Evangelicals Stop Evangelizing?

This week, CNN featured an article from Carl Medearis, the author of Speaking of Jesus: the Art of Not-Evangelism in which he attempts to explain why evangelicals should stop evangelizing.  He asks, “What if evangelicals today, instead of focuing on ‘evangelizing’ or ‘converting’ people, were to begin to think of Jesus not as starting a new religion, but as the central figure of a movement that transcends religious distinctions and identities?”  You wonder if Medearis’ next book will suggest that fans should stop cheering or ducks should stop quacking.  How could anyone seriously suggest that evangelicals should stop preaching the gospel?  Whatever happened to, “knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11)?

Is Jesus the uniter of humanity?

Medearis decries his former days as a missionary when he had a “doctrinal litmus test” which inevitably led to a division between people who believed the gospel and those who didn’t.  He believes Jesus should be viewed as the great uniter of humanity who transcends religious distinctions.  The problem with this position is that it ignores huge chunks of Scripture that teach the exact opposite.

For example, in Luke 12:8-9 Jesus explained that, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”  Later, in that same chapter, the Lord asked, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth?  I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.”  Medearis’ may want a world where Jesus unites people regardless of their acceptance of the gospel, but that position is simply contrary to the words of Christ Himself.

This is not to suggest that followers of Christ should be needlessly offensive or divisive.  But the gospel, by its very nature, separates people into those who repent and believe and those who do not.

Is following Jesus more important than doctrine?

Medearis goes on to express his relief that he is “no longer obsessed with converting people to Christianity” so he is free to “talk about Jesus” with people from other faiths.  He says, “I believe that doctrine is important, but it’s not as important as following Jesus.”

How do you follow Jesus apart from doctrine?  Jesus who?  Is this the Jesus that a person fabricates in his own mind?  The Jesus who is cobbled together from a few isolated proof texts?  How can Jesus be separated from His teaching?

Glorifying God by preaching the gospel is central to the mission of Christ’s church.  This gospel is inherently doctrinal. Paul explained as much to young Timothy when he said, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:15).

True evangelicals will never stop evangelizing.  We will seek to speak the truth in love and always give first attention to whether we are allowing Christ to change us so that we have a credible witness to share.  But with Paul we say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16).

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.