Evangelism: A Confession

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I have serious issues with evangelism. 

In my early 20’s I attended an english speaking Bible School in Germany called Bodenseehof.  It was a deeply meaningful 11 months of my life that has helped shaped my faith to this day.  One fine evening a few of us went to a thing.  I don’t even know what to call it.  I think it was a concert or something put on by a group of highly evangelistic young adults.  We were in a large room packed with people.  It got to the point in the evening where the speaker asked us to close our eyes and accept Jesus into our hearts if we hadn’t done so already.  As we all had our eyes closed the speaker asked that those who had just accepted Jesus into their heart to please raise their hand so we he could pray for them and encourage them anonymously.  Encouraged by this, I looked up to see who was putting their hands up.  To my shock, the speaker was identifying people in the room, but nobody was actually putting their hands up.

I have heard others share similar experiences.  There-in lay my issue(s) with evangelism.  I don’t want to be that guy.  I don’t want to be the guy that lies like that.  I don’t want to be the guy who aggressively pursues the souls of people while completely violating the integrity of the relationship.  You know, the awkward moments in a conversation where he or she will drop a ‘Jesus saves, you don’t want to go to hell do you?’ moments.  I worry that the moment I speak of Jesus, and give narrative to what God is doing in a particular time and place with someone they will straight up place me the category with that guy.  It’s awkward.  It’s unfortunate.  It has been really dogging me lately.

Healthy evangelism is important.  I worry that the word evangelism has been given baggage that completely castrates what it actually means.  I wonder if it has consequences on people actually doing it.  I worry that tons of people don’t want to be that guy or girl to the point that evangelism is not something they would even consider.  We see this in the Anabaptist world.  Stuart Murray calls this tendency ‘quietism.’  It’s problematic because in being quiet we cease to give voice to the story of God.  If we don’t do it, how will people know of the beautiful story of God?

That is my confession.  I just don’t want to evangelize. 

How about you?

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20 comments

  1. pomorev · April 19, 2012

    I’ve had similar experiences Chris. The worst was at an unnamed large pentecostal church, we were at an outdoor service where sitting you could clearly see the highway behind us and the stage was facing the highway. Loud boisterous worship was the order of the day. At one point I looked behind me and there had been an accident bad enough for ambulances to come – yet no one on the stage even mentioned it. Later they did an altar call and many people came forward – the same people who were dancing with exuberance at the start of the service. The whole thing sickened me actually.

    My wife went to Bodenseehof.

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      Hey cool to have the Bo’ho connection… but these experiences are unfortunate because it has created some baggage around evangelism. Particularly because evangelism is important.

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Adam Gonnerman · April 19, 2012

    In my fellowship we don’t consider anyone truly a disciple of Christ until they have been immersed in water, according to the command. However, this still leaves room for fraud with the numbers. I heard of a missionary (not from my fellowship, but might as well have been) who traveled around Asia visiting a circuit of churches, baptizing people who had come to faith in Christ through the ministry of those churches. He didn’t really do the evangelism…just the baptisms. So his numbers reporting back to the mission society looked great.

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      Unfortunately numbers for some govern everything about evangelism. Relationship has taken a back seat…. how do we frame it differently is an important question people in diff contexts need to ask.

  3. Phil Wood · April 19, 2012

    You identity an issue which we’ve been wrestling with for some years. For many the ‘gospel’ has ceased to be ‘good news’. In large part this is because evangelism is not perceived as peaceable. Here’s a little more in the same vein: http://radref.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/evangelism-we-can-believe-in.html

    In a modest way we’re trying to resicover good news in something we call ‘Walking Church’: http://www.mennoworld.org/2012/4/16/london-congregation-takes-worship-outside/. These are early days, but we’re learning a lot about listening and ‘walking alongside’. A privilege!

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      “Shalom-making and evangelism has become disconnected.” Amen…. love how you identify that. We need a reclamation project of sorts.

      Shalom.

