How We Can Hinder Evangelism
Note: This is the final article in a three-part series on practicing the attributes of love in evangelism. In each article, authors highlight one or more attribute of love found in First Corinthians 13:4-8 and discuss how it also applies to Evangelism. Read the first and second articles in this series.
1 Corinthians 13 contains some of the most popular passages on love. These passages find their way into Valentine’s messages, marriage ceremonies, and many sermons on the topic of love. They also contain several helpful reminders for us when it comes to sharing the gospel.
“…It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.…” (v5)
We can hinder evangelism by dishonoring others
Some translations render “dishonoring others” as “rude” or “acting unseemly.” Love is not this way, and our efforts in evangelism cannot be this way either. Unfortunately, it is seen all too often from some who are sharing the gospel. What starts off as a conversation meant to lead toward Christ, turns into a confrontation where the Christian is pouring sarcasm, insults, and/or disparaging remarks upon the person they are claiming to reach for Christ. How does this happen?
As we’re sharing the gospel, there are times when someone may get a little rude with us. When this occurs, it can trigger our pride, and we can be tempted into saying something very unkind that demeans or insults the person. At this point, we are no longer seeking to lead them to Christ, we are simply trying to win an argument or get in the last word. Love is not this way. It is long suffering and bears with the nonbeliever. If it gets to a point where we need to leave the conversation, then we do so graciously.
We can hinder evangelism by being self-seeking
At EvanTell, when we train people how to start gospel conversations and share the gospel winsomely, we always include a specific reminder: make sure you are not sharing the gospel in an effort to “get a notch” on your evangelism belt. When we have this mentality, sharing the gospel becomes self-seeking. We start to think things like, “if I just go and share, then I can tell my pastor, small group, or peers that I am somebody who has shared the gospel recently.” No more humble pie for us when someone asks “when is the last time you’ve shared?” It seems almost ridiculous to think like this, but it can easily happen if the motive for sharing the gospel isn’t a troubled heart at the thought of someone being forever separated from God.
We can hinder evangelism by being easily angered
As has been said many times by many people, we must make every effort to present the gospel winsomely with gentleness and respect. As we do that, it’s important to remember that when people push back against the gospel, they are pushing against the message, not the messenger. Accordingly, while it’s ok to be dismayed when someone reacts in this way, we should not become angry. After all, a rejection today may turn into acceptance of the gospel later. You simply never know. There are so many reasons to be hopeful and patient with others as they think through the gospel and work through its implications in their life. So, be obedient to share, be patient in sharing, and be loving in your approach – and beware of anger. It is not a component of love, and therefore, should not be a component of evangelism.
We can hinder evangelism through keeping a record of wrongs
We have all met people that simply bring out the worst in us. They have wronged us or hurt us in the past, and we often think that’s all they’ll do in the future. However, if we take it too far, we can also end up concluding things like “this person would never say yes to the gospel.” Ultimately, what we’re doing is keeping a record of wrongs. We’ve decided already that because of this person’s past actions, he or she will never be interested in the gospel. If we are to share the gospel in love, we want to follow the attributes of love as well – and these include avoiding preconceptions based on how someone has acted in the past. Remember, many of us (me included), were once the kind of person someone would look at and think, “he’ll never want to hear the gospel – his record is so sin stained, it’s clear that he just loves doing wrong.” Somebody had to be bold enough to think, Jesus can get through to him even if I have my doubts about it. Because of that, I’ve been a follower of Christ for more than 20 years. Wouldn’t it be be great if someone can share the same story in the future about you because you refused to keep a record of wrongs?
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