Here is a talk I gave at the 2007 Christmas Evangelism Boot Camp. You may recognize the first few minutes as from my blog. The audio quality improves dramatically after about five minutes.
Learn the principles that ground good evangelical methods. Learn to balance your presentation of the Gospel between Spirit Truth and Love. In this talk we discuss the challenges to balanced evangelism and how to overcome them. You can get the Balance in Evangelism Handout from here .
Before we get started, I would like to share a story. A family once had a pool party at their house. They had friends from all over filling their backyard.
While no one was looking a young boy creep ed over to the pool and fell in. "That kid can’t swim!" One of the ladies said. Then a man replied; "Why don’t you go and help him?"
"Oh, no!" The lady responded. "I’m just the eyes of this party. I don’t have the gift for saving people." She then turned back to her food and continued eating while the child gasped for breath.
One guest thought about saving the boy but then he decided that he might offend someone by implying that children shouldn’t swim.
Another guest felt sorry for the boy so he ate his food by the edge of the pool, hoping to make dry ground look so appealing that the boy would want to leave the pool and get out of the water.
Yet, another man, behind a grill was so busy serving the guest that he never even noticed the drowned child. "I will call my father about this." A man hesitant to get wet lives said. "He lives in just the next town and he loves children. I’m sure he would love to come in and save this child for us."
Finally a teenage girl saw the baby now floating in the water. She jumped in, grabbed the boy, and tossed him out of the pool. She listened for breathing an hearing none she started roughly pressing on the baby’s stomach, as the girl tried to administer CPR and save the babies life, the guest gathered around the girl and began to criticize the girl’s efforts.
"You’re being much to rough with that child." One of the guest responded. "You should be much more gentle."
"You’re not pushing hard enough!" An elderly man commented. "And you’re pressing in the wrong place." Finally in desperation the young girl cried out; "Will someone please call 911?" At first none of the guest made a move but finally a lady sighed, walked into the house, and made the call. The paramedics came and whizzed the baby away. Soon all was quiet. As the sirens faded away into the distance the guests turned upon the teenager. "How dare you order us to call 911?" one said. "Did you see how rudely you splashed water all over those guests when you jumped in? You’re going to scare visitors away from this party."
These comments hurt deeply. She didn’t want to be rude or hurt anyone. All she wanted to do was to save the baby but the guest continued. "You should be ashamed of yourself for how insensitive you were to that child." A man said. "You just grabbed him and tossed him out of the water. You should be more loving."
He didn’t even asked to get saved!" said another. "Who are you to jump in and force your dry ground on someone else? You should never of forced your own air down someone Else’s throat."
Finally the girl could not take it anymore. She ran away from the party. The guest never did find out if the baby survived or not.
I share this story tonight to give us some respect for what evangelism is really all about. It’s not about techniques or methods. It’s about reaching into a lost and dying world. A world that is gasping for breath and who desperately needs a Savior. We have a passion that makes it easier for us to share the gospel and frankly it makes it easier for us to withstand persecution because the world does come to persecute us. He who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.
Today, I’m going to be sharing some principles for grounding our methods. The reason that I’m doing this is not to criticize methods. I don’t want to be like the guest at the pool and, frankly, I don’t want you to be, either. I have been on the receiving end of quiet a bit of criticism when it comes to evangelism and unfortunately I’ve been on the giving end as well.
I’ve realized that he who plants is nothing and he who waters is nothing. The way that they plant and water is nothing. God uses us despite our mess ups and it is He who does the saving.
That said, I think that there are some Biblical principles that we can apply to the methods we use weather those methods of the "Evangelic Cube" or the "WWJD" questions there are some Biblical principles that we need to apply to be in accordance with God’s law. There are three things that we need to keep in balance. To talk about these three things I would like to talk about a simile of the fire.
There are three components that you have to have for a fire to burn correctly. What are those three components? Fuel, heat, and oxygen. Alright, so you have to have fuel, you have to have heat or spark and you have to have oxygen. Each one of these corresponds with each of the three critical things that we need for evangelism.
The heat is like spirit. The fuel is like truth and the air is like love. These are the three things that I am primarily going to be talking about, today.
