I have been kicking around some ideas about evangelism for the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to go ahead and try to organize them. The outcome ties into the launch this new blog, one that I want to use exclusively for spiritual work, extended exegesis of scripture, and evangelism.
I have never considered myself particularly good at evangelism. I have always felt awkward about it, as for some I have a complicated witness. I have watched and listened to others evangelize, and I can't say I have ever connected with a style or approach or technique that seemed right for me.
I think I get hung up on that, like there's some formula or "right way," that if I do it wrong the person takes a pass, "No thanks, that doesn't sound like anything for me," but it's not the content of the message but the messenger, and I messed it up.
I know that at its core, Evangelism is a witness. Like the apostles, like Paul, Christians bear witness to the Good News: "That God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
But John's gospel goes on: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17)
It's the salvation message, not meant to condemn, but to save. So why does it seem to unbelievers and other searchers that it's all about condemnation or finding fault?
For Paul and the Apostles, Evangelism was their witness of supernatural events that God caused to happen in front of them and to them. They were changed forever, and their eyes were ever after on Jesus and the Father who sent him.
Evangelism is a witness to others about God. Most powerfully to the people He wants to reach, Evangelism should be about how God has moved and is moving in the witness' life. I want to evangelize, witness to others about how God moves in my life -- not how I think He should move in yours!
Sometimes I think well meaning believers spend a lot of time stirring up arguments over articles of faith that are not central to a personal witness. I think these are like the arguments Paul had to deal with in the controversies that swirled in the first century church, pitting Jerusalem against the Gentiles, Gentiles against Gentiles, Gentiles against Jews, and on and on.
I want my witness to introduce people to God so that a personal relationshiop develops. I don't think I will achieve that with many people if my witness doesn't speak the truth about His character, but reveals more about the flaws in mine. God wants their attention, He doesn't want me to end up with it!
My God has a name, the great I Am, and His son who died for our sins is the long awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, as foretold in the Prophets, the long-suffering servant who would be abused, yet be transfigured and sit at the right hand of God.
After that, God works whatever else He can work with the listener's heart, mind, soul, and spirit. We need to let God work through our witness, but as the starting point for what He will then do within the hearer of His word and the hearer's conscience.
Can any of us who might witness of His power and majesty say, we have defeated sin in our lives and behavior? No, not one.
I recently came across a very heated debate originating from an Evagelical Convention of Christian Bloggers. There was an awful lot of argument over how much they should be "in the world but not conformed to it," which is an important conversation among believers, but for searchers, it's a bit too much like insider tradecraft, and likely to confuse or disturb.
Extended argument over polemics, nuances in scriptural interpretation, or non-essential elements of faith can be counter-productive. I also personally believe that is a trap that non-believers sometimes set for the would be evangelist. Like those people who criticize action in the world of politics, and say, it's wrong unless we do "X" or achieve "Y," and then when those conditions are met, we find the standards are now "A" and "B" and so on. The goalposts get moved after the play.
I wonder sometimes if one of the ploys of the enemy (as in the enemy engaged in spiritual warfare) doesn't use the questioning of inconsistent people to shake a believer to compromise in some small way their beliefs, only to find that, when they do, there's always another compromise to make. Because the real goal was to get them to move from a point of conviction in the first place.
Anyway, that is quite enough for now. Consider these my opening remarks. The name of the Blog references the Hymn, "He Has made me Glad," which goes like this:
He has made me glad,
He has made me glad,
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!
I have spent the better part of the past year sprucing up my other Blog, http://dadmanly.blogspot.com/, so it may take a while before this new blog has the quite the appearance of a finished product; pardon the signs of construction as I get started.
I would like to post sermons that I complete or are in progress, and I definitely want to start a conversational space in which a question can be posed and commenters can present answers. I think I'll call it "Questions for Questioners."
My kid sister (Kidsisly) gave me the idea.