WITNESS AND EVANGELISM
Can I get a Witness?
Evangelism Without the Weird Aftertaste
Evangelism sounds so hard. Maybe because we think of it as being in the same category as a salesperson.. Did you ever try knocking on doors? Girl Scout cookies perhaps? I once knocked on doors in St. Louis for an environmental advocacy group. I lasted 3 days and made 8 dollars. They kindly suggested maybe I try something else because I was “wasting doors.” Talk about a weird aftertaste!
Let’s look a little closer at the two terms in the “Witness and Evangelism Ministry Area.” They are closely related. Witnessing maybe comes easier to us – “being willing to give an account of the faith we have and the grace received in Jesus Christ.” Telling the good news. In addition, many of us often do find ways to give an account of our faith when others ask. However, evangelism pushes us a little further – it asks us to actively reach out to others to give that account of the good news.
Here’s where we get prone to the weird aftertaste. We think of evangelism as an activity done by extroverts steeped in Scriptures, who have amazing God stories to share, and can stand up and talk easily about the gospel and maybe even be funny. Sort of a sacred version of Stephen Colbert. Sounds kind of impossible and not on target!
Anyone who’s read the gospels and knows the stories in Acts, knows that evangelists are really about one thing – ready to be on the move to share the conviction of the good news of the gospel. It might also be helping the poor or healing the sick. Think of Christ’s ministry on earth – he certainly did his share of teaching (yes, words do help!), but he also healed the sick, helped the poor and the rich (like Nicodemus, who was lost in his wealth). In addition, when he asked his disciples to continue his ministry (John 15:26), he sent the Holy Spirit, who helps us testify about Christ.
We too can take on the mind of Christ. Being part of his body means that we all benefit from the diversity of gifts among us. However, just as Stephen, a deacon, and not a preacher, delivered one of Scripture’s most powerful sermons, so we shouldn’t put evangelism into some special category that only evangelists do.
Which leads to the theme of a three-week Sunday Seminar I plan to offer this spring – “evangelism without the weird aftertaste.” To give you a small taste of what’s to come; here’s a story from the book we’ll use, Evangelism for non-Evangelists, by Mark Teasdale:
“Soon after I left for college, my home church was rocked with tragedy. One of the high school students died in a car accident. A year later, another high school student was murdered. The church hosted the funerals for both girls, packing the sanctuary, and offering sensitive love and care to the families.
A few days after the second service, I spoke with the youth pastor to ask how he was holding up. He confessed to being tired but he also said he was encouraged. Puzzled, I asked him why.
He related to me a conversation he had with the funeral director who had been involved in both services. The director had dealt with deaths of youth before, and he had expected the services would be filled with grief. That was true up to a point. What he did not expect was that those services were not defined by grief. He even thought a note of joy had crept into the services.
The funeral director told the youth pastor that he felt better about the world when he left the two services than when he had entered them. As he finished his story, the youth pastor smiled and said he was encouraged that the church had shared the hope and joy of Jesus Christ in the face of tragedy.“
Sound familiar? Not too weird? Then come join our discussion this spring!