Is Hell the Best Way to Evangelize?
I would have to say that talking to people about Hell is one of the worst ways to evangelize people. We live in a society that is very, very uncomfortable with the idea of judgment and even less comfortable with the idea of having to serve a sentence. The “sentence” in this case is eternity and the crime is living life the way that you always do (Rom 3:23).
Therefore, people have invented a comfortable reality for themselves where God doesn’t exist. For those that simply can’t fathom the universe without a creator, they have watered down the judgment aspect of God and favor only the loving aspects of God. To them, a God who would consign someone to Hell for eternity is cruel. Either way, the person who ascribes to these worldviews can live life the way they choose, since God either encourages and loves them as-is or doesn’t exist.
The problem is that God does exist, and as Creator and Lawgiver, has set forth certain rules and regulations for how we must live. Living any other way is rebellion, which is sin.
We often overlook the holiness of God. God is pure and holy, and cannot stand the sight of sin. Read the Law of Moses: the penalty for even minor sins is death. Paul echoes the sentiment that sin equals death in his letter to the Romans (6:23a). The message is clear–God cannot be near sin, and cannot simply overlook sin. Fortunately, as the rest of the passage in Romans 6:23 states, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
By placing our faith in Christ, we need not fear the holy judgment of God. But that God judges at all seems to make many people uncomfortable, to the point of physical illness. Here is a story that I found on Atheist Revolution from a reader named Angela:
My family recently moved to a rural community near Tulsa, OK. My 11 year old daughter previously lived in Morocco for seven years with her loving, muslim relatives. Everything was going very well at her new school until a couple of weeks ago. During recess, her two very, sweet friends tried to save her soul. They informed her that the “rapture” was coming in five years and everyone that wasn’t a christian were going to hell.
My daughter came home from school in tears, telling me she was afraid her family in Morocco were all going to hell. She became violently ill and spent two days in bed without eating or drinking. I took her to a local Unitarian church in Tulsa last Sunday hoping to surround her with some open minded people. She loved it. In fact, there was a female speaker from the local Islam society explaining her religion to the congregation.
We will be attending every Sunday because she loved it so much. My problem is that I don’t. The people were very sweet but the chairs in the worship room were uncomfortable and I can’t stand the boring hymns everyone sang.
I believe in evolution and really feel uncomfortable in the belief of an all-knowing God. She wants to go to church so she can be “normal” like everyone else. We’re stuck between church and social rejection.
Pay attention to the boldfaced portions of this letter; I believe that it shows the real problem that the author has with Hell–God’s judgment. That thought terrifies her to her very core.
But it need not terrify anyone. This judgment is reserved only for the folks that do not place their faith in Christ, as John 3:17 states: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
If you are like this girl, and spend two days in bed without food or water because you believe that you’re going to Hell, repent and place your faith in Jesus. That would be the first step. The next step is to get your hands on a Bible (BibleGateway has several versions online for free; E-sword is the best free Bible study software around) and study it. Join a Bible study group; there is very likely one at your local church. Speaking of church, you should attend one regularly. Find one that you feel comfortable at.
Since placing my faith in Jesus, I have never looked back nor regretted the decision. My only desire is to serve Him better and to lift myself up as a Christian example to all. I fall far short of where I want to be, but I work hard each day to make my life my witness to Him. I firmly believe that giving your life to God will be the greatest thing that you can ever do, and the best decision you can make.
Hell isn’t the best way to evangelize. In fact, I think that mentioning it in evangelism is just counterproductive. I think that the best way to evangelize is to live a life that is exemplary of Christ. In other words, as St. Francis of Assisi put it: “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”