Overbearing Christians

You know the type.

Always ready with an outward act of piety to show others just how serious thCrazy born-again Christianey are about God. Always ready to ‘talk someome into’ becoming a Christian with irrefutable evidence.  Always ready to beat someone over the head using the Bible as a bludgeon. Always ready to make you feel inferior. Always ready to scare someone into heaven with the threat of hell. Always ready with the list of do’s and dont’s. Always ready to look down on people, so that they might be looked up to.

Know anybody like this?   I do.   Me.  

 Yes, I guess there have been times when I have engaged in all of the above. And now I often wonder just how much damage I did to the would-be believer. I wonder just how far my zealous efforts went towards hardening the hearts of those I was pressuring. I wonder how much different it might have been if I had just looked for an opportunity, in a time of pain for that person, to tell them that I know how they feel, that I too experience those hurts and sadnesses in my life. But that there is one who came to heal this pain for them, and that He loves them and died for them. And just leave it at that.

No carefully crafted pitches or speeches. No pie charts or graphs to size up the credits and debits of a relationship with Christ. No coaxing them into making some decision that might only leave them with a false sense of security.  Just a simple word of promise to a person in need.

And then later, a prayer that the Lord will use my poor words to accomplish His purposes in the life of that person and by His mercy and grace He might grab a hold of that heart and make it His own.

                 – Steve Martin

23 Responses

  1. I must suggest Christians and Atheist to read this book “The End of Reason” by Dr. Ravi Zacharias. This book forces the reader’s mind to do the critical thinking that is so lacking in Christianity today. It should also be considered required reading for the atheist who has never really looked at a logical argument for the existence of God, or the Christian who has never really critically analyzed his own faith. Check out more information on The End of Reason here

  2. Matt,

    I love Ravi Z!

    But I do have to say that no amount of reasoning can convince someone to become a Christian.

    In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Jews, “you have seen me do many miracles and yet you do not believe.”
    “No one can come to me, unless the Father draw him.”
    That word ‘draw’ in the Greek is ‘to compel’. Jesus says, “I choose you, you do not choose me.”

    They looked right in His face, they saw Him do miracles, and yet they did not believe. No amount of reasoning can make someone believe, but only the proclamation of the Gospel.

    Proclain God’s Law and His Gospel and then let the Holy Spirit do what He wills.

    That’s my take.

    Thanks very much Matt!

    – Steve M.

  3. Steve,

    I have been there too.

    ‘Did I say too much?, Did I sound overbearing?, Did I come off as a pious jerk?’

    Over the last 4-5 years I have witnessed to hundreds of folks and sometimes after a conversation I wonder to myself if I said too much…not enough…could I have been nicer…was I too emotional, etc.

    Then I slap myself and say, ‘Self, you gave the Law and proclaimed the Gospel, bottom line.’

    I look back in the Book of acts and I never see Paul or Peter wondering if they were too harsh when proclaiming God’s Word.

    I usually have a partner when I hit the streets to witness and my partner is always praying silently right beside me during a conversation. He prays for me and that the Holy Spirit will move on the person I’m talking to and that there will be no distractions during the conversation.

    If apologetics must be used in a conversation I try to keep it to a minimum to avoid conflicts and steer the conversation back to the Law and Grace.

    And finally, in the end after the conversation, my partner and I pray that the Holy Spirit pricks the heart of that individual and they come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I go. I witness. I rely on Him.

    That’s all I can do.

    -Dawg

  4. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another in our zeal for God and desire to have everyone share our joy. Peace.

  5. Steve,
    It’s hard because once you have heard the gospel, you are filled with love, love for God, and love for those around you. You want them to know God as He knows them, and as you know God. All the sudden you realize what a Jerk you have been. Well don’t beat yourself up with the law, when you are giving others the Gospel.
    Fact is you did your best and if you were speaking the word of God, It wasn’t you hardening the hearts it was the Holy Spirit, who never returns empty. (Mark 13:11; Isaiah 55:10) I used to wonder why my “track record” with evangelism was so bad, then I realized that Jesus didn’t have a stellar record either. Now I am content to have spoken to someone about Jesus, and leave it at that.
    As for Apologetics, It is a great tool for evangelism. No one can’t be reasoned into the faith. But the Holy Spirit can use a reasonable argument to communicate the Gospel to those who are skeptical. Many people actually believe you need to become stupid to be a Christian. That if you read the Bible something will happen to you that makes you look like Jack Van Impe, or Benny Hin. A good reasonable argument for the resurrection can do wonders. In anycase it was an argument like that that saved my mentor Dr. Rosenbladt. So don’t right it off based on a narrow view of Luther’s explanation of the Third Article, remember the First Article too, and that God gave us our reason. God gave us the “devil’s whore,” if you will, he can use her too. A good book to read in this regard is “History and Christianity” by John Warrick Montgomery.

