What do you think of “confrontational evangelism”?
Question: In The Myth of a Christian Nation, you emphasize our need to sacrificially serve others. But you didn’t emphasize our need to “preach the Gospel to every living creature.” I’ve been intrigued by the movement known as “confrontational evangelism,” associated with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. They stress the need to get people to believe they’ve broke one or more of the ten commandments in order to help them see they deserve to go to hell and need to repent and accept Christ. Shouldn’t you incorporate their approach into your own?
Answer: I completely agree that it’s our job to preach the gospel “to every living creature,” and help all people see their desperate need for a savior. This is one of the ways we love them like Jesus loves us (Eph 5:1-2). But, as in all things, our model for how we go about this must also be based on the life of Jesus.
When Jesus (and Paul) talked to Jews, he on occasion brought up the law — because as Jews they believed in and understood the law. But when talking to non-Jews, Jesus (and Paul) never brought up the law. His approach was not at all to convince them they deserve to go to hell because they broke a commandment and to then offer himself as their rescue ticket. What Jesus consistently did was to see a need and then meet it. He healed people, delivered people, befriended people, etc…Ultimately, he gave his life for them. And he never seemed in a rush to get people to “sign on the dotted line.” Ever notice that? He never said, “Okay, now that you’re healed, believe in me or go to hell.”
He just saw needs and met them. He just demonstrated God’s love to them.
This is evangelism, “Jesus style.” We sacrificially serve people. And when opportunities arise, we invite people into a relationship with Christ. And if we’ve first spent time serving them, our words will have some meaning because we’ve already demonstrated our care and concern in action.
I also completely agree that people need to repent. But I do not see that this is always an instantaneous process (personally, I’m STILL learning what this involves). And it’s not always a big emotional crisis.
The word repent (metanoia) simply means to turn: we were going in one direction, and then we make the decision to turn and go in a different direction. And people turn for a lot of different reasons. Some may feel a deep sense of guilt. But others, like myself, turned because they felt empty. Some may turn just because they see it’s the rational thing to do. I didn’t see the gravity of sin until I was several years into my walk with God. But my “turning” was no less genuine for that reason.
As we serve people like Jesus did, God uses our love, and then perhaps our words, to turn people (and to continue to turn us). The point-out-what-commandment-you’ve-broken approach may work for some, but it doesn’t work for most. And, in any case, I just don’t see that it’s biblical.
Evangelism is much harder than that. It takes relationships, time and sacrifice…
It takes being Christ-like.