Almost immediately after my post on Division and Unity, something unusual happened. A fight broke out in a corner of the Christian blogosphere over the gospel, over the truth. More of a minor squabble than anything really but it illuminated a point that I have personally been wrestling with every since I read J.I. Packer’s book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God early last spring. Where does evangelism fit into reformed theology? If a person, say a Southern Baptist like myself, comes to believe that that Doctrines of Grace are true and right and straight out of the Bible what then? If we are all under condemnation but some are given God’s gift of grace and mercy—based on God’s choice (election)—and some are not then why bother?
Why indeed. Packer and Dagg and Lloyd-Jones for that matter all tell me that the concepts of man’s choice and the sovereignty of God can and do co-exist and the integrity of the Word of God remains intact. The problem occurs, I am told for much of this is beyond me, when a person decides to reconcile the two—one becomes predominant at the expense of the other. It’s one of those things that we can’t understand. We cannot reconcile some of the truths of God’s Word. If we could get a handle on the entire revelation of God’s truth, if it were possible, then I don’t think it would be from God. I believe it is, though, so I take these things as they are presented in the Word.
That said, I think Southern Baptists are very good at evangelism. They will bear all grief and embarrassment to preach the gospel to someone. They will drive across town on Sunday afternoon or give up weeks at a time to go somewhere on a mission trip for the express purpose of evangelism. It is the primary motivation behind all that they do and say and even a minor survey of the literature put out by LifeWay will show that to be true. They are doing what they were told to do: Go and make disciples.
Try not to fall out, I mean I am after all a Southern Baptist. If we carried cards I’d have one and I would in fact carry it so don’t be surprised I am praising these fine folk.
Here’s the problem that I see and it sorta fits in with all the diatribes and hubbub of the last week or so: they aren’t, in fact, preaching the whole thing.
Now that bothers me because I like to have my eye’s dotted and my teeth crossed when I go out knocking on doors. What I mean is that if I don’t get punched in the face at least once by the end of the day then I surely haven’t been offensive enough in my presentation of the gospel truth that all men are sinners doomed to hell but there is hope in Christ Jesus. When I quote John 3:16 and read “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” isn’t that enough?
The fact of the matter is that I don’t believe that you can give full disclosure in the window that most folks give you. Two minutes in an elevator, at least ten minutes in the check out line at WalMart (cranky folks don’t listen too well though). Thirty seconds on an escalator? How do you get all that stuffed into a brief encounter? You can’t. You just do the best you can and be willing to take the time if someone responds because if they respond then there is hope for them. If they are remotely interested then there’s a possiblity that they could be saved. Thats enough isn’t it?
Here’s a challenge. Go to a Mall and sit on a bench and read your Bible on a regular basis. Be ready because you are going to reel in some kooks. Some will want to argue, some will blow you completely off but some will sit and ask you a question. Some will already be saved and want to talk with another Christian brother or sister. Some will try to convert you so gird up. Others will be so broken that they’ll want to hear the gospel. They’ll be ready. Life is like that, by divine providence I believe, and it grinds folks down to where they are ready to listen to what God has to say. Some have to have a fender-bender or a nearly-lethal experience, some have to get cancer or watch some one they love suffer through it. God knows what we can bear—He did make us, he ought to know the specs.
That’s just an example of one thing you can do. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to folks just at work. When people know you are a Christian, a bible reading praying Christian they will come to you when they have a need or trouble or when they are just down. We’re made to need hope and we want reassurance when things twist off. A Christian can offer that. A Christian must offer that.
You see, I know what my insight is worth when it comes to the lives of others. Not much. Can you look at a person and see if they’re going to go to heaven? Can you see past the tattoos or the business suit? Can you look past the nose ring or the wing tips? Does the glare off the gold watch blind you? Or is it the smell of alcohol?
Ours is to preach…God adds. We would do well to remember that.
Now this is what I’d like to ask folks who read this. What are the criteria for a good gospel presentation? What has to be in there? Where does evangelism stop and discipleship start? Someone help me out here.