Years ago, there seemed to be more emphasis on evangelism than we see today. As a child, I understood evangelism as a high-pitch pressure sales job for Jesus. We were to go out and win souls for Christ no matter what it took to keep the person from “going to hell.” So, we were equipped with tracts, buzz phrases and often scriptures taken out of context so that we could, if need be, scare people or make them feel guilty enough to accept Jesus as their Savior, at any cost. It was called “Witnessing.”
Even growing up in a very fundamental Pentecostal Church, I never could buy into this form of evangelism. These religious stunts gave evangelism a bad name and still does. The things that had the biggest impact on my life were my Mother’s faith and people’s stories of hope. The most impactful story of hope for me was watching the miraculous conversion experience of my Father on Sunday, April 17, 1966, when he arrived at church drunker than “Cooter Brown” and left sober a short time later having said yes to accepting Christ as his Savior. Two months later, on Saturday evening, June 11, as an 11-year old boy, I said yes to God.
It was then I recognized that “Witnessing” as a method for evangelism was not what the church was teaching. It was much more simple and personal. It was sharing your story; telling others how God and the church has impacted your life. I found in scripture what I already knew in my heart; the true meaning of evangelism and “witnessing.” “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15)
Witnessing doesn’t require the manipulation of people with negative bombardments attempting to scare “the hell” out of them. It’s simply “giving a reason for the hope you have; with gentleness and respect” and letting God do the rest.
Join us at Covenant this Sunday for worship. We’ll have a special guest testimony from someone giving a reason for his hope after a horrific life changing accident. My sermon will be “Giving A Reason for My Hope” based on I Peter 3:13-16.