The Way to Evangelize
The idea that is presented in the new paradigm churches is that men and culture has drastically changed therefore our methods must keep up with the times is not valid. Did the gospel presentation change after Israel was scattered out of the land, when it went to mostly Gentiles unfamiliar with God and his law? In the Renaissance or the Dark Ages was there a problem with reaching the people with the ancient gospel. Did it need to be dressed up in different garb to work? Certainly, their culture was different then centuries before; just as ours is today. What has happened is that many are looking at the outward to reach him, what we do as sin; how man expresses his fallen nature. And not the source that explains the “why” of what we do it.
Here are the facts we still need to address. Man is still selfish, self-seeking, pleasure driven--so what has changed? Just because we have invented new ways of fulfillment and pleasure seeking does not mean the same underlying sin nature is not active, thus the postmodern argument is moot.
Too many have adopted the market place genre. Instead of “All of us like sheep have gone astray,” or, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” we might as well say “all of our businessmen have fallen short of their quotas.”
Our Sin problem remain the same--the solution remains the same.
Consider Paul’s end time insight 2 Tim 3:1-5: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Sounds like nothing new, but that evil has increased. Paul goes on and tells us they will seem religious, maybe they go to church of some sort “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” What power do they deny? The Holy Spirit’s power to save and change the person. Isn’t this what we are seeing today? How do they deny Him? But substituting other activities and for Bible studies, other methods for Biblically base evangelism.
Neo-Evangelical Churches are trying to make it easier to get to Heaven. There is not a gospel for early Judaism and a new one for the 21st century. Every sacrifice is seasoned with salt when salt is left out of our gospel presentation it is tasteless. In its place we have put sugar to sweeten it to appease people. Our Sin, faith with repentance, Christ as the Lord from heaven cannot be diminished or eliminated. These fundamentals of the Gospel is being ignored and we should be disturbed about this, because it isn’t preaching Jesus’ Gospel that will save! It is another gospel just as Paul warned in Galatians 1:8-9.
Telling someone he is the savior of the world is not enough. Accept Jesus as your personal Savior has or ask him to come into your heart has become an empty cliché it does not instruct a sinner in the way to eternal life. This ignores an essential element of the Gospel, namely sin and repentance. These new methods do not bring people to know the Grace and knowledge of God. You will hardly find anyone disagreeing that Christ died for all people (with the exception of Muslims and some Jews). But what they need to be confronted with is that Christ died FOR THEIR SINS. They need to admit they are guilty of sin and exercise faith in Christ's death on the cross to be converted.
Factor in- Sin
What is sin? The Bible explains in I John 3:4: “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” John says, “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), that would mean anything contrary to the nature of God. A neglect to do good is sin (James 4:17). Unbelief is sin (Rom.14:23). Any command that God gives that is not obeyed is a sin. The word sin makes no sense apart from God’s righteous standard which reflects his holy nature. How could anyone understand his sinfulness if he completely misunderstands God’s law? How can today’s modern sinner that are totally ignorant of God’s holy law and its demands upon them, see themselves as condemned sinners? The idea of sin is strange because God’s law is foreign to the minds of men today. Why repent if they cannot understand they are practicing for their own destruction.
We should pay attention to our savior who was the perfect evangelist. Jesus' interaction with the rich young man who came and called him good is a great example. Jesus stated only God is good to this rich young man; the goodness of God is unique to his nature, it is connected to His holiness. Jesus then focused on God's holy law to show that this young man was not holy or as obedient as he thought. He did not start with how God loves him. He used the moral law to reveal the character of God to a sinner. Jesus pointed the rich man to the law (Mark 10:19-21). As a Jew, he was certainly familiar with it. Jesus was not promoting to keep the law to have eternal life. For “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ . . . for by the works of the law shall NO flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
The woman at the well had the seventh commandment applied by Jesus to her conscience to be converted. Paul said of the law: `I had not known sin, but by the law’ Romans 7:7. It is God’s law that convicts a sinner of sin. The finger that wrote the law on stone points to us all for breaking it. Until one understands he is under condemnation, he will not flee to Christ for mercy. The man who understands the requirements of the law clearly knows that only God’s grace can help him. What the sinner must do is rely on God’s mercy only found at the cross of Jesus Christ.
