Lame Evangelism 101: A Confession of a sinful evangelist by Travis Evans
November 21, 2006, 12:42 pm
Filed under: Evangelism, Humor

This past weekend, I had one of the most intense and wierd experiences ever. I have an older brother named John, whom I love very, very much. He is absolutely hysterical. He is not a Christian. Every time we get to gether as a family, I look forward to being around him and I always pray for an opportunity to talk about the gospel with him. This past weekend my family and I got together at a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN to celebrate an early Thanksgiving.

I got to the cabin late on Friday night, and almost immediately, my brother and I were engaged in an impassioned discussion on life, the past, God, the gospel, and a whole host of other topics that more or less were unrelated. I tried to explain my need and his need for a Savior because of our sin and that Jesus Christ is that one and only Savior. I know I probably could have communicated several things much better than I did: The meaning of Righteousness, the true nature of God’s grace, the joy of being forgiven and standing blameless before a holy God, etc, but here’s the point. We, as Christians, who are still waring against the sins of our flesh that remain kicking in our members, can crave a good thing, like a family member’s salvation, too much.

Here’s what happened: I had gone through great pains to help my brother understand that I am totally depraved in my natural state and that I need to be delivered from the wrath of God for my sin. He kept coming back with comments like, “Dude, you’re too hard on yourself, you’re a good guy.” and “If you aren’t a good guy, who is?!” In addition he made several contradictory comments about how sinful he was; walking the line that he was “way to sinful to be a good guy like me”, as if he could be too far off for God to slap him in the face and drag him out of his passionate sprint toward eternal wrath and fury. In my mind, this was an attack on the Holiness and Glory of God, thinking that man, a “good guy” like me, could live up to God’s uncompromising standard of perfection. I tried to explain that it wasn’t about me being a “good guy”, but about Christ being perfect and dying in my place and God counting to my credit His perfect life. I also tried to explain that any good character I might exhibit has a definitive and miraculous work of God in my heart at convesion as its grounds not something inherent in me or some ultra will power I had developed over the years.

But as I know, but didn’t choose to believe in that moment, God saves people, not us. I can’t make my brother repent and believe the gospel. I could explain it super clearly and answer every single one of my brother’s questions thouroughly, but if the Spirit of God doesn’t do something, no change will ever take place. But in the midst of our conversation, due to my gospel zeal that turned into sinful anger, the “poop” hit the fan! My brother went on to talk about how he had been really sinful in the past, but that now he was a much better person. This comment squeezed the sopping sponge of my heart so that the sin that was inside came boiling to the surface. Because I crave his salvation too much, and it appeared all my efforts were amounting to nothing, I lashed out in furious anger:

My brother and I were out on the porch on the side of the cabin. He was leaning on the rail and I was sitting down. He had been sipping on a coke and Cap. Morgan’s mix, which was sitting on the rail. After my brother made a comment about how he was doing better, I lost it, jumped up out of my seat, yelled, “That don’t mean [squat] before a Holy God, it don’t mean [squat]!!!” (Only I did not say “squat.” Yes, that’s right, I cursed while sharing the gospel. Just doesn’t make much sense does it?) Then, with a mixture of sin and adrenaline, I slapped the coke and rum glass with my hand. It immediately shattered. Before I even looked at my hand I knew I had really blown it. I looked at my hand and it was already pouring blood.

I ran into the cabin, threw my hand under the sink, and started barking orders about how I needed water and juice to drink, and we needed to go to the emergency room NOW! So, we woke my brother-in-law up and he drove us to the emergency room. By this time the adrenaline was all used up and my hand was hurting and bleeding like crazy. We went in, and they startd attending to my wound. Every nurse and doctor I talked to asked what happened, and I told them the whole story. I got some really wierd looks. Really wierd.

The cuts in my hand were long and deep. I had to have two internal and nine external stitches. OUCH! Let me say this, the worst part of an injury like that is the pain required to numb the area around your wound so that they can sew it up. Kinda ironic huh?

Needless to say, this gave some great laughs and awkward situations for the rest of the weekend. I also learned, by experience, something that I knew from scripture already. The saving of a soul happens by a secret and somewhat mysterious work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel. It DOES NOT happen by cursing and slapping a glass with your hand. Let this be a lesson to all of you as you plead with those you love to turn from their sin and trusting in their efforts to trusting in the finished work of Christ. Share the gospel consistently and with genuine passion, then pray. That’s our role in evangelism. We can’t change anyone’s heart, no matter how many glasses we shatter!

