Sometime in my freshman or sophomore year, I was walking home from school with a friend, and I spotted an older woman handing out fliers. People can’t solicit or hand stuff out on high school campuses, so she was standing one foot off grounds. One foot. I was a little bit annoyed; I felt like she was cheating the system a little bit. Anyway, I took a flier and opened it. It was a full, typed-out page of information on Jesus. Go figure. The first sentence was about how homosexuality is “pulling youth into the grave of sin” or something like that. The rest of the flier was just talking about how everyone who isn’t a Christian will live in eternal, fiery torture. My friend and I read it and laughed. The woman’s evangelism was completely ineffective. How would the condemnation of homosexuality and talk of burning in hell actually bring a young person to Christ?
This is a common theme I’ve noticed in modern evangelism. It’s become a joke. Handing out tracts (usually poorly-designed) and holding up signs warning of eternal judgement is not working – in fact, it’s actually counterproductive. It makes Christians out to be closed-minded fools. Spitting in the faces of nonbelievers does nothing but drive them further away, and honestly, I don’t blame them. Sometimes I am embarrassed to call myself a Christian – not because I’m ashamed of God, but because I can’t stand being lumped in with extremists and ignoramuses. About a year ago, when I had walked away from the Lord, the aversion to the “Christian” label is one of the things that kept me from returning to the faith.
Truthfully, judgment evangelists are missing the mark. Christ came to save us, not condemn us. Christianity is about having a relationship with God. Evangelists should be emphasizing the strength of God’s love, the sacrifice he made, and his powerful healing. Coming to Christ should not be done in fear. Read Matthew 14:27. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Jesus’ presence sets us at ease and brings our minds clarity. He calms our hearts like he calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee.
The best evangelism is simply living out Jesus’ example for us. Be a caring and honest person. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in your life. Offer to pray for people – and if they aren’t comfortable with it, don’t push it. Spreading the love of Christ rather than playing on the fears of man is what will lead others to the kingdom of God.