Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thoughts on Evangelism

This comes from Scot McKnight's site.

Many evangelistic efforts often close hearts rather than open them. How can you lovingly help someone wonder her way to Christ?

In April 2003, National Public Radio aired a news story about a standoff between an angry mob of Iraqi Shiites and a heavily armored patrol from the American 101st Airborne Division. Fearing that the soldiers were about to desecrate their holy shrine, hundreds of unarmed civilians pressed in toward the soldiers, waving their hands and shouting defiantly. Although the patrol’s intentions were peaceful, the standoff would most likely have ended in tragedy—had it not been for the quick thinking of U.S. Lt. Col. Christopher Hughes.

The commanding officer that day, Hughes picked up a loudspeaker and barked three simple commands to his group. First, he told them to take a knee; second, to point their weapons toward the ground; and finally, to look up and give everyone in the hostile crowd a friendly smile. Within moments of obeying his orders, NPR reported, the troops saw the crowd’s demeanor transform. Hostility and defiance melted away, as smiles and friendly pats on the back replaced shaking fists and screaming voices.

Though not immediately apparent, this hopeful story from the war in Iraq holds important implications for Christian outreach in a world that’s becoming increasingly hostile to traditional evangelistic methods. As author Ravi Zacharias says of today’s evangelism, “We must learn to find the back door to people’s hearts because the front door is heavily guarded.”

Much like the Shiites Lt. Col. Hughes dealt with, many people we hope to reach with the Gospel react defensively. They anticipate, and are amply prepared for, any direct attack on the holy places and sacred shrines of their hearts. Our message rarely gets through because they hear, “My worldview is better than yours, so let me tell you why I’m right and you’re wrong.” Instead of opening hearts to Christ, we merely perpetuate the “us vs. them” standoff.


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