Scare the Hell Out of Them?

Every year around Halloween, I start seeing the billboards and yard signs for Hell Houses, Hell' Gates, and other versions of a "Christian" haunted house experience. At some point, some churches decided an effective means of evangelism would be to literally scare the hell out of people. The whole approach reminds me of the travelling evangelist we used to encounter when I was growing up in the 1970's. He was a loud guy who turned red in the face, beating on the pulpit and his Bible, jumping and shouting "Turn or Burn!" and "REPENT!"

OK, so let me just ask you this simple question. Have you ever been scared or threatened into any relationship with anyone that you would want anything to do with in the first place? Yes, we need to understand our sinful nature and that the wages of sin is death. But my experience has been that most folks understand their personal failures. In fact, the majority of people that I have met do not need to be convinced how messed up their lives are. They are quite familiar with it. The reason they do not have a personal relationship with their Creator is not because they are content with their situations. Quite the opposite. The response I regularly receive is something along the lines of this, "God would not want to have a relationship with anyone as screwed up as me. He knows everything and knows the horrible things I have done in my life. There is no way He could love me." They then begin to tell you of their struggles with parents that abandoned them, or spouses that left them. They discuss significant people in their lives that could not love them and draw a seemingly logical conclusion that God could not love them. So does screaming "Turn or Burn" or "Repent" in their faces draw them to establishing a relationship with God? Would a depiction of one's interpretation of what eternal suffering might be like suddenly be the break-thru that causes them to surrender their control of their life to God?

Maybe the folks throwing these huge productions have different encounters than I have, but I have spent more time trying to get people to accept and understand that the God that created the universe and set the Earth spinning in its orbit loves them despite all the mess in their life and wants a personal relationship with them. So, to see if I was missing something, I referred back to what Jesus did while he walked the face of the Earth. Call it my version of WWJD. But do not take my word for it, look it up. John 4:1-26. Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well. He begins having a conversation with her. She has had five husbands and at the time of their conversation is shacking up with another man. Think I am joking, go read it! John 4:1-26. Nowhere in the encounter does he tell her what her sin will get her. Then there was the woman brought to him by the Pharisees and teachers of the law because she was caught in the act of adultery in John 8:1-11. Did he begin a long lecture of what the sins were in her life and what Hell would be like? NO! He first told the Pharisees that whoever among them that was sinless could throw the first stone at her. They one by one walked away until it was just Jesus and the woman left by themselves. What did He say to her? He said "Where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "Then neither do I, Go now and sin no more." That is right. Jesus himself told an adulterer he did not condemn her.

Ponder this passage, John 3:17, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." I submit to you that if Jesus himself did not come to the world to condemn folks, that He probably does not want us to condemn folks. I would also submit that if Jesus did not walk the earth trying to scare the hell out of them, we probably should not be trying to either.

Then what should we be doing? Actually Jesus told us in pretty simple terms in John 13:34, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Hold the phone! That is Jesus' business plan for evangelism? Yup. That is it. Love people. And guess what? It works. I have seen it work in prisons where men with some of the hardest of hearts that thought no one could love them have come to understand that God has not given up on them, because someone decided to love them the way God has loved them. What if we went with that approach?


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