With our occasional series on evangelism in mind, I came across a very interesting video featuring Penn Jillette, of the famous magic act, Penn & Teller. Penn is a well-known and very outspoken atheist and he’s here discussing an evangelistic encounter he had after one of their shows:
(**Disclaimer: we are ordinarily very wary of posting YouTube videos because even if the video is innocuous, the ones that are linked to it may not be. On top of that, Penn Jillette can be very profane in his speech. However, this video contains no profanity and makes some exceptional points and so we thought it would be worth your viewing).
A couple of thoughts after watching this:
1) Honesty and forth-rightness are invaluable in any evangelistic encounter. We’re not trying to deceive or manipulate anyone, as though that would work anyway. Conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to present the good news, and it is just that: news. We’re not trying to sign someone up for a particular political party, or get them on our church league softball team, or hoping that they make a mean strawberry pie for the bake sale. We’re explaining the essence of the human dilemma (sinful men and women before a holy God), and offering God’s incomparable grace as a solution (sending his Son to die for our sins and to rise victorious that we might live with him forever). It’s news, not behavioral manipulation.
2) Note how many times he talked about the sincere appreciation and human dignity that he experienced from this man. Merely by looking him in the eyes, by not being defensive, and by treating Penn with respect, this man gained an audience with a committed atheist. Insincerity is deadly and a sin against God.
3) Note the lasting effect of this encounter. He’s characterizing this man as a “very, very, very good man,” well after the fact. His ignorance of the Bible and Christian truth is palpable, and is contributing to his foolishness; but perhaps the Holy Spirit will use what appears to be the effects of the gospel in one’s man life as a witness to another who is currently running away from God.
4) Finally, apart from God’s sovereign grace, we would all be with Penn, or worse. We don’t deserve to be the recipients of his grace–else it would not be grace. Self-righteousness is deeply offensive to God; and by interacting with others, we can be tempted to approach them in that manner–especially so if they are outspoken against us. Let us remember God’s grace, his unfathomable forgiveness of sinners like you and me, and then go out in anticipation of the effect his gospel will have in the lives of others.