Evangelizing the Lost: Do You Have Blood on Your Hands?

bloody-hands-of-christians

Liberal and Progressive Christians tend to let their “little lights shine” through their good works. Evangelicals, on the other hand, believe they are commanded by God to verbalize the Christian gospel to every human being. (And I am not saying Evangelicals don’t do good works. They do. However, their focus is different from non-Evangelical Christians.) The Bible says in Matthew 28:19,20:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15 says:

And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

These verses are commonly called the Great Commission.

Let me chase a rabbit for a second, and then return to the subject at hand. Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. When Jesus says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” they believe his words to be a command they are expected to follow.

Regardless of how often Evangelicals say they believe EVERY WORD OF THE BIBLE, none of them really does. Evangelicals pick and choose which Bible verses to believe. Mark 16 is a wonderful of example of Evangelical selectivity. The three verses immediately following the Great Commission say:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Please note what the precious, holy, perfect Bible says:

  • You must be baptized to be saved
  • Signs will follow those who believe and are baptized
  • True believers will cast demons out of other people
  • True believers will speak with new tongues
  • True believers will handle venomous snakes and not be hurt
  • True believers will drink poison and not be hurt
  • True believers will lay hands on the sick, and they will be healed

Let me ask readers this: based on the seven marks of a True Believer® above, how many Christians do you know?

Context sure can be a bitch! Okay, rabbit sufficiently chased now; let’s return to the Great Commission.

Evangelicals believe every human being, past and present, belongs in one of two categories: saved or lost. Evangelicalism is exclusionary by nature and design. Either you are a True Christian®, or you are not; either you are headed for Heaven, or you are headed for Hell. Our eternal destiny is black and white: either you are saved, or you are lost. The goal, then, is to move as many people as possible — including people who “say they are Christians —  from the lost category to the saved category. That’s the essence of the Great Commission, and it is for this reason some Evangelical churches, pastors, and congregants push their version of the Christian gospel on other people. Unbelievers are supposed to view their rude impositions as love. “I love you so much that I am going to annoy until you realize you are a hell-bound sinner in need of the salvation freely offered by Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead three days later.” Countless Evangelical zealots have come to this blog and attempted to evangelize you and me. They believe that their boorish harassment is “love.” “I love you enough, Bruce, to tell you the truth,” Evangelical evangelizers tell me. Evidently, the fifty years I spent in the Christian church and the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry wasn’t enough to educate me on the finer points of the Evangelical gospel. That’s sarcasm, by the way. It’s been a long, long time since an Evangelical has told me something I haven’t heard before. Trust me, I know everything there is to know about what is necessary to be saved. I just can’t do snake handling and drinking poison. Sorry, but I will just have to go to Hell.

einsteins witnesses

I spent many years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. IFB churches are known for their hyper-evangelism efforts. Success is measured by souls saved. Yet, most IFB church members rarely, if ever, verbally share their faith with non-believers. Oh, they will give them religious literature or invite them to church, but sharing the Evangelical gospel face-to-face with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers? They leave that to their pastors, evangelists, and on-fire-for-God soulwinners. Why do most congregants keep the Evangelical gospel to themselves? Much like the rest of us, they like to respected and well thought of. What’s a sure way to piss people off? Get in their faces, preaching your peculiar brand of Christianity. Few of us like pushy religious zealots. That’s why I was never very good at confrontational evangelism. I was content to do my evangelizing through my preaching — be it in church or on the street. Now, that doesn’t mean I never won any souls for Christ while out on visitation, I did. It’s just that I was never comfortable with bugging and harassing people, especially when I knew that they were not the least bit interested in what I had to sell.

Why, then, did I, week after week, knock on doors, hoping to save sinners and add them to our church membership? One word: FEAR. I was afraid that God would hold me accountable for not doing everything in my power to reach the lost. One Bible passage, in particular, fueled this fear, Ezekiel 3:17-19:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

“But his [the sinner’s, the wicked man’s] blood will I require at that hand.” As an Evangelical pastor, I didn’t want to have the blood of sinners on my hands. I didn’t want Jesus on judgment day parading before me the sinners I failed to evangelize. I didn’t want to hear their screams in Hell, knowing that I never told them the truth! Let this kind of thinking get deep down into your psyche; it can change how you view others. Instead of seeing my Catholic neighbor as a good man, a kind man, who helped me on many occasions, I saw him as a sinner in need of saving; a good lost man. Such thinking ruins one’s ability to see people as they are, and to understand the boundaries that decent, thoughtful people respect. That’s why the most obnoxious people at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other Evangelical high holy days such as Mother’s Day are Christians who feel duty-bound to evangelize everyone they come in contact with. Nothing else matters except standing before Jesus someday free of the blood of sinners.

