Perhaps we should go back to the Master on this:
Have you ever considered going to the house of a stranger who invited you for a meal and then denouncing them in the strongest of terms? Probably not. Yet as will be seen in a moment, this is the sort of stuff that Jesus did – and more than once! Let me explain.
Yesterday I wrote a piece on how too often modern Christians seem to think that every type of evangelism is just fine – except for the kinds that Jesus and the disciples – and much of the Christian church – made use of. I did say often that there are of course different ways to share one’s faith, and that we cannot be legalistic about these matters.
But I did emphasise however that the direct proclamation of the gospel – often to complete strangers at the drop of a hat was the main way that the gospel spread early on. While we can try to build relationships slowly and lovingly with non-Christians and hope that over time this sort of ‘friendship evangelism’ will be effective, it is surprising how little this seemed to be how the early church – and Jesus – did it.
Thus the modern reliance on things like seeker-sensitive services and just being nice and being around folks too often rules out many different approaches. Indeed, many believers today actually look down upon those who engage in street preaching and open-air evangelism.
I looked at a passage from Luke 9 in my previous piece which made this contrast pretty clear, and then used another version of that text from Matthew 10 which was even more glaring. But as I read through Luke 10 and 11 this morning, I found much more of the same on all this. For example, Luke 10 starts out just like Luke 9 did. Verses 1-12 say this:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Note how these instructions to the 72 are basically identical to those given to the 12. There is the same no-nonsense approach. If people reject you and the gospel, then move on and don’t waste your time with them. Sadly too many believers today would say that this is not very Christlike!
You get the same curt, no-nonsense, and even seemingly impolite and rude words spoken by Jesus in the end of the chapter. As we read in verses 57-62:
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Once again, I am sure that many believers today would claim this is not how the Christian should act. ‘We must be kind and loving and not seek to turn people off.’ I am afraid far too many contemporary Christians really seem to think that they are nicer, more loving, and even more Christlike than Christ! Bizarre!
My last example of this is what I hinted at at the start of this article. Jesus was invited to a meal – but it does not quite go how many modern believers think it should have gone. The entire encounter is recorded in Luke 11:37-54. Here are the first eight verses of this rather remarkable get-together:
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”
Wow, talk about hard-core. ‘Hey Jesus, they invited you for a meal. How could you be so unloving and ungracious? How are you going to win over these folks with such a lousy attitude and nasty verbalising like that? You really gotta lift your game Jesus!’
Now, for the umpteenth time, am I saying we should come up to strangers and abuse them and chew them out? No. Am I saying we should never try to cultivate lasting friendships or that we should just blurt things out without any prayer and discernment as to when might be a good time to share truth? No.
I am simply seeking to show that what so many believers today believe when it comes to sharing their faith may not really line up with what Jesus and the disciples repeatedly did. They believe we need to be nice, and we need to be tolerant. We must be nuanced, and never seek to offend anyone or get anyone upset.
Well, at times this is appropriate. But as we learn from studying the life of Jesus and the disciples, this is not always the way to proceed. One modern evangelist who shared the gospel with so many tied in evangelism and what we today call the culture wars. On both fronts I believe he was quite right. Francis Schaeffer in The Great Evangelical Disaster said this:
Here is the great evangelical disaster — the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this — namely accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age. First, there has been accommodation on Scripture, so that many who call themselves evangelicals hold a weakened view of the Bible and no longer affirm the truth of all the Bible teaches — truth not only in religious matters but in the areas of science and history and morality. As part of this, many evangelicals are now accepting the higher critical methods in the study of the Bible. Remember, it was these same methods which destroyed the authority of the Bible for the Protestant church in Germany in the last century, and which have destroyed the Bible for the liberal in our own country from the beginning of this century. And second, there has been accommodation on the issues, with no clear stand being taken even on matters of life and death.
This accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of the Scriptures to confront the spirit of our age; second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Thus we must say with tears that it is the evangelical accommodation to the world spirit around us, to the wisdom of this age, which removes the evangelical church from standing against the further breakdown of our culture. It is my firm belief that when we stand before Jesus Christ, we will find that it has been the weakness and accommodation of the evangelical group on the issues of the day that has been largely responsible for the loss of the Christian ethos which has taken place in the area of culture in our own country over the last forty to sixty years.
And let us understand that to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is nothing less than the most gross form of worldliness in the proper definition of that word. And with this proper definition of worldliness, we must say with tears that, with exceptions, the evangelical church is worldly and not faithful to the living Christ.
Those words in good measure help to explain why so many of today’s western Christians seem so uncomfortable with what Jesus and the disciples did by way of evangelism and sharing truth in a truth-starved word. Maybe we all should go back to THEIR methods of doing things, and not ours.