Evangelism's Code of Conduct

On Thursday, the Chicago Tribune featured an article about the World Council of Churches and the Vatican teaming up to establish a code of conduct for Evangelism.

Now I can’t say that when the WCC and the Vatican link arms, that I’m necessarily gonna be right there with them. And it could be that the code they eventually establish (if they can agree at all) would be rubbish. But I have to applaud them at least for making this effort. I believe it’s a worthy one.

It makes me want to write my own code of conduct… like a gentleman’s agreement. Not enforcible, but public enough so that can even non-Christians can hold us accountable to it.

Although I think my motive for doing so would be different from the Vatican/WCC initiative. They seem mostly concerned about governments on the brink of passing anti-evangelism legislation. It is thought that an established code of conduct might persuade them that evangelism is not dangerous, and should not be banned. They may be right, or it may be that these goverments are not so much worried about evangelism being pushy or annoying… they’re worried about it being effective. Then the only way to appease them would be to prove that the WCC and the Vatican only intend to engage in ineffective evangelism. I could see it, actually.

Maybe the reason that I don’t have this motive is that the U.S. is not on the brink of such legislation. Some people would argue with me, and it may very well be the case in 10 or 20 years, but not just yet. So my motive is more about helping the community to understand that we are also displeased with the nature of much of the evangelism that goes on, and we are committed to curbing it, even as we strive to obey the command to spread the Gospel.

So I’m going to jot down some preliminary, off-the-top-of-my-head ideas for an Evangelistic Code of Conduct. Here goes…

DON’T…

  1. interrupt people’s lives purely for the sake of evangelism.
  2. hand anyone a tract until you know they’re interested in reading it (and maybe not even then.)
  3. use tracts that look like money (ever!)
  4. wear a sandwich board or hold a sign or use a bullhorn (or shout as if you wished you had one.)
  5. use scripture with people who clearly don’t care about it.
  6. wear a big, fake smile and slap people on the back and say “awesome” all the time.
  7. argue (ever!)
  8. force people to hear your message in order receive something else that they want.
  9. lose interest in a person once they’ve said they’re not interested in the gospel
  10. separate your “real life” from your “ministry life.”

DO…

  1. listen carefully and respectfully
  2. be yourself, and talk like you talk.
  3. be willing to admit that you don’t know.
  4. be willing to admit that Christianity is not easy.
  5. apologize for the times that you, or Christians in general, have failed to exhibit the love of Christ.
  6. meet people’s needs with no strings attached.
  7. invite people into your life.
  8. consider living among the people you’re ministering to (or minister to the people you’re living among.)
  9. pray earnestly for unbelievers, and for your ability to be Christ to them.
  10. enjoy people’s company, plain and simple.

OK… I know I’m missing a lot, so you’ll have to add a comment to help me out. Go ahead… click that little “add a comment” link… I know you can do it.

0 thoughts on “Evangelism's Code of Conduct

  1. I like the list. I’m sure I could think of a few things to add, but my mind is elsewhere at the moment. I would strengthen Phil’s #11 with “Don’t bring politics into the equation <>at all<>” (not that you can’t talk about politics with a non-believer, but just leave it out of evangelism). And #12, taken at face value, would be nearly impossible for 95% of Christians to disagree with. If, however, the underlying meaning is, “Don’t ever confront people with their sinfulness when sharing the Gospel,” then we could simply not subscribe to that as believers. But I don’t think you meant that, Phil.I’m guessing you (and Ryan in #4) are thinking of the “bullhorn guy” in Rob Bell’s Bullhorn nooma. But, of course, “bullhorn guy” is considered a freak by nearly all Christians everywhere of every stripe. Which brings up an important point, I think. The Bible teaches us not to rebuke a fool. Bullhorn guy is clearly a fool. He’s the head-in-the-sand, hard-core fundamentalist who won’t heed anyone’s wisdom but those in his own regimatic enclave. In other words, are words are wasted on him. And they’re wasted on everyone else, because 95% of Christians don’t have that problem. In other words, let’s quit preaching to the choir and harping on someone who wouldn’t give us the time of day even in the miniscule chance that he happened upon this blog. Our time would be better spent encouraging and exhorting and edifying than constantly critiquing, wouldn’t it? Let’s expend more energy inspiring people to <>do<> something constructive rather than beating the dead horse of what not to do.

