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.
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.
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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