Struggle with Evangelism

This weekend I encountered a serious question over mission. One of the foremost duties of a Christian is to tell others about the faith. It’s all part of the Great Commission, go and make disciples of all nations, city on a hill, salt of the earth, etc. It doesn’t have to be an incredibly active thing, and I’ve learned in the past few years that being a little less “in your face” about faith is often a more welcomed approach. The t-shirts and rhetoric of my high school days didn’t meet with a lot of success, though it did meet with some. (I also find the word “success” to be inappropriate in this conversation–it isn’t applied to spiritual matters very well) It seems a better approach to be a little more laid back. People will notice there’s something different about you and ask when they’re ready. Forcing the issue often turns them away.

That’s all well and good, but it gets complicated when you apply it to a profession, like writing for example. How overt am I supposed to be in my writing? Because most people who need Jesus really don’t care to read about him. They don’t just wander into their local Christian bookstore and pick up a book about Jesus. And it’s not too likely they’ll see a blatantly Christian book displayed prominently in their mainstream bookstore. You have to be covert. You can’t be pathetically obvious. And I don’t mean you have to hide the fact that you’re a Christian and you’re talking about Jesus. You just need to be sensitive. Your work should be worth reading whether someone cares about Jesus or not. It should be hopeful and inspiring, it should change people. But it can’t scare them off with triteness or Christian jargon.

But is pushing people along one step toward God enough? Is convincing them the value of a spiritual faith, no matter the faith, good enough? Aren’t you leaving them outside the gates? How far do you have to go. I suppose everyone has to find their own answer to this question. For every writer there is a different answer, and that’s just one field. Billy Graham certainly found his answer, and look at the people who’ve come to Christ through the ministry of Billy Graham. Certainly successful. But I wonder how many of those people were spiritually curious before they even heard of Billy Graham. I’ve never understood what would bring someone to a Crusade. You have to be ready to come and know what you’re getting into. Something has to make someone willing to come hear that blatant Gospel message. What is that something? Is it a co-worker? A parent? A friend? Or maybe something not quite as obvious, like an article, a movie, or a book. Again, the “success” is virtually immeasurable. But you can’t deny the effect. How many have considered the spiritual because of novels like the Chronicles of Narnia or the music of U2?

I have to think that’s a step in the process of conversion that is worth effort. Someone has to open the eyes of the disinterested. Something has to change within them so that they would even consider God. The Holy Spirit plays into all of this as well, and we really can’t hope to know all the answers. What if in my spiritually awakening someone turns to Islam? I suppose you have to trust the Holy Spirit. And what if someone hears Billy Graham’s blatant message and walks away disgusted? I suppose you also have to trust the Holy Spirit.

I think I’ve always known this struggle, and I’ve always known the non-answer that comes with it. Sometimes you just have to re-hash it.

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