Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How Can I Be a Witness to Lost Christians?

In a post-Christian America, evangelism is becoming increasingly more difficult. It is not that the gospel has changed – it hasn’t – but it is increasingly more difficult to clearly articulate the gospel to a culture who, to a large extent, is nominally Christian. For anyone who lives in the South or Midwest, most people have heard a simple presentation of the gospel and many have responded to a gospel invitation of one kind or another. It seems that one large category of lost people I know identify themselves as “born again” Christians. That is, they know and believe the facts about Jesus, have prayed the sinner’s prayer, and may have even been baptized (by immersion as a “believer”). Their gospel formula is believe these facts, pray this prayer, do this religious acts and your are a Christian. The problem is, their lives have not changed at all. There is no sign of true repentance. There are none of the evidences of regeneration. They have, as Billy Graham used to say, got enough of a dose of Christianity to inoculate them from the real thing. They call themselves Christians. Many even have fond emotional sentiment toward Jesus and may even pray. Yet, their fruit indicates they are most likely lost.

In my secular employment, I have several of these “Christian” friends. Of course they rarely attend church, cuss like sailors, sleep around, “party” (sometimes with illegal substances) all while claiming a “personal relationship with God.” It seems to me there is something wrong with an evangelism where these kinds of Christians are the result. Many have written on the woes of modern evangelism presentations so I will not belabor the point here. My concern is Where do we go from here? If I share a simple gospel message with these friends, they are willing to affirm everything I offer. So here is my dilemma—how to share the gospel of Christ with those who need Him but already think they know Him.

6 comments:

21k said...

I encounter numerous people who appear to accept a minimal version of Christianity, and I can identify with the sentiment expressed in your blog. I am finding that what people need in order to break free from their inoculated lifestyles is a face to face encounter with authenticity.

The gospel is still the gospel. If these inoculated people are indeed lost, then they are also hungry for the gospel. In my life and ministry, I have found that I have failed to demonstrate the full power of redemption. I know that I need to be more incarnational in my life and ministry instead of getting lost in my ivory tower pulpit. Preach on.

Todd Benkert said...

Scotty,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm just now getting the hang of it.

You are right about being authentic and incarnational. This is indeed a needed first step. The only way some will see their counterfeit Christianity for what it is will be an encounter with the real thing.

I still think there needs to be some change in the language of evangelism because our current witnessing colloquialisms have lost much of their meaning.

Jonathan said...

I think people need to be told that saying a prayer doesn't save them. The greatest heresy in the American Evangelical church is that asking Jesus into your heart saves you.

There is a great task in front of us of sharing the Biblical gospel message with lost people in the church as well as those outside of the church. We need to have the courage to speak up and tell people the truth. "Saying a prayer when you were in VBS in the 2nd grade did not save you!"

Thanks for the good post reminding us of what we are to be about for the glory of God.

James Wells said...

I don't believe that the methods of evangelism are at fault. Billy Graham was accused of watered down evangelism for years. I'd argue many still came to Christ through his efforts.

What we need is for Christians to live lifestyles that clearly demonstrate to the world and psuedo-Christians that Christianity is a way of life and a genuine desire to be Christ like.

In today's American culture, Christian has become a label applied and discarded much the same as Republican, Democrat, Mason, Veteran, Senior, etc.

There was a time when "ask Jesus into your heart" was understood to be a life changing event, by Christian and non-Christian alike. To do so was a commitment to the lifestyle of a Christian.

Ineffective, insufficient, or incomplete methods of evangelism are not the cause of what you are facing. Ineffective, incomplete, and insufficient examples of Christ like living by Christians is the root evil that needs to be addressed.

Todd Benkert said...

James,

You are right about needing to live authentic Christianity to the world around us.

As far as evangelistic methods, for the most part I agree with you. I would submit, however, that many of the things we say in evangelism do not communicate what we mean them to (and what they may have in times past). I constantly strive for what I say to be understood by the hearer so the truth of the gospel can be effectively communicated and responded to.

Incidentally, two of my neighbors came to Christ last night around our dinner table (PTL!). In our conversation, I had to really explain and unpack some of my evangelism language (that I thought was clear but wasn't). At the same time, what initially drew their interest, he told me, was our family living out the Christian life in front of them.

Thanks for adding to the conversation and for your prayers for my neighbors. He's already reading the Bible you gave him.

James said...

Great news, amazing how a Bible that I misplaced 2 to 3 months ago just happens to show up in the sanctuary yesterday. I stand amazed in the presence...

I think you may have hit on something in your comment. Where is the focus of current evangelism models? (A question to the educated on this blog. Not a statement.)

Is the focus church growth and numbers? What you experienced with your neighbors is the short coming of the evangelical models you, as I've interpreted your post, seem to be questioning.

The only solution is what you did, you made it personal, instead of a "cattle call".

As always, just an observation from the back pew!