Five Reasons We Don't Evangelize: # 1: Churches isolate Christians from unbelievers

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Dave Gilbert's picture

1) Churches isolate Christians from unbelievers.

They should: Ephesians 5:11 and James 4:4 in spirit, for starters. I see no precedent for bringing in goats among the sheep, except for one passage: 1 Corinthians 14:23-24, and that is predicated with an "if". Nevertheless we are commanded to be ready with an answer for the hope that lies within us ( 1 Peter 3:15 ).

 

2) We believe that evangelism is extraordinary.

It is. Anyone carefully studying God's word on the subject of evangelism will discover that in every instance where someone was converted in the Bible, the power of the Holy Spirit was upon someone both to be the evangelist, and to listen to the message: Pentecost ( Acts 2:5-41 ), Cornelius ( Acts 10:1-48 ) and the recounting of Cornelius' salvation ( Acts 11:1-18 ), Acts 13:4-12, Acts 13:48, Acts 16:6-7, Lydia ( Acts 16:14-15 ), the Philippian jailer ( Acts 16:27-34 ), Mars Hill ( Acts 17:16-34 ), Corinth ( Acts 18:7-11 ) and many others.  Summary: If God's will isn't in it, nothing eternal will happen. True evangelism can't be made simple, it's the power of God given through a vessel of God's choosing ( Ephesians 4:11-14 ). It's not by the planning and execution of men.

 

3) Churches don't talk about the cost of following Jesus.

True, most don't, as far as I can tell.  Not completely sure of the answer to this, but perhaps it's because the churches that don't are not sound, and the Holy Spirit not in evidence?

 

4) We look for immediate results.

True. Instead of waiting on the Lord, in His time and by His power, I believe most people who attempt to evangelize do so without God's express blessing. When they see nothing supernatural occurring, they get impatient. They need to keep in mind that only God's elect will believe savingly. ( John 1:13, Acts 13:48, Romans 9:8, Romans 9:16, Philippians 1:29 ). It is of God and by His timing that anyone is saved.

 

5) We aren't clear on the message.

Agreed. Most people I've seen "out there", especially on television, deliver the Gospel message with a "flourish" and either say things that the Bible doesn't say, subtract things from it or add things to it, thereby preaching another gospel. The true Gospel can be found here: Acts 2:14-35, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8...and in the books called the "Gospels", Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ( John 20:31 ). Sin, death, Hell, and the hope in Christ...that is the Gospel...for without the bad news, what good is the Good News? I've seen too many presentations that ask people to "pray a prayer" or "accept Christ" as Lord and Saviour...the Bible doesn't teach this, it teaches the facts, and those that believe from the heart are saved.

 

Regards,

 

Dave Gilbert.

Jim's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

1) Churches isolate Christians from unbelievers.

They should: Ephesians 5:11 and James 4:4 in spirit, for starters. I see no precedent for bringing in goats among the sheep, except for one passage: 1 Corinthians 14:23-24, and that is predicated with an "if". Nevertheless we are commanded to be ready with an answer for the hope that lies within us ( 1 Peter 3:15 ).

 

Agreed on the should (above)

But also a need to be in the world and around the lost: Support: John 17:15, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one" & 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world"

Joel Shaffer's picture

Dave, 

on your #1, how are we to be ready with an answer with non-believers if we don't know them?  That takes making contacts and building a relationship with those that don't know Christ.  It is possible to be holy without isolating one's self from non-believers.

 

#2, what about the church of Antioch?  The Holy Spirit used persecution to scatter some ordinary believers in Christ that were Hellenist Jews to cross ethnic and cultural barriers to proclaim the gospel, disciple those were drawn to Christ into the church of Antioch and become the powerful missionary sending church of Paul and Barnabas.     Were they evangelists?  Or just ordinary Christians that evangelize? 

christian cerna's picture

I think the reason why most Christians don't evangelize, is the same reason we don't talk about any serious topics these days. Because of devices like television and cell phones and computers, most people have lost the ability(desire) to have meaningful conversations with each other.

A lot of the times when I go visit relatives, the TV is running in the background, even if no one is watching it. It's kind of hard to have a serious conversations with others when you are trying to compete with the latest news, or football highlights, or celebrity gossip, etc. And don't get me started about talking to teens when they have their cell phones or portable video game machines with them.

