A New Evangelism : Bold and Loving

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Few things are tougher to do today than evangelize. Actually, that's not entirely true. Few things seem tougher to do today than evangelize. 

Why the modification-on-the-fly? Because too many of us think and act as if everyone beyond the church is a Hitchens-in-disguise, a Dawkins-in-repose, just waiting to pounce on us and shred our meager witness. There are certain places that may feature such hostile folks. But most of us get scared away from evangelism, not by a real threat, but by a spectral foe. You pull the curtain back, in other words, and your would-be-devourer is often a person just like you and me. Uncertain. Confused. Outside of Christ, lost. 

Think about that term, lost, with me for a minute. You've likely heard it a million times in Christian settings: "lost." We typically think of lostness in a positional sense. We don't often think of it in an experiential sense. Many people, in other words, are not just categorically lost. Their day-to-day experience is bewildering, wandering, unsure, scary, and hopeless. They are in the wilderness, or in a massive and terrifying urban landscape, and they have no clue where to go, or even what exactly they should be looking for.

Too many of us are not evangelizing today because of vaguely defined "secular hostility" that lurks around every corner. We've allowed ourselves to fall silent today. We don't want to risk our social standing. We don't want to be the person at the dinner party whose weird remarks vacuum up the conversation and leave everyone swallowing hard in embarrassment. We'd rather focus on a positive witness and keep our friendships secure. 

I am all for building long-term evangelistic relationships. Furthermore, not every conversation with an unbeliever will allow for a full-fledged gospel presentation. Let's make that clear. But with that said, Christians today could use less fearfulness, and could stand to pray big prayers to a big God asking for loving boldness with our lost friends and neighbors. We've been suckered into a quietist posture today. We've bought the lie that telling people about Christ crucified and risen is unloving. In truth, nothing is more loving than sharing the good news, and calling the dead and deaf and blind to come to life and hear and see. Jesus is worth all of it, all the awkwardness, all the stuttering nervousness, all the silent pauses, all the defensive responses, all the risk. 

All the cost. 

Let's not sneer at Osteenian prosperity theology and then practice a form of it in our own lives. Let's not rightly critique a failure to preach the true gospel and then, um, fail to preach the true gospel. In the power of the Spirit, let's reclaim our role as members of a "royal priesthood" and tell others about Christ our king (1 Peter 2:9). If you're like me, and want to grow in boldness in these terms, then don't beat yourself up over past failures. Pray to God instead. Ask him to help you be bold with unbelievers. Ask him to help you be loving to unbelievers. The good news is this: he will. He'll always answer these prayers.

You don't need to be the revivalist who starts the Third Great Awakening (am I trolling here?) to glorify God in your witness. You can be a pastor who stops in at the same corner store for a granola bar a few times a week and builds a friendship with the employees there. You can be a financial analyst who earnestly asks your coworkers how they are. You can be a mother raising three kids who starts a playgroup and reaches out to moms who are struggling with the demands of child-raising. In these and other roles, you can be a faithful witness. God has placed you in a setting, a unique position, that no one else is in. That's your ministry. That's your mission field.

You may encounter some tougher types. That's possible. If so, don't lose heart. The Lord's grace is all-powerful. It's the strongest force in the world, stronger than hate, than greed, than unbelief. You and I are not serving a weak, church-mouse-quiet Savior. We are worshipping the man who took death by the throat and now roars over his creation as a lion. 

So, take a gospel risk. Put your quiet, easy, buttoned-down Christian life on the line. Embrace a bigger, bolder, loving witness. You're going to meet all sorts of "lost" people, some angry, many just confused. As members of Christ's church, you and I have the words they need. 

Let's speak them.

Owen Strachan is executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He also teaches for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something AwesomeHe is married to Bethany and is the father of two children.
Posted December 3, 2013 @ 11:33 AM by Guest blogger
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