Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Problem of Modern Evangelism

By S. Michael Durham

A great deal of verbiage has fallen upon our usually very quiet—too quiet blog. I am amazed at how anyone could feel very threatened by the likes of RTM. We have been recently informed that we are “ill-informed,” “cowards,” “untrustworthy,” “noncredible,” “false witnesses,” “nonchristian,” “misinterpreters of the Word of God,” “journalistically dubious,” “pharisaical,” and many things that I cannot write for public consumption. In other words, we’re not much. While I disagree with the above adjectives, I would agree that we are not much. Frankly, that is why we are so surprised by the attention we have received. I am sure that those whom we cited as proof of our concern have a much wider audience than we do. So, if we are all the things listed above and many other things we could not repeat, why the concern? If these people are doing the will of God why are they so bothered by our challenge? Should any of us be surprised if we are in the service of the Lord and men revile us? Why then not just brush us off and pay us no mind? I believe the answer is in the heart.

What do I mean? I am sure that many bands, musicians, and ministers want to reach people for Christ. They truly believe that what they are doing is effective and is God-honoring. We have not impugned this motive of the heart in anyone who has taken exception with our positions. Therefore, anyone who takes seriously the desire to reach others for Christ can be wounded when someone else who is just as serious about evangelism critically analyzes them.

For this reason, let us lay aside all personal feelings and examine this Scripturally. For the problem, as I see it, is much larger than music, bands and concerts. It’s actually a problem that has infiltrated local churches. It has everything to do with preaching, ministry, and how we evangelize.

The postmodern man seems to be no different than his modern father and his premodern grandfather. All three desire to do things their own way. The modernist believes his way was superior to the premodernist, while the post-modernist thinks he trumps them all. But all three believe they know better than their Creator. This they have in common, for it is common to man. We truly think that we can improve upon what we read in the Bible.

For example, we hail the apostles. We quote them regularly. We venerate them as the greatest examples of Christianity. But we refuse to live like them! The western church-world rejects the method of these extraordinary men, who in one generation took the gospel to the then known world. This generation cannot say we have taken the gospel to the entire known world. Granted, the world we know today is much larger than in the apostles’ day. However, we are more in number and resources than they. At the same time we have lost ground in Western Europe and North America. What did the apostles do that we rejected as useless and replaced with a sophistication that has failed? What is missing in our modern evangelistic method that with all its technological advances gets meager results? And why are we unwilling to listen to Jesus’ first disciples who without technology accomplished far more than North American Christians with all their advanced resources?

I believe the answer is one thing—let me step aside and allow the Apostle Paul to tell us—“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Their evangelism did not lack compassion for the lost. There is no want of compassion in Paul saying, “for I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” But the ultimate motive for their labor in the gospel was to please God: “not as pleasing men, but God.” This is what is missing in today’s preaching and singing.

We at RTM do not in the least suggest that motives are not genuine from the church house to the concert hall. But if I am only motivated to see lost people saved, I must say my motive is too low. I must be moved by something more than this, greater than this, and holier than this. What can be more, greater and holier than wanting to see people redeemed? One thing—to please the Redeemer who saves sinners.

A proclaimer of the gospel must first remember that he has been purchased. Our allegiance is not to the sinner, but to the Savior. As Paul, we are debtors to the lost; we are obligated to give the living dead (that is what I call sinners) the only hope they have for a resurrected life. This obligation is a moral and ethical obligation. It is the same obligation a man has who has the cure for a terminal disease. He has an ethical responsibility to share it with the dying. But our obligation to God is more than moral or ethical. It is the obligation of worship. The first and great commandment still applies, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). It is the obligation of love, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Lord God has not treated as His enemies, but through Christ has loved us and purchased us as His own special possession.

It is not just a moral obligation to please Him. The pleasing of God is more than duty. It is my highest desire and pleasure. Why? Because I love Him. If we love God supremely, then pleasing Him must also be supreme. It is the same obligation that a husband owes his wife—his absolute love and devotion. For him to pursue another woman is wickedness. For us to pursue the salvation of the lost for the sake of the lost is adultery against God. To seek to please men in order to reach them is the first step on a slippery slope of spiritual adultery. And this is true not just for Christian artists. It is true with those of us who stand before a crowd of people and proclaim the unsearchable riches of the gospel of Christ.

Ministry has an inherent danger. It can become the means and the end. Success in ministry can become our goal and not Christ. Seeing people converted can easily become the ultimate goal. However, when it becomes the end, then we cease to be worshippers and become professional ministers. This is why I say worship and adoration trumps all other motives and must rule supreme. If I do not serve Him with this kind of heart, then my service can be nothing more than a terrible source of displeasure.

It is this motive that is missing today in most Christian heralds. We may have a myriad of good intentions, but we are missing the only intention that truly counts. We refuse to do what He has called us to do the way He has called us to do it. The modern missionary believes He has learned a better way. Better way? How can anything be better if God is not pleased? What if we reached the whole world but did not please the God who has commanded us to obey? What kind of success would that be? It is to succeed at failure.

Let us be agreed that evangelism done any other way, for any other motive, but to please God is wrong. It is not the way of the apostles whom we love to quote. It is not their modus operandi. It is not their method of obedience. In our next blog we unfold their ways and methods. Please, if possible, refrain from commenting until I have finished this brief series of articles. When I have finished and you do not agree, then by all means say so.

No comments:

Post a Comment