“Are Ye Saved?”

scaryevangelist.jpeg“Are ye saved?” I looked at the kid who just asked me the question. “What are you, a pilgrim?” I’d never seen him before; he looked like a freshman. I was a senior at Chicago’s Lane Technical High School. I was walking through a packed hallway to my next class. This kid sidled up and asked me, “Are ye saved?”

Okay, those were the days when the King James Bible was it, except for the few who had a Living or Phillips paraphrase or the Catholic Bible. Pre-NIV. Pre-NASB. So a few ye’s and thou’s mightest be expectethed.

megaphone.gifBut, “Are ye saved?” Come on. That’s your best opening evangelistic line? You need to go to one of those classes where they teach you how to flirt. “Come here often?” would have been better.

How about, “Hast thou been regenerated?” That has panache.

Or maybe, “What meaneth thy life? Whence camest thee? Wither goest thee?” Probing and penetrating.

Maybe even, “Knoweth thou that God lovest thee and hath a wonderful plan for thy corporeal sojourn?” That would have drawn my attention to the divine, like snot on a teacher’s face.

pilgrims.jpgI looked down at my diminutive inquisitor and said the only thing a high school student could say in those awkward circumstances: “Huh?”

“I said, Are ye saved?”

“Oh, uhhh, yeah. I’m saved.”

And he melted into the crowd. I guess he was done with me. Weird. Angel, possibly. Probably. Maybe. Who knows?

But I do know that he stuck with me. To this day I remember him. He stands as the only stranger who has ever witnessed to me. He had guts. I used to witness to strangers. I used to hand out tracts. Go door-to-door. Turn conversations to the subject of Christ. I never saw fruit, though.

Then I heard about life-style evangelism and felt liberated. That confrontational evangelism stuff just turns people off.

Maybe.

jesus-fish-bg.jpgThere are people in my church who distribute Bibles at a rest-stop on Interstate 5; they’re part of an organization called the Gideons–maybe you’ve read one of the Bibles they placed in your hotel. They tell amazing stories of people who receive Jesus. May God increase their tribe.

My friend, Kevin D, told of a time he walked past a liquor store and some kids asked if he’d go inside and buy them some beer. Kevin told them, “No, but I have something better than beer.” Their eyes got wide and they smiled. “You got some weed, man?” “No, I have Jesus.”

They got mad. But is that so bad? Is mad bad?

Did lifestyle evangelism morph into non-evangelism?

Whenever I think of that nameless kid, I think that a big part of me likes the weird way he witnessed better then the inoffensive way most of us don’t.

So try this one on somebody today: “Hast thou imbibed at the water of life?” Or the proven, “Are ye saved?”

Let me know how it goes. I’m getting itchy to get people saved.

““But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” Acts 1:8, NKJV.

“And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15, NKJV.

“in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” Romans 15:19, NKJV.

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10 thoughts on ““Are Ye Saved?”

  1. “I’m getting itchy to get people saved”

    I am with you all the way, but it seems like we are bumping up against the fact that all americans are ‘saved’ by one definition or another. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t been led through the sinners prayer at least once in their life. (I know they do exist! …but in small numbers.)

    Did lifestyle evangelism morph into non-evangelism?

    I too, share this same concern, but in a culture that is literally saturated with tracts, radio-programs, billboards, Bibles, yet shows a marked resistance to the gospel, something has to differentiate between a salvation-by-prayer-event-go-back-to-your-own-life and a salvation-by-God’s-power-enter-into-His-life.

    This has been a constant tension in my faith over the last few years. I desperately want to see others come into the Kingdom of the Beloved Son and I know that I have a role to play in that as an ambassador of the King, a proclaimer of the Gospel; “Jesus is the Lord.” …yet, people seem inoculated to such proclamations by their own comfort, the hypocrisy of the church, and even more the gospel of cheap grace and salvation with no consequences…

    I don’t want to be shy about my first passion, but I don’t want to feed into the sickness of our culture either. I think I have come to the conclusion that whenever and wherever possible my verbal proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus over the earth should accompany manifestations of that Lordship in my own life and through redemptive action and good deeds of friendship.

    Whether through service projects, acts of kindness, simply listening to someone and asking questions about them, living an open lifestyle that welcomes others to join with me, and being clear that this way of life is a product of God’s saving grace and Jesus powerful crucified-and-resurrected-Spirit within me.

    I guess it is an example of replacing an either/or with a both/and

    We should not choose between either proclaiming the gospel or befriending others in a sincere attempt to love them and treat them with the value they deserve as made-in-the-image-of-God humans; but rather say that our allegiance to Jesus causes us to both labor to bless others and do so under the banner of the Kingdom of Jesus…

  2. I really like the way DC Talk (contemporary Christian music group) communicates their desire to convey the Good News of Jesus Christ;

    “Hey You!” “I’M INTO JESUS!!!”

