Evangelism at its Best?

Posted on 14. Aug, 2010 by in Evangelism

So I was working in the ER last night, and a young gentleman in his 20’s came in with abdominal pain.  We took care of his medical issue, and just before being discharged he says the following to the nurse:  “Do you mind if I tell you a short story?”  He then proceeds to witness to this nurse about what God means to him, and how this nurse can have this to.  I didn’t hear everything, but I heard mention of eternity and other traditional Christian verbage .  The nurse politely interacted, and talked about how he has been free from drugs for over 20 years, etc. etc., and the conversation goes on for several more minutes.  After the patient left, the nurse came back to the nurse’s station, shaking his head at the attempt to “convert” him.

Here’s my gripe.  This patient was well-intentioned.  He was polite during his stay, easy to get along with, and it did not surprise me to learn he was a Christian.  Even so, he can testify to this nurse all day long, but it MEANS NOTHING WITHOUT AN ESTABLISHED RELATIONSHIP, or at least some kind of connection that would cause this nurse to put stock in what this person said.  In my opinion, this type of “evangelism” is mis-guided on multiple levels.

1.  It is not done within the confines of an established relationship on some level.  It doesn’t matter to the unsaved what “Jesus has done for me” unless the unsaved has a reason to care what Jesus has done for me.

2.  We are not selling a get out of hell free card here.  I am really not interested, personally, in preaching Christ as a way to avoid eternal damnation.  I am much more interested in preaching Christ as the center of my life, the redeemer of my soul, the final sacrifice that makes me right with God, and brings me back into relationship with God.  I would rather testify to how He has changed my life, and how, through giving over my life to Him I am being transformed.  (As I sit here and write this I am amazed that it is difficult for me to describe the alternative that I’d rather testify to, as I thought that would be easy.  I’m not sure what that speaks to.)

3.  I am sure there are times when the Spirit leads us to, out of the blue, share the gospel with an unbeliever.  I don’t think such a witness will be fully random, but rather based on some sort of conversation had between the two people, or even a specific word given by the Lord, to be shared with the unbeliever.  Going back to #1, there just has to be a connection on some level, for the testimony to mean anything to the one being witnessed to.

I really don’t think that the attempt to witness to this individual was of any benefit, and if anything it may have been detrimental.  This nurse does not profess Christ.  He does profess God, and has a very native American flavor to his beliefs, but does not profess Christ.  He needs to see the gospel lived out in a very real way, not presented as a sales pitch, in a contrived manner.

So, I’ve said what I think.  What do you think?

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7 Responses to “Evangelism at its Best?”

  1. Art Mealer 16 August 2010 at 6:21 am #

    I’m so glad to hear of this person. It is at least possible of him (unlike 97% of other believers), that if you looked him up and asked him, you would find that he regularly wins others to repentance from sin and to faith in our gracious Lord.

    I know a man who brags of his inner city ministry that in 3 years he has won no-one, but made lots of relationships. He said this “proves” that his attempt to make relationships is “pure,” and not a sales pitch. *sigh*

    Jesus makes us fishers of men. Connecting your net with a school of fish requires dragging your net through lots of empty water. Anyone observing a fisherman dragging his net through some empty water, and seeing the net pulled up empty, would find a hundred good reasons to complain his method was wrong. Maybe one might be that he was just pulling an empty sales pitch through the water.

    A few hours later, another fisherman dragging his net through the same water might connect and pull up his net full. We could certainly find ways to applaud his fine skills and faithful work.

    But in both cases, it is God that brings the increase, not our clever skills. But without us “letting down our nets,” there will be no fish caught. God also works that way.

    You say this man was “polite” and “easy to get along with” such that it did not surprise you that he was a Christian. Oh, I wish for ten thousand more such persons to raise their voices in their everyday lives at every opportunity.

    How beautiful are the feet…

    As one who deserves hell, and knows this is the fate of every fellow human unless they hear and believe the gospel, I can’t quite get my hands around the objection that this should in any way motivate one to be aggressive in seeking a hearing for the gospel.

