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How to Undermine Evangelism

How to Undermine Evangelism

On top of fearing, abdicating, reversing, and botching evangelism, many Christians undermine the evangelistic efforts of others by not living much like Jesus.  As Gandhi (reportedly) said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” and “If all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian.”  The most prevalent objections of avowed atheists on this blog’s social media pages aren’t the principles of Christianity but the practices of Christians.

Granted, that’s likely an excuse to justify disbelief, but we validate those accusations when we don’t reflect God’s love and grace.  Those opposed to a moral code of any kind would find another reason to reject Christianity, but why give them such an easy out?  Rather than providing ammunition, Christians could disarm non-believers by forcing them to admit that at least we “practice what we preach”.

Changing media’s portrayal of Christians hinges on our consistency, transparency, and humility.  With reporters eager to pounce there’s little leeway, but any slip ups are opportunities for proactive confession and admission of our need for Jesus.  Disclosing our shortcomings points people to Jesus rather than pushing them away from Him.  If any vestige of their God-given conscience remains, our honesty may awaken critics to the secrets they’ve been hiding – surfacing a suppressed need and desire for forgiveness.

Any hypocrisy, dishonesty, or self-righteousness looks nothing like Jesus and impedes evangelism.  All three are largely a product of contemporary church growth models that emphasize attracting and retaining churchgoers.  Those models shift the weight of expectations and burden of responsibility from paying members to paid professionals.  Although all Christians should be Kingdom “employees”, many became “consumers” conducting spiritual business, expecting a fair exchange of value from churches (e.g. sermons, music, programs, facilities) and God (e.g. favor, blessings, problem resolution).  To placate consumers, church leaders hesitate to ask for much beyond infrequent “transactions” (i.e. invite, involve, and invest), but Jesus’ church growth model demands continual engagement (i.e. evangelism, discipleship, and compassion) in Kingdom advancement.

Cultural Christians conditioned by consumerism are ripe for hypocrisy, mistakenly thinking…

1. Grace is cheap

Grace was expensive for Jesus.  Churches cheapen it and cast Christianity in a negative light when they…

  • Hesitate to speak about sin from the pulpit
  • Fail to confront sin among membership
  • Rarely utter the terms accountability, repentance, and surrender
  • Don’t actively promote sharing the good news of God’s grace with others
  • Focus more on operational costs than the costs of discipleship

Consistency, transparency, and humility begin – and hypocrisy ends – when we view sin the way Jesus does.

2. Church is an event

Jesus sees the Church as His bride, a living organism through which He will fulfill His plans for humanity.  Redefining “church” as a place with pastors where we meet with friends for an hour or two on the weekends sucks the life out of it.  By compartmentalizing faith, we separate the sacred from secular, making it convenient to live a double life on the weekdays.  Consistency, transparency, and humility require an understanding that each of us is the personification of “church”, the hands and feet of Jesus, all week long.  Evangelism is a not a box for us to check – our invitations to church services look too much like business transactions where consumers make referrals and pastors close the deal.

3. Winning is everything

Jesus played the long game, always looking forward to what lay ahead.  He was silent before His accusers and submitted to the Father’s will at all cost.  It’s when Christians refuse to lose that their consistency (with Jesus), transparency, and humility all disappear, handing a smoking gun to our accusers.  “Employees” would realize it’s more important to be real than right, whereas Kingdom consumers expect to come out on top not only in the next life, but this one as well.  Hypocrisy ceases when we obey Jesus without reservation, not pursuing victory or the accolades craved by those who worship self.  The greatest commandment is to love unconditionally, which is radically countercultural, and the highest act of love is to share our faith with those lost and hopeless without Jesus.  We win when others don’t lose.

4. Comfort is king

Jesus was homeless and persecuted while making sure everyone else was fed and healthy.  He rocked the boat and asked His followers to do the same.  Yet churches and Christians go to tremendous lengths to ensure no one is made uncomfortable, adopting the world’s definition of love – keeping their facilities spotless and their faith private.  If pastors saw churchgoers as Kingdom employees and not consumers, they’d be bolder in measuring discipleship (rather than numerical) growth.  Congregations that consider the implications of decisions on member satisfaction are breeding grounds for hypocrisy.  Jesus’ ministry was not based on business metrics but on (inverted) Kingdom economics that place higher value on discomfort than comfort.

5. Politics is power

Jesus preached about His (otherworldly) Kingdom, walked away from politics, and encouraged giving Caesar back what belongs to Caesar.  Every passing year, Christians in America become more enmeshed in Caesar’s kingdom and less engaged in God’s.  Each word we speak in anger over our steady loss of “power” in this post-Christian era further erodes whatever “power” remains.  Cries of hypocrisy would be silenced if we hitched our wagons to Jesus and not political candidates, relying more on Him and less on them to be our “savior”.  Only a ground war of compassion by the power of the Holy Spirit, not an air war dropping verbal bombs, will win America’s cultural war.

6. Unity is expendable

John 17 records Jesus’ fervent prayer for unity, yet non-believers can’t help but notice how fragmented the body of Christ is today.  Racial, political and socioeconomic division is evident throughout our society, and Christianity is no exception.  Our love for one another is supposed to be our main attraction but what the world sees are churches across denominations advertising for attenders and ministries competing for donors.   We don’t even take care of our own, paying almost no attention to the 350 million persecuted brothers and sisters suffering overseas while we bask in religious freedom on our shores.

7. Ignorance is bliss

Jesus made disciples who walked in His footsteps, but Kingdom consumers don’t feel obligated to read its owner’s manual (the Bible) or sell its services (the Gospel).  Consequently, many Christians know surprisingly little about who they worship and therefore don’t imitate Him well.  That inconsistency, apparent in a lack of transparency and humility, convinces non-believers that Christ might not be worth following.  The problem is that standards have diminished to the point where those who atheists mock are “Christians” in name only, more a function of social/political affiliation and family background than committed believers who live in line with their faith.

8. Responsibility is optional

Jesus preached and sent disciples out to do so, but most churches no longer teach members how to evangelize and answer tough questions.  The risk and time required to become effective in sharing Christ among coworkers and neighbors exceeds the threshold of what most consumers are willing to endure.  Ironically, the dichotomy between our faith on the weekends and compromise on weekdays has the opposite of its intended effect – rather than earning us relational “points”, our inconsistency costs us respect.

9. Faith is safe

To be credible, faith and the actions it inspires can’t be entirely logical.  Jesus spoke words never heard and backed them up with miracles never seen.  No one has ever impacted humanity like Jesus did because no one has ever so dramatically defied human nature and natural laws.  When Christians claim to have faith but appear just as concerned about self-preservation as the faithless, we open the door to ridicule.  When we choose paths that make absolutely no sense, abandoning reason and security, we (counterintuitively) invite admiration and curiosity.

10. Poverty is ok

Jesus spoke about caring for the poor as if our (eternal) lives depended on it.  Even the unchurched understand His emphasis on serving those in material poverty, left to wonder why churches aren’t more engaged year-round in alleviating it.  Historically, churches replicated Jesus’ model of healing and feeding before telling people who He is (i.e. the Gospel) but eventually abdicated their role on the front lines of compassion to government agencies and parachurch ministries.  Budgets and energies reoriented toward church growth strategies, with little money or time left over to serve struggling families.  To cover the bases, most churches run seasonal outreaches that instead perpetuate poverty by fostering dependency.  None of those facts are lost on secular observers and media outlets.

It’s Your Turn

If no one who knew Jesus would dislike Him, why wouldn’t we choose to live more like Jesus?  How would our evangelism be more effective if all Christians operated according to His principles and practices?


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