As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26 NIV)
Quite often in recent years, when I have attended a major public event such as a Mariners game or a concert, I have seen or heard someone on the surrounding block outside attempting to bring people to Jesus. These individuals, usually with the aid of a megaphone and several large signs, speak of Jesus as the only path to salvation. It is practically impossible not to hear them, even if you are only driving past. They conjure up images of fire and end times, dramatically emphasizing that we must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus to be made right with God or face the eternal torture of hell.
I always find myself disturbed by these people, as well as some similar videos and articles I have encountered on the internet. Yes, it is important to share the message of Jesus, and to be fervent with the Holy Spirit, but is this the way to do it? There is emptiness in these words that focus only on the dark truth of human nature, which makes me doubt that they would resonate positively in many hearts and minds.
It makes me wonder: if Paul, or any of the apostles, or John the Baptist, or even Jesus Himself were trying to share the good news at one of these modern events, what would that look like? I highly doubt any of them would be blasting a message focusing solely on the consequences of non-repentance. Rather, I think they would be seeking out specific individuals or groups, praying with them, and offering proof of who Jesus is by demonstration of power. Once a large number of people are drawn by directly witnessing a wondrous act, then they would address the people using only their voices. Much of what they preach would be supported or quoted directly from Scripture (Jesus would likely frame it in parables).
To truly have a life-changing effect, words must be backed up by actions, and truth, however dark, must be balanced with grace. John’s message of the coming Messiah was accompanied by the act of baptism with water. Jesus drew countless people to Himself by performing miracles, showing mercy, and teaching truth that contrasted sharply with the Law of the day. Paul himself came to Jesus after hearing His voice, becoming blind, and having his sight restored through prayer. Immediately afterward, he began teaching that Jesus is the Son of God, and when his own people doubted him, he “baffled” them “by proving that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 9:22 NIV).
It should not be much different in the world today. Through the Holy Spirit, we too are empowered to proclaim the Word of God and perform acts, which may even include signs and wonders, in His name. If we do as Jesus and the apostles did—show mercy and compassion, give to the needy, teach the gospel, and pray and intercede for others—we will be far more likely to demonstrate the nature of Jesus in a way that will truly transform people and turn their hearts to Him.
We cannot just advertise Jesus in front of a crowd, or worse, threaten his punishment. We must be up close and personal, and willing to act. We must offer the opportunity for a direct encounter.
Daniel can be reached by email here.