I’d be interested to hear what comes to your mind when I say, “Evangelism.”
The word has different connotations for each of us. I assume most readers of this blog will associate the word at its most base with, “spreading the gospel,” or, “guiding people to a saving relationship with Christ.”
And this is the true and real essence of the word as Christians use it. But along with the word, for me at least, comes many other associations that I have had to work hard to push past.
Come to my mind is the experience in Boston of being forced into a contest with other NAMB Summer missionaries trying to save as many people as quickly as possible in one afternoon with the “Evange-Cube” and tracts prominently featuring the fires of hell. I think my partner and I saved like 15-20 people in this government housing complex. Most of them kids. I don’t remember any of their names, didn’t write any names down in my reflections for the day, and didn’t partner them with any church. This was a negative experience for me, despite the “success” of the day. It didn’t feel real, or loving. I felt like a very sleezy salesman.
There are others that come to mind. Both positive and negative. Working with orphans in Russia: Positive. Spending 5 days in conversation with Cesar in Guadalajara: Positive.
Still, my overall association is negative. I’m having to tear back a lot of these negative associations with the word “evangelism” that I have realized are hindering me from sharing my faith. Because isn’t “evangelism” (actually defined as “zealous preaching and advocacy of the gospel”) a fairly important part of following Christ?
The Engage Conference in Rockwall last week really helped me and gave me the opportunity to sift through a lot of these thoughts. There are EngageXP conferences happening all over the state in Feb, I encourage you to find out where they are through the BGCT website and go to one. I’ll be in San Antonion with my church.
During the conference I went to a break out session led by Gerald Davis who is a Community Development Specialist for the BGCT. The session was entitled, “Ministry Based Evangelism, Just what is the role of the Church in its community?”
It was a great session and here is what I got out of it concerning evangelism that has been incredibly definitive for me.
The emphasis of the session was God’s Shalom, which translates, “Peace,” but really has the deeper meaning of, “the world as God intended it to be.”
Bringing about shalom is the essence of God’s mission to the world since creation. For God’s intention for the world to become a reality.
This was Jesus’ essential mission. To make the world as God intended it. Shalom is used in conjunction with the Kingdom of God.
I would argue that the primary focus of Shalom is the reconciliation of creation (humanity included) with God. But this is not the ONLY focus of Shalom. God’s shalom encompasses those who face oppression, exploitation, powerlessness, and those that find themselves in bondage of any kind. God’s shalom encompasses those in poverty and those trapped in their own wealth and oppulence.
Or maybe it is that all these other aspects of Shalom are part of reconciling the world to Christ.
God’s shalom may begin and end with guiding others to a saving relationship with Christ. But between the beginning and the ending is this wide scope of making God’s intention for our world a reality. Of bringing about the shalom of Christ.
My issues with “evangelism” stemmed from a dichotomous view of mission and shalom. “Evangelism” seemed to be something distinct and seperate from the meeting of needs I most wanted to be about.
Too often this is just the case with “evangelism.” It gets people saved (I hate that phrase) and begins shalom in a life and then leaves it to God or “bleeding hearts” to do the rest.
Salvation without freedom, security, and a meeting of basic needs is only partial Shalom. Freeing those from oppression, exploitation, powerlessness, poverty, etc is only partial shalom.
And what a thought…when we share our faith, when we offer a word or act of hope, when we are about God’s work we are bringing about, if even in a small way, the world as God intended it. We are bringing to creation the Kingdom of God, if only in part.
So our work, is to be about God’s mission of Shalom. The work of making the world as God intended it.
May the shalom of Christ be with you…as you go and bring Shalom to the world today.