Those who have been watching the developments in the US and the American Church during the COVID isolation and the political polarization of 2020 (obviously starting much earlier) are talking a lot about how to do ministry and what the post COVID approach of the Church should be. There are dozens of articles, blogs, and books coming out to tell ministers—none of whom has ever faced these circumstances before—how to respond. I am even indulging in offering some basic insights myself. But in all of this, there is one thing I am hearing virtually nothing about.
One reason for this might be the word itself. Evangelism is related to “Evangelical”, a word that has come to be associated with the political right and beyond. I don’t even refer to myself as “evangelical” anymore for the simple reason that I have no idea what someone hearing that word thinks it means. But “evangelical”, apart from modern connotations, simply means someone who believes in and/or practices evangelism.
There’s that word again.
Why do we not hear more about evangelism? Why are so many churches no longer proclaiming the gospel—that Jesus died for our sins and we can be forgiven if we are willing to accept Him as Lord of their lives?
I think there are two major reasons.
The first is fear. Many church leaders and individual Christians simply don’t want to take the heat they know (accurately) will come their way if they suggest that anyone who hasn’t taken Jesus as their Lord and Savior isn’t forgiven, and is therefore condemned. The world—and specifically the vocal majority of people in the United States, has come to see this as narrow, bigoted, even hateful. Those of us who want to share the gospel with others aren’t seen as people who love and therefore want to see others saved. We are more often seen as outdated, reactionary, bigoted, or phobic.
And people don’t want to be seen that way.
The other reason is perhaps worse. Many church leaders and American “Christians” (I use the quotes because I am not at all certain they are) have come to believe the same things as the world. The notion that someone can be bad enough to be condemned, or that God is hateful enough to condemn, is seen as thinking from the dark ages. Far from calling people to repentance, we need to model love by accepting people right where they are—without the belief that they need to change in any way!
To these people, evangelism is actually seen as anti-Christian. These people ignore the fact that Jesus loved–indeed loves–everyone, but He also insists on repentance–a change of mind and heart–as a prerequisite for people to be forgiven. Christians stand for truth, and the truth is
There is no question that, as we transition out of the COVID isolation and try to understand how the Church should respond to the polarization of the American people, ministers and individual Christians are going to have to make choices. One of those is so basic to who we are that I believe it is a choice to be Christian or to not be Christian.
Christians have responded to the gospel, and have been commissioned by the King to spread this gospel. We aren’t told to be comfortable, to fit in, to be seen as “loving” in the world’s eyes, to accept sin (as opposed to sinners). We are told that, if we love people, we will alert them to the peril that they face whether they know it or not. We are told that people are not reconciled to God and that they can be. But this reconciliation comes only through acceptance of Jesus as their Lord.
Evangelism is the spreading of the good news that we can be saved. But we also have to accept the reality of the bad news—that we need to be. If we reject this basic commission from the King and choose to please the world instead, I do not see how we can be called Christian.