In my last semester of studies at Multnomah Biblical Seminary I have been taking a course on Cultural Engagement. This course has helped me encapsulate a few topics we must take seriously in light of being part of God’s divine rescue mission to the world. One of those topics that I would like to explain in a few new posts is what evangelism is to me.
First, evangelism means sharing the core of my Christian faith. What I mean by this is that I believe in a triune God who has existed for all eternity in perfect love and relationship, that created the world and everything in it because he desired to invite people into experiencing perfect relationship with God, one another, and themselves. The problem was when this plan was disregarded because of the willing disobedience of people that broke that perfect relationship with God. Since then God used many people to communicate what his will is for us to be made right. He instituted a series of sacrifices, social codes, and moral standards to point us to a more perfect way: the Jesus way. Jesus calls us to recognize our brokenness, turn away from the sin in our heart, mind, and hands towards his offer of grace that was made possible by his perfect life, substitutionary death, and resurrection from the dead.
“For God so loved the world…” “While we were still sinners…” “Christ died for us…” “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life…” And the awesome thing is that God calls us to live it out in our everyday life. That is what is at the core of my faith.
Second, evangelism always has a context. That context could be an evangelistic event, a church service, a campfire, or around a dinner table. Since there are a variety of ministries devoted to helping people become more comfortable with sharing their faith I will not try to explain what method I think you should use or a “best” time to do this. I will only say that evangelism and spiritual conversations I have had over meals and with the mutual understanding of listening to one another have been some of the most enriching times with people. I have a confidence and security with discussing deep and lengthy topics that comes from God’s personal touch in my life. As people have discipled me and helped me to be built up in Christ, I find 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 true of me:
The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.
Evangelism in the context of a shared life never leaves anyone untouched. In building relationships with people from the Buddhist community here in Portland I am learning that we can leave marks on people’s lives that are positive or negative. Even if a person that I share Jesus with doesn’t come to believe the same way I do, I truly want to leave them with a beautiful picture of who God is, how he has shown his love for us, and what we can do to take steps towards his grace; not tearing them down or presenting a joyless gospel. I truly desire that sharing the hope of Jesus comes through recognizing the common broken humanity that I share with others, and the need for a truly different savior than ourselves- but through the God-man Jesus Christ.
The last point for Part 1 is this: we must be confident in our message. Sharing faith can be very scary. Yet, we must have confidence that our message is true and is worth sharing because if it’s not, then we are the most hopeless of all people. I was sharing my faith with a few Mormon missionaries a few months ago, as they were sharing their faith with me. Then we got onto talking about all the different religious groups in Portland. I shared about the Buddhist dialogues that I have been involved with through New Wine, New Wineskins. They asked me, “How do you do that?” I said “We share food together and talk about different outlooks on culture and theology.” I told them that the reason that I enjoy going to those meetings is because I know that I can work through my convictions, instead of around them with others because of the confidence and security that I have in God. God’s triune nature is relational from the beginning of written history. My job is to imitate Christ in his relationship-based ministry to others because when I am truly secure with my identity “in Christ” I know that I am fulfilling my purpose as someone who is made in the image of God. When I am evangelizing to others all I am sharing with them is what it means to truly experience the fullness of what it means to be made in God’s image- a restored Rembrandt (as my professor Paul Metzger puts it)- back in right relationship, attitudes, and behavior with God, others, and self in the context of the beloved community of the church.
Harper, Brad and Paul Louis Metzger. “Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction.” Brazos Press. Grand Rapids. 2009. 235.