Thursday, November 03, 2011

Spiritual Conversations

“Evangelism” has become a dirty word to many of us. It conjures images of Bible-thumping extremists telling everyone how horrible they are and how they’ll go to hell when they die unless they think and believe just like them.

When the gospel gets limited to a get-out-of-hell-free card or a ticket to heaven, then evangelism and Christianity as a whole become completely distorted.

But, on the other hand, it is extremely important for us to share our faith with others, and to do it with our words. Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “preach the gospel and, if at all necessary, use words.” I love that quote but sometimes it can be a cop-out. The truth is, sometimes it is necessary to use words. We need to be able to articulate the particularity of our faith in Christ and help others see how radical this gospel really is. We need to be able to call out the evil we see in the world and offer an alternative way of seeing things. We need to speak hope into a hopeless world.

Evangelism has been hijacked by folks who arrogantly force their perspective onto others. But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can share our faith with a posture of listening—truly hearing from others and learning from their experience. We don’t have to threaten or harass, we can simply love.

I tell students, “I don’t want you to share Jesus, I want you to share your life… but Jesus should be your life.” If you truly love something, you’re excited to share it with others. If Jesus is not important or exciting to you, then don’t bother sharing. But if Christ is truly the center of your life, then conversations about him shouldn’t be nearly as awkward or forced as we have allowed them to become. Make Christ the center of your life… start there… then share it with the world.

7 comments:

David T. said...

"When the gospel gets limited to a get-out-of-hell-free card or a ticket to heaven, then evangelism and Christianity as a whole become completely distorted."

What IS the gospel, then?

WES ELLIS said...

In a word, the gospel is love... The particular love revealed in Christ... But the depths of its meaning and the wholeness of its effection must take a lifetime to explore.

David T. said...

If the gospel is the outworking of the love of Christ, how do we know this love? Romans 5:8 says,
"But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us."
We know Christ's love for us because he died for us. Why did he have to die? To make atonement for our sin. Why do we need atonement for our sin? So that we can be with Him forever and escape hell. So the love of Christ then, is that he helped us escape hell and attain heaven.
We know that Christ loves us because He died to save us from hell.
So the gospel IS about getting out of hell and getting to heaven, it would seem.

WES ELLIS said...

Apparently you and I simply have a different perspective. I could provide different and equally "biblical" responses to each of the questions you posed. Your theological perspective seems to be positioned within a postmortem heaven-and-hell framework... You should know that such a theological framework is not the only option. And I don't believe that it is the most faithful to the biblical narrative.

All this aside... What's your beef again? You would prefer that the gospel be limited to a get-out-of-hell-free card? I should warn you. You're not going to enjoy this blog very much.

David T. said...

I don't want it to be a get-out-of-hell card. And I agree with you more than you know. But I can't comprehend any other perspective. I am doing a lot of reading on atonement theory and the New Perspective in a search for some way to get out of the traditional heaven/hell conception of salvation and give me some other reason for living the Christian life... because I don't really care about hell anymore. Yet all I hear from the teachers I am exposed to is that our focus should be on the eternal and not worldly affairs, and that our highest calling is evangelism which means getting people accept Christ...

WES ELLIS said...

David,
I must agree that our focus should be more "eternal" but eternity starts now and the Kingdom of God is here! I'd recommend "The Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard and anything by N.T. Wright (particularly his chapter on The Kingdom of God in the book, "The Challenge of Jesus") as a starting point. I also think Rob Bell represents this perspective quite well.

WES ELLIS said...

And on the topic of Evangelism, Brian McLaren says some really good things in his book "More Ready Than You Realize."