A few weeks ago I gave a critique of the The Way of the Master evangelism at the Shepherd’s Conference. I plan on posting that critique here in the coming weeks. However, I want to make clear that I have tremendous respect for Ray Comfort and those at Living Waters. I personally have benefitted tremendously from them and their ministry. So before I post that critique, I want to explain why (even in light of my critique) I am such a Ray Comfort fan.
I hesitated to post this because I don’t know how to do it in a way that doesn’t make it seem superficial. If I post it after my critique, it will look like I’m back-peddling and softening what I was saying. If I post it now, it will look like I’m not being sincere. But I think posting this list now is the best approach, simply because I want my critique to be read through the lens of respect for Ray and his ministry. You can have enormous respect for someone, and still disagree on theological issues.
So, with that said…here are my top ten reasons I admire Ray Comfort and his ministry:
I first met Ray when I came to Living Waters’ office around 1999. I had a few vans full of high school students, and he treated us like VIP’s, simply because we were about to head out all over the globe for evangelism. He gave us a tour, then he lead us to Venice Beach, where he spent the day (and evening) with us doing street evangelism. I, along with the students I had with me, were tremendously blessed by our time with him. Since then I have been witnessing with him on other occasions, seen him evangelizing on an airplane, and have been blessed by his simple love for telling others the gospel.
Ray has come a few times to the evangelism class I teach at The Master’s Seminary. He has been funny and engaging, but more than that, he has been helpful in teaching future pastors the importance of evangelism. I have always wanted TMS students to be exposed to his ministry, because his love for evangelism and his concern for the lost is contagious.
This title alone is enough to love Ray: You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, but you Can’t Make Him Think. In one title he captures the folly of atheism, the preponderance of evidence, the spirit of Romans 1, and the veracity of presuppositionalism. It is also a fun book to read.
Speaking of books, Ray’s ministry put together a special edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species with an introduction written by Ray himself. The introduction explained some of the background of Darwin’s life, and exposed the inherent contradictions in his theory. They then gave this book out at secular campuses all over the country. Grace Church worked with them in distributing them at UCLA. It was comical to consider some schools banning the handing out of Darwin’s book on campus.
This book has the best cover/title combination I think I have ever seen. The point is to critique the “sign-the-card-and-never-question-your-salvation” approach to evangelism. He appropriately mocks the folly of presenting effective gospel preaching as offering people happiness and wholeness in this life in exchange for a minimal commitment. As the cover/title combo point out, this is not the gospel preached by the Apostles and first disciples. Imagine telling Stephen that to preach the gospel you should tell people about the blessings in this life that come to those who believe.
Ray has identified that perhaps the biggest threat to American Evangelicalism is a soft message preached by soft people. His parachute analogy is helpful to show that the evangelist must rescue people, not promise them comfort. Ray believes that the gospel is not designed to make people happy, but to make them holy. He clearly loathes any gospel preaching that comes without calling people to recognize their sin.
His relentless pursuit of Richard Dawkins was fun to watch. Again, atheism has some fairly basic inherent contradictions, and Ray has the ability to draw attention to those in a way that is both humorous and bold.
Living Waters makes some fantastic tracts. It can be a challenge to find tracts that are not insipid, luke-warm, cheesy diagrams with a sinner’s prayer attached. Ray and his ministry saw the need to make tracts that are quality and useful for the evangelist. I think the main purpose of a tract is to start a conversation, and Ray’s tracts do that remarkably well.
His life and ministry have been marked by faithfulness and integrity. He is not heaping up piles of money for himself, and he has kept his life above reproach. His ministry gives away much of what they make, those who know Ray personally often attest to the transparency in his life, and his sincerity in his faith. As Pastor MacArthur often says, “time and truth go hand-in-hand.” Over time, Ray has demonstrated that he is a faithful man, who leads with integrity.
American Christianity is better off because of Ray Comfort and his ministry. He has encouraged thousands to be more passionate in evangelism. It is not a coincidence that frequently those in our churches who are most passionate about evangelism have been trained by him. Ray has started a revival of interest in street evangelism that has spread across this country. His leadership and vision, as well as his training, has influenced thousands of people to regularly take to the streets to share the gospel with the lost.
Ray has been an encouragement to me personally, and I am thankful for his ministry.