Monday | December 7, 2009 | 00:00 AM
We’ve settled for too small of a definition for sharing the gospel. I put to you that simply inviting people to Church is missing the true heart of evangelism. It must be more. That word, evangelism, may be a term some of us have learned to shy away from because of the baggage it entails. I truly believe that God desires to reveal himself through the Church to all people in the world, but for this to happen we must open up our understanding of sharing the Spirit of God in our lives and surrender our expectations about growth on our terms in our churches. James 1:27 talks about true religion as this: caring for the widows and orphans. What always struck me about the author’s words here is how he connects the authenticity of this faith with what made early Christianity so attractive. Because the ancient believers were emerging to care for those in society that were marginalized by the powers of Rome, there was no need for welfare, social services and other governmental institutions to fill this need. Ideally, the church lives so unapologetically that they cannot help but have their convictions bleed into those that society ignores right around them.
In this sense, its hard today for me to put my support in government or to spend my energies imploring our democratic system to do the work I believe God as equipped His people to do. For example, in Ron Sider’s famous book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, he overwhelms you with the statistics that 2.8 billion people worldwide live on less than two dollars a day, thirteen million people die every year from infectious and parasitic diseases, and twelve million children in Africa have lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic. To add to this, while America is one of the richest nations in the world, our country ranks dead last among Western donors of foreign aid (as a country, we give less than one-seventh of one percent). Maybe if Christians were truly using the resources of their time and money as a way to share Christ’s gospel to the overlooked in our community and around the world, we would place less of our hope in being republicans or democrats.
There are two areas I see that Christians often overlook when discussing evangelism. I think we are quick to downplay the difficulty of living out the gospel in America. In a culture surrounded by materialism, consumerism, and individualism, living out the way of Christ is difficult. The other are I notice is the power of the Holy Spirit. As a people, Christians have become jaded and blind to the transforming power of God’s Spirit to overturn individuals and systemic problems. I wonder how different our lives would look if we really believed that God has provided the resources to meet all of our needs. If we really believed that the Spirit equips in all circumstances, how much greater would our faith be? And if we believed God is as great as we sing about him being in our worship songs, would our lives change at all?
Starting with me, I believe our lives must be different. I want to live a different kind of evangelism. As a people we don’t have to fight for power and prestige and honor like the rest of the world because we believe those forces are not what heals our broken world. If we really let ourselves sit with that truth, I think our lives would totally change. We would understand how to show more forgiveness and mercy, offer more hope, and live as people who know lasting peace. We can live an entirely different way—a way that is peculiar at its core and missional in its nature—and allow that lifestyle to be our evangelism. I still hope in the attraction of Christianity as being an entirely different way to be human and meet the needs of one another. When we are faithful to that true religion that James talks about, I believe we can see the power of God working in our lives.
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