A Devastating Question for Lifestyle Evangelists

If you have followed DefCon or any other site that affirms gospel-centered theology, you have already run across mounds upon mounds of reasons why lifestyle evangelism is unbiblical. We’ve expounded, extrapolated, and exegeted this to death in order to reveal why trying to win souls by simply just living your life before the unsaved is plainly unbiblical. But the one thing we have failed to do is teach how to engage a person that believes we should simply let our good works shine before men, and then be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within you when they ask you.

I like to keep the target of an article directly in my gaze. Therefore I will not exhaustively offer my insights as to why I think this strategy of evangelism is good or bad depending on the context.  But here is a mock conversation that will reveal the most devastating question you can ask someone that believes in lifestyle evangelism, which will allow the drill of the gospel to penetrate the problem at its core and root out this man-centered method.

(Background: You are walking down the street and you see someone with a sign by a booth that says “FREE HUGS.” You notice it also has Jesus’ name on some of the other signs, so you walk over to investigate)

Lifestyle Evangelist (LE): Would you like a free hug today?

You: Sure. What’s it for?

LE: We just want to demonstrate the love of Christ and show that we love you?

You: Ah. I see. Do you preach the gospel when you get people who are interested?

LE: We are showing the gospel by sharing the love of Christ through hugs.

You: So what is the greatest demonstration of God’s love to mankind?

LE: Jesus Christ dying for our sins.

You: So how do your hugs measure up?

Did you catch the point? The last two questions really expose the root problem of merely “demonstrating” the love of Christ without opening your mouth about the gospel. And the previous to last question really sets up the penetrating question at hand.

If someone feels that they are being more effective (which is pragmatism by the way) by sharing the gospel through their lifestyle and neglect to share the good news of Christ, by asking them, “What is the greatest demonstration of God’s love?” you will bypass any defense and shoot right to the source of why Christians should even bother to spread the gospel in the first place. The sacrifice of Christ for sin! Even more so, when you ask them “How does their (insert good work here) measure up?” it pinches the nerve of this pragmatic error and hopefully causes the hearer to question their means of “spreading” the gospel. Or, in their minds, letting their good works shine. Because it causes the person to take notice that they are basically saying their good work, whatever that may be, is a proper or better demonstration than Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

If it is true that Christ died for our sin, and that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us, if this gruesome act is what God had to undergo in order to save men from sin, death, and hell, how in the world could any of our good works ever measure up!? Sure we do good works because we are saved, and yes, as a byproduct of our preaching our good works compliment our message, but there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that we can do (ever) that will be a better demonstration of God’s love other than what He has already done! Let’s read that one more time. This is extremely important. There is nothing we can do to demonstrate the love of God in such a way that would project the glory of the gospel than what God has already done. That should be one of the greatest assurances for fearlessly speaking the gospel. But oftentimes, it’s not. Forgive us Lord for our unbelief.

I’m not saying taking up your cross is not a powerful testimony. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t give to the poor. But it’s not the gospel. I’m not saying you can’t show kindness, goodness, meekness, humility, love, self control, gentleness, and the like. But it’s not the gospel. I am not saying that your works amount to absolutely nothing when trying to be a witness in the world. But it’s not the gospel! All these things are types and shadows that should point to the gospel message. And even if they do demonstrate the power and love of Christ in some measure, none of our good works should be held to such a high regard that we think it measures up to the love of Christ efficaciously demonstrated to us on the cross. Tell the old, old story of He who paid an eternal price for our sin and gave Himself for us to make us free from sin’s power!

Remember that the above conversation is only an example. Each conversation is unique and can flow in different directions. However, don’t lose sight of the main point. It might take a little persuasion to reveal what you are trying to say, but as long as you keep the last question in sight (really the last two questions), you should be able to drive home the single, most important point of how the gospel should be shared – that we should tell someone what is the gospel, not just show them! To do otherwise is to essentially say that what we are doing is a better demonstration than what God has done.

-Until we go home

9 thoughts on “A Devastating Question for Lifestyle Evangelists

  1. Thank you for the article and your research. I didn’t know about this.

    The ONLY way according to Scripture is to (preach the Gospel). Utilitarian methods will always result in false converts

    Romans 10:14-15 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

    “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation,,”.-Romans 1:16.

    “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”-Romans 10:17.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. George, I am doing a little study on lifestyle evangelism, to share in church, to show how insufficient the practice is by itself. Would you happen to have any quick links to extensive articles on that subject, that you could share with me? You mentioned above, “If you have followed DefCon or any other site that affirms gospel-centered theology, you have already run across mounds upon mounds of reasons why lifestyle evangelism is unbiblical.” I have spent half an hour searching online and could not come up with the kind of exhaustive treatises that you seem to be familiar with, or any long lists of proofs that lifestyle evangelism is insufficient. Please share some links as soon as you get a chance. Thanks!

    Like

  3. Hello Erik. Thanks for your question.

    Lifestyle/Friendship evangelism is a cocktail of philosophic and pseudo scriptural ideas. There are many underlying teachings that give it its strength. There two things I can recommend you can start with.

    First, my book Apocity: The Greatest Omission. You can get it for free here: http://www.g220ministries.com/media.html

    My book not only diagnoses all forms that lead to the sun of not evangelizing (including lifestyle evangelism), but also it provides a name you can use to describe the sin. It is a systematic dismanteling of western Christianity’s most prevalent vice.

