Show and Tell

I mentioned before the post-modern image of an evangelist. A man on tv with a weird hairdo, who tells you to send money to God but lists his own address; this is an evangelist. This is not an image we would want.

We feel better about missionaries. They are altruistic, self-sacrificing, compassionate and loving. Missionaries can be either male or female (though Southern Baptist female missionaries must try to keep quiet as much as possible. Someone is watching and the resolutions will fly thick and fast, thank you).

We may feel better about missionaries but, when we get right down to it, we do violence to the Biblical idea of a missionary in that we decide a missionary is someone else somewhere else, rather than me, here where I am, right now and always.

So evangelists are greedy, grasping grunters and missionaries are nice people to whom we sometimes send money. The real problem with this picture? There are too many of us good Christian folks in it.

Let’s argue for evangelization. Evangelization is the demonstration of the gospel (missions) and the declaration of the gospel (evangelism). I know, I know, dear precise friend, that what demonstrates declares and that which declares demonstrates. I still want to argue for a life style that demonstrates and declares the gospel story and call that discipleship.

To be a disciple is not just the statement of what we know. In fact, I think (personal opinion again) that we have defined discipleship for too long as who we read, whose tape ministry we get (or DVD, or blog, or Video or whatever) and what mega-church, niche-church or non-church we attend. The Jesus of the gospels is an activist with a pretty simple statement of priority. He says, “Come with me and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

I was sitting in an airport months ago. Please do not be impressed. Lots of people sit in airports. Since 9/11 the number of hours people spend sitting in airports increased exponentially. When they catch terrorists, instead of torture or humiliation, I want them put in long lines and made to show picture ID every five feet. That’ll show ’em.

I was sitting there waiting, sore fatigued. A young fellow came over and started to offer a post-modern Christian witness to me. I loved his effort. However, if I had been truly unconverted, I would have been more confused after our ten minute encounter.

Friends, we are going to have to show these days before we can tell. People just do not much trust spiritual people any more. If we do not show first, we may not get to tell. If we do not tell, it does not matter much what we show.

Believe me when I say we have to offer something to folks. Groups that start to work just on each other lose their cultural relevance pretty fast. We need not act like we know everything. When someone asks me a question I cannot answer, in my old age, I am very happy to say, “I dunno. I just want to have the chance to tell you some things I think I do know, or at least believe.”

Brian McLaren is so right about so many things. One thing he writes is this, “So many people want to talk to someone about God. They just do not know anyone safe to talk to about God.”

We can be someone’s safe place, somebody’s haven of rest. In matters of evangelization, wouldn’t it be great if we could just fall in love with the process of helping someone come to Christ and trust God for the outcome?

So, argument ending for this day, let me close by saying I am an evangelist and a missionary and a disciple acting on the command of Christ as best I know how. I think an evangelical ought to:

Live like he/she should
Strengthen the love bond between her/him and God
Invite others to walk, talk, eat with him and offer insights and even join the ministry.

Shalom. My study group meets this Thursday, May 13, in Dallas. An orthodox rabbi friend of mine is coming to teach us the Old Testament Creation story from a conservative Jewish standpoint. I am going to learn something!

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