This week the Senior Staff at Wildwood is going to take a morning to talk about evangelism. Here are some thoughts! As with many other subjects in the Christian faith we can fall into a ditch if we wander away from the center line. One ditch I see is the assumption that we can share our faith in Christ the same way the church did it 40 or 50 years ago. Large evangelistic crusades, door to door evangelism, presentational evangelism where we talked and the non Christian listened, random evangelism in airports or on the beach. These methods are not wrong but I surmise that they may not be wise given the changing nature of culture. How has culture changed? Fewer people believe in absolute truth. 45% of pastors in a major US denomination do not believe Jesus is the only way to God. While our nation had an origin in Christendom our faith is no longer regarded as the incumbent religion worthy of adherence. More and more we are fighting for a place in the conversation. People are less likely to trust strangers who appear to be “selling something”. Only the most interested and hungry will allow you to talk to them for 15-20 minutes without stopping. Relativistic and evolutionist attitudes have gripped so many that they are unwilling to agree with the basic assumptions we make such as the Bible is true, there is a God and that man is sinful.
The other ditch is to fall into the trap often heard in today’s circles “preach the gospel and if necessary use words”. I totally agree that the gospel should be authenticated by deeds of love and mercy. Without tangible proof of our faith the gospel is just an idea. But we must not forget that the gospel is a true story expressed in words about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must be able to verbalize the content of the gospel in the context of meaningful relationships.
So how do we proceed? We must never forget that the gospel is “the power of God to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) We cannot change the human heart. We can only be the instrument. The challenge above requires that we adapt our methodologies to be more relational, conversational, process oriented, demonstrable in that they see the fruit of our lives personally and corporately. We must seek to love them genuinely, attempt to answer questions without being defensive and be able to articulate the differences between Christianity and all other faiths in the area of slavery, guilt, wrong doing and alienation. Christ alone paid it all.
We cannot escape the fact that the cross is highly offensive to some but it will be incredibly life giving to others. We can adjust our methods but must always stand firm in our theology. John 14:6