Add to that the fact that we have been programmed by TV and the liberal PC police to avoid bringing up controversial topics of any kind. 

I think many of us are even guilty of purposely using the TV to avoid talking to someone. Someone comes over to the house to visit. After a few minutes of small talk, we run out of things to say to each other, there is an awkward silence, so we turn on the TV or put on a movie. Opportunity to talk to someone about Christ- wasted.

Dave Gilbert's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

Dave, 

on your #1, how are we to be ready with an answer with non-believers if we don't know them?  That takes making contacts and building a relationship with those that don't know Christ.  It is possible to be holy without isolating one's self from non-believers.

 

#2, what about the church of Antioch?  The Holy Spirit used persecution to scatter some ordinary believers in Christ that were Hellenist Jews to cross ethnic and cultural barriers to proclaim the gospel, disciple those were drawn to Christ into the church of Antioch and become the powerful missionary sending church of Paul and Barnabas.     Were they evangelists?  Or just ordinary Christians that evangelize? 

 

Joel,

 

1) It's not necessary to know unbelievers "as friends" to be ready with an answer, or to "build relationships". I don't believe the early church practiced "lifestyle evangelism", if that's what you might be referring to. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 comes to mind.

2) Many people assume they were ordinary...perhaps they were, perhaps they weren't. IMO, The only difference between a regular believer with the gift of helps or teaching and someone with the gift of evangelism, is the type of gift. I believe based on Scripture, that God gives people the power needed to spread the Gospel where and when He wants it done. By the way, I put in bold part of your last post because I found it interesting...they sent out Paul and Barnabas, who had God's power on them, but notice in at least two places in Acts that they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to go certain places...as far as we know, Paul and Barnabas were the first far-reaching missionaries to carry the Gospel into that part of the world. People were dying everyday, but yet they were told not to go where they wanted to go, but where the Lord wanted them to go. He had a design for Paul to preach the Gospel in certain places at certain times...doesn't that seem odd, from a "spreading seed" kind of view?...;)

Jim's picture

Answering Dave Gilbert:

Who said: "It's not necessary to know unbelievers "as friends" to [evangelize]"

I wish you would have interacted with my earlier post where I said:

 

But also a need to be in the world and around the lost: Support: John 17:15, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one" & 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world"

Our Lord was "a friend of ... sinners!" (Matthew 11:19) (Or at least He was accused of this)

Galatians 6:10, "... as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." presumes that we have social interaction with those outside of the household of faith.

Dave Gilbert's picture

I didn't say anything about interaction as we go about our daily lives, nor the type of interaction that comes up at work or other places. The interaction I believe the Bible forbids believers to partake in, is that characterized by making friends and getting to know them personally...taking an active part in their lives. For example, I know my neighbors fairly well, but I don't get personal with them...I politely refuse invitations to parties and other activities that would enable me to make friends with them. If you find Biblical support for this, please list it.

 

Believers and unbelievers are like oil and water...they've nothing in common at the core of things, except they both have lives in this present world. One is alive in Christ, the other is dead in his sins. We're both going to different places and we surely have differing loyalties. For example, I love Jesus Christ and not this world nor its ways. It's not my world, I'm just passing through. The old saying is, " In the world but not of the world ". Smile

 

Also, the Lord was a friend of sinners in two respects:

 

1) He was a friend to those who weren't self-righteous Pharisees who saw themselves as unworthy sinners ( Luke 18:13 ).

2) He was a friend to those who were lost and needed him who were being drawn by God the Father ( John 6:44 ).

 

Both are intertwined.

 

Dave.

Jim's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:
For example, I know my neighbors fairly well, but I don't get personal with them...I politely refuse invitations to parties and other activities that would enable me to make friends with them. If you find Biblical support for this, please list it.

Our Lord was "a friend of ... sinners!" (Matthew 11:19). He ate with them!

