Part 8 of series:
The Mission of God and the Missional Church
In my last post in this series, I began to explain how Jesus has sent his followers into the world to proclaim the good news. This is one main reason he has filled us with his Holy Spirit. Traditionally, Christians describe this task by the word “evangelism,” an English version the Greek verb that means “to tell good news.” But something gets lost in translation for many of us, since the word “evangelism” can fill us with dread rather than joy. The idea of “proclaiming good news” or “evangelizing” conjures up images that don’t fit most of us and terrify many of us, both potential “evangelists” and potential “evangelized.” We may picture Billy Graham preaching to crowded stadiums. Or we may envision the rainbow-haired man at the Super Bowl, holding up a placard with “John 3:16” emblazoned upon it. Or we may fear that sharing Christ with others requires us to approach strangers, no matter how shy we may be.
Unquestionably, God calls certain Christians to special ministries of evangelism. I am eternally grateful for the work of Billy Graham, whose preaching led me to faith in Christ. But I am not called to be Billy Graham, and neither are you, I’d imagine. You and I are called, however, to tell the good news of Jesus in a way that reflects our talents, personalities, and spiritual endowments.
How shall we do this? In fact it’s much simpler and less scary than it might seem. Are you ready for one key to proclaiming the good news of Jesus? Here is it: Just be honest! Or, as my mother used to say to me, just be yourself! Talking with people about Jesus doesn’t depend upon your mastery of a sales pitch. In fact, the less you “sell” Jesus the better. But as you honestly share your life, your convictions, your hopes, even your doubts and fears, with those around you, the good news will inevitably and naturally emerge. Moreover, as in any healthy conversation, be sure to listen to others.
I think, for example, of a college friend named Lance. He was a brand new Christian when I met him in my dorm at Harvard. Lance was a brilliant engineer, but not especially adept at verbal communication. In fact, he was rather shy and awkward. But Lance simply talked about his faith as if it were a normal part of his life. Imagine that! If he was on his way to a Bible study and a roommate asked, “Where are you going?” Lance would tell the truth. Unlike some of us, he wouldn’t try to hide his Christian activity by saying, “Oh, I’m off to some meeting” and leave it at that. Nor would he use his roommate’s question as invitation to start preaching, “I’m going to a Bible study and so should you, unless you want to burn in Hell.” Rather, Lance would simply say, “I’m on my way to a Bible study.” Before long, his roommate would ask why he went to the study. Again, Lance would be honest: “Because I am a Christian and I want to know more about the Bible.” Pretty soon Lance and his roommate would be talking comfortably about Christ – no hype, no salesmanship, no terror, just honest communication. All of this could have happened, of course, with mere human ability. But remember that Lance was also empowered by the Holy Spirit, who gave him courage and helped him to speak truly about Jesus.
When we realize that “proclaiming the good news” doesn’t require us to do something that terrorizes us, but merely to be honest, many of the barriers to personal evangelism fall down. But I find many Christians hesitant to share their faith in Christ for two additional reasons. I’ll address those in my next post in this series.