don't evangelize, poorly

I recently finished teaching a class on Evangelism and trying to walk the balance between creating urgency to share faith, and fostering thoughtfulness and sensitivity about how it ought to be undertaken. D.L. Moody reportedly responded to a critic of his evangelistic style with this: "I don't much like it either. How do you do it?" When the reply came that the critic didn't do it at all, Moody uttered these reverberating words: "I like my way of doing it, better than your way of not doing it." As challenging as these words are, I don't always agree. Some do evangelism so poorly the world might be better off without it at all. But, of course, that some do it poorly, is no excuse that I shouldn't do it at all. Perhaps the very fact that I observe others doing evangelism poorly means that I'm well equipped to do a decent job of it. I suppose that those Christians with the harshest critiques of evangelism might make the church's best evangelists if they would just get to it. Gandhi apparently noted that "If all Christians lived like Jesus, the whole world would be converted." I have to agree. And yet, how can any of us behave like Jesus unless we feel like Jesus. How can we act like Jesus unless we have attitudes like Jesus. And then, how do we arrive at attitudes like Jesus? Well, we have to follow Jesus' pattern of life: a cycle of solitude, community and ministry (H. Nouwen). But that's a matter for another blog. So let's just assume that we could miraculously behave like Jesus, would that negate the need for spoken evangelism? Critics of spoken evangelism often quote St. Francis as having said "Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words." It's a memorable way of noting the importance of witnessing by our lives. Letting our lives speak, so to speak. But this isn't what Francis actually said. He said "Preach the gospel always, when necessary use words." WHEN necessary, as in "it is only a matter of time." And the fact of the matter is, it is always necessary eventually. Consider Paul and Barnabas who after performing miracles among the Greeks were mistaken for Greek gods. They had to do some proclaiming to explain the meaning of their actions. And such is always the case. Indeed, our actions ought to cause those around us to question their source, but it remains our task to identify the source as Jesus. So why don't we do spoken evangelism? Is it really because we're afraid of damaging seekers impressions of God? Or is it because we fear damaging our impression in their eyes? Do we really think it's not necessary given the witness of our lives? Or are we concerned that our lives don't match up to whatever we might speak of the gospel? Only you can say. I suggest that rather than not doing it, we preach the gospel always by living like Jesus, and that when words inevitably become necessary we not shrink from our task out of either insecurity or pride.

1 comment:

  1. It was Lauren Hill who sung the song "Lost Ones." She sings that "You may win some but you just Lost One." This song reminds me that we have to continously seek God's will for these people that we share with.
    Anyways, what is up James'!?