Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Different Approach to Evangelism

Last week, I went to a United Methodist ministry conference centered on evangelism. Now, there was a time, when I thought any sentence that had "Methodist" and "evangelism" in it was not to be taken seriously. Since the United Methodist church did not throw around the "evangelism-y" lingo I was accustomed to growing up--passing out tracts, four spiritual laws, the Roman Road, or knocking on doors--I assumed it was just not an important concept. Especially since Methodists seemed to spend so much time taking care of physical needs like building wheelchair ramps and buying mosquito nets.

I learned something, though. I was mistaken. It's not that Methodists don't do evangelism. It's that they do it differently. You see, I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. I went to a "leadership" camp when I was in 7th grade that taught me how to share Christ with others using a little square tract that unfolded into the shape of a cross. As I grew older, I learned about other ways to share God's plan of salvation--most of which required memorizing statements or scriptures and then worrying about how to work those canned statements into conversation. And I'm not saying these were all bad. I certainly learned what Scripture teaches about God's plan to draw me into fellowhsip with him through the death of his son, Jesus Christ. But it always seemed sort of forceful.

In the Methodist church, the reason we don't talk about evangelism as much is because we are just expected to DO evangelism. This doesn't mean quoting scripture or knocking on doors. What we are called to do is come along side those we know who are living outside of God's kingdom and establish a relationship with them. Through establishing that relationship and letting those people know that we care about them, we then have an opportunity to share; not a tract, or a canned statement of faith; but rather a story of how this God of the universe has totally wrecked our lives in such a glorious way! The picture above is called "Offer them Christ" and is a depiction of John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) sending off Francis Coke (who really got the Methodist movement going in America) to America. That is what Christians are called to do, right? Offer them Christ. Not a canned speech. Not a booklet or a tract. Offer them Christ.

I'm thankful for all the things I've learned. I'm also aware that thousands of people have come to faith in Christ because they picked up a tract or someone quoted them a series of scriptures. But where is the relationship in that? What happens after the tract or booklet is dropped off? What happens when the conversation is over? That's where relationship is key. Paul said he became all things to all people that by ALL MEANS might save some. Our approach to sharing the gospel doesn't really matter as long as it is founded on relationship. It is my prayer that we can all learn to establish relationships with those who may not be living in the Kingdom of God. What are your thoughts on sharing Christ with others?

No comments: