Friday, April 12, 2013

How NOT to Evangelize

I had a recent experience with an evangelistic group here on the campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder. I heard this group last year, and I wasn’t even outside the class room. You could hear the bellowing cries of “YOU ARE ALL GOING TO HELL” and various other rants like that. Apparently this group’s battle plan is to yell for an hour, draw a crowd, and then debate the crown to show what fools they all are.

This time, as I walked out of the building I am most often in (housing the philosophy department) I could see them again; the yelling had ended, so I walked up, curious to see what was going on.

I saw a fellow philosophy major doing pretty well at holding his own against an amazing brow-beating this man was giving him, trying to use what I recognized was a form of Greg Koukle’s “Tactics.” But about that point, this evangelist, who was trying to use logic to convince this young man (and not succeeding), turned to his Bible and said “See, it says right here that…” and proceeded to read from Romans 1:18-20 and use it as authoritative to a young man who does not believe that the Bible IS an authoritative book.

At that point, I interrupted, cut the evangelist off, turned to the young man (who knows me) and said. “Wait, let me try and explain a few things about this book, the Bible.”

I began to explain reasons to accept the Bible, as a carefully conserved record, rooted in history, accurate in the historical facts contained in it, and then moved to why I believe you can trust its words, and that those words point to Jesus being the Son of God, and the eye-witness testimony contained in the Gospels to an empty tomb.

The other evangelists said good bye, packed up their things and left.

I spent almost an hour answering questions poised to me by that young man, and quite frankly, un-doing the damage done to Christianity at large, by a group of men with miss-placed zeal.

I would like to bring some history to bear on this story. In the late 19th and early 20th century there began a type of evangelism that consisted in street-corner preaching, with the aim (and I am sure well meaning) to warn people of hell, but what it accomplished was to scare people away rather than to the kingdom of God. It had some successes, but left a gash that still hasn’t healed in the English speaking world.

If we really are called to be “little Christs,” (that IS what Christian means) then we should use Jesus as the example. #1. He studied scripture and understood it, #2. He studied the laws, and could win debates against the best lawyers of his day (that is beyond the study of the Pentateuch) and #3. He never, ever yelled at those who he wanted to reach.

In Matthew 12:19-20 is a passage from the book Isaiah, chapter 42, which Matthew is using to show how clearly Jesus, as the Messiah, fulfills the scripture.
“Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles ( the Nations). He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory.” (Matt. 12:18-20, cf. Isaiah 42: 1-3 NASB)

When you really study the Gospels, you will see that the only time Jesus was known to holler at people, was in the Temple, and that was aimed at the religious officials of the day; those same officials who were stumbling blocks, walls and blind guides to those who were hungry for knowledge of God.

As a biblical apologist, I found this attempt at ridiculing and brow-beating kids to win converts, nauseating. It gives me pain in my heart and weeks and weeks of mop-up work to mend the damage done.

Dose this group really think this technique is worth alienating hundreds of our youth in the quest to make “…one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” And yes, I meant to use that verse.

These are my friends and classmates, these are the professors who are my friends as well, and this group is giving them another reason to not listen to me, to ridicule me and to make Christianity a dead option.

None of the legitimate apologetics ministries like
RZIM…etc, use these methods to spread the Gospel.

And neither should you, R.C.

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