Lifestyle Evangelism

Posted: January 10, 2015 in Christian walk, Evangelism
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I would like to write about a very controversial subject. Not only is it controversial but it is very important. And the reason it is so important is because it deals with the souls of men and the message of Salvation. I would like to discuss Lifestyle Evangelism. But not only will I discuss Lifestyle Evangelism but I will endeavor to convince you that this “method” of evangelism is un-biblical. As with everything that we do in our Christian lives we must base it on the Word of God. The Word is our foundation. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
Why would we want to base such an important subject as Evangelism on anything else than the Bible? We always go to the Bible for instruction of how we should live why not for this? Don’t let your preconceived ideas or your emotions rule how you witness to the world around you. If you do you will be sure to follow man rather than God. Before I discuss the method of evangelism I will briefly mention our obligation to evangelize so we are all on the same page.
Being a witness for Christ is not an option, it is a command. We call it the Great Commission but truly it is more than that. God commanded the Church to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel…” in Mark 16:15. He didn’t say, “when you feel like it.” or “When you think you are ready.” He said “Go.”
2 Cor. 5:18 says, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Because God reconciled us to Himself we are to bring that message of reconciliation to others. If you think that evangelism is only for preachers and pastors you need to read the account in the John 4 about the woman at the well. She became one of the greatest “soul-winners” in the Bible. Verse 39 in that same chapter says, “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.” A desire to share the gospel of Christ comes from a heart that has experienced the love of Christ through salvation. Often the greatest witnesses of Christ are those that have just been saved. It is new and real to them. Of course evangelism must be done with Christ for without Him we can do nothing and it must be done in love for if not it profits nothing. But it still must be done. Don’t stop witnessing because others all around you are doing it wrong. Figure out the biblical way and than do what God has commanded.
I also should mention that the conversion of a sinner is not the work of the Christian but a miracle of Christ. He said that he will draw all men unto himself. The Holy Spirit does the work on the heart but we are the messengers that bring the ministry of reconciliation.
Now that we have that established the necessity of evangelism lets talk about the method of evangelism.
So, what is Lifestyle Evangelism? The term is hard to define and after talking with others about the subject I have found that people have varying opinions on what exactly Lifestyle Evangelism is. I will be using the most common definition of the method. Lifestyle Evangelism became popular in the 1990s after a man named Joe Aldrich wrote a book entitled, Lifestyle Evangelism: Learning to open your life to those around you. This is a simple definition of the approach. “Lifestyle evangelism is an evangelism strategy that focuses on living a holy, winsome life among unbelievers with the goal of attracting people to the message of Jesus Christ. We need only to live a good, consistent Christian life before the unsaved, and eventually he will notice in us something that will cause him to want to trust Christ as Savior.” Is this a biblical approach? Lets examine it by the Bible and see.
First of all I must point out that living a holy, Christ-like life is a requirement of every Christian not just those who decide to use Lifestyle Evangelism. Living a Christian life shouldn’t be a method of evangelism it should be our “reasonable service.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” Romans 6:14,18 says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you…being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” We are holy because He is holy; we are free from sin because we have been bought with a price and are covered with the righteousness of Christ. So to say that Lifestyle evangelism is a method of evangelism is like saying, if a doctor is clean and well trained his surgeries will get done. Of course training and cleanliness is important but he still must perform the surgeries. Lifestyle and evangelism go hand in hand but lifestyle is not an alternative to speaking the message of Christ. I’ll explain why later. Now I’m not saying that living a holy Christian life isn’t important because it is essential, a command actually. A good testimony makes us a more effective witness but it doesn’t replace it.
Secondly, Lifestyle Evangelism says that we must live our lives in such a way that the unsaved will seek what we have. Is that the method Christ used? If anyone would have been able to lead someone to God through their lifestyle it would have been Christ. He was perfection personified. We was sinless and led the perfect life but was it his lifestyle that led people to trust in Him? Isaiah 53:2 says “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Matthew 8:20 says, “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Is that a lifestyle that would draw the blind and sinful world?
