Awaken the Careless
The immediate goal in ministry to the careless is to inspire concern; give them truth that encourages them to begin to care. For sure, they will first care about themselves. Knowing this to be the case, we realize that such a response is not conversion, it is simply a step in the right direction toward potential conversion. Their condition has shifted from being a careless sinner to being an awakened sinner. They are still a sinner. At this point, it is good to understand characteristics of an awakened sinner and strategies for dealing with them (to be considered shortly).
What type of truth and influence is profitable for aiding the careless to begin to care? This is when the bad news is especially useful. Consider:
“…the wages of sin is death…” (Ro.6:23a). Notice, in this verse (the rest of it being, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”) the principle that bad news precedes good news in order to give the good news context. The careless sinner needs a healthy dose of bad news, not because we hate them, but because it is useful to get them moving in the right direction if there is any hope for their conversion. It is helpful to see this wider angle as the church has attempted to specialize in presenting the good news, too often doing so without preparing the soil to receive the seeds of good news in a fruitful way.
“…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” (He.9:27). As we consider a brief list of passages that present truth designed to awaken the careless, understand that it is not necessary to actually quote the verse. The important thing is to convey the concept of the verse. For example, as I listened to a young lady tell an unresponsive careless sinner about Jesus, she stated, in apparent frustration, “I guess some people have to hit rock bottom before they are ready to listen.” At this point, I interjected, “That might be true but sometimes rock-bottom has a sign above the door that says. ‘City Morgue.'” Such a comment did not magically result in the young man’s instantaneous conversion – it was simply a way to state a truth consistent with the two passages just quoted, without actually quoting the passages. Most careless sinners have Bible fortresses built around their minds, quickly dismissing anything that is recognized as a statement from the Bible, anything that is “Christian” in nature.
“…do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1Co 6:9-10). Of course, in our current culture, we are not to tell anyone this truth. In fact, many professing Christians do not believe this statement – everyone and everything is okay because it’s 2015! Sadly, however, you will do the careless sinner a great injustice if you do not inform them of this truth. Add Galatians 5:19-21 to the mix and you might actually touch upon a god or two of the sinner with which you are dealing.
Also, passages such as Proverb 29:1 and 6:15, which warn the wicked that they might pass the point of no return, are very legitimate and important ideas to communicate. Again, this phase of the process recognizes that their initial response will be selfish. It is during this phase that stirring the fear of hell can be useful. This is not to be a motive for conversion but, rather, a motive for awakening. As Paris Reidhead has stated, “…whereas fear is good office work in preparing us for grace, it’s no place to stop.”
Moving from the status of a careless sinner to a concerned (awakened) sinner is highlighted in the statement, “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need” (Lk.15:14). The son who carelessly rejected and insulted his father and carelessly wasted all he had on loose living began to personally sense the error and foolishness of his selfishness. However, it was simply a different level of selfishness that surfaced out of this experience; he felt the unpleasant and inconvenient consequences which selfishly concerned him. Of course, in the case of the son, he attempted to find a solution that did not require him to humbly return to his father. How’d that work out for him?