I saw this quote online today:
It raised an interesting point that I think needs brief elaboration. Here’s the great commission from Matthew 28:18-20:
Matthew 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them [the eleven disciples], “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, in the quote above, he mentions that evangelism was the job of the disciples. And I agree, the great commission was originally given to the remaining disciples. Here are three points:
- The disciples are told that making disciples includes, “teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you.”
- This means that making new disciples is one of the skills Jesus commands them to obtain.
- The word for all Christians by the time the book of Acts was written was, “disciples.” “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1 ESV)
So, I think that all Christians are supposed to evangelize at some point (raising up children in the faith, sharing the gospel with somebody who asks a question, or initiating a conversation with a friend, family member or stranger).
Now, the individual who made this point made a few interesting points that deserve consideration because they were intelligently and honestly made:
- God doesn’t need evangelists. This is a fact. God needs literally nothing.
- God doesn’t want evangelists. This doesn’t hold if it’s true that Jesus represents God’s will and commands people to become disciples who make disciples. If God wants you to obey Jesus’ commands, then he wants you to be an evangelist.
- Ask God what he wants you to do. While I think God can supernaturally make his will apparent, God’s will for our lives is clearly taught in the four gospels, the book of Proverbs, and frankly the rest of Scripture. Waiting for specific, personal words from God when God has made clear what we should do in public revelation might leave us waiting too long.
- Unless your life is his will it takes some pain. I think that pain can come from doing good or evil. Not all pain is bad and some pain exists precisely to tell us to repent. It all depends.
- Unless we rise to his level, we are servants. Jesus makes clear that even among those who are saved, some people know his business and some don’t. Here’s what Jesus said about the matter, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. (15) No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15 ESV)
When I worked at a coffee shop I observed a man in line make a rude comment and a woman who did not know him said, “There are ladies present.” He said, “Where?” She then spent the rest of her time in line explaining her lady-ness to him. Then she sat at his table. It blew my mind. I later learned from conversation with a co-worker to whom I explained this event that this is a flirting device known as “the neg.”
According to Dr. Jeremy Nicholson, there is a well known-mechanism for this guy’s success. Here’s his explanation of the research:
Walster (1965) investigated the influence of momentary self-esteem on receptivity to the romantic advances of a stranger. The researcher arranged for a group of female participants to interact with a male research assistant who flirted with them. The female participants were then given positive or negative personality test feedback. After their self-esteem was increased or decreased in that way, they were asked to rate their liking for the male research assistant.
The results of the study indicated that women who had their self-esteem temporarily lowered found the male research assistant significantly more attractive than the women with temporary high-self esteem. Walster (1965) theorized that this effect occurred for two reasons. First, individuals who feel “imperfect” themselves may demand less in a partner. Second, a person usually has an increased need for acceptance and affection when their self-esteem is low. Overall then, when an individual is made to feel “low”, they find potential romantic partners more attractive.
Research by Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson (2003) explored the relationship between self-esteem and compliance with requests. Both male and female participants were asked to complete various measures of self-esteem, compliance, and coping behaviors. The results of their analysis supported the hypothesis that individuals with lower self-esteem are more compliant and agreeable to the requests of others. Thus, lower self-esteem appears to lead to greater compliance with requests (or demands) as well.
Anyway, this reminds me of the version of evangelism which involves asking people this series of questions:
- Do you think you’re a good person?
- Have you ever lied?
- What do you call a liar?
- Have you ever coveted?
- Have you ever murdered? The Bible says that whoever hates his brother has committed murder.
- So you’re a lying covetous murder?
- Are you a good person?
- If God judged you on the last day, what would you have to say for yourself?
This puts the person experiencing this onslaught into a similar state of lowered self-esteem and may make them more willing to listen to the offer of mercy made by God on the cross.
I’m not opposed to using rhetoric to help people believe the gospel. Paul used it. The question is whether or not the rhetoric has substance behind it and whether or not it can help people come to believe the gospel is true rather than merely comply with the requests of a person who made them feel bad. I’m neither for nor against using this technique to evangelize. I just noticed the similarity when I was thinking about sweet and sour sauce today.