Rejecting the Title (But Not the Practice) of “Evangelical”

Rejecting the Title (But Not the Practice) of “Evangelical” September 15, 2022

Recently we had a missionary share some stories during a Sunday morning service.

This man loves people passionately, and loves Jesus even more.

Art, Artistic, Painting, Digital, Cross, Religion

Image via Pixabay

His stories were full of his care and compassion for others, including talking about Jesus to anyone who wanted to listen, with numerous people choosing to trust in Jesus and follow Him as a result.

It’s really the story of the Church, from the first days of Pentecost (Acts 2) and onward.

For those of us who have received the Gospel, that Gospel is meant to be shared (Rom 1.14-17).

Yet many Christians feel guilty about not sharing it enough, or even at all.

If we’re honest, most of us are pretty bad at sharing it. We’ve tried. It didn’t seem to work.

So there is this pressure and this shame built in, where we “know” we need to talk about Jesus, but we’re not sure how, and we don’t want to be pushy, and we don’t want to turn people off, and lots of people don’t want to hear it, and we don’t have a great track record, and we don’t know what to do about any of it.

To share the Good News is to be “evangelical” by nature. “Evangelical” really just means “Good News Sharer.”

That being said, Anabaptists have often shied away from the term “evangelical.”

(But not the practice).

Partly this is because “evangelicals” are typically considered part of the Protestant branch of the Church, and although similar to Protestants in many ways, Anabaptists have traditionally considered themselves distinct.

The term “evangelical” covers a wide range of denominations and ministries in the Church that would identify themselves as such, and although there could likely be much debate over exactly what the term includes, very broadly we could say that evangelicals tend to be Protestants, often but not always conservative, with a passion for sharing the Gospel and helping other people find Jesus.

Sadly, in North America the term has often also been intrinsically linked with politics, specifically conservative politics, with Christians proving their commitment to Jesus and Scripture by their voting record and political opinions.

It is most likely the last part that puts Anabaptists off the phrasing of “evangelical.” As this column has previously discussed, Anabaptists have always actually valued the separation of Church and State, and sought to see the Church be focused first and foremost on the Kingdom of Heaven, and not any earthly Kingdom.

Historically, when Church and State get too intertwined together, bad things happen.

One would hope that the light of the Church would influence the State towards godliness.

In reality, and with a strong, strong historical track record, it turns out that the power and wealth of the State end up influencing the Church towards corruption and compromise.

So Anabaptists would push back on the idea that the Church was meant to be focused on earthly politics as a priority.

Let the State be the State, and let the Church be the Church – they are both appointed by God, they are both distinct, and they both have different roles – this is an Anabaptist attitude.

But even if Anabaptists are not “evangelical” by name or by secular politics, they certainly value being “evangelical” in practice when it comes to wanting to help people find Jesus.

The Gospel comes to save, and it is meant to be shared (1Co 15.2) – this part is certainly agreed upon.

But how?

There’s a quote that was likely misattributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which says, “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”

It means that there is no room for hypocrisy – our lives must reflect the Gospel we preach, not just what we say about it.

It means that our entire lifestyles should point to Jesus, that our whole being becomes an act of worship testifying about Him and His Gospel.

It also means that we most certainly do need to use words. It is necessary.

The Gospel is a spoken message (e.g. Rom 10.14-15), not just a watched one. If I am loving and kind and self-sacrificing but no one knows about Jesus, then the Gospel is not truly being shared.

That being said, sharing our faith does not need to come via a carefully crafted sermon, a public event, or a stunning apologetic answer to a tough question.

It can be that, but goodness knows it doesn’t need to be.

Sharing the Gospel can be as simple as sharing your story. What has Jesus done for you? It’s your story. You can’t tell it wrong. It’s your testimony of God’s goodness, and it’s maybe the easiest way to share.

Sharing the Gospel can include action, as the St. Francis quote is getting at. Serving others, sacrificing for others, loving others, etc., all have an impact. Words need to be involved at some point, but caring for others is always the right thing to do, no matter what.

Sharing the Gospel can be as simple as talking about your day-to-day with others. The things that are important to us, we tend to talk about as we live life with others. What are you learning these days? What’s something interesting you saw in Scripture? How was your Sunday morning? Simply talking about our faith, as we would talk about our family, kids, hobbies, or anything else that was important to us, is an easy way to share.

As well – sharing the Gospel only needs to happen with those who are interested in hearing it. In reading through the book of Acts recently, it struck me that nearly every time a person shared the Gospel, it was the non-believer who asked a question or who started the conversation. God may have done a miracle to spark the interest, but even then typically the non-believers came and asked for an explanation, which the believer then responded to by sharing the Gospel. We don’t need to feel the pressure of sharing with people who have zero interest in hearing it (Mt 7.6), and we can respect where they’re at.

That being said, we can also live our lives in such a way that people start asking!

People coming to Jesus is ultimately God’s job. We partner with Him in it, but salvation is His arena. He does the revealing, the eye-opening, the convincing, the teaching, the saving. Our job is to be faithful to share; His job is to do literally everything else. Let us not take any pressure on ourselves beyond that.

Anabaptists are evangelical in practice, if not in title. Jesus is Good News, and as with all other Good News in our lives, we seek to share it.

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