I’m a bit tired of the criticism that can go on among Christians when it comes to methods of sharing the Gospel, or when it comes to methods of speaking out or addressing a particular issue in our society. I’m not saying there is never a time or place to be critical. Certainly different methods can be misused. A good method can be done badly. There can also be a lack of wisdom. A method that is appropriate for one circumstance may not be ideal for another situation.
What concerns me is a broad condemnation of a certain method – stating that a certain approach should never be used. Really? How can we make such a broad condemnation? Maybe it is because we assume everyone is just like us? Yet we are all different. A method that offends you, may actually be helpful (and non-offensive) to another person. Or maybe we lack a certain gift, and we tried a certain method and it went poorly. Yet someone with a different personality and gifting may be able to use the method well and effectively.
I’m reminded of a story I read about DL Moody (the great evangelist) years ago in a biographical book on his life. Someone apparently criticized one of his methods of evangelism, so Moody asked the person what their method was. They replied that they did not have a method. To which Moody replied “Well, I like my method better than your method!” At least Moody was trying to reach people, and in fact he did reach people.
When I look at the Scriptures – such as the methods of the prophets in the Old Testament as well as the methods of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament – I observe a huge variety of methods to reach people and communicate with them! Take a few minutes to review in your mind the Scriptures and the many stories, and you’ll see what I mean. We can observe:
One-on-one ministry. Working with a crowd ministry. Direct and to-the-point methods that clearly offended some of the hearers. Subtle methods that might be missed or not understood by some of the hearers. Bizarre public demonstrations (for example, Ezekiel). Taking the time to form a relationship first. Not taking the time to form a relationship first. Ministering in religious venues like a synagogue. Ministering in non-religious public settings like by a river or in a prison.
Do you see my point? Yes, I emphasize again that we need wisdom and there may be times that a certain approach or method may not be ideal. But how can we out-rightly criticize a certain method as never being appropriate? I see this done way too often and I’m tired of it.
And besides, God has the power to make even a method inappropriately used come to fruition. In fact, I know a number of stories of how a less-than-ideal approach planted a seed that led to salvation. Someone I know was literally cornered or trapped by a person with a very direct/abrupt and dare I say offensive evangelism method. But the abrupt approach startled the hearer, made them think, and eventually (along with the outreach of others) this person became a Christian and has remained a practicing Christian for over 20 yrs now. This person still credits the abrupt and borderline obnoxious person with initiating their journey to salvation.
Let’s be a little less quick to criticize. If you see someone using a method that you don’t think is appropriate or timely – observe, think, and pray about it first. At least they are trying. Are you trying?? Observation may reveal that the person’s method is not as offensive as you thought. Maybe when YOU tried it, it did not go well, but you may see that the method comes across differently for them.
And just because a method is less-than-ideal, is it actually causing harm? It may not be offensive or causing harm, but just isn’t the most effective method out there. A less-effective method will still reach some people! Right? And if the person has a heart for the method they are using, why not encourage them in it and pray that it will reach some people? Do we have to cut people down all the time?
Part of what influenced me to write this blog post stems from a recent experience of my own. While it did not involve evangelism, it was about speaking out about a societal issue that concerned me. I opted for a public demonstration approach. There are times that public protest is not appropriate, but there are times that it is. I have personally seen public protest effectively raise awareness and create beneficial dialogue. Yet some people could only criticize that there is never a time or place for it. But I digress…thanks for listening.
** Yes, I am not blogging much as I have written 16,000 words towards my goal of 30,000 words for the short book I am writing on a Christian non-fiction topic.