    There is a time to be polite, and to follow convention. But some of us see this present time as an extreme emergency, where there isn’t always time to move into the burning apartment to build relationships to gain a hearing. We just feel quite right in approaching our fellow humans in a more urgent, less refined, knocking on doors and warning them of the onrushing fire…

    Paul was willing to take his place in hell to see Israel saved. Not sure the pattern of his life demonstrates a friendship evangelism modality. He was offensive every time he shared the gospel because the gospel offends everything about us all by itself.

    Your native americanish spiritual friend is hurtling towards hell… If he were my brother, I would be thankful for both of you in his life (and, the way I see it, he is).

    Please tell him before it is too late, as soon as you feel the right moment, or a possible moment, or even if you might offend him. Please. Faith comes by hearing the word of God.

    • Mark 16 August 2010 at 3:33 pm #

      I appreciate your comment, and understand what you are saying. I agree that the majority of Christians probably never lead another person to Christ, and this indeed is sad. In my opinion, however, the answer is not to just start preaching at random people, the answer is to show the world an example of something that they would want to be a part of. For too long the body has presented itself as an ugly stepchild, sadly operating on the same principles as the world, but claiming to be holy. The result is that many have been turned off from the gospel, labeling us as hypocrites. This is not the manner in which Paul was offensive! Again, in my opinion, our first priority as Christians should be to tend to the health of the body, because in the state we are in we couldn’t disciple the masses if they did come, or even a few, and if we can’t make disciples we may as well not preach at all. Once we have attended to the basics, our very love for one another will proclaim the gospel to the lost and dying world, and our verbage will only add to that. Like St. Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the gospel always. If necessary use words.” To me this is a key principle, that our actions should speak before our words, and will testify far greater than our words will.

      Another point I will bring up, or another question, is “what is our primary goal or objective as followers of Christ?” Is it to win the lost? I would say “no”. I believe that our primary objective is to seek Christ, to seek to be remade in His image, individually and corporately. As we do this, people will be won to Christ.

      I do not want to say that the Spirit will NEVER lead a believer to do “cold call” evangelism, as Alan Knox called it. I am sure He does use that method. I just do not think it should be our primary model, as I believe the body should be relationally based above all things.

      Thanks for the comment, Art.


  2. Art Mealer 17 August 2010 at 5:40 am #

    I suppose I took issue with your statement, “he can testify to this nurse all day long, but it MEANS NOTHING WITHOUT AN ESTABLISHED RELATIONSHIP, or at least some kind of connection that would cause this nurse to put stock in what this person said.” (emphasis yours)

    Looking back over this conversation here and at Alan’s blog, I think you may have overstated your otherwise valid objections to make a point. I’ve done the same.

    But pushed to excess, these objections can become caricatures (hit and run evangelism, saying-a-prayer salvation, hypocrites sharing the gospel with arrogant superiority, the huge problem if that sort of evangelism produced conversions in droves, the Holy Spirit being befuddled if all of a sudden there were a bunch of converts and not finding a way to care for them, etc.)

    I agree for the most part with what you are saying. I’ll further answer you at Alan’s…

    • Mark 17 August 2010 at 5:54 pm #


      I replied to your response at Alan’s site, but I’ll say a little more here.

      When I say “it means nothing without an established relationship”, the description you give of a typical encounter fits my definition of “established relationship”. You have broken the ice, shown that person that you genuinely care, and out of that relationship offered something that they need, in a way that is relevant to where they are. So, like you said, I don’t think our viewpoints are that dissimilar.

      Regarding the potential befuddlement of the Holy Spirit, I think you are right about taking an example to an extreme. My main point was the importance of discipleship after salvation, and my concern about the maturity of the body and our ability to disciple even small numbers, when they do come into the fold. I don’t believe that evangelism should cease, but we obviously should be paying attention to our own spiritual fitness, so to speak. The Spirit can do what the Spirit needs to do, but we have to do our part to come along with Him, and see to our growth as a body (meaning growth in maturity, not growth in numbers).


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