Dave Gilbert wrote:
Believers and unbelievers are like oil and water...they've nothing in common at the core of things, except they both have lives in this present world. One is alive in Christ, the other is dead in his sins. We're both going to different places and we surely have differing loyalties. For example, I love Jesus Christ and not this world nor its ways. It's not my world, I'm just passing through. The old saying is, " In the world but not of the world ". Smile

I mostly agree with your above quote. But let's talk about points of commonality:

  • The weather: "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). Anecdote: Our neighborhood (Plymouth MN) experienced a major wind store in June of this year. I lost 1 tree and had damage to 4 others, my unsaved next door neighbor lost 2.
  • Work: All must work and work ain't easy.
  • Diseases, aging, accidents, etc: I broke my neck in 1987 .. others (sadly) have experienced the same. I have 2 unsaved friends at work who experienced spinal injuries in their youth
  • The curse (fallen world): The weather, work, one's mortality. 
  • Family: many lost people value family. As a matter of fact, sadly, some have better marriages than the saved (at least they have kept their covenant)
  • These points of commonality are potential bridges to enable evangelism

May I ask you a straight question? Do you have any unsaved friends?

 

Greg Long's picture

Wow, Dave...have you read the Gospels where Jesus regularly eats with sinners and is accused of the very thing you forbid...being a friend of sinners?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Dave Gilbert's picture

I'm reminded of my past when I was out playing in the world, going to night clubs and drinking...smoking some too. I gained a lot of worldly friends all as a believer. Along about 2002 the Lord hit me over the head about biblical separation and what it means for believers. I suppose I was sort of like a Corinthian...only worse. Sad You can read it in my profile a bit if you wish.

 

Ephesians 5:11, James 4:4, and this passage: Romans 12:1-21. All these and more convinced me that not only had I not obeyed the Lord, but I had done a miserable job of being a selfish and disobedient child. Now granted, none of this preface answers either of your questions, but it may shed some light on why I am the way I am. I'm not "gung-ho", and "on fire" for the Lord in the religious sense, but these last 10 years have served to deepen my relationship and love for Him...plus my desire to obey Him and treat His word literally. The more He shows me via the Spirit in His word, the more I take Him seriously and so on. As children of God, those that are born of God will ( eventually, should they kick against it like I did, it will take more time...;) ) start to resemble Christ in word and deed.  Romans 8:29, Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 2:16 and others. Is that what's happening to me? Dunno...seems to be.

 

What I'm saying is, that my understanding thus far is leading me to some very real, stark and sometimes-not-warm-and-fuzzy conclusions about compromise and what it leads to in a very personal sense for a child of the living God. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is something I've been led to obey quite literally, so I have no fellowship ( friendship, lasting or otherwise ) with unbelievers any longer. Yes I sometimes sit with them at lunch ( though I tend to keep to myself or other believers as a rule ) but I never get personal past a certain level. I have nothing in common with them; They are of this world, I am not, according to God. Since that is the case, most of the friends I've had over the years have faded into the distance ( it's not like I drove them off, they just didn't care to hang around anymore after my interests and theirs diverged ) and I'm left standing nearly alone, except for a few believers I know. Nothing I did offended them, but nevertheless, they and I went separate ways. I began to understand after I saw God's teaching on it: 1 Peter 4:4 comes to mind.

 

 

 

 

Jim, to answer your question: I no longer have any unsaved friends that I am any more than acquaintances towards...I'm always gracious towards them, but it's if they can tell that we no longer have anything tangible in common.

 

Greg, You do understand that in the context of those passages where Christ is said to be the friend of sinners, He was being looked down upon by self-righteous Pharisees that were ( piously ) keeping their distance from them because they didn't want to get "dirty", right? But they were already dirty inside and they were dishonest about it. However, Christ is indeed the friend of sinners...I'm one of the worst. Of course Paul claimed to be chief, but I think I may run a close second or third. Sad

Any kidding aside, according to God's word, He is the friend of repentant sinners, not unrepentant ones from what I understand. But that doesn't mean I'm against being friendly, just being their friends in the intimate sense. I am, after all, an ambassador of Christ.

 

Now I've a question for both of you: What purpose does it serve to become friends with them if they are not believers?

