I have been captivated by Jesus since I was a little boy. I grew up in a "rules religion" church community that seemed to miss the point of the gospel, as it focused on who was in and outside the community. But even in that context, there were some dear people who showed me and shared with me the amazing and life-changing love of God in Jesus Christ. As a result of the investment of their lives in mine, I've been on this journey of wanting to know and follow Jesus more than anything else in the world. But this is not to say that I have been successful in the journey; it's just my heart's desire.
There's this quote that haunts me in my faith journey. It is from Blaise Pascal: "Jesus is the center of all, the object of all, whoever does not know him, knows nothing at aright, either of the world or of himself." This quote haunts me because I believe it to be true, but the way we go about ministry in our churches leads me to believe it is not true. If Christianity is just about a club of beliefs and policies, then how are we different from any other religion or philosophy? However, if, in Jesus, we are about how life is to be lived that is real and lasting, then I think we have the best thing going on the planet. The hungry are fed; the lost are found; the captives are set free; and peace is restored.
The only way I know to experience this new way of life is through growing as disciples of Jesus Christ. I think that it is great that we learn about our own tradition, but what would it look like to truly have a discipleship plan that was more in keeping with Jesus' experience with his disciples? What would it look like if we not only learned about the way of God through scripture, but also began to live it out in the way Jesus describes in Matthew 5-7? If evangelism was experienced in this context, then it would no longer be seen as something that is intrusive and manipulative. It would be organic and authentic.
What if, in following Christ, we become more hopeful and less afraid, more forgiving and less resentful, more willing to sacrifice and less likely to protect what is ours? Then we'd have lives that people would notice and we'd have a gift we would want to share with as much passion as we share news about our children, spouses, pets, and sports teams. We would freely share the difference this way of life has made in our lives.
Maybe, just maybe, the problem with evangelism is that we have separated it from disciple-making. If we were more committed to helping people grow as disciples through prayer, Bible study, community life, and mentoring, then maybe we would be releasing people into the world with a passion for living and sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ. All I know is that it is this love that has changed my life. It is this love that I'm compelled to share. I'm not to condemn anyone, but merely bear witness to a love that is transforming creation.
My hope for this Evangelism Sunday (September 27th) is that churches will not only worship, but will take the good news of Jesus into our streets. Pray about where to take this love on Evangelism Sunday! Then go and serve, and in the serving the gospel will shine. People will see, hear, and taste of a life that leads to hope, forgivenes, and sacrifice. And in your serving, you will draw closer to God's love and others will become captivated by the good news of God's love in Christ.