Evangelism in a Syncretistic Culture: Living the Spirit-filled Life Part 2
As I write these posts, we are in the middle of the Olympics. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching several Olympic events, but none as much as the Greco and Freestyle wrestling. I love wrestling, because it is intense one on one competition, a vivid display of strength, athleticism, stamina, mental and physical toughness, and tactic. Unless you have actually wrestled competitively, it is difficult to appreciate the toughness and work that go into becoming competitive at any level. Like wrestling, honest personal evangelism is a grueling spiritual discipline. Many are terrified to present their faith. They struggle knowing where to start, are easily discouraged when met with resistance, and lack the discipline or patience to follow through with contacts. They often become sloppy with the Biblical truths they present and are afraid to ask the hard questions for fear that they discover the truth about what people are really thinking. They are afraid to be brutally honest with other Christians about the joys and struggles of ministering in the gospel. You might say that this assessment is a little harsh, but I am simply drawing from my own experience. I have and still do to some degree struggle with each of these temptations, and Biblical evangelism in any culture is hard work, especially the “Christianized” culture.
Honest personal evangelism is hard work, and apart from Divine enablement, we will fail miserably. I am not saying that God cannot and does not at times use undisciplined, immature, and self-serving believers as tools in that great work of conversion, but this is not the norm. By the way, I am thankful that God has used me at times in spite of my fleshly approach or less than noble motives. God alone always deserves the glory when men are converted, but generally he uses Spirit-filled believers as tools in this work. Like Paul says in Philippians 1:15-18, some preach Christ from envy, strife, selfish ambition, not sincerely, and out of desire to affliction the imprisoned apostle, yet here is Paul’s heart toward this evangelism: “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Praise God when the gospel is preached. Praise God when He turns men to the truth even when the saints who bring this glorious message are so fallible, but woe to us if we preach the gospel by any ability or from any motive other than that ability and motive that flows out of a vibrant walk with God under the Spirit’s control and influence.
With these concepts fresh on our minds, I now want to shift our attention to several texts that reflect the heart that should characterize every saint who is presenting these precious gospel truths. In 2 Corinthians 10:1, we see that Paul’s approach in instructing the church of Corinth was “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul reminds Timothy that “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition,” hoping that God would graciously grant them repentance. In 2 Timothy 4:2 we see yet another example of Paul’s approach to presenting truth. He commanded Timothy to: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Paul emphasized humility, patience, meekness, and gentleness as the proper way to approach men with God’s word. Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 3:15. He says to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” Humility, meekness, and patience once again surface in Peter’s instruction. Lastly, notice what James says in James 3:13-18. He asks: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James’ observation is no different than other apostolic instruction. Saints must present Biblical truth; especially the gospel in love, meekly, humbly, gently, patiently, and without hypocrisy. This heart is not possible apart from walking under the Spirit’s control and influence, and the way we approach people with the gospel ultimately will reveal the way we are walking as a Christian. The next series of posts will go methodically through Galatians 5:22-23, and demonstrate practically how these various fruits produced by the Spirit relate to personal evangelism in a “Christianized” culture.