That means they are not brothers or sisters in the spiritual sense, and that makes them God's enemies ( as well as yours and mine ) and we're behind enemy lines, right? Oh, to be sure I'll follow Christ's command to be gracious, show them love and even give them the shirt off my back...but I was raised a Fundamental Baptist and most of them don't take God's word seriously about Election, Predestination, Calling, Choosing and so forth that is painstakingly laid out in God's word. Instead, most of them adhere to a teaching that basically attempts to convert the sinner by "working on his objections" or some type of almost salesmanship, telling the sinner about all the benefits of a relationship with Christ and then asking them to "make a decision" to "accept Christ"....some of them even believe in developing relationships and then slipping the Gospel in quietly in some sort of way ( lifestyle evangelism ).   I came to understand that my former "brothers" did not really believe man's "default condition", nor did they understand that salvation is all a work of God, start to finish.

When the Lord showed me Election, I understood where His real love is aimed, and where it isn't. It necessarily follows that my real love is to be aimed at the brethren, and my love towards God's enemies is a bit...different. Not the same as my love for my brothers and sisters, and not near as intimate or personal.

 

The more I read my Bible over the years, the more I've gotten a sense of what the real Gospel is as well: Sin, death, Hell and hope in Christ. If someone doesn't believe it, I shake the dust off my feet and move on ( albeit figuratively and in a gracious manner ), similar to when Christ sent out the 72 in Luke chapter 10. In my mind, if we don't have the most important thing in common ( God's Son and His Holy Spirit at work in our lives ) then we don't really have the rest in common. I'm not to attempt to "find common ground", to me, that's worldly compromise.

 

That is what true biblical separation is, IMO.

 

 

Dave Gilbert's picture

About the Gospel:

 

Jim, where exactly in God's word do you see "building bridges" to enable evangelism? The Gospel is something to be declared with power, and those that believe are baptized and added to the church. I guess I'm confused, between what you're saying and what God's word is telling me. Sad Could you clarify where it is that God commands us to build bridges to help evangelize the lost?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Dave.

Jim's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Jim, to answer your question: I no longer have any unsaved friends that I am any more than acquaintances towards...I'm always gracious towards them, but it's if they can tell that we no longer have anything tangible in common.

...

Now I've a question for both of you: What purpose does it serve to become friends with them if they've rejected the Gospel?

...

When the Lord showed me Election, I understood where His real love is aimed, and where it isn't.

Answered:

  • I actually understand you because when I was a new Christian spending time with the lost dragged me down and back to sinful choices. 
  • I'm glad you  believe in election! It's the hope of the evangelist because some will believe.
  • About "the elect" .... some of the elect have yet to believe. I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) but I did not believe until I was 20. And did not respond to the gospel the very first time I heard it, nor the 2nd, 3rd, 4th .... et cetera. 
  • Consider that Paul was instructed to stay in Corinth "[because God had] many people in [that] city" (Acts 18:10). I understand "the people" in this text to be elect yet to be saved.
  • Paul labored among lost men "for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:10). Note how these are called "elect"  but they had yet to "obtain ... salvation"
  • His love is indeed aimed at the elect. John says "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). He took the initiative and loved us! And indeed we (the saved elect) reflect that love back to Him)
  • And "we... believe and therefore speak" (herald) the gospel to those around us.

 

Dave Gilbert's picture

But many call me one. Biggrin

 

Jim,

 

I don't consider myself a "Calvinist", but I do mostly hold to what some have labeled the "Doctrines of Grace". I've found a few errors in Calvinism, ( though some call me by that name ). I'm also not a new Christian...I was converted in 1978 at the age of 12, but I seriously stunted my spiritual growth for some 25 years. Maybe that makes me a spiritual teenager ( gasp! ).

 

I agree at least on the surface with many of your points, but I still fail to see where we are to "build" those "bridges". Evangelism is the preaching of the Gospel, not the making of friends. If God were to call me to be an evangelist, He would not be calling me to be the friend of sinners in the worldly sense, but to declare God's command that they repent and believe on Christ. In fact, the very message of the Gospel is not conducive to friendship with the world and its inhabitants. In my experience, the only way Christ became my friend is when He softened my heart and I turned to Him in belief through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 36:26, etc.

 

I'm also very aware of the fact that God is still calling His elect through the Gospel at their appointed times...that's not the problem nor my apparent misunderstanding. I'm only attempting to get to the heart of the matter.

 

Do you see anywhere that Phillip the Evangelist became the Ethiopian eunuch's friend before he showed him the Gospel? What about Paul and the Philippian jailer? Peter and Cornelius? Paul and Lydia? Paul and Timothy? Paul and Felix? Festus? King Agrippa? Dionysius on Mars Hill? I see no precedent for becoming anyone's friend before giving the Gospel. If I've missed something, please show me. :) 

 

Thanks.