  2. I like the list. I’m sure I could think of a few things to add, but my mind is elsewhere at the moment. I would strengthen Phil’s #11 with “Don’t bring politics into the equation <>at all<>” (not that you can’t talk about politics with a non-believer, but just leave it out of evangelism). And #12, taken at face value, would be nearly impossible for 95% of Christians to disagree with. If, however, the underlying meaning is, “Don’t ever confront people with their sinfulness when sharing the Gospel,” then we could simply not subscribe to that as believers. But I don’t think you meant that, Phil.I’m guessing you (and Ryan in #4) are thinking of the “bullhorn guy” in Rob Bell’s Bullhorn nooma. But, of course, “bullhorn guy” is considered a freak by nearly all Christians everywhere of every stripe. Which brings up an important point, I think. The Bible teaches us not to rebuke a fool. Bullhorn guy is clearly a fool. He’s the head-in-the-sand, hard-core fundamentalist who won’t heed anyone’s wisdom but those in his own regimatic enclave. In other words, are words are wasted on him. And they’re wasted on everyone else, because 95% of Christians don’t have that problem. In other words, let’s quit preaching to the choir and harping on someone who wouldn’t give us the time of day even in the miniscule chance that he happened upon this blog. Our time would be better spent encouraging and exhorting and edifying than constantly critiquing, wouldn’t it? Let’s expend more energy inspiring people to <>do<> something constructive rather than beating the dead horse of what not to do.

  3. Mostly true, beloved. But I’m going to pick on you on one point.How much would you bet that Israel’s reaction to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, etc, was, “This man is clearly a fool.” (especially Ezekiel)?Now I’m not comparing bullhorn guy to the Old Testament prophets. But to automatically assume that there is no other explanation for this behavior besides folly is to be short-sighted, I believe. And some of these people probably really could be reasoned with, if we did not underestimate their rationality. And although I don’t compare them with genuine prophets, there is every likelihood that they consider themselves prophets of sorts, commanded to make fools of themselves for the sake of the gospel. In a sense, aren’t we all called to do that (but in a way that actually represents the gospel)?And I want to make something clear about my motive for the Evangelistic Code. There are actually two motives, but beloved seems to be forgetting the second one. The first is to encourage one another to evangelize by being Christ to unbelievers, no more, no less. But the second is to show the world what we stand for, and what we stand against. To include in the list our opposition to bullhorns and sandwich signs, we are dissociating ourselves from those “fools” who the world might otherwise associate us with. And I think that’s important.

  4. Mostly true, beloved. But I’m going to pick on you on one point.How much would you bet that Israel’s reaction to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, etc, was, “This man is clearly a fool.” (especially Ezekiel)?Now I’m not comparing bullhorn guy to the Old Testament prophets. But to automatically assume that there is no other explanation for this behavior besides folly is to be short-sighted, I believe. And some of these people probably really could be reasoned with, if we did not underestimate their rationality. And although I don’t compare them with genuine prophets, there is every likelihood that they consider themselves prophets of sorts, commanded to make fools of themselves for the sake of the gospel. In a sense, aren’t we all called to do that (but in a way that actually represents the gospel)?And I want to make something clear about my motive for the Evangelistic Code. There are actually two motives, but beloved seems to be forgetting the second one. The first is to encourage one another to evangelize by being Christ to unbelievers, no more, no less. But the second is to show the world what we stand for, and what we stand against. To include in the list our opposition to bullhorns and sandwich signs, we are dissociating ourselves from those “fools” who the world might otherwise associate us with. And I think that’s important.

  5. Right. It’s presumptuous (read: judgmental) for us to assume we know precisely the hearts of those blurting the “repent or burn” message.I’m not solid enough yet in my theology to say with certainty that the OT form of prophecy has ceased, but coupled with what I do know about the differences between Israel and the Church, I’m intuitively confident that modern prophecy takes the form of ‘words of wisdom’ rather than foretelling the future. And I agree that there’s without a doubt a time and place for ‘hard truths’ to be spoken boldly, without apology, which sometimes gets labeled (even by myself sometimes) as prophetic.I agree about the different purposes for such a list. Distinguishing and clarifying is super important. So long as it doesn’t consume a large portion of our discourse. In other words, let’s try to be more proactively revolutionary and less reactionary with our rhetoric (I suppose I ought to clarify that I don’t generally use the R-word negatively. Persuasive speaking is ethical, effective, and biblical, when done properly.).As a side note, I’m often inspired and encouraged by Core Blog posts. 😉Have an AWESOME day, guys and gals! AWESOME!SUPER DUPER AWESOME!YEAH!