Love is vital. Who here has seen a lump of charcoal? We’ve all seen them. Who hear has tried to burn one? They’re kind of hard to burn, right? Once they get started they will burn but by themselves they will not burn very well at all. If you’re trying to build a fire and all you have is charcoal it’s going to be very difficult. Why is that? You’ve got the match, you’ve got the heat, and you’ve got the fuel right there so why doesn’t charcoal burn?
Well, there was a competition to see who could burn a lump of charcoal the fastest. They brought in engineers from all over and they could do whatever they wanted to this lump of charcoal to see who could consume it the fastest. You could use a blowtorch or use any other type of fuel.There was one team that was able to completely burn up a lump of charcoal in less than a second.
In a fraction of a second it burned up the entire charcoal. I was like, how do they do that? Charcoal is so hard to burn. Well, they figured out what charcoal needed. It didn’t need more fuel. See, other teams were doing jet-fuel and other really flammable liquids. Charcoal doesn’t need more fuel, it has all of the fuel that it needs. There were some teams that were using blowtorches to add more heat. It doesn’t need that either. What the charcoal desperately needed to burn was oxygen. What this team did was soak this piece of charcoal in liquid oxygen. You lit a match and that was all that it needed, the charcoal was gone!
Now when you cook something or heat it up you suck the life right out of that. We see this as a bad thing but it is actually used to create something that many of y’all like. It’s called coffee. When you make coffee, you burn the beans in such a way that sucks the life out of them without destroying the bean. What they do is roast coffee beans in a vacuum so that they don’t catch fire and become consumed. If you’ve ever tried to cook or dry a coffee bean you have discovered that there is no life in them.
This is what happens when we share the gospel without love. We just cook someone and they become this dried up shell. We become a clanging gong and a resounding cymbal. The Apostle Paul says that without love we are nothing. Love is vital. I think we all can agree on that.
Truth is also vital. Without truth there is no message. It’s just a puff of smoke. You’ve got heat and air but there is nothing that sustains it. Often we do lot’s of well intentioned evangelism but we are afraid to share the truth. So we do everything but that. We will spend thousands of dollars to go somewhere and we will spend thousands of dollars to build a house.
We will smile a lot and we will hug these people and we will tell them how much we love them but we never share the gospel. Then we leave. The fire hasn’t been started. It’s just a puff of smoke.This is often what many Christians do and this is what their evanglism is. They don’t include the truth because they are afraid too. Are they don’t include the vital elements of the truth because it might be offensive. The thing is, is truth is HARD! If you have a block of wood….it’s hard but that doesn’t mean that it’s not vital.
Spirit is also vital. You have a fire. It’s ready to burn. It even has cardboard on the top so that when that spark hits it it will be ready to go. Imagine this fire. You have all of the people around it…they’re doing all of the motions. They’re warming their hands. You even have some people with some marsh mellows and a guy with some hot dogs. The thing is is that they are not burning.
They are like, we’re doing it all perfect. I’ve got my marsh mellows on the stick just right! This fire is perfectly constructed. It is soaked in gasoline. It has tender at the bottom. All it needs is to get started. All it needs is the spark of the spirit. So often we do it all right. We’ve got the structure just right. We have everything set up and we’re going though all of the motions like it’s supposed to happen. We’re, like, "we’re doing it just like those Christians over there that we heard about who were warming their hand!" But there is no fire. There is no spirit. The spirit is vital. It’s like everything without the match. You have to have both.
So we have these three. Spirit, Truth, and Love. Usually what happens, in my experience, is that people will tend to combine a couple of them. They will really try to emphasize on those two. They will criticize people for not doing those two as well as they do. I would like to do some math here and just see what happens when you add up two of these and don’t include the third one.
So truth and love. What happens when you take truth and love together with no spirit. You get nothing. It is powerless. Oftentimes this is what happens in modern evangelism but it is powerless. There is no power in it. We can get our tracts and make them be the pretties tracts in the world. But if God does not bring the increase there is no increase.
