What Evangelism Is Not

If we’re not cautious and clear, a sloppy definition of missions and evangelism will destroy renewal efforts.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee. (BP)–The Great Commission Resurgence proposals within the Southern Baptist Convention have reminded us of the high priority of evangelism and local/global missions. The same is true of many denominations across the theological spectrum of beliefs as Christian leaders worldwide seek to regain strongholds of spiritual influence in North America and Europe. However, unless we’re cautious and clear, a sloppy, imprecise definition of missions and evangelism will destroy renewal efforts. Let’s define evangelism by what it is not and then by what it is.

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Hypocrites, Cowards, and Fools.

I like to read books, paper books not e-books. Oh! I have an e-book reader and even use it when space and weight are an issue such as when travelling overseas to minister. However, my preference is to hold the book in my hand and to turn actual paper pages and not electronic pages. Even with my iPad I still prefer an actual book in my hands when reading.

And, when I read a book I actually read it from cover to cover including the “thank yous” and the dedications. Normally people dedicate a book to someone who has mentored them, their parents, their kids, their wife or husband. In this particular book I read recently the dedication was both unusual, amusing, revealing, and interesting. “Dedicated to all the hypocrites, cowards, and fools … like me. May we find the Way, the Truth, and the Life in a world of shortcuts, deception, and death.”

That really hit home when I read it recently over the Atlantic Ocean at 36,000 feet. Truly the Church in North America and increasingly the Church in Eastern Europe is not the Church that Jesus can honor by His presence and we have truly become (or always were) in many ways “…hypocrites, cowards, and fools.” We live in the world, like the world and for the world. That makes us followers of the world and not followers of The Way – the original name for believers.

And, we need to read the Scriptures and discover or rediscover the true message of the faith, the real Jesus, and the Church that He is building today. Three things among many that need to be picked up afresh, dusted off, re-examined, and embraced.

We need to rediscover the true faith – the real Gospel of the Kingdom, the power of God unto salvation. We often hold to a cultural version of the Gospel and thus a non-gospel. We have added so many rules and regulations, so many of man’s ‘ifs, ands, and buts,’ that we no longer recognize the true message that Jesus came to preach, teach, and demonstate. Time to reexamine what we believe and what the true faith really is and then embrace it no matter what the personal cost.

We need to encounter the real Jesus. Not the ‘good old plastic Jesus’ being preached by the Church of today. It is time to take the religious glasses off and read the New Testament with spiritual eyes so we can see the real Jesus – wild, radical, challenging, at times offensive, lovable and loving, powerful, determined, rugged, revolutionary. We have been following the wrong Jesus and it is time to see and follow the revolutionary so we can join Him in turning the world upside down.

And, we need to bury the Church that is as it is, in many ways, man-made and not God’s Church at all. And, hopefully if we bury it due to all life having gone out of it (how’s that for a generality?) hopefully the Lord will see fit to resurrect it on the third day and it will become all that God wants it to be as the Lord builds His Church just as He promised to do … a Church with focus, purpose, power, and His presence. A Church that actually does what it was birthed to do – “go into all the world and seek and save the lost” (Matthew 28:19 and Luke 19:10).

It is time to no longer look for the shortcuts, fall for the deception, and live in spiritual death.

It is time to find the Way, the Truth, and the Life.