Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The "E" Word

Evangelism. The big "E" word.

Makes some shudder. Some cringe. Some smile. Some remember.

Whatever the case, the word tends to produce a definite response in most.

And for many that response is one of discomfort.

Perhaps this is because some immediately think of a slick televangelist, complete with a sobbing wife, imploring us from a TV screen to repent (Oh and to send your check to following PO Box).

Or some from the "discomfort camp" may say that faith is a personal matter and one shouldn't force their views on someone else.

On the other side of the coin, the word evangelism can evoke positive notions in some.

Like me, for example. When I hear the word, I think of a couple of teenaged girls who loved me with their lives when I was my most lost. They cared for me and stuck with me, and eventually I understood why: They were loved by Jesus and they loved Him back. They simply wanted me to know He loved me too. In it's simplest form, this was evangelism. And I will forever be thankful to Diana and Carrie for literally loving me into the arms of my Savior.

I don't know where you fall? Does the E word make you cringe? Does it bring back a very important memory? Or does it convict you, b/c the E word simply isn't something you pay attention to?

Whatever the case, I want to offer you the best definition of Evangelism I have ever heard. A definition that forever changed the concept for me.

A couple of years ago, I caught the tail end of a radio interview on Air One. Sadly, I don't even know who was being interviewed, except that she was a contemporary Christian artist. Her words have stuck with me, though. (I'm not even sure the words are originally hers. I've tried to find their source, but failed. Just hate that I can't give props to someone).

This is what she said:

"In this world, we are all beggars. Christians just know where the bread line is."

Isn't that evangelism in a nutshell? ...showing someone else where the bread line is? Showing someone else WHO the bread line is??? John 6:48

I know, without a doubt, if I saw someone on the street dying of hunger, and I knew where they could be fed (and NEVER go hungry again) I would literally drag them there. There wouldn't be a question in my mind. I would drop everything to connect this person in need to a source of nourishment. Who wouldn't, right?

Then why is evangelism so hard? Why do we complicate it, and make it so many things it's not? Why do we hesitate for even a second to take others to the only place that can meet their immediate need?

When I first went to that breadline, some 20 years ago, I left with a full spiritual belly. But that's not all. I also left with a new identity...(click here) In Christ I Am, and an all access, 24-7, 365 day pass to the Bread of Life.

I will never go hungry again.

God pursued me, this much I know, and I know he used 2 young girls to get me to the front of that bread line. Wonder what my path would've looked like if they hadn't taken the time to show me there?

1 comment:

Tzach M. P. said...

I just randomly landed on your blog and I'm just some random guy, so whatever I say is obviously with a grain of salt.

I imagine that evangelism is so difficult because of the pluralistic nature of people these days. There is no doubt that I've met many people who are singular in their faith, and this is very good for them. However, the majority of the people I've met are pluralistic even in light of their voiced singularity. They might say that they're following the one and only true way, but the feeling that their way isn't going to fly with other people still crops up. Or they think that they're 98% sure in their convictions, but that nobody can *really* know completely, and maybe there's room for negotiation or interpretation other than their own.

Without getting into my life story because it's not pertinent to the argument, I'll at least mention that I was raised in a Christian home for whatever that's worth, and I've been to many churches, for extended periods in my life at each. So I'm not oblivious to Christian theology. But I'm not a Christian, and it comes down to the fundamentals of the faith.

That is my main gripe with evangelism. From what I've seen, the technique is to build an emotional/spiritual relationship between the non-believer and Christ, but that emotional/spiritual connection cannot be maintained if there are ideological differences that just cannot be bridged. A person can have a very close and emotional connection at any given time due to any certain stimuli, and it can last for any amount of time. But if that's the basis of their faith, then something critical is missing.

I can only speak for myself, I don't want to make generalizations about what others believe or why they believe. But I have major problems with the fundamental concepts of original sin, atonement through the death of a man, the messiaship of this man (or aspect of God, if you will), the conception of this man as God, and the need to put all faith in this man as God. Which of those can you forgive and forget and still legitimately be a Christian? One of them, a few, none at all? I would wager none of those could be thrown aside without relinquishing the very point and essence of the faith system.

So that's where evangelism fails, in my mind. It's VERY hard to bridge the differences between people's world views and ingrained religious beliefs. It's not impossible, and more power to you if you can truly turn fallen people around to some semblance of the divine :) I'd just be happier with the whole idea of evangelizing if it had to do with the multitudes of people who are dead in their religion or who have no concept of the One God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Jews are evangelized to or Muslims or Mormons, it really starts to get nasty and can often times get downright degrading to their traditions when they have a very strong, healthy concept of and relationship with God. (One could call it a skewed relationship, hence the need for evangelism.. but still, that's one of my gripes with evangelism.)

Well, you asked the question, so I hope you don't mind the answer I came up with. Feel free to contest any point, I like hearing people's thoughts on things (hence my scanning blogs in the first place). God bless :)