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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Evangelize Thyself

We are God's advertising executives. Sometimes I wonder if he should have hired another firm.

The job of spreading the Good news has been placed, deliberately, squarely on our shoulders. I suspect that a large part of the reason is that to be able to sell something, we have to be able to understand it, and have a passion for it. Imagine Hillary Clinton trying to sell Uzis, and I think you'll see my point.

The trouble is that so many of us really don't understand what Christianity is all about. We can quote chapter and verse, and pick out the most inspiring verses, delivering them in splendidly fluent English worthy of the Court of King James. For a fellow Christian, this wins accolades. For all too many people who are searching for a way to God, it falls flatter than a Stetson under a steamroller.

The whole point of the Gospel message is one of hope and love - that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten...

Whoa. What's begotten mean? Really, what's it mean?

This is precisely the problem. What's the solution? How can you reach people who are sincerely interested in knowing more, but whose jargon tolerance is on the low side of nonexistent?

  • Start by not talking - live the life, walk the walk, deeds not words...however you want to put it. When you evangelize, you're taking on a de facto leadership role, and the most effective leadership is of the "follow me" variety. You don't have to be a plaster saint, but it does little good to be a public sinner.
  • Leave the Bible in your pocket - most non-Christians don't see the Bible as infallible, and trying to prove your point by quoting a source they don't see as authoritative won't get you far. Use common sense - forgiving your enemies, for instance, is not only right, it's smart. It removes a psychic poison from your own soul, makes you a nicer person to be around...and (now slip this in) makes you closer to what God wants for your life. He wants you to have joy, and that your joy is full...and you can't have that kind of joy if you're trying to figure how to deflate the tires of the guy who took your parking spot..
  • Don't run down other faiths - telling people that what they believe will send them to hell will generally set up conflict, and selling Christianity to someone who's defending a position you just attacked probably won't be successful. Christianity has one advantage over every other faith - salvation - but you have to get there, and build up to it. Just saying, "believe this and you'll be saved" leapfrogs over a lot of necessary theology, like justification by faith, and why that's important.
  • Don't be in a hurry - a lot of people are saying that we've got to rush because these are the last days, because the Holy Roman Empire has been reconstituted by Greece joining the EU. Unfortunately, Ireland was never a part of the HRE. Try again? Evangelism is not about a body count of people who parrot acceptance of Christ. It's about people who really come to believe in Jesus' divinity, and in the Gospel message. You can't grow a rose in a day, but you can grow some mildew.
  • Remember that you're on the very same road - faith isn't a destination. it's a journey, and one that's uphill at that. We lose faith some days, we slip, we slide back down a rocky slope and bruise our souls...then we get up, and climb again. You're not shouting advice from a mountaintop; you're extending a hand to help someone up, while you're pulling yourself forward with your other hand.

God chose us to spread the word, I think, because the fragile vessels that we are make the best argument for Glory...that he would be willing to be one of us, to walk among His heartbreakingly stupid creations.

We're not smooth rich folks, selling Cadillacs. We're bloody and banged-up, selling antiseptic and bandages...because we've used them, and they work.

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