Something in me says that evangelism shouldn’t be a divisive topic. And yet, over my years in ministry and my wide background among different denominations, opinions can be so strong that it almost seems like something folks would come to blows over.
It’s not that the need for evangelism is questioned. Even liturgical churches want to see people come to faith, while others insist that it must be done by a specific prayer. An altar call for salvation is not something you’d see very often in several church groups and you’d see it every day in others.
If you’ve read my book, then you already know that I’m not sure when in my Christian life I crossed the line to becoming what the scriptures consider a saving belief. Maybe that’s why evangelism is so uncomfortable for so many of us. We don’t want to face people and tell them that they are sinners and going to hell if they don’t repent and ask Jesus into their hearts.
Don’t get me wrong, the fear of hell can be a perfectly legitimate motivator as long as that’s not the end of the Christian walk. After all, God is a God of love and relationship. I don’t mean relationship when we walk through the pearly gates, but I mean relationship right here, right now in our daily lives. As Christians, I hope we want that as much as He does. Yes, I know, because I have heard, all the many reasons that its scary and uncomfortable for people. And at some point, we need to accept that God is bigger than our fears.
I need to get back on track before I digress too far. Evangelism is something that can seem big and scary. But, I contend that it begins with being real. It begins with being a Christian. It begins with living out our faith because we have accepted the raging fury that is the love of God. As we let it embrace us, it will flow through us and make us genuine, loving, Christians.
Whether we are hoping to help our loved ones come to know Christ or a total stranger, the beginning is the same. And it doesn’t matter if we’re taught a memorized prayer or we just walk it out and confess our belief through reciting creeds in church. It’s being a Christian that matters.
One of the best-known names in recent history is of course, Mahatma Ghandi. He had decided to visit a Christian church in Calcutta and was turned away at the door because the church was for the higher castes and whites only. That is what caused his famous saying, “I would be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.” We don’t have to be that segregationist to shove people away. People, especially those close to us will see our hypocritical actions and attitudes. Gandhi also believed that “A virtue achieves its potential only in its application and it ceases to have any use if it serves no purpose in daily life.”
So what do I mean then by “Gentle Evangelism?” What I’m getting at is that sometimes the best way to make a difference is to simply live what we say we believe. If we do that in front of others and love them as Christ loved us, then we will be doing the best thing possible. God will convict people of sin and He will enable them to love. We have the simple (not always easy) job of just living in front of them and showing them love.