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This week we are talking about evangelism. For many this is a four-letter word. It brings up a tremendous amount of negative connotation because of the intrusiveness of those that have historically claimed to be evangelists. But let’s look at what evangelism really is. It is defined by the Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology as the proclamation of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ with a view to bring about the reconciliation of the sinner to God the father through the work of the Holy Spirit.
That is a mouth full. How do we contextualize this for today’s non-Christian audience without loosing the meaning for the Christian that wants to participate in communicating the hope found in God to those struggling? Let’s begin by looking at the basic components.
Proclamation indicates that we are to tell people about something. This means that we are to share an important story, concept, experience or event with people. It is defined by a clear declaration of something. But if we are going to make a declaration about something we should make sure that the people we are declaring it to are willing and capable of hearing what we are telling them. Does the current cultural context have the willingness and capacity to hear about Christ and salvation? I would say that the answer is no most of the time. People are very interested in having a recovery/restoration conversation that equips them to find greater peace and happiness in life and not very interested in having a sin/salvation conversation. What they do not want is to be talked at about something that they do not feel is relevant or needed. How can we shape the evangelism message to the audience that we are seeking to connect with? Perhaps Paul had it right in his letter to the Corinthian church?
1 Cor. 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
What is evangelism not? It is not intrusive. Evangelism honors people’s boundaries and their context as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4:1-42). It is grounded in loving our neighbor rather than trying to inform them into faith.
So, how do we define evangelism in a way that alleviates the negative connotation attached to it while making it easy for everyone to appropriate? Evangelism is simply the act of sharing the experience, strength and hope that we found in the Gospel message with those that we are in a seeking relationship with and whom are willing so that they can experience the restorative power of faith in God that we have. Evangelism should be based around the idea of attraction rather than promotion. Remember Jesus was not a salesman and an expert at self-promotion. He was an expert at meeting people where they were and facilitating restorative relationship. We do not need to sell Christ and salvation to those that do not want it but simply need to continue to cultivate the relational potential for hope and allow the Holy Spirit to be the results provider.