Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just one raised hand - part 2

Last week, I posted about something that, to be honest, really bothered me. At the end of a very powerful and convicting message, which usually draws many non-believers to repentance and faith in Christ, only one person visibly responded to the call of salvation; just one raised hand. After considering many of the likely suspects, last week I concluded that the following is making a significant contribution to the problem I noticed:

While it is plausible that any number of reasons with various combinations may in fact be the root of the problem, I am convinced that the primary reason we see so few unbelievers respond to the gospel [at my church/campus] is not because of the experience, the message, or awareness, but rather due to the evangelical philosophy of the believers who attend our church each week.

Alright, so what is this "evangelical philosophy", or "evangelism philosophy?" I'm sure you won't find the term in any text book, but the idea is not a new one. It is simply a way to describe how people (Christians) think that they themselves and others contribute to non-believers becoming believers. Based on my observations of the attitudes of others and of myself, I have found that people generally have one of the following evangelism philosophies:

  1. Evangelism is someone else's responsibility.
  2. Evangelism is my responsibility.

Those who would say that evangelism is someone else's responsibility would most likely say that "someone else" is their church, and maybe other Christians who have the gift of evangelism. And since someone else like the church or someone with the gift of evangelism is probably more effective at sharing Christ with non-believers, then my evangelism philosophy would be to get non-believers to my church, or to those that are evangelists.

Others might look at Matthew 28:19,1 Peter 3:15-16, or 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, and many others similar passages  and conclude that evangelism is every believer's responsibility, noting that the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all the nations applies to all believers.

As I look at these two evangelism philosophies, I don't see it as an either-or choice; either I only bring people to church to hear the Gospel, or it is dependent upon me to evangelize the lost in my life. Seems like there is a third possible philosophy, a both-and view, that not only should I be prepared to give a reason for the hope that I have with gentleness and respect, being and ambassador for Christ in the ministry of reconciliation to God, but ALSO actively pointing my unbelieving friends, co-workers, family, etc. to my church or other resources where they might hear the Gospel clearly and faithfully preached.

But if I'm honest about this, I don't truly think the reason for just one raised hand at the call for salvation was due to confusion between either-or or both-and evangelical philosophies. No, tragically, that there were so few non-believers present and that there was only one raised hand was more likely due to a neither-nor evangelical philosophy; a philosophy cares neither for their responsibility to personally share Christ with the lost, nor for contributing to their salvation by bringing them to church. This view of evangelism is rooted in apathy towards the lost, and is expressed as such when we rarely if at all, invite non-believers to church or tell them about our God. While most would be offended by such accusations and who would argue that they care deeply about the lost, their actions often communicate a philosophy that is very different that what they profess to believe.

And I am no different.

Though I would adamantly attempt to defend myself of such an accusation if made against me, my actions would fail to do anything but convict me. Sure, I post a lot about God, theology, and other things with intentions that it will give people reason to pause and consider their relationship with God, to leave the gray, and be the real deal and be a true follower of Christ.  But its probably been over 2 years since I've invited a non-believing friend with me to church. And if given the opportunity to even give a hint at my faith and spiritual convictions with my non-believing friends, I often avoid speaking the name of Jesus and miss crucial opportunities to begin a conversation that might lead a non-believer one step closer to knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. No, given the evidence against me, it's pretty hard to for me to rebuke all the other followers of Christ who attend our church week after week without a guest with them, if I myself am unwilling to change.

Thankfully, there was one faithful follower of Christ who was willing to change, who had the conviction that the message of the cross really is the power of God  (1 Cor. 1:18), who was bold and courageous enough to ask his friend to come with him to church. And what a blessing he received, to know that his friend was the one hand raised, who at that moment received the gift of eternal life, who now knows our risen Savior.

By God's grace, I have been saved. And by God's grace, I am now aware of His call towards a real both-and evangelism philosophy, that is substantiated not by what I say, but by what I do. It is also by this same grace that I am willing to change my actions, and I pray that you do too. 

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