Saturday, December 11, 2004

Is This Evangelism?

I got back late last night from Charlotte, NC. Normally, travel provides me with a lot of alone time -- something I seem to need more than most people. That means that while I may return from traveling tired from the trip, I'm usually refreshed at the same time. This trip, however, provided none of that. And I am exhausted as a result.

Charlotte is beautiful -- well, parts of it are. The part we were in certainly is wealthy, and the houses are all decked out with enough lights to be seen from outer space.

I had a good time catching up with some old friends. But a question came up that I'd like your opinion on. This is risky, because I'm not sure I have the reader-base to formally ask for input. I may end up getting no feedback. But here goes....

If you grew up going to church youth rallies or Christian camps, I'd like your memories of evangelism training. Personally, I remember getting up early on Saturday mornings to go doorknocking with my parents. Some churches still practice this, but it's a ridiculously ineffective method these days.

It seemed that this was the primary means of evangelism in the 70s and early 80s. I also remember passing out Bible tracts on the streets of Cardiff, Wales. They had titles like, "Is There Really Just One Way?" and "How Do I Know I Am a Christian?"

As I look back now, I'm sure we were doing our best. We had our Bibles marked up with our version of the Romans Road. We had reduced Christianity to a math equation and could explain it to you in just a few minutes. At the end of our presentation, we would always end up with the Ethiopian in Acts 8 asking, "Here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"

If you didn't get in the water that day it was because something's wrong with you. Either you're a little slow or stubborn or dishonest. Possibly we weren't being effective salesmen, but that's what evangelism came down to -- or so it seemed. Evangelism was sales.

I remember distinctly at a youth rally in my home church. We used drama -- cutting edge at the time. It wasn't much more than camp skits, though. There was one that had a couple of guys meeting up at the Pearly Gates. They have a warm reunion -- hugs and laughter -- sharing pictures of the kids. Then one of them turns to face an unseen Judge. He is told that he's going to hell. He can't believe it.

Oh, I'm breaking out in hives recalling it.

He turns to his friend (who was always involved in stuff at church) and asked why he never bothered to share the truth with him. He's angry and sad and really lets his "friend" have it. "How could you? You knew I was going to hell, but you never told me."

He storms off the stage, and we see the other guy turn now to face the Judge. Blackout. Then we would sing a terrible song called "You Never Mentioned Him to Me". Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

It was supposed to scare us into sharing our faith with a sense of urgency. Was anyone else subjected to this kind of thing?

Apparently, teenagers rarely get this kind of thing anymore. I think that's good. But how will they understand the urgency of sharing their faith with others? Should they feel that urgency? Are we doing an end-run around the sovereignty of God? Are we absolving them of personal responsibility?

These are the questions I'd like your input on.