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Turn or burn! Pastor says frightening preaching no longer converts sinners

Published:Thursday | October 29, 2015 | 9:01 AM
CONTRIBUTED Reverend Teddy Jones, pastor of Shalom Missionary Church.

How many times have you heard a pastor's desperate plea encouraging the unsaved to turn from their lives of sin or burn in hell? Although they have good intentions, this turn-or-burn approach may rub sinners the wrong way.

Family and Religion contacted the Reverend Teddy Jones of the Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS) and pastor of Shalom Missionary Church to have him shed some light on the issue.

"I am indeed familiar with that particular approach to evangelism. It was very popular in the '80s and early '90s," explained Jones.

"I have a big issue with it. I think it amounts to psychological manipulation, and I do not think it is an effective method of evangelism today. During the time when it was being used, it [was effective], in that a number of persons were pretty much scared, so they made a sudden decision."

The reverend told Family and Religion that though some of these persons are still walking with the Lord, most people who make a decision under that kind of preaching tend not to last.

"This is so because their decision was not thought out and just like with persons who made decisions when there was the whole millennium bug [scare] at the turn of the century, many of the promises were shortlived," he said, adding that following Jesus is something one needs to think through, count the cost, and then make a decision.

Pastors and their saints who endorse this type of evangelism clad their messages with scriptures of the Bible.

Revelations 21:8: "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers ... . Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur ... ."

And St Matthew 25:26: "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

These types of scriptures and those emphasising the promised weeping and gnashing of teeth that await the sinful are heavily used in an attempt to win souls for the kingdom.

"I believe Hell and Heaven are real, and the scripture is clear on that. However, I think that when the turn-or-burn approach is taken, persons make a decision simply because they want to go to Heaven," the reverend said.

"They operate out of a utilitarian perspective, that is, what they can get out of it. So it becomes all about walking on streets of gold and inheriting the mansion in Heaven. Their decision isn't based on a desire to have a relationship with God. It should be that you want to serve God because of who you understand God to be and not what you can get. Your decision should be based on the realisation that you want to serve Him and embrace salvation in Jesus Christ, whether there is a mansion or street of gold," he said, adding that not wanting to go to Hell or Heaven should not be the main deciding factor.

Jones said many people who make a decision in such circumstances have very shallow commitment.

He said: "It seems to me that that is one of the reasons we have so many persons in church today who will not do anything for the Lord and who are just content to sit and make up numbers."

The director of recruitment and admissions at the JTS told Family and Religion that he believes the turn-or-burn approach no longer has any impact on the unsaved.

"It has lost its frightening power. At best, it may stir the emotions, but not enough to make them want to leave their life of sin," explained Jones.