All was not a waste, however, I think any notion that I am a “good guy” has been obliterated from my brother’s mind. He knows I’m a big fat sinner, now. So, in future conversations, I can use that interaction to share the gospel again: “See, I am a huge sinner. I get angry, I break stuff and curse. But the good news is God crushed his Son for ALL my sin, and he now looks at me AS IF I perfectly obeyed all his law because of Jesus Christ. So, Booyah! Good news, huh?” We will screw up in evangelism all the time. Use your mistakes and your sin as an opportunity to exalt the Christian’s glory: We are weak, sinful, fickle, and stupid, but God saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but becuase of His great mercy. we boast in the cross, not in how much we have our act together.



10 Comments so far
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Driscoll got nicknamed the “cussin’ pastor”. You will now be known to all as the “cussin’ evangelist”. I look forward to many years of calling you this new nickname.

I’ll be praying for your brother. Plew.

Comment by bigplew

great…a new nickname and more lighter fluid for the flames of mike’s humor. geeeez!

Comment by Kevin Shipp

Kevin…I don’t really need anymore material on you. I have enough to last several lifetimes.

Comment by bigplew

I know. I am feminine, wierd, dumb, fashion-handicapped, and ugly. I was created uniquely by God for the cultivating of humor in others. I provide material for all men in my immediate circle of friends with an ideal amount of stuff from which to fine tune their skills in humor and rhetoric. Glory to God for making me a vessel for dishonorable use!

Comment by Kevin Shipp

Who among us hasn’t been there? WTG. You follow Peter’s encouragement to “confess your faults to one another.” That’s heroic, and a badly needed example among us.

It seems like the point of greatest heat was over the issue of total depravity. Maybe it’s worth thinking about whether this was a priority of Jesus when he shared the gospel. I see him commending the menstruating woman, the poor widow who gives two coins, the Syro-phoenician woman’s faith, and (in parables) the good Samaritan, the woman seeking a lost coin, the shepherd seeking lost sheep, etc. In Acts, Cornelius’ life of compassion is regarded as a big deal.

Yet none of these people could have known the gospel story.

Seems like Jesus is content with honoring good wherever he sees it, knowing it will draw people to him and they will see the need to repent.

But we have become so iron-clad Augustinian that we feel like heretics unless we run down the small steps toward God and good that people have taken.

Maybe we fight over things that Jesus wouldn’t fight over!

Comment by Monte

Not at all in an attempt to defend myself or to cover my own hind end, but out of a desire to learn, I would love to hear your thoughts on the following:

I never used the words total depravity, or any theological buzz words for that matter, when I was talking with my brother. I do think I could learn how to be more charitable in how I respond to my brother’s concerns, problems, and struggles with faith, but I don’t think we can budge from proclaiming the wrath that is in store for men because of their rebellion against a holy, majestic and uncompromising God, no matter how much honorable behavior they may be exhibiting or problems they may be stuck in. Do you think the Bible/Jesus ever commends faith as a virtue in itself, attaching the value of faith to the intensity in which it is held, or do you think it commends faith that is in a knowable, faithful, trustworthy God who pleads with sinful men to come and taste and see that He is Good! In other words, is faith’s value derived from the intensity in which faith is held or the value and trustworthiness of the object of one’s faith, i.e. what the faith is “in”? It seems to me that people’s faith in the Bible is only commendable when it was clearly in a trustworthy, knowable, proven-faithful God that could do what He said.

Not attempting to minimize What Jesus said and did that is so wonderfully preserved for us in God’s word, but I think it can be a danger to interpret all we say and do ONLY by asking what did Jesus do written explicitly in The Gospels or in other appearances. The whole Bible is God’s revelation of Jesus Christ, not just the first five books of the New Testament. Besides, Jesus did commend faith, but he was also very frank and opposed to human sin and pride in one’s “righteousness”, see his interactions with Pharisees and woes spoken, etc. I think he upheld both: Hatred for sin and granting forgiveness and righteousness by faith, not works.

I also need to be clear in my communication of my affections for those I share the gospel with. I love my brother BIG TIME and so often I get so frustrated over not getting what I crave, his conversion, that I forget to just care for him.

I think something I could be more faithful in is teaching others about who God is and what He is like. Not that intellectual knowledge of who God is will be sufficient alone for someone to turn to Him, but I do think it is a necessary part. This is all kind of jumbled. I would love more of your thoughts! Please respond!

