I’m not saying it is all one or the other, but what do you think the biblical model of sharing the Gospel is more like?
A. High pressure sales tactics
B. Take it or leave it
I submit that it is more like “B.” Of course we pray for people and earnestly hope for their salvation, but ultimately it is between them and God. We’re on the Great Commission, not the paid commission.
When Jesus encounters the rich young ruler and tells him what he must do to attain eternal life, the man walks away sadly. Then Jesus runs and tackles him and preaches to him some more.
Oh, wait, that last part never happened. The man walked away and we never hear of him again, even though Jesus loved him.
And consider Paul’s journeys. While he sometimes stayed in the same place for a while, the typical model seemed to be: Preach, get beat up, leave. Or, at best:
Acts 17: 32-24 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
On the flip side, the book of Hebrews does say three times that:
So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert . . .
So there is nothing wrong with conveying some sense of urgency to the appeal.
But some evangelism models involve pressuring people to decide, and they border on manipulation — or they jump across the border. As the saying goes, if I can manipulate people into professing belief based on worldly techniques then someone else can talk them out of it. And Satan is smarter than I am. False conversions harm the person and the church.
Consider how few of the typical “converts” of revivals stick around:
In the Assembly of God’s 1990s “Decade of Harvest,” out of the 3.5 million supposedly converted, they showed a net gain of only 5 new attenders for every 100 recorded professions. When one considers all of our supposed converts, including those who refuse to follow Christ in baptism and who never join our churches, our numbers are much the same. Doesn’t anybody see that there is a serious problem here?
I want to point people to the Bible and let the Holy Spirit do the work. I reflexively work in key themes to spiritual conversations and am glad to unflinchingly affirm doctrines about the authority and accuracy of the Bible, the divinity and exclusivity of Jesus, the existence of Hell, the minimal facts, etc. But it is all with an aim to get them to read for themselves. I trust God to do what He promised:
Isaiah 55:10-11 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
I also think that in terms of how the world views the church we come across as much more confident in our views if we just lay them out in a rational way instead of using emotional tricks. People are bombarded with ads and gimmicks and we shouldn’t be a part of that. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 explains this well:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
No tricks or high pressure, just sharing the truth in love. Only God can make spiritually dead people alive. We just want to be obedient to his model.
Finally, there are the pearl holding / dust shaking teachings of Jesus. He told us not to press the issue with those who aren’t interested. We need to be bold but also to trust his timing.
If you have the gift of evangelism, then get out and preach. If you don’t, then be ready to fulfill your jobs as apologists and ambassadors to share the truth in a winsome way to a world that desperately needs it. Don’t sugarcoat the truth, but don’t feel the need to win every soul you encounter. You are being obedient to God regardless of whether the person converts or not.
Said another way, if you are an Arminian then high pressure techniques are counterproductive. If you are Reformed, then they are unnecessary.