Obviously exaggerated, but sometimes I wonder how many times we do more harm than good at our attempts at evangelism. I remember when I was a freshman at Hoover High School, my twin brother and I just moved from Bondurant and we were befriended by a Christian student. He lived close to us and we would go to his house. We worked on an English project together, and I remember thinking he was somewhat odd. His sister would walk around the house singing hymns (not that singing hymns is a bad thing, but as an unchurched kid I thought it was strange). I also never saw his mom when she wasn’t wearing a dress. Every time we got together though he kept asking me to go to church. I wasn’t rude to him, but I just wasn’t interested. He finally stopped asking me to come over. I guess he moved on.
I remember when I was a junior and I was walking up to Vets’ Auditorium in Des Moines for the IHSAA State Wrestling Tournament (unfortunately as a spectator, not a participant). This street preacher was outside, and he looked straight at me and screamed at me, YOU ARE GOING TO HELLLLLLLLLLLLLL!” He was right. I was. I didn’t know Jesus, but instead of responding in faith and repentance I told him, “You go (do likewise)!” He probably smugly thought, “see look at that sinner.”
The Apostle Peter gives us some great guidance on how we should go about sharing our faith with those who do not yet know Jesus.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame,” (1 Peter 3:14-16, ESV emphasis mine).
Sometimes we give answers to questions they aren’t even asking. Perhaps we don’t demonstrate that we have hope, some Christians I know seem to be very dour people. Do we treat those who don’t yet know Christ with gentleness and respect? Or are we condescending? Do we have a clear conscience, and is our walk speaking as loudly as our talk? These are questions that we have to address in order to be effective evangelists. The Gospel is enough of a stumbling block for people, let’s not trip people up further with our stuff.
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