Joe Bob's Guide to World Evangelism

By Joe Bob Briggs | 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.


budda | 08:27 pm on 5/15/2008

I actually went to a real live leper colony in Nicaragua to share Jesus. I don't know if anyone "got saved" but they sure were glad to see someone. I don't think they get many visitors. I did not, however, touch the lepers. Not only would that have embarrassed them but , I don't know if you have ever seen up close what leprosy does to a person, I wasn't gonna take any chances, no matter what my doctor friend said was safe. No fingers, no lips, no noses, etc..

Doug, I am glad for you that you feel you have something to share with people. I spent 6 years doing it full time until I couldn't anymore. I am so anti-evangelism now I don't even wear a logo or brand name on the outside of my clothes anymore. If it has a logo on it, I won't wear it. (with the exception of my Hogs and ND ball caps, God has to give me some points for ND one anyway) That doesn't mean I have anything against you doing it. But lets make sure we are talking about the same thing.

Talking about faith is completely different from evangelism. I have lots of good conversations about God, Doug, with friends and sometimes strangers, but what I think Bob was talking about, what I am (over)reacting to anyway, is trying to convert people. EVANGELISM. The zealous advocacy of a cause, with the only intention being the conversion to a specific religion. Not to learn, or converse, only to convert. Many of these people (I have met many, many) believe that aid, relief and service is only as good as the evangelism that accompanies it. They firmly and completely believe saving someone's life only to loose them to hell is worthless. They will not lift a finger or give a dime to any project that conversion is not the end goal. But like I said earlier, they are often the first to give aid and put themselves in harms way to help people. Motives, motives. Existential angst.

If you are talking about talking about God, fine. I do it all the time. Hell, I'm here aren't I? I love talking about Jesus. If you are talking about Conversion Evangelism, no thanks, I'll leave that to the people who know absolute truth.

JoshH | 08:39 am on 5/16/2008

Right on.

The "street ministers" who really send me to the moon with irritation are those who assume that everyone they come into contact with couldn't possibly be a Christian.

that calvinist doug | 12:34 pm on 5/16/2008

Budda (still hoping for your "h" man...),

Thanks for at least giving me the opportunity to explain myself. As I thought was evident from my post, I don't like the formulaic, tract-driven stuff either. That's why I made the joke about the diagram. It makes me very uncomfortable, like I have to apologize for my belief system.

What I'm saying is that as one has earned the opportunity to talk about Chrisitianity with a willing, interested listener, one by definition must use words to be understood. While the general principle of "lifestyle evangelism" or "use words if you must evangelism" or whatever you want to call it, is true, it is also true that nothing that is not mutually understood can be communicated without words (note: you typed to me, I'm typing to you, we're not ESP'ing our way through this conversation). The point is, AFTER you've earned the right to talk about it, you HAVE to talk about it if it is to be communicated. I think "sharing your faith" is much different from "witnessing." One encompasses talking with a friend, or at least an interested stranger, the other smacks of marketing. I'm for the former and against the latter.

Hope that at least clarifies my position.

budda | 12:53 pm on 5/16/2008

Not sure, but I think we agree on this one for the most part. I am kinda gun shy of the verbiage used in the whole discussion. And your poke wondering if I (or whoever) had ever "met Jesus in a personal way" begged for some kind of response.

that calvinist doug | 01:14 pm on 5/16/2008

Sorry man. Once again, my attempt at humor left itself open for misinterpretation. Nothing meant by it, just a (poor, I guess) joke.

budda | 06:07 pm on 5/16/2008

No worries. Good joke, overly sensitive (on this topic) budda.

PeteAtomic | 03:47 pm on 5/21/2008

"They firmly and completely believe saving someone's life only to loose them to hell is worthless.'

Yes, it's somehow as if human life on its own accord isn't worthy enough.

I enjoyed reading your posts on this article.

Process Deist | 08:02 pm on 5/16/2008

Rural East Texas, 1958.
My cousin Jim was 18 and just graduated from High School. The following week he would begin college. This night was the last night of a ‘protracted’ meeting in the First Baptist Church.
Jim, his friends, and several of us younger cousins stood at the back row and sang another of the thirty verses to ‘Just As I Am’. Our Grandmother, was in her usual place, on the front row of a packed church.
Grandma couldn’t stand it. She was tormented by the words of the Preacher. For the eternal soul of her grandson Jim, she walked to the back of the church and drug Jim, by the arm, down to the alter. Many tears were shed in that church on that night. The horrible thing was....Jim shed many tears on many nights.....for the rest of his life.
Jim could never reveal to most of his family that he was homosexual, and because of Grandma and her Church, he would forever avoid a relationship with God.
I never ceased to love my Grandmother, but as I have grown in my relationship with God, I have grown to hate the religion that was present that night and is still present in many churches.

PeteAtomic | 04:09 pm on 5/21/2008

Wow. Powerful story.

