Evangelism in a Christianized Culture: The Need for Pure Motive Coupled With Wisdom
What would happen if you hired your neighbor’s teen son to roof your aging house, simply based on the criteria that he loved roofing? Would his love for roofing compensate for his lack of skill and experience? My guess is that after your first major rain his lack of experience would become obvious as water began pouring down your walls, staining your carpet and furniture. You see that pure motive must be coupled with wisdom, or else one’s labor will become a detriment rather than a blessing. The first section of this study, focused on the necessity of a Spirit-filled motivation and manner. We began with motivation, not to de-emphasize wisdom, but to emphasize the principle that a full understanding of the gospel, conversion, and human nature alone is not enough to make one an effective evangelist. Both graces, wrought in the heart of spirit-filled believers must be present and growing in order to minister the gospel effectively.
So how does God give us this wisdom? If you walked into a blacksmith’s shop, you would see the smith working heated iron with a hammer and anvil. The smith carefully and skillfully works the iron with his mallet as he hammers it against the anvil. Without the blows from the hammer or without the anvil the iron will not take the desired shape, rendering it useless. The finished product is not a testimony of the greatness of the iron, but rather to the skill of the smith. God like the smith hammers our life through various means. He uses trials, pain, suffering, joys, and people to shape our thinking, character, and ultimately to give us wisdom; however, these blows from God’s hammer do not work independent of other means. The anvil must be present. Like the smith, God uses his word like an anvil to shape his children. Human experience alone does not give us this wisdom. Communing with God through His word in the midst of varied human experiences becomes the catalyst though which God sanctifies us. A major part of our sanctification process is wisdom. Proverbs 2:6-7 says that “the LORD gives wisdom: his mouth gives knowledge and understanding, and He deposits sound wisdom for the righteous:” Solomon then takes the rest of Proverbs to practically explain how God uses these godly counselors, observation, chastening, and family to shape those who fears him with His word. This same principle is developed in James 1. We are told to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials,” and that when we lack wisdom we should ask God to give it to us. Once again, we see God’s tools coupled with his word to give us wisdom. Romans 8 also reflects this same principle. “All things work together for good to those who love God” and are called according to His purpose. That purpose is Christ-likeness, and a major part of that Christ-likeness is wisdom. Once again, we see God the craftsman molding His children through life experiences on the anvil of His word.
So what does passion without wisdom look like in the “Christianized” culture? I think it looks like your typical youth missions trip, Sunday school, youth group, and vacation Bible school programs. People who genuinely desire to see God move in young lives, without a grounded understanding of human nature, conversion, and the essentials of the gospel, lead scores of children and young people into empty professions of faith. Why do so many Christian school young people struggle with assurance of salvation and have no desire to walk in godliness? My opinion is that many are not converted, because they have been exposed to shoddy emotional appeals to decision without any conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. They have been manipulated in the tenderness of their youth, to place their faith in an emotional experience or a likable youth leader, and not in the finished work of Christ and his righteousness. When these young people become the leaders of the next generation, if they choose not to apostatize from the faith, what will be the essence of the gospel they preach to their children? It will be void of power to save. We must not only be passionate about evangelism becomes we love God and His glory, but we must grow in wisdom so that the gospel will not be lost in our culture in the next generation. My heart grieves as I reflect on the wrestling of some of my peers who agonized for years till they came to rest humbly on the truth, due to shoddy, manipulative, and emotional evangelism. The remainder of our studies will focus on various elements of wise evangelism.