The intent of evangelism is to bring one to the cross of Christ. But the cross means nothing apart from the law that convicts us of our sin. One must understand sin before they can embrace grace. What purpose would the Lord’s suffering have unless it was for removal of something that was a matter of life or death to us? Why would God take on human form, go through all this suffering and mockery from his own people unless there was an ultimate reason. Christ became the object of God’s wrath poured out against law- breakers, the sinner need to understand his substitution and its spiritual meaning. On the cross Jesus was satisfying the just demands of the law against sinners. If sinners are unaware of God’s requirements for themselves, how can Christ’s broken body and shed blood be significant? Without knowledge of condemnation from God’s holy law pointing the finger toward them, they are not drawn to the cross, it does not elicit saving faith from sinners. To understand the deserving punishment of law is the road to the cross.
It is necessary to present the commandments in order to show the sinner his heart and provide him with righteousness that God requires. How can people be turning to Christ if they have no sense of sinning against the Lord. They are not convicted of sin-- they don’t even know what sin is. They have no concept of sin because the law of God is not being explained. You cannot offer `All men have sinned.’ Unless you explain it. Explain the Commandments until they are slain by the law (Romans 7:11. When you see the law has wounded someone, their countenance will change; then they can be offered the solution of the Gospel.
The modern sinners view of God is that He is so loving, He will not punish those who mean well; who are sincere, who are trying to be good. God’s redeeming love for sinners is found only in Christ, and the sinner is not “in Christ,” until He has exercised faith in what took place on the cross. He must understand Christ was punished for His sin, Jesus took his place. Until a humanist, a moralist sees his soul broken down by God’s law, deserving punishment for his offense what use does he have for the Gospel of God? By omitting the sin factor to the gospel it becomes corrupted, the good news has added extra sweetener.
God's Love was Bestowed for Sinners to Repent
We so often begin our witnessing with, `God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’ Jesus didn’t begin any message this way nor did he instruct the apostles to do this either. Love is not the only attribute of God to the exclusion of others. Though love is part of the truth, when divorced from the whole message it can become another gospel. When you start to tell someone God loves you, apart from their offense to God and the price needed to be paid for sin you are assuring them that they are safe, He would never harm them, all is well with their soul. When the fact is God is angry with the sinner and the wrath of God is hanging over the head of the guilty.
Jesus said to Nicodemus “The Teacher of the Jews.” What it meant to be born again and told him that God so loved the world that his Son was sent. However, He does not stop there, he goes on and explains mans sinful condition and the rejection of the truth. John 3:18-21: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Consider Jesus saying to one of Israel's most important religious leaders he who does not believe is condemned-men loved darkness-practicing evil. This is not a language we would use today. Instead “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This may be the accepted norm in western nations, such as America, but cannot be fulfilled to the persecuted churches found in China, Sudan, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. You cannot make this promise to believers in Muslim countries or areas of the world where they face persecution each day. This not being honest about the Christian life.
This was not the experience of the first century church. God has a wonderful plan for us all is hardly a promise that can be made good by any preacher. All one has to do is look at the apostles lives to see theirs was a road of great trials, beatings imprisonment for their faith and all but one survived to live a long life. Paul writes For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. (1 Cor. 4:9). The Book of Acts describes Stephen being killed by rocks thrown at him by the brethren he loved. How about the apostle Paul? In Acts 9:16, right after Paul was saved, Jesus said “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” He was whipped and beaten , and hungry and jailed. The word “suffering” is all through the book of Acts and the Epistles, “suffer affliction with the people of God.” “The same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world”(1 Peter 5), Peter also pointed out in 1 Peter 2:21: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” The gospel promises, not to Peter , Paul John or any other disciple. Paul writes in Philippians 1:29-30 states, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
None of these experiences are mentioned to the new converts today, instead only the blessings are offered. Those convinced by Seeker Friendly methods will hardly survive against any persecution. But in America and other places this is not a concern; at least not yet.
So what is our message if it is not God has wonderful plan for your life and his purpose is abundance and success for you? Learn to die to self, whoever wants to die to self come forward, follow Him -- lose your life to find it.
A dilution of the gospel message can still grow a church as we have witnessed in modern times (as Robert Schuller who intentionally denies the gospel). Much of our present-day evangelistic efforts avoid calling people sinners, though the Bible is quoted: “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), no definition of sin has been expressed to the person, he does not know what this means. Instead we want Quick results-We go from A to Z and omit the in between letters of the alphabet. We make the message faster, easier, when time needs to be spent to explain ones spiritual condition. Jesus is too often offered like some antibiotic for an infection. Repeat this prayer like a catechism and you are assured of being well. Despite there is no requirement for following or turning from what was once a life contrary to God. And we wonder why so few stick around after our massive evangelistic efforts. The parables in Matthew 13 show us that when the gospel is given there will be both true and false conversions. That the one who bears fruit is the one who has understanding, we need to help people much as possible in this area.
