Tag Archives: evangelism

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In these days and for some years the word ‘evangelism’ and associated activities have become outdated for a good number of people, apparently incongruent with modern society.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.

Wild, Conversations and the Cross

The President took the podium and told the congregation how he knows a man who carves him wooden crosses out of old pews. What does he do with all those crosses?  The Rev Steve Wild, President of the UK Methodist Church, continued to tell of the countless opportunities where at the conclusion of a Jesus conversation he gives the cross away, reminding the listener to seek the Lord.

Do I have what it takes? 
For many who listen to Steve, a question is raised in our hearts.  Could I do that?  Would I have the courage?  Away from reactions of fear and the over-confidence of would-be evangelists, and in the silence of prayer, the question burrows itself deep into the disciple’s heart. Questioning, seeking a reaction, a conclusion to its inquiry.  It would be easier to dismiss it or allow the question to be overshadowed and stilled by other pressing demands on our life.

No I couldn’t! To say ‘no’ feels wrong somehow to me. It feels at some level similar perhaps to saying ‘no’ to God.  The same God who may well have called others to speak to you about Jesus, just as you and I are now being asked to speak of him in return, paying forward the blessing we have received of Godly love.

Yes I Can! However to say ‘yes’; gosh, that seems way out of the comfort zone.  To say ‘yes’ means putting your head above a spiritual parapet, risking ridicule or worse, apathy or complete disinterest.  Saying ‘yes’ may be scary, yet for some it may be exciting.  You do not know what’s to come. You are in uncharted waters, like those first sailors who traversed the globe discovering new countries and civilisations, using their skill with the sextant and knowing the position of the sun, moon and stars. Uncharted waters can be exciting, thrilling and also a teaching moment.

There is something to be said for the first faith encounter.  You must trust the one who authored this encounter, who will be speaking through you to the person in front of you. In this moment you become God’s ambassador so be careful with your words, words that should be seasoned with Godly grace and love as well as forgiveness for any ignorant and offensive comments that might come your way. Just as for the sailor, where the sextant was key, for you and I it is the Holy Spirit who must lead us and guide us in those encounters.

It’s Not Just About The Cross
In the faith conversation and offering the cross, Steve is doing something quite clever.  He is offering something to someone, after having already connected with them. They can always say ‘no’ and there is no harm done… everyone saves face.  In saying ‘yes’ to the cross however, the door is opened to a deepening conversation. But the offering of the cross is much cleverer than that. For the recipient it is something to reflect on or with… to hold…to find amongst the loose change and old receipts of life… to be reminded of a conversation you once had with an evangelist called Steve Wild about his faith in Jesus, which might become part of your story.

I am getting ahead of myself because there is a third response to the nagging question that has burrowed into the listener’s heart… the ‘could I?’ question.  Perhaps the answer might be ‘maybe’. ‘Maybe I will share my faith’.  ‘Maybe’ is a neat halfway house.  Some will say it is sitting on the fence, but they are usually the ones who have already said ‘yes’.

Err, maybe I would give a cross… However ‘maybe’ opens up the possibility of something happening. If the timing was right and the invitation was there, maybe I might be willing to say, ‘Yes, I am a Christian’; ‘Yes, I go to church’.

Which is it for you?  No, maybe or yes?  We could share faith, perhaps not like Steve, but we are all children of the living God, brought up in his image and in his strength we serve, we share and we offer hope to others in ways that he has equipped us to do.

Get Your Faith Lift Here!

Has your faith become sanitised, tame, lukewarm? Is church ‘run of the mill’, no more challenging than what you might pick for breakfast in the morning? The video below that reminds us otherwise; the sheer challenge of the gospel, the agony of the early mission leaders to choose Jesus every single time.

Today in ISIS held land Christians are facing the kind of hate these early missionaries experienced. And just see what God does with that. The story is based a long time ago, but it could be a story and narrative that happens today. Not in our comfortable, westernised lives perhaps, but where people live in fear from those who would have them killed for their faith, this story is real and relevant.

Be warned, the story in this video is not for the faith hearted!

Finally, what does your faith mean to you?  How far would you go?  What would you give up for the sake of the gospel?  As you listen to the words, the story alongside blows you away.

Don’t Just Tell Me About Jesus Show Me

Don’t just tell me Jesus has risen from the dead, show me. Over Easter the church gets rightly excited and clicks on its keyboards the awesome reality of the resurrection, the true meaning of Easter.

Some pics are a little too judgmental for my taste, but on the whole my social media feed is full of a joyous, worshipful cacophony of praise to the faith we profess and the reality of resurrection we hold to. Both of Jesus and ultimately ourselves, as we eventually step into an eternity prepared for us.
The church doesn’t just tell the world that Jesus has risen from the dead. At its best it shows this in a number of ways, but let’s begin, in no particular order, or in anyway a full list here are three examples.

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