Monday, July 25, 2011

MY take on Carl Medearis' take

e·van·ge·lism / Noun
The spreading of the Christian gospel by preaching or personal witness.

After recently reading an article on CNN's Belief Blog, I felt compelled to respond as quickly as I could.

Quick responses can easily work for you and against you. On one hand, your ideas are fresh in your mind and it's easier to get them all out instead of losing some over the few hours you might've waited in responding.

On the other hand, quick responses are usually shot from the hip, a result of acting out too quickly without giving enough thought to the topic(s) at hand.

I hope my response isn't too crazy, but please feel free to let me know if I totally miss the point or do something silly like truly offend you.

Before going on any further, I encourage you to read the article your self:
My Take: Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing

In his blog Carl Medearis seems to be examining the negative perceptions of evangelism and wonders aloud about what the right approach should be.

Since you took my earlier advice and you've read the article for yourself, I'll focus on a few specific pieces of Mr. Medearis' post.

Medearis begins his article with an exercise that he hopes will show the reader how polarizing the term "evangelist" or "missionary" can be.

This isn't new. In fact evangelists, pastors, and prophets have historically been people that society hasn't viewed very favorably. In fact, the closer the person's message was to the voice of God, the more unpopular they were. Christ uses the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21 as a vivid description of the abuse the prophets of the Old Testament endured as messengers of God.

But to the believer, the office of evangelist or prophet is one of honor.

Yes, there is a wide difference between the two connotations, but that difference has existed for generations.

As Medearis continues, he writes "This us-versus-them thinking is odd, given that Jesus was constantly breaking down walls between Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women, sinners and saints. That’s why we have the parable of the Good Samaritan."

I believe this is a poor understanding of the story of the Good Samaritan. If anything, throughout the Gospel Christ teaches us that these "walls" never existed. In fact, we're all in the same boat, we're part of the same community: sinners in need of a savior.

As Medearis proceeds, he writes "Even the Apostle Paul insisted that it’s faith in Jesus that matters, not converting to a new religion or a new socio-religious identity."

The fact is, faith in Jesus EQUALS conversion. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 about the effects of this conversion saying "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

Our faith in Christ, if  genuine, does indeed begin to convert us from one thing to another. From darkness to light. From death to life. From estrangement to restored relationship.

Medearis posits that perhaps its our view of Christ that leads to evangelism being so negative.

"Jesus the uniter of humanity, not Jesus the divider. How might that change the way we look at others?"

I counter that position with the one held by Christ: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)

Christ indeed wants to draw, or unite, all men unto himself. But there are a lot of folks out there who have no personal desire to be united with Christ. In fact, one person's desire to be united to Christ will undoubtedly cause friction and hostility in another person. Christ teaches us that this is to be expected.

Yet, we ought to live our lives as Christians in love. That's why it's so important for us to properly perform our duties as ministers of reconciliation, as Paul puts it.

Medearis writes that he is no longer is obsessed with converting people to Christianity and has instead found "that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling."

Unbelievers and those of other faiths can talk about Jesus until they're blue in the face. We can all agree that Jesus of Nazareth existed. But it has to go deeper than that.

James tells us that even the demons believe, and, he adds, they shudder! It seems demons have more sense of God's reality than some folks do.

Please know that Christ is more than an example for us humans to live up to or pattern our lives after.

John Stott writes in Basic Christianity "Not only would much in the Gospels remain mysterious if Christ's death were purely an example, but our human need would remain unsatisfied. We need more than an example; we need a Savior."

The fact that Christ is God, and that He came to this place to die for our sins, is a reality that every human being will have to grapple with. That truth must be dealt with. By faith, we accept that truth and begin to live under the power of the Holy Spirit as we're transformed from one thing to a glorious other.

Finally, Medearis writes "Jesus met people where they were. Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus — and let Jesus run his kingdom?"

The truth is, without Christ, we're all out. And our need for Christ is only apparent when we can admit our sinful nature.

Medearis concludes his article by stating the obvious: "Inviting people to love, trust, and follow Jesus is something the world can live with."

I completely agree. But I believe evangelism is something we need to be vocal and visible about.

If we begin to wrap evangelism up with political correctness, we do a great disservice to the Message and to those who desperately need to hear it.