The Call to Evangelism
Anyone who takes the Great Commission seriously discovers the reality of spiritual warfare. Our primary warfare against the devil occurs at various levels of intensity as we try to implement the Commission. Evangelism takes on at least three forms: relational, declarational and confrontational.
Relational evangelism starts when we get a burden for the soul of an unsaved person. It may be a friend, a relative or someone we encounter in day-to-day business. The Holy Spirit moves in our hearts and causes us to notice someone as a candidate for the Kingdom of God. If we never get such "impressions," it is useful to pray that God would give us a burden for souls. Relational evangelism takes the form of establishing lines of communication that God may choose to use to deliver the Gospel. You may be moved with compassion as you see a street person, a harried waitress, a sales clerk or a passing angry motorist. Perhaps it begins to occur to you that your next-door neighbor is not a Christian and that realization begins to trouble you.This form of evangelism may begin with just a smile or a kind word. It may include welcoming neighbors into your home or taking them to church where the pastor or others develop the encounter further. Sometimes this kind of evangelism will be simply praying for that person.
Lloyd Jones' conversion is an example of relational evangelism at work. Lloyd was a final-stage drunk. I had met his wife, Cheryl, in a little church in Idaho shortly after she became a Christian. Cheryl asked me to pray for Lloyd. Many Christians began to pray for Lloyd.
Jonesy (as we have since come to call him) was enraged by Cheryl's conversion. He "hated" the Christian people with whom she now associated. He phoned her pastor and told him if he ever met him on the street he would kill him. One night Jonesy came home in a rage with a chain saw, determined to cut their mobile home in half—his idea of a property settlement. Failing to get the saw started, he tucked a gun into his belt and headed out to his pickup. Suddenly he couldn't see to drive. Something was in his eyes. He pulled off the road and found to his amazement that he had an uncontrollable desire to pray. But he didn't know where to begin. He drove to the pastor's house, walked in, dropped to his knees and was saved and delivered of alcoholism immediately. The very next day he was back in the bars—this time to witness to his alcoholic friends about the saving power of Jesus. He hasn't had a drop to drink in fifteen years.
Ron Rearick was evangelized through a process of declarational evangelism. This form requires us to interact in an immediate way with the prospective Christian. In declarational evangelism we "share our faith." Declaration can take many forms: It can be by verbal testimony or through the delivery of a tract or book. It is at best the result of prayer and accompanied by an anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, as in Ron Rearick's case, declarational evangelism involves a bold witness. Ron was a Mafia enforcer known as "the Ice Man." His life of crime led him to try to extort a million dollars from United Airlines by threatening to blow up one of their flights. Ron got 25 years in the federal prison on McNeil Island, Washington.
One day in prison an old convict walked up to Ron and said, "Rearick, you can learn a lot of things in here. You can learn counterfeiting. You can learn safecracking. Or," he said, shoving a Bible in Ron's stomach, "you can get smart." Ron had never been to church, never prayed, never read the Bible, but he couldn't get the old con's words out of his mind. Two nights later in his cell Ron knelt, prayed and was born again. Later when Ron was released he became a full-time evangelist. Ron Rearick responded to declarational evangelism, just as Lloyd Jones had to relational evangelism.
Confrontational evangelism puts us in a still more interactive mode, and will be the focus of this book. Confrontational evangelism employs the theological concept known as apologetics. Apologetics simply means we are making a reasoned argument (apologia in Greek) for or against a particular idea. It is what Peter had in mind when he said, "Always be ready to give a reason [apologia] for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).Confrontational evangelism occurs when we engage in dialogue with people in an attempt to convince them of the truth and relevance of the Gospel message. Perhaps we encounter a person, for instance, who desires to become a Christian but believes he must first give up all his bad habits. We would explain the doctrine of salvation by grace until he understood he could come to Christ immediately, without first becoming "good enough." We confront his misunderstanding of salvation with the Bible's teaching on the subject.
Such confrontations are not always comfortable. I was approached at a dinner party once by a Hindu who knew I was a Christian minister. He was somewhat aggressive in his pronouncement that "Christians foolishly preach there is only one God when, in fact, the Bible teaches there are many gods." He held that opinion because the First Commandment says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." His argument was, "If God wants us to have no other gods before Him, then He is admitting the existence of other gods." My job was to explain that the Bible teaches monotheism, the existence of only one God. Though men may enshrine demons as gods (that's what the First Commandment refers to), that does not make them gods.