"I never ceased to love my Grandmother, but as I have grown in my relationship with God, I have grown to hate the religion that was present that night and is still present in many churches."

Yeah, really.

Christianity needs to somehow get over this idea that Jesus is a private hitman that can be contracted out to punish the people that we hate, simply because we believe we are loving him enough (jesus). It's sick & dysfunctional, and little more than a form of mafia-style repression.

Papist Spy | 09:18 pm on 5/16/2008

I've always thought the stadium signs were a hoot. Trying to evangelize by holding up a sign reading "John 3:16" is like trying to promote literacy by holding up a sign saying "Hamlet, Act II, Scene 3."

budda | 12:20 am on 5/17/2008

Great analogy Spy.

SRebbe | 02:43 pm on 5/20/2008

my church just got done with Lucado's [obnoxiously long] series on John 3:16. it would have been fine if we hadn't studied the verse for 6 (or was it 9) weeks. and had been subjected to a video each time that kept emphasizing the crucifixion and consequential redemption as the end all to faith. (I keep going because I end up feeding those who are frustrated with how they don't fit in, either.)

my question that I keep bringing up to the leadership is "so is this the only reason that we're here?" another notch in your belt? what comes after that, after the Sinner's Prayer?

does anyone inside the church walls believe in life before death?

budda | 02:13 pm on 5/22/2008

Wow, your one tough chick, I couldn't have sat through 2 weeks let alone 6. I bet leadership loves you, gonna rename the children's wing the SReebe Memorial.

The only videos we get to watch in church are the super-cool Rob Bell topical ones. It is like watching "This American Life". I think Rob Bell owes Ira Glass some royalty checks. I like them.

I love that question, and I am using it from now on. Only, the response would be that they get the most enjoyment out of life by longing for something they don't have. The more intensely they long for heaven, the more they enjoy life. I think thats why their art sucks, they can't be here, now.

And that is why Benny Hinn (referencing the new Bloom article) is so attractive. He offers what these people want, a taste of their idea of heaven here on earth. (I desperately hope heaven isn't anything like a Hinn crusade) Mostly I think the cause for not enjoying this life is fear. Fear of the world, being corrupted, not being able to make it on their own, etc...

SRebbe | 03:24 pm on 5/23/2008

I read a lot during church.

a women's group tried the Rob Bell videos... they didn't like hearing someone else's opinions... not "scriptural" enough for them.

heeeeh! memorial! it almost came to that when my pastor asked for my 'opinions' on a few topics... learning that I actually talked to people outside church walls instead of reaching out to those inside. oops...

bindaredondat | 03:20 am on 5/19/2008

Anyone besides me noticed the most successful ministers would also be the most successful Fuller salesmen?

Mega-churches are not built by the power of God (or driven by "purpose.") They are the result of the pastors personalities.

Every large ministry I've ever seen could be considered a personality cult.

PeteAtomic | 04:02 pm on 5/21/2008

"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."

One of the many major problems I've got with fundamentalist/and or evangelical types of Christianity is the philosophy of turning an incredibly rich & deep faith that has a tradition of intellectual wealth of the early Church Fathers, the early Christian Desert monastics, Aquinas & many others-- into this 'thing' that resembles a very plastic, hyper-emotional, 30-second advertisement for a used-car salesman. This 'thing' is more concerned with getting 'leads' & starting pyramind schemes for personal enrichment.

The only mystery in it, it seems in this belief, is to where to send your donations. The ancient stance of a 'holy' God is reduced to buying into a kind of cosmic mutual fund. Now to come to think of it, aren't the 'weatlth & health' types really simply selling indulgences?

SRebbe | 03:28 pm on 5/23/2008

carbon credits, anyone?

budda | 12:24 am on 5/24/2008

Religion like art does not corrupt or sanctify a society, it merely reflects that society.

PeteAtomic | 09:25 am on 5/24/2008

"Religion like art does not corrupt or sanctify a society, it merely reflects that society."

Yeah, there seems to be truth in that statement.

It's unfortunate then in the light of that statement that the apocalyptic bent of religious zealots effects all of us when they achieve political offices.

Uncle Kenny | 03:17 pm on 5/26/2008

<<. . .singing syrupy songs and spouting cliches and carrying self-righteous signs with lame cliches. . .These, my dear friends, are proselytes.>>

Joe Bob,

You forgot to add that they were probably wearing some lame-ass Christian T-shirt while being at the big tent event. Sorry to rant here, but it drives me nuts to see folks wear their Christain t-shirts to church, retreats (now there is a stupid idea that matches the word), Christian rock festivals, or some other place where the shirt is really useful!

