Talking About the Gospel
For far too many people, evangelism is equivalent to talking. Preachers give evangelistic sermons where they tell people about the Gospel; evangelists go out to street corners and pass out gospel tracts while shouting Scriptures through a bull horn. When churches engage in door-to-door evangelism, they walk around a neighborhood, knocking on doors to tell others about Jesus.
Which is why I say, “Enough with Evangelism!” Or at least, enough with this kind of evangelism. I am all for evangelism, but not for the kind which does little more than inundate people with words upon words. In the following chapter, I will issue a call to cancel several word-heavy evangelistic programs, and exchange them for a way of life that lives and shares the gospel in a tangible way with others.
Background to Evangelism
But first, a little background. While it is true that many of the evangelistic events we read about in the Gospels and Acts by Jesus and the Apostles were heavy on words, there is a big difference between then and now which we must not overlook.
The early message of the church was so revolutionary and hopeful, that it rarely took much more to get people’s attention than to proclaim, “Jesus is Lord!” In the Roman Empire, where it was commanded that citizens confess “Caesar is Lord,” to say instead that Jesus was Lord was interpreted by many as an act of treason. And yet for those who were tired of oppression and abuse from the Roman government, such a cry was filled with hope for change and deliverance.
But today, if you go into a shopping mall and shout, “Jesus is Lord!” nobody will even turn their heads. In his book, Naming the Powers, Walter Wink writes that “Jesus is Lord” bumper stickers mainly occasion yawns. “Cars adorned with them are not stopped by police roadblocks or firebombed by paramilitary saboteurs. The only people scandalized by the phrase are those who regard its language as sexist. But there are countries where ‘Jesus, friend of the poor’ can get you killed.”
Today we live in a different culture and a different time, and so different approaches are necessary to reveal the truths of the Gospel to other people. Words alone are no longer enough. And besides, sharing the Gospel by words alone is not even biblical. But more on that later.
What do you think about evangelism? Do you evangelize? If so, what does it look like? How do you go about it?