“Bait and Switch” Evangelism


We, as Christ-followers who are involved in kingdom work, have been interested by the amount of exhortation and evangelism we’ve observed happening out there – between individuals, as well as on social media like Twitter and Facebook. This is a good thing, but a concern has surfaced in our minds. The issue revolves around obedience, and… if you read this blog much… you know that is a near and dear topic even though we are not perfect at it.

It seems we need to be careful of giving a message that this is all free. While it is true that salvation is a free gift of God, not attained by working at it, so that no one has a reason to boast… discipleship is not free by any measure. We think this is why the apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12 that anyone who can say, “Christ is Lord” can only really do so through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Living under the lordship of Jesus means a surrender of everything to his control. True discipleship costs us all that we are… even to the point of death for the Master. That message is anything but “free.”

Can you see the “bait and switch” appearance of this kind of message?

Still, we get it: if we lead with the “this will cost you everything you have” line in presenting the gospel, we may not see as many consider joining the kingdom. We just want to encourage the use of a both/and approach here. Let’s proclaim that salvation is free through the mercy and grace of God, but with that, let’s also make sure that the cost of discipleship is clear.

In saying “discipleship,” we are not talking about a list of “dos and don’ts” here. The church has certainly promoted that sort of list over its history, and we have seen that road lead to legalism and hypocrisy. We are talking about taking steps of obedience as God lays them before us, whatever the cost or consequence. In doing so, we depend on him to direct and accomplish the work, and the results are the fruit of his effort, not our own.

This is important in our own culture where coming to Christ costs us very little, but it becomes vastly more critical in cultures where professing faith in Jesus may cost much more, including one’s community, job, or even life. We need to be careful to respect the weight of the decision someone makes in light of what it will actually mean to them, not what it means to us.

May God direct our hearts, actions, and words.

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