Are We Really Evangelical? Thoughts on Hell, Action, and Missional Living

   

“If we only believed what comes out of our mouths, our actions would be very different.” These were the words which poured over me as I stood in the shower this morning. If I truly believed, if I really caught a glimpse of the urgency of the gospel, I would be doing things so much more differently. All the things which seem so incredibly important, would suddenly seem foolish. If the reality of Hell (on earth and eternal) was tangible, real, and inevitable, I could not help but do all that I could to rescue as many as possible. I would not be able to help myself—I would abandon all that is temporal and wasting away, and save lives.

Getting my yard done would be a waste of time. Getting that higher paying career would not matter. Trying to look good, feel good, and be liked would all be vain facades of a self-absorbed and arrogant man.

Do we not say this of people in our own communities?

Imagine this if you will.

Each and every day a nice young gentlemen awakes in his apartment building, gets ready for the day and happily greets everyone in the building on his way to work. The man is well liked and everyone considers him one of the nicest and most pleasant people to be around. He is generous, helping old ladies carry their groceries up the flights of stairs to their apartment and is always willing to lend a helping hand to those moving in or out (a painful and arduous task indeed if you have ever lived in an apartment).

One night, however, he awakes to find that the apartment complex is on fire. Nothing drastic yet. It is not life threatening, but in a matter of time all will be consumed. This man is left with a choice. Do I warn the people in the apartment or save my stuff without which I won’t live a comfortable and enjoyable life. Opting for his own comfort, he leaves the apartment silently with his prized possessions all cluttered about him. They are safe and so is his comfort—but at what cost?

All those he claimed to care for, whom he only hours ago had warmly bid goodnight, were now trapped in an agonizing tomb of fire and death.

This silhouette of a man, I dare say, is both you and I.

Sure, some may grab a few less things and warn a couple more people on the way out of peril—but very few abandon comfort and stuff to truly warn their neighbors. And even less risk the peril of the flames and physical death to get this message out. But is this not the sort of behavior we cherish and praise in our culture? Do we not honor the firefighter, police officer, military, or citizen who sacrifices their safety and comfort to rescue others?

Why is it that the Christian, when aware of an even greater fire and more dire peril, does even less than those who risk it all for something fleeting?

I submit that there are only two possibilities: we either do not believe or understand the reality of danger in which those all around us are in (and therefore should pray for a clearer glimpse of this danger) or, frankly, we don’t really care about other people.

It is the latter which scares me the most.

We have heard countless people argue bitterly about the realities of Hell and the insistence that the flames are not some temporal metaphor but are real and eternal. The tongues of these flames will lick and snarl the flesh off billions of people eternally.

If even an ounce of this intellectual conviction and debate were given over to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those doomed to this place, western Christianity—and perhaps the world—would already look much different.

Too often I have heard people pray to have a heart for the lost and countless preaches call congregations to live missionally. But this heart and this way of life should be the natural consequence for the Christian who was just rescued from the flames.

So many of these Christians, myself included, go by the title “evangelical.” Are we really? Are we really about evangelizing? Are we really about preaching the gospel? Or does this term just simply mean that we are okay with others doing that kind of dirty work—I’ll just slip out of the burning building clinging to and enjoying my comfort and stuff. I’ll leave the rescuing to the professionals—missionaries, pastors, and over-zealous twenty-somethings.

The reality is, there is no such thing as a Christian that is not a missionary. It is who we are. We are evangelical to the core.

Our God is an evangelical, not just in term but in action. Are you?

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  • Pam

    Very sad but Very true! Jon you write so well. I don’t comment often, but I do want you to know I read your blogs every day. Thank you to my Nephew who grew up  to know what is right and that is to do God’s work and spread his word. Jon you have come a long way since Uncle Doug use to hold you upside down and you use to dance on the ceiling ! remember  that? We are both so very proud of you. Keep up the great work!  Loved that your group received enough to help out your missionaries in Peru with a dryer, that was so needed and great !  {{{{hugs}}}} from your Aunt Pam & Uncle Doug

  • Anonymous

    It seems the threat of hell is not so much “flames of judgment” that’ll engulf you if you die without believing but more “jaws of guilt” that’ll eat out your soul if you fail to live what you believe.
    Far better to live with love than let others die in judgment, right?

    But do you think it’s possible “evangelizing” can sometimes come across as unintended arrogance?
    I mean, if the building isn’t visibly burning, aren’t we going to appear as the boy who cried wolf?
    If we say to someone who seems already to be doing okay (they’re loving others and doing good by them) – if we say to that person, “Watch out, or you’re gonna burn in hell!”  won’t we appear a little judgmental?
    That is to say, I’m not sure evangelizing is the solution to your well-diagnosed problem.

    But all the same, thanks for another thoughtful, well-written article.

    Fight for what’s right. Keep the Peace!

  • Oh, Jonathan’s bringing the fiya today! 

    Dude, convicting, indeed.  This is totally NOT an excuse, but somtimes I feel that the fact that I’ve grown up in a Christian home has held me back.  I don’t have a “before” story, a big conversion story.  And, sometimes I think that blinds me to the fact that there are others who need and long for a desperate change in their lives. 

    I feel like what you’re saying here harkens back to a word I just seem to keep rolling around in my brain-compartmentalize.  I think we compartmentalize everything in our lives, most significantly our faith.  If my faith was a bigger part of how I live my life-how I speak to others, how I consider my neighbors, how I spend my money-then even that in and of itself would be evangelism.  I need to decompartmentalize my faith in a major way.

  • I didn’t interpret this article to mean that we should go around with cardboard signs screaming “Repent, or you’ll burn in hell!”  I think the point Jonathan was making is that if a building was on fire, we would be compelled to help others get out.  We wouldn’t just sit back and wait for them to realize the building was on fire.  We would tell them about it.  We might even physically help them to get out if they were unale to do so on their own.  Sure, in reality, I don’t think this is a interpretation of how we are to approach unbelievers. But, we should have a passion and a desire to see people saved from Hell, to see them come to know the One True God. 

  • Anonymous

    “we should have a passion and a desire to see people saved from Hell, to see them come to know the One True God.”
    Sure! That’s a fair thing to say.

    And I like what you said about de-compartmentalizing our faith.

    As for the other stuff: I suppose different people have different styles of evangelizing. The poster people and street-side preachers are a bit more aggressive. I like to be more subtle and chameleon-like. And it sounds like you prefer to be an earnest friend.

    Jonathan’s burning building analogy implies he has a flair for the dramatically persuasive … Would you say that’s fair, Jonathan?

  • Very true. I think we try to “have our cake and eat it too.” We want to be Christian Atheists. Sanctification makes us lift these walls. 

  • haha. Perhaps. Nevertheless, I believe we are called to action. We are called to preach the gospel. We are called to love and serve as images of what the gospel represents. I don’t think there is any particular “right” way—and I am certainly not a fan of the angry street preacher—as I have written here http://bit.ly/go1gNS  For me, I like building relationships. 

    But when speaking to Christians, I like giving images of truths which I believe God is speaking into and through me. 

  • Keri you have convicted me now!! I do have a story. I feel that I never usually tell. And if I do its always in a nutshell. From birth to about age 19 I knew nothing of God and in the days of my rebellion towards everything I can look back and see how much God wants me to use my story. Now even this reply is in a nutshell….. doh.

  • Joey, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through blogging it’s that each story is relevant, not only individually, but also collectively as the Body of Christ.  The connections I’ve made online have shown me that we all have something to share that can edify our brothers and sisters in Christ.  :)  Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! 

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