Images of the Berlin wall, photographs of African villages teeming with people, music playing innocently in the background, and strangers bumping shoulders, faintly smiling, yet everyone knew that behind every corner was another locked door. We were virtual prisoners, surrounded by a world shouting the freedom of the gospel, yet mimicking the very prison of hell.
“What made them do this?” I whispered to my wife. “This seems so ironic, so surreal.” She just shrugged her shoulders and continued to walk along with everyone else. Moving from station to station, display after display. It was mere propaganda. A politicizing of the sacred, a virtual disparagement of extreme proportion, it was all I could do to keep from crying out in desperation.
Certainly, someone would come and rescue us. This could not be real. It had to be a nightmare of excessive dimensions.
I moved toward one set of massive double doors, feeling the walls closing in and knowing if I did not escape, I would surely go mad. But, before I could slip out, the guard stopped me. “You must wait with the others and watch the message!” she said, or something like that. It was hopeless. I was hopeless.
I made my way over to one of the benches and sat down. My shoulders slumped and my eyes filled with tears. My mind could not comprehend what was happening. This just could not be real. How could this be the legacy of the gospel as proclaimed by the king of mass evangelism? Yet it was as real as the darkest night.
Trapped in the Billy Graham Museum, I found myself fed by force with the “bread of life”. The “living water” poured down my throat as though it were some potion off a medicine man’s wagon. Even if I had been inclined to hear the end of the story, begun when we started, I was in no mood now!
How can this be evangelism? How can this be the good news of Jesus Christ? Is this really what Jesus meant when he said, “…If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed?” (John. 8:36 NRSV)
I remember going to a Billy Graham Crusade many years ago. I do not recall locked doors or stationed “guards” preventing you from leaving. What has changed? Admission to the museum is free. Is not grace a “gift” also? Is there not room at the cross anymore for those who choose to come? Or, must we force them by funneling them through chutes like so much chattel?
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NRSV) The means to the Father is exclusive indeed, but exclusive to Jesus and no one else. Even the most well intentioned servant is no substitute for what God has set in motion.
There was a time when people said that mass evangelism does not work. Often the reply to that was, “Don’t tell Billy Graham that!” Well perhaps this concept has gone too far. If there is symbolism in the locked doors and closing invitation, then I missed it. The only symbolism I noticed, was you would hear it before you leave, whether you like it or not. I did not like it.
In the book of Revelation, one verse is used often with regard to evangelism. It is in chapter three, verse twenty. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” (ESV) The key to this verse is Jesus knocking and our answering. There is no forced entry.
Evangelism, like most decisions in life, presents us with a choice. We should always have the right to choose. What we do not have is the right to choose the consequence of our choices.
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