Christianity, Proselytization, and Ginsu Knives

Pastor Tim Piland shared an excellent message from Matthew 28:19-20 this past Sunday at Nansemond River Baptist Church. I love to listen to Pastor Tim share; he is biblical, passionate, and relevant. I like to tell people that he’s 65 going on 20. He has the energy and passion of a young man with the wisdom and wit of a seasoned veteran. I think he has a faint hint of Jimmy Stewart in his voice as well .

In any case, Tim made a comment (I think I’ve heard similar comments before) about sharing the gospel:

The gospel is not a commodity to be sold; it is a relationship to be shared.

I grew up learning all the methods of evangelism (E.E., Romans Road, 4 Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, F.A.I.T.H., etc.). As I’ve grown (a little) older I’ve found methods to be helpful but often inadequate. Each person is different and, therefore, every time I share my faith it sounds a little different. The content must always be biblical but the method of organization and communication is often ad hoc.

More important than the method, however, is the relationship. We must build relationships with people that can bear the weight of the gospel. The message of sin and salvation is heavy stuff and casual conversations rarely offer the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue. Talking about football and the weather is hardly a natural segue to the magnitude of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Too often fervent evangelists see people as converts to be won. I am reminded of Kevin Roose’s experience at Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University chronicled in the book Unlikely Disciple:

When I told the Liberty students at Thomas Road that I hadn’t accepted Christ as my savior, the entire dynamic of the conversation changed. It began to feel distant and rehearsed, like a pitch for Ginsu knives.

People are unique and interesting and the gospel is not formulaic. Different people have different objections and hangups to the gospel. I know that I value authenticity and honesty much more than a polished presentation.

2 thoughts on “Christianity, Proselytization, and Ginsu Knives”

  1. Mark: I appreciate your comments and perspective. I also was thrilled to hear Tim’s perspective on Sunday that it really doesn’t matter about process and procedure it matters about creating an environment / relationship that allows someone to see Christ in us and therefore allowing Christ to use us once that relationship (as you say can bear the weight of salvation). I think we sometimes get caught up in the “rules” of how you are supposed to approach individuals about Christ and salvation and because of these “rules” Christians feel inadequate but through Tim’s message on Sunday and your affirmation today hopefully everyone at least in the earshot of Tim’s voice and the arena of your blog we will see that process and procedure are not as important as development of relationship and making sure that others see Christ in us. I agree scripture is important and not that the ole methods are not helpful but sometimes the rigid structure that we feel is necessary needs to be relaxed. Thanks for your comments!

  2. A high percentage of the stories in the New Testament of people sharing their faith are the opposite of what you’re endorsing here. The woman at the well, the Ethiopian eunuch and lots and lots of open air preaching.

    The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), and the gospel is about Christ–not about us. I’ve found many people who are open to discussing their beliefs and discussing the Bible.

    That being said, there are times when it’s OK to make friends with someone first. I think we should all be doing it both ways.


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