When Jesus was at the feast in John 7 many people believed on Him but some of the people became angry at the words that Jesus spoke. The Jews wanted Him dead so the Pharisees told their Officers to take Him. But when they got there they stopped and listened to the gospel message. When the Officers went back to the Pharisees they asked them “Why have ye not brought him?” and the Officers replied, “Never man spake like this man.” It was His words that left them dumbfounded not His actions. When Jesus sought the souls of men He confronted their sin with words. Words that if spoken today would be considered hate speech. He was bold not passive. Often times huge crowds would gather because they knew that Jesus was coming. They wanted to partake in his lifestyle by receiving His miracles of healing and turning a small lunch into meals for thousands. They were the lost world who were hungry and sick. You might be thinking, “See! Jesus used His lifestyle to draw men to himself.” But the shocking thing is that often times He hid from the crowd and went the other way. He knew that they only wanted His blessings and not Him. It was the woman that touched the hem of His garment in Matthew 9 that was healed not the multitudes that thronged about Him on all sides who sought His miracles. She was made whole because of her humble faith. In John 6 Jesus explained to his disciples that it was his body and blood that would give them eternal life. For many it was a “hard saying” and “many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more.” The reason they deserted their Messiah was because they thought that He had something else to offer and when all He gave was His blood and a rugged cross they were disgusted. The miracles of healing were an affirmation to Christ’s deity and proof that He was sent of God but He came to “seek and save” the lost. Christ walked a holy life but He never promised happiness and contentment. What He did promise was persecution. John 16:33; Luke 21:18; Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13 all make this promise very clear. Our lifestyle compliments the gospel message but it doesn’t replace it. The Bible says in Psalm 19:7 that, “the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” What converts the soul? The law. The law, the words of God, convinces man of how sinful he is against a holy God. Paul wrote in Romans 7:9, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” It is the law that shows us the way to the cross not the Christian’s lifestyle. We will only come to Christ with true repentance when we truly see our need. Without understanding our sin God would seem evil for sending the lost to Hell but when we realize the wickedness of our heart we see the benevolence of God through his goodness and mercy made possible by the bloody cross of Christ. That is when we can say it is the goodness of God that leads me to repentance. (Romans 2:4) The churches are full of false converts because they came to Christ for what He could give them instead of repenting and “fleeing the wrath that is to come.” They are like the multitudes that flocked to Christ for the food and healing. Luke 13:3 says, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” What do our lifestyles have to offer to the haters of God? If we only give them the joy and love and peace our Christianity affords we will have joyful, peaceful people heading to Hell. Joy and love and peace are the fruits of the Spirit. The lost must first come to repentance and trust in Christ before they can enjoy the lifestyle we have. If we are trying to lead the lost to Christ by our lifestyle it will be for that very reason they seek Him. Christians try to be content and joyful through trials and troubles and hope that the lost will see the “difference” in themselves and that the lost will desire to be like that also. But are we preaching a way of life to the lost or Christ’s death, burial and resurrection? If a sinner comes to Christ for what Christ has to offer instead of repenting and putting his trust in Jesus is he really saved? Only when Christ was lifted up on the cross could He draw all men unto himself. If the world comes to Jesus for the results of salvation instead of salvation itself they don’t truly understand what it means.

Thirdly, I want to discuss the last part of the Lifestyle Evangelism definition that I gave. Do we have the option to just “live our message” or are we required to proclaim the gospel with our words? Joe Aldrich wrote in his book, Lifestyle Evangelism:Learning to open your life to those around you, that there is a difference between the “verbalization of the gospel and the incarnation of the gospel.” What does the Bible say? Does it ever say that we are to be the “incarnation of the gospel” through our lifestyle? Mr. Aldrich refers to personal soul-winning as “button-holing and evangelical mugging.” Would he accuse Jesus, Paul, Peter or Philip of “evangelical mugging” when they verbally shared their faith? I have to wonder.
