I am always - well, sometimes - grieved to grieve Mr Levy. Clearly I have burdened an already burdened man, and in ways that I have not (on this occasion) intended. And so a little comeback on his pushback
: I agree that evangelising can become just another stick to beat people with. In some circles, it seems more acceptable to neglect almost any Christian duties except that of evangelism or 'mission.' If we do not think carefully, we can too easily introduce a new law and a new legalism, and that would be abominable.
I do think every Christian ought to be a faithful evangelist, but that is not the same as saying that every Christian should be a minister of the gospel, an open-air preacher or a door-to-door worker, for example. The faithful father who instructs his children at family worship and speaks to his neighbours about his Saviour; the earnest mother who 'preaches' to, pleads with, and prays for her growing children; the loving friend who gives a reason for the hope that is in him or her to friends at school: these are equally examples of personal evangelism - a true testimony to Christ.
However, I agree entirely with Paul when he says that the root of these things should be love for and delight in Christ. If we are Christians who know the joy of God's salvation then to speak of Jesus ought to be the spontaneous overflow of a heart full of love for God and men (cf. 1Pt 2.9-10). That is one of the reasons why saints need to keep hearing the gospel - it keeps their sense of these things lively, stirring them up to love and praise and spurring them on to make known the Christ who loved us and gave himself for us, and who will save whoever calls upon him. Our goal in witnessing is, first and foremost, the glory of God, the God who has pre-eminently revealed himself in the Lord Christ. When we lose sight of that, and slip into what Paul calls "an evangelistic frenzy," it is likely that we have dropped our gaze too low, and may downplay those truths which give the gospel its substance and edge.
But then something more follows: what happens when we ask, "How can I express this desire to glorify God in making him known for salvation?" That is where the question comes in, "How can I do this more effectively? How can I more thoughtfully, competently, wisely and righteously make Christ known to the lost?" I take it for granted that a Christian wants other people to be Christians; I therefore presume that they want to know, from the Word of God, how they might do that in the right way, with the right motives, employing appropriate means to legitimate ends. I acknowledge that my recent posts have focused more on the more public and formal means; I hope that those who use those means have found those thoughts helpful. Maybe I should also write some posts to encourage those using other means, and then Paul can complain about how long they are.
Finally, as a sop, and a means of removing another burden, I offer him the longed-for Christmas illustration
(no, not the one about Santa Claus not being real
). Like almost all illustrations, it falls short and has its inconsistencies, but I am sure a gifted man like Paul Levy could make something of it:
Amazon.com provide a service called Certified Frustration-Free Packaging. The idea seems to be that whatever it is you order comes ready to use right out of the box, eliminating that 'wrap rage' to which I am sure we are all endlessly subject. It is advertised with a video in which two customers receive the same product, one in traditional packaging and the other in frustration-free packaging. A troubled woman spends about fifteen minutes trying to put her item together and is left with a pile of waste and a pained expression; a cheerful chap pretty much pulls his out of the box and is left with oodles of happiness and more time to enjoy his gift. Now, what kind of salvation are you seeking? Salvation is an intricate, glorious, wonderful thing, needing to be complete and perfect if it is to be effective. But man's efforts are not unlike receiving a box with countless thousands of pieces but no tools and no instructions. Despite all our efforts, we can never put salvation together, and are left with nothing but frustration and waste. In Christ Jesus, the Lord of heaven has provided us with the finished article - there is nothing to do except to receive it, and to enjoy what has been given, full and final.
Levy, you owe me a kebab.