    Way too bold for me. Sometimes I fear that I am “ashamed” of the Gospel, or at least act that way.

    Steve: “but it seems like we are bumping up against the fact that all americans are ’saved’ by one definition or another”

    I have to admit that looking back to when I lived in the Bay Area I liked the fact that I knew more professing atheists and agnostics then I did Christians. Why would I like that? Because it meant that there were opportunities. And as I got up the courage to take advantage of those opportunities and speak up (in a normal conversational manor) I became to them that oddball Christian guy. At the time I think I hated being considered a freak, now I miss it. I long to be a freak again, but now I live in an area where yeah, everybody is a conservative which often equates to a Christian.
    In the Silicon Valley, where I lived and worked, most people were too “smart and sophisticated” to believe in Jesus. Ironically, I hated my job in construction but it put me in contact with people who had less education and lower social status and who were very often hurting, often profoundly, which opened the door to those opportunities I was talking about.
    Looking back at those conversations I see them as some of the greatest honors I have ever received. It is an honor to speak out for Jesus but for me at least, it has to be natural.

  3. I Peter 3:15 – …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

    The key is in being ready – and giving opportunities to be asked.

  4. I wonder if we often conflate “bringing Jesus to people” and “bringing people to Jesus.”

    The former often means presenting people with an abstract identity option (i.e I’m a Christian, but I can also be a republican/democrat, doctor/lawyer/construction worker, straight/gay, musician/artist/novelist, and mother/father/brother/sister) or a set of concepts to assent or dissent to (The romans road, the four spiritual laws, etc).

    “Bringing people to Jesus” can be used to mean something very much like the above, and indeed often is. I think that is a grave misunderstanding that breeds modern day pharisees (think “white-washed tombs”). Rather, I hope we would understand “bringing people to Jesus” in a much more concrete way. Literally BRINGING them to the real presence of Jesus in our world. Here and now. In the flesh. Bring them to the Church.

    I don’t mean to just bring them to church, by which one might mean an hour or so long event on sunday morning (though that isn’t a bad idea). I mean more broadly, hospitably inviting them into the community of believers who care for one another because they care for and are forgiven by Christ. Maybe that means inviting them over for dinner or to have your kids play together, because a church service would be too intense a cultural shock straight away.

    Its important for us to remember that conversion is not JUST assent to a set of propositional truths, but also the ongoing acculturation into a community living the story written by God. and we are a weird culture for non-believers to get used to. We spend a good portion of our sunday morning singing. Out loud. In a group! To a person who we can’t see. I’ve been doing it all my life and I still, sometimes, stop and wonder at its peculiarity.

    What if evangelism were not so much “buy my product” as “join my family?”

    Godspeed,
    Jon

  5. Bill,

    The reknown pop motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, has cited several “needs” that all people share, for example, the need for certainty, the need for community, the need for significance, etc. (If you have 20 minutes to spare, see his excellent presentation at http://www.youtube.com/v/Cpc-t-Uwv1I&autoplay=1 ) Tony Robbins considers himself an expert on the “art of fulfillment” through his insights on what motivations drives people. A fascinating interview (one hour long) may be found with Charlie Rose at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5070588292701651217

    Many evangelical outreach ministries use these tyes of insights into human motivation & psychology as part of building their churches (i.e., reaching out to the unchurched or unsaved). The tendency to use these insights are appealing, because they are based on careful — and validated — research and study. (For example, Tony Robbins cites many authors and statistics to back his claims.) Who can ignore the appeal for community, significance, and fellowship? These are real human needs. People are hungry for these needs to be filled.

    Yet the key to evangelism seems to be the opposite. Paul tells the Corinthians, “I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testominy of God… except Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1-2).

    We seek for insights into what will work; what will grab; what will enthrall; what will bring the unsaved masses to the door of the church; but the Scripture is clear. The “foolishness” of the cross has appeal to the unsaved (not because of persuasive words or manipulation of psychology and human motivation), but because “… we preach Christ crucified…to those who are the CALLED…the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23-24)(emphasis added).

    In other words, the key to witnessing is to preach Christ crucified. Sometimes you fall flat on your face: for example, the Athenians considered Paul’s an idle babbler (Acts 17:18). Many Athenians sneered (Acts 17:32), but, in fact, some were saved! (Acts 17:34). God’s power (through the unadulterated presentation of the gospel) however draws the unsaved to Himself through “calling.” See for example First Thessalonians 1: 4-5, “Knowing, brethren beloved of God, HIS CHOICE OF YOU; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…” (emphasis added).

