our journey together

our journey together

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What is the right way to evangelize?

What exactly is the job of a farmer who raises crops?  Is it the farmer who produces the vegetables and fruits that we enjoy, or is it the ground the seed is planted in that is to be given the credit, or is it the seed itself, or is it sun, or rain, or a good season, or is it God?  I think the answer is yes.  I believe all those things play into a good crop, and I think that it is ultimately God who has His hand in all those elements from the seed leaving the farmers hand to the picking of the crop.  This is a good example of what the gift of evangelism is and how we, as Christians, are to evangelize in this lost world.   Evangelism is the processes of casting the seeds of the Kingdom of God (sharing the gospel) into the hearts of people whose hearts have been tilled, in order that they are readied to hear the good news of the Kingdom.  Evangelism is also the process of tilling (helping remove the rocks of doubt), water (acts of kindness, relationship building, confirming), and harvesting (co-laboring with the Spirit in helping someone become a born again believer).
One of the key elements of being a seed sower is to actually throw seeds into the ground.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about a farmer who went out to scatter seeds on the ground and then in detail explains the kind of soil the seeds land in.  When Jesus explains the parable to his disciples he explains that the seeds are the message about the kingdom and the soil is the condition of the hearts of people who hear this message.  Therefore one of the main responsibilities of a follower of Christ is to share the message of the Kingdom or in other words the good news of the gospel of Christ.  In the Bible there are many places we find that anyone who is a Christian has the responsibility of evangelizing.  We find Jesus’ commissioning his disciples (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21, Acts 1:8), examples of believers (not just Apostles) witnessing (Acts 4:31, 6:8, 7:52, 8:4), and commanding us as believers to evangelize (Eph 3:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2, Philippians 2:14-16, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Peter 3:15).  The word evangelist in the Greek literally means, “A bringer of good tidings and the name given to the New Testament heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles (Blue Letter Bible, 2011).  Taking all these examples along with the whole metanarrative of the Bible we can see that it is our God given responsibility to be evangelists whether we think we have the gift of evangelism or not!
In this example of a farmer scattering seeds we see this is primarily proclaiming the gospel, but to evangelize is far more complex than just saying words.  In John 3:34 Jesus says that when he proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom he was speaking the words of God through the power of God.  Therefore I do not want to down play the importance of speaking out loud the gospel.  However it is equally important to prepare the soil / heart of a person who does not know or care about God.  Before a farmer goes into the field to scatter seeds, he prepares the field by tilling it and removing rocks.  Continuing with the metaphor I see tilling and removing rocks more of the friendship, service and apologetic aspect of evangelism.  Tilling is not a very fun thing for the soil or the heart.  God brings many things into our lives to cause us to stop and turn to Him.  We can get involved with the tilling process when we help people see what God might be doing in their lives by pointing to what He has done in our own life.  Paul helps the Church of Corinth see that God has comforted them in their times of need so that they may comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).  As well when we begin to care about our neighbors and they begin to care about us, we build trust and credibility in the relationship and as a result we are able to lovingly help them remove doubts and barriers to God in their lives.  As well tilling can take on the form of meeting their needs in times of trouble.  This kind of evangelism usually precedes the proclamation of the gospel or prepares the way for the proclamation of the gospel.  As well I see this kind of love as a demonstration of the Kingdom just as much as miracles.  Jesus told us that whenever we care for “the least of these” we are caring for Him (Matthew 25:40).  Loving “the least of these” could as well be seen as watering the seeds and helping them take root in the hearts of those in need. 
Yet I do not see us all being farmers, who are the ones who really know how to sow the seeds, where to sow the seeds, when to sow the seeds, how and when to water the seeds.  The farmers are ones who seem to know the ins and outs of farming far better than your average gardener who dapples in seed sowing in their back yard.  In the Bible it seems clear that there are some who are specifically gifted by the Holy Spirit in evangelism.  As well it seems the scriptures point out that this gift, evangelism, is a gift to the church.  In Ephesians 4:11-12 Paul writes, “It was He (God) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelist, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  These evangelists or farmers, if you will, have been gifted by Holy Spirit in order that they may equip the church to reach the lost.  These farmers help the little gardeners to be more effective in planting seeds in the soil of their neighbor’s hearts. 

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