This past Sunday I preached a sermon titled “Why I am Uncomfortable with Evangelism.” The title is meant to be startling. As Christians we are commanded by Christ to share our faith with others, so expressing discomfort with evangelism may sound a bit blasphemous to some. Yet, I believe many Christians are just as uncomfortable with evangelism as I am, not because they are ashamed of their faith, but because they do not like what evangelism has come to mean in many churches and for many believers.
For many Christians, evangelism amounts to confronting other people who do not believe the same thing as they do with the “truth.” Instead of approaching a person with different beliefs as an equal and the conversation as a dialogue, this understanding of evangelism reduces conversation to a one-way stream of arguments meant to persuade the other person how wrong they are. If you have ever been approached by someone of a different denomination or religion who hopes to make you a convert, you know how off-putting and even offensive that can be. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to come across. Besides, operating as a condescending know-it-all in my opinion does more harm than good to Christianity in our culture.
Instead of preaching on a street corner or delivering tracts door-to-door, I believe Christians in our culture have to demonstrate their faith in tangible ways that make a real difference in other people’s lives before they can expect anyone to take them seriously much less listen to them. We must earn the right to be heard. Once we have been granted that right by others, then we have the opportunity to share in a humble and loving way what our faith means to us. Then we can return the grace extended to us and listen to how others’ beliefs make a difference in their lives. Until we are willing to pay others the respect of hearing their stories, how can we expect them to offer that same respect to us?
Sharing the difference that Christ makes in our lives implies that we have actually allowed Christ to make such a difference. It is worth asking whether or not our faith really means that much to us as individual believers and as a community of faith. What difference does being a Christian really make for you? For me, following Jesus offers me not only a direct connection to a loving God but an example of humility and service that contrasts with the self-centeredness of our culture. I feel that is worth sharing, so much so that I want to share it in a significant way with an attitude of humility and service that hopefully mirrors Christ’s own.
In this coming week, we have two great opportunities to share our faith through demonstrations of service and concern for others. The first is at the screening of the documentary, “Lost Boys of Sudan,” this Sunday at First Lutheran Church. It is an opportunity to understand and welcome our fellow Christians from Sudan. Furthermore, it demonstrates that we believe our faith transcends all national, ethnic and cultural boundaries. The second is Vacation Bible School. This year we are taking VBS our of the church and into the community to reach out to children in our neighborhood who need to know the love of God. They and their families also need to know that the church down the road also loves them too. I hope you will make every effort to demonstrate through one or both of these events the difference your faith makes in your life. Together, by sharing and listening, we can show how Christ values each and every person.
Grace and Peace,