    The point here, I suppose, is that the priority (in evangelism) is to focus on the substitionary, atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world (total grace, no works). Having said that, the invitation (to those who do accept the gospel) extends to joining the fellowship of the local church to learn, grow, and glorify God. A great segway here, for example, could be to mention that Neighborhood Church provides curriculum for growth through the new “Personal Life Map” program, which will enable the new Christian to fulfill his/her experience in Christ.

    BOTTOM LINE: Resist the impulse to exploit the insight, wisdom & psychology in human motivation to provide a leverage to the gospel message of the cross in evangelism. However, understand that the subsequent participation in local Christian fellowship includes growth, healing, and meeting the needs of the broken, hurting, and lost.

    Grace.
    Joe

  6. Pastor Bill, I have a question of interest and you are more knowledgeable in the languages; what was the usage and significance of the term ‘gospel’ (euangelion) prior to the life of Jesus and the early Christians adopting it as their own?

  7. Hi Everybody,
    Great comments. Sorry I’m not keeping up. I’m devoting more time to finishing the draft of the Inner Mess book (deadline approaches), so less time to my blog right now. But here are a couple of things:

    Steve (comment 1): I understand what you’re saying, but would like to tweak it. Yes, Jesus is Lord, but within his Lordship is the fact that he is Savior; and we must meet him first in that role. If the gospel is that Jesus is Lord, then the “consequences” which you seek will be found in terms of submission, obedience, and self-generated life change. Yet the gospel proclaims Christ “and him crucified.” Jesus is Savior first–and the consequences is faith. Active faith… only later resulting in submisison, obedience and Holy Spirit-generated life change. I agree that we must live the gospel and proclaim the gospel. I think that most Christians have stopped proclaiming it (in the name of lifestyle evangelism).

    Alan: right on. It’s a kind of ashamedness at the gospel. Great observation.

    Jean: nailed it.

    Jonathan H: I agree, but only to a point. When Jesus evangelized Nicodemus, he did not invite him to community. He summonsed him to a new birth: regeneration by the Spirit through faith on the ground of the Cross. That is the same summons God issues today through us. We beg people to be reconciled to God. Part of that pleading can be communal. But being part of a community of faith is not in itself redemptive. It can break down barriers, it can correct misconceptions, it can manifest the character of Christ, but it (being in community) cannot save. In the end, a sinner is left naked, face to face with Jesus, having to answer the question, “What will you do with him?” So not “buy my product” and not directly, “join my family”, but “believe my Savior” is the heart of the gospel.

    Joe: nicely done… though I think I’d be a bit more open to using psychological means as a tool to bring people to a hearing of the gospel of Christ-crucified. Paul became all things to all people that he might by any means save some. Whether it’s psychology, sports, relationship, or feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless… as we meet needs, gain credibility, and show forth the love of Christ, we open hearts to the gospel. William Booth (founded the Salvation Army) preached, “Empty bellies have no ears.” I like the way you put it at the end: “subsequent participation in the local church…” Good stuff.

    Steve (comment 2): That’s a good question, and I’d like to do some digging on it. Have you ever read Michael Green’s (classic) book: Evangelism in the Early Church? It’s a masterful piece (he’s an Anglican pastor).

    Peace out,
    Bill

  8. I think we probably agree about the essence of salvation, then. That when it comes down to it, being saved is a spiritual reality.

    I suppose my comment (and further question) has to do with the “visible/material sign of the spiritual reality.”

    If the kingdom of God is “already and not yet,” what does the Gospel mean for how I am and not just the way I think?

    I think it is precisely there that questions of acculteration and ecclesial family life become important, though certainly not sufficient, for salvation in it’s fulllness. By which I mean its spiritual reality and material significance. (and, is evangelism being short-changed if it ignores the latter?)

  9. Bill,

    I affirm you comments.

    My point was, though, that the clear presentation of the gospel sometimes gets mixed into (and becomes part of) the “honeypot” appeals in evangelism. For example, “God wants to bless you with his grace and make you wealthy.” Money is a catchword that draws attention these days.

    You mention the empty stomachs.

    Even the most perfect evangelist (our Lord) had his followers whose interests were just for the “free bread” (John 6:26). In other words, the “draw” of “free bread” had its liability. Thus, in the following verse (John 6:27), Jesus has to redirect the attention of the masses from the “free bread” to the gospel message, which is the “living bread.”

    You gotta wonder: if the miraculous bread of Jesus really was that delicious, I wonder how good his water-turned-to-wine at Cana must have been!! Mmmmm. (smile)

    Grace.
    Joe

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