Tuesday, August 7, 2018

True Evangelism

   Two years ago, my family and I traveled up to Indianapolis over Memorial Day to visit family and attend the 100th running of the Indy 500. While my dad and I, along with various other family members, were walking up to the track, we passed a man holding a sign and shouting at everyone in line to get in that they were going to Hell. All I wanted to do was tell him to shut up. As I told my dad, "He's not helping us! He's just annoying people."
   The man at the Indy 500 isn't the only Christian whose evangelism methods are less than ideal. 

   Not all people handing out Christian tracts are this rude, but it still isn't a practice that's left me with a good feeling. I've been handed tracts myself a number of times. Every single time I get them, I throw them away, annoyed. By handing this out to someone, you're automatically implying that you think they're currently going to Hell. (Also, most tracts are worded kind of weird. "Have you ever lied? Stolen? Lusted? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are a sinner in need of redemption and are eligible for salvation. Call 1-800-JOHN-316 to get your free gift of salvation today." [Okay, I know they're not actually like that, but that's what they feel like.])
   The "if you don't repin this, you're denying Jesus" pins. The girls with Bible verses or other clear Christian references as their Twitter handle or their email. The people that post pictures of their daily devotions complete with highlights and coffee. The people who constantly post links to spiritual blog posts and quotes from a famous Christian theologian that makes you cringe every time you see their name. The Christian adventure books with dialogue like "So, do you know where you're going when you die?" before every dangerous situation. The cheesy Christian movies. If that's all people see of Christians, it's no wonder they think we're weird and annoying. Seriously, what kind of messages are we sending here? Do we really think we're reaching people with actions like these?
   A mantra every writer knows is "Show, Don't Tell." This is so true not only in writing, but in real life. Everything I've described above is Christians telling other people that they're Christians and everyone else needs to come to Jesus. And that's nice, and they have a good motive, but it's not usually that effective. Just as you won't draw people into your story if all you're doing is telling your readers, "Bob was angry, so he fought the man," you're probably not going to make people want to know about Jesus by just walking up and asking them if they know Jesus.
   I grew up on Michael W. Smith. On my favorite album of his, there's a song titled "Live the Life." Some of the first words he sings are these:

And when it's time to speak our faith
We use a language no one can explain
That's no longer good enough

And God knows it's a shame
'Cause if we look to pass the blame
We are not the worthy bearers of His name

For the world to know the truth
There can be no greater proof
Than to live the life, live the life

   It's not enough to just tell people about Jesus. If all they see us do is make people mad with fake money, shout at people they're going to Hell, and insult them, why would they listen to us when we try to tell them about Jesus? If we don't show love to others, why should they believe us when we tell them about God's love? Yes, trying to save somebody is an act of love, but firefighters don't curse at people while carrying them from the flames. They don't haul people out of fires by their feet kicking and screaming. If our actions annoy even other Christians, how do we expect to truly reach people?
   I think one of the main reasons this is a problem is because we're so worried about evangelism. We read Matthew 28:19 and are concerned we're not doing anything to spread the word of God so we freak out and hand out tracts and corner people in the grocery store to tell them about Jesus and make movies that are just messages with a side of cheesy story and even do really rude things like leave fake money tracts instead of tips and shout at everybody attending a race that they're going to Hell. We need to calm down, stop freaking out, and just live. If we're truly Christians, people will see Jesus in us. 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. --Galatians 2:20
   I've had relatives apologize for using bad words and correct themselves to "gosh" after taking God's name in vain. One relative winced when his siblings cursed around us and tried to be very respectful of what we believe, even though we've never talked about our faith with him. People have accused me and my family for "judging" them over something they do that goes against our beliefs even though we've never said anything to them about it. More than once, I've been in situations where it's clear the other people know I'm Christian, and I'm just like, "I...didn't...say anything..." [Side note: I'm not trying to say I'm amazing or super spiritual; I just need examples and these are the handiest ones.]
   Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying never tell people about Jesus. But if all we're doing is telling people about Him and they can't see Him in us...there's a fundamental problem with us. They'll never listen to us if we have no credibility, and if we don't truly represent the God we are ambassadors of, we can't truly share Him with others.
   I'd just like to encourage everyone to stop trying to make sure everyone knows about Jesus and just try to live like Him. Tell about Him where the Holy Spirit prompts you, and just let Christ live in you. As Michael W. Smith said:

For the world to know the truth
There can be no greater proof
Than to live the life, live the life