Good News is Brought by Beautiful Feet
How shall they believe on him of whom they ‘have not heard?’ Sinners must know whom they are to call on to be saved.
God’s Spirit was given to the Church for a number of reasons, the most obvious was to bring the message of Christ's salvation (John says greater works than these you will do has to do with the gospel and Acts 1:8 they are given the Holy Spirit to be bold witnesses, even martyrs for the truth). You don’t have beautiful feet if you are unlearned, lazy, unmotivated, or have another gospel offering another way to enter the kingdom. We need a burden for souls which can only come through prayer and digesting God's word.
Proverbs 24:11-12: “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”
In the new method of evangelism the gospel content is softened and non-theologically based for the unchurched. The speaking becomes motivational and centers on making people feel good and uplifted, otherwise they will not attend. calling the sinner to public repentance is in the Bible but we don’t want to upset ones self-esteem, we want to keep it intact. Sin is often spoken of as “wrongdoing,” “wrong choices,” or “natural mistakes,” it is not defined as breaking God’s holy law, or that our conduct contrary to his nature, or we are in rebellion. Proverbs 16:6: “through the fear of the Lord, men depart from sin.” Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Fear of God is lessened or avoided. The very core of the gospel is reinterpreted to be love-acceptance without any repentance.
The law is to be used for evangelism 1 Tim 1:8-9: “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners,” for – and he gives various descriptions of sins. It becomes useless if used in the wrong way. As some do by keeping it in order to mature in their spirituality, “`By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20). “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God . . . for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20). This is what the law is to be used for, the unrighteous. Make someone swim in the law until their arms get tired and they start to drown. Then they will grab the life preserver to be saved
You can’t spiritually help unbelievers without telling them the uncompromising truth of the word. Paul tells Timothy “…Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:1-5). The idea that we are speaking to a majority that is of a postmodern mindset is simply a misnomer. More people want to hear it straight and direct without the fluff, speak it plainly to their heart and they will respond. When someone comes to the point that they can say I don’t want to hear a lie by men but the truth from God, they move themselves into the place of being open to the Holy Spirits work of convicting them of SIN (their fallen human nature). Paul says for us to use doctrine and do it with compassion.
The Who of our Message
Today’s Evangelism is making the mistake that sinners know who God is. Our messages ignore who is God? Or why do I need to be reconciled to Him. The sinner is never told their offense, nor the repercussions of ignoring the message. They are not told that God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ [Exodus 34:7]. That there is only one way to be rescued.
Eliminating the “who of God” from evangelism is no innocent shift in emphasis, but is cutting the heart out of our message. Christ as God our savior is offered to the world. They need to know on whom they are calling upon.
Do we present in our witnessing the Holiness of God? Our message rests upon the character of God.
We should not concentrate on God’s grace at the expense of who God is. He is glorious in majesty, He is an infinitely pure, holy, righteous; God dwells in unapproachable light! We are to have peoples eye taken off themselves to see the holy God presented in the Scriptures. Isaiah the Jewish prophet cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:50) this should be a natural reaction to a mind illumined by the truth who sees by faith the one who sits upon the throne. What can elicit repentance unless one is personally confronted with how sick and filthy they REALLY are. They cannot be assured they are as good as they think they are. Do they see themselves as they truly are - a creature in rebellion to their creator. If not why do they need a savior?
Preaching the attributes of God are essential to conversion, not just love but his holiness and righteousness and anger against mans rebellion. Without a correct knowledge of God, a sinner does not know whom he has offended or why. They cannot understand the first thing about faith. Unaware that they are heading for destruction because of their sinful condition, they so not know who is able to save him. To ask Jesus as their `personal Savior’ has no meaning if they are unenlightened about the law and sin. People continue in their iniquities because they do not understand the gospel and the new creation.
