Summary: When we put together the word meaning ‘good news,’ AND the commandment of the Lord Jesus to ‘go and tell,’ how do we end up feeling like this work is something to be avoided?
Show and Listen
(credit to Len Sweet, whose published work helped this pastor immensely in the preparation of this sermon!)
Evangelism - # 1
“Hello, may I speak with Jerry Scott?”
“This is Jerry.”
“Hello, Jerry. Bank of New York has selected you for a no fee.....”
“I don’t need another credit card, sir.”
“credit card with a 0% interest offer...”
“Did you hear me, sir? I don’t want your card....”
“that will extend until January, 2004 on all transferred ...”
Snarl “Take me off your call list. Goodbye.”
“balances. Doesn’t that sound...”
“Telemarketers... they will have a first class reservation in perdition!
From the living room...
“Honey, don’t be rude. They’re just people try to make a living!”
Nothing brings out bad manners in me like a phone call from a telemarketer! Is it just me, or is it your experience that these calls come on the at the busiest times when you least want to talk with anyone on the phone? Dinner is cooking, kids are fighting, the door bell is ringing . . . and some way-too-cheery guy on the phone launches into his spiel that can go on for ten minutes before he draws his first breath!
Now, I know that the best and simplest defense is just to hang up. When I’m irritated by the intrusion, its hard to resist the temptation to say something unkind! Even more irritating is when the telemarketer calls back wondering "how did we get cut off?" A real moment for character building occurs on that rare occasion when the way-too-cherry guy calls back angrily yelling at me for hanging up on him!
Here’s where I offend some of you...
Modern evangelism is, in the minds of many people, respected about equally with telemarketing!
Evangelism, in case you’re not up on church-speak, is the work of spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. The word comes to us from two words of the Greek language of the first Bible.
– eu, meaning, ‘good,’ and – aggelos, ‘to bring the news.’
Christ last words to us are about evangelism. Mark 16:15
“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”
∙ When we put together the word meaning ‘good news,’ AND the commandment of the Lord Jesus to ‘go and tell,’ how do we end up feeling like this work is something to be avoided?
∙ Why do those being evangelized all too frequently resent our efforts?
One reason is our culture’s high value on tolerance and inclusion!
Evangelism’s implied message is “You must believe what I believe, because what I believe it the TRUTH!”
To make a claim of absolute Truth, to even imply “I’m right and if you don’t believe as I do, you’re wrong,” is the social ‘no-no’ of our time. I don’t have time to explore the whole idea of post-modern relativism this morning. But, basically, this culture suspends reason so that each of us can affirm everybody’s ‘truth’ to avoid offending anyone! Any sense that there are things that are right/ true and things that are wrong/false – morally, religiously, or philosophically – has been largely lost on people today.
Stephen Carter, in his book, Culture of Disbelief, observes that
“More and more our culture seems to take the position that believing deeply in the tenets of one’s faith represents a kind of mystical irrationality, something thoughtful American citizens would do better to avoid.” He also observes,
"The message of contemporary culture seems to be that it’s perfectly all right to believe that stuff-we have freedom of conscience, people can believe what they like-but you really ought to keep it to yourself." (Culture of Disbelief [New York: HarperCollins, 1993]
Additionally, Believers frequently set themselves up for discomfort and criticism by presenting an
unnecessarily confusing message! Instead of talking about God’s invitation to know Him and to walk
in His will, we begin to attack the social sins of our time and/or push our narrow doctrinal point of
view. A friend who is struggling to feel that life is worth living is not helped much by a discussion of
how a Christian views homosexuality! A person who is wondering about the meaningless of existence
is not aided by a talk centered on the various opinions of God’s plan for the end of the world! Few will come to faith in Christ as a result of our witness if all we do is BASH other churches, their doctrines, and their practices!
A second reason for resisting evangelism is that it has been done so badly by so many!
Christians step into the place of the Holy Spirit and attempt to force what only God can create - new birth by the Spirit.
In the name of Christ, Christians are frequently rude, insensitive, obnoxious, or even down-right silly! This has led some Christian leaders to call for the "Death of Evangelism." As one advocate of evangelism’s demise has put it,