How Evangelism Needs To Evolve

Evangelism (sharing the good news) is a sensitive issue for many in my context, both inside and outside the church. Traditionally since the church’s conception, evangelism has been the way it has shared the gospel. However, for many it is such a sensitive issue, causing some people simply not to read this blog post. But for the undecided and wary, please do continue, it will be ok. 🙂

In these days and for some years the word ‘evangelism’ and associated activities have become outdated for a good number of people, apparently incongruent with modern society. Others would prefer to use the word ‘mission’ or perhaps evangelism with a focus on a small ‘e’!

What Evangelism Means

The English word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word euaggelion. Most literally translated in the noun form, euaggelion means: “gospel” or “good news.”

Evangelism traditionally became the communication of the gospel message, including a warning, an explanation and a call, which perhaps underlines a problem in our evangelistic methodology.

In the bible, the New Testament imparticular uses the term ‘preaching’ or ‘sharing the gospel’ over fifty times. The bible says little on how we should share the good news, just that we should. Other than that there are particular people who are specially gifted for this, but that all believers have a responsibility for sharing the gospel.

Although it is broadly accepted in the church that all Christians bear some responsibility for sharing the good news in all kinds of ways, our methodology and how we live out evangelism is important.  It needs to be good news for others, to begin with. No doubt we all have stories and an awareness of times when this has not been the case and in that, we have let ourselves and God down.

The Fruit of Evangelistic Outreach

What fruit of the Spirit has grown through our evangelistic endeavours? In answering this we find two responses. I have met many of whom, myself included, have responded to a particular type of evangelistic outreach – listening to a preacher at a Christian event – has brought them into faith… setting them conversionon a Journey with all its twists and turns, where they have grown, struggled, stuck it out, but kept faith with God regardless of life and because of all God has done in their lives.

However, as painful as it might be to read, some have a very different perspective indeed. Places where the fruit has not flourished and has fallen on rocky ground.

 In an article in the local news this week, based on how the church should do more to combat racism, commenters described the people in the church as ‘bible bashers, nosey, bigots, racist, sexist, and murderers’!

For some, when the church speaks and people do not hear our words but act on their own prejudices, influenced by their own or other people’s interactions with the church. Is this the flip-side of how evangelistically the church has at times viewed the world?

Scripturally, evangelism is sharing the good news. How we share the good news needs to be right for our context, whatever that looks like, traditional approaches or new ones.

I wonder though if our context has become weary of street preachers, placards or church notice boards that have witty Christian posters on them that condemn people. I am concerned that society has become increasingly cynical and apathetic of what we are about, and our hidden agendas to get more converts or bums on seats?

A New Evangel

Perhaps we need a new form of evangelistic methodology, one where absolutism is sidelined for the possibility that our internal image of Jesus is blurred by our own theological bias. St Paul, as he writes about love in his first letter to the Corinthians, speaks about not knowing God fully but one day we will all be known fully.

Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

Our evangelistic outreach needs to be mindful of how we are and have been perceived and the effect our actions will have on our context where sacred meets secular. We need an evangelism that does not pit us against them, but rather sits at eye level with them in dialogue. Conversation_(5556628632)

The kind of dialogue where the certainty of our own conviction takes second place to that of listening to Gods spirit. His words should be our primary focus. Thus our evangelism becomes more about togetherness, and a generous heart than Team Jesus versus everyone else.

Evangelism isn’t wrong in itself, but the church has been misguided at times in its working out of that word. Too often we have hurt rather than helped, sidelined and marginalised rather than included and collaborated, being blind to our own prejudices and reacting without compassion and grace to others.

As disciples today, for whom evangelism is a primary focus, let us check our eyes for the logs or tree trunks that might be stuck there, as we pick the splinters out of other people’s eyes.

Let’s seek a new narrative as we engage with society. One that is seasoned with respect for the other, filled with grace and rooted in the love of Jesus, bringing good news for a contemporary generation and time, that sits with people rather than imposes a doctrine.

1 Comment

  1. Cliff Cyrus says:

    There are two paradigms of evangelism that will help the Church evolve effectively in the changing world. While looking at the road ahead, it is often helpful to look back at those who have gone before.

    Like

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: