Thursday, July 15, 2010

To Tell You the Truth ...

Some of what I offer below is meant to be directed to evangelists but I like to think of it as good advice for talking to anybody. As someone has said, the Gospel is offensive enough to the self-centered, rebellious humans it is meant to reach. We don't need to make it more offensive by adding arrogant, patronizing attitude to the discussion.

Why can't we just be honest with people? After all, if the Gospel is actually true, and the skeptic you are talking to is actually seeking the truth (this is debatable in many cases but we have no justification for assuming so), let's let the chips fall where they may. It seems to me that this would garner a little more respect, not only for us personally, but for the truth we are trying to convey.

I ran across a couple of articles recently that confirm just that. The first one is by the self-described "recovering evangelist," Jim Henderson, in his article, "How To Sell Christianity? Ask An Atheist". Jim makes some good points:
  • The "I'm Right, You're Wrong" model is a conversation killer.
  • Telling people they are "lost" does not encourage further debate
  • An arrogant attitude does much to mask the message
  • Atheists are wary of being seen or treated as a "project"
If this sounds awfully familiar, it may be because another guy said it first. His name was Peter:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15)
Yeah, that Peter.

But that's not all. Another problem we seem to have in offering the truth of Christianity, is that we like to sugar coat it to make it more "marketable" or "seeker friendly." In other words, we seem to have a tendency to play into the cultural paradigm that tells us to market our convictions as a self-improvement program. Clay Jones of Biola University addresses that in his post on "Improved Lifestyle Witnessing" by making the following points:
  • Cults do the exact same thing.
  • Postmoderns, believing all truth is your own truth, are glad your Christian choice works for you, but their own (fill in the blank) choice works for them too.
  • It just ain't true ... ask the first generation of Christians about how their lifestyles were improved. Not only so, but if the evangelized person's life doesn't improve, you leave them to question the truth of Christianity itself.
  • Details, details ... but this is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus told us to repent, and challenged us with the oxymoronic promise that those who seek to save his life will lose it, while those who lose their life will save it (Luke 9: 23-25).
It follows from above that the very notion of this "improved lifestyle" gospel denies the nature of the real Gospel and is therefore doomed to failure.

So, can we all just agree to be straight up with people? Can we engage those who doubt the truth of Christianity with respect, and without using "Christianspeak," and just let that truth speak for itself?

It seems that we would be a lot more successful, and look a lot less like the world around us, if we did.

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