Is Evangelism a 4-letter Word?
What thoughts, emotions or attitudes are conjured up within you when your pastor mentions evangelism? Maybe you are filled with fear, trepidation or concern. I know that I have all kinds of emotional and theological baggage associated with the word.
Let me first be clear about what the word means. First, the word angel and evangelism have the same root – message. The word gospel is the very root of evangelism and it is most literally defined as a good message. Therefore, the word evangelism means to bring the message of good news. Why does this idea create such paranoia within the American church? Who wouldn’t want to be a messenger of good news? Surely a messenger of good news would be considered an angel sent from God.
Baggage. We all have our perceptions, experiences and views that have been set deep within our psyche. Some of these views are good, but let us really get to the core of our false thinking related to evangelism.
Somewhere along the line, we bought into the idea that evangelism is something we do to people who are not in the church. We decided that discipleship is something Believers need and evangelism is what the lost need. But, just a quick thought – aren’t we supposed to make disciples of all peoples and nations? And isn’t the church in need of the good news of Jesus?
Maybe we should give more of an effort to disciple the lost and evangelize the church.
I have some simple ways that we as a church can blur the lines between evangelism and discipleship. Why? I believe that the fears that we have associated with evangelism stem from the distinction that we have created between the two. I also believe that our lack of passion for the two stems from faulty thinking.
First, we must believe that we have good news. Do you believe that Jesus is good news? That He came to us to build a bridge to the Father? Do you believe that He has given us His Spirit that we might live the abundant life in Him? If so, isn’t this good news?
Second, we must love people. Sure, there are people out there that are hard to love. But, those aren’t the people that are under-evangelized. The under-evangelized people in the United States are the good people that we work with, live with and play with. These people are frankly easy to love.
Third, we have to believe in the distinctive nature of Christianity. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of polite, kind, nice, and friendly people that are going to spend an eternity in hell. We live, work and play with these people, (we might even worship with them).
These three principles of evangelism and discipleship should drive how I interact with those around me, both in the church and outside the church.
Here are some practical ideas as to how you can live this out:
Love your neighbors. Spend time in your front yard. Engage with your neighbors. Go to the block parties. Welcome the new neighbors to the neighborhood with cookies or pizza. Join the Neighborhood Watch. Invite your neighbors to your fire pit, dinner, house warming, whatever you invite your friends to.
Allow for interruptions. Create margin into your schedule so that you can have conversations with your neighbors on their schedule. Talk to your coworkers, other parents at soccer games, and your neighbors – and listen to them.
Write out the story of your spiritual journey. How did you come to realize the impact of the good news of Jesus? What experiences did you have along the way with the Truth of who He is? Why is that significant to you? This should only be about a page long. Do it as a devotional, as an offering, as an act of worship. I just did it again, it took 20 minutes.
Ask, “So what’s your spiritual background?” Listen to their story. IF they ask, tell them your story.
Finally, the best way to give people access to the good news of Jesus is… It’s been true for several hundred years. It is still true today. It’s true in every culture around the world. It’s was true in the renaissance, the industrial age, the modern age and it’s still true in our postmodern age.
Invite them to YOUR church. You attend your church for a reason, chances are this is a good reason. Invite your neighbors, friends, coworkers, and family into the community. Even if you drive 20 minutes to church – you must do it for a reason, why wouldn’t your friends? If you walk or ride your bike to church – you must do it for a reason, why wouldn’t your neighbors?
I sincerely hope that you heard good news today.
I matter to others and others matter to me. I am always worshiping. I am on a mission.
Kurt Trempert is the Lead Chaplain for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and pastor/coach at Harvest Downtown in Colorado Springs. His blog, Kurt’s Virtual Office is reprinted here as TreVO (Trempert’s Virtual Office) and used with permission.