"What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?" -Psalm 116:12
Recently I went to my school for the beginning of the semester's classes. Students were everywhere, hurrying to class and hanging out in the student courtyard. As I was walking to the bookstore to buy some of my books, I walked past two men, one with a cardboard sign and the other with a megaphone shouting, "Repent! Judgment is near! This is a corrupt generation!"
As I walked past the two men anger welled up in me. I overheard a girl walking next to me say to her friend, "Creepy. That's so weird." I thought it was weird too! I was embarrassed about what these men were doing. I even felt that they were ruining the credibility of any Christian witness I or others would have!
Of course, street corner preachers always mean well. We can think that because we have the great commission we need to use any means possible to get the message across. But it broke my heart to see all those students passing them that day, developing more misconstrued ideas, biases, and assumptions about Christianity. This process of using a megaphone to preach judgment didn't seem to be very effective at inviting relationship. Somehow I could not envision my Heavenly Father using that strategy to reach out to his sons and daughters.
Josh McDowell is a renowned Christian youth leader who has been in ministry for nearly 50 years and has written 77 books. He commented, "Sharing truth with others without relationship leads to rejection. Discipline without relationship leads to anger."
That night, I was talking to a friend about my experience. I asked her how she became a Christian, and how she would answer the question, "Why is Jesus the only way?" She said, "People just loved me. They didn't do anything else. They didn't try to change me. Only when I asked about something would they tell me. After a while, they invited me to church. But mostly, they just loved me, unconditionally. That's what people need when they're hurting and lost."
The conversion of others to believe in Christ is a fruit of our love (John 13:35) as we are led by the Spirit. We can't make people our project. The Bible says the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. (John 16:8) We're called to love and serve them in whatever way we can, and share Christ with them as He leads. This is how people will be able to see God's light in us. (Matthew 5:14)