Charles Spurgeon delivered a sermon in 1914 where he exegeted Matthew 9:36, stating, “if we were to sum up the whole character of Christ in reference to ourselves, it might be gathered into this one sentence, ‘He was moved with compassion.’”
We may be tempted to discard the idea of empathy and compassion because in our eyes the world appears so dark and full of rebellion. Yet, Spurgeon captured the love and care Jesus had for sinners by saying, “I suppose that when our Savior looked upon certain sights, those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and thus his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before Him.”
All street evangelists have experienced first-hand the brokenness of the world. I recently met a man named Chris on the streets. Chris, a man who had lost a leg to amputation, was sitting alone in front of a church. We began to have a conversation and I was able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. When I asked Chris for his prayer needs, he looked tearfully at me and said, “I need a hug.” My immediate thought and reaction was, “I can do that,” and, “forget COVID.” From our discussion, I learned Chris was very distraught because his mother was recently killed. Not only did I share the bad news with him, but also the good news of Jesus for there is much hope and comfort is knowing Jesus will return and restore His creation to Himself.
I have also had some opportunities to share the gospel repeatedly with some of the same people, who come over to speak to us and pray with us when they see us evangelizing on the street week after week. Jim, an 84-year-old man continues to converse with us and is terrified of becoming blind. He shared he has contemplated suicide because he does not want to rely on other people. I continue to share the gospel with him and also tell him that I too identify with the same fear as I deal with glaucoma. The sober realization from my encounters with him is life without Christ is very fearful, 10 out of 10 people die, and the reality is that many try their best to not think about death. By being outside the four walls of a church, we can help people start to think about their spiritual health and eternal destination.
After years of hitting the streets, it is very common to hear many people say they fear entering a church. The reasons vary, e.g., they fear they will not measure up, they have experienced hurt by others, they do not have dress clothes, and for some who were brave to visit a church they found their questions were not welcomed or answered. There are many opportunities to carry the gospel locally to people in your own neighborhood. And perhaps, by doing so we may bring healing to our towns and cities. To listen to the effects of the gospel through music, click on the link to listen to Ryan Stevenson’s song, “The Gospel.” https://youtu.be/NTdFEZhjiko
What Message Do We Bring?
An evangelist is to bring the Word of God, both law and gospel, to bare when the actions/sins of an individual run the risk of destroying themselves and others by leading them to the cross and showing them their need to put their sin to death. We may bring a word of prayer and lament when they are in seasons of misery and grief.
If we withhold the truth of the law and only focus on the gospel of grace, our message is just sentimental and does not reflect that we truly care for the individual.
At times, people have expressed to us that to truly be Christians we should only give people goods/material items. We do sometimes provide basic essentials but we also share with them that the good news of Jesus Christ is loving them. Does this convince the person and bring understanding? Not always, but the truth is that God’s Word brings life to men. Evangelists know that they are not special and that their salvation was truly a miracle brought forth by God.
Similar to the idea that only works of charity are acceptable, a middle-age man I encountered approached me demanding I should heal his physical ailment. When I expressed that I can not heal him, he responded in anger, “What good are you? That is what Christians are suppose to be able to do.” He then stormed away. My heart was sorrowful for this man.
Our message is not, “God has a wonderful life for you” and we do not just ask them, “do you want to profess your belief in Jesus now?” Absent of the law, the person truly would not see their need for a Savior and that they are a sinner that has broken God’s holy standard of law.
“The unsaved, in their ignorance, think that they can keep God’s Law. The Ten Commandments give a sense of comfort to him, until each one is seen in truth. Each Commandment comes as a sharp axe and one by one cuts down the tree of self-righteousness and destroys false hope,” said Ray Comfort, Living Waters Ministries.
Martin Luther also understood that walking people through the law is not mean, but is necessary, “For it is impossible to keep the Law without Christ, though man may, for the sake of honor or property, or from fear of punishment, feign outward holiness. The heart which does not discern God’s grave in Christ cannot turn to God nor trust in Him; it cannot love His Commandments and delight in them, but rather resists them.”
What About Romans 10:9?
This is a Bible verse many memorize, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” John MacArthur’s study note explains the application of this verse, “Romans 10:9 is not a simple acknowledgement He is God and the Lord of the universe, since even demons acknowledge that to be true. This is the deep personal conviction, without reservation that Jesus is the person’s own Master or Sovereign. This includes repenting of sin, trusting in Jesus for salvation and submitting to Him as Lord.”
Message Of Compassion & Honesty
Above I addressed the need for honesty when sharing the gospel, but the demeanor of an evangelist must also be full of compassion. In the book, “Bitter Fruit- Dysfunction and Abuse In The Local Church,” Keith Gordon Ford emphasizes that, “Compassion and honesty are virtues, but separate them from each other and they become vices and do more harm than good.”
In the evangelical world, many churches may put more emphasis on one or the other, all compassion and no truth or all truth and no compassion. It is important to have both.
Sometimes evangelists will be asked by people where they should worship. It is important to research beforehand to help a person find a biblical church.
Several questions to ask when visiting and/or recommending a church:
- Is compassion/love visible in the church body?
- Do you see an understanding and obedience to the 56 “One Another” NT commandments?
- Is the biblical gospel preached/taught? Listen starting at timestamp 39:38 to Todd Heath, a local PA church elder, who delivered one part of a sermon series on “Our Foundation and Mission” on Colossians 1:21-28, entitled “The Gospel.” https://youtu.be/J8o-_sBLolc
- Are there Fruits of the Spirit/Characteristics of God evident in the body and leadership?
- Is there an understanding of the different spiritual gifts and ample opportunities to grow in them?
- What is the posture of the church towards the world? Towards or Retreating?
- Is the church a place of refuge?
One final tool to help you or the person you are helping to find a local church is some principles for growth by Ray Comfort found in “The Evidence Bible:”
- Pray about where you should worship/fellowship.
- Make sure your church home calls sin what it is.
- Do they believe the promises of God?
- Are they loving?
- Does the pastor treat his wife with respect?
- Is the pastor a man of the Word?
- Does the pastor have a humble heart and a gentle spirit?
- Listen closely to the pastor(s) teachings. Do the sermons glorify God, magnify Jesus and edify the believer?