Up next is Rick Holland’s chapter, “Christ, the Savior: Evangelism as a Person, Not a Plan.” We all know we’ve done this before. If we’ve ever had an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone, typically you overcome your fear of introducing yourself, but then try to find the words necessary to get the Gospel to that person. You either have a set number of passages you go to, or you try to boil down the Gospel message in four or five points. Once you go through that, you consider the work done, but realize the person you’re speaking with has a very disinterested look on his face. They find everything else around you interesting to look at, except you, of course. Could it be they really do not want to bow the knee to Christ? It’s possible. Could it also be possible that it shows you’re trying to get through a rehearsed presentation that shows it’s a rehearsed presentation? That’s possible as well.
Reading through this chapter came like a slap to my face when I initially read it. It’s one of those chapters where after reading it, you can’t look at something the same way again. You think, “I can’t believe I ever thought that way before. How did I miss that?” Pastor Holland did that to me in this chapter. His warning to all believers is to make sure our focus in evangelizing unbelievers is Jesus Christ Himself, and not our presentation of the Gospel. To make sure there’s no mistaking it, yes it’s helpful to have verses memorized in order to be able to witness to anyone as there’s opportunity (look at a couple of my older posts to see what I wrote about that). However, what must be a chief motivation in our evangelism is bringing a sinner to Jesus Christ by way of introduction. This person must see that we are trying to get them to know Christ, not adopt our beliefs. If Christ has saved us and changed us, we should be that much more eager to draw others’ attention to the One who radically changed us.
To quote Holland, “If you are not proclaiming the beauty of Christ in your gospel presentation you are missing the point of the gospel. The gospel is about a person and a relationship with that person. And rejecting the gospel is rejecting a person (Matt. 7:21-23)” (p.74).
MacArthur’s chapter, “Giving Up to Gain: All Things to All People,” is still one of the most challenging chapters I have ever read. It is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 9, but more of an exposition of Paul’s heart in ministry to become a slave to all that he might win some to Christ. Misused as a prooftext for unrighteous living, 1 Corinthians 9 (specifically, verses 19-22) is actually a call to limitation of our freedoms for the sake of loving unbelievers around us. Whatever liberties we have now that we are in Christ, for the sake of drawing many to Christ, we give those up that we may not unnecessarily offend. The offense of the Gospel cannot be avoided, but offense outside of the Gospel we must consciously work hard against. The example that Paul left for us to emulate is a great example, and one worth pursuing the rest of your life. This was why it was one of the most challenging. To constantly think through how to avoid unnecessarily offending others can seem like people-pleasing, but for Paul, it was to be people-loving.
These chapters both reminded me of our goal in loving those outside of Christ currently, and being strategic in our love for them. In going to Argentina, I know one way of showing this type of love is graciously thanking anyone who offers us food, and enjoying it as best we can. This happens within the church, but sometimes it happens when we’re invited in the homes of people in the neighborhood when we’re offered mate (a favorite tea of the Tucumanos). If it’s given to everyone inside the home, the straw is used by everyone. To us Westerners, it may make us uneasy, but we are not in our homes, we’re in theirs, and to take a sip of their mate is a show of respect and honor to the host who invited us in. We hope to be pleasant during our time there, so that it would lead to us introducing the Lord and Savior of men and women, Jesus Christ. Pray that we would be fervent in thinking through biblical principles as we prepare to fly there and show Christian love not only to our brothers and sisters, but to dying souls, that they may be brought within the saving love of our God.