Becoming a Contagious Christian
Where does the time go? Just a few more weeks left and this goose is loose.
I posted this on my Facebook earlier today, but feel it's necessary to keep anyone reading this updated on my thoughts on evangelism.
Evangelism is something I have been pondering a lot lately in regards to my faith. Where do I fit in with evangelism because all I have ever really seen is a strong approach of it to reach people. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.
I remember when I was younger and my church went to pass out tracks to people in the Memphis area, and I remembered being sickly afraid of handing out a track that described how someone would perish if they didn't come to know God. I remember the drawing on the back of it that screamed the horror of "HELL", and I kept thinking that while that is one way of getting the message across to people as the end result, aren't there other ways?
I never enjoyed it. I thought maybe out of the 50 tracks we had passed out, 45 of those would be lying in the street somewhere. And maybe even a few ended up stuffed in someone's junk drawer back home, and maybe even a couple were read and the person committed their life to Christ. But what was more daunting to me, was the amount of people that weren't getting reached by the track, the 45 people who discarded the words written. It always made me wonder if I was a "good enough" Christian to be able to witness to someone through a track and hope they got the message and when they didn't, I felt like I had failed at being a good Christian. I think I even cried because someone didn't take the track from me. How are they to know that I am only thinking of how much God loves them, and this may be the only chance they have to recognizing that? Needless to say, I cringed every time a church would say we were going to do evangelical work.
So now as I'm in a different country, partaking in evangelism, I find that there are many different kind of ways in which people can be reached to hear about God. Ways that God has clearly wired me to meet and speak with people, and a lot of that is on one-on-one time. It's a slower process, it's something where I know I can build a genuine relationship and friendship with people that will continue past this short amount of time I'm here and be what God wants me to be for them in this time of their life, etc.
I started reading a book called, "Becoming A Contagious Christian" by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg and I got to a part in the book where it talks about he varying approaches to evangelism needing to be celebrated. Here is a bit of an excerpt from it:
"Contagious churches emphasize that effective evangelism looks just like their individual members. It can take forms that fit the personalities God has given them. This is a radical departure from much of what has happened in recent decades. The tendency has been for a pastor to get charged up about doing outreach a certain way, and then to put subtle of even overt pressure on everyone else to imitate him. What ends up happening is that the few who are temperamentally similar to the leader flourish, but others try to force themselves to do things that don't fit them. Still others back away from the church completely, or they stay there and just feel guilty. They may say, "I wish I was a more spiritual person so I could do what they're doing.
In the process a lot of good people get hurt and, equally damaging, they don't get deployed to reach those who would have related to someone just like them. So high numbers of church members feel misunderstood and large segments of the population remain unreached.
Truly contagious churches avoid these problems by valuing many different approaches to the task of spreading the message. As members use their individual evangelistic styles and then combine strengths in a team, the church's outreach is bolstered tremendously."
I noticed that my love for people comes in being in their environment. Taking apart in their community and understanding them. It is not an easy task, and it isn't always fun, but little by little a trust is formed, and you slowly notice that you are now discussing things that maybe they were not ready to talk about or open up about a month ago. Evangelism is not about how fast you can reach someone, it's about reaching them where they are and letting them know God has use for them.
That is my little epiphany as this trip draws to a close. I will strive to continually see the opportunities that come along and not always be waiting for some spectacular firework moment to believe that, that is my evangelical call. Sometimes its the more dry and stale moments that call me, and I need to be ready to answer them too.