By: Rev. Shannon Youell
Here we are talking about that scary word “evangelism” again. CT News and Reporting, writes about a recently released report on the state of evangelism in our Canadian churches. The survey was conducted by Alpha Canada and Flourishing Congregations. The majority of churches that responded were evangelical churches. The results may or may not surprise you. A whopping 65% of respondents revealed that evangelism is not a high priority for them in their churches. Read the full article HERE
Some of you might find that surprising and some, like myself, just nod our heads. I have lamented often that many Christians are unequipped or unlikely to talk to others about their faith in God and, in particular, Christianity. Please note I am referring to ‘unlikely’ as something that happens outside the church walls – we are much bolder when we evangelize one another within the parameters of the church.
Add to that our own general discomfort around sharing a prescriptive route to salvation that can be viewed as an intellectual nod or irrelevant to peoples lived experiences, and we can see the complexities that have led to a lack of evangelistic enthusiasm in our churches and in our own selves.
I may lament, but I also recognize that I can be reluctant to initiate conversations around Christianity myself. Not because I think the gospel of God’s kingdom is lame, or powerless, or ineffective. I believe that when humans grasp the immense implications of God-With-Us, it has the potential to transform our hearts, minds, and how we engage in life and relationships.
Rather, my reluctance comes from the rhetoric that there is a general mistrust directed towards Christians, and thus our God, based on abuses of power and control that have plagued Christianity putting deep shadows that cloud its life giving message of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness of sin, and inclusion of the least, the last, the lost and the lonely.
I suspect part of our reluctance stems from our own truncated understanding of evangelism, God’s mission to the world, and how the church should equip us to evangelize. Writer Jeff Banman explores this in his article published in Scot McKnight’s blog space, Jesus Creed. Jeff points out that Paul himself, while being a beneficiary of the Great Commission, never instructed the churches to ‘train’ the people in evangelism in any of his letters:
“Paul is not interested in training his churches on how to initiate gospel conversations with their friends and family, nor is he concerned with teaching them how to present the four spiritual laws to a passerby on the street. Paul’s vision of evangelism does not look like ours. Instead of gospel tracts handed out on the street corner, Paul envisages his churches living out the gospel in such a powerful way that their lives and the life of the local church becomes the gospel tract itself!”
Jeff concludes his article by saying: “Paul’s words to Titus concisely portray his vision of evangelism. As followers of Jesus, we will live our lives in such a way that we “will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).”
His perspective should cause us to ask the question: In what ways do we, and I, live our lives that “will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive”? If people shun Christianity as the way, truth and life, of good news itself, in what ways have we and I, and thus the church, portrayed God’s kingdom and his love for the world?
This is not a simple thing to answer. Whether we realize it or not, by the very nature of identifying as Christians, we, you, are evangelizing the world around us. How I navigate my own life, struggles, behaviors, and attitudes, and how I treat others, communicates to the world what I believe about following Jesus.
Rather than becoming defensive about the perceptions that some (many?) hold of the Church and Christians in general, let’s instead be responsive by looking at our own selves first and honestly acknowledging where we, and I, miss the mark in communicating (evangelism means ‘to communicate’) God’s kingdom good news story in how we live, work, play and pray.
Ultimately, this is where we all begin to join God in his work, by inviting God to work also in us.
“Wise Evangelism” by Jeff Banman used by permission via Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed Blog).