Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


Confrontational vs. Life-style Evangelism

  • Jim Townsley
  • Oct 12, 2007

An old debate concerning lifestyle evangelism vs. confrontational evangelism has reappeared. The progressive church movement has offered tactics that have been garnering the attention of young men in our fundamental Baptist churches. Preaching the gospel and winning souls has never been easy and it is especially difficult today. However, our theology should not be determined by the number of people attending a Sunday gathering. Our success should be determined by our faithfulness to the Word of God.

In our success driven society we can easily lose sight of real success. Spiritual men recognize, "The measure of a man's success is determined by the extent of God's control in his life." The driving force behind our evangelistic philosophy should be the Bible and no other means. The results of our ministry will be determined by God. Remember that Noah seemed to have little success. Stephen preached and was stoned. Jesus preached the truth and was crucified. We should expect no less. Preaching the truth will result in persecution to some degree. Our goal is not to get people to like us, but to preach the Bible and ask men to turn to God.The lifestyle evangelism approach boasts that believers should let their testimony speak for itself and suggests that people will be influenced for Christ by merely observing our good works. The confrontational position states that dedicated Christians should confront people directly and boldly with the gospel. Each view can be taken to extremes. Some proponents of lifestyle evangelism believe a Christian should never speak to an unbeliever about the gospel. Their philosophy is that their lifestyle will bring men to Christ. Frequently this philosophy promotes the idea of never condemning anyone for anything. Never naming sin. Though all do not hold to this extreme belief some do. On the other side there are extreme proponents of confrontational preaching that they hold signs in the public square stating that homosexuals are going to hell or abortionists are baby killers etc. I don't believe it is necessary to fit into either theological camp. I believe the Bible clearly states we are to preach the gospel with a life that is consistent with what we preach.

In my opinion the Bible is extremely clear concerning evangelism.

1. We are given the Great Commission. Believers are commanded to go and preach the gospel to every creature to the ends of the earth. It is not called the great suggestion, but the great commission.

2. Though Jesus was perfect, there is no account in the Scripture where anyone was ever saved by observing His lifestyle. Jesus preached the truth and He preached against sin, but He never said follow my example to be saved.

3. Every Bible example of conversion is a result of preaching the Word of God not living the Word of God. In the book of Acts there are seven conversion experiences given and in each case their conversion was the result of someone preaching the gospel.

4. The Bible makes it clear that preaching the gospel is the proper method of evangelism.

Rom 10:13-17 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

5. Some people will be offended by the truth.

1Co 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1Co 1:23-24 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. We must be willing to face persecution as a result of our preaching. We need not bring it upon ourselves unnecessarily, but if it comes as a result of the gospel then so be it.

6. We must always be ready to give the gospel to those in need. 1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: The Word of God is powerful and shaper than any two-edged sword. We must preach it boldly.

Though we are to preach the Word of God boldly, our lives should not be a sham. In fact the context of our preaching should be a consecrated and holy life. In the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew chapters five through seven we find the importance of letting our light shine and being the salt of the earth. The light we shine should be the virtues taught in the beatitudes. In fact we must never separate a godly lifestyle from preaching the Word of God. I wonder how many souls have become hardened by a backslidden believer who tried to preach the gospel. It is not our testimony that wins the lost, but our poor testimony may be the reason someone will not trust Christ as their Savior. Lifestyle or friendship evangelism will not win the lost, but a lack of holiness can hinder the gospel. Raking leaves for a widow, donating clothes to an orphan, and feeding a starving child are examples of deeds that should characterize a true believer. However, a failure to preach the gospel will prove to be the greatest injustice that could be committed.