So what about spirit and truth and no love? What happens? The people that I’ve seen share without love tend to wash out in about a year if they make it that long. A lot of the people that came here last year are not here because they could not take it. The lack of love just turned black like those coffee beans. It did damage to their souls and it hurt their souls, sharing with others without love. It’s very damaging to share with others without love.
O.Kay, what happens if you have spirit and love without truth? Heresy! Exactly! You get away from the Bible. It’s like you’re floating with the spirit and all of the sudden you start floating with the wrong spirit. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit holy for a reason. The Holy Spirit is set apart. The Holy Spirit is different from all of the different spirits. We each have a spirit in us so there are many spirits in this room with each one of these people and there are also unseen spirits and domains and things that we do not know much about.
The Bible talks about them and we see Jesus and the disciples interacting with them and they can be very distracting. Sometimes we think that we are being led by the Holy Spirit and we’re actually just being led by our own spirit. You have to be grounded in the Bible. You have to be grounded in the Word. You have that truth or you get into trouble.
I challenge you to examine the way that you share the gospel, whether you are doing open air preaching, using the "Evan gel Cube," doing relationship witnessing, or whatever. Look and see if you are really being led by the Spirit and if you are really listening to God and co-laboring with God in this person’s heart. Listen and ask God if you are doing it though a heart of love. Are your motivations and means of love? or is it "oh, I must love them or I wouldn’t be sharing the truth." Sharing the truth is loving.
It can be an act of love but it can also be an act of hate. Who is that almost only ever spoke the truth in the Bible regarding Jesus and His true nature? The Devil! The Demons! Every time Jesus came up to speak to someone possessed by a devil or demon they almost were always like; "What will you have with me, Son of God? He has come to take away the sins of the earth!" or something like that. They were saying totally who Jesus was and they were telling the truth.
Still it was sin. Why? Because they were sharing the truth out of an evil motive. Sharing the truth is important but it must be done at the right time, at the right place, with the right motive, and to the right person. The truth can be very damaging. It is like a two edged sword. If you don’t share it in the right way it can be destructive.
That is one thing that we need to keep in balance. Another thing is the way that we are sharing the Gospel. This is more balancing around the person. You see 85% of people think that they are going to heaven. They think that they are Christians. So if people think that they already have Jesus they aren’t going to see that they actually do need Him. They are not going to see that sin separates’s them because in reality they are in sin. When you are far away from a whole you can’t see it. O.K. so God is a big huge God and you’re looking but you don’t see this big huge hole which is a Cosme of sin. You’re way back here looking forward and saying; "me and God, we’re cool!"
Most people in the U.S., this is not true all over the world. If you go to places like in the Muslim world where they don’t see themselves and God as being "cool." So you would share the Gospel with them differently because their needs are different and they are in a different spiritual place.
So if we have people that are far away from the their hole of sin how do we get them to go to the edge and see the hole? So that they can see how their sin is separating them from a Holy God? The Truth? The Ten Commandments? Exactly! The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. You see the law doesn’t save us, in fact, it kills us. Here is a neat thing about the law. The law was written on our hearts and our conscience in bearing witness. So that the whole world is without excuse, right?
So, when did we get a conscience? Knowledge of good and evil? At the time of the fall. Eve took that apple, what was the apple? The apple was the law, the knowledge of good and evil. The law is what brings the knowledge of good and evil. She bites into the apple and suddenly she has a realization of sin. Then sin entered into the world, what does sin bring? What does the law bring? Death! It killed her! It killed Adam and it is going to kill all of us! It’s a big problem!
What did God promise when He was explaining to Adam and Eve what they had just done? He said that there is going to be a coming One. He promised of Jesus. He said that Jesus would crush the heel of the serpent. The law was intended even from the very beginning. The law was intended to bring us to Christ.
It doesn’t save us. It just leaves us helpless. The law can not do all of the work. That’s not the Gospel. Only Christ can get us to the Father. It is only by One name that we are saved and that is Jesus Christ. No one else can do it. There is no hope except though Him. That is the purpose of the law. It is a good tool for what is was intended but it is not good for any other use. Sometimes you’re going to be talking to people who are already broken.
