Outcome-Based Justification

No matter how dangerous, how silly, or how obsolete a fundy’s plan for evangelism may be, the justification is always the same: “If only one person gets saved, it’s all worth it.”

So what if the church van has four bald tires and hasn’t had a tune-up since 1978? We’re going to drive these 8 teens the 1400 miles to Mexico anyway.  If we can get one person saved, the risk of death is all worth it.

Look, we may be serving those VBS kids snacks that expired in Clinton administration…but if between bouts of throwing up one of them gets saved, it’s all worth it!

We spent $148,987.50 on printing ten million copies of a gospel tract with three misspelled words and six verses taken completely out of context…but if one person gets saved from reading it, it was all worth it!

Every member of our church has been standing out on a street corner yelling gospel verses at traffic every weekend this year at a total cost of 85 man-hours, two citations for public disturbance, and a whole lot of dry cleaning. Not one person even slowed down that we know of…but if one person gets saved from from the seeds we planted, it was all worth it.

But what if it isn’t? What if the lost getting saved really isn’t really up to your efforts? And even assuming it totally depends on your evangelism antics, what if unsafe and antiquated methods drove a hundred people away in the process of winning one? That’s a net loss of ninety-nine souls in the process of winning one. Worth it?

Now I know that fundies who are reading this are going to accuse me of hating the lost and being too fat and lazy to get off my couch and go soul-winning. But if I have managed to make just one person re-think their approach to outreach…it was all worth it.

45 thoughts on “Outcome-Based Justification”

  1. The play on “outcome based education” is great, but I especially love your last line!

  2. Looking back on all the efforts we put into our Evangelism Programs, in the past, I have to wonder, were we doing it out of a love for people and a desire to share the Gospel with them or were we fulfilling our own self initiated quota of “Works Sanctification”?
    All these Herculean efforts on our part so we can say, “If only one person gets saved, it’s all worth it,” paints a picture of a weak, frail, anemic, pitiful old god who is in his heaven wringing his hands and muttering to himself, “perhaps, if they try something new, then maybe, the message will get through, and it wil be worth it if just one will be willing to get saved.” Sorry, that’s not the Creator God of the Universe who displays his handiwork for all to see and know there is an Omnipotent God who created such wonder. That is not the God of the Scriptures who says, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
    If God is subject to anything outside of Himself and His will… then he is not God.

  3. Bookmark this one for your “best of 2010” post. An excellent post!

  4. One gets saved and hundreds of others will not listen or consider salvation ever again.

    @Don, most of the evangelism effort in the church I left was done to “Glorify God” and to “Please God” i.e earning God’s favor. It was not done out of love for those listening. I suspect some out there evangelize because they really care about the listeners. I wish that it was true for all. And yes, time and time again, sermons were preached that we had to do a “work for God”. That implies that the fundy God is limiting himself to the efforts of Fundyland, not a weak God but rather a God that can be influenced to act on the will of holy men. God is a bulldozer and we are at the controls, is one of the metaphors used to explain this relationship. I no longer support this position.

  5. That use to be me in that picture. I think I might know that guy.

    True Story: Over a hundred of us went out with signs in Memphis for 2 days during a music festival. Passed out thousands of tract, carried signs and banners, sang, etc… We got the “It was worth it” speech because two people got saved. I got cussed at and spit on.

  6. It seems to me that following Jesus’ command to “love one another” by performing acts of charity to one another will bear much more fruit than standing on a street corner yelling at people.

    You attract people by being attractive, and what is more attractive than acts of love? Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping the homeless, and showing mercy and love to those we come in contact with will always be better than streetcorner preaching.

  7. Yes, that could have been a picture of me as well. How many wasted Saturday afternoons I spent yelling at people and holding up signs telling them about hell. Although it has been about 15 years since I did anything like that, I still think of how many people I chased away with my gospel and not God’s. I know that God is sovereign over all but believers can have a lot of zeal without knowledge.

  8. The World sees in us (who claim to be Christians) what we do not see in ourselves: Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” “Jesus freaks out in the street, Handing tickets out for God..”
    The Guess Who, “Undun” “Too many churches and not enough truth … Too many people and not enough eyes to see”

    So what “do” we see? Targets of Opportunity? A chance to practice our “Hit and Run” evangelism?
    God’s word will not return void, but the way it goes out sometimes makes me wonder if God is in the effort or if it is only our will and power? But of course each of us believes that at least “we” ourselves are doing it right and it will be worth it all, even if only one soul is saved.

  9. I agree with Morgan. It is time that some fundies take a closer look at Acts and realize that although Paul does preach to people, he also reasons with them (Mars Hill; Agrippa), counsels them, disciples them (Aquilla and Priscilla), and loves them by sacrificing of his own time, effort, goods, etc.

