Welcome to Riot Evangelism

We live in a day when everyone is OK with your Christian faith as long as you keep it private. But the Apostles in Acts do the opposite, offending many with their public testimony about Jesus.

Welcome to riot evangelism.

And as [Peter and John] were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. 

Acts 4:1-4

I’m not against relationship evangelism. Maybe buying muffins and hugging people will eventually convert them to saving faith in Jesus Christ, and if so, feel free to make more muffins and give more hugs.

But my preference is riot evangelism.

As we read the book of Acts, we see that the church comes into being through a Spirit-empowered sermon by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 4:1-4) and not through some guy spending six months playing checkers with people, hoping to somehow earn the right to share the gospel.

Hugs or riots?

The New Testament church continued growing in large part through preaching Jesus to groups large and small. Virtually the only chapters of Acts that do not include preaching record seasons when the preachers are in prison for preaching, and therefore temporarily unable to preach.

I’m not against relationship evangelism—but my preference is riot evangelism.

What we do not see in Acts is Paul taking years or decades to befriend people before he feels he has the right to tell them about sin and Jesus. In short, he does not have a lot of relationships.

In fact, he has more enemies than friends and seems to initiate far more riots than group hugs. But he does win a lot of converts because he preaches and God blesses.

In short, the Apostles’ strategy in Acts seems to be:

  1. Pull into town and say something controversial and offensive.
  2. Wait for a crowd to show up.
  3. Preach the gospel and call people to repent of sin and trust in Jesus.
  4. Get out of town before being murdered.
  5. Send in people like Timothy and Titus to straighten things out and establish a local church by gathering the converts.
  6. Repeat the process.

At our church, I do riot evangelism while our people do relational evangelism. Either way, however, in order for people to meet Jesus, we have to tell them about Jesus.