They are found in downtown areas with megaphones, preaching of Scriptures and threats of eternal hell at the top of their lungs. These people believe the only proper way to live a fulfilling life is to do it their way. If you are lucky, you might even see them on TV performing “miracles,” which almost always involves somebody fainting, while hysterical spectators look on with awe and reverence. I’m talking about extreme evangelists.In various parts of the Bible, the Scriptures urge Christians to rapidly spread the Gospel to all parts of the world. For example, 2 Thessalonians 3:1 reads, “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored.” This verse does not mean to hold a sermon on the streets where people are trying to enjoy their weekends away from work and school. It also does not mean to televise some phony miracle so people will immediately adopt Christian beliefs.
Unfortunately, many avid evangelists boast the mistaken view that the invasive means are valid and necessary to “save” somebody. Perhaps they should open their eyes and notice that most people, Christians and non-Christians alike, are repulsed with such actions. Christians do not appreciate the negative image of Christianity these extreme evangelists project to the public, and non-Christians do not appreciate being told they’re evil and that Satan rules their lives.
A famous televangelist is Benny Hinn, who hosts the 30-minute TV show “This is Your Day” on various religious networks. He has “healed” people who were suffering from various illnesses, and he claims to have prophetic abilities.
In 1989, Hinn predicted that in the mid-1990s: “God will destroy the homosexual community of America. But He will not destroy it with what many minds have thought Him to be, He will destroy it with fire. And many will turn and be saved, and many will rebel and be destroyed.”
Extreme evangelists, such as Hinn, project and promote a negative image of Christianity. Not only is falsely claiming to have prophetic abilities blasphemous, but preaching messages of hatred to or about any group of people is extremely unchristian.
A shrieking voice over the megaphone might spread a message rapidly, but it’s as effective as chucking a Bible at someone’s head. In fact, many people who might have given Christianity a chance refuse to because these extreme evangelists give them the impression that Christians are crazy.
Imagine you grew up as a Christian, going to church, learning about Jesus and studying the Bible. Then, one day a random Buddhist walks up to you to tell you that you’re wrong, evil and that you’re missing out on the true fruits of life. Would you feel saved or attacked? Obviously, your impression of Buddhism and its followers would not be a positive one.
Evangelism is about influencing somebody to make a life-changing decision. It is both a commitment and an alteration of one’s lifestyle. It is not much different from someone making the decision to become a vegetarian for the rest of their life. It is a decision people make for themselves because they want to, not because they are afraid to burn forever in hell or because they are told it is the “only way to live.”
A stranger has not earned the trust or the credibility to influence anybody’s decisions in life. To be an effective evangelist, one must take the time to get to know another, to relate to another, and hopefully show by example, what it means to be a Christian. As corny as it sounds, actions do indeed speak louder than words. It is a slow process, but it is the only successful one.
Saerom Yoo is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Pusan, South Korea. Her column appears every Thursday.