THE NEW EVANGELISM
First published on the "Religious Humor and Satire" site of Suite101.com
The following is a transcript of a sermon on evangelism given by the Reverend Lee Thargic at Conciliatory Christian Fellowship (a non-denominational church outside of New Orleans) a few weeks ago. It impressed me so much that I thought I would share it with you.
Good morning, and God bless you all for coming. It's really great to be here, and even greater to share the revelation I've recently received. Those of you who know me know that I firmly believe that salvation is available to all who will receive it, and that I have a passion for sharing the gospel message. I have been told that I have a gift for evangelism and that God has used me to save many lost souls. However, I've also been told that I can be rather offensive in my presentation of the gospel. Although I have never forced my views on others, I had to admit that my way of sharing my beliefs could have been disparaging to some. Passing out Biblical literature, telling others what God has done in my life, and inviting friends to worship services might seem perfectly innocent to the average church member, but from a non-believer's point of view, these acts appear intrusive and insulting.
Although I knew my motives were pure, I began to question my methods. What right do I have to interfere with other's beliefs, or their right not to believe at all? You see, I began to realize that I have no right to interfere with another's beliefs. I also began to recognize that I could give a better testimony by just silently living my faith while maintaining respect for other's rights to believe differently. It really comes down to priorities. What is more important, sharing what I believe or respecting the rights of others?
I soon began to understand that a simple smile, or a friendly gesture could do more than all the words in the world. Brothers and sisters, I have come to understand that we are a greater witness to God when we show respect for the rights of others. Unless someone asks us for our testimony, we should simply live what we believe and keep our mouths shut. As I said, it really comes down to priorities. What is more important, sharing what we believe or respecting the rights of others?
I now practice what I call non-offensive evangelism. I only share my faith verbally when asked. For example, the other day I met a man in the grocery store who began to tell me of problems he was having with his teenage son. My "old-evangelistic-self" would have told him about God's love, and offered to pray for him and his son. However, my "new non-offensive evangelistic self" realized that he may not appreciate my religious beliefs. So, I simply told him to let me know if there was anything I could do. In that way, I respected his right to believe whatever he wanted to believe, while I offered loving Christian compassion. I will say it once again. It really comes down to priorities. What is more important, sharing what I believe or respecting the rights of others?
Even after his son's suicide, I continued to respect his rights and did not share the gospel with him or offer to pray with him.
I then began to ask myself, "What makes the spiritual world so different from the physical? If it is proper to respect an individual's right to private spiritual beliefs, shouldn't we equally respect an individual's right to private physical beliefs?" In other words, I believe that all are condemned to eternal damnation unless the saving message of the gospel is received. Yet, I know that others have the right to disagree with that belief. As stated previously, I believe that I have no right to interfere with other's beliefs. Regarding spiritual matters, I choose to remain silent unless I am asked to share. This same principle needs to be applied to the physical aspects of this world as well as the spiritual.
Just the other night, I was walking past an apartment building and I noticed some flames coming from the roof. I rushed into the building with the intention of knocking on each apartment door to warn the residents of the fire. Then I decided to practice the non-offensive evangelism principle. I realized how intrusive it would be to bang on someone's apartment door in the middle of the night. Sure, I believed the building was on fire, but did I have the right to try to convince others of my beliefs? Someone could have been barbecuing on the roof at midnight for all I knew. Who was I to disturb someone's quiet evening with my personal belief of a fire? How was I to know if the people would believe me or not? I had to ask myself the question, "Is it worth it? Do I have the right to interfere with other people's right to privacy just because I believe in something so strongly?" I waited around a few minutes to see if anyone would approach me to ask about apartment fires. No one asked, so I did not feel I had the right to say anything. I left the building as non-offensively as I entered it.
The next day, I read about the apartment fire in the local newspaper. Several people were killed, and some others were injured. Most of the occupants lost all of their possessions. However, it seems that no one was offended.
Even though many could have been saved if I had just warned them of the fire and shared what I believed to be true, I feel I did the right thing. It really comes down to priorities. What is more important, sharing what we believe or respecting the rights of others?
Let us pray.
The sermon was ended with a brief prayer and a traditional benediction. Both prayer and benediction were extremely non-offensive.
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Bob, You've done it again! You have such a wondrous gift here! I hope you've considered compiling all or at least several of your pieces into a book...I suspect you've got a million of 'em! You have a way of making the most relevent points; convicting the reader; and you manage to do it with love shining through in that humor...Thanks so much for showing us serious folk how to laugh!God Bless!