What does the word “evangelism” make me cringe? And how is it that Atheists can help me tell my story?
You see, when I hear the word “evangelize”, it makes me think of an overbearing street corner preacher. You know, the guys shouting in the subway corners, jamming their fingers into their Bibles and shouting at the top of their voice about something that I assume is about God, but I don’t really know since I just pop in my earbuds and keep walking.
I’m terrified of evangelizing.
Just the thought of it makes me want to crawl into a groundhog hole and hide. I guess it’s because talking about Christianity makes me feel uncomfortable.
I know it’s selfish, but I feel that saying out loud, “I’m a Christian” might elicit a militant response.
Maybe that’s because the street corner preachers elicit a militant response in me. (which I promptly stifle as I hum along to Taylor Swift)
It isn’t right. But it’s true. I feel like a coward. Like a soldier who abandoned their post. I’m a deserter.
One could say that my thinking follows too closely to the message in Disney’s Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Or maybe I’m hearing deeply rooted idiom echoing in my head, “don’t talk about religion or politics in polite company.”
But Jesus didn’t care about what was nice, polite, or pleasing people.
In fact, in John 8:58-59 He says:
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him…”
Jesus wasn’t concerned about pleasing the crowd. He was concerned about speaking the truth.
And He actually said it… OUT LOUD! To other people!
However, I tend to prioritize my own social standing much higher than proclaiming Jesus’ truth.
But as entertainer and devout atheist Penn Jillette put it, “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever… and you think that it’s really not worth telling them because you think it would make it socially awkward, how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
If we’re not telling people about this, do we actually believe it? And if we do believe it, wouldn’t we really want other people to know?
If I think about it, on the very rare occasion that I do open my mouth to talk about something regarding God, I’ve never been screamed at. I’ve never even caused a conflict of any sort. Actually, I’ve been listened to.
Maybe that’s just it. We need to listen. Graciously. Not pushing, shoving or debating, but just listening.
Because everyone likes to talk about themselves. Just read your Facebook newsfeed.
And everyone has beliefs. Even those who think that they don’t believe anything.
By listening, we begin to understand their point of view, their story. And then we have the opportunity to share ours, the Christian story.
Michael, a student in the Fixed Point Foundations interview said, “Christianity is something that if you really believed it, it would change your life; and you would want to change the lives of others. I haven’t seen too much of that. I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.”
And isn’t this what Jesus is calling us to do in Matthew 28:19-20?
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”
He doesn’t say, “go buy the latest Daft Punk album” or “blend in with the Williamsburg hipsters.” Which, if I’m honest, is my first impulse.
He says, “Tell people about me. Share my story. And listen to what they say.”
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