During those transitional years, I had a very difficult time figuring out how to do evangelism. Some of the things I have been taught seemed like they cheapened the message by making evangelism all about information and presentation. It seems like there was very little consideration for the person, my relationship with them, or the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
I remember hearing about the nineteenth century evangelist D.L. Moody sharing the Gospel with one person every day. It sounded well-meaning, but mechanical and arbitrary, as if everything God is doing is dependent upon us. I was even taught how to share the Gospel in seconds by using an illustration. It was so quick; you could use it on a grocery check-out clerk. About thirty years ago, I would go out weekly with the guys on a “soul-winning” mission as we visited the people who had visited our church.
Finally, I realized the need to transition from a ‘Come and hear.” approach to a “Go and show.” one, from presenting or sharing the Good News to being good news. I had begun to realize that God was at work with everyone, not just church folks. Therefore, it was important to care enough about people that we get to know them, so we are working together with what God is already doing, rather than doing our own thing. Honestly, the church’s credibility is so bad, we absolutely have to support the good news message with good news living and tangible love. I think it was supposed to be that way all along.
Our message is one of redemption, restoration, and relevance. We our redeemed by Christ and must repent of attempts to try to gain his acceptance, accepting that he has sacrificially made the way for us. We are restored to our original position, a special relationship with God at the pinnacle of his creation. We are not just holding on for heaven, we have a relevant, fulfilling role in his kingdom here and now.
“That message is a tad bit different from what I used to hear a few years ago. It was more “turn or burn, you’re a lowdown sinner, accept Jesus as your Savior and go to heaven, pray this prayer. In the meantime, hang on, the world stinks.”
Sign me up for that!
“The church doesn’t exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it’s about all the people God wants to bless through the church. When the church losses sight of this, it loses its heart. This is especially true today in the world we live in where so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine, not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of the church are ever going to change.” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005) 165-166).
How did Jesus evangelize? He came and lived among us. Most of the time, I don’t even go where I feel a little uncomfortable. He was a great lover of people. I have lots of room for improvement in drawing people out, hearing their stories and helping them feel loved. He shared life with them by going to their parties, and crying and laughing with them. I can get a little isolated and insulated.
I am learning that I have to be good news, not just talk about it. I need to do life with people and not try to get them to do something, like come to my church.
-An Excerpt from my forthcoming book, An Irreligious Faith.