My good friend Michael Coghlin and pastor to Connections Christian Church wrote an article not to long ago looking at Good News and the way many of us might struggle with the word “Evangelism”. Take a read and maybe weigh yourself into the conversation… What stops you from sharing the good news?
“Evangelism” can be a scary word. For me, it immediately conjures images of obnoxious street preachers shouting hellfire and brimstone, or door knockers handing out tracts to convince me I have an invisible problem and then (conveniently) giving me a when-I-die solution to that problem. Ask me to evangelize a stranger, and I get a knot in my stomach, my palms start to sweat, and I’ll find any excuse to disappear. But ask me about my iPad, and I turn into an Apple evangelist!
“So,” I ask myself, “What gives? Why am I an eager tech-talker, but a hesitant faith-talker?” Here’s a few reasons:
- The message of Jesus is exclusive, and bound to be an unpopular message in a tolerant-of-anything-but-intolerance culture;
- Canadians are private, and what drives my life is reserved for discussion with my closest friends or psychologist, if anyone at all;
- I’m ashamed of the things others have done in the name of Jesus (residential schools in SK, bombing abortion clinics, picketing with signs like “God hates fags”);
- I fail to live completely into the Christian faith, and I fear that if I share it (the talk) I’ll be found out as a fraud (the walk);
- I haven’t been taught to share my faith, and I hate doing jobs I’ve not been given the tools for.
Accurate though these reasons may be, they only address outside issues. They don’t press me to question, “Do I experience Jesus as good news? Do I believe Jesus is good news for my neighbours? Do I believe Jesus’ good news is worth giving anything and everything for (riches, career, family, reputation)?” We need to ask these questions.
But, if “evangelism,” “sweaty palms,” and “running away” are three sides of the same coin, then how we think of “evangelism” also needs a serious overhaul. Jesus proclaimed the “good news [Greek: evangelion] of the kingdom” as he healed many people (Matt 4:23). What we lose in translation is that Jesus’ speech and actions were evangelism!
If we are to redeem the language of evangelism, here’s a few thoughts. First, let us start thinking, saying, and believing “good news” when we hear “evangelism.” Second, let us scour the gospels to see what was “good” about the good news Jesus proclaimed and lived. Third, let us give ourselves to “good newsing” our communities—as good parents, good friends, good neighbours, good coworkers.