Jim's picture

My point is that the points of commonality enable us to herald the gospel.

Today I had a very brief opportunity to connect with a man I had not previously met. I was at a company event in a ballroom with 1000 people. Next to me was an empty seat. And next to that seat was a photographer hired to take photos of the event.

It was a breakfast event (nice ... eggs ... sausage ... bacon .. potatoes ... fruit ... juice .. coffee ... bagels etc). 

It was there at 7:05. There were not more than 50 in this very large ballroom in downtown Minneapolis 

I introduced myself to the man to my right. I said "you must be the photographer"

He looked at me with a "like duh!" shrug .... he had a very large camera strapped around his neck - what else would he be!?

I asked him a couple of questions:

  • How did you happen to get this gig? (He explained)
  • When did you start to use digital cameras? (10 years ago)
  • Where did you get your training? (He studied English at Harvard and he was on the staff of the student newspaper)
  • How did you get to the Twin Cities? (He explained .. moved here with a girlfriend)
  • Do you do wedding photos? (No ... he is the official photographer of two Twin Cities sports teams)

Points of commonality:

  • I visited Harvard once years ago (I told him this)
  • I know something about digital photography .... I asked him about transferring photos to his PC and how he does backups (PCs are my thing career wise)
  • I barely passed English at the U of Cincinnati (I told him my grades) - he majored in English at Harvard!
  • He lives near me ...  a suburb apart

The room is filling up .... staff approach him with instructions ... time is running short .... I probably will never see this man again!

I tell him .. I had to read something in Freshman English that left a deep impression on me ... 

Have you ever heard of "Sinners in the hands of an angry God"? 

Answer (amazingly!!!) - he had never heard of it. 

Question to him - "have you heard of the Great Awakening that happened in Massachusetts?" 

Answer - again I am surprised .... he said "no". I'm thinking English major .... Harvard ... Massachusetts ..... and he's never heard of this?

My time has run out .... now 7:30. Hosts open the meeting .... the U of M marching band march in with much fanfare.

Off he goes .... off to work his gig. I watch his work ... but do not talk to him again as he is moving around the ballroom talking photos.

------

The above is in my mind a very feeble gospel-event. i did not open my pocket NT. I did not quote Scripture. I did not share my testimony. But God opened a bridge to point him to one of the most powerful tracts of the 18th century. 

 

Joel Shaffer's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Joel Shaffer wrote:

Dave, 

on your #1, how are we to be ready with an answer with non-believers if we don't know them?  That takes making contacts and building a relationship with those that don't know Christ.  It is possible to be holy without isolating one's self from non-believers.

 

#2, what about the church of Antioch?  The Holy Spirit used persecution to scatter some ordinary believers in Christ that were Hellenist Jews to cross ethnic and cultural barriers to proclaim the gospel, disciple those were drawn to Christ into the church of Antioch and become the powerful missionary sending church of Paul and Barnabas.     Were they evangelists?  Or just ordinary Christians that evangelize? 

 

Joel,

 

1) It's not necessary to know unbelievers "as friends" to be ready with an answer, or to "build relationships". I don't believe the early church practiced "lifestyle evangelism", if that's what you might be referring to. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 comes to mind.

2) Many people assume they were ordinary...perhaps they were, perhaps they weren't. IMO, The only difference between a regular believer with the gift of helps or teaching and someone with the gift of evangelism, is the type of gift. I believe based on Scripture, that God gives people the power needed to spread the Gospel where and when He wants it done. By the way, I put in bold part of your last post because I found it interesting...they sent out Paul and Barnabas, who had God's power on them, but notice in at least two places in Acts that they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to go certain places...as far as we know, Paul and Barnabas were the first far-reaching missionaries to carry the Gospel into that part of the world. People were dying everyday, but yet they were told not to go where they wanted to go, but where the Lord wanted them to go. He had a design for Paul to preach the Gospel in certain places at certain times...doesn't that seem odd, from a "spreading seed" kind of view?...;)

 

