December 4, 2015

'Evangelism' has as much to do with listening as it does with announcing

The term "evangelism" is a scary word for lots of people. I've often found that this fear stems from a misunderstanding of what evangelism is. The term evolves from a Greek word, "euangelion." This Greek word is also where the term "gospel" stems from. Both, in essence, mean the announcement or announcing of good news. If you read the first four books of the New Testament–which document the life of Jesus from four different perspectives–you'll notice that Jesus' idea of the term "gospel" was likely different than what some contemporary Christians interpret this term to mean. What did Jesus believe to be good news? That God's kingdom, the rule and reign of God, was actively present and accessible. What's more, Jesus' ministry made it clear that this kingdom was not only made available to the upright, the orthodox, the wealthy, the healthy or powerful. It was being made available to everyone. (You can see how this would make some people–namely the upright, the orthodox, the wealthy, the healthy and powerful–very uncomfortable.)

The Gospel, by Jesus' definition then demands that we look at "the other" with anticipation–anticipation that through them, we may discover a piece of God's presence, of what God is doing in the world.

Brian McLaren's book, More Ready Than You Realize is a wonderful book on the subject of "evangelism." In this book, McLaren argues that Christians ought to begin counting conversations as much as we count conversions. In essence, McLaren was claiming that if we dared to listen, we would find God already at work within the lives of individuals. If you follow the story of God's people throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) you will discover that they learn the nature of God, draw closer to God and–frankly–are saved by "the others" that their lives intersect with. Evangelism has as much to do with listening as it does with announcing.

As we enter into Advent–this season of anticipation, do we anticipate the activity of God in the lives of those we meet? It requires that we watch and listen with anticipation.

How well do we listen to the stories of others? How well do we know our own?

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