We shed tears watching emotional movies. We’re sorrowful when we see a dog stranded on the streets. But do we have a heart heavily burdened with empathy for the lost?
March 26, 2021
Kirk Cameron and I finished a shoot for the third season of our television program. It was called, “Where Has the Passion Gone?” where we looked at why we have lost passion in our preaching. The teaching is based on a portion of Scripture where King Saul threatened to cut a yoke of oxen in pieces. As we spoke, we stood behind a small bull that had a big hump on its back and long horns on its head.
When the filming was over I asked the cowboy who was holding the animal if it could be ridden. Moments later, I quietly slipped onto its back. Suddenly the bull took off, and I instinctively grabbed the horns. The “ride” only lasted for a few seconds, but it was caught on camera. Both Kirk and I were still wired up for sound, and the amusing thing about the clip isn’t me on a bull, but that Kirk was incredulous at what he had just seen. He kept saying, “He grabbed the horns! He grabbed the horns!” He said it four times.
My justification for taking the bull by the horns was that I had no choice. There was no rope around the beast’s belly for me to grab, and the only other choice was its ears, and I’m not that stupid.
The Beast of Evangelism
If you do an Internet search on the ten top fears of humanity, the odds are you won’t find that bull-riding is up there. You will instead find fears like the fears of salespeople, fears of job seekers, fears people have of the future, the fear of snakes, of spiders, heights, etc.
But there is one fear of which little is said. It is the “fear of man.” There is one terrifying beast that is synonymous with that particular trepidation. It’s called “evangelophobia.” Just the thought of seeking the lost terrifies most of us. It makes our palms sweat, and our heart palpitate. If you have those symptoms, you are not alone.
“People are going to Hell, and they must be warned. If there was no Hell, I wouldn’t bother pouring my heart out to strangers I meet.”
Why did I, an intelligent clear-thinking human being, get onto the back of a bull? It was because I had been standing with it for about 30 minutes and I knew that I had some sort of authority over it. Strong though it was, when it got spooked a couple of times during filming, I was able to pull it back into position. So when I got onto the animal, I had that knowledge tucked into my mind. Of course, I could have been gored by its horns, but I didn’t think too deeply about it, because if I wanted to ride the bull, I had to take the risk.
Okay, let’s study the beast of evangelism. Let’s see if you can master it. What are your fears? Are you afraid of being gored by an atheist, or being thrown by some question and ending up bruised and humiliated? Here, then, is some knowledge for you to tuck into your mind. You can get on top of the animal. If you learn to do what Jesus did, and address the sinner’s conscience, you will be in charge and steer the beast any way you want.
The Necessity of Overcoming Fear
While overcoming “evangelophobia” will give you a deep satisfaction, there is a far higher motive for doing so. People are going to Hell, and they must be warned. If there was no Hell, I wouldn’t bother pouring my heart out to strangers I meet, and each Saturday afternoon passionately preaching open-air at the base of the Huntington Beach pier. If there was no Hell, like the rest of this world, I would get on with my own life and the pursuit of happiness.
In our program script Kirk and I talk about the fact that the world speaks more about Hell than the Church. They casually use phrases like “all Hell broke loose,” “like a bat out of Hell,” “there will be Hell to pay,” “just for the Hell of it,” and being “as mad as a Hell.” When something is hopeless, they say, “he doesn’t have a hope in Hell.” Then there’s “the road to Hell,” “come Hell or high water,” “until Hell freezes over.” They casually speak of how sure Hell is, with “as sure as Hell,” and of course, when they are angry, they tell each other to “go to Hell.”
In contrast, most of the contemporary Church (which is commanded to “warn” every man) is afraid to even mention the word for fear of offending the world.
What If We Didn’t
Think about the rich man of whom Jesus spoke. Much to his horror, he died and found himself in Hell, and being in torments and anguish of soul he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to speak to his loved ones, “that he may testify to them, lest they come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Imagine if Lazarus did actually go to the rich man’s loved ones in answer to the man’s prayer, but instead of warning them about the reality of a terrifying Hell, he avoided the subject and spoke of the purpose of the coming Savior being one not to save from wrath, but to give purpose, peace, love, and fulfillment. What a terrible betrayal! Yet that’s the message of most within the Church, and the result is that its hearers don’t therefore repent to flee from wrath. That means that they will be false converts and end up going to Hell themselves.
In an effort to help awaken casual sinners, I have resorted to asking if they like it when their dentist’s drill hits a raw nerve. No one does. I tell them that God is so angry at sin, He says that He will give them “tribulation and anguish” (Romans 2:9) forever. “Anguish” is a word we rarely use. The dentist’s drill hitting a raw nerve is called “acute pain.” It’s not up there with “anguish.” Forgive the dreadful analogy, but “anguish” is perhaps the word that would be used to describe the emotion of a loving parent who finds his beloved little daughter lying dead at the bottom of a swimming pool.
We live in an insane world. God offers them everlasting life through the gospel, and they argue about it. They resist Heaven as though it was Hell itself. He offers them “pleasure forevermore,” and they choose “anguish” for eternity. There is no analogy to describe such insanity. But if we love them, we must overcome our fears and plead with a sin-loving world to repent and turn to the Savior. If you call yourself a Christian… if the love of God dwells within you, you have no choice. Please, while there is still time—take a risk and grab the bull by the horns.