July 6, 2010

This will be a multitopic letter, with sidebars and asides and so on, I can feel it now.

Evangelism has been on my heart alot lately. I’ve been hit with it in classes, challenged on it in my worklife, and even (albeit without truly meaning to) had it thrown my way in my online dealings.

Evangelism is a really sticky topic in America. You will often hear anymore that “faith should be a personal thing, kept to one’s self.”

It saddens me that this is said. It saddens me even more that Christians are ACTUALLY buying into it. They shouldn’t. It’s a lie.

The ability to evangelize, to preach, to tell others of your belief, no matter what that belief is, is one of the most important fundamental rights any American has and should exercise. (Side note, the ability to walk away from those doing said evangelism is equally important, respect is always to be maintained and if someone wants to leave and not hear anymore, they should be allowed to do so ALWAYS.)

Telling someone about the truth of Jesus Christ is one of the most important things any Christian can ever do. Even if it’s awkward. Even if it’s unsuccessful. Even if it doesn’t seem to amount to anything. (If often does and we don’t know it).

But why?

Because of what we believe.

Recently, while speaking with others online, I was asked innocent questions. How were my classes towards accreditation as a minister coming along, and what denomination would I be preaching for? The answer to the second led to another question. Does that denomination preach fire and brimstone sermons?

My answer was simply that we do not regularly preach about Hell (we focus more on the love of Jesus), but if I were asked straight out if I believe a non-believer who does not hold Jesus as a personal savior will go to hell when they die I would answer yes.

That answer offended someone. Someone I do consider a good person, and would gladly call a friend.

Am I sorry for the offense? Yes. Am I sorry for my answer? No.

Because I would rather risk offense to even a good friend, then commit the greater offense of lying. Of sanitizing the truth. Of trying to create some pseudo “more friendly” religion in the hope to draw other people in with that deception. That to me is more offensive, any day of the week.

Do not misunderstand me. My denomination and I very much, believe that Christianity is a religion of love. Not hate. And it is far too often being used as a means of hate. And THAT is offensive too. Hating others is not the example Jesus set at all. He spent his time with sinners. Loving those sinners. He told them the truth. That sin is bad, what the consequences of sin are, but he always showed love. He never spoke in hatefulness to those sinners. And the church as a whole needs to start setting THAT example, instead of the one we are all too often known for.

I believe the vast majority of Christians actually fall in line with that. Unfortunately a very loud minority has set a bad image for us. And it’s our fault. Because we aren’t out there, being just as loud, only in a good way. It should come to no surprise that when the world sees only one set of Christians acting in a very non-Christian manner, it has come to believe that all Christians are like this.

It’s too easy to sanitize Christianity. But that’s the worse thing we can do. Because then all we accomplish is someone joining under false pretenses and leaving disillusioned. I encourage people to be honest in what they believe, but love at the same time. It is possible. If you aren’t sure how, just read about Jesus. He was the very model of truthful loving. Watch a parent. Parents will, in all lovingness, tell their child they are making a mistake. They will do it gingerly, tenderly, but with the proper sense of admonishment. This is less of a contradiction that we make it out to be.

There is a lot of WRONG teaching on what Hell is. And that’s the only reason I believe the topic of Hell needs to be addressed in church. A reeducation. It isn’t a threat, but it is a truth. The point of Hell is too often misunderstood. The reason for it completely lost.

But at the end of the day, if you are a Christian, you must decide something. Do I believe in Hell or not? Do I believe in everlasting life or not? If I do, how important is it that I tell others of Jesus? And I have found a worthy answer to that second question. Given by an atheist. Penn Gillette, of Penn and Teller.

There’s something that truly struck me about Penn’s words too. He kept saying, “He was a good man.” And it hit me so hard the first time I saw this. It has been so long since I have heard the phrase, “He was a good Christian man.” You don’t hear that anymore. And some would believe that’s because Christianity isn’t synonymous with good. But it should be.

I believe you don’t hear that anymore for another reason. The good Christians are keeping to themselves. This allows a minority to represent the majority to the world. We have held back too long, and allowed an image to encompass us.

Evangelism is important. It’s the most important thing you will ever do. Because it can change a person’s life. Even if you don’t see them come to salvation. The good book tells us (in the new Canterrain paraphrase version), that some plant the seeds, some water them, some harvest that which grew, but God gets the glory. Sometimes your ‘failure’ in evangelism isn’t a failure at all. But the seeds that were needed so someone else could do the harvesting.

And evangelism is like any other skill in life. The more you do it, the better you will get. The less you do it, the worse you will get.

From personal experience I have found that my closest times with God have been where I was speaking about God, for God, because of God.

Evangelism has another side effect that is all too important. It will challenge your faith, and grow it. Strengthen it like the fires do to a sword.

I encourage you, if you believe… TELL. It’s the most important thing you will ever do.

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