One of the subjects I find we have a hard time talking about in the church is evangelism. Part of this struggle is that we define evangelism in different ways. Differing methods, theology, and focus make evangelism very different ideas for many of us. At its root, evangelism is the simple idea of sharing our faith with those who are outside of the body of Christ. In its implementation, evangelism is often a mess. All the ideas of evangelism that I grew up with made me really despise and distrust the notion of sharing my faith. Sharing my faith, as I was instructed, usually composed itself with ideas like passing out tracts, knocking on people's doors, or learning conversation starters and apologetics to try and debate people into the kingdom. Frankly, none of these notions ever inspired me to try them or to want to be an evangelist, whatever that is.
For a long time, however, I have realized that many of the ideas I held about evangelism were rooted in a poor understanding of the Gospel. Evangelism, after all, is sharing the good news or the Gospel with the world. It is being a messenger of the gospel. If you have a poor understanding of the gospel, you will certainly have a poor understanding of the how to share it. You will also have poor understanding of how to live out the gospel. So what is the gospel and how did I misunderstand it?
The good news of Jesus, the message that he went around proclaiming, centered itself on the
What many of us, seemingly especially in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles, have misunderstood about this gospel is that our salvation is focused solely on eternity. For much of my life the only part of the gospel that seemed particularly important was going to heaven. All those who believe in Jesus will go to heaven. I got my heaven ticket punched and now I am all good. I viewed evangelism as simply trying to get people to pray a prayer and "accept Jesus as their savior" so they too could go to heaven. That was the most important part. To do anything else, such as concentrate on discipleship or social concerns, seemed secondary to just getting people into heaven.
You know what, that isn't the gospel. Jesus didn't become incarnate and serve as our atonement just so we could go to heaven. If you read the gospels Jesus seems much more interested in how we live now, here, on earth, as part of the
But, when we misunderstand this purpose of our salvation, we misunderstand how to share the good news with others. A life lived working out our salvation as kingdom people is a life of evangelism. It is not just about making Christians. Jesus told his disciples, "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." Our charge of bearing the good news to the world is a charge to make disciples, to instruct, lead, live along side of others and be examples of the life Christ lived among us. You can't do this through a tract. You can't do this with a bullhorn on a corner. You can't do this merely arguing with someone. You can't do this quickly. You can't do it half-hazardly. You can't pretend to do it. You can't leave it to someone else. All who have heard and believed the good news carry the inherent responsibility of living it out and in doing so sharing it with the rest of the world. The good news is here. The