  6. Right. It’s presumptuous (read: judgmental) for us to assume we know precisely the hearts of those blurting the “repent or burn” message.I’m not solid enough yet in my theology to say with certainty that the OT form of prophecy has ceased, but coupled with what I do know about the differences between Israel and the Church, I’m intuitively confident that modern prophecy takes the form of ‘words of wisdom’ rather than foretelling the future. And I agree that there’s without a doubt a time and place for ‘hard truths’ to be spoken boldly, without apology, which sometimes gets labeled (even by myself sometimes) as prophetic.I agree about the different purposes for such a list. Distinguishing and clarifying is super important. So long as it doesn’t consume a large portion of our discourse. In other words, let’s try to be more proactively revolutionary and less reactionary with our rhetoric (I suppose I ought to clarify that I don’t generally use the R-word negatively. Persuasive speaking is ethical, effective, and biblical, when done properly.).As a side note, I’m often inspired and encouraged by Core Blog posts. 😉Have an AWESOME day, guys and gals! AWESOME!SUPER DUPER AWESOME!YEAH!

  7. Ryan, I agree with 3, 6, 8, and 10. Other than that its Ryan’s code vs. the Bible.I am glad that religous people are still infuriated by the bold public proclamation of the gospel, just as they were in Jesus day. Your code is cute, but we will continue to obey God’s word and defy your rules, the vaticans, and any other man made restrictions.“Cry aloud, lift up your voice like a trumpet.. show this people their sins.”Jesus said to boldly proclaim truth from the rooftops, he said to preach the gospel to every creature, and he assured his disciples they were blessed if they were reviled in his name. This means it was a sure thing they would be preaching too people who didnt want to hear. Gods word won’t return void.. even if its on a sandwich sign.Also I am sure that the thousands of men and women saved under the ministries of sign wearing, bull horn using street preacher James Stewart are thankful he didnt follow your warm and fuzzy code. The gospel is intrusive, its meant to be. Hardened sinners respect the average street preacher, religous people hate their guts. Praise God.As much as I want to be accepted by others, I am willing to be a fool for Jesus Christ, as Paul said God is willing “through the foolishness of preaching” to save some.I dont save anyone, JESUS does, when we take the powerful word to the public. Those of you trying to live as close to the world as possible won’t want to be bold anyway.Nate Ellishttp://www.axetotheroot.com4:06 PM

  8. Ryan, I agree with 3, 6, 8, and 10. Other than that its Ryan’s code vs. the Bible.I am glad that religous people are still infuriated by the bold public proclamation of the gospel, just as they were in Jesus day. Your code is cute, but we will continue to obey God’s word and defy your rules, the vaticans, and any other man made restrictions.“Cry aloud, lift up your voice like a trumpet.. show this people their sins.”Jesus said to boldly proclaim truth from the rooftops, he said to preach the gospel to every creature, and he assured his disciples they were blessed if they were reviled in his name. This means it was a sure thing they would be preaching too people who didnt want to hear. Gods word won’t return void.. even if its on a sandwich sign.Also I am sure that the thousands of men and women saved under the ministries of sign wearing, bull horn using street preacher James Stewart are thankful he didnt follow your warm and fuzzy code. The gospel is intrusive, its meant to be. Hardened sinners respect the average street preacher, religous people hate their guts. Praise God.As much as I want to be accepted by others, I am willing to be a fool for Jesus Christ, as Paul said God is willing “through the foolishness of preaching” to save some.I dont save anyone, JESUS does, when we take the powerful word to the public. Those of you trying to live as close to the world as possible won’t want to be bold anyway.Nate Ellishttp://www.axetotheroot.com4:06 PM

  9. “Hardened sinners respect the average street preacher”I don’t see this. At all.And even if it were true, I thought you didn’t care about respect?If we are indeed to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, let’s be wise enough at least to use the language of our hearers, and innocent of the thinly-veiled-vendetta-speak that seems to revel in the eventual destruction of those “hardened sinners”, whom God loves.I am not the “religious” one. You are.

  10. “Hardened sinners respect the average street preacher”I don’t see this. At all.And even if it were true, I thought you didn’t care about respect?If we are indeed to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, let’s be wise enough at least to use the language of our hearers, and innocent of the thinly-veiled-vendetta-speak that seems to revel in the eventual destruction of those “hardened sinners”, whom God loves.I am not the “religious” one. You are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *