I recently heard from a brother some concerns he had with the use of Gospel banners. It seems some friends and relatives of his were angered and/or embarrassed by Gospel Banners they saw CORE using in a recent Classic Car cruise. I don't know how well you can see them but all the major banners we use are shown in the picture conglomerate in the upper left. So, from here on out at least you'll know the context of the complaints and concerns.
However, the concern this brother had was different. His concern was that he didn't see these as Biblical and felt they were impersonal. I had never heard that issue raised before. I was thankful that he brought it up because it caused me to prayerfully consider his concern in light of scripture.
Let me start off by saying this brother is a solid believer who loves the Lord. He's even accompanied me when I preached the gospel in the open air. He is not just an evangelism "Nay Sayer". His concern is legitimate, so I want to address it here for him and anyone else who may be thinking the same thing.
First and short. Are Gospel banners "biblical"? Of course first we have to ask: How do we mean, "biblical"? Obviously we don't hear of John the Baptist or any disciples carrying gospel banners or any other biblical characters I'm aware of. Of course we know that isn't what people are driving at. At least I hope not. If so giving away gospel tracts and even copies of the Bible itself would be unbiblical by that criteria!
So, really what we have to determine for being biblical, is whether or not the content is biblically sound. I will be the first to admit that I am appalled at what some "Street Evangelists" consider appropriate banners or signs. I personally believe that unless the banner uses language that properly depicts a biblical stance both in language and heart it is a bad banner. Of course the easiest banners to be safe are just those that quote scripture. However, often for the sake of space a banner may be a summation of a biblical truth that points people to Christ. Most of our banners are in that light.
I see banners like very short gospel tracts. They need to call out peoples sins and point them to the savior from sin in as short and as powerful a way as possible. They must do so for the glory of God and for the potential salvation of the readers soul. If a banner does not carry these elements I can't really call them a, "Gospel Banner".
(As a quick aside, all the tall banners on poles come to our ministry from before CORE even existed. They aren't even necessarily the banners I would have created. However, I approve of them and their messages. The only banner in the pictures you see that I created is the long CORE banner with both scripture and commentary.)
We could go deep into the theology of messages but I think I've covered the basics as to the biblical appropriateness of a Gospel Banner. So let's move on to my friend's concern regarding whether they are "personal".
Like the term "Biblical", the term "personal", could have various and sundry definitions. So for the sake of this blog I'm going to address the term, "personal", in light of my friend's concerns.
He mentioned to me that he saw the preaching that John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles used in sharing the gospel as both biblical and personal. As the person to person interaction opened the door for questions and dialogue on top of the preachers monologue. I definitely agree with this and even experienced the reality of very personal dialogue and debate today. Another brother and I had the opportunity to preach in the open air as well as chat one on one and tract at the Cranberry Festival in Bandon Oregon. This led to some very interesting and fruitful interaction!
So, by this definition of "personal", I agree that banners lack the one on one interaction my friend sees as appropriate. Now, I think I can clear this objection up as to whether or not this definition of "personal", should be a measure of the appropriateness of Gospel Banners pretty quickly. Let's look at some other ministry tools(some mentioned earlier above)that fall outside of this definition of, "personal".
Shirts - Many Christians wear them and they are little different than Gospel banners in their effect(Except they usually do not present a very good Gospel message. In fact they're often silly or even embarassing!).
Bumper Stickers - See "Shirts" above!
Gospel Tracts - As I mentioned above, Gospel Banners are really just short Gospel Tracts. They are equally impersonal.
Preaching - Yes, even preaching can be very impersonal. While tone, length of message, and even modeling the message for the current crowd may add a modicum of customization for them specifically, overall there is little interaction in most cases and the message is impersonal by the standard we're going by here.
The Bible - Yes, I know it may sound crazy, but even giving someone a Bible is impersonal by our standard without one to one interaction. Often times Bibles can be found destroyed or trashed or in second hand stores dropped off unread.
So, after all that is said let me give a quick summary statement and then go on to flesh out some other thoughts regarding the issue.
In short, no matter what the medium in the evangelism scenario, without at least two engaged participants in the scenario, the scenario is not "personal" by our definition here.
Now, I want to try to define what I see as, "personal". First let me say I believe all evangelism should be personal. In fact, any true evangelism must be personal. I say "must", because all true evangelism involves at least four persons. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and last and definitely least, me! Without this very personal foundation for our evangelism any numbers other than these, no matter how great, are empty.
So first let's make sure we have the right reasons for our evangelism. If we do then our evangelism will be personal.
First in evangelism and in all areas of life we must do what we do for the glory of God. If we approach our evangelism with a heart that loves God we will evangelize in a manner that brings praise, honor, and glory to His name!
Secondly, if we love the lost people who are headed for the same eternal Hell that we deserve, we will cry out to them passionately and personally to repent and turn to their only possible savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Now we know the goals we are aiming for. So how can we use Gospel Banners(or any other evangelistic medium)usefully to attain them? To do that we must make clear what the specific purpose of evangelism is.
Evangelism's specific purpose is this: To call all sinners, everywhere, to give due glory to God for the amazingly gracious sacrifice of His only begotten Son, for the salvation of His people. They begin their life of giving glory to God by humbling themselves, repenting of sin, and trusting in Christ alone to faithfully and lovingly wash them from all their sin, seal and sanctify them by the Holy Spirit, and present them as His spotless Bride to the Father in Heaven.
In short, our goal is to see God glorified in His saving sinners through by the proclamation of the Gospel!
Now how can Gospel Banners or any other medium accomplish such a lofty goal? In and of themselves they will utterly fail. Yet, God promises that He will use preaching(The proclamation of His saving Gospel!)in any medium listed above, to save sinners! Don't take my word for it take God's
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Cor. 1:18-25
"For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." Rom. 10:11-17
So, in the end friends we only need to concern ourselves with a few things in evangelism. We need to be sure that our motives, mediums and the what we manifest to God and man, are God glorifying as defined by His word.
You see, we really only need to concern ourselves in whether or not our lives glorify God. If we obey the first command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, the second command to love our neighbor as ourselves will be inevitable. As we love God and are so thankful for being saved from the Hell that we deserve, we will want our neighbors to likewise love God and be thankful for being saved from Hell as well. So the fruit of that will be that our Gospel Banners and every other evangelistic tool we use will be dedicated to that end.
Be confident friends! The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians(1 Cor. 3)the truth of Gospel preaching in a nutshell. Some plant seeds, and others water them, but it is God that brings the increase! He will indeed bring the increase! Let us settle for no less than the authority of the spoken words of our Lord Jesus Christ on this!
"The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mk. 4:14-20
Take heart friends! Jesus has promised that though many will not be saved, some definitely will! Those who are will not only be saved but will produce fruit to the glory of God!
"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Gal. 6:9
God bless and thanks for reading!