Our postmodern culture gnashes its teeth at biblical evangelism. Their commitment to subjectivity and relativism cannot accommodate a religion that is exclusive, narrow, and declares non-negotiable truth. And that shouldn’t surprise us—Jesus told us to expect to be hated in the same way that He was (John 15:18).
Moreover, Scripture also warns against appeasing (James 4:4) or imbibing (Romans 12:2) the world’s values. But that’s easier said than done. We are called to separatism without monasticism—being in the world but not of the world. We can’t live our lives and engage our mission field without coming into contact with pagan culture.
For most of us it’s difficult to avoid marinating in the postmodern thinking of our friends, families, and colleagues. And we see signs of this even in the realm of evangelism.
The phrase “share your faith” is now deeply embedded in the evangelical vernacular. Most of us use it as a synonym for our evangelistic encounters, myself included. But those three words reek of postmodern subjectivity—a point not lost on John MacArthur:
It’s not your faith and you can’t share it. . . . That is a not-so-very subtle overture to the post-modern mentality that says my faith is my faith and I certainly would be happy to share it with you.
That’s not at all what we want to do. We want to explain the faith, the Christian faith, truth. And our greatest example for that is the Lord Jesus, who throughout His ministry presented the truth. . . . Jesus was relentlessly committed to the truth. He spoke the absolute truth into every situation. And either people accepted the truth, and rejected error, or they held tightly to their error and began to hate Jesus— because they saw what He was doing as an attack on them. And it was.
We don’t share it, we announce it. And it’s not your faith, it’s the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3 ESV). It is God’s gospel.
I rejoice that the Christian gospel rests on objective historical facts that transcend my own experiences or validation—God’s creation, man’s fall, and Christ’s redemption. I’ve watched in agony as Christians have vainly tried to duel with other religions and worldviews on the basis of personal experience. Those encounters rapidly degenerate into an endless subjective standoff. The experiential evangelist is powerless to refute someone’s experience with his own.
The truth of the biblical gospel crashes through all of those man-made barriers with God’s own written testimony. It doesn’t hinge on our personal skills or powers of persuasion. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Yet there remains no shortage of people willing to substitute “the power of God” with their own ideas and agendas. The prosperity gospel attempts to entice people into God’s kingdom through the offer of material riches. The gospel of Roman Catholicism offers salvation through religious hoops and human effort. The gospel of seeker-sensitivity hinges on their ability to attract people that don’t exist—seekers (Romans 3:11).
Meanwhile, proponents of the social gospel advocate charitable works and social causes as the redemptive answer for a world overrun with sin. While writing this article, I was alerted to a recent tweet posted by the political arm of an influential denomination. It simply said: “We are fulfilling the Great Commission when we welcome people from other nations to our country.” That is a blatant lie told by people who should know better! The Great Commission is a command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28), not to roll out a welcome mat at border checkpoints.
Works of compassion are meant to adorn the gospel, not replace it. When other adjectives encroach on the gospel (i.e., social gospel, prosperity gospel, etc.), it’s often an indication that it is no gospel at all.
Our worth as evangelists can only be measured by our faithfulness to the message we have been called to preach. We find ourselves in good biblical company when most people reject the message we proclaim. Noah, Jeremiah, and even the Lord Jesus Himself, had relatively few converts by the end of their earthly ministries. Yet they all excelled in the sole metric of success for evangelists—they never deviated from the message they were called to preach.
That remains our benchmark for evangelistic success as far as God is concerned. He has called us to preach the gospel, both “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). We are to present God’s holiness, prosecute sinners, proclaim Christ, and plead with all men to repent and believe the gospel. God will draw His elect (John 6:44), and Christ will continue to build His church (Matthew 16:18).
Preaching is our job and converting is God’s. Woe unto us if we ever confuse that simple point.