persecution?

There is something else to consider, though: Avoiding evangelism because of unpleasant responses falls short of the agape love that God demands that we show the world. It is the kind of love that blesses others even when they don’t want it, don’t ask for it, or are hostile to it. That is the kind of love that God has shown mankind—and continues to show—by condescending to people to reveal Himself, whether through general revelation (creation) or special revelation (Scripture), in spite of the fact that all people have rejected that revelation. It’s the kind of love that God showed the world when He gave up His Only Son to die for sinners: Nobody asked Him, much less wanted Him, to do that; yet He did it anyway. We must be honest with ourselves and candidly admit that if we withhold the gospel from those who desperately need to hear it because we want to avoid unpleasant responses, then we are falling far short of the love that God demands of us.

Christ served others regardless of what it cost Him. He once said that He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NIV). In spite of the suffering that He knew awaited Him, He “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), and when the time came for Him to give up His life for sinners, He “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). (See also Philippians 2:5–11.)

What is our motive for serving? Do we serve only as long as it is pain-free, or are we willing to serve even if it means suffering and rejection? If our motive is love, we will serve others regardless of what it costs us. There are many people who don’t know even the basics of the gospel message and desperately need Christians to bring God’s revelation to them. Many of them will probably hate us for it, but that doesn’t mean they need it any less. Dare we withhold that from them simply because it might bring discomfort to us?

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A friend recently shared this gem spoken by Charles Spurgeon, and I thought it should be posted here. Even though it was spoken more than a century ago, it seems that it applies to many of today’s churches.

Feeding Sheep Or Amusing Goats?
By C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892)

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” That is clear enough. So it would have been if he had added, ‘and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.’ No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him. Then again, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry.” Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? “Ye are the salt,” not the sugar candy something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, “Let the dead bury their dead.” He was in awful earnestness!

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of his teaching. I do not hear him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow?’ Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel of amusement. Their message is, ‘Come out, keep out, keep clean out!’ Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.’ If they ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They ‘turned the world upside down’. That is the only difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them half-way, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

Matthew 7:1 is arguably one of the most abused Bible passages in the entire history of Christianity. If you don’t know that reference, the text itself is likely familiar to you: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (ESV). In our society today, you are very likely to hear that verse quoted at you if you try to tell someone they are doing something wrong or that they are believing something wrong. But is that how Jesus meant His words to be used? Hardly. I say that for two reasons.

First, when the verse is used in that way, it is taken out of context. Here is the statement along with Christ’s explanation of it:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5, ESV)

Clearly the Lord was teaching against hypocrisy. That is indisputable since He clearly refers to criticizing others for little faults (“the speck that is in your brother’s eye”) while failing to see one’s own major faults (“the log that is in your own eye”). It is also indisputable that He is speaking against hypocrisy because He plainly says, “You hypocrite, … ” His final admonition in v. 5 should put to rest the kind of abuse of this passage I described earlier, where Christ said, “[F]irst take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Obviously the Lord was not prohibiting all criticism but specifically the hypocritical kind whereby one delights in finding fault with others without concern about changing oneself first.

Second, if Christ really meant this verse to mean that we should never criticize at all, isn’t it odd that He calls people “pigs” and “dogs” in v. 6? Look what He said:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

I heard someone once say, “A text taken out of context becomes a pretext for a proof-text.” How true.

The sign I use in street evangelism

Recently I was doing some street evangelism with my A-frame sign, which asks the poignant question, “Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?” A woman approached and adamantly quoted Matthew 7:1 to support her belief that people of all faiths are going to heaven. Her basic argument seemed to be that we should not tell people they are not going to heaven because that would be judging them. Aside from the fact that I don’t actually tell people they are not going to heaven but instead ask them to take a quiz so they can determine that for themselves, she was clearly misusing Matthew 7:1.

Now it shouldn’t—and didn’t—surprise me that this verse was misapplied. It happens often nowadays. What amazed me, though, was that the woman who said this was a professing Christian. Before she went into her message of religious pluralism, she declared confidently that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and that she prays every day. Let me say it again: This amazed me. Why? Because it was a blatant denial of the value of Christ’s blood coming from someone who claimed to follow Him! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is pointless if people who don’t believe in Him will get into heaven anyway. The truth is that the One who said “Judge not” also said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).

About the Author

The author of this blog, Jeremy (Jehanne), is a Catholic who strives to think God's thoughts after Him and obey Christ's exhortation to take up the cross daily and follow Him on the way to Golgotha. He likes reading theology, evangelizing, and, of course, writing.