I would never have thought of using those two words together, “Compassionate Evangelism”. I was raised with the concept of aggressive evangelism. “No fear” evangelism. Rushing in where angels feared to tread. Attacking the citadel of the enemy. Calling a spade, a spade. No mincing of words. Be a warrior for God.
Is there a place for that approach? Of course there is, as dictated by the place, time, and circumstances. Jesus did not mince words when He cleansed the temple, and said, “My house will be a house of prayer” (Luke 19:46 NET). There is a time to speak softly, and a time to speak loud and clear. God calls us to be a prophetic voice as well as a priestly voice.
When I use the term, Compassionate Evangelism, I am referring to the priestly voice, the voice that meets people where they are, and intercedes with God for them. This is what is often referred to as the Jesus Method.
Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me.”
There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit (White, Ministry of Healing, 143).
Compassionate Evangelism has more to do with how we live than with what we preach. What church members do after they leave church on Sabbath can have more to do with the success of the pastor’s preaching than the sermon itself. Ellen White puts it this way,
It is not only by preaching the truth, not only by distributing literature, that we are to witness for God. Let us remember that a Christlike life is the most powerful argument that can be advanced in favor of Christianity, and that a cheap Christian character works more harm in the world than the character of a worldling. Not all the books written can serve the purpose of a holy life. Men will believe, not what the minister preaches, but what the church lives. Too often the influence of the sermon preached from the pulpit is counteracted by the sermon preached in the lives of those who claim to be advocates of truth. (Testimonies for the Church, 9:21)
Your walk speaks louder than your talk, is as true as it ever was. The best teacher is example, not preaching. Ellen White’s classic statement on this is, “A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity” (Gospel Workers, 122).
God has, however, given to us as His Remnant, a message to challenge the sins of this age with a call to repentance and to prepare the way of the Lord’s second coming, in the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist. How do I learn to preach the straight truth of the Gospel? Ellen White says, “The religion of Jesus softens whatever is hard and rough in the temper, and smooths whatever is rugged and sharp in the manners. It makes the words gentle and the demeanor winning. Let us learn from Christ how to combine a high sense of purity and integrity with sunniness of disposition (Gospel Workers, 122).
How do you do this? I will let Ellen White answer this in her straight-to-the-point way.
In laboring in a new field, do not think it your duty to say at once to the people, We are Seventhday Adventists; we believe that the seventh day is the Sabbath; we believe in the non-immortality of the soul. This would often erect a formidable barrier between you and those you wish to reach. Speak to them, as you have opportunity, upon points of doctrine on which you can agree. Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian, desiring peace, and that you love their souls. Let them see that you are conscientious. Thus you will gain their confidence; and there will be time enough for doctrines. Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed, presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus (Gospel Workers, 119-120, emphasis mine).
Christianity will make a man a gentleman. Christ was courteous, even to His persecutors; and His true followers will manifest the same spirit. Look at Paul when brought before rulers. His speech before Agrippa is an illustration of true courtesy as well as persuasive eloquence. The gospel does not encourage the formal politeness current with the world, but the courtesy that springs from real kindness of heart.
The most careful attention to the outward proprieties of life is not sufficient to shut out all fretfulness, harsh judgment, and unbecoming speech. True refinement will never be revealed so long as self is considered as the supreme object. Love must dwell in the heart. A thoroughgoing Christian draws his motives of action from his deep heart-love for his Master. Up through the roots of his affection for Christ springs an unselfish interest in his brethren. Love imparts to its possessor grace, propriety, and comeliness of deportment. It illuminates the countenance and subdues the voice; it refines and elevates the entire being. (Gospel Workers, 123, emphasis mine).
I am inviting you, my church family, to help me preach the sermon this week, by living it out in your lives each day in a compassionate way.