Comment by Kevin Shipp

I’ve been there too. I ended up yelling the Gospel at my brother’s once. It’s quite funny to me now. I’m glad that other’s salvation doesn’t depend on us. We just have to be faithful to proclaim!

Comment by A girl

Kevin, hard and good questions!
Certainly you’re correct that all the Bible is God’s revelation to us. At the same time, both Paul and the writer to the Hebrews go to great pains to make it clear that Jesus himself is the most complete picture we have of what God looks like. I suspect that our passion for inerrancy has cornered us into the view that all Scripture is of equal – shall we say – degree of revelation. Obviously, what Abraham knew about God was vastly less that what, say, John knew about God, for John had lived with Jesus. This is no flaw in Scripture, simply a recognition that through Scripture’s ages, its various characters speak historically, knowing what characters of their day who pursued God would know. It does seem to me fair to go to Jesus first as the evaluator of our practice, for in Jesus the light is brightest.

And certainly, again, Jesus commends faith in God (i.e., himself), not misdirected or undirected faith. And certainly judgment is a real issue that needs to be understood at some point. My question is simply this: with whom, and at what point in their relationship to him, does Jesus bring up the subject of judgment?

He was doubtless much more personally aware of the consequences of the collision between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man than we – and yet, every instance I recall (off the top of my head, anyway) in which he mentions judgment is during either late discipleship with his closest followers or confrontations with extremely religious but hard-hearted people. Even frankness at the level of “You must be born again,” he reserves for religious sophisticates (Nicodemus), while to those with no pretense of religion he’s more likely to say, “Come unto me, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Finally, from personal observation, it seems to me that not many come to Christ because they understand the consequences of sin – and that those who do, don’t hang around long. It usually isn’t until people really see the goodness of God and his care for them that they are attracted to him. And that’s what I see Jesus tirelessly demonstrating, why crowds flock to him, and why some choose to follow him everywhere.

Thanks! Great to think out loud with you!

Comment by Monte


I think that Jesus’s most provocative teaching on judgement that he gave during his entire earthly ministry was not to his closest followers or to Pharisees. It was to the crowds. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus is nearing the end of the sermon on the mount and he says:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

He said this to the crowds.

However, I don’t think that every conversation about God MUST include speaking about the doctrine of sin, for it is not the only way that God brings people to himself. The only instructions that we have recorded as he sent out the 70 was to say “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But, even so, I think that the doctrine of sin is something that cannot be oerlooked. I didn’t understand the seriousness of sin until nearly four years after I was converted, but I really really wish that someone had explained it to me during that time.

Also, I don’t think it would be wise for us to ignore the example of the apostles. Paul talked about judgement to the men at Athens (Acts 18:30-31), Peter in ACts 10 when talking to Cornelius explains that Christ is the judge and that through him we can recieve forgiveness of sins. In Acts 13:38-39 Paul talks of the forgiveness of sins and being justified in a way that was impossible through the law of Moses.

There are many other examples here. I just starting scanning the book of Acts to find these. It is good to notice that there does not seem to be an effort to totally make sure that the hearers entirely understood the doctrine of total depravity, but the apostles always mentioned why Jesus came and that was the forgiveness of sins which you could not attain through your own efforts. I feel that it would be dishonest to neglect this as we preach the gospel to our friends, family and neighbors.

Sorry about jumping in on a conversatin that wasn’t mine, but I wanted to throw in my two cents.

Comment by psteele

Hi PSteele: we agree about much! I would never advocate ignoring the apostles’ examples, for instance.
Check this out: Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside, and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying . . . Who’s he teaching in the Sermon on the Mount?

It would be dishonest, as you say, to neglect our need of forgiveness. But I think that Jesus and the apostles carefully choose when to do so, never following a formula or speaking from frustration (often our temptation!), but wooing the seeker on to greater hunger for relationship with him.

Consider the parables: We who preach labor so hard to make sure everybody understands everything we say. Jesus, by contrast, buries his messages in stories, deliberately obscuring them to those who are not yet ready to hear them, so their hearts won’t be hardened. People with hungry hearts get it, people not yet hungry shrug it off, but are not offended unnecessarily, and await another time.

It may be important to understand that our instinct to win the argument is probably more a part of our modernist world-view than it is a part of the gospel itself. Not many come to Christ because someone proves them wrong! They come – and they face their sin – when the Spirit puts a yearning in their hearts that no obstacle can block – even the necessity of repentance.

Comment by Monte

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