I had a thought while I was at Starbucks today. I was reading a book for Doctrine of Holiness, and this thought that has nothing at all to do with the book came into my head. Do we still need evangelism?
My reasoning is this: in the great commission, which is the primary biblical justification for evangelism, Jesus commands the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Many missionaries have used this as a battle cry, and we’ve taken Christianity basically everywhere. So now what? It seems like Christians have infiltrated nearly every occupation, race, political affiliation, and really every geographical location. (There was even a Christian on the Lost island, but unfortunately he was killed by the Smoke Monster in season 3…)
So it seems like the original idea of evangelism worked. I don’t know to much about Christianity oversees, but it seems like everyone in America knows about Christianity, about Jesus and the Church. I would bet that a high percentage of everyday Americans could give a pretty basic theology of Christianity and be fairly accurate. So if the definition of evangelism is “telling the world about Jesus”, then why do we still need evangelism? It sure seems like people who stand on street corners with a bullhorn or handing out tracts or going door to door aren’t telling anybody anything new.
I believe we either have to redefine evangelism or do away with it all together. Because the problem is, the people that are still evangelizing are really annoying and not doing so great for our image. Evangelism as we know it must fundamentally change, because everybody already knows who Jesus is, or at least they know about the Jesus that has been presented to them. Whether or not this portrayal is correct is incredibly important, but I don’t want to address it at length. here…another time, perhaps.
But what I will say is this: as cliche as it sounds, the Church in America no longer needs to tell people about Jesus, the Church needs to show people Jesus. And I’m not talking about just the little things like helping people move or sitting by the awkward guy at lunch. I mean corporally, the Church needs to show the world who Jesus is by feeding the hungry, eradicating poverty, clothing the naked, caring for creation, etc. You know, the kind of world change things we could accomplish if we cared enough to try. The way I see it, the Church is an enormous body of people that are supposed to be united around one Person, who taught compassion, love, and peace. If any group in the world has the potential to fix the world’s problems, it’s the Church.
To quote a favorite author of mine, or rather to paraphrase him, people who “evangelize” typically ask two questions: “If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?” and “If the world ended today, what would happen to you?” When really, the better questions are, “If you lived for 50 more years, what kind of person would you want to become?” and “If the earth was around for another 500 years, what kind of world do we want to create?” That’s the kind of evangelism that the world needs, if you can call it that.
But that’s just me. What do you think?