Two weeks ago I asked the question – Where did evangelism go? Quite a few of you responded by adding a comment to the blog, emailing, or tweeting back to me. I wanted to take a minute and address this issue that, I believe, is crippling the American Church today. But before we can understand how to move forward, I think we first need to know where the problem is.
I’ve hosted many trainings with leaders and churches over the last 4 years, and every time I ask this question, I find it to be very revealing:
Why do you believe, we as Christians, hesitate when it comes to sharing our faith with neighbors, co-workers, and friends?
Here are just a few of the typical answers I get over and over…
I don’t have the time (too busy)
Not sure how (ill-equipped)
Don’t want to seem too weird
It’s not my job, it’s my pastor’s or the church staff’s job
Evangelism is uncomfortable
What about you? Is there one I missed that you are thinking of? (I will address each of these individually below…so keep reading)
At first glance, it may seem like timidity and busy-ness have gotten the best of us. In uncomfortable moments, we may become timid and typically don’t necessarily want to share our faith because what if it potentially created a bit of havoc in our workplace or neighborhood? What then? Or, perhaps I’m just too busy. I’ve simply filled my schedule with too many things so “mission” and “evangelism” is reserved for that one week I go serve with my church in the inner city. “For the rest of the time, let’s just leave it for the pastors and missionaries (“paid professionals”) because there’s not enough time to fit too much else in.”
Does any of this resonate with you? If you are a church leader, does any of this sound familiar? So what’s our solution and where do we go from here?
Like I said, at first glance and in addition to others, timidity and busy-ness seem to be driving these behaviors. However, I actually believe these are simply reactions to even deeper core issues that we are facing in the church.
If we really get to the root of these hesitations, I think we’ll begin progressing forward in a culture that is so desperate for good news and the hope of Christ! So here are the two core issues that I believe we must zone in on as a Church if we want to begin mobilizing our people to be ambassadors for Christ and join Him in mission:
We need a deeper conviction and understanding of:
- The Gospel (Good News)
- Our Identity in Christ
Not what you expected? These two areas that make up our theology and faith in today’s church are considerably weak. I’m going to make a case for us and you can decide what to do with it. Either you’ll agree and begin adapting towards it, or you’ll dismiss it and go about your way. Both have strong implications.
First the Gospel (Good News)
In many cases I have heard and seen a watered-down version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s one that invites us into a comfortable, safe, and prosperous life. It’s a Gospel that fits into my comfy lifestyle and doesn’t require me to change the way I see the world around me…especially if I don’t “feel” as if it’s relevant in today’s society. This so-called “Gospel” isn’t really the Good News at all. It’s actually a version that has culturally formed to fit safely into our American lives. It’s no wonder why we’ve suggested that our schedules are too full to share our faith, or that we don’t engage in spiritual conversations because they make us uncomfortable! Why in the world would we adjust our schedules or step into uncomfortable places when our faith doesn’t demand this of us?!
So what about the true Gospel? What happens when we truly understand it’s power? Simply put: it has the power to transform people’s lives. When we truly understand what God has done for us through His Son Jesus, we can begin living for the first time; this Gospel has the ability to bring dead things back alive! It leads us into a place of worship. Worship is no longer only what we do on Sunday mornings, but it now affects all aspects of our lives including the way we give of ourselves, our money, the way we see our neighbors, and our desire to see more people know the King. This Gospel demands all of our lives and invites us to die to ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus every day. It’s a Gospel of becoming comfortably uncomfortable because our Lord commands to make disciples and join Him in His redemptive work of creation. The first disciples and early church gave up their lives because of their convictions; they understood the power of this Good News for the world. So my question for you and for those that you lead is: What do you truly believe about the Gospel, and what does it mean for your life?
Second, Our Identity in Christ
Who do you believe you are when things are difficult and you’re truly tested? When things fall apart in relationships, at work, or at home, who are you then? Do you believe what the world and others say about you or what God says about you? Do you know exactly what God says about you?
My pastor always says, “The truest thing about you is what God says is true.”
Here are a few things that God says about you: You are loved (John 3:16). You are adopted (Eph 1:5). You are united with Christ (1 Cor 6:17). You are a new creation (2 Cor: 5:17). You are God’s masterpiece (Eph 2:10)!
And that’s just to name a couple…I could keep going as the list goes on and on! God is outside of space and time. He doesn’t just know your future, he’s already there! Not only that, but He is for you, not against you. The God of the universe knows the details of your life, He cares deeply about them and He even created you in His image!
Not only that, but you are a missionary. Jesus came to us on a rescue mission as a missionary to seek and save the lost. When we put our faith in Him as our Lord and Savior, we become more and more like Him (It’s called our Sanctification process). Colossians 3:3 says we’ve died to this current life, but our real life is hidden in Christ with God. This means we are becoming more and more like Christ…and Christ, well, He was a missionary!
The truest thing about you is what God says is true. It’s not necessarily what others say about you or even how you feel about yourself sometimes. We all must take another level of understanding when it comes to our identities…we are more than conquerors! My question for you is: Who do you really say you are? And, is it what God says about you?
So Now What?
So, back to the original hesitations and challenges of sharing our faith that seem to come up over and over. In light of my statements above, here’s how I believe we should address these. Take a look below and let me know your thoughts. Before I move forward and equip churches on missional living, we first tackle these issues head on with a few questions:
I don’t have the time (too busy): How does my identity as a missionary help me see the places I go already (live, work, play) as my mission field? What does the Gospel say about time?
I’m afraid: What does your identity say about fear?
Not sure how (ill-equipped): (May just simply need equipping! Hooray!)
Don’t want to seem too weird: What does the Gospel say about uncomfortable spaces?
Apathetic/lazy: What do you understand about your Identity as an adopted member to God’s family in light of what He’s done for you (Gospel)?
It’s not my job, it’s my pastor’s or the church staff’s job: What do you believe about your identity as a missionary? What does Ephesians 4 say about who you are and your role?
Evangelism is uncomfortable: What does the Gospel say about our role in Kingdom expansion?
As you can see, almost every concern can simply be addressed by a deeper understanding of the Gospel and our Identity in Christ. Once we are there and have addressed these, we can then move into a place of Equipping. Which, by the way, is what church leaders are called to do (Eph 4).
That being said, until we address this watered-down version of the Gospel and the current Identity Crisis we see in the American Church today, I believe we are going to continue to see culture have more influence on the Church than the Church on culture. God has tasked us as salt and light in a world that is desperate for truth and hope. His solution for making His glory known throughout the world is the Church. For better or for worse, we are the bride of Christ.
Now, we just have to decide what we’re going to do…
If you’d like to discuss equipping for your church or would simply like more resources on this topic, email us at email@example.com