This post has been submitted by my friend and StreetFishing contributor, Rob-Roy Nelson. Please read on for his wise insights and loving rebuke of the "Friendship" or "Relationship" evangelism methods taught so commonly today - Even by well known and respected teachers.
This quote from USA Today was brought to my attention by a friend. It is a common view of sharing the Gospel that many sincere people have and they voice it publicly.
“If we were able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, II am sharing this for a few reasons. The first is because it is a very common teaching, and though this is a teacher I respect, my focus is on the teaching itself. The second is because it is not true and in love I ask that you would consider if there is indeed a biblical limitation on the Gospel being shared ONLY after “earning the right” to do so.
think we would put the emphasis on developing relationships with non-believers,
serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted,” he wrote, "Only then
would we earn the right to share the gospel.” -Andy Stanley
Please know that God commands us to love, serve and have relationships that glorify him with lost people but we are not to make that a condition for sharing the Gospel. To make it one violates scripture and delivers us another “tradition” of man that has no power except to restrict the sharing of the Gospel under a man made rule that sounds good. Having to earn the right to share the Gospel puts God in a box of worldly wisdom that He did not intend to be put in.
If the Apostle Paul were to rewrite the “script” and put the “emphasis” on not sharing the Gospel until after earning the right it could make 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 look like this (my additions in blue)
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you only after weeks of relationship building, which you received only after I had earned the right to share it with you and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, provided you did not die before I earned the right to speak into your life and did not hear about it all and if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain or risked dying in your sins before our relationship could be built. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, but of course I did not actually pass it on to you first, as if it were really of first importance, but waited until after I developed a relationship with you when you were lost. Not until I served you first which really served my flesh and put it to ease while you remained under condemnation. Not until I loved you first which really was self love wanting the praises of man while being ashamed of Christ’s words. Not until I made you feel accepted by “me” and only after “I” earned the right (through my works as judged by you in your lost state and not Christ or His word), then and then only, and not a moment before worldly wisdom would allow it, did I share the message of first importance which is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
Harsh? Yes. I am attempting to use hyperbole to exaggerate the risks involved. We should all ask ourselves if that is how our good deeds will look on judgment day, if they get in the way of the Gospel, when tested in the fire? Maybe this would not be harsh enough in comparison? Mark Cahill, author of One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven, made the following assessment of Andy Stanley’s “earning the right” quotation.
“Where in the Bible, does it tell us that we must earn the right to share our
faith? Once you are a Christian, you have the right. We are compelled to share
the gospel with the lost. We know hell is real…
You may not have time
to do nice things for people just so you can try and earn the right to share the
gospel with them. You have already been commanded to witness to people (Mark
16:15,16 and Matthew 28:18–20). And by the way, how can you keep the most
important thing in your life away from someone that you know? That would be the
definition of selfish. Please be selfless in the coming days as you reach the
lost, and not selfish.
When Jesus witnessed to the woman at the well, did He
get her water first before He earned the right to share the gospel with her?
…And what nice things was Stephen going to do for the people that were stoning
him, because he was telling them about seeing Jesus standing at the right hand
of the Father? Should he have asked them if he could wash off their rocks first,
before they threw them at him?
Paul states in Ephesians 6:18,19: “Praying
always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto
with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that
utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known
the mystery of the gospel,” Paul is not praying for boldness to go and do nice
things for someone today. He is praying that he will have the boldness to tell
someone the truth about the whole counsel of God, eternity, sin, heaven, hell,
repentance, and the judgment of God.”
Please love someone that God has put in your path today by praying for the opportunity to share the Gospel in words. We should be ready to do many acts of kindness but remember the Gospel is THE act of kindness. Saints through the centuries were not killed because they fed the poor or for any of the many good works we can be assured they did. They did not die due to their loving service and sacrifice to gain acceptance in order to then earn the right to share the Gospel. Instead it was the sharing of the Gospel verbally and bravely that “earned the right” for them to be murdered at the hands of those who did not accept them.
See the issue is not whether or not a Christian will accept someone because we should accept them if we love them and are broken for them. The issue is what does “accept” mean? What does that look like on judgment day? When a Christian shares the Gospel they are saying to a lost person that they can be accepted into Heaven and that they want them to be saved, accepted with them in heaven based on God’s mercy and nothing else.
It is when we do not desire to share the Gospel, or place a restriction that does not exist, that we are not accepting of someone no matter how many good deeds we do for them. Because those deeds we do will not keep someone from dying in their sins. Those deeds we do to “earn the right” apparently can keep us from sharing the only message that can save them. Only the saving message of the Gospel will last and that is why it is a everlasting love and we should let nothing get in the way of our desire to selflessly proclaim the good news of Jesus first and also live it out in our lives as a natural overflow of what He has done. Then it becomes not a matter of whether we accept the lost but whether the lost reject the message we bring from the Savior and the therefore the Savior himself.