Monday, December 26, 2011

Evangelism: Methods, myths, mandate

I've been contemplating evangelism. It's an often used word in the evangelical world. I read this article on Christmas morning and it got me thinking even more about...evangelism. Then I read this article where Barna (a Christian research group) is quoted as saying,
"We are a designer society. We want everything customized to our personal needs — our clothing, our food, our education," he says. Now it's our religion.
 Recently (this past Oct.) the Seventh-day Adventist church, the denomination in which I am a pastor, at it's annual meetings approved an initiative (click HERE to read the document) to focus our evangelistic efforts in the big cities where statistics show an increasing amount of people are living. There is also an ongoing effort called 'Reach North America' which also has a focus on big cities.

Allow me to pause for a moment though and expand on this word 'evangelism.' No I'm not going to give you the Greek root word and then proceed to show you how it's used in the New Testament. In practical ways this word is defined broadly but at the same time it has also been implied in a narrow way.

Within Adventism to some degree when people here the word evangelism they quickly jump to 'public evangelism' or maybe even knocking on doors, handing out literature or asking someone if they want bible studies.This may or may not be the case for you but obviously this is the narrow view.

If you have had a chance to read the articles mentioned at the start of this post from USA Today things need to change not simply how we define evangelism but more so how we go forth and live the word evangelism.

This is not shocking news to anyone but here goes. We are not the only ones reaching the big cities for Jesus. We (Adventist) may be having big plans for New York for 2013 and that's great. Here's an article that came out in the New York Times about how Baptist are planting churches in New York. Again we (Adventist) all know we're not the only ones trying to reach people for Jesus in big cities.

I know, I know what some say. We have a special end time message. WE DO! The essence of this end time message though is Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and His soon return to make all things new. As I mentioned in my previous post Jesus is the center of Revelation and Daniel as well.

I live in the Jackson, MS metro area (the biggest city in MS:). Within about 5 miles of my actual home there are about 7-8 different churches of 6 (give or take:) different denominations. Two of those churches have well over 1,000 members and the others range from small to medium size churches by what I see on Sunday mornings.

I lived for many years in Miami, FL and normally make a few trips a year to visit family (as I'm doing now). I consider it my home away from home. The culture in Miami, obviously is vastly different than Jackson, MS. Again, you may say tell me something I don't know. This past summer I visited San Francisco and again I'll state the obvious. The culture in San Francisco is different than Miami and worlds apart from Jackson, MS.

I'm not saying that one is better than the other. This is not the point. What is the point? Evangelism is not simply about methods we use but lives that we share with those around us that express who and what we believe. 

Often the methods of evangelism is debated within Adventist circles. Surely healthy discussions are welcomed. But lets be real, is there really a clear cut answer to how evangelism should be done? Especially with such different cultures in different areas?  Public evangelism is not the answer, door to door is not the answer, the health message is not the answer. Having a certain type of music in one's worship service is not the answer. Saying we have truth is not the answer.

Please, after reading the above paragraph don't conclude that I'm saying we shouldn't have public evangelistic meetings, we should. That we shouldn't do door to door work, speak on health, have great music at our services, or speak truth in love. We should!

Yet hands down the greatest evangelism is not really a method. It's a way of living. Just like your New Years resolution diet is a method that most likely won't work, or at the very least will be temporary. If you make your New Years resolution part of your life, a way of living it will reap much greater results regardless of what it may be.

Again: Evangelism is not simply about methods we use but lives that we share with those around us that express who and what we believe.

This is not ramming people with our beliefs or our version of Jesus says...but it is about living an intentional Christ centered life within the culture that we live.

We must stop living 7th day lives. We go to church on Sabbath, feel like we've accomplished something, perhaps even heard a good sermon that stirred us, or simply enjoyed the worship experience. This all lasted about an hour. Then what? What kind of life are you living in the light of who and what you believe?

Surely we live busy lives, but business is no excuse for Christlessness. People must work, go to school, take care of their kids, and do what ever else must be done. Are we doing it though with Christ centered intentionality? Jesus is not someone we only read about in a morning devotional that last at best 10minutes  (if that) pray a little here and there (which is surely better than nothing) make our weekly appearance on our regular pew and then go about OUR business. Don't be fooled, no matter what you do, how people may view what you do within the context of societies value placement of careers/jobs, you are doing evangelism. Actually this is Jesus' plan. For you to live intentionally for HIM where ever and what ever you may be doing.

You see everyday Christians, Seventh-day Adventist Christians are evangelist's, are doing evangelism. Whether they realize it or not. People will evaluate our Jesus by the way we live out our lives. Evangelism is taking place all the time. The question is what kind of an evangelist are we?

Here's some questions (add your own as well) I believe we must all ask ourselves not only as this year is about to end but as evangelism is constantly taking place.

1. Are you living intentionally for Jesus?
2. How much time are you really spending in communion with Jesus?
3. I'm I really following Jesus in living the life He would have me?
4. What areas of my life is Jesus calling me to reevaluate and change?
5. What can I do to help my church and my community?

We live in an ever changing world, called to proclaim an ever UN-changing Christ. There is none like Him. He has chosen you and me to be His representatives in what ever place you may be, home, work, school, among family and friends. What kind of evangelism are you doing?
What kind of evangelist have you been this year?
What kind of evangelist will you be in 2012?

Evangelism is not simply about methods we use but lives that we share with those around us that express who and what we believe.


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