Dave, 

1.  I would respectfully disagree.  As an urban missionary in Grand Rapids to gang-members and drug dealers for the past 20 years, God has used the process of building relationships, not much of anything else. The Holy Spirit has chosen to use friendship evangelism to bring real converts that were once gang member/drug dealers that are discipling other gang-members who disciple gang-members.  Much of the core of our church plant (New City Church) which will be self-supporting this year came from the many former gang members/drug dealers that were radically changed by Jesus!  

the hundreds upon hundreds that utilize street preaching and confrontational evangelism in our neighborhoods without loving relationships has resulted in no harvest.  In Col. 4:5-6 states "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."  I cannot walk in wisdom towards outsiders unless I let them really see my life.  The best way to to this is to love my Christian brothers and sisters and love my neighbor as myself at the same time.  I do that through having unbelievers over for dinner, going to a basketball game, coaching basketball and football and God has used these relationships to draw many, many to Christ.   I wonder if you are confusing descriptive with prescriptive when it comes to evangelism from the book of Acts.   

As for II Corinthians 6:14-17, most commentators see this passage in the context of partnerships and associations such as business, marriage, or even cultic activity associated with idolatry.  

2.  No, they were ordinary.  Luke is very detailed in the book of Acts, even at times describing the ethnicity and their names if they were prominent people.  Along with the book of Acts, there are many non-bibilical, historical sources that show evidence that the early church (especially from about 100-300 AD grew because the ordinary lay person was not only living a holy life, but they were evangelizing their neighbors, friends, and others within their associations.  Michael Green's classic, Evangelism in the Early Church, documents this evangelistic phenomenon.  I will try to respond to some of your other posts tomorrow.......

Greg Long's picture

Dave, you didn't really address the issue with Jesus being the friend of sinners. Of course it was the Pharisees who accused him of it...but they were the ones who advocated strict and total separation from sinners, just like you!

You say "Jesus is the friend of repentant sinners." Are you suggesting that all the people Jesus ate with at those meals all repented of their sins and turned to him? If the rest of Jesus' ministry is any indication, there were many people who heard him speak and who were close to him but who rejected him, so it doesn't seem possible that all of the people he ate with were "repentant sinners."

Your approach seems to be very similar to that of the Amish. The Amish live by several main principles: separation from the world, humility/submission (demut/gelassenheit), community, and simplicity. Their "theme verse" if you will is 2 Cor. 6:14. Let me ask you Dave, do you think the Amish are doing an effective job at fulfilling the Great Commission?

Let me tell you about our neighborhood. We have lived there nine years. During that time, we have been in the houses of and had in our house six different neighbor families. We have "hung out" countless times in their driveways and garages (it seems to be a thing now to have TVs in one's garage--my neighbor has a nicer TV in his garage than I do in my home--so often it involves watching sports). Many times they are drinking but I always refuse. Yes, I have excused myself when they become inebriated and the language becomes really foul (those instances are actually in the minority). Of course, there are limits to our interactions--we are extremely careful about letting our children play with neighbor children in their homes; we almost always encourage it to take place in our home.

And you know what has happened? We don't get invited to drinking parties or nights out at the bars, but I was the first one my neighbor called when he was arrested and wanted me to help him "get his life straightened out" (of course I shared the Gospel). In fact, I have shared the Gospel with four different neighbor men. Four of the families have come to church with us at least once. I have done two different Bible studies with one of the neighbor guys--we read through the Gospel of Mark together and also went through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus together. Our other neighbor boy, a teenager, made a profession of faith in Christ and has been regularly attending youth group with my son.

None of this would have happened if we had not befriended them.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Dave Gilbert's picture

I understand that Jesus is and was the "friend of sinners"...but my understanding of the rest of Scripture, apart from and including this passage is, that we are God's children. We have a duty to obey Him by faith through the Holy Spirit all of His commandments...including the passages outside the immediate Gospels. What I'm looking for is Scriptural support for befriending lost people.  I see no commandment to do this, only commandments that show we are not to do this. It's very strange to say the least that in my biblical studies, I've not come across one passage that indicates that we are to practice this as believers. I'm not arguing that there have been some sort of results derived from doing this by many people...regardless of what has " garnered results " in a practical way, what does the Bible say about engaging in "lifestyle evangelism" ( I think, from all the posts in favor of this concept, that I am not only in some sort of minority, but that I've somehow hit a nerve )?

