I scanned the article and the comments. It was about evangelism, what’s icky about it, what methods seem to make no sense.
Evangelism is “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness,” something I had zero problem with as a child, grew to question as a teen, and have grown to better understand as an adult. That definition makes it sound so simple. It’s as complicated as it is simple, though, and who has time to detail all the bits and pieces of what it takes to talk about Jesus—contextualization, relationship, events, and more?
Here’s my bottom line. I am committed to Jesus and so deeply value that commitment that I want others to be committed, too, because of the joy. Yup, it’s the joy for me. The joy that is like the peace that “surpasses all understanding.”
It’s so good. And don’t we always want to share good things?
It’s really easy to talk about the shoe sale, the quality coffee shop, and the incredible book you’re in the middle of. It’s not as easy to talk about your best friend, though, right? Or even your awesome OB because they’re your people and the good you’ve experienced with them comes with all sorts of particulars that are dependant on your interactions, interactions that cannot be mimicked…like my OB telling me that there isn’t enough Lovenox in the world available for me to have another baby and me laughing my head off. You may read that and think it’s offensive and wonder why in the world I love my OB and why I still think of him as my OB even though I had my last child 5 years ago and have zero intentions of birthing another. It’s the relationship.
And if it’s difficult for you to want to have my OB or my best friend just from me sharing a few stories with you, like when my best friend gave me the space I needed to cry and talk through deep pain, then how do we expect telling people about Jesus to not take time and, sometimes, be a little weird?
Yes, I want others to have this joy, I want others to know this peace, I want others to be able to talk to an all-wise being anytime of day and know he’s listening, but I can’t assume that you’ll dive right in as soon as I say, “Hey, have you accepted Jesus as Lord of your life?” I can’t assume that handing you a book or inviting you to my church’s worship service will “do the trick” either.
What I can expect is that if we’re friends and you have questions about my relationship with Jesus, you might ask me at some point. And what you can expect is that if we’re friends, I might ask you something related to Jesus at some point. I’m not becoming friends with you so that I can talk about Jesus with you, though. I’m becoming friends with you because you most likely have a great sense of humor and other traits that make you someone I enjoy being around. I want to talk about deep things with you and let silence do any heavy lifting. I want to learn from you. I want to share a meal with you. And I want to listen to the random activity of your life as you listen to the random of mine. If/when we talk about Jesus, it’s not a bait and switch move. It’s a piece of me, a major piece of me, that I want to share with you.
Am I evangelizing someone in that moment? Yeah, I guess so.
Now here’s what I’m NOT doing.
- I’m not telling you whether or not you’re going to hell*
- I’m not trying to figure out whether or not you’re going to hell
- I’m not tracking how many Jesus conversations we have
- I’m not walking away from our friendship if you tell me you’re not interested in Jesus
- I’m not pretending that I know all there is to know about a life of faith in Jesus
- I’m not debating theology
- I’m not trying to prove anything to you
- I’m not assuming all roads lead to Jesus
- I’m not assuming my road is supreme even as I think it’s awesome
Am I praying for you? Of course! If you’re my friend, I’ve already prayed for you at least once. It has probably gone something like this: “God, please help __________ to heal from __________” or “God, be with _________ as they travel to __________” or “God, thank you so much for _____________!”
At some point, friends talk to friends about their friends, right? That’s what that is.
A couple more things: I’m not gonna pretend that I’m not a Jesus follower. I’m gonna be as authentic as I can and part of that authenticity is treating others the way I want to be treated. So yeah, I’m not gonna attempt to ram Jesus down anyone’s throat. He would definitely object. He ate fish, not people.
Words matter. Evangelism is loaded with patriarchy, white supremacy, imperialism, and more. Some of us use it because it’s quicker than saying, “Telling people about the indestructible and unwavering love of Jesus”. Maybe it’s time to let go of speed and use the words that paint a beautiful picture.
*My theology of hell probably isn’t what you think. For instance, I don’t believe it’s an eternally burning fire.