Repent or you will go to hell! These are the words that so many people struggle to hear. It is so confronting hearing a voice confidently exclaiming that we are going to hell if we don't repent of the sins we have committed. It's offensive. It's too harsh. It's wrong and repulsive.
There are a number of people that believe that this "hell fire and brimstone" approach to preaching the gospel has no place in society today. They say the method is too offensive and that if we are to draw people to God, we should focus our preaching on the love of God, health and prosperity - people are more receptive to the gospel when presented in this manner.
The gospel is about love but...
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 14 verse 23]. There is a hefty consequence to sin. However, God so loved the world that he gave His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
How will anyone understand that they need forgiveness and a saviour if they don't know what they have done wrong and what the consequences are in the eyes of God?
I believe that people don't like being told what they should and shouldn't do. They think there's freedom in no accountability. There's a certain discomfort when we are confronted with our own shortcomings. This could be a reason why we don't like the "hell fire and brimstone" approach. It's so direct and hits us in a place we would much rather not go.
Who said this approach isn't effective?
For sometime I also thought that the "hell fire and brimstone" approach was repulsive. Some people can be aggressive and sometimes disrespectful. I'm not in support of that. But I also have come to understand that God can use multiple ways to bring people to Him.
I was invited to the streets by a couple of friends that are passionate about street preaching. I was a little curious but also 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 did their best to engage in conversations with passers by. It was also there that I heard a testimony of one of the guys 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.
Everyone is 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. Isn't it possible 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 over 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?
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 no expert on evangelism and I still have a lot to learn. 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.
Kandima Awendila was born in Mozambique and lives and works as an IT Service Desk Engineer on the Gold Coast.
Kandima Awendila's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/kandima-awendila.html