What is the Biblical approach for sharing our faith? As I mentioned before the Great Commission says that we are to “go” and “preach the gospel.” The “go” demonstrates action and “preach” tells us it is verbal. The Scriptures make it clear that we are saved by the Word of God and not a Christian’s lifestyle. The Bible says in I Peter 1:23, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” In verse 25 of the same chapter, Peter says, “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Notice, the Scripture does not say, ‘Faith cometh by observation, and observation by a good lifestyle.’ Paul said in I Corinthians 1:21, ” … it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Here again the Scriptures say nothing about God’s being pleased to save people through someone’s lifestyle. “It pleased God by the foolishness of PREACHING to save them that believe.” Preaching is a verbal expression of faith. Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” It is the thirsty that hear and because of what they here they come. Notice that it was both the Spirit AND the bride. The Spirit does the miraculous work of drawing and salvation but the church also has the role of speaking the gospel. God uses human beings to bring the message of His love to the world around us. What a privilege! Romans 10:13-14 gives us in perfect order the road to salvation. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” This verse implies that no one can believe because they haven’t heard and they can not hear without a preacher. Why doesn’t Paul say, “How can they believe in him if no one shows Christ in their lifestyle?” Maybe because it isn’t essential to the Great Commission. Of course living a Christ-like life is important but it isn’t part of reaching the lost for Christ. It is biblical and logical that the world will not know of Christ’s death and resurrection if we, the ambassadors of Christ, don’t tell them. 2 Corinthians 5:20 states, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us…” The definition of an ambassador is a person who represents his or her own government while living in another country. An authorized representative or messenger. What kind of ambassador would dress, act, and talk like his home country just hoping that a random person in his life would notice the difference and decide to talk about foreign relations? That would be ludicrous. The same applies to the Christian ambassador. We have an important message from the King of Kings with a very specific audience; the world. We live in a foreign land with a mission. Why waste our time hoping that someone will ask us about our message. Most people don’t want to hear it but most will listen when approached because deep inside they know they have a need.
All we have to do is look at the lives of the Christians in the Bible. How did they evangelize? Often they were very confrontational. They were always bold and they were always hated by the lost because of the message they spoke. We shouldn’t be mean but we must confront their sin. If a sick person doesn’t know that they have a deadly disease they wont see a need for a cure. If a sinner doesn’t know that he is dying in his sins he wont see a need for a Savior. The cross seems like a laughable fairy tale without the law.
Not everyone has the gift or ability to be an Evangelist but every Christian must evangelize. Not everyone is called to be a Preacher but all are to preach the Word. Not everyone is going to be a Missionary but all have a very clear mission in this life. Those of you that believe in the Lifestyle Evangelism should at the very least look at the scriptures and see the pattern that God set up for reaching the lost. If the Bible doesn’t convince you that Lifestyle Evangelism is wrong than nothing will.
The real crux of the whole issue is, how important are the souls of lost men? If evangelism is truly the reason we are here on this earth, which is a whole different subject, than shouldn’t that be our daily goal? Wouldn’t we think badly of a doctor that kept the cure for a disease hidden? Why do we expect less of ourselves? Could it be that we don’t really believe in a literal Hell? If Hell is real and those that don’t trust in Christ are going there than what is holding us back from proclaiming that reality? Might it be that Lifestyle Evangelism has given us an excuse for silence? A place to hide our fears and callous? Maybe it is being used as a resting place from the pressure of past soul-wining experiences. I don’t know. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter. What matters is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. What a message! What a Savior! If this story is true for you, if He has really cleansed your heart from all unrighteousness it bears telling. Is Christ’s salvation real? What about Hell and judgment? The world doesn’t think so. And quite frankly, how can you blame them when those that have escaped the wrath of God fail to tell the lost how they can as well?

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