Rethinking: Evangelism

The most common question I get about about The King Jesus Gospel book is this one:

How do we evangelize now?

A friend the other day says to me, “I was talking to a young pastor who likes your book but asked me, ‘What do I say to someone if I have 3-5 minutes?'” [Blech, I thought, that 3-5 minute thing is a problem that only soterians care about.] Later that day a former student says to me, “If you had to talk to a young adult who didn’t have anything to do with the church, what would you say?” And this one comes all the time, “If you are right about the King Jesus gospel, and I’m mostly with you on this one, how do we evangelize?” Some say to me “I can no longer manipulate people to feel guilty; I want to participate in drawing people into the kingdom who live under the King. How do we evangelize?”

How have you learned to evangelize (I prefer “gospel”) in the post sin management era, in a post soterian culture? What are some things you’ve learned?

The answer is as simple as it is profound.

If I have to sum this up in one word we have to “witness.” Our responsibility is not to persuade, or to convince, or to defend. Our responsibility is to be a “witness” — but a witness to what? Exactly.

We are witnesses to Jesus as Messiah/King and Lord, the one who saves.

The central question is not Where do I go when I die? But What do you think of Jesus?

The mission of evangelism is to get people to think about Jesus and to make a decision about Jesus.

We do this by being a witness to Jesus.

Our responsibility is first of all to live in such a way that we embody what Jesus calls us to do.

Our responsibility is to point people to Jesus, to tell the Story of Jesus, and to tell of our own story with Jesus.

I make an observation about how our New Testament is organized. First “the gospel.” They are called The Gospels today but they are the one and only gospel in four versions, four “witnesses,” four “gospelers” (or four evangelists).  Those four books are the place to begin because that is how the New Testament begins. We begin with the gospel, and that means we begin by telling people about Jesus. Almost any passage will do. You can begin with the genealogy or the Sermon on the Mount or his miracles or his parables or his life events, or even the big events. If you want to know how to “witness,” read the Gospels. In those four books you will see time and time again how to tell a story so that it leads us to think about Jesus.

But this implies knowledge of the Bible or even a church context. The first thing to do in any “gospeling” event is to aim at pointing people to Jesus. It might be an observation: “Jesus called us to serve one another.” It might be a question: “Why wouldn’t a Jesus follower want to reach out in love to a Muslim neighbor?” Or it might be a more direct witness: “Jesus long ago once told us a story about a woman who anointed his feet and got some religious leaders irritated.”

What we ought to be about is getting people to think about Jesus, holding classes where all sorts can come around to learn about Jesus, offering public discussions about Jesus. We want to stir an interest in Jesus. We are not trying first to stir interest in our church, or in someone’s sins or in some kind of theological debate.

We are witnesses. First and foremost we are witness to and about Jesus. Our calling is to draw attention to Jesus and to call folks’ attention to Jesus. The Story of Jesus awakens faith and in that context the summons to repent, to be believe and to be baptized can be given.

The focus is not on what people get if they accept Jesus; the focus is Jesus. He’ll give them what he wants. And he wants.

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