Confrontational evangelism can be especially rewarding. I talked once with a disillusioned Mormon who had turned to a New Age religion after leaving Mormonism. The one thing Jerry remembered from Mormonism was that the Bible "was the Word of God insofar as it is translated correctly." That doctrinal statement is contained in Mormonism's Eighth Article of Faith. Jerry was searching for God, but couldn't hear much from his Christian friends because he was convinced their source of information about God—the Bible—was unreliable. His Christian friends continued to tell him about their experience with Christ, and he was impressed and intrigued by what they said, but he could not get past his established notion that Christian thought was founded in a document that was little more than a collection of good ideas.
My job with Jerry was to present logical reasons why I believe God not only inspired the Bible, but preserved it. I gave him "a reason for the hope" I have in the Bible. Jerry was impressed enough to begin attending church. Soon he committed his life to Christ. The imperative nature of this kind of apologetic evangelism came home to me two months later when he drowned in a fishing accident.
Apologetic or confrontational evangelism is necessary because many Americans are not only lost spiritually, but also effectively insulated from the Gospel message by the sophisticated arguments against it. The devil has indeed blinded their minds.
Francis Schaeffer, in his book The Great Evangelical Disaster, pointed out that America is a post-Christian society. Chuck Colson, in his book Against the Night, calls our time "the new Dark Ages." These statements underscore the spiritual poverty of our age.
Americans once, by and large, believed in a God who was "near, interacting with the universe He made. He had a plan to rescue fallen humans. Today, more often than not, Americans are unlikely to believe man needs to be rescued. Most Americans are secularists; they believe man is a product of evolution, in charge of his own destiny. If he needs anything at all, he will find it within himself.
If we are to reach American secularists, we will have to confront their doubts about the very existence of God. It is pointless to talk to them about Jesus, the Son of a God they don't believe in. How interested can they be in exploring Bible verses if they do not believe in a God who spoke through the prophets? We must reach them where they are.
If secularists are to be reached with the message of Christ, they must first become convinced that God exists and that He expects something of them. As the writer of Hebrews stated, "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We will reach the secularist when we confront him or her logically about the evidence for God's existence.
Likewise, the occultist needs to be confronted. He believes man is God or may become God. His world view is entwined in twisted mysticism. Just as the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles confronted the gods of the pagans, so must we. When New Agers put their trust in magic, witch craft and the "god nature within us," we must tell them lovingly that idolatry and ceremony are powerless to save them. Occult practices obscure—they do not clarify—the nature of God. We must expose the hidden things of shame in order that occult practitioners may turn to the light.
Cultists, too, need to be confronted. The cultist is convinced that his group alone knows anything about God. They think they have the fuller and deeper insight into the Bible and they preach another Jesus who lacks the full divinity required to save man from his sins. We will be learning the apologetics needed to reach all three groups.
For most Christians, the challenge of confrontational evangelism is a difficult one. We Christians have often been unwilling to transfer the concept of tough love into the arena of witnessing. Worse, we have believed the propaganda of the enemy: that loving our friends means we never confront them about eternal destiny. Sometimes we even boast that we never discuss politics or religion. For me, this is a grave mistake. When we say we love people too much to confront them with the demands of their Creator, we miss the point. It is like saying, "If my neighbor's house were on fire, I'd love him too much to tell him." It would be like a medical doctor who found a spot on a lung X-ray and justified his failure to tell because he loved his patient too much to confront him with the truth. The cost? Our neighbor's house burns down. He dies of cancer. He goes to hell.
On the hopeful side, Christians are beginning to learn we have to take tough stands on issues. We are learning that in all interpersonal relationships there is a need for "tough love."
Dr. Walter Martin, eminent cult expert, used to say, "The cults are the unpaid bills of the Church." It is time to rise and pay those bills. I humbly offer Spencer's Two Generalized Laws for reaching secularists, cultists and occultists:
1. We need apologetics only if we are dealing with hard cases.
2. If they are over eighteen, they are all hard cases.