As we think about discipleship differently in light of a redeemed self-discovery and self-expression, a necessary mind shift must take place in the way we think about evangelism. Much of this change deals with the way we approach it to begin with. Over the next week or so I will offer some of these mind shifts. I will offer both #1 and #2 here, as they go hand in hand.
1. Evangelism must not be presented (and viewed) as an add-on to anyone’s life. I think many people do not even consider participating in ‘evangelism’ because they view it as an add-on to their already overflowing schedule. They fear what they would have to give up in order to find time to “go visiting” or “share the gospel” with people. They feel as if they just simply do not have any more time to spare in order to be a part of such things. This is partly a result, I believe, of an old-school mentality and approach to evangelism. Years ago, and in a radically different culture, visitation nights at church and one-on-one evangelism with strangers comprised a winning central strategy for an ‘outreach program.’ Even though I would say that both of these can still be successful approaches, they definitely cannot make up the main thrust of how we approach evangelism in today’s postmodern culture.
Now, let me be clear. No believer can honestly use the excuse that they are too busy to share the gospel. I will clarify this in my #2 below. If our schedules look like the one above, chances are we need to reassess how we are stewarding our time. I am not suggesting that evangelism take a backseat to one’s schedule. I am simply suggesting that it should not be viewed as an add-on to anyone’s already busy schedule. #2 below offers the necessary second part to this specific mind shift.
2. “Occupy your life!” About a year ago as the media swirled around the movement that came to be known as Occupy Wallstreet, I remember hearing a lady call in to a well-known radio talk show and offer her own spin-off, Occupy Your Life. Now, she definitely did not offer this suggestion with any spiritual insight, but rather to urge people to begin to take responsibility (mostly political & economical) and begin to strive to make a difference in our world. I remember immediately wanting to steal that suggestion, realizing that it could bring a brilliant insight into the way we approach evangelism! Instead of viewing personal evangelism as an add-on to our lives, we should instead begin to look at where God has already strategically placed us. Could it be that instead of adding on a participation in a weekly visitation ministry or wondering to what stranger we could present an evangelistic outline today, perhaps we could instead begin to occupy the space in which God has already sovereignly positioned us? How does this look? Consider the following possibilities…
Instead of focusing solely on climbing the ladder of success at my place of work, I begin focusing more on building meaningful relationships with my co-workers in an effort to proclaim the excellencies of Christ to them as I interact with them each day.
Instead of getting completely caught up in the competition and future dreams of my child’s extra-curricular activities (ball teams, dance, gymnastics, band, etc.), I begin to look at practices and games as an excellent opportunity to build meaningful relationships with other parents in an effort to proclaim the excellencies of Christ to them.
Instead of just trying to make it through the school day and all that I have added to my plate with extra-curricular activities, I begin to pray deeply for my school and build meaningful relationships that allow me to proclaim the excellencies of Christ to others as we discuss life and do life together.
Instead of negatively viewing evangelism/mission as something that will steal my time with my favorite hobby, how can I redeem my love for that hobby and include loving people within the framework of that hobby building meaningful relationships that allow me to proclaim the excellencies of Christ to others who enjoy my hobby, too?
Our schedules are full. But, what are they filled with? Chances are those activities are filled with interactions with people who are unchurched and in need of reconciliation with God through Jesus. You see, occupy is simply a buzz word for intentionality. Most of us are intentional about something, the question is, are you intentional about the right thing? The eternal thing? As you look at your own life and all the places you must be in the next week, how might God be calling you to simply occupy your own life? Stop looking at evangelism as a program that threatens to compete with all that has already occupied your life. Instead, simply seek to intentionally occupy the spaces in which you already reside. How can you begin to proclaim the excellencies of Christ to those with whom you are already in contact? I will offer a practical understanding of how this looks in my next post containing mind shift #3.
Mind shift #3 can be read here: https://jasonengle.net/2013/07/31/mindshifts-in-evangelism-3/