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Monday, June 02, 2008

What does real evangelism look like?

Being nice to people doesn’t get them saved. You need to present them with the bad news about their sin, tell them about Jesus and the cross, and bring them to a point of decision. That’s what Jesus called us to do, and anything short of that is just a cop out.

As quoted by Randy Siever - Doable Evangelism - Busting the Myth of "Pre-Evangelism"

A few years back I would have whole heartedly signed up for this statement of mission. I was convinced the only way to see people saved was to hit them with the bad news about their final destination and the Good News of the cross.

The reality was, even though the theory seemed to make a lot of sense, the practice really wasn't working.

Looking back I think I had been convinced that faith was a commodity of sorts that had to be "sold" - in fact the approach I had been taught to take was one very closely aligned to that taken by network marketers.

Now network marketing is something I have tried on a number of occaisions without much success (I know it works for some - it didn't work for me and, thanks, I'm not interested in going there again!). I know quiet a few people who are into it and I have many times seen the end result of the standard approach - broken or damaged relationships!

Generally, the approach is pushy, demanding and offensive (I know not all network marketers work this way). The assumption is the prospect "needs" what you have to sell and it is your job to convince them of it. Sometimes this requires a feined attempt at friendship (the network marketer's equivelent of what Siever is referring to as "pre-evangelism" in his post) in order to win the prospect over.

In my personal experience, the "friendship" is often quickly forgotten when the program is rejected. I have spoken to many people who would describe themselves as "victims" of this kind of high pressure approach to business.

The approach has a conditioning effect. Once you have been "hit up" by a network marketer once or twice you get to know the warning signs. Out of the blue contact by an old aquaintance who "wants to catch up and talk to you about a business opportunity" is enough to send cold shivers down your spine. The warmth generated by the out-of-the-blue contact of an old friend is readily replaced by an overwhelming desire to do bodily harm to the person on the other end of the phone.

Unfortunately I know just as many who would describe their experiences with Christians in a similar way.


Helen said...

Hi Andrew, maybe you could clarify that the quote from Randy is not his own view, but what a friend said to him who disagrees with him and is concerned about how he teaches evangelism.

I just want to make sure no-one misunderstands.

The Creature said...

Hi Helen,

I think you may have read the post through your reader. I had the same thought straight after I posted and rejigged the reference to show "as quoted by". Readers seem to show only the initial post and not any updates.

If you still think this isn't clear enough, please let me know and I'll try and clarify further.



Paul said...

Is Francis Schaeffer's notion of pre-evangelism lost? His notion was not anything manipulative as described above. It was essentially about finding common ground, and the right ground, in which the Gospel could be heard for what it is. The Apostle Paul did it. It is essential to disciple-making. Throwing a tract at someone without establishing an appropriate context beforehand won't make a disciple, just someone who thinks you're a knob (and rightly so). We have to do the necessary ground work, that is, pre-evangelism. Anything less is just insulting the intelligence of the potential disciple.

I do hope this handy term isn't lost to the pejorative.

The Creature said...

G'day Paul,

Thanks for your comments and I think I hear where you're coming from.

Did you read Randy's post? I think what Randy is positing is a lack of distinction between what has traditionally been called pre-evangelism and evangelism. Rather it's all evangelism.

So the stuff you mentioned is definitely a part of the big picture - I guess maybe it just comes down to an argument over semantics.