While driving I often like to read the signs and other messages around me. I recently saw a homemade banner hanging from a freeway overpass that simply read, “U Need Jesus.” I first thought to myself, “This is true, I do need Jesus.” Of course this is clear to me as a Christian. The need for Jesus, however, is not going to be so clear to perhaps the thousands of others who drive under that sign who do not know him.
This type of evangelism is probably at best minimally effective. It may cause a few to consider its declaration. Hopefully it doesn't cause anyone to take their eyes off of the road for long! I suppose even if it does awaken a few, it can be considered to have accomplished its purpose.
What about this sort of evangelism? Is it effective? This style of telling people about Jesus I call “No-Risk Evangelism.” It is no-risk because, other than maybe getting caught for hanging the sign, those who put it there are really taking the easy way out when it comes to sharing the Gospel. To say “U Need Jesus” is such a truncated formulation of the Gospel that it is, for the most part, highly ineffective.
Not only that, but we are called to be more than anonymous evangelists. Hanging a sign by night is not building relationships with others. It is not telling people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not coming into contact with lost sinners and sharing the Good News of salvation in Christ. It is not even giving them a reason for needing Jesus!
People need Jesus because they are dead in their sins and trespasses and need a savior if they desire to enter into the kingdom of heaven rather than suffer eternally apart from God. None of that is conveyed on a freeway overpass sign. Even if that entire message were to be posted, this is still not what we find in the Bible when reading about the acts of the apostles of Jesus and their evangelistic efforts.
Starting with Jesus, we find the complete opposite of no-risk evangelism. Jesus walked with people. He was constantly under the watchful eye of Pharisees and Sadducees as he taught in the temple and in houses. He dined with people in their homes. He touched lepers, blind men and children. Jesus’ method of sharing the message of the kingdom of heaven was very intimate. He had enough trouble at times from being so accessible that he climbed into boats and floated in water deep enough to keep from being too crowded.
St. Paul travelled thousands of miles to spread the gospel. He established churches in many cities and then he kept in touch with them via written correspondence. On Mars Hill Paul stood up in the Areopagus and preached boldly and publicly. In Romans 1 Paul writes how he longed to see them so that he could impart some spiritual gift to strengthen them. Paul, Peter and the others we read about in scripture were so transformed by the gospel that they lived it out by being as accessible to others as they could be.
The command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them must include some sort of intimate contact. Once disciples are made, they are called to be actively and frequently in the church, surrounded by other Christians.
To many, sharing the Christian faith is not easy. Face-to-face discussions are not easy for many people. This is probably why the church has a difficult time influencing the culture today. We don't have a presence other than a church building and its sign out front.
Paul insisted that he was not ashamed of the Gospel. He knew it to be the power of God for salvation to everyone who believed (Romans 1). He knew he was the messenger of the gospel and not the power behind it. The power of its efficacy comes through the Holy Spirit. We need not be ashamed or afraid to share the gospel because Christ has already endured the cross and suffered the shame for his preaching, and we are called to boldly share that same message.
If Christianity is going to survive in a post-Christian environment, then Western Christianity needs to radically change and return to its roots.