I talked to this one guy…….about two years ago he had a big showdown with God and he is realizing the extent of his sin. I was talking with him and he was like, "Yeah, I’ve been trying and I’ve quit a lot of stuff but I haven’t quiet gotten it all together." He was really struggling with his sin and he has a knowledge of it. He know he doesn’t have victory. He said that his mom had been praying with him. I asked him if he had been born again. He was, like, "no." So I explained to him what that means, being born again means putting your trust and faith in Jesus Christ, you realize that you can not do everything on your own and you turn from your sins once and for all and you say: "Jesus, I’m giving you Lordship over every aspect of my life. Not just Sundays but Saturdays and Friday nights and Wednesday afternoons."
I told him that once you do that Jesus will give you a new heart. He will give you new desires and that you’re old desires for sin would be taken away and you would be given new desires for righteousness. I told him that this is so radical that that the Bible calls it being born again. You could just see it click in his eyes. He was like, "I’ve got it!" I told him that he was not far from the Kingdom. He wasn’t quiet ready to make that commitment.
Committing your whole entire life to Jesus is a big deal. It’s not something that you can push someone into or manipulate someone into. Some people with strong personalities can manipulate people into saying the prayer of commitment. That’s like manipulating someone into getting married. Our commitment to Christ ought to be and is even stronger than our commitment to our spouse. None of you would of had someone say to you; "Read these vows real quick before you change your mind!" And you have this person on the other side of you and you’re, like, "Hi!" and they’re, like, "Hi!" Nobody would do that!
That is what we’re trying to do with the Gospel so often. When we’re shoving the sinner’s prayer down peoples’ mouths or throats. I don’t want to criticize to much evangelism but you do need to be mindful of that.
Another thing that we need to keep in balance is the two extremes. Temporal salvation. Temporal salvation is people who are starving and you have Christians who come in and feed them but don’t tell them about the gospel. I have read books from India. There are millions of them. "White man has fed millions of us into hell." We have sent millions of people into hell with a full stomach. We go in, feed them, and these people are not saved so they are out. It’s a tragedy.
People who only focus on the Eternal salvation…..I heard a story of this one Christian hospital and they bring in these people in from the villages and they are about to die and they are about to admit them and the doctor comes up and is like: "Have you prayed with them to receive Christ, yet?" And this person is dying on the table. There is a time where before they can hear the gospel you need to take care of temporal things. Jesus, oftentimes, before He would share the gospel with them would heal them. Then He had their attention. Other times He would just share the Gospel. So I think that there is a place of balance here where we need to be mindful of the whole person. Both their eternal person, their soul and spirit, but also their physical person. You can’t separate one from the other.
We don’t think of ourselves as separate beings, we’re made in the image of our Father, we’re tri-part beings, we have a spirit or heart, a soul, and flesh, right? And we are supposed to love the Lord our God with all three of those. We don’t see ourselves that way. I am, Thomas, the one person, even though sometimes I will very much disagree with myself, I’m still one person.
Have you ever had that? Where you had a big decision and you’re debating with yourself about different stuff. Oftentimes that’s like you’re spirit or mind saying one thing and you’re emotions are saying another thing. Anyways, it’s kind of interesting, so that is one thing that we need to keep in mind.
Another thing is "growing the church versus growing the Kingdom." On one side we have people who all they do is hare the Gospel with other people and they just leave them out to dry. It’s, like, "Here pray this prayer." or "O.K. find yourself a good church." Now that can be useful and it is Biblical but it can also be dangerous because, you know, they might find themselves a "good" Latter Day Saints Church or something like that. I mean, it looked just like a church. It had church in the name, a really pretty building, it has all this money…."
So you have to be mindful of growing the Kingdom. On the other side, I’ve heard pastors say that the only purpose of evanglism is to grow this church. Have any of you experianced that? You’ve been to a church where whenever you talk to someone and then talk to your pastor or one of the elders they are, like, "Well, did you get their information so that you can follow up and they can join this church?" Where it’s all kind of about growing the local church. Sometimes the best church for someone is not your church.
