The question should never be how to reach people with the Gospel, but how to feed them when they come to you hungry for Truth.
It’s not our job – JESUS NEVER DID IT – to shoot wide with the Gospel message, hoping that something will hit and stick. That is not the intention behind Jesus’ directive to go into all the world and preach the Good News. During his ministry years, Jesus himself only taught those who came to him, who clearly indicated they wanted to learn, just as he only healed those who came to him for healing. He didn’t force himself or the Gospel on anyone; he made himself available by traveling around. That is what he meant by going into the world and preaching the Good News. He never intended for the Gospel to be force-fed or to be served as a lukewarm leftover to people who either aren’t hungry or don’t really care for what’s on the menu.
Showing up regular as clockwork every Sunday and sitting your butt in a pew for an hour doesn’t indicate that you’re hungry for Truth; it just means that you’re good at keeping to a schedule. Those who sit week after week and year after year in churches that preach another gospel (which is nearly all Christian churches these days) are not hungry or thirsty for Truth. As cruel as it may sound, these people need to be cut loose. They are the blind being led by the blind, and they will gladly fall into the ditch. No-one who willingly and habitually sits in a pew in what passes for a Christian church these days has any love for Truth in them.
After my impromptu fact-finding mission last Sunday, I spent some time this past week watching videos online of various Sunday services of churches in my area, hoping to find at least one pastor who spoke something even remotely resembling the Gospel as preached by Jesus. I’m sad to report that I found nothing. What I did find were churches celebrating “Pride” month, one of which was led by a blind pastor who openly identifies as gay. You can’t make this stuff up. I had hoped for better from my hometown, but why should Halifax be any different from any other fallen city? Nazareth wasn’t any different from any other place, even though it was Jesus’ hometown. The Nazarenes were no more hungry for Truth than were the people from Jerusalem. Had the Nazarenes been hungry for Truth, they wouldn’t have run Jesus out of town.
We need to focus on feeding those who are genuinely hungry for Truth. Ironically, many of these people don’t identify as Christians and in most cases despise Christianity. Don’t let that fool you. They’re not wrong to reject the modern-day version of Christianity. I rejected it as an atheist and I still reject it as a Spirit-filled born-again follower of Jesus.
When those who are hungry for Truth come to you, be straight with them. Don’t sugar-coat God’s Word so as not to offend them. Sometimes you’ll have to deliver the message obliquely, like the early Christians tracing a fish in the dirt, but make sure when you do that, your meaning is understood. Jesus spoke in parables partly because people who were not in the Kingdom wouldn’t understand plain speaking, and partly because he needed to sidestep the booby traps that were always being set for him.
Never shy away from calling sin sin, even if you have to relabel it a shovel to get past censors. Never shy away from calling sin sin.
Jesus lost many of his followers by refusing to sugar-coat his message. He anticipated that would happen, so he wasn’t surprised when it did. He was almost relieved to lose the dead wood. Jesus knew from the start who would stay and who would go, just as he knew who would betray him.
We need to focus on those whose love for Truth is sincere and let the rest go. I am approached every so often by someone who is trying to tempt me into saying something that presumably I’ll later regret. They ask leading questions, like the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus, trying to trip me up. Watch out for those people. They’ll play on your sympathies, as they always come with a long convoluted sob story to provoke your compassion and desire to help, while flattering you to appeal to your pride. Watch out for them. There is no love for Truth in them. They don’t want your help; they only want to bring you down.
In one of his final teachings, Jesus tells his disciples to feed his sheep. He doesn’t say to go out and look for sheep, he says to feed them. He means they’ll come to you hungry; their hunger will drive them to look for you. Let them find you, and when they do, feed them the way Jesus fed his sheep: in Spirit and in Truth. Don’t feed them another gospel of sugar-coated evil, like mainstream Christianity does, to tickle their ears and give them a rush and lead them astray and get money out of them. Feed them in Spirit and in Truth. The ones who are genuinely Jesus’ sheep will stay and feed and eventually learn to feed others.
The ones who are not Jesus’ sheep will leave when the going gets tough.
Let them go. Don’t run after them. Jesus calls them the blind leading the blind, and he lets them be. He knows that nothing he says will make any difference to them, because there is no real love for Truth in them. They don’t hear his voice. They are deaf and they are blind and if they hunger for anything, it’s sugar-coated evil.
Focus on feeding those whose love for Truth is real.