Evangelism: Its Role in Discipleship

babyContinued from here.

One misconception about the Great Commission is that it’s about “catching fish” = adding another notch for the number of people you have converted to Christianity. However, that’s not what the Great Commission says:

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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matt. 28:19-20

It actually tells us to go and make disciples, not make newbie Christians. Think about how much time Jesus invested in each of his disciples to grow them into men who would change the world. While there is a place for the Billy Grahams of the world who invite thousands of people to say the sinner’s prayer, my job is to invest in the lives of people around me and lead them to a closer walk with God. For some, that’s whetting their appetite for a relationship with God at all. For others, it’s leading them into a deeper walk with God so they fall in love with Him and transform into the image of Christ. Someone saying the sinner’s prayer is only the starting point. They are merely spiritual infants at that point who need lots of nurturing to grow into spiritual adults.

We are the Body of Christ, and it’s our job to invest in one another. As a Body, we need to show the world that there is a God who loves them, not through Bible thumping but through invitation and example. And then as those people are drawn to God, we need to love and support them through their transformation, teaching them the ways of Christ and modeling by example what a close walk with God looks like. That’s how Jesus discipled others, and that’s how we need to do it as well – not looking to “save” as many people as possible but to connect with, invest in, and love them enough to provide an open invitation to join the Body of Christ when they are ready.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drinking out of a large baby’s bottle. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism through Who You Are versus What You Do

love_youContinued from here.

Many Christians choose not to engage in evangelism/talk about their faith because they don’t know how to do it. They fear that they don’t know the right words to say and that they will be unable to answer any questions that someone has. They view evangelism as something they must do, and they fear they will not do it well.

I have found that evangelism is less about what I do than about who I am – who God has molded me into. For example, before I lost my job in Corporate America, the company had laid off 3/4 of the employees in my division (all of whom did the same job that I did), and those of us remaining were concerned about whether another layoff was coming for the rest of us. One of my coworkers was very anxious about the uncertainty of the future of her job, but she noticed that I was calm about it and asked me why. I responded that while my provision was coming through the company, I trust God as my provider, and He is able to provide for me through another source if this one ends. While I was certainly not enjoying being in this precarious position, I was calmer than my colleagues were, and she noticed. She did not come to Christ during that conversation, nor did I ask or expect her to. Instead, this conversation planted a seed that having a relationship with Christ can help someone stay calm in a situation that was alarming to most people. That conversation came about because of who I have become in Christ, not because of anything I did.

As I have grown in my discipleship with Christ, God has transformed me from an anxious, bitter control freak into someone who is generally joyful, peaceful, and patient. People notice the difference without me having to say a word. As I am consistently kind to others, thankful rather than complaining, and calm rather than anxious, people are drawn to understanding why, and that’s the invitation to talk about my faith – not about what they need to do in their lives but about how much better my life is since I started walking with God. Even when I blow it (and I do blow it from time to time), I am quick to apologize, which further draws people into inquiring why I am different. God has powerfully used who I am (who He has transformed me into) to whet the appetites of those around me to investigate who God is.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peeking over a sign that says, “Love You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism: Invitation rather than Sales

how_you_feelingContinued from here.

I work for a Christian ministry that is based upon listening. Volunteers meet with the population we serve in small groups week after week, month after month, and year after year, and those being served choose the topics to be discussed each week. Those who attend the weekly meetings know we are a Christian ministry, and they are free to come to a meeting or not. At the meeting, they are free to talk about Jesus or not. Eventually, many of those being ministered to will raise the question, “Why do you visit with me week after week?” That’s the invitation for the Christian volunteer to talk about his or her faith. Numerous people have become Christians through this format, despite the absence of sales, pressure, or debate about the Christian faith.

In other words, this is a “fishing” ministry, not a “catching” ministry. Our volunteers continue to invest in those they serve whether or not they ever come to Christ because they are extending the same love and grace to those they serve that God extended to them. All is offered by invitation, which those we serve are free to accept or decline. Isn’t that the same invitation that God offers to all of us? He continues to woo us, even when we reject Him. In fact, Christ died for us while we were still sinners. God does not give us a “hard sell.” He does not debate us into agreeing with Him. He simply loves us, right where we are and exactly as we are. That love is what wooed me to God, and that’s the love that woos others to God as well … no Bible thumping required.

While I am not putting down other forms of evangelism, the sales tactic version of evangelism did not work for me, so I will not use it on other people. I share my faith through loving and investing in people, not because they deserve it but because God loves them. After all, I did not deserve it, but God still loved me, and He patiently loved me for many years while I pushed Him away. The invitation always stayed open, and I was eventually drawn by his love – not by logic, fear of hell, or any other sales pressure. My reconciliation with God was solely a response to His love.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting in a chair and asking, “How ya feelin’?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism: Go Fishing, Not Catching

fishingContinued from here.

There’s no question that Christians are commanded to share their faith with others. Jesus spelled this out clearly in the Great Commission:

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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matt. 28:19-20

This isn’t going to happen if the Church doesn’t talk about our faith with people who are not yet part of the Body of Christ. God loves everyone and wants to be reconciled with everyone. That’s what Jesus came to earth for: to reconcile as many people to God as possible. If we never talk about our faith outside of our church walls, with people who already have a relationship with God, how are people who do not yet know God going to be drawn to Him?

Joyce Meyer recently made a profound statement on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life. She was talking about a man who enjoyed fishing but whose children did not. He said the problem was that while he wanted to go fishing, the children wanted to go catching. In other words, the man enjoyed the process of using different baits to try to lure the fish to him, and the process was enjoyable to him whether or not he actually caught a fish. Conversely, the children simply wanted to catch fish – to bring in a large haul – and they were only going to enjoy the experience if they succeeded in this goal.

I think that some segments of the Church have made people feel pressured to “catch fish” rather than to “go fishing,” which is not what Jesus meant when he talked about fishing for people. Fishing for fish or for people involves using the right bait to lure them in … to invite them to join you … and few people are actually responsive to pressure, sales, or Bible thumping tactics. I believe this is at the heart of why so many Christians (including myself) are reluctant to engage in them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a boat fishing. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Evangelism: The “E” word

scaredFor this blog entry, I would like to talk about a topic that strikes fear in the hearts of most Christians: Evangelism. Just reading that word likely brought your blood pressure up, and you’re probably considering not reading any further, right? I get it – it’s not my favorite word, either.

In fact, if you want to clear a room of Christians quickly, just announce that the topic of evangelism will be discussed. For those who stay, notice the “deer in the headlights” expression on their faces. Heck, at my church, the Evangelism Committee recently changed its name (but not its function) simply to remove the barrier of having the word “evangelism” in the title. They are hoping that more people will consider becoming involved with their activities if what they are doing is packaged under another title.

Why does the word “evangelism” scare – or at least bother – most Christians? I believe it is because one form of evangelism, known in the vernacular as “Bible thumping,” is what most people believe that evangelism is. In many minds, to participate in evangelism means walking up to strangers and asking them if they know where they are going when they die … or getting into a debate with someone and “proving” that Jesus is the only way to God … or using used car salesman tactics to pressure other people into believing as you do. If that’s the perception of what evangelism is (and I fear that is the case), it’s no wonder evangelism has become the “E” word of Christianity that most of us seek to avoid at all costs!

I, myself, despise sales and pressure tactics in sharing my faith with others and refuse to use them. However, I regularly engage in evangelism … just not the stereotypical form of it. In this blog series, we’ll explore the topic of evangelism and broaden your perspective of what it means to share your faith with others.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking frightened and saying, “So Scare.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]