Actually, I’ve found out that it is nor-mall that way. I was at a fair one time sharing the Gospel with these three girls, one of them went to, Temple Bible Church, which is a really good solid church and the other two basically realized that they were going to hell and that they needed to get right with Jesus. I was, like, "you need to give your life to Jesus and then tonight go to church with your friend." They would already have a relationship there. She could take them to church and get them plugged in as opposed to me saying; "Oh, you have to come to my church!" See how that could be better? Sometimes we have to listen to God and realize that there is a better church for this person than my church.
Another reason for this is that sometimes there can be huge cultural distances. Sometimes God will bring in a huge cultural mismatch into your church to make your church more diverse, culturally. Other times this person simply needs a place where they can grow and not have to worry about the fact that everyone else is completely and totally different then them in every single way.
Have you ever gone to a church were you are pretty much, totally different then anyone else in every single way? Like, everyone else was about 5 times wealthier than you were and their shoes cost more than you’re entire outfit? I’ve been to churches like that. I was, like, "Okay! I’m glad I parked far away and that I was late!" Anyways that is another thing to keep in balance.
We have another thing. "Converters opposed to Diciplemakers," the goal, ideally, is that every person we share the Gospel with comes to know Jesus, they get set on fire for Him, then they go out and share the Gospel, and tell others about God. However, this does not happen overnight. Pretty much you have Christians who only want to do one or the other. You have some who say; "I am here to make converts, by Golly!"
So they do not have any disciples. They don’t have anyone following them on a day to day basis. They don’t have any one that they are trying to invest in for the long run. They are just scattering seeds. That is important but again we want to be whole Christians. We want to model Christ who did both of these. He went and He made converts. He preached to 5,000 people, and He spent a lot of time with Peter, James, and John. There was a whole range between. He spent time with the 12, with the 72, with the 120, so don’t feel bad if you’re just, like, I just not a "converter" it’s easy to feel guilty and walk around condemned and ashamed all of the time. That is not the goal of my talk. I do not want to be one of the people at the pool criticizing. But I don want to encourage you to try to engage in more than one level.
One question y’all are probably asking is; "So what? How does this apply to my actual sharing the Gospel with someone, having no idea what to say next, where do I apply this?" Well, allot of these things are heart things. Things that you decide ahead of time. You decide ahead of time that you are going here under the motive of compassion and out of love. There are some people who are sharing the Gospel not out of love or compassion but for the "rush" or to have fun. It is fun. It is scary. It has a lot of adrenaline but that is not a good reason. I encourage you to examine your hearts.Each one of you to see whether or not that is why you are here.
Some of you are sharing the Gospel because someone drug you. Basically they grabbed you by the ear and yanked you in. That can be good but I was reading a passage in Deuteronomy. It was the passage the Palestine’s were going to war and God said to Moses. "Look at your army and have everyone raise their hands." He didn’t say it quiet this way but this is kind of what He said. "Everyone who raises their hands, send them home." I think the only General in the Bible who actually went by this protocol was Gideon and he totally whipped those Malachite’s with just a handful of people.
So you had everyone who was scared leave and everyone who had gotten married in the last year raise their hands and they were to go home and be with their wives. It was not right for a man to die at war when he had just gotten married. And then God said; "Everyone who has just bought a field and it has not tasted it’s first fruit you go home, too, because it is not fitting for someone to not taste the first fruit of their fields."
The Gospel and God is not needy. That is something that we all have to come to the tragic conclusion of. "I am not vital." Now with that said, that does not mean that God doesn’t want you. He has called forth every single one of us as believers and commissioned us to go forth and proclaim the gospel. There was a guy that went to Africa, David Livingston. David said: "A commission in any army is considered a great honor, how could a commission from the Heavenly Father be any less of a great honor?" A commission in the army says; "I trust you. to be responsible for a certain number of men. I trust you to be a leader. I trust you to lead men into the fields.
When we have been given the great commission, we have been given a very similar commission where God is calling you to be responsible for certain souls that He says that He will give to you to share the Gospel with. That is why we are here. That is why I shared the story at the very beginning of the boy and the pool. We want to be the girl, who even though everyone is criticizing us, is still faithful to go and to reach the loss. She does not answer to other people at the party. We do not answer to the other people at the party. We answer to our Heavenly Father and to Him alone.