I’m writing an essay at the moment about Luther. This explains the relative paucity of posts this week, and other essays are to blame for the last two weeks’ relative absence.
I’m going to look at Luther’s approach to communication throughout his life. And in the process of my research I came across this pamphlet that Luther distributed during the Reformation. In 1545, in his Depiction of the Papacy…
To say I’m not a fan of the Way of the Master evangelism methodology is an understatement. The name is misleading – unless by “Master” they mean Kirk Cameron or Ray Comfort. Because Jesus didn’t evangelise the way they suggest you evangelise. I share their enthusiasm for the great commission, and for looking for opportunities to evangelise, but to suggest that all proclamations of the gospel should begin with a proclamation of the predicament that requires the gospel is a little misleading (check out their “how to botch an altar call” article.
I don’t like their methodology. I’d say that for every one person they lead to the cross they’ve turned away significantly more by the way they present the message. They’re seasoned with hot chilli, rather than salt.
And perhaps the bit I don’t like most of all is their money tract. Used by cheap Christians instead of tipping all over the US. It’s products like this trillion dollar bill that make me glad I don’t live in the states, because I can’t imagine having to try explaining the lack of monetary tip to the waitress who has done a great job of serving a customer only to be left one of these in the place of actual money:
Ray Comfort suggests that this note is actually a “light hearted way to get the message across” – which it could potentially be, if the message on the back was an invitation to start building a relationship with a church that teaches about Jesus. Instead the blurb on the back reads:
“The trillion-dollar question: Will you go to Heaven when you die? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things, God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell.”
That’s the opening. Now. It’s all true. And they do get to Jesus. Eventually – but who is going to keep reading? I know one guy who was converted reading some tracts, but only after he’d spent so much time with the lady who gave them to him that he thought “maybe I should read that stuff she gave me”…
Here’s where the blurb goes next.
“God, who the Bible says is “rich in mercy” sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for guilty sinners. We broke God’s Law, but Jesus paid our fine. That means He can legally dismiss our case. He can commute our death sentence: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and God will grant everlasting life to all who trust in Jesus. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.”
God loves you. He paid the price. Turn to Jesus. Trust and obey. Great. That’s the gospel. (though it does have huge potential to become pretty legalistic, doesn’t it? Is daily Bible reading really required for those who trust in Jesus?).
There is just so much wrong with the strategy behind this. It completely fails to understand the importance of medium in presenting a message. It’s just awful. How any Christian can not see how important and related medium and message are when we worship the Lord Jesus, God’s word become flesh, is beyond me. If that’s not a case of medium and message being all wrapped up together I don’t know what is.
The problem isn’t just “strategic” – in reacting against something bad (sloppy presentations of an “all loving God”) these guys have gone to the other extreme. And I’d like to see a passage in the Bible where Jesus deals with an outsider by treating them as an outsider. I’m writing an exegesis paper on the story of Zacchaeus today, where a corrupt outcast meets Jesus, who doesn’t turn to him and say “Zacc, you’re a horrible sinner and you must repent before I’ll have anything to do with you.” No. He says: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” And then Zacchaeus responds by repenting. I just don’t get the “way of the master” part of the act of handing out fake money that tells people they’re going to Hell.
Get it. These are “tracts”… I’ll be here all day. These are from a blog dedicated to such ethereal ephemera called Old Time Religion. They remind me that I should finally start my “bad Christian books” blog – I’ve got about thirty books on my shelf that I haven’t blogged yet, and I still haven’t finished reviewing Help Lord the Devil Made me Fat.