To the people out there that own these shirts, please ask God to bless you with some brass ones and try wearing the shirt and hanging out with some sinners that sin with gusto. In fact, I dare anyone with a closet full of those shirts to put one on this week, go to any bar in their town at happy hour, pick some person at random, sit down next to them, buy them a few drinks and just be nice to them for a while. Keep your mouth shut unless the Holy Spirit gives you something divine to say and just listen to their story. . .maybe even pray for them right there in the bar if they let you, but keep it short and sweet. . .ten to fifteen seconds.

SRebbe | 04:55 pm on 5/28/2008

hey Uncle Kenny, I should introduce you to one of my many friends named Johnny! he only wore xtian t-shirts, even out in the big, scary world! attended only xtian concerts, only bought xtian music, didn't give a damn whether people thought he was weird for wearing those punny shirts, but he was a computer programmer, so maybe that explained his natural inclination toward introverted behaviors and stunted social skills... no, he didn't really talk about Christ or even outwardly show that he was living the faith, just wore the goods, nail jewelry and all. why talk about it when your shirt shouts it for you, right?

so yeah... they will know we are xtians by our stuff, by our stuff...

as y'all were.

Uncle Kenny | 04:11 pm on 5/29/2008

I think you still might be missing the point, Rebbe. Either that or I am misundertsaning your reply.

My point is simple:

Stop buying the merchandise. . .and claiming that the marketing is your witness or your "walk." Instead invest in serving people. The shirts are just an example of one banal Christian activity. I am suggesting that we start a revolution in the American church. We try to actually be red-letter people for a change rather than just talk about the kingdom or wear shirts that advertise it.

SRebbe | 05:02 pm on 5/29/2008

my point is the same as yours: to stop buying the Jesus Junk because it really isn't making a difference in the world (or in our own lives).

how is speeding down a highway in your minivan with a silver fish going to speak to the others behind you? or having your fish eat my fish that's eating your fish that's eating my fish? or having fish at all... know people who don't get the fish thing, too.

J.T. | 02:27 pm on 6/09/2008

Some good points, Joe but when you "Exegete"...try not to "Execheat." What you are practicing is called isogesis--reading in to the scriptures what you already believe. You'll have to re-tool a good deal more passages than just Mark 16:5 in order to convince the thinking person that "going" and "telling" are strictly Pharisaical practices. Question: Why are you so afraid of street preachers and tract-toting teenagers anyway? Relax. They are, on the whole, acting according to conscience. The question is...are you? I mean, one can appreciate, to a point, your clever cynicism/skepticism, but are you so sure that this incessant carping at Evangelicals is somehow your way of fulfilling the Great Commission? It seems to me that organized religion is the only thing that keeps the thinking Christian from becoming a self-satisfied know-it-all. Join a church (or admit you already belong to one) and get to work.

KallieJ | 06:25 pm on 11/14/2009

Not to entirely defend Joe Bob, even though I agree with some of what he said, I believe you may have missed the point. "going" and "telling" aren't strictly Pharisaical practices, but acosting people with the Gospel with only the intention of converting them and making them say they believe in Jesus is somewhat reminiscent of a Pharisee. The Greek really does say "as you are going", even though I haven't quite done as much research on this passage as I would like to, yet. I agree that street preachers and tracts were effective at one time, but are they really effective anymore? Do people really read tracts and listen to street preachers, or does it all just get lost in the midst of the noise and information overload? It seems to me that oraganize religion has made many christians self-satisfied know-it-alls. The Church as we know it is changing with the culture and has been changing since the New Testament era, but at the same time our God doesn't change, but desires that all come to Him. It will be an interesting journey seeing how he uses us individually and corporately to accomplish this!

southpaw | 03:08 am on 6/10/2008

Don't know how I missed this one. As I'm watching, "Enron: Smartest Guy In The Room", I happened to find this article... Is the spirit talking to me??? I'm really really really pissed at Christianity right now.

The correlation is uncanny...

Anonymous | 04:00 pm on 6/12/2008

All your friends, neighbors, family and co-workers must be impressed with how different you are and how much GOD reflects on you guys. Congratulations. God bless ALL of your disciples.

Anonymous | 10:20 am on 6/17/2008

Not to mention John 6:44, in the words of Jesus Himself: "No man can come to me except the Spirit of the Father draw him."

Anonymous | 10:05 am on 6/21/2008

I think it was St.Francis of Assisi who said something like-evangelize always but use words only when necessary

CPeter | 11:40 am on 5/12/2009

I am probably the worst nightmare of many posters here--I m a gay atheist. And JBB is right--we don't appreciate being accosted and being told that our non-belief is somehow inferior to someone's unprovable beliefs.

Most atheists like myself believe that everyone should be free to believe as they wish--or not to believe as they wish. But when was the last time you were asked if you disowned Jesus or that non-faith had a wonderful plan for your life?

I applaud those christians who truly live their faith; they are relatively few and far between. They can be wonderful examples of how to be kind and giving. But it's not the only path and in this country we should not be imposing on others to expound our personal theologies--or lack thereof.

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