I used Ezekiel 3:17-19 and Ezekiel 33:7-9 in my sermons to guilt congregants into showing up on Tuesdays and Saturdays for visitation and soulwinning. In the weeks leading up to revivals, I would passionately remind church members of their duty to their family, friends, neighbors, and workmates. “Do you want to stand before God on judgment day with blood on your hands?” I’d ask. Heads would bow, and congregants would grimace. “Point made,” I thought. Yet, come revival time, most of the evangelizing was done by me, the evangelist, and a handful of sold-out, on-fire, bug-the-Hell-out-of-people members. No matter how much I tried to shame congregants into verbalizing the gospel to others, most church members left evangelization to the hired help.

Did you attend a hyper-evangelistic church? Did your pastor try to guilt church members into witnessing? Were you a soulwinner? Why not? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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14 Comments

  1. Calvin Everly

    Thanks for your publications. They are mostly spot on with my thinking.
    I admire you for your honesty, whit and sarcasm.
    Hopefully you are able to continue with your superior knowledge of the evangelical Christian and their sad, lane, and their same old dry shit.

    Reply
  2. Matilda

    Another great post, thanks! I lived in London and was converted at 13yo. I got very worried about the sermons I heard from then on about needing to witness ”in season and out of season,” because that person you didn’t witness to, might get run over by a bus tonight so you’ll be responsible for them being in hell. It was always a bus that caused the demise of poor sinners for some reason. As red London buses were everywhere, I crossed streets very carefully in case one of them was out to get ME! And was loaded with guilt sometimes when I knew I should have ‘witnessed’ but was too shy and reticent about doing so.

    Reply
  3. Carol Dworkowski

    OK, I agree that your analysis is GENERALLY, but not universally true. Now the question is, “What do we do about it?”

    We are living through a period of rapid socioeconomic/political change. The three institutionalized sectors (Government, Church and Business) that provide a measure of social stability in less dynamic historical periods are proving to be both corrupt and incompetent. The recovery of at least some semblance of collective sanity will have to be a bottom-up, not a top-down solution. And it is going to have to be more creative than simply throwing money at the cracks in our increasingly crumbling culture.

    Logic certainly won’t change culturally acquired beliefs or dispel the fear-driven aggression behind the divisiveness and violence afflicting us nationally and globally. In most cases, neither will unconditional love alone, which, without the power to restrain destructive behavior, only seems to enable it.

    Any suggestions on how to cope with conservative hatred or degrading liberal paternalism without becoming hateful or self-righteous oneself?

    One thing I realized by reflecting on the Holocaust is that it is impossible to dehumanize other persons without dehumanizing oneself. I know what not to do, but I still don’t know what to do and the frustration of helplessness in the presence of so much unnecessary human suffering caused by our collective out-of-control narcissistic egos is causing me more grief than anger.

    Reply
    1. Brian Vanderlip

      Hi Carol, I cannot answer the change-the-paradigm except in m own little corner of breath. One helps where on is able and that is usually not far away from your own front door. My response is simply ‘do something pragmatic’ to help yourself and your neighbor. It’s all we truly have in our control.
      Evangelical Christianity has never offered me stability. It undermined me and lied to me and made a wreck of my peace and quiet. As a youngster I would almost vomit in dread regarding the lost and how they were doomed if I did not get to them and see they were saved.

      Reply
  4. ObstacleChick

    The church and Christian school I attended taught that we were supposed to witness, but I never did it. Everyone at church and school knew about salvation so there was no point talking about it. I worked in a university biochemistry lab where everyone was older and more knowledgeable than me, so I sure as hell wasn’t going to sound like a religious zealot and bother them with Jesus. Even then I realized how silly it would sound to an outsider. I didn’t want the Hindu woman to tell me about her gods if I started telling g her about mine.

    Reply
  5. Steve Ruis

    What never seems to get mentioned about these people is that the Jews and their spiritual children, the Christians, are both promised the same thing–world domination. They are to rule over the Earth in Yahweh’s name, of course. No more democracy, school boards, politics, etc. At that point it is Yahweh’s way or the highway, a perfect theocracy. This is why Christians are told to go out and preach the gospel … to hasten the end promised.

