WHAT DOETH IT PROFIT A MAN?
�What doeth it profit a man if he gain a friend and the friend lose his soul?�
I take liberties with the verse in order to illustrate a point. In recent times, it has been popular to promote �friendship evangelism� (or �lifestyle evangelism� � same thing) as the ultimate means of �winning souls.� I have always questioned that. It seems to me that there is nowhere in the New Testament that we see this modeled � not by Jesus, not by Peter and the other apostles, not by Paul, or Barnabas, or Phillip, or Stephen, or Timothy, or Titus � not by anybody.
I know people will point out �who Jesus �hung out with�� but Scripture does not support this. We see as many reports of Jesus being invited to sup with Pharisees and scribes, as with tax gatherers. He actually spent most of His time outdoors preaching, �Repent! The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.�
As to those who claim that making friends of people first is a more �loving� way of presenting the Gospel, I have difficulty absorbing how it is more loving to withhold the needed salvation message from a neighbor while his soul is in continuous peril just so we can present the message on more comfortable ground. I know I regret every minute that I wasted my energies on sinful pursuits before my conversion because I see how much better my life would have been spent walking with Christ. So, is denying that added joy of earlier conversion (not to mention the possibility of the neighbor�s death before we �pop the question�) a �loving� thing to do?
The first question I get from people, after hear my proposition and after they gasp and mutter �Heretic!� under their breath, is, �What? You don�t think we should be friends to the lost?�
Of course, this is not what I said. What I say is that we are called to make disciples not friends. Friendship is not the biblical means of drawing people to Christ � the preaching of the cross is.
So, what is �the cross�? The cross is death. It is the instrument of the most cruel death to our selves. The person whose soul we seek to win must die, and do so voluntarily. The reason is that they deserve to die. What we see happen to Jesus is our just desserts. Until a man sees that, he cannot be saved for he must acknowledge his sin and moral guilt before a holy God before any salvic work may be done in his life. Beyond that, as a believer, he is commanded by his new Master to �take up his cross and carry it� and �die daily.�
The only way such knowledge will come to your neighbor is through direct confrontation about his sin. �How shall they hear unless there is a preacher?� Paul asks.
I�m sorry but this does not seem like anything that on presages with a bid for friendship. The recent TV public service ads about confronting our friends about their �drug problem� assume that the confrontation is made more difficult by the fact that the drug user is close to us. The assumption is accurate. So, how does that bode for our having spent countless hours befriending a neighbor and joining in shared interests like fishing to then have to say, �Hey, Frank, I�ve been meaning to tell you that you are going to spend eternity in Hell because you are a sinner, filthy in God�s sight. You are an offense to God because of your sin and fully deserve Hell, but . . .�
No, what usually happens � if the �right� result happens according to the friendship evangelism books � is that the believer gently touches on �spiritual things,� being ever so careful to not use words like sinner or Hell, and invites the neighbor to come to church on Sunday. When the neighbor comes to church, he likes the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the �seeker service� where, conveniently, words like sinner and Hell are also avoided, and decides to come again. Eventually, he likes the warm and welcoming atmosphere so well, he decides to �join.� At last, the neighbor is �churched.�
There are several questions that go begging. What happens if the neighbor dies half way through this extended process � before the �pitch�? Does is �joining� mean that he is �churched� or �saved�? Are these equivalent terms.� When and where does this neighbor actually acknowledge his sin, experience remorse, repent and beg forgiveness?
The answer to the last is that, barring a sovereign act of God to cover the lack of the cross in our �evangelism,� he doesn�t � and he doesn�t get saved either.
Now this neighbor might remain churched for the rest of his life and even clean the outside of the cup as much as his will power will permit � and remain blissfully unaware of his unborn-again condition and his continued slide into Hell; or he may remain for a while and find it too difficult and return to the world telling his friends (not including his former friend, the Christian) that he has �tried Christianity, but it didn�t work.� Either way, the neighbor goes to Hell.
So, this is evangelism? I think not. This is moral cowardice. It is �comfort zone� Christianity � which is to say, not Christianity, at least not the pick-up-your-cross-die-daily-all-who-live-godly-will-suffer-persecution Christianity of the Bible.
I suspect that those who are currently churched who are spending their $12.95 on the friendship evangelism book giving you 12 easy lessons on how to invite your neighbor over for a barbecue may be, themselves, victims of this faux salvation � salvation-through-friendship-with-a-Christian.
It is time to examine yourselves. Did you come through the Gate � through the cross of Christ? Or, did you come up some other way?
For those of you who did come through the cross, �Why would you deny that to your neighbor by trying to leading him on the pillowed path to being churched rather than the strait gate of godly sorrow leading to eternal life?�
Are you willing to bet the eternal destiny of your new friends on a form of evangelism foreign to the Scriptures � one that has produced, according to Barna polls, a �churched� people whose morals and failings are no different than the world around them?
I ask the question again: �What doeth it profit a man if he gain a friend and the friend lose his soul?�
� 2004 Paul deParrie - All Rights Reserved
Paul deParrie is a 17-year veteran of anti-abortion street activism, a preacher, and a social critic. He is the author of "Dark Cures: Have Doctors Lost Their Ethics" (Huntington House) available at NewsWithViews Online Store Front. deParrie may be reached at: [email protected].
Paul's book: Dark Cures:
Have Doctors Lost Their Ethics can be purchased by calling
"As to those who claim that making friends of people first is a more �loving� way of presenting the Gospel, I have difficulty absorbing how it is more loving to withhold the needed salvation message from a neighbor while his soul is in continuous peril..."