Saturday, November 15, 2008

A forgotten yet dangerous evangelistic method?

When was the last time you used an evangelistic/church planting resource (outside the bible, of course) that promoted using good deeds to win over your friends? It may be a good thing if you haven't. I have been pondering over the Sermon on the Mount to try and work out what I think of using good deeds as 'method'.

"In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven"
Matthew 5:16

What I love about this verse is the context. The "In the same way" is referring back to not putting a bowl over a lamp. It causes us to ask "Why would you cover a lamp? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of using the lamp in the first place?" Yes it does. It is the same with our good deeds. They are meant to be so that men can see them, so that they might glorify God and turn to Christ. If you are hiding them, you are defeating their purpose. It seems therefore, especially in the context of 4:19, that we are to use our good deeds for the purpose of winning souls to Christ.

However, there is a very serious tension. Jesus says in the same sermon; "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven"

I know of a church who are very good at promoting their 'good deeds'. They have t-shirts and signs that speak about the 'good' they are doing in the community, and you see them as they walk around the streets doing it. But I think they've missed the point. I think there is a major difference between "Let your light shine" and "advertise", and what this church seems to be doing is advertising their good deeds. This is why I would probably sit uncomfortable with using good deeds as a strategy for mission, it has the very potential to produce hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is very much a salvation issue in the gospels. This is why it is a dangerous method, or why we should perhaps avoid using it as a 'method'; hypocrisy. We do good deeds because we are the light of the world and the salt of the Earth, and ultimately because we love God.

Perhaps a way of avoiding this 'method' language is by saying that it is not strategy, but it is strategic. Does that work?

So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven, just don't advertise them.

I still haven't worked it out. What are your thoughts, if you have any?

1 comment:

reuben// said...

Thanks Geoff, interesting post!

I think 'advertising' captures well the way we would mimic the 'jew in the synagogue or on the street'...'announcing with trumpets'

I guess it also points out that advertising good deeds is actually a very bad deed!

I think doing good deeds could still be seen as strategy, as long as the strategy doesn't also involve hypocritical people pleasing. certainly doing good deeds needs to be strategic (aiming to win for Christ and to please God) or it is shallow and unloving in the end.

note the parallel 'ban on praying in public' 6:5ff its pretty clear that public prayer and public good deeds are ok, but specific manifestations please men and not God.

To do the opposite of advertising: i feel guilty that i didn't give a guy spare change earlier...i am rebuked by this passage so thanks for writing.