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Next to the office where I used to work before I was laid off, there is a dental office. Outside this dental office, they have a large marquee that they update every so often with pithy “Christianese” quotes. Stuff like, “Jesus died for YOU!” or “You've got to pray just to make it today.” Currently, their sign reads, “If you knew what Hell was like, you would accept Jesus.”
First of all, doesn't almost everybody already know what Hell is like? They may not believe in it but I'm sure that everyone knows that Hell is a place of burning flesh and suffering.
Secondly, I'm not going to say that the “turn or burn” approach to ministry has not had its converts but I've personally never seen it work. Let us step into the shoes of the average, non-religious man walking the street. What would be the reaction of the average man when he reads this sign? There are a few options.
One: he laughs at those silly Christians and their silly slogans.
Two: he shakes his head angrily at those idiot Christians and their idiot slogans.
Three: he falls to his knees and prays for God to save him from the fiery chasm of Hell.
Now, I can only see two of these reactions as being feasible. I really don't see this working for anybody. For crying out loud, my own reaction to seeing that sign was the second option. The only place you'd see option three happen is in the make-believe world of Christian film.
I believe that this method of “getting the message out” causes far more harm to Christianity than good. You need to build a relationship with people or they aren't going to give a damn about what you have to say. You aren't going to convert to Buddhism just because a Buddhist tells you that you that your karma will be bad if you don't.
Do we really need to resort to scare tactics in order to fill church seats? Does God really want followers because they're scared of what will happen if they don't, or does He want us to follow Him because we love Him? Any good Christian will tell you that we are supposed to imitate Jesus. So what does He have to say about this?
If you look in the gospels, you can find a number of passages where Jesus calls out the religious folk for their hypocrisy and sins [Matt. 23; Mark 11:15-17; John 8:7]. You'd be hard pressed to find Jesus telling the non-religious folk that they are going to burn in Hell if they don't abandon their sinful ways and follow Him. When He does interact with the so-called sinners (really, who isn't?) and hated groups He eats with them [Mark 3:15-17], He sits and talks with them [John 4:5-30], He stands up for them [John 8:1-11].
What were the results of this? Jesus had followers everywhere He went. He was practically swimming in them.
I wonder how many people have been turned off to Christianity because of a stupid sign.