Sunday, 13 March 2011

Why I (Still) Like the Alpha Course

I visited some friends back in Edson this weekend and was given some witnessing material from The Way of the Master, a ministry featuring Ray Comfort and actor Kirk Cameron. I was aware of them before, of course, but this material brought them to the front of my mind once again. I'm afraid I have never been a fan of their style of evangelism. They accost people on the street and Mr Comfort poses questions aimed at having them acknowledge their need for Jesus. I am not going as far as to denounce this, but in my opinion, they tend to be more obnoxious than anything. I must admit that I don't know their record in winning souls for Christ, but in every video clip I've seen of their tactics, they seem to turn people off rather than attract them to Jesus. They ask questions like, "Have you ever lied?" or ,"Have you ever lusted?" or, "Have you ever stolen anything?" Then they try to show the person that he/she is a liar or an adulterer or a thief, have broken the equivalent commandment, and are in need of a Saviour. All correct, of course, but I have the sense they think that by winning an argument, or prevailing in a fight, they will have people flock to Jesus. It seems to be like the UFC of evangelism. Now, I could be wrong of course, and if I am, I truly apologize. But check out the video of their encounter with Anton on the link above. Do you think he came to Christ as a result of this discussion? It seemed to be an attempt to embarass him and argue him into submission more than anything. In other words, did Mr Comfort win a convert, or win an argument.

Jesus, in his earthly ministry, did not accost people in this way. He never chased people to force them to listen to his message. He spoke the truth, and he spoke it to people who either asked him or came to hear him.

I think of the story of the rich young ruler. The young man came to Jesus and asked him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him plainly. The young man went away sadly, because he was unprepared to do what Jesus told him to do. Jesus did not chase after him; he did not press his point, hoping that just one more effective argument might convince him.

The Sermon on the mount where Jesus expounded many of the points that Mr Comfort uses in his witnessing, was given to people who followed him to where he taught them, and obviously were willing to listen to what he had to say. Jesus plainly spoke the truth, and in many places in the Bible, he uses the phrase, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

I believe the most effective avangelism is to invite people to come and hear Jesus, then to let Jesus, through his word and teachings, do the work of bringing those with ears to hear, to him.

That is why I like the Alpha Course. It is for people like me who have a difficult time witnessing, because we can all say, as did Phillip, "Come and see." We can all say, as did Andrew, "We have found the Messiah," and bring others to see him. It is for all those who have unsaved loved ones; family or friends; children or parents or siblings; those to whom they have difficulty expressing their own faith and the necessity for a relationship with Jesus. We can all say, "Come to dinner and learn about what Christianity teaches."

I don't want to belittle others' sincere desire to see people come to faith in Christ, and I'm sure The Way of the Master has had some success, but in my experience, the most effective method is just to introduce people to Jesus, be available to answer a seeker's legitimate questions or concerns, but then let Jesus do the rest. He will do the real work.

Take Care


Dave Groff said...

Mark Cahill's book, One Thing You Can't Do in Heaven, is much like Comfort's approach. It is a book that both inspires me and guilts me. Although Cahill seems to suggest that everyone can do what he does, I tend to see him as what the Bible would call an evangelist. We all are to share the good news but we all are not evangelists. I believe God has given some the gift of being able to approach strangers and confront people and He does use it. But it is not the way for most of us. On the other hand, it may be true that I'm just trying to excuse myself.

John K said...

Hi Dave,
My concern is with how Mr Comfort confronts people on the street and basically puts them through a third degree. It almost seems (note I say 'seems') as if he and Cameron consider it a victory if they have suitably embarrassed their interviewee. I don't object to their material. In fact I know a fellow who came to faith reading it. But the key is that he was given it, had time to read it in privacy, and came under conviction in a place just between him and God. Would he have done the same if he were confronted in a public place and had someone try to debate him into the Kingdom? I guess we'll never know (unless you're hyper-Calvinist) ;).
Mark Cahill's material looks good too. But again, I think it is best given, read and discussed, with gentleness and respect.

I think that we sometimes see the greatness in the gifts of others and feel inadequate in our own. Personally, I was blessed every time I heard you preach.

How are you doing? Long time no see. Jon & Jen and the kids are here for a couple of days. They were at the Science Center today (you probably saw their pictures and movies). Tomorrow we will play virtual golf.