‘We don’t want to treat people like projects’.
I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve heard that response. It usually comes when I’ve suggested that, as part of our commitment to proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ, we might seek to pray for a couple of friends and seek to share the gospel with them this week. I’ve always been forced onto the back foot and had to play the hostility with on the defensive.
But now I’ve got an offensive response.
‘Better to treat them like a project than treat them as kindling for hell’.
Like it? It’s certainly offensive. In both senses of the word! But it’s true. If we’re not prepared to pray for and seek to share the gospel with a couple of specific people we’re, in effect, saying that we’re happy for them to remain hell bound.In ‘treating them like projects’ we’re saying you matter so much to me that I’m going to do all that’s within my power to help you hear and understand the gospel so that you might respond to it in repentance and faith. The Bible’s got a name for that sort of attitude. It’s called love.
Now, I know what people are concerned about. No one’s really suggesting that we dump a rote learnt version of Two Ways to Live on someone so that we can get into a fruitless argument on what happened to the dinosaurs. That kind of evangelistic approach might work with freshers at University. But in our neck of the woods people are more cynical than that. They just think the gospel is irrelevant and they won’t engage until we can show that we’re roughly on the same page at some level. We’re talking about praying and seeking to understand and engage with what matters to the people who matter to us. I call that a project. People are my project. they’re what I’m about because I’m about Jesus. And so, deciding not to ‘target’ a handful of friends, colleagues or neighbours is, in effect, to let them progress on their merry way to an eternal fire without choosing to warn them what awaits them at the end of their journey. We’re leaving the ball entirely in their court. And that’s fine. But it’s risky. I’m repenting of that. As an evangelistic strategy, it’s profoundly unloving.