“I don’t impose my faith on anybody, but I expose it to everybody.”Chris Spielman
“The church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.”C. S. Lewis
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I am not an anti-Roman Catholic. I have a great-aunt who was a nun. My brother converted to Roman Catholicism. My issue that I have is not with the faith. It is with something the current Pope said about proselytizing.
In short, Pope Francis said, “Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing.”
Words Are Also Necessary
I may be nitpicking, but I have to sincerely disagree with the Pope. Yes, we can help to bring people to Jesus through our deeds and attitudes, but words are also necessary. John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, all of the Lord’s disciples, and even Jesus himself, used words to bring the unsaved to belief in Him. In my view, the goal, or end result, of proselytizing is simple and yet crucial. It is to help lead the lost to faith in Jesus and in so doing guarantee them a place in Heaven with Him.
In our case, we should testify to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the dead in order to provide us with eternal life through faith in Him. There are so many ways to do this, such as answering questions or inspiring curiosity. One might ask someone if they want to know the difference between religion and the Christian faith. When they do, simply say, “Religion, do. Christian faith, done.” This never fails to bring more opportunities to be ready with an answer for our joy and hope.
In Matthew 28, the Lord said, “…Go ye into all the world, and make disciples of all nations.” That seems to me to be an order to proselytize. To use words. To witness. To be an example with our lives. To love and to care.
I experienced believers loving me well firsthand. When my wife passed away in 2017, fellow Christians showed their love by providing meals for my family and me, doing tasks that needed to be done without asking, praying and crying with me, and just listening. Imagine if I were not a believer. What an example of the faith that would have been. I will never forget their grace.
Too often in our society we Christians are too “polite” about our faith and we don’t seem to want to object to, or offend, the opinions of others. I could not disagree more with that approach. We are talking about the eternal destiny of others. We must take an unshakeable stand and, with love, present Jesus Christ as the answer for everyone’s eternity.
Obviously, I don’t advocate standing on a street corner shouting at non-believers and condemning them, their lifestyles, or their sins. Far from it. I come from a position of love for those who are lost. I don’t want to be the one who didn’t take the time, or care enough, to present them with the Gospel when I had the opportunity. Having taught American History for 44 years, I know that no one learns when they are the object of shouting. They learn when they know you care and want what is best for them.
I believe that the famous magician, Penn Jillette, of the duo Penn and Teller, made a powerful point about sharing the faith. As many people know, Jillette is an avowed atheist. Yet, what he says here should convict every Christian.
“I’ve always said I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
I am humbled by the fact that this gentleman, a non-believer, pronounced such an accurate indictment of the current malaise in our approach to Christian witnessing.
In today’s America, we are becoming more and more timid about the expression of our faith and our desire to convert nonbelievers. Churches are increasingly wanting to “not offend” those who attend and who might not be followers of Christ. Try to find a church that even mentions the word sin during services. Our churches are becoming what Flip Wilson used to call the “church of what’s happenin’ now.” Bells, whistles, group therapy, coffee, personality tests, hip music, and skits — all in the name of being “seeker friendly.” Seeking what? Does any of that truly and fully address the necessity of accepting Jesus Christ as your savior and His forgiveness of your sins?
Many of those examples might get the seekers in, but what is the follow up? When and where is the unvarnished Gospel presented?
I read a book recently, titled Church of Cowards by Matt Walsh. At the beginning of the book, he describes a situation where heathen hordes come to America looking to kill Christians. They arrive on a Sunday and go from church to church looking for believers. Instead, they find services preaching about a God who is “a magical genie whose only function is to satisfy their appetites,” or one that preaches “that if they believe in God they will be blessed with wealth and good health,” or a virtually empty church, and one where the leader “sounds like an HR rep giving a seminar on teamwork.” The story goes on from there, but it has the ring of truth to it. To make it short, the heathens have a hard time finding a Christian willing to not only spread the gospel, but one who is willing to be mocked, ridiculed, and even die for his faith. The story may be an allegory, but there is so much truth in the illustrations he uses about some of today’s nominally Christian churches. Like the church at Laodicea in Revelation, they are neither hot nor cold.
Accomplish the Vertical
I think that Church of Cowards could have gone further down that road. How about the churches that focus solely on politics, or secular culture, or the translation of the Bible that one should use, or non-faith issues? When entering any of these, I feel like standing up and shouting that one needs to accomplish the vertical before gaining any success at the horizontal. By that I mean that we must have our relationship with the Lord first in our lives, the vertical, before we can have any lasting success in the secular issues of today, the horizontal.
That doesn’t even address the Rob Bell followers who promote the “Love Wins” universalism philosophy, which denies any reason for accepting Christ for forgiveness of sins since it will all be fixed at the end. Unfortunately for that approach, no one in Scripture talked more about Hell than Jesus.
If the Lord were to attend these services, or listen to these pronouncements, I believe we would have another example of the shortest verse in the English Bible, “Jesus wept.”
I once had a conversation with a leader of an Emersonian church. They are Unitarian Universalists and, in my opinion, seem to have a foundation of accepting anything and everything, which is no foundation at all. I asked him what he thought of Jesus Christ, and he replied, “Oh, we preach Jesus in our church.” I then asked if they used John 14:6 where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.”
End of conversation. I hadn’t convinced him, and he certainly was not going to use or believe what I had quoted. So many use Jesus’s name and don’t comprehend or proclaim His message, His grace, and His offer of salvation. My concern is that the lost might not get it in any way other than by the words or deeds of Christians who are living their faith outside of church.
Four Rules for Sharing the Gospel
Charles Haddon Spurgeon has been called the prince of preachers. During his career in England during the 19th century, he brought thousands to Christ. I believe he put it best when he said:
“Our great object of glorifying God is, however, to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls. We must see souls born unto God. If we do not, our cry should be that of Rachel ‘Give me children, or I die.’ If we do not win souls, we should mourn as the husbandman who sees no harvest, as the fisherman who returns to his cottage with an empty net, or as the huntsman who has in vain roamed over hill and dale. Ours should be Isaiah’s language uttered with many a sigh and groan, ‘Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?’ The ambassadors of peace should not cease to weep bitterly until sinners weep for their sins.”
Pastor Rick Warren has four rules for sharing the gospel, and I believe that they are rock solid truth. They are, in order:
- Accept the personal responsibility
- Develop a personal relationship
- Share your personal story
- Give a personal invitation
All of those involve talking to, and especially listening to, the one to whom we are proclaiming the gospel. If we want someone to be open, we have to show that we care and want what is best for them.
If we are truly followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must live like it, act like it, care about the eternal salvation of others, and preach the gospel through all of those actions.
If we won’t stand up for Jesus and His gift of salvation, then just what is it for which we will stand? Someday, I will be looking in His eyes and I do not want Him to ask me why I chose not to be a witness for Him.