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When I was a kid, I heard someone describe the act of witnessing. To an evangelical, witnessing about your faith could be a rite of passage. To most teens, it was a scary thing to think about. The speaker was demonstrating the process by instructing people to approach strangers and say confrontational things.
“If you died today, do you know for sure where you would go? Heaven or Hell?”
I cannot think of a more ignorant approach than saying such things to a total stranger on the street. Christian means “Christ like” and we are much more likely to reach someone by emulating Jesus than by trying to sell them fire insurance.
This morning, I read a story about a traveling evangelist preaching to students at the University of Alabama (UA). This afternoon, I saw that he was preaching outside of the library on the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) campus. If there is a more fruitless way to evangelize for Christ than standing in a public square calling strangers “sinners” as they walk by, I don’t know what it would be.
It dawned on me after I read the stories and watched the video that many Christians, in general, do not know how (or when) to witness to others. Last year, I was at a Christian conference for men and a well-meaning (I presume) man approached our group and asked if we had accepted Christ. Of course, we replied “Yes.” Then, he proceeded to tell us that if we had not, we were destined to “split hell wide open.”
I guess it’s a good thing we were already Christian men at a Christian conference then, right?
The evangelist on the college campuses is, I am sure, well-meaning. I checked out his website (see the link above) and agree with some of his theology, though not all of it. We don’t all have to agree on every issue of faith. However, I think he is freakishly wrong in his approach and causing more harm than good. He made the claim, in the UA video, that he is not a sinner.
Forgive me, but I just don’t see how looking foolish is helping the kingdom of God. If we are to be like Christ, then we should help the poor, love our neighbors, and rank others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Jesus delivered the greatest sermon in history at the Sermon on the Mount. One passage in it stands out to me.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
When you see a hungry man on the street, don’t ask him if he knows Jesus. Ask him if he wants a sandwich. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s a much better approach.
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