Repent or you will go to hell! This confronting phrase appears to cause a lot of provocation among many. It has been called offensive, too harsh, wrong and repulsive. I've heard many Christians claim that 'hell fire and brimstone' street preaching is no longer effective in this modern day society.
Such street preaching is too offensive and when we preach the gospel, we shouldn't approach it with such a confronting method. We should rather be more gentle and focus on telling others about the grace and love of God because people are more receptive when the gospel is delivered in this manner.
The need to understand why we need forgiveness
I definitely agree that the gospel is about the grace and love of God. However, how will anyone understand that they need forgiveness and a saviour if they don't know what they've done wrong and what the consequences are in the eyes of God?
The bible tells us that “the wages of sin (wrong doing in the eyes of God) is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans chapter 6 verse 23). There is a hefty consequence to sin for those that refuse to believe and accept Jesus Christ. They will face God's judgement and be sentenced to hell.
However, all hope is not lost because of the love that God has for us. He didn't want us to receive such eternal punishment and provided a way for us to be redeemed. He gave his only son (Jesus) that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John chapter 3 verse 16).
Discomfort with our shortcomings
I believe that one of the reasons why we don't like the 'hell fire and brimstone' approach is that it's so direct and hits us in a place we would much rather not go. People don't like being told what they should and shouldn't do. They think there's freedom in no accountability. But there's also a certain discomfort when we are confronted with our own shortcomings.
Is this method really ineffective?
For a while, I also believed that the 'hell fire and brimstone' approach was repulsive. Some people can be aggressive and sometimes disrespectful - I'm not in support of this. It was when I was invited to the streets by a couple of friends that are passionate about street preaching, that I began to understand that God uses multiple ways to bring people to Him.
I was somewhat hesitant to go but I decided to check it out. I observed from the sidelines as they preached (sometimes with hell fire and brimstone), handed out gospel tracks and engaged in conversations with passers by.
It was there that I heard a testimony from a guy that was involved in this ministry. When he was working as a male prostitute overseas, he heard the gospel from a street preacher. He gave his life to Christ that day, gave up prostitution and is now involved in the same ministry that brought him to Christ. I came to realise that this method still plays a significant part in spreading the gospel.
We're all different. Something that works for me may not necessarily work for you. We shouldn't put a lid on a method just because we have differing opinions. Could it even be that the “hell fire and brimstone” is exactly what a person needs to hear?
Have we become too soft?
But on the other extreme, rarely do we ever hear about hell in church today. The subject appears to be omitted or skimmed through to such an extent that it doesn't appear to matter any more. We hear about the grace of God, but what about God as a judge and the need for repentance?
The truth is that hell is for real and unfortunately those that have rejected the son of God will go there. It is our responsibility as Christians to go and tell others about the gospel of Jesus Christ and that there is a way to avoid hell. God loves us so much that he didn't want us to perish in hell fire, but wanted us to be reconciled to Him through His son Jesus, hence bringing an everlasting life in heaven.
I'm not an expert on evangelism but I still believe that there are multiple ways of spreading the gospel. The argument may be in the most effective method. Some methods work for some and other methods work for others. Achieving a balance in delivery of the gospel is critical if true understanding is to be accomplished. Facing the reality that I am a sinner may not have been a pleasant experience, but it doesn’t compare to the joy and peace I felt when I received forgiveness through Jesus.
Kandima Awendila was born in Mozambique and lives and works as an IT Service Desk Engineer on the Gold Coast. She is passionate about the Word of God and hopes her life testifies of the amazing love of Jesus Christ.
Kandima Awendila's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/kandima-awendila.html