      Peace

  4. Heather Heth · April 19, 2012

    I think it’s easy for us who have known the story of Jesus for a long time to forget how wonderful it is to hear from someone else (someone who is not on TV trying to get their money. Someone who cares about them). If my friend didn’t, somewhat awkwardly, tell me about God having a different plan for my life (apart from the very sinful and confused way I was living) I would have stayed in it and my life would look so very different now. But it took me being ready to hear because I knew she cared about me. And it took her being brave and inviting me into a better story.

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      Thanks for sharing Heather. What struck me about your story was it was a friend who shared. Relationships like that are important… gives breadth and depth to the talk on faith.

      Thanks again for sharing!

      • Heather Heth · April 19, 2012

        Thanks for sharing your post too. It made me think and sad about some things that happen wrongly in evangelism. I think it’s important for us to be honest. And I appreciate how you are engaging this topic.

        Ya, friends are awesome! It is good to think back on this story!

  5. Doug · April 19, 2012

    Excellent reflections, Chris. I, too, still think Jesus is “Good News”, but some of the messengers I have come across don’t alwasy make him look that way.
    I am praying that somewhere in our Anabaptist circles a fresh new way of speaking about him and sharing his life will emerge. Perhaps guys like you can lead the way. Blessings to you!

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      Doug,

      I think it is all about the good news. I struggle in a big way with what that looks like. I would be thrilled to think about what it could look like from an Anabaptist perspective. But the baggage I have…

      Thanks for your comment.

  6. goodfridayblues · April 19, 2012

    i decided long ago that Jesus calls me to be faithful and not successful. If i am faithful to him and transparent in my faith then others will see that. it’s kind of like the saying “tell the world about Jesus. if necessary, use words.”

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      It may be coming to the point where we need words to provide a narrarive to our actions…. explaining the ‘why?’ in a respectful way. Some have the gift of this… I don’t know of many Anabaptists who can which is why I am starting to prod at evangelism thing.

      Shalom

  7. Todd Walcott · April 19, 2012

    To introduce myself, I attended Bodenseehof with Chris. My mother is Mennonite and as such I have had Anabaptist influence on my faith for my entire life, though I would not consider myself to be Anabaptist despite the elements of my faith that no question reflect some of the Mennonite values that my mother was raised with and in turn, raised me with.

    Chris, you bring to light an issue that is no question based on the preconceived notions that many non-Christians have with Christians. I have experienced the brunt of these frustrations from my boss who is as hard-headed and uninterested in Christianity as they come. He knows I am a Christian, and when a customer of ours (who I have attended church with in the past) decided to share his faith, I later got to hear all about it, as well as the numerous accusations that seemed to be directed towards an “arrogant, in-your-face evangelist”, rather than the soft-spoken gentleman that this particular customer was.

    There is clearly something wrong with our world’s understanding of what evangelism is when compared to the evangelism that Christ calls us to.

    • chris lenshyn · April 19, 2012

      Todd!!

      I think you identify something valuable. It’s almost as like your boss and your friend are speaking two different languages as it relates to what faith in Jesus is. Some folks are calling for Christians to learn to speak the language of a Post Christian society.

      Dude! Thanks for your comment!!!

  8. psychosiswar · April 24, 2012

    Dude,

    First, I totally identify with the Anabaptist Theology. Second, I went to a Torchbearer School too… At Rio Vida and Capernwray Hall. What year were you there?

    • chris lenshyn · April 24, 2012

      Very cool.

      The Spanish Torchbearer school always looked so awesome! I was at the Bode in 2001-2002. 10 years ago… holy cow…

      When were you there?

      • psychosiswar · April 24, 2012

        Jan-Mar 05: Spain; Apr-June 05: England…

        I guess you are a few years older. Are you still connected with people who met from there?

      • chris lenshyn · April 24, 2012

        Ya, I still connect with some folks from time to time. Of course I met my wife there… 😉

        It’s actually been awesome connecting with them on Facebook to see where life has taken them. It was one of the best 11 months of my life! Are you able to connect with your fellow torchbearers?

      • psychosiswar · April 26, 2012

        Yes, I do actually. I was invited to a couple of weddings and still text with quite a few people. Love the connections! I need to make a Europe trip to visit my old Norweigan roommate!!

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