I apologize for my absence from the blogosphere. May and June were terribly busy with kids, crises and one delightful vacation. But here I am. I have been thinking a great deal about what it is to make disciples as Jesus commanded and it starts here, with the sharing of our faith.
I don’t employ any particular method of evangelism. My evangelistic model is really quite simple and completely organic, each step is something you should already be doing:
1. Love God-Because, if I don’t, what’s the point in the first place?
2. Love People-Because, if I don’t, I’m not even a Christian. Seriously, love people, don’t be a hateful jerk, do not, under any circumstances, let your own perceived righteousness interfere with your love. An interesting note here, based on the commands of Jesus, if we love people we will try and convince them of His truth, the very thing many of them don’t want us to do. An interesting conundrum.
3. Build Relationships-This is the natural outcome of loving people. If you love someone, you want to know them better. Period. (Is saying “period” after a period redundant? Bah!)
4. Tell the Truth About What Christ Has Done For You-Too often wannabe evangelists lead off with, “How much God loves us,” which is true and inclusive, but generally a bit open ended, after all, God loves everyone, even those people who don’t follow Him. That’s not particularly transformative. Or they begin with. “you’re a rotten sinner,” which although true of all of us, as a statement it is exclusive and divisive. At best we alienate, at worst we heap shame and guilt on people that are already wallowing in them. But if you honestly combine these thoughts with your own broken state, let the other person know that your rotten and God loves you anyway. Now we have the basis for a real conversation, but that vulnerability and transparency is absolutely necessary if we want to reach people who are generally, and understandably, suspicious of our motives and beliefs. Saying we are disciples of the Loving Christ and expressing hatred, consciously or unconsciously, because of our misunderstanding of Jesus and His message, presents an image of hypocrisy that is very difficult for most of us to overcome, even for folks that have grown up in church. So, expound upon your weaknesses, like the Apostle Paul taught us, and you will find yourselves with new friends and new opportunities for conversation. Just tell them how rotten you are without Jesus. It should be easy. 😉 The difficult part is yet to come.
I have just been reading Frank Viola and Leonard Sweets book, Jesus-A Theography. In it the authors write that the central message of Jesus’ ministry was, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” This the a more classic bad news/good news picture of the Gospel. The bad news? We must repent. The good news? God is with us.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Wait! That’s more like telling people they are rotten sinners!” I used to think so, too. But that is not the message of repentance. The call to repent, that is change your lifestyle, has very little to do with a specific sin. I believe that the first statement is tied to the second. Try reading it this way: Change your lifestyle to reflect the fact that the loving God is real and near.
If God is near and loves us and desires to set us free from the oppression and tyranny of religion, commercialism, addiction, our own stupidity, a non-exhaustive list which is the rest of Jesus teaching, then His presence should affect how we live our life. Therefore the repentant man does not live by rules but by the nearness of God. We live by our relationship with a risen and present, indwelling Christ. So there’s the difficult part. You’re not asking people to repent of a particular sin. You are asking people to admit that they are wrong about their understanding of God. He is Jesus. He is alive. He is here. He loves you and everybody else. He doesn’t require perfection. He doesn’t require a certain political stance. He doesn’t require religious practice. He requires you and your trust in Him.
This is seed planting. This is the beginning of discipleship.