 

My background: No I'm not Amish or part of any other separatist movement. I'm someone who believes that most, if not all visible churches not only have problems, but that the Holy Spirit probably isn't in evidence in most of them. I've come to these conclusions after very careful study of the Scripture on a great many points, running thoughts, practices, doctrines and traditions through the "wringer" of the Bible. I don't have an axe to grind, I'm not part of a cult nor am I out on some fringe somewhere. I do admit, however, to being "outside the camp".

 

As for loving my neighbor as myself, I fully understand that concept Joel. Smile

 

Now, in the spirit of Sola Scriptura ( Scripture being my only authority, not the reasoning of men nor "accepted practices over a period of time that have been shown to produce results" ) I would ask anyone who can, to provide for me these passages, if they exist.

 

 

Thanks again.

Dave Gilbert's picture

Replies in bold among your quotes:

Joel Shaffer wrote:

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Joel Shaffer wrote:

Dave, 

on your #1, how are we to be ready with an answer with non-believers if we don't know them?  That takes making contacts and building a relationship with those that don't know Christ.  It is possible to be holy without isolating one's self from non-believers.

 

#2, what about the church of Antioch?  The Holy Spirit used persecution to scatter some ordinary believers in Christ that were Hellenist Jews to cross ethnic and cultural barriers to proclaim the gospel, disciple those were drawn to Christ into the church of Antioch and become the powerful missionary sending church of Paul and Barnabas.     Were they evangelists?  Or just ordinary Christians that evangelize? 

 

Joel,

 

1) It's not necessary to know unbelievers "as friends" to be ready with an answer, or to "build relationships". I don't believe the early church practiced "lifestyle evangelism", if that's what you might be referring to. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 comes to mind.

2) Many people assume they were ordinary...perhaps they were, perhaps they weren't. IMO, The only difference between a regular believer with the gift of helps or teaching and someone with the gift of evangelism, is the type of gift. I believe based on Scripture, that God gives people the power needed to spread the Gospel where and when He wants it done. By the way, I put in bold part of your last post because I found it interesting...they sent out Paul and Barnabas, who had God's power on them, but notice in at least two places in Acts that they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to go certain places...as far as we know, Paul and Barnabas were the first far-reaching missionaries to carry the Gospel into that part of the world. People were dying everyday, but yet they were told not to go where they wanted to go, but where the Lord wanted them to go. He had a design for Paul to preach the Gospel in certain places at certain times...doesn't that seem odd, from a "spreading seed" kind of view?...;)

 

Dave, 

1.  I would respectfully disagree.  As an urban missionary in Grand Rapids to gang-members and drug dealers for the past 20 years, God has used the process of building relationships, not much of anything else. ( Perhaps, but is it Biblical? )The Holy Spirit has chosen to use friendship evangelism to bring real converts that were once gang member/drug dealers that are discipling other gang-members who disciple gang-members.  Much of the core of our church plant (New City Church) which will be self-supporting this year came from the many former gang members/drug dealers that were radically changed by Jesus! ( Perhaps they were, perhaps they've found a "Jesus" other than the one found in the Bible...I wouldn't know without talking to them, honestly )

the hundreds upon hundreds that utilize street preaching and confrontational evangelism in our neighborhoods without loving relationships has resulted in no harvest. ( Doesn't this seem strange, that those that follow the apparent Biblical model of evangelism aren't seeing converts? ) In Col. 4:5-6 states "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."  I cannot walk in wisdom towards outsiders unless I let them really see my life.  The best way to to this is to love my Christian brothers and sisters and love my neighbor as myself at the same time.  I do that through having unbelievers over for dinner, going to a basketball game, coaching basketball and football and God has used these relationships to draw many, many to Christ.   I wonder if you are confusing descriptive with prescriptive when it comes to evangelism from the book of Acts.   

