Open-Air Evangelism & Hypocrites

I visited downtown Grand Rapids recently with friends who were ‘open-air’ evangelizing. Stereotypically, this is when people stand outside talking (occasionally yelling) about Jesus. The men that I went with know the good news of God, and were preaching it unashamedly. One of the main reasons why I wanted to see their method of evangelism was because I knew the hearts of these men.

Many people are immediately turned off by open-air evangelizers because of the shouting and hypocritical condemnation of sins that they themselves indulge in. But the mastermind of this specific operation is a good friend of mine who led us in a way that I did not expect.

Before we started evangelizing we went to a local coffee shop to warm up with a hot drink. While we were waiting for our drinks we discussed our goals and hopes for our endeavor:

  1. Preach Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead for us.
  2. Show people that we are sinners who have been saved by God’s’ great love for us.
  3. We want to talk to at least one person about the Gospel, and we would praise God for that opportunity.

As we were preparing to evangelize, my friend led us in prayer. The message in his prayer was clear: God is love, but love is not God; who God is defines what love is like. Our God is a God of Justice and Mercy. There are many bad things happening in the world; our own city is sick. We murder and rob our own people; we destroy the gift of life. We need to turn from these things. Our City NEEDS Jesus Christ. We need God’s justice. However- by the agency of Jesus’ death on the cross- whoever repents of their sins will be saved.

So we took that mindset into our time of evangelism.

We handed out some Bibles while my friend spoke about our need for the love of God. There were not many people walking by us, so as my friend was speaking I used that downtime to reflect upon and pray over our efforts.

As I reflected, my heart was broken over the people who use the Bible to beat down those whom the Bible tells us to love. The Word of God that so many people use as a weapon against sinners says

As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:24 NIV).

God is blasphemed because of hypocrisy (Romans 2:21).

Those who preach condemnation to people have clearly not read the Bible because the Jesus in the Bible said this, ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.’ (John 3:17 NIV).

I have heard of too many people twisting Scripture to condemn others, while other Scriptures communicate the exact opposite. This is indeed hypocrisy. Although box preaching may not be the most effective way of evangelism, the real enemy is hypocrisy. I know because I was the worst of hypocrites.

I remember one time in particular when a friend of mine confessed a sin that had been weighing on him heavily. This would have been a perfect time for me to share with him the good news of Christ’s forgiveness, but instead of communicating this truth of God’s word – ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1st John 1:9 NIV) – I condescendingly asked him how it felt to know that God was watching him consciously disobey Him.

My friend was on his way to being purified of his unrighteousness but my hypocrisy put an even heavier weight on his already downcast soul. And while I apologized later, I had almost permanently damaged our spiritual relationship.

Hypocrisy can do unbearable damage. If you have been a hypocrite I suggest you humbly admit it to whomever you have burdened. Too many people have rejected Jesus because of unacknowledged hypocrisy.

Remember, if we confess our sin of hypocrisy ‘[God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

As we examine our life for signs of hypocrisy let us walk humbly in the grace of God, by the blood of Jesus Christ who has taken the sin of hypocrisy upon himself for those who have shown genuine repentance.

***

My next few posts will be about hypocrisy and judging. Judging is often followed with hypocrisy. I realize these are hard topics that are very heavy. So I will pray for us as we walk this journey of purification, so that our testimony may be free of hypocrisy while we spread the Gospel of Christ!

Are there any topics related to evangelism, judgment, and hypocrisy that you would like me to address in a later post? Comment below!

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