  6. Ivy,

    Nice to hear from you! I’m hoiping you are feeling better.

    I guess you are right. We have all been there.

    I know a young woman who is not a fundamentalist, but lives and works amongst them,and they are driving her crazy with the Bible thumping and actually turning her off to Christ.

    In the past I have done the same thing to my own family members.

    Thanks Ivy!
    Take care of that knee, and Godspeed to you!

    – Steve

  7. Waynedawg,

    Good thoughts in your comments Wayne. Thank you.

    I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of others that might be subject to the evangelical witness. I guess that is hard to do.

    I know, for me, there was a time when I was totally turned off to Christianity by fundamentalist friends speaking in tongues and praying over me, etc. I just thought they were wacked out wierdos (many of them were!)

    Then I found (by the grace of God a place where the Word and sacrament were given freely and not beaten over my head, and it seeme my perception of the Christian faith changed. I realized it didn’t have to be wierd, it could be human and down to earth, yet of God.

    Thanks!

    – Steve

  8. Bror,

    Much food for thought, you have given me. I appreciate it very much. I’ll have to pick up “History and Christianity”.

    My pastor often quotes that verse from scripture (as you did) that “the Word never returns empty.”

    He often reminds us of what Jesus told the disciples, that if your good news isn’t recieved as such…leave ’em. As you said, ” be content to have spoken to them about Jesus and leave it at that.”

    But what about with close friends or family members?

    Are there a different set of paradigms in play? Is this where a prudent use of apologetics might be useful?

    Who’s to say what exactly it was in their life that was the main factor, or catalyst in creating our faith, anyway? Was it a good argument to Dr. Rod? Or was it Rod’s baptism? Was it the bible study on Romans (where I think my light switch was turned on) or was it my baptism…or a combination of the two? Can we we know how the Holy Spirit works to create faith, or do we just act in faith, to the best of our human ability and trust that the Spirit’s will be done?

    It is hard to know and I guess it is not for us to know.

    As I told Ivy, I have a friend that is having a very hard time with folks cramming it (Jesus) down her throat. She is getting wierded out and fed up, and It brought to my mind the times when I may have behaved that way in trying to witness.

    I guess all the factors that you, and others, have mentioned can and do come into play, and I guess the devil’s whore aside, it still is the work of the Spirit to open hearts and minds and ultimately He will do what He will do.

    Thanks for your insights, Bror.
    – Steve

  9. Steve,
    To Friends be a friend. To Family members, be a son, a father, a brother…. Speak the word when opportunity rises it will work where and when it wills, but it isn’t going to work different for your family members and friends than it does for others. Your not a bad Christian for having friends and family outside the faith.
    As for apologetics, they work. Not always, but by the grace of God the Holy Spirit can and often will work through reason, reform that whore, and make an honest woman out of her.

  10. Thanks Bror!

    I like your advice on friends anf family (how to be with them, concerning Christ).

    I do realize that I’m not a bad Christian, because I have family who’s light switches have not yet turned on, not lest that I can detect anyway).

    As for apologetics, I am still skeptical. How can we know that it is not the Word alone that has acted upon the hearer and not the reason? The believer himself would not know.And an unbeliever cannot believe unless God makes them one.

    St. Paul tells us that it is the Gospel that is the power of God.

    If we then say that reason is an adjunct to the Word, does that not mitigate the Word itself?

    – Steve

  11. Does anyone have some good practical advice for Linda, my friend that is having trouble with some of her friends and family that are “giving her the creeps” with their “Christian” advances?

    I think these folks are trying to immerse her in their fundamentalist culture hoping that she will see the light, but instead all she doing all she can to get away from them.

