Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Your Story?

I’m writing this just hours after Luther Seminary’s “Rethinking Evangelism” conference ended and thought I would write some initial thoughts (this is also my newsletter article for August), and hopefully in a few days I'll write a few more deeper thoughts and ideas that have come out of these past 3 days.    

For the most part the old ways of doing evangelism were just overall bad experiences both for those evangelizing and those being evangelized to.  Many of us can remember a time when we have been asked something along the lines of “if you die tonight, do you know if you are going to heaven?”  and most of the time those memories are followed by the awkward, frustrating or annoyed feeling that questions like that bring up in us.  We know of times when we have been encouraged to ourselves to go door knocking or have had others stop by our door hoping to win souls for Christ.  The most often prayed prayer of a door knocker is “Please don’t let anyone be home” and the most often prayed prayer of the person inside is “Please don’t let them realize that I’m home.”

Evangelism has become a dirty word.  We avoided it, we don’t want to do it, we claim it is the pastor’s job and even most pastors (including myself) wish that it was not needed. 

And this is why we need to rethink evangelism. 

Because evangelism is not about door knocking, it is not about winning souls for Christ, it is not about conversion, or getting people to come to our church on Sunday.  Instead evangelism is story.  Evangelism is about telling our story, about why we are Christian, and about how Christ and the Christian community has changed our lives. For how can we tell someone how important Christ should be in their lives if we don’t know why Christ is important in our own lives.  And so we must take time to learn our story, many Christians have never taken the time to think about why God is important in their lives. 

But before we ever share that story with the person we are trying to evangelize too, we must first take the time to listen to their story.  Where are they at in their lives?  What are they struggling with?  What brings them joy? And then, only after we have truly and authentically listen to them, then we can share our own story.  And this is evangelism – sharing the good news, telling the good news, telling why God is important to us.  Not convincing them, not winning their souls, not getting them to church on Sunday, but building community by sharing our stories and listening to theirs.