Joe Bob's Guide to World Evangelism| 05/13/2008
Okay, all you guys who like to sit in football stadiums while somebody reads the Bible and then fat women in purple robes sing the Doxology and then you walk down to the fifty yard line and cry a little and "rededicate" your miserable self to the J-Man, I need you to listen up here for a minute.
It's not working.
I'm not buying it.
This is a toughie for Joe Bob "The Exegete" Briggs, though, cause we've got that pesky little scripture known to jungle-dwelling missionaries throughout the world as "The Great Commission." I speak, of course, of Mark 16, verse 15. If you will please read it, Don Pardo, por favor . . .
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
This is the verse that accounts for your Billy Grahams. Of course, it wasn't that big a stretch for Billy, because he started out as a Fuller Brush salesman. He was ready to sell something.
But this is also the scripture that accounts for your doorbell-ringing Jehovah's Witnesses, your screaming televangelists in rural North Carolina, your white-shoed tent revival specialists, your Times Square rave-masters, and every girl who ever fluttered her eyes and said, "Joe Bob, I really like you, but I think I need to witness to you about Jesus Christ." When you hear these words, by the way, your brain will start flashing "No nookie tonight! No nookie tonight!" This is not necessarily true. If you listen earnestly to what she has to say, and drop a tear or two, it could mean massive mind-blowing Coitus Spiritualis, which is a particular form of sexual ecstasy practiced mainly by the daughters of ministers. (Robert Mitchum, may he rest in peace, said that it's even better with the wives of ministers, and proved it in many a town where he was filming. But we all can't be as adventurous as Big Bob.)
Obviously I've strayed from the subject here, but you get the idea. Any time some bluff and hearty Fellowship of Christian Athlete has clapped you on the shoulder and said, "Brother, lemme tell you about Christ!" and you've felt your whole body cringe in mortal terror, then you have been victimized by Mark 16:15. You have been bludgeoned with the Great Commission. Maybe you've even been hornswoggled into carrying on the great bludgeoning tradition and psychically battering a few heathen yourself. Maybe you've gone on the dreaded "Thursday Visitation" outings, in which you sit uncomfortably in the living rooms of beer-bellied guys you don't know, saying, "Randall, we sure would like to see you and the wife in church one of these Sundays. That is, if you know where the wife is these days."
Now. Before I go into the true meaning of Mark 16:15, let's take a quick look at another scripture that Billy Graham doesn't mention so often. Don Pardo, if you will read from the book of Matthew, chapter 23, verse 15, and we are still in the red letters here, by the way:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."
Interesting, right? On the one hand the J-Man seems to be telling the disciples to go out and proselytize. On the other hand, he says that all these holy men who do travel to Siberia and back to make new believers are actually creating something called a proselyte, which is that fearful thing, the zealous young child of hell who stands on street corners and in airport lounges, saying obnoxious stuff about God.
"But, Joe Bob, in one scripture he's talking to the disciples, and in the other one he's talking to those evil Pharisees!"
Sorry, not buying it. If one word is written to us, then it's all written to us. A Pharisee is anyone who gets his identity from doing things for God, and that's dang near everybody in organized religion today. How many children of hell have these guys created? I would suggest you study those strange-eyed neo-hippies who hang around the Davos meetings and other big public events, singing syrupy songs and spouting cliches and carrying self-righteous signs with lame cliches on them in a way that pretty much turns off anyone with half a brain. All they do, 24 hours a day, is talk about God, and they're damn proud of it. These, my dear friends, are proselytes.
Here I pause for one more digression. Ole Anthony, the publisher of The Door, is one of the few sane men I know who actually does like to talk about God 24 hours a day. He's a good guy to have around if the Jehovah's Witnesses show up, because he'll say, "Yeah, come on in! What's on your mind? Have a seat! Want a Coke while we're chatting? I see your Bible is open to Deuteronomy. I love Deuteronomy. One of the least appreciated books. Part of the Big Five." The result is that the Jehovans go "Man, we don't have time to listen to all this stuff" and flee the building.
Okay, back to The Great Commission. Consulting the original Greek, please note that the sentence in Mark 16:15 is in the "aorist" tense. We don't really have this tense in English, so that's why the King James translators wrote it down the way they did, in the imperative tense. But a better translation, for this more passive tense, would be "As ye go into all the world, preach the gospel into every creature."
Kinda changes the whole deal, doesn't it? As you move through your world, whatever that is, wherever that is, whoever comes into your path, reveal the gospel that lives inside you. Reveal Christ, not through words, but in your life.
And this is starting to make sense to me.
"But, Joe Bob, Paul had all these evangelistic campaigns. He saved 3000 people at a time, 5000 people at a time."
Not really. A bunch of Jews went to Jerusalem for the Year of Jubilee so that they could claim their property, and Paul was invited to speak at their synagogues. He didn't ask em to come there. He didn't say, "You better show up for my speech or else you're gonna regret it later." When he went to Asia Minor and Greece, he was just one of many who went to the synagogue to speak. He didn't ever try to sell God.
But everything about revivals and football-stadium crusades and TV evangelism is basically about selling God. Why is it that everyone who is not a Christian can instantly see what's wrong with selling God, but most Christians never can? Jews say, "I have nothing against people practicing their religion, as long as they don't try to convert me." Atheists say, "I have nothing against religion, as long as they keep it to themselves." The British say, "Americans have this need to manipulate people as to their private religious beliefs."
In other words, nobody likes this. Everybody hates it. And yet, time after time, year after year, in a thousand different situations, the religious children of hell go out into the world, beating innocent people over the head with the Bible, Fuller-Brushing for God.
Does God need idiots like this to do whatever He has in mind?
Why don't we just go back to the first century, when the way of evangelism was the way of the Three Rebuffs.
First of all, you never advertised. You never painted signs. You never hustled the gospel.
And if a guy showed up, saying "I wanna be a member of your church," you would answer him saying, "You're a fool. Don't you know that all you get from joining us is persecution and heartache and misunderstanding and the loss of things you once treasured?" And if he continued to say he wanted to join, you were instructed to tell him, "You go away and think about it. You don't understand enough to join now."
If he came back a second time, still wanting to join, you'd answer him saying, "You're still a total fool. Don't you know that joining us means you'll be hated of all men? People will say you're possessed by demons? People will say you're crazy?" And if he persisted, you were to tell him, "Go away and search the scriptures for yourself. You don't understand what this is."
And if he came back a third time, still wanting to join, you'd say, "You're such a fool. Don't you know that in this place they will kill you and think they're doing God a holy service?" And if he still wanted to join, at that point--and only at that point--you would let him in.
Try this. It works. And it really trims down that mailing list.
The Exegete has spoken.