    Even by their own “its all about my work” standards, they would see a lot more fruit if they would show the love, compassion, and defference to others that should be a hallmark of mature believers.

    Being at a church now where the pastor preaches expository sermons isntead of his pet peeve of the week, it is amazing to see how the faithful teaching and living of the word of God is used by God to draw people to himself.

  10. These types of “techniques” make it seem like they are God’s salesmen trying to earn another commission. The more I sell the better I look in God’s eyes.

  11. When, oh when, will we realize salvation isn’t the goal – discipleship is. And, that requires a different look at evangelism. When, oh when, will we realize it’s not about what we do, it’s about what God does. There is no works-based justification or sanctification, only God’s work in Christ. And that, dear friends, was worth it.

  12. Fundies never understand Matt 5:14-16 . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS and give glory to your Father . . . (emphasis mine) Fundies think it says “that they hear your erudite words and give glory to yourselves.”

  13. Paying attention now to good proofreading and editing….. Do you have any published tracts? Ha!

  14. Does door-to-door fall under this category? I remember the first time I ever heard someone say that they refused to have organized door-to-door soulwinning because it simply wasn’t safe; the risk of getting shot at or otherwise assaulted was too great. I thought the world was going to end…until I thought about it and realized that in 18 years of growing up in the city I never once answered the door for a stranger…and I was a regular church attender!

    It seems there’s no distinction between suffering for righteousness’ sake and suffering for the sake of being rude, inconsiderate, and hateful to the people you’re trying to get saved (and yes, I use that term on purpose).

  15. Brother Arthur Blessit once carried a cross across the country. Maybe he thought it was worth it, but I remain skeptical.

    1. I never met Arthur Blessit, but I do know a couple who got to know him well . Apparently he is someone who exudes the love of Christ. Very different from the average Fundy ( who would regard him as a compromise)

  16. It’s always struck me that public Evangelism, whatever it’s explicit reasoning, is much more about winning a place in fundie society for the people doing the evangelizing than it is about saving souls.

    The amount of time that you spend pounding pavement, handing out tracts and the more derision you receive from the non-fundiies around you, the more cred you earn with the other members of your organization.

  17. I normally completely agree with you and what you post, but here I think you got to be careful. Christ constantly had Pharisees turning him away while only a few would follow… was that in vain? obviously I don’t agree with some fundy tactics, they are unloving and man centered. I do believe though that if one gets saved then God deserves His glory.

  18. Nick,

    I’m not advocating being all about the numbers. That’s why I started asked the question “what if it’s not all up to you.”

    But in the world of “let’s pretend it’s all up to us” what I am saying is that if you’re doing foolish, dangerous, or wasteful things that those things shouldn’t be justified by acting as if a soul or two that falls into your lap justifies your methods.

    I wrote on a different blog the following which may give some context to my remarks:

    I recently read a news story about street preachers in Texas. It’s an odd thing but in the years that I’ve been hearing Christian testimonies NOT ONE TIME have I heard some say “I got saved because I was walking along and there was this street preacher yelling…”

    There’s a reason for this. In order for any seed to be planted, there has to be some kind of meaningful communication in a culturally acceptable context.

    For example, I could take off my shirt and write the gospel message on my body in mustard. I could the walk around proclaiming that I refuse to put my shirt back on because I am SHARING THE GOSPEL! But since nobody is going to see anything other than a fat guy covered in mustard my point would be lost. I would not be reaching anybody.

    Standing up in a crowded place and yelling is not culturally acceptable in most places in America. All people are going to see is a loud yelling guy and they really don’t get much past that in hearing his message. I’ve seen this first hand as the Ruckmanites stand on street corners and bellow at passing cars. They might as well be using the mustard method.

    There are effective methods for witnessing and there are ineffective. We need to be wise about where we spend our energy and how we present ourselves in our cultural context. We already preach a gospel that sounds insane to most secular minds; let’s not compound the problem by acting insane too.

  19. obviously I agree that a lot of a fundamentalists method are wrong, I see a street preacher and I hate the damage they do. this post just seemed like to me that it was about numbers. honestly though you plant God’s Word and one gets saved, glory to God. I hope people read this and don’t bash the wrong antics, let’s fix it.

  20. Okay, I’m finding it hard to stop gushing about this book, but anyway…

    If you haven’t read The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose (it was recommended here on SFL not too long ago), you really need to. There is a chapter in there that speaks exactly to this topic.

