Lifestyle Evangelism Refuted

By Dr. Curtis Hutson


V. Lifestyle Evangelism Refuted by Sensible Logic

   The Bible emphasizes the urgency of salvation. Second Corinthians 6:2 says, "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." And Hebrews 4:7 says, "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
   Since the matter of salvation is urgent, why should we wait several weeks or even months to witness to a friend or even a stranger? Those who teach lifestyle evangelism say that we should live it before the individual perhaps weeks, or even months, before we present a verbal witness. In the words of lifestyle evangelists, we should "incarnate" the Gospel before we verbalize it. To do otherwise is so-called "evangelical mugging."
   If salvation is the most important thing in the world - and it is - then why should we run the risk of a man's dying and going to Hell before we finally get around to a verbal witness?
   I remember being called to the hospital in the middle of the night by a dear lady whose sister was dying. She said, "Pastor, I hate to bother you in the middle of the night, but the doctor says my sister has only a few hours to live. She has never trusted Christ as Saviour. Won't you please come and see if you can talk with her before she dies."
   So in the middle of the night I dressed and drove to the hospital. The family was there, and this dear lady took me into the room where her sister was dying. I was not sure the lady could understand me, so I asked if she could hear me to let me know by moving a finger. And she did.
   I told her the old, old story of Jesus and His love. And though she was unable to speak, she trusted Christ as Saviour. I remember saying, "Dear lady, if you will trust Christ as Saviour, would you let me know it by simply moving your right hand?" I placed my hand near hers, and very weakly she took my hand and squeezed it as hard as she could.
   Her sister, who was watching, began to weep with joy. There was a holy presence in the room as this lady went out to meet the Saviour.
   There was no time here for me to witness with my lifestyle. I had only a few minutes with this dear lady before she died and went to Heaven.
   Just this week I boarded a plane to fly to New Jersey for a Bible conference. Every seat was filled, and I had a window seat. Sitting next to me was a young engineer. We had not been flying very long before he asked me if my trip was business or pleasure. Smiling, I said, "Business. I wouldn't be flying to New Jersey this time of year on a pleasure trip!"
   Then he inquired, "What kind of business are you in?" I explained that I was a preacher and was going to speak in a conference. The gentleman was very friendly, and we talked about his new home in Atlanta.
   After a few minutes I handed him a gospel tract entitled, How to Know You Are Going to Heaven. I said, "Read this and tell me what you think about it." Things were quiet for a few moments as he read the tract.
   When he finished he said, "It makes sense." I reviewed the tract asking if he understood that he was a sinner. "Yes," he replied.
   I said, "Do you understand that sinners owe a penalty? The Bible says in Romans 6:23, 'The wages of sin is death.' Do you understand that, if we pay what we owe, we must go into Hell and stay there forever and ever?"
   "Yes," he replied.
   Third, I asked, "Do you really believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for your sins? Do you believe that all your sins were laid on Jesus two thousand years ago, just as the Bible says in I Peter 2:24?"
   "Yes," he replied.
   Then, using his name, I said, "Mr. ________, will you trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour?"
   And he replied, "Yes, I will." In a few moments he had prayed and told the Lord he would trust Him. I got his name and address and have written to him since to send some literature for follow up, and I have sent him a gift subscription to THE SWORD OF THE LORD.
   Now here is an instance where I could not have lived the Christian life before the man several weeks or months before witnessing to him. The flight was only an hour and a half, and I had less than two hours to witness to him.
   By the way, the last thing I prayed on Sunday night before going to sleep was, "Dear Lord, tomorrow let me sit next to some one on the plane to whom I can witness." And the Lord put me next to a man who opened the conversation and was ready to hear the Gospel.
   A preacher told me that he was standing in an airport and passing out tracts. As he offered one man a tract, the man smiled and said, "I already have one." And reaching in his pocket, he showed the preacher a tract identical to the ones he was distributing. It was Dr. Rice's tract, "What Must I Do to Be Saved?" The man was a soldier, and he said to the preacher, "The wife of the man who wrote this tract just led me to Christ on the plane and gave me the tract." Mrs. John R. Rice had led this soldier boy to Christ. She had probably never seen him before and would never see him again. But in the short time they had together on the plane, she won him to the Saviour.
   No time here for so-called "incarnating" the Gospel-only time for verbalizing the message.
   A few evenings ago while traveling, I stopped at a service station to get gas for my automobile. While the man was pumping the gas, I handed him a tract and said, "Here is something that will tell you how to go to Heaven when you die. Will you promise me you'll read it?"
   Accepting the tract he said, "Yes, I will."
   "By the way, what's your name?" I asked.
   "Tom," he replied.
   I said, "Tom, I can tell you what is in that tract in just a few minutes." And I began, "All men are sinners." Going through the plan of salvation I explained how that sinners owe a penalty and told him that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay our sin debt. After explaining the plan of salvation, I asked, "Tom, wouldn't you really like to trust Christ as your Saviour?"
   And he said, "Yes."
   I said, "If you really mean that, let's shake on it." And he reached out and shook my hand. I then asked him if he would pray and tell Jesus Christ that he was trusting Him as Saviour.
   And the dear man prayed, "Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner. I believe that Jesus Christ died for me. And here and now I trust Him as my Saviour." I then asked if I could pray, and I prayed that God would give him assurance of salvation and that he would live for Christ and be a good Christian.
   Now some may call this kind of soul winning "evangelical mugging," and I may be accused of being on a "spiritual safari"; but the truth of the matter is, I simply felt that I should witness to the man. I had never seen him before, and I will probably never see him again. Since I was traveling to another state to preach the Gospel, the chances are I will probably never stop at that same service station again.
   If it were necessary for me to live the Christian life before the man several weeks or months before witnessing to him, then I could have never led him to Christ.
   In closing, let me say that I believe in living a consistent, godly Christian life; and a good testimony makes the soul winner more effective and productive. But there is no teaching in the Bible that we should demonstrate Christianity several months before trying to lead a soul to Christ.
   It is important that soul winners be careful in their approach. I have often said, "The way to a man's heart is not down his throat." I am convinced that some soul winners could improve their approach. The soul winner must learn to be sensitive. Unless you get the individual's attention and unless he is listening, it is not likely that you will win him to Christ. There have been occasions when I felt that I was not getting through to the person; and so I changed the conversation and talked about something else and went back later.
   Soul winning is like many other things: the more you do it, the better you can do it. You learn to do by doing.
   In trying to lead a soul to Christ, we must be careful not to offend the individual. The Bible says, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city" (Prov. 18:19). But there is no teaching in the Bible that one must live the Christian life before an individual several weeks or months before witnessing to him, that he must befriend him and be sure that he "incarnates" the Gospel before he verbalizes it.

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