Talking with my friend Clyde the other day, I was reminded how much evangelism has evolved in a generation. Clyde cut his teeth with Campus Crusade back in the 70’s, when ‘confrontational evangelism’ was the norm, and the word radical on the lips of everyone. There’s good evidence to suggest that the swell of revival was hitting the gates of the church, as thousands of collegians and high school students responded to a simple proclamation of the word of God. Today our churches are filled with those students, leaders now who were swept into the body during that time. The reason I bring this up is because when I talk with Clyde, I get a whiff of those early days, and specifically the heart of Bill Bright, not known to ever back down from a good solid ‘confrontation’ with someone about truth. It’s still in Clyde’s DNA, a simple matter of fact approach. He mentioned also in our conversation that he thinks the reason God is moving so dramatically through China’s church is because they take a similar confrontational approach to their witnessing. Lay it out as truth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, cloaked in love and ready for follow up, regardless of the response.
Of course whenever you place “confrontational evangelism” side by side, you will get a strong reaction from almost anyone. But let’s not let words be a banana peel. How does “bold love” sound? Better you say? Good, while you’re there, let me say something to try and tweak your definition of evangelism.
Ready? Here goes: We have over reacted to pluralism, and given so much emphasis to earning the right, that we have forgotten how urgent it is to share simple truth with someone we love, or with perfect strangers.
The other day, Moses (a young man groomed by the New York’s gritty streets,) and I were prayer walking the high school. Up ahead we saw four young men leaning against a fence adjacent to the school. Something told me not to pass up joining their posse. So, I strode up and said, “Hey guys what’s up?” One guy acted like he was cannon fodder, bang!, moving away. Later I learned he thought I was a cop. The others smiled weakly and forced a greeting. It wasn’t more than 30 seconds later that Moses and I were into a full-blown conversation about spiritual things. They were cutting their final class of the day, and discussing what to do next, when God came down and stood in their midst. At one point, Moses quoted Jesus when he said something to the affect, “their worm does not die.” He was referencing hell, and one of the students nearly jumped out of his Jordan’s. “What does that mean?” We explained it well enough, and then went on. But not a minute later, he brought it up again. “That worm thing, what did Jesus mean when he said that?” We explained it again, but wouldn’t you know not thirty seconds later, he blurts out.” “The worm, what does that mean?” I looked him square in the eyes and said. “Jesus was trying to get us a message that it’s a living hell you will suffer outside the grace of God. Forever you will be separated from Him, alive and knowing it could have been different.” “I’m going to church on Sunday,” he said, and you could tell he meant it.
Bold Love had won the hour. Bold love had lifted these young men’s eyes from their own selves, and placed them on the Author of their life, and an invitation to relationship. Bold love.
I’m not saying we don’t build relationships. But we need to peer out of our stained glass windows for a moment, and see the world as Jesus sees it today. It’s a hurting mass of populous, with no answers, and running out of time. Yes, you and I know that time is running out. Recent events have shaken our world to its core, as do events of every generation. But there’s something different this time. At the highest levels of intellect, politic and religion, men and women are feeling bankrupt. They are looking for truth to steady the tremors, because anyone worth their salt knows when they find it. We cannot afford the church to demure when it comes time to speak truth. Bold love must win the hour. Perhaps the tremors we all feel are a precursor to the revival so many have prayed for, for so long.