More Questions: Evangelism Without Manipulation

I love the questions people are asking as they wake up to the reality of living in the life of Jesus. This one came today from Mississippi and in the limited space email offers, I tried to give her a bit of an answer:

This may sound stupid. How does one share the gospel with others without being manipulative or is most “churched” people’s conception of “witnessing” wrong? How do we introduce others to Christ so they too can be free? I am new to this sight and it has one eye opener after another. Thanks.

Not stupid at all… Religion finds no end to the ways of manipulating people to do good or even to convert. As God wakes us up to his reality we can admit that most of what evangelism has meant is exploiting and manipulating our neighbors and friends, rather than demonstrating to them the reality of who God is by the way we live our lives. I’m blessed God is doing that work in you.

Scripture makes clear that it is the Spirit who convicts the world (John 16) and that it is our task to love them freely (John 13:34-35) and not manipulate them by persuasive words (I Cor 2) nor shameful tactics (2 Cor 4). Rather by living in his reality and openly talking about it as others ask us about our lives we ‘set forth the truth plainly (and in doing so) commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor 4:1-4)

As we live in his reality, we’ll have no end of opportunities to give an account for the hope that lies within us. And then we can truly express our love and concern for people and not just manipulate them to respond the way we think they should.

It makes sharing this kingdom a task of exquisite joy, not a heavy obligation.

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12 Comments
  1. John from the UK June 8, 2005 at 12:15 am

    Hi Wayne

    I do and don’t agree with you here. This is an issue that I have struggled with over the last two or three years. I agree that the institution and role of evangelism within churches has become downright manipulative and discreditable but we have to be careful not fall into the trap of thinking sharing our faith is only passive and relational.

    Paul in scripture was very active in proclaiming the good news. His two years in Ephesus alone, where he shared the Good News from a lecture hall, resulted in a region of several million people hearing the gospel.

    Jesus told us to "let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven" but he also sent his disciples out two by two to proclaim the "Kingdom is near", Peter preached publicly and Philip was no slouch.

    So what’s the differance between this "euangellion" (preaching the gospel) and what has become known as evangelism in the institutional church. I believe the difference is between proclaiming the gospel to spread the "Kingdom message" and selling a product to build a "church business". Our commission is still the same "Go and make discliples…"

    We cannot make anyone a follower of Jesus, that is wholly the job of the Holy Spirit but we are told to tell others in clear and unequivocal terms the Good News of what Jesus has done for us (Rom 10:14) – that never changes – "Go" is a doing word.

  2. Rudolf Roos June 8, 2005 at 2:51 am

    What I see when I read the new testament is that they were not so fanatic as a lot of christians are about what WE call "the great commission" (jesus didn’t use these words, we do). Somehow this has been changed from what Jesus said to 11 disciples who walked 3 years (countless hours) with him to be the final big assignment for all christians to work on (now, don’t waste your lives, ‘saved to serve’, ‘the need is the call’ etc. etc.!).

    I really like what Jesus did in Mark 3:14. He called the twelve "TO BE WITH HIM and to be send out to preach" (I’m paraphrasing here I think).

  3. John from the UK June 8, 2005 at 3:15 am

    Hi Wayne

    I do and don’t agree with you here. This is an issue that I have struggled with over the last two or three years. I agree that the institution and role of evangelism within churches has become downright manipulative and discreditable but we have to be careful not fall into the trap of thinking sharing our faith is only passive and relational.

    Paul in scripture was very active in proclaiming the good news. His two years in Ephesus alone, where he shared the Good News from a lecture hall, resulted in a region of several million people hearing the gospel.

    Jesus told us to "let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven" but he also sent his disciples out two by two to proclaim the "Kingdom is near", Peter preached publicly and Philip was no slouch.

    So what’s the differance between this "euangellion" (preaching the gospel) and what has become known as evangelism in the institutional church. I believe the difference is between proclaiming the gospel to spread the "Kingdom message" and selling a product to build a "church business". Our commission is still the same "Go and make discliples…"

    We cannot make anyone a follower of Jesus, that is wholly the job of the Holy Spirit but we are told to tell others in clear and unequivocal terms the Good News of what Jesus has done for us (Rom 10:14) – that never changes – "Go" is a doing word.

  4. Rudolf Roos June 8, 2005 at 5:51 am

    What I see when I read the new testament is that they were not so fanatic as a lot of christians are about what WE call "the great commission" (jesus didn’t use these words, we do). Somehow this has been changed from what Jesus said to 11 disciples who walked 3 years (countless hours) with him to be the final big assignment for all christians to work on (now, don’t waste your lives, ‘saved to serve’, ‘the need is the call’ etc. etc.!).

    I really like what Jesus did in Mark 3:14. He called the twelve "TO BE WITH HIM and to be send out to preach" (I’m paraphrasing here I think).

  5. Rebecca June 8, 2005 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for this post, Wayne. It really resonated with me, especially having been the object of much evangelism a few years ago. Anyway, thanks again for saying what I couldn’t find the words to say. I linked to you in my blog – http://jesusoutsidethebox.blogspot.com.

  6. Matthew June 8, 2005 at 8:58 am

    Thank you brother. That is so refreshing to know. I saw Christ for who He was 13 years ago and believed in Him. Shortly after that, someone told me about this thing called the "Great Commission" and ever afterwards I’ve tried faithfully to fulfill it. I ADMIT THAT NOT A SINGLE PERSON HAS COME TO CHRIST THROUGH MY OWN EFFORTS TO OBEY THIS. I’ve had this burden lifted off my shoulders only recently and am discovering the joyous liberty of living in acceptance and His love.

  7. Rebecca June 8, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for this post, Wayne. It really resonated with me, especially having been the object of much evangelism a few years ago. Anyway, thanks again for saying what I couldn’t find the words to say. I linked to you in my blog – http://jesusoutsidethebox.blogspot.com.

  8. Wayne June 8, 2005 at 11:57 am

    John,

    I’m not sure where we disagree. I don’t think what I wrote excludes people from preaching the gospel of the kingdom wherever God gives them opportunity to do so, in lecture halls or on the street. That certainly is one way to do demonstrate and proclaim the reailty of the kingdom as long as it is not manipulating people.

    But I do think the so-called ‘great commission’ also includes people going into their world each day living the reality of the kingdom and talking about it honestly with people as opportunities arise. And my point is that happens best, when it happens naturally, not as people are trying to evangelize or to convert others. Jesus never told us to go and witness; he said when we lived full of his Spirit we would simply be his witnesses by the simplicity and power of our lives.

    And my thoughts here are pragmatic as well. I’ve read that 90% of people who come to Christ after the age of 25 do so through the strength of a friendship with a believer.

    I can’t imagine you’d see it differently, so maybe we’re having a failure to communicate.

  9. Matthew June 8, 2005 at 11:58 am

    Thank you brother. That is so refreshing to know. I saw Christ for who He was 13 years ago and believed in Him. Shortly after that, someone told me about this thing called the "Great Commission" and ever afterwards I’ve tried faithfully to fulfill it. I ADMIT THAT NOT A SINGLE PERSON HAS COME TO CHRIST THROUGH MY OWN EFFORTS TO OBEY THIS. I’ve had this burden lifted off my shoulders only recently and am discovering the joyous liberty of living in acceptance and His love.

  10. Wayne June 8, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    John,

    I’m not sure where we disagree. I don’t think what I wrote excludes people from preaching the gospel of the kingdom wherever God gives them opportunity to do so, in lecture halls or on the street. That certainly is one way to do demonstrate and proclaim the reailty of the kingdom as long as it is not manipulating people.

    But I do think the so-called ‘great commission’ also includes people going into their world each day living the reality of the kingdom and talking about it honestly with people as opportunities arise. And my point is that happens best, when it happens naturally, not as people are trying to evangelize or to convert others. Jesus never told us to go and witness; he said when we lived full of his Spirit we would simply be his witnesses by the simplicity and power of our lives.

    And my thoughts here are pragmatic as well. I’ve read that 90% of people who come to Christ after the age of 25 do so through the strength of a friendship with a believer.

    I can’t imagine you’d see it differently, so maybe we’re having a failure to communicate.

  11. S June 9, 2005 at 7:31 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Wayne. I think that for most believers the idea of ‘witnessing/sharing Jesus’ is a huge burden. Being a part of a church that has lots of programs, etc. can be a way to ease that burden somewhat. It makes you feel like you’re part of something that is attracting people to Christ and the most that you might have to do is to invite people to attend. When you are living your life outside of the church system you’re forced to find a new mindset regarding just what it means to manifest Christ to the world and whose responsibility it really is.

  12. S June 9, 2005 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Wayne. I think that for most believers the idea of ‘witnessing/sharing Jesus’ is a huge burden. Being a part of a church that has lots of programs, etc. can be a way to ease that burden somewhat. It makes you feel like you’re part of something that is attracting people to Christ and the most that you might have to do is to invite people to attend. When you are living your life outside of the church system you’re forced to find a new mindset regarding just what it means to manifest Christ to the world and whose responsibility it really is.

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