I love evangelism. It’s constantly on my mind. It is impossible to see a human and not think about where they will spend eternity. It brings joy to my heart when people tell me about their gospel conversations. I love watching evangelistic encounters on YouTube and seeing the way that others do evangelism. It is because of all these things that when I see someone misrepresent Christ that my heart is troubled. The Gospel message is already offensive enough.
And because of all these reasons I haven’t been this disgusted by something I’ve seen done by “street preachers” since I got to see Westboro Baptist face to face. In a video entitled “Street Preacher Invades Starbucks” (I don’t recommend watching it since it is filled with profanity) a group of men “invade” a Starbucks and then starts following and screaming “repent” to a few pedestrians. As the scene got more intense, a lady said some words that should have stopped them in their tracks.
I would rather go to hell than be with you!
Instead of being proud of this encounter, to the point of posting it as an example of proper evangelism on YouTube, they should have been ashamed.
“I would rather go to Hell than be with you”, are not some words that I ever want someone to say to me. And although Westboro and heretical “street preachers” are extreme examples, I think we are all tempted to sin during evangelistic encounters. So here are some marks of an evangelist who seeks to represent his Savior in a way that would please Him.
This isn’t the love we see in the post-modern world, where tolerance is the idea that anyone can believe whatever they want as long as they don’t claim absolute truth. That is like watching someone run towards a cliff and cheering them on as they die. Love is an intense desire for people’s salvation, one that deeply affects the preacher. We see this in Romans 9 when Paul says that if he could he would die and go to hell for the sake of the Israelites. When you love someone this way it changes the way you talk. It changes the way you treat those around you and it affects the rest of these qualities we will see in the evangelist. It all has to begin with love or we’ll be misrepresenting the incredibly loving God of the Bible.
Paul says several times in his writing that we should be gentle. In 2 Timothy 2:25 he says that we are to correct people with gentleness. This is a tender, calm voice. This is the same voice that can turn away wrath (proverbs 15:1). It is fascinating to see that in action. I have seen so many people begin antagonistic and become eager to listen, in response to gentle and sincere words. Except for in rare circumstances, an evangelistic encounter should never end with the evangelized angry at the evangelist because of the way that he sounded, rather if they are angry it should be at the message.
There is a way to be tender and calm and yet still be passionate. You can tell in someone’s voice when they are being sincere. You can also tell in someone’s voice when they care about the people they are talking to. It’s not enough to just convey truth. When we approach people with passion, people listen because they know that whatever you are saying has truly had an impact in your life. If you lack passion in your evangelism, here are 3 Ways to Intensify Your Motivation for Evangelism.
Don’t let your sin keep you from Heaven! Death is right around the corner, you’re not guaranteed another day! I beg you to come to Christ today! Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 shows us yet again how persuasion should play a part in how we talk to people. He quotes God who says, “Behold now is the acceptable time, Behold today is the day of salvation.” Paul constantly uses persuasion in preaching and teaching. There is a way to be gentle and yet very persuasive. In fact, it is usually very difficult to be persuasive without being gentle and passionate.
Paul as he is teaching Timothy on how to be a faithful expositor in 2 Timothy 4:2 tells him “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” As you plead with people to repent and trust Jesus we need great patience. God can work in someone’s heart in an instant, but we have no idea when that will be. In order to keep us from anger, sarcasm, arguing, interrupting and just being downright obnoxious, we need patience in our evangelism. Lack of patience is a form of pride that says, “I know better than God does”. It’s a lack of contentment in how God works and ultimately it is rebellion against Him.
First of all, it is foolish to even open our sinful lips without asking the author of salvation to open eyes. Secondly, it will be very difficult to keep a Christ exalting attitude if He is not on the forefront of our minds in evangelism. It is hard to be godly when God is not on our minds. One way to keep God constantly on our minds is by depending on Him in everything we do. Colossians 4:3 and Ephesians 6:19, are just two examples of prayer soaked evangelism.
It is tempting to think that if I’m doing it wrong then I should stop, or I should alter the message. We don’t have that luxury. We are called His ambassadors for a reason. We cannot alter the message, remain silent, or represent Him the wrong way. We must strive to be like Christ as we present Him to the world. May we never hear the words “I’d rather be in Hell than be with you!”