Outreach “Web Exclusive” Interview

An interview with me about my book I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop has been posted (here) on the website of the magazine Outreach. Pretty sweet–especially given that Outreach‘s slogan is “Reach More People for Christ.” I mean, how open minded can you get? (Actually, support for this book from the so-called “conservative” side of the Christian spectrum has been truly gratifying.) Wootwoot!

And may I just say that Outreach‘s associate and online editor, Andrea Bailey, was a sheer dream to work with?

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  • i have not read your book, but based on the interview, i found myself frowning and shaking my head a lot. i appreciate your apparent passion for the great commandment. we are definitely lacking in that area. i agree with your basic principle on evangelism, but bottom line, there is no formula for evangelism. different personalities require different approaches. some people should be evangelized as you suggest, but others need a more direct approach. therefore, the suggestion that this should always be our method is concerning. paul is probably the best biblical example of evangelism we have and certainly was not subtle. he did however change his approach to fit the culture in which he was. only the Holy Spirit can guide us as to how to evangelize different individuals.

    also, the idea that everyone in america knows about Christ seems very contradictory to what most are saying about the culture we live in. the u.s. has been dubbed a post-christian nation by more than a few researchers and authors. one hard look at society certainly bears evidence of it as well.

  • Hey–thanks for reading and commenting. Yeah, of course with an interview of such (relatively) short duration, there's only time to cover so much. "I'm OK," of course, covers a lot more ground. Its whole final third, for instance, has to do with HOW, exactly (and finally) we Christians might best go about discussing our faith with our non-Christian friends–that is, it offers some suggestions about that whole dynamic. (The first third of the book deals with what I believe to be the proper relationship between the two GC's; the second is an intense, deep look at the inherent–and, I feel, too readily overlooked–challenges of the Great Commandment.

    I am not comfortable accepting Paul as a model of the kind of evangelism we should be doing today, because when Paul was doing it he was moving around in a world where nobody had yet heard of Jesus. That's hardly our world today.

    I'm not saying that everyone in America BELIEVES in Christianity–I'm "only" saying they know enough about it to know if they want to know anything MORE about it. In the book I say … well, exactly, this: "What's certainly true–and what certainly deserves celebration–is the degree to which we Christians have, in fact, always Harkened Mightily to the call of the Great Commission. So winning, in fact, have been their/our efforts in that noble enterprise that just about the only people in America today who don't know a fair amount about Jesus–who don't at least know that he was God on earth, performed miracles, sacrificed himself to atone for our sins, and rose from the dead–are people who have never known more than, say, ten other people–and who also don't have a TV, never listen to the radio, never read, and never go to the movies. Which amounts to just about no one at all."

    Bottom line (again): You start trying to convert someone who hasn't first ASKED you for that sort of input, and the chances are postively outstanding that you WILL alienate that person. Which means they'll leave. Which means you won't have a relationship with them. Which means you can't (in any sort of practical, normal sense) love them. Which means breaking the Great Commandment with them. Which means disobeying Jesus.

    No good.

  • snowhite197

    To add to that, John, I think there are two other things we don't necessarily consider when we talk about the 'conflict' between the two GC's:

    1. The fact that, above all else, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit. If the HS says, "Go talk to that person on the street corner that you have no relationship with about Me," of course we need to obey. We love God by obeying Him and loving Him is the first part of the first commandment.

    2. The fact that God calls some people specifically to evangelize. Billy Graham, for example. These are usually people with awesome people skills that are master conversationists. God tells these people to talk to others about Him ALL THE TIME, and may even call them into ministry for that express purpose. but not everybody can be an 'evangelist' per-se. Some are called to minister through the arts, service, friendships, etc. Eventually that will also lead to some sort of 'evangelism'.

    Bottom line, we all just need to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey Him when He leads us to directly evangelize, and ALSO (and most importantly for those of us who do not have the spiritual gift of evangelism to a great extent!) do our best to form loving relationships with others that show, in practical ways, Christ's love for them. If we do those two things, obeying God and loving others as He loves us, we will fulfill God's mission in our lives and that will result in people coming to Christ.

    Finally, CR, maybe you feel so strongly about this because God has called you into an area of evangelism! If so, you should be very excited! Not everyone has this gift to a great extent (like I said, we are all called to be evangelists, but to different extents, just like all other spiritual gifts).

    I know that when I finally discovered that my spiritual gift wasn't evangelizing but love/service/hospitality, it felt like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was trying to be something I wasn't because I thought I needed to; that I could only obey God if I tried to get everyone in my high school saved! I probably could have reached more people for Christ just by fostering real relationships with others like me than what I was doing then to try and 'reach people for Jesus'.

  • Excellent stuff, Snow.