    Of course, Muslims are promised the same thing, but are vilified by Christians as “wanting to take over the whole world,” with them giving orders to convert or become a second-class citizen of their world. But there is no difference in what each of these religions was promised … world domination. Of course, the real battle is going to be over who gets to tell all of the others what the will of God is … this week.

    Reply
  6. angiep

    I tried to be a good witness, but I was pathetic at soul-winning. I felt so guilty and inadequate but eventually just gave up and tried to be the best non-verbal witness I could be. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t prepare the hearts of people I was expected to reach out to, or give me better persuasive skills, or something.
    To your point about the blood of the unsaved being on the hands of Christians, when my now-grown son and I defected from the faith, it created huge angst for my ex-husband. He truly believes his son is going to hell. That is such a sad and messed-up burden to carry.

    Reply
  7. Brunetto Latini

    My lack of zeal for soul-winning rescued me from full-time Christian service. After working for a year as an electrical engineer, I entered seminary. The first term was fine. I just barely managed to fulfill the practical missions requirement by making a fool of myself witnessing to strangers and by attending church visitation and the rescue mission (which I hated attending).

    The second term, I had straight A’s but all credit was denied because I gave an honest account of how many practical mission points I had accumulated. Not enough.

    So I went back to being an engineer. Hallelujah!

    So let me just say, I HATE soul-winning.

    Reply
    1. Carol Dworkowski

      I can relate to that. I have been a christian person of faith for over 40 years, adult convert, not cradle variety, and I don’t have a single convert. Never tried to get one. Collecting spiritual scalps always seemed a bit too narcissistic to me.

      Our senior minister tells the story of one of his first attempts to evangelize when he was fresh out of seminary. His “learned” attempts to explain the Gospel just were not getting through and the lay person with him said, “Don’t mind him, he just got out of cemetery.”

      Evangelization is definitely not one of my gifts! I’m more of a caregiver type. I’ve done hospice for both humans and my companion animals. My husband is a 100% total and permanent disabled Viet Nam Vet.

      Reply
  8. Dale

    We were constantly guilted to join Monday night visitation/interrupt people’s dinners and evening routine. Church visitors would get a visit if they filled out an information card and others would be visited when members would add names to the list of those who might be unsaved. “Talk to them, establish a rapport, tie it to the condition of their souls, break out the ol’ Bible and reel ‘em in. Don’t worry about what to say, God will give you the words!”
    Well, no, that didn’t happen. I am quite sure I sounded stupid while waiting for those words. I am quite shy by nature and I just couldn’t do it. So I pleaded for forgiveness for not going to visitation, sure that after 70 x 7 times of skipping it that forgiveness wasn’t going to be forthcoming. So that, listening to secular music, and lustfulness (late teens to early 20s, lots of raging hormones to deal with) led the nightly forgiveness requests. Nothing like The Good News to make someone feel like an abject failure.

    Reply
  9. Carol Dworkowski

    I’m glad my church experience was High Church, not Low Church until recently. Even the Missouri Synod Lutherans, whose fundamentalism nearly drove me crazy, didn’t aggressively attempt to evangelize and even in-house testimonies would have been considered in poor taste.

    Evelyn, my best friend in the Lutheran Church, and I went to an evening service at the local Evangelical Presbyterian Church out of curiosity about what went on at the neighboring sheep pen and we were exposed to a round of “testimonies.” As we left Evelyn whispered to me, “How can you have a “personal relationship with Jesus” when this whole church has its nose up your ass?” How, indeed!

    Reply
  10. kittybrat

    So many visitations… so much soul-winning… UGH!
    It was beaten into my brain from primary church.
    The preacher would tell us, as little children, that we MUST tell EVERYBODY about the saving blood of Jesus Christ.
    If we missed anybody, then on judgement day as we were sitting with the hosts behind the Lord we would see that soul brought forth before the throne. As God said to them, “Depart from me, ye worker of iniquity. I never knew you”, the one we missed would spy us and scream, “WHY?!?! WHY didn’t you tell me?!?!”. Then their blood would be dripping from our hands as they would be led away in chains to be tortured forever in the lake of fire.
    Yeah, I was one of those annoying door-knocking intruders. “If you would die tonight, do you know if you’d go to heaven or to hell?” I’d take them along the Roman Road. UGH!

    Reply
  11. Skylar

    It is such a weight off my shoulders to not feel like every person I meet is really some “divine appointment” that God set up for me to witness to. It is good to see people for who they are, and not as an “enemy of God” and a” child of the devil “. That really is not a good way to go about life.

    Reply
    1. Kittybrat

      Amen to THAT!

      Reply

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