Thursday, August 21, 2008

How to Think Like a Christian About Evangelism and Missions

Christianity is in a very bad place. We are called to tell others the "good news" about our faith. In fact, we are told that we must recruit others to join our ranks. To begin with, let me state that I am an evangelism, missions, church growth guy. I want to build, grow, move all the time. Most of my time and attention is focused on "getting as many people to follow Jesus as I can before I die."

But we are in bad shape because people don't like Christians very much right now. Look, we are the ones who led crusades, killed Jews, fought wars and more, to the detriment of humanity in general. "Christians" colonized America and pushed everyone else out of the way. If you did not join us we were likely to kill you, steal from you, rape you or kick you out of your home.

Today is not much better. The average American believes that Christians are narrow-minded, bigoted, arrogant, pushy and bossy. I know Christians who fit in every one of those categories. Unfortunately, I know a few who fit in all of them.

So I have a distinct disadvantage when I share my faith. People around me who are not Christian generally do not want to be Christian, and they do not like Christians. It's an uphill battle from the start.

Being unpopular does not eliminate our need to do what Jesus asked us to, however. We can learn some approaches and methodologies that will help us and make us more effective in our mission, evangelistic and outreach work.
  • Listen more than you talk. People with a bad impression of Christianity have that impression because Christians do not shut up. Your friends have problems that you can help them with, but they want to (need to) talk about them. Do not interrupt. Do not advise. Do not anticipate what they might say. Shut up and listen.
  • Share love rather than guilt. Your friends already know about their sins. They know that they are doing wrong. The Holy Spirit is already convicting them of every infraction. You should be a source of love, encouragement, peace and understanding.
  • Give more than you take. Christians are famous (infamous?) for always asking for things. How about if we starting giving to people. Take care of someone else's needs for a change.
  • Be for more things than you are against. Christians need to take stands on important moral issues. We must be against sin and its advance on earth. But we should be for some things, and those things that we are for ought to be our focus. Be for feeding the poor, eradicating disease, respecting all people.
  • Serve others. When we are concerned with the needs and desires of others, they will pay attention to what we have to say. But it is imperative that our motive be serving them, not converting them.

It is hard to be faithful, but it is possible. We need to not give up our calling, but to embrace it with vigor and gusto.

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