Evangelism – Spreading the gospel, or the “good news” of Christ. “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20.
It is becoming more and more clear to me that I have put so many boxes – like walls of a prison – on the ways and means I am willing to use to share the good news of the love of God to others. I know that God wants to break every one of these prison walls in my life, so that I will be free to lavishly spread His holy love constantly and to every single person I encounter. The reality is that unless we are asleep, or living alone in a cave, then the opportunity to show the love of Christ is available to us constantly. Every person we will encounter on every day of our life is a child of God for whom Jesus died, and in whose life He wants to pour His love.
Some examples of these “prison walls” I see (these categories are not exclusive, very much overlapping one another, but I use them only as a method of presentation):
1 – How evangelism should look. Many of us are working to express the love of God out of a prison built on the belief that only our words can effectively get it done. We operate under the idea that evangelism must involve preaching, or offering to pray the sinner’s prayer, or some other method in which we use our words to clearly state that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has saved all of creation from sin and death. But when we study the life of Christ, it becomes so clear that we are neglecting a multitude of methods He Himself employed for sharing His love with the people around Him. We fail to recognize the great power of mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness to break the chains of sin and death in this world. Even when these things are shared without words, and particularly when they are not asked for. Let us remember the compassion of Jesus as He hung on the cross, when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
2 – In what setting the love of Christ should be shared. In this case the prison may be a bit more literal, in that great money and effort is spent to be sure that almost all of our evangelizing happens within the walls of a church building, or maybe at a missions event specifically set up by Christians. We often work very hard to stay “safe” within the confines of our self-made church walls and activities. But is this safety robbing us of the freedom to serve the heart of Christ? Can we really speak to people where they are, if we are only able to come to them as “outsiders”, who really don’t understand their lives and passions? Can we break free of this prison? Can we begin to spend our time at the bars and dance clubs and shelters and prisons and hospitals and nursing homes and schools, sharing our lives as well as the love of Christ with people who may not ever make their way into our church building? Can we pick up our guitars and drums reserved for praise and worship at the church, and go out playing in the streets as David did? Can we work and play and create and share our passions with those who don’t know the Lord, in the places where they live their lives? “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” Matthew 9:10-11
3 – With whom Christ’s love should be shared. Currently the structure of many evangelical approaches means that the love of Christ is shared almost entirely with people who have walked into our church buildings or have come to an evangelical event – anyone who is already showing an interest in Jesus Christ. Those who may be looking for fulfillment in other ways, however – drugs, alcohol, financial success, physical fitness, social status, etc. are primarily getting exposure to Jesus Christ from other, likely non-Christian sources. Then there are those moments when we are around people who do not know we are Christians. When we’re at the grocery store when the cashier starts talking on her phone and we have to wait. Or when we are cut off in traffic. Those people do not know we are Christians. Is our obligation to show patience and compassion in those circumstances as pressing as when we are around folks from our church?
But perhaps most tragic is the negligence – even refusal – of the church to express God’s love to the social groups that many of us seem to have determined God no longer loves – homosexuals, women who have had abortions, Muslims, just to name a few. Are we passionate about showing these folks that the Lord adores them, that He loves that they are His sons and daughters, that He died for them? Are we asking the Lord to cleanse our prejudice and hate, and to pour into us His love and compassion for them? Or are we concerned that lavishing too much compassion and love onto these groups will displease our Christian community? Do we believe He desires for us to serve, support, feed, clothe and love on these individuals as His children, too? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
How long shall I remain confined to my prison of safe, comfortable, approved-by-man evangelism? Am I willing to allow the Lord to free me, that I may show the love of Christ lavishly and constantly, as He did?
Father, continue to break these chains that keep me from knowing and loving You, and from being obedient to Your desire, Your heart, in all things. Amen.