June 19, 2013

Five Simple Ways to Be Evangelistic (for real this time)

Ok, so here goes:

1. Pray

It’s got to be number one doesn’t it? Evangelism and prayer go hand in hand if you believe that only God can open the blind eyes and unstops the deaf ears of those with whom you share the gospel message.  But only if you believe that. I am not sure I see the point of prayer for our evangelistic efforts, if the human will is free to either choose or reject God independent of his intervention, as it would be tantamount to asking God to override in area in which he has chosen to limit himself.  Sorry if that sounds a little harsh (given the current tones of the so called “meticulous sovereignty” debate), but in essence I am convinced Martin Luther got it right and Erasmus got it wrong when it came to the human will.  And I think Luther got it right, because he got St Paul right.  Paul steeps his evangelistic efforts in prayer, and asks for prayer constantly from others.

2. Know the Gospel

Ok, the gospel is not simply:

1: God’s got a really good plan for your lifeHe does, but it includes suffering for the sake of the Name in this life, and then glory in the age to come.

2. You can go to heaven when you die if you trust Jesus. You will, but as NT Wright says, “it’s not the end of the world.”

3. Jesus is inviting us to come and join his mission to transform the world. This is an increasingly popular idea in the missional church movement, and it is a reaction to what is viewed as an individualistic and otherworldly “You need to be saved from your sins” view of the gospel, which, whilst increasingly unpopular, is actually true. In other words, God first commands everyone, everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world by one man, and he has proven this by raising him from the dead.  Think that’s funny?  So did a lot of people in the Areopagus apparently.

So what is the gospel? The gospel is the announcement that the historical human Jesus, is God’s chosen king. He is the resurrected ruler of the universe with whom all humans must be aligned if they are to partake in God”s promised age-to-come. Though offside with this king due to their rebellion, all have the opportunity to avail themselves of the amnesty he offers. Because of God’s love and grace, forgiveness for rebellion is available through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, in which God in Christ took on the penalty for sin that God required – separation from his good and loving presence, rather than participation in the new creation. That’s the root of the gospel. It’s also the dispute of the gospel. Why? Because  many evangelicals confuse the root of the gospel with the fruit of the gospel. So just as “new birth” and the indwelling presence of God’s sanctifying Spirit – the fruit of an efficacious gospel announcement – spring from believing the gospel, so too does reconciliation between God and humans, and humans and humans; restoration of individuals, communities and eventually the whole cosmos, and the such. (Too many other things to mention here).  However without the commitment to announcement we cannot and will not be evangelistic, and without the roots there can be no fruit.

3. Tell the Gospel

This is the crunch of course.  Can you actually bring yourself to share that announcement with the people that you have met in the whole missional process?  Missional is the means to evangelism.  If there is no intent at least to evangelise then whatever you may be doing as a group, I would suggest it is not fully missional. Of course Christians bring God’s presence wherever they go, and of course Christian activity is meant to showcase and assist human (and creational) flourishing, but in the end “missional” is donut shaped if it does not have evangelism at its centre.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I sense that many many Christians long to see someone move from not knowing God at all – being “lost” in the old (biblical) parlance to being “found”. They would be encouraged and energised in their own faith by seeing someone actually repent and believe the gospel.  But for most Christians its rare. That starts a negative cycle in which we don’t avail ourselves of any opportunity because we simply assume no one will believe.  No one actually puts it like that but I get the impression the vast bulk of Christians in the West feel that way.

4. Love People

Can you love people and tell them something that they might find offensive, off-putting, ridiculous or arrogant?  Yes, especially if you believe that not telling them would be less loving because of the consequences. And not only the bad consequences that they face, but the good consequences they are missing out on.  Having shared the gospel with someone last year who then became a Christian it is astonishing to see how much good has come into his life because of it.  Being a Christian is good!  Belonging to the people of God is enriching, affirming and encouraging in a way that those outside can never know.  Knowing God and being known by him first changes our ultimately frustrated desires and then gives us new ones that can actually be met!  If that is not your experience of being a Christian then let me humbly suggest the fault is not in the gospel.

5. Evangelise Yourself

Everyday I need to get up and tell myself the gospel.  Some days that is because I am proud and arrogant and need to be humbled by the servant Jesus.  Some days it is because I am in despair or feeling guilty, and I need to be raised up and reminded of my new life by the resurrected Jesus. On yet other days my complacency and ennui is such that I need to remember that time is short and that the King is returning one day to judge the living and the dead. And other times I am angry and vengeful and need to be reminded that if I do not forgive others my heavenly Father will not forgive me my sins. All of that is evangelism – speaking the gospel truth into my life.  And once I start to do that with me, it becomes a whole lot easier to do it with others. Start small; evangelise yourself daily.  Then, when it is an ingrained habit, start to evangelise your Christian friends, reminding them in the daily grind of life, what the gospel means for their every situation.  Once you are doing that you will be surprised at how easy it becomes to evangelise those outside the faith – a friend, a neighbour who you’ve gotten to know, a colleague – speaking the wisdom, power, love forgiveness, and so on, of King Jesus into their lives in a manner that is natural and “non-clunky”..  You will never be able to  evangelise others, if you have not practiced evangelising yourself with the gospel on a daily basis. So start tomorrow and see what happens in a year’s time!

Well, there is a list of five. Let me know what you would add to the list.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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