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My brother’s thoughts

August 17, 2007

My brother, Arachnerd (the handle comes from his love of his pet tarantulas and his occupation as a SysAdmin), blogs about why he is a Christian, and his frustrations with the church.

He writes:

I’ve blogged like every day this week – there must be something wrong with me. And I don’t know why I’m on a kick of writing about religion or Christianity, but I feel the need to make one simple statement;

  • I am NOT a Christian because of anything anyone has ever told me.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of anything I have ever read from any book – not even the Bible.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of any sermon I have ever heard.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of any fear of an afterlife with eternal consequences.
  • I am NOT a Christian out of any sense that being one will make my life any better or easier.
  • I am NOT a Christian because I feel like I will be rewarded for my commitment or punished for lack thereof.
  • I am NOT a Christian because I believe that it’s the only valid religion.
  • I am NOT a Christian because I had such great role-models growing up.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of some traumatic event brought on by my bad, destructive choices as a youth or because I had such a terrible childhood.

I am a Christian only because what God has done for me. I have felt His presence – seen His hand at work in my life & in the lives of the people I love. So much so that I want to be His vessel – a conduit of His love, so to speak.

Sometimes I hate Christians; what they do, what they say, how they represent the rest of us. And a lot of the time I don’t want to be associated with them. (Come to think of it, Jesus had some issues with that too.) But it doesn’t squash my own relationship with Him. Mostly it challenges me to be a different kind of Christian – one that can represent it in a different way. I often fail. But I always come back to what I know to be true in my heart. God is Good. That’s enough for me.

Okay – that was neither one statement nor all that simple. Oh well.

Yep, I quoted his entire post.

My question as a pastor lies with evangelism.  How common is my brother’s experience?  (It is VERY similar to my own, BTW).  How does this knowledge influence how we as a church engage in evangelism?

How do we even define evangelism?

  • Proclamation + Invitation?
  • Transformation + Proclamation + Invitation?
  • Letting one’s light shine?

What is the nature of our proclamation?  Personally, I would argue that evangelism is primarily incarnational in nature.  I have encountered far too much evangelism in which the message itself was fine yet I was left wondering, “why would I want to be like that person?”  Folks engaging in evangelism can come across as smug, self-satisfied and elitist.

As a church actively and intentionally engaged in evangelism we must first be concerned about how we embody the Gospel.  We must ask ourselves, “what has Jesus Christ done for us?” and respond with his charge that we “go and do likewise.”

  • He has loved us.
  • He has gently guided us into transformation.
  • He has called us out of our comfort zones.
  • He has sacrificed for the benefit of those whom he did not know, and for those who wished him harm.
  • He has let us see his humanity as well as his divinity.

The days of the effectiveness of “turn or burn” evangelism are, I believe, long gone.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. arachnerd permalink
    August 17, 2007 10:52 am

    Wow – you quoted my whole post. Cool.

    Well, you probably already know this, but I have huge issues with evangelism; probably based on my own past experiences with it. I have difficulty a lot of times just saying the words, “I am a Christian” because I understand the kinds of reactions such a statement spurns. So, I guess what I’m asking is, “Is that enough?” Is it enough just to live the life? Enough just to let God’s light shine through us? To be Jesus’ hands & feet in the middle of a world that is in need of action & compassion, not just more street corner soap-box preachers? Because I really don’t think I could ever be the kind of Christian that wears a “God’s Gym” t-shirt & leaves evangelical tracts in bathroom stalls.

  2. August 17, 2007 7:39 pm

    This is from Guy Kawasaki’s post The Art of Evangelism:

    Out of curiosity, I went to SimplyHired, a vertical search engine for jobs, and looked for openings containing the keyword “evangelist.” Amazingly, there were 611 matches–and none were for churches. It seems that “evangelist” is now a secular, mainstream job title. Indeed, the first eight matches were for evangelist jobs at Microsoft–go figure.

    What does evangelism look like? I’m with Arachnerd with the t-shirts and tracts. I do think we are at a place to consider how the ‘world’ defines evangelism today. We have the opportunity, it seems, to rediscover it and/or redefine it.

  3. August 17, 2007 8:29 pm

    Len Sweet in his book, SoulTsunami references a t-shirt with the saying, “Jesus save me from your followers” I have often prayed that prayer!

    I would add that I could never be the type of “christian” who spray paints “TRUST JESUS” on an Interstate overpass.

    Will, I think you ask some very probing questions. I am going to have to dust off some of those “Servant as Evangelists” texts and see what kind of wisdom is hidden therein. 🙂

  4. August 22, 2007 6:21 pm

    I used to be a big fan of altar calls. But know I realize that evangelism doesn’t happen from the pulpit; it happens from personal relationships with Christians.

    Turn or Burn worked well in Wesley’s generation but he could assume basic support of Christianity among his audiences. We can’t, and doing so only makes us look obnxious.

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