    I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but she lives in the rural South (I won’t disclose exactly where).

  12. Steve,
    Read the book! no really, ultimately it is always the Gospel that creeates faith. Apologetics therefore can never be divorced from the gospel, or should never be. John Warrick Montgomery’s apologetic is so rooted in the Gospel that it can’t be divorced from it. But read the book then we will discuss. Also John Stott’s “The Mind Matters,” is a good litte Biblical apologetic for apologetics.
    As for Linda, advice 1. realize that as crazy as these people are they love you. 2. piss them off by becoming Lutheran. They will probably leave you alone if you become Lutheran. They don’t know what to do with Lutherans. Or… they might come at you harder, but you will have ammunition with which to fend them off, its called the Bible.

  13. Excellent Post, Steve – really hits the mark regarding where we can so easily find ourselves (religious rather than faithful), essentially burying the opportunity we have been granted to live well, and some very useful responses as well.

    Linda probably needs to escape from these people pretty quickly. I saw a friend totally shipwrecked by similar folk in my earlier years – we need to befriend people because we really do like them, not because we merely wish to corral them into the pen of ‘our converts’. That kind of spirituality will lead to all manner of troubles!

  14. Bror,

    Ha! Great advice! Become Lutheran…that’ll teach them! And I do think you are right about having the ammo to defend yourself.

    I am embarrassed to say that I am really not much of a book reader (although I am in the middle of Green Eggs and Ham at the moment…the book…not the meal) Iread a lot of articles, but few books. I think that has something to do with my…with my….what were we talking about?

    I’ll try and get and actually read “History and Christianity”.

  15. Howard,

    Glad you liked the post. Just one more thing to ponder.

    It is a difficult situation with my friend. Her husband is a soldier overseas and she has his family over at her place all the time to check on her and the kids (3 little ones).

    BTW, I very much enjoyed your latest post over at ‘Rebel by Nature, Righteous by Force’.(link on my blogroll) Thanks for that.
    – Steve

  16. Steve said – As for apologetics, I am still skeptical. How can we know that it is not the Word alone that has acted upon the hearer and not the reason? The believer himself would not know.And an unbeliever cannot believe unless God makes them one.

    It is the Holy Spirit who acts upon a sinner when the Word is preached/witnessed; it can never be apologetics.

    Apologetics should only be used in a conversation with an unbeliever when necessary. And only when the person has objections to the Christian faith through questions he/she may ask.

    All the apolgetics in the world will never convert an unbeliever. Hearing and believing comes by the Word of God……

    Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15

  17. BTW, if any of you good folks would like me to link your sites on my blogroll, let me know and I’ll be happy to do it.

  18. Thanks Wayne for the good advice.

    I am still working on the apologetics part (in witnessing) and I’ll have some to say about it after I read (that might be in 2023) the book that Bror recommended.

    Believe it or not, I used to work as a volunteer at the Shroud Center of Southern California. a museum with a full sized replica of the Shroud of Turin, and other “apologetical” materials.

    Interesting stories for another time…

  19. The shroud center! yikes, I can just imagine now why apologetics turns you off. Just know that Apologetics has many faces some better than others. Both books I recommended will take less time to read than setting up this blog. Speaking of which you can blogroll mine:)

  20. Bror,

    It has taken me 3 years to set us this blog. Not to worry though, it should only take me 6 months toput up the link to your site from mine.:D

  21. Bror,

    You’re up!

    Looks like lots of good stuff over at ‘Utah Lutheran’!

    We now have a fully functioning link on the blogroll.

    I look forward to some good perusing.

    – Steve

  22. Steve,
    Many thanks for the link and for the update on your friend.
    I think the best thing we can pray for and ask in these circumstances is that she gets to know some believers who will truly be there for her with integrity and will value her for herself, doing all the ‘normal’ things that life itself can speak about the real value of faith. The antidote to religion is often to get on with the business of embracing the spectrum of what it means to be here.

  23. Howard,

    Thanks very much for the words of advice and encouragement for Linda, and especially your prayers.
    I have a feeling that this is all going to work out for her and her family …in the long run.

    “The antidote to religion is often to get on with the business of embracing the spectrum of what it means to be here.”

    True indeed!

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