Paul rejoiced whenever Christ was preached (Phil. 1:15-18) and I try to do the same. Paul also talked about proclaiming Christ with wisdom and making the most of our times with the unbelieving world around us–even having grace dripping from our lips (Col. 1:28-29; Col. 4:5-6). Therefore, I can rejoice but also long for some evangelists to switch up their game a bit to be a more considerate and faithful.
Here are four evangelists that need to retire. If only they were just caricatures.
Old Yeller. This is the guy who loves to yell at people. He has a cousin in the sports world who yells after every call that doesn’t go for his team. He is obnoxious and largely rude to the people around him. The old yeller evangelist’s message sounds far more like moralistic scolding than gospel preaching. Sometimes he stands on college campus or at the gates of large stadiums yelling at people as they walk by about how they are all going to hell. Having a vocal chord and boldness does not make you a prophet any more than having a glove and bat makes you a NY Yankee. Old Yeller sometimes gets personal and one-on-one. In this setting he does not retire his tone. Instead, he power-washes his victim’s eyebrows off their face by means of dominating intensity and verbal jousting that rivals Rush Limbaugh. Old Yeller needs to retire because nobody really hears him; he just yells like a clanging symbol.
The Justifier. This guy actually listens to what people are saying but he doesn’t listen to what God is saying. Sometimes people hear Bible verses quoted and they are actually convicted. They start confessing their sin and shortcomings. The justifier, perhaps fearing that the fish might get away, eases the tension a bit and starts to reassure. “Well, we are all sinners. Nobody’s perfect. Hey, look at me.” No. No. No. No. No. If the person is actually convicted of their sin it is the perfect time to put it into the Bible’s context and the gospel narrative. Make the connection to what they do and what Jesus did. This evangelist needs to retire because it’s not his job to justify people’s sins. God justifies sinners by atoning for sin.
The Flasher. This is the guy who walks up to people in a coffee shop or a restaurant and then just interrupts them; inserting himself in their conversation. He says a few things quickly, rather awkwardly, and then abruptly runs away. He is like a spiritual flasher. People don’t hear him, have little respect for him, and are a bit weirded out by their manners as well as how impersonal they are with a message that seems like it should be personal.
The Cotton Ball. This guy is similar to Old Yeller but his tone may be a bit better. He is the evangelist who gets “interrupted” by the lost person trying to talk with them about their life. He really wants to get back to his script but this sinner just keeps prattling on. He begins to get fidgety, looks for a clock, and eventually starts checking social media on his phone while the unbeliever just keeps rambling. It is like he can’t even hear them. His seque back to his script is, “well, I don’t know, but as I was saying.” This guy does not listen like Jesus did so he misses out on the opportunity to see the gospel to light up people’s eyes.
Finally, allow me to confess, I have been each of these guys (and more) at some point in my Christian life. We should all be trying to grow in our faithfulness, wisdom, and effectiveness in evangelism. While we all need boldness in evangelism we also need humility and wisdom. Somehow we forget to pray for these things.