“Go! I am sending you out.” — Luke 10:3
“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” – Albert Orsbom (1916)
It appears to me that evangelism is much more difficult these days. It’s a tough crowd out there. Look around and you’ll see what I mean. People are church-phobic. Churches are changing their names so they don’t sound like churches. Worship communities all over promote things like “The first twenty visitors will receive free Astros tickets!” or “Come to our Antique Car Show (worship service to follow)!” The church down the road from my house offers a sports camp. They know that people might not come for worship, but maybe we can snag them for Dodgeball.
A couple of years ago we had City Fest in Houston. We had Luis Palau, for heaven’s sake! The man is a legend in evangelism. But that’s not all, folks. We had Wynona Judd and moonwalks and extreme sports and probably even meats on sticks. It just makes me wonder — have we just made it too complicated? Or, deep down, are we afraid that it’s just not enough? What has changed? After all, John the Baptist baptized hundreds without a rock climbing wall. And Jesus? Well, Jesus said, “Come, follow me” . . . and people did.
Before we are tempted to crawl under our rock of hopelessness, let’s excavate here for a while. Jesus didn’t have an ulterior motive. He wasn’t trying to manipulate a particular result. He wasn’t focused on building a big church building. He wasn’t pursuing personal goals or trying to “get ahead.” It was God’s work he was after. His definition of “evangelism” might have been quite different from ours. He spent time with sinners (prostitutes and criminals) and touched the sick and infected (even the ones who might be contagious). Jesus didn’t seem to prefer fellowship time with the Pharisees. He didn’t spend much time inside buildings either. He lived out in the world among the regular folks. (What do those folks look like in today’s world?)
He earned their trust through relationship, not by winning arguments about issues. He didn’t look down his nose at people because their lives were a mess, although he did offer them the tools to get out of the mess. Jesus wasn’t afraid of the regular folks either. Would he have crossed the street to avoid someone covered with tattoos — cigarette in one hand, beer in the other? I don’t think so. He loved them. Sincerely. Not just so they would come to his church on “Friend Day.” Not just because they made him look good. He loved them because they mattered to God. And the regular folks loved him back– even the cynics. Especially the cynics. They could sniff out a fake. Most people can. Jesus was the real deal. He still is. — continued