As for II Corinthians 6:14-17, most commentators see this passage in the context of partnerships and associations such as business, marriage, or even cultic activity associated with idolatry. ( I'm not concerned with what some famous commentator decided a certain passage meant, and I don't base my understanding of Scripture on these or a consensus of these...I do hope you do not, but that is your choice, sir. )

2.  No, they were ordinary. ( Ordinary in the sense of ordinary men, I agree...but were they extraordinarily imbued with power from on high to accomplish God's desires through a specific gift of evangelism? ) Luke is very detailed in the book of Acts, even at times describing the ethnicity and their names if they were prominent people.  Along with the book of Acts, there are many non-bibilical, historical sources that show evidence that the early church (especially from about 100-300 AD grew because the ordinary lay person was not only living a holy life, but they were evangelizing their neighbors, friends, and others within their associations. ( I'm not concerned with non-biblical sources...I'll say it now if I haven't said it before: I'm only concerned with what my Heavenly Father says in His word. On a side note, is this the same "early church" that eventually became the Roman Catholic Church, and was already starting to go astray by the time Acts 20:29 was written? I urge you to read the writings of some of the early church "fathers" outside the Bible...I think you'd be surprised at how they started going astray almost immediately. It's hard to tell about Polycarp, but Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, to name a few, already showed doctrinal errors from what I can see, and these were men in positions of teaching the delicacies of God's word to others, IMO.) Michael Green's classic, Evangelism in the Early Church, documents this evangelistic phenomenon.  I will try to respond to some of your other posts tomorrow.......

 

I'll also say that I mean no disrespect by my questions or comments, but I truly have problems with some people's approach to evangelism, based simply on God's word and how it reads. I honestly view "friendship evangelism" as non-biblical and therefore suspect of not involving true conversions. From my perspective, there are a lot of tares out there who think they have eternal life based on making a "decision" for Christ. In my experience ( and it seems to be born out by Scripture ), God spiritually "hits someone over the head in a sudden manner" with their need for Christ due to their sin debt, much like Paul on the road to Damascus. An accurate presentation of the Gospel facts seems to be the only trustworthy method by which genuine converts to Christ can be assured, IMO.

 

Regards,

 

Dave.

Dave Gilbert's picture

Same thing I did with Joel above:

 

Jim wrote:

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Jim, to answer your question: I no longer have any unsaved friends that I am any more than acquaintances towards...I'm always gracious towards them, but it's if they can tell that we no longer have anything tangible in common.

...

Now I've a question for both of you: What purpose does it serve to become friends with them if they've rejected the Gospel?

...

When the Lord showed me Election, I understood where His real love is aimed, and where it isn't.

Answered:

  • I actually understand you because when I was a new Christian spending time with the lost dragged me down and back to sinful choices. 
  • I'm glad you  believe in election! It's the hope of the evangelist because some will believe. ( True )
  • About "the elect" .... some of the elect have yet to believe. I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) but I did not believe until I was 20. And did not respond to the gospel the very first time I heard it, nor the 2nd, 3rd, 4th .... et cetera. ( I'm thinking your road to salvation happened similar to mine...I was exposed to " The Good News " gospel when I was 6, but I didn't get the actual "sin, death and Hell" preaching until I was 12. Perhaps it was the presentation that was wrong, or perhaps it was because God had not yet determined to grant you repentance in those prior points...the Holy Spirit works when He will. )
  • Consider that Paul was instructed to stay in Corinth "[because God had] many people in [that] city" (Acts 18:10). I understand "the people" in this text to be elect yet to be saved. ( True )
  • Paul labored among lost men "for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:10). Note how these are called "elect"  but they had yet to "obtain ... salvation" ( Agreed )
  • His love is indeed aimed at the elect. John says "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). He took the initiative and loved us! And indeed we (the saved elect) reflect that love back to Him) ( No argument there...;) )
  • And "we... believe and therefore speak" (herald) the gospel to those around us. ( All of us, or just those whom God has gifted with evangelism? The passages used to try to show the "Great Commission" appear to be speaking to the 11 remaining apostles, and I can nowhere find further exhortation for all believers to spread the Gospel in the Epistles to the churches. If it is such an important commandment from the Lord, why is it not continuously repeated like other commandments, such as living holy lives, loving the brethren, etc.?  )

 

 

I also say to you with all due respect, that my posts are not meant to offend, just to show my confusion between what is practiced by so many, and what God's word says.

 

Dave.

Greg Long's picture

The simple fact is, Dave, your understanding of the rest of Scripture means Jesus was disobeying the rest of Scripture. There is just no getting around it.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University