By: Stephen Mattson
Recently I have been a bit unsettled by the Church’s conversation regarding evangelism. As more and more Christians I know are uncomfortable with sharing their faith, we have bought into the idea that, by simply being nice and good, people around us will naturally come to know the Lord. Perhaps there is fear of being viewed as the Bible-beater or crazy guy yelling on a bustling street corner about the end times. Or maybe it is the logical result of decades of a healthy emphasis being placed on embodying Christ through actions instead of mere words. Whatever the case, we risk the pendulum swinging too far to the other side, as Stephen Mattson recently wrote in Relevant Magazine . After you read his article, leave us a comment. Do you see the same shift in the Church that the author and I do?
When someone does something nice, kind, or even loving for me or my family, I think, “Wow, what a great person!” or “That’s so nice!” or “What a wonderful thing to do!”
Here’s what I don’t think: “That person must be a Christian” or “I want to learn more about God” or “I’m inspired to visit a church!” or “I think I should read a Bible.”
The problem with simply “living out our faith”—showing people we’re Christians through loving acts of service and kindness—is that it doesn’t communicate anything beyond basic goodness. At some point, Christians must actually talk about Christ.
Realistically, you can’t really tell who’s a Christian and who isn’t by observing their actions, listening to their words and witnessing their lifestyle. You can’t enter a grocery store or walk through a busy downtown and specifically point out who’s Christian and who’s not—neither can anyone else.
Let’s stop pretending we’re evangelizing when in reality we’re just practicing common decency. Being nice, kind, helpful, respectful and generally a good person isn’t the same thing as communicating the Gospel of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong, we are called to love our neighbors—even our enemies!—and humbly serve others as Jesus did. Of course we are! But Jesus also talked about spirituality, faith and His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
He mentioned things like sin, salvation, faith, forgiveness and the Kingdom of God. His actions were coupled with a message: the Gospel.
The problem with many modern Christians is that we’ve seen and experienced too much bad evangelism: the crazy street preachers shouting at strangers, the late-night televangelists peddling for money, the corrupt pastors who eventually make the news for all the wrong reasons.
Christians are so tired of the harassment, manipulation, hidden agendas, lies, abuse, hate, bigotry and downright sin that’s been associated with “spreading the Gospel of Christ” that they’ve simply abandoned talking about Jesus altogether.
Telling anyone about Christ or the Bible or even carefully inviting someone to church is a social faux pas. It’s becoming less culturally acceptable to evangelize.
It’s understandable why many believers don’t want to. You don’t want to be seen as that person: The crazed lunatic who believes in a supernatural deity, the anti-science, anti-environment, homophobic, religious fundamentalist who believes in the existence of an afterlife.
Thus, Christian churches, schools and other institutions slowly adapt to a form of accommodation—where comfort, entertainment and personal satisfaction are idolized above truth, where God is simply utilized as a conceptual permission for our passive apathy.
When this happens, the message of being a Christian is translated to mean: be a good person.
To escape negative perceptions, we avoid sharing the Gospel altogether. Similar to talking about politics, we avoid speaking about God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the Bible and anything else that makes us—and definitely others—uncomfortable.
But discomfort is sometimes the first sign of something being meaningful. We’re often passionate about superficial things because we’re afraid to be vulnerable about anything important.
Christians tend to prefer evangelizing entirely one way or the other. They either evangelize with just actions, or just words. The key is to find a balance of both.
What we really need to do is emulate Jesus. A faith in Christ surely requires love, peace and the fruits of the Spirit. But it also demands that we promote Christ’s existence with others through gracefully sharing our testimonies and being willing to intentionally communicate the love of God.
Glorify God and share His wonderful existence through the verbal, active, demonstrative and life-changing love of Jesus. God help us.