The Theology of Conversion
Are we to be seeker sensitive or sinner sensitive? There is a difference and we should not overlook it. The seeker sensitive church do not believe that people will respond to the gospel, unless it is put in a framework of their own worldview. The foundation of the new paradigm church is not a Biblically based message but of psychology; their felt needs are our target for the message, not the fallen condition of the human spirit that has separated him from God. Instead they have been victimized by life and been hurt and come short of being fulfilled. Fulfillment- in relationships, in career, in our dreams etc. To change our presentation of the gospel to a self-centered generation actually panders to their predicament. Instead our message should be a Biblical model- deny yourself, your feelings, your opinions and find the truth and life in Jesus. But we are assisting them to accept their fallen mindset and offering personal self fulfillment with a religious slant. We then stamp on it another satisfied customer by the church.
Skits, dances, music, plays can all be helpful in their rightful place but when divorced from the message of the cross they are instruments of entertainment only. They must take a second place to the message. If you are not focusing on mans sin then why does one need a savior? The Bible makes it clear FAITH comes by hearing the word not by seeing. There is not a new “better way” to do or present the gospel that saves. The power of God is manifested by the word being proclaimed correctly, by those who actually understand and believe it. Those who exercise faith and believe its purpose will be accomplished in the recipients heart. Hearers must learn certain essentials of the gospel to gain understanding for them to respond correctly. We need to tell them what they NEED to hear, not what they want to hear. According to the seeker friendly model “Shhh don’t tell them they’re a sinner, they may not like it.” Keep it a secret and we will let them know slowly, later on, much later.
I don't mean to generalize but this needs to be said, too much of the church today has spineless messages from their pulpit, instead its become an entertainment stage. The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear; but some have the fear of man, so they do not address what is really necessary, they do not mention sin nor the need for repentance. They make light of the very condition that made Christ go to the Cross to suffer and die for.
One can sit in the pews and never swallow the cure for their disease, they are self conditioned that they are fine as long as they are huddled together in church with others like themselves. With a deadened conscience to sin and its affect on their life now and in the future they are assured that they are still doing well and right because they come to church. We need to be careful that we have not given them religion to live by instead of the new creation clothed in righteousness found through the Cross of our savior.
Your gospel cannot be offering Jesus as a dessert in life. A number of times Jesus said “to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 16:24-25). He cannot be added, He must our ALL. But to mention these things one risks disunity, keep it quiet for the sake of unity. Unity is not the gospel the church is to uphold. In fact, we keep our unity by preaching the same gospel.
If more churches were going by the book and were intent on being doers of the Word, as it is written, the seeker friendly church would not be an option for them. But so many have looked for the answer in the wrong place.
Many Christians have reacted to this seeker sensitive paradigm. Repulsed by accepting these new methods that result in reshaping the church, they have taken the initiative to no longer attend. Many of these are not immature Christians, but those who take their faith seriously. They still witness and fellowship with other likeminded believers but cannot attend church because of their convictions and conscience. The church in its effort to be relative to those who are non-Christian has limited its effectiveness. By catering to those who those who are not believing they have neglected the growth of those who would be productive, they are driving away the very people that make a church healthy and vibrant. Those who are spiritually mature (that hold to a literal biblical interpretation of Scripture and application in practice) have no choice but to leave as they see the churches spiritual standard for excellence being lowered. In some incidences they are asked to leave if they are vocal on their disagreement of the direction of the church. (One church in Texas asked 165 members who did not want to go along with the change to leave). So how is all this affecting the churches that have accepted the new paradigm? They have become looser, lenient in the Bible and very superficial, the biblical depth to their teaching is short and shallow. They are left practicing a sliver of what church in the first century did.
People need to be personally equipped to live a spiritual life and go out into the world with the message of salvation. What is our solution in these dry times, in a time of apostasy? Biblically, it is the leadership that is to equip the people for ministry. Eph. 4:11: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The church leadership is first to equip the saints to do ministry. The answer is not how to get people to go to church but how can we can get the church to go outward and be daily witnesses in our lives. The church is a place for maturing the saints, not for gathering unbelievers to be comfortable with us so that we can all be friends. I certainly do not mean that we should not be friendly or make friends but we are not to run the church like some fraternity or social club. If people are coming to church because of the activities offered or the quality of entertainment is equal to that of the world, we have completely missed the “purpose” of the church. If done God’s way we will certainly see God’s results. A church can grow, it should grow when it is healthy, it will produce mature believers that will be active by God’s Spirit leading them into ministry. They won’t have to adopt men’s earthly ways that will perish and yield no eternal results.