warmwordsforcoldnights asked a question:
One thing that’s on my mind some days is about witnessing and living your life. Is it a daily thing, that you witness to others or in the course of your life when your led is it that way. It may be a crazy question, but seeing that I’ve never seen it done or have been discipled. It feels like most times I’m just guessing and when I have shares my faith it was like I felt I didn’t say the right thing or I left something out.
Hey my friend: I think you landed on exactly what’s so tough about evangelism.
There’s a secret fear with Christians that we’re somehow fooling people into Jesus, as if we’re selling a campaign that we don’t quite believe ourselves. It could be that we’re never quite certain about the right doctrine or the best presentation. Or we’re not exactly living up to the ideal that we share, and there’s a troubling guilt that we might be wrong about this whole thing, so it’s this awkward sheepish hesitation masked with an almost too-loud confidence. Like selling snake-oil that we want to really believe in, but remain unsure. And some of us just feel straight up unworthy or too unknowledgeable to speak up.
I think a lot of this is because of the way we’re taught evangelism. In the mainstream church (which I love, by the way, and I’m not bashing), we’re mostly taught to package the Gospel with one-liners, retorts, psychological allurement, and a final deal-closing prayer. I mean let’s think about this. I’m going to tell you the truth of the universe about God in a five minute sale at your front door. I’m cool with door-to-door evangelism: but is this really the standard for sharing our faith?
This is a sort of “success model” in which we’re expected to “convert” people by numerical values and scripted responses. In the end, it’s trying to turn the Gospel into one more program. So of course, we get nervous that we’re not living it right AND saying it right, and it’s a double-fear that many Christians don’t talk about. We just act as convinced as possible but we’re not willing to doubt our own product.
Often my personal goal as a pastor (and a friend) is not to tell you what to think, but how to think about what you’re thinking. I don’t want to drop faith at your front door, but I want to talk you through the things you believe. I want to tell you about the person who changed my life. That does require words and inviting you to church and telling you about the Bible and presenting the Gospel — but it also means sharing life with you, wrestling with doubts, asking the hard questions about suffering and purpose, being there with you to reflect grace and patience and honesty. Without this, then evangelism remains a cold pamphlet with doctrinal facts about God, but it has nothing to do with Him. Then we’re about recruiting people as projects to perpetuate programs: and bam, you have the modern church.
I think evangelism, in the end, overlaps with discipleship: which is life-on-life togetherness with Christ. There isn’t some dichotomy where we “attract” people with witnessing and then “keep” them with deeper theology. Both are fully active and pulsing in our daily lives. And no one is looking for perfection, either. I want a real human being, not a religious puppet who is spouting stock answers. I want to see the moment after someone messes up.
I want to encourage you, dear friend, that you don’t need to know everything about Christianity to be convicted. You don’t need to wait to “get better” before sharing. Sure, do your research. Sure, keep growing. Yes, know your theology. But what I care about is that I love people with the same love I’ve been given. If we’re going to talk about that, it won’t be a project or charity case or sale: but I can only say, “It’s only because I met someone who changed my life, and his name is grace.” If they want to hear about that, then run tell that. If not, that’s okay too. Keep loving.
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