When Christians speak of evangelism, I often hear this word defined as the confrontational, argumentative evangelism that became popular in the Bible belt after the Civil War during the American Revivals and resurgence of the Holiness movement. Along with tent meetings, we adopted a type of evangelism which thrives on apologetics and “reasoning” people into believing in Christ. It offers little room for questions, doubt, or argument. And Christians here in America don’t question it. It has been so entrenched in our culture for so long, we assume it must be the “right way” to evangelize.
As a Christian and as someone who believes that sharing the Good News is more than a single confrontation, or a single conversation, this style of evangelism makes me inwardly cringe every time I hear about it.
Sharing the Good News is not only about getting people to heaven.
Or saving them from hell.
That may seem over the top for some of you, but it truly is not only about that.
The Good News is about loving people. It is about sharing the love of God with people He created. It is about getting relationally involved in the lives of those Jesus came to save, serving them, and seeking God’s love ourselves amidst such service.
Pastor Dominic Carlow preached a sermon about the “messiness” of getting involved in other people’s lives a few months ago at Silverton Church of the Nazarene. He used a very effective illustration during the service, one that will stick with me for a long time. He had a giant tub in front of the sanctuary and went around gathering dirty laundry from everyone that he asked to bring dirty laundry for that morning from the congregation. He then took all that dirty laundry and began washing it. He added everyone’s dirty laundry, and went about agitating and cleaning the laundry.
All those items of clothing are metaphor’s for us as human beings. We come together with all our sin, all our “dirt,” and we have to jump in the tub together to get clean. The tub is Jesus, the agitator is the Holy Spirit, and God is the one who created it all. Together, we love one another and help each other stay in the tub.
The Good News is only good when it contains the stories of Salvation, justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Dallas Willard puts it very bluntly in saying there is absolutely nothing about the Gospel that suggests we can take Jesus’ blood to get what we want (salvation), and have nothing more to do with Him. Relationship has to come into the equation, or we will just be part of creating a bunch of spiritually immature Christians whose faith never moves past the point of salvation alone.
We can redefine what it means to evangelize… Christians can begin living what it means to serve others; give to the poor not because they deserve it, but because they are God’s created people. We can serve because we love the Lord first, not because we believe these good works can save us. We must learn to love others as He loves us.
What can I do to change this? I can pray. I can love God and love others. I can live out what it means to serve others in the church and outside the church. They are little things that add up to big things; it means noticing the woman behind you at the grocery story struggling to get her groceries onto the belt and helping her. It means offering fresh, cold water to the homeless man asking for money on the street corner. It also means putting ourselves in situations that we may be a little uncomfortable in, all in an effort to serve those Christ came to save. If we do it together, the fullness of what it means to live out the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth will come to reality in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
Your kingdom come, your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.