    Basically, Roose and some other Liberty students take an evangelistic trip down to Daytona Beach during spring break. The results are both comic and alarming. Two girls sunbathing on the beach gave what was the typical response, as Roose walked away after trying to witness to them. “What a creep.”

    I don’t want to spoil it all, but I just love how Roose spares no details in recording how the Liberty students question among themselves (and ultimately abandon) the true value of such an endeavor. It’s something that I think many evangelicals know, but they carry on in denial–with an outcome-based justification similar to the one described in this post.

  21. @Brandon: I second your recommendation. EXCELLENT book. (Darrell, thanks for the recommendation!)

  22. I love the “my way or the highway” attitudes and the “one size fits all” methods that are used to get their message across to the lost and even applying it to dealing with the members of their own church.

  23. @Darrell
    Have you ever tried the door-to-door approach? What is YOUR personal evangelizing strategy? Im sure there are many of us who would like to know.

    esperanza viva para siempre

  24. I’ve done the door-to-door thing. I hated it. It was a waste of time in the areas where we were doing it.

    My personal evangelizing strategy is to share Christ with people with whom I have a taken the time to establish a relationship. It’s a lot harder than shoving a tract at someone but it’s worth the extra time and effort.

  25. @Darrell

    It is interesting that in Revelation 11, the Bible desribes the very thing you seem to criticize: street preaching. And not just a few hours. One-thousand, two-hundred sixty days. Funny, that.

  26. Yeah. It also describes the preachers as two witnesses styled after the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah.

    Are you a prophet?

  27. So you are saying that the two prophet are losers and time-wasters because they publicly preach?

    Paul also preached to masses and many were saved.

  28. So you are saying that the two prophet are losers and time-wasters because they publicly preach?

    Now you’re just hallucinating points to respond to.

  29. By the description you portray in the article, it seems those words would be fitting.

    Paul… Hmm. I don’t recall you saying him…

    1. What I don’t recall is Paul cramming something down someone’s throat. From what I’ve read in Paul’s letters and his preachings, he had an audience of people who wanted to hear him. I don’t recall him going to the corner of the road and damning everyone to hell.

  30. “Every member of our church has been standing out on a street corner yelling gospel verses at traffic every weekend this year at a total cost of 85 man-hours …”

    Hmm, every weekend this year … total of 85 man-hours … so the church has about 1.4 members?

  31. Too true! This sort of reasoning justifies anything – I once listened to a fundy friend (serving as a Sunday School teacher at the time) literally bribe a kid with candy to come back to church. She would not let the kid off the phone. When she finally got off the phone (I guess the kid finally acquiesced) I looked at her sideways. She admitted that it wasn’t a great thing to do, but the director/assistant pastor said that this is one of the only ways to motivate a kid, and the most important thing to do is get them out to church. I haven’t read through your blog, but I hope to run across a post about visitations and phone calls like that.

  32. One of the women in our former church thought that it would be a Godly thing to do to bring some visitors to our AWANA program (even though they were sent home from school due to head lice infestation). Of course, she didn’t mention this little detail to any of us leaders. When our children started getting itchy heads a few days later, one of them mentioned that “rocky and jewel have head lice… Their sister told me.”

    After treating our kids, treating the beds and all that goes along with the ordeal (my wife was in her eighth month carrying twins), we asked the woman why she would bring them to a children’s class knowing they were supposed to be quarantined until the lice and nits were gone, she looked at us as if we were terrible people for even thinking such a thing. She was righteous because without her, they wouldn’t have been in church that Wednesday night. We should be ashamed of ourselves for even asking.
    Obladi, Oblada…

  33. Car salesmen have been more friendly and caring than this.

    Imagine walking onto a car lot and 10 people come running out stuffing paper into your shirt pocket and immediately start drawing up the paperwork on a car you haven’t even looked at yet.

  34. I know this is VERY old but I want to say that first I totally agree that the OP is spot on. I’ve most often heard this when questioning the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ Nevermind the fact that it isn’t biblical and will ultimately take many more to hell than Heaven. And door to door is basically useless, I agree.

    However open air preaching is still useful and shouldn’t yet be consigned to the dustbin of history. The problem is in how it is done. Are you simple screaming,red-faced calling everyone who walks by a whore or a child of satan? Yeah probably not effective. But if you are preaching that there is a God that created everything, that we are accountable to Him, and in His great love He sent His Son to redeem us, NOT screaming about your favorite pet sin, then you can be very effective.

    Depending on your definition of effective of course. If “effective” means “numbers” then no street preaching probably won’t work no matter what stripe. But if effective means “faithfully proclaimed Christ and made Him look good” then yes street preaching can be effective. It also often leads to wonderful one on one conversations about the gospel with those who stick around and listen.

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