A long time ago I was working in a clothes store on Sauchiehall St in Glasgow when a man came into the shop wearing a sign that said:
Prepare to Meet Thy God
It just so happened that I was the first person whom he encountered. He told me how he used to be a drunkard and told me how he heard about the Lord Jesus and that his life had been turned around. While I had no doubt that this man was sincere and quite courageous to walk around Glasgow with a sign quoting Amos 4:12; I did notice that judging by the reactions of people around him that most thought him to be a tad daft. When I think back to this man I ask myself why he would use this sort of motivation or appeal with people when it appeared to not be that effective? Perhaps it is possible that he himself was drawn to the Lord Jesus with the same sort of appeal?
About four years ago I heard Tim Keller speaking at an Anglican 1000 Summit Conference in Texas (thanks to the Internet) and after his talks, Tim was invited to do a Q&A and he spoke about the role of contextualisation. But what stood out to me is how he highlighted something that I easily had missed; that when it comes to the Bible calling people to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Scriptures use different motivations. Yet many Christians tend only to use the one motivation and it is the motivation that brought them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
For example, let me introduce to a totally fictitious person named Nathan. Nathan comes from a non-Churched home, his parents were loving but were typical Aussies who worked hard, enjoyed the good life, loved having a good time on the weekends and God simply did not come into their thinking. But Nathan in his teens was invited to an evangelistic church service at his local church by some of his Christian mates. He decides to go and hears the minister preach a cracker of a sermon on Matthew 25:31-46. At the end of this service, the Holy Spirit uses this appeal to open Nathan’s heart and he comes to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Over time Nathan becomes quite the evangelist himself and the motivation he uses when he speaks to people about the Christian faith and/or when he preaches is the fear of death and fear of judgement which is not surprising since when one thinks of the big idea of the Lord Jesus’ teaching in Matt 25:31-46 and of course there is nothing wrong with him doing this, it is Biblical and appropriate, after all, the Lord Jesus spoke about Hell and judgement more than any other subject. However Nathan’s ministry probably could be more effective if he was aware of the other appeals/motivations that are contained in the Scriptures.
The Bible calls people to come to Christ using different motivations and here are some examples:
1. fear of death; fear of judgement; (Nathan’s appeal)
2. relieve the burden of your guilt and shame;
3. appeal to the beauty of the truth in itself;
4. satisfaction of unfulfilled longings (i.e The Lord Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman in John 4)
5. desire for freedom (arising from the sense that one is a slave, under the power of something one cannot get out of)
6. attractiveness to the grace and love of Jesus
All of these are motivations that Biblical authors use, yet I wonder if most of us (I include myself in this) tend to use only one motivation when we appeal to people, and whether it is the one in which we came to faith?
The elderly chap on Sauchiehall St no doubt had an encounter with God that changed his life, but walking up and down the main strip of Glasgow wearing a sign citing Amos 4:12 would most likely have the same effect in Pitt St Mall in Sydney that it did in Glasgow, not much. Cultures resonate with certain motivations more than other motivations and something I learnt in High School (from doing Society & Culture for the HSC believe it or not) is that cultural differences (and the cross cultural barriers that arise from these differences) are not only due to language and nationality but also due to time, (which is why there are differences between people of same language and country who are born in different decades). So the motivations that resonate with an Aussie who is a boomer, may not resonate with someone who is a Gen Y even though they are from the same country and city (or town). What is wonderful about God’s Word is that because it uses different motivations in calling people to Christ, we as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ have the same freedom to use different motivations with the assurance that we are being Biblical.
Questions to think about:
1. We tend to use one motivation when we appeal to people, and normally it is the one in which we came to faith. Which appeal do you tend to use?
2. Various cultures resonate with certain motivations more than other motivations. The good thing is that we can use different motivators and know that we are being Biblical. How does this encourage you when it comes to evangelism?