    For a topic specific article concerning what you are looking for, this could be helpful to start with: https://carm.org/friendship-evangelism

    When I mentioned the mounds of information, they come in small chunks within sermons. Perhaps looking at Paul Washer sermons that talk about decisional regeneration will help also.

    I could provide more if you like. I feel like what I have given you will fulfill what you are looking for and will lead you to more if you seek it. If you desire more, let me know. I will point out more. Let me know if you have any further questions.

    Like

  4. Thank you, George. I will check those links immediately.
    By the way, I’ve got another question on another topic, if you have the information. I need a list of reasons why “the sinner’s prayer” is a good thing when used the right way. Ray Comfort seems to be against it, and perhaps all Calvinists like Paul Washer, too, but I think their fear is based on the misunderstanding that the rest of us believe that everything depends on that prayer. I see it as a starting point, and a way of “signing the contract”, a way of getting the new believer to make contact with God while all the reasons are still fresh on his mind (“striking while the iron is hot”), but I have never believed the notion that it was an irreversible commitment. People commit to buying different things in society, and even make the downpayment, only to change their minds later. Still, the sales contract was what got them hooked initially, and signing the document had a positive psychological effect. In this case, the sinner’s prayer, while not technically binding and irreversible, coupled with good follow-up discipleship visits, Bible readings, trips to church, and Christian fellowship, can provide the impetus necessary to keep him moving by reminding him of his own commitment. Do you know of any good articles online that explain with great detail other benefits of using the sinner’s prayer?

    Like

  5. Happy New Year Erik!

    I hope you and George won’t mind my jumping in here to share some observations regarding your latest questions.

    The sinners prayer contract signing being compared to a sales contract is a good comparison, but unfortunately comes from a different focus. You see, the focus is man centered and man initiated based upon an emotional choice. Thus the contract signer may often feel buyers remorse once the cost of the contract is experienced. In the case of evangelism, there is no doubt that the sales process has produced countless more decisions and customers than biblical believers. We need look no farther than the admitted numbers of decisions and even baptisms produced by Finney on down through the Grahams. Yet when we look for those customers among the client base we see them quite absent over even a short period of time.

    Even those who remain loyal to their commitment tend to be reluctant to continue on in paying the price. Why?

    Again it is where, or rather Who initiated the process! Genuine believers, while not initially recognizing that they did not start the process, are generally found to be completely sold out to the Lord, often called on fire! You can’t keep them from scripture or fellowship and they get enough of Him! So yes decisional evangelism does show about a 2% genuine response to the Lord’s Call, yet this is in spite of the method. The reality is that the remaining 98% who make a decision are doing so from an emotional plea and emotional need and fall away over time. Most rather quickly in fact. The saddest thing is that for most, they have been inoculated against the true gospel, having purchased it for a felt need that was flesh based and aren’t about to buy in again…

    I too at one time believed upon these methods and in fact bought in to the sales process. It wasn’t until I saw so many fellow shoppers return their purchase and move on did I see something was wrong. It was then that, outside of Calvin and his proponents, did I find in my study the overwhelming evidence in scripture, that the sales system wasn’t broken, but was in fact another’s system.

    If you go to http://www.biblecc.com and do a word search for: foreknown, chosen, elect, predestined and free will, I think you will come to the same conclusions.

    Free will is exactly what lead to the woman’s fall in the Garden. It also lead to Adam’s fall. Thus what we inherited from them was a corrupted free will which is dead to the Spirit and lives only to serve the flesh. That flesh we share is so corrupt that it is un-redeemable and must be replaced by God some day.

    Remember too that the One Man who lived a perfect sinless life and who would be the only man after dam’s fall to have the right to ask that His Will be done stated, “…but never the less not My will, but Your Will be don Father.” That speaks volumes to me and should to all believers.

    Lastly, we have a picture of the broad and narrow road travelers. Jesus says to the broad road crew, “depart from Me…” Their response is Lord! LORD!! We (chose of our own free will) to do all these things in your name…” He called them workers of inequity and clearly stated, “I never knew you!” This should give all who name His name pause. The analogy would be you or I going to the fence surrounding the White House and telling the guards, “Let me in I know the president!” How far would you really get? Yet if you genuinely knew him and he knew you, and he saw you outside would the president not say, “Let him in I know him and he is my friend!”

    Hope this helps!

    Like

  6. Thank you for your time and for your input, Mickey. I have copied your post to a file where I will do a thorough study and comparison shortly of the advantages against the disadvantages.

    Like

  7. Hi, George. I am beginning to read your book already. Nice work.

    By the way, would you mind if I converted your free PDF verbatim, into a Bible-study module for distribution and use within free programs like eSword and TheWord?

    In this way we could use it to do deeper studies on evangelism by searching and comparing multiple books on each subject simultaneously. It would be a text-only version, and would retain all of the original text, author information, publication information, footnotes, etc. (except page numbers), so that all of your Bible references would open up any Bible passages referenced but not quoted in your text, when the user clicked on them. (If you use Bible-study software of any sort, you understand the concept already.) I would also like to upload the finished module to a website that offers free distribution of modules like this, to users of these programs. (e.g., http://www.wordmodules.com/) Hundreds of people check this website daily, to download whatever new modules appear there, so I think you would instantly get another thousand readers or so.

    Like

Tell us what you think:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s