Once again, Sunday's sermon really moved me.
Garner talked on Mark 2:13-28 focusing on how the gospel is proclaimed 3 times, twice by Jesus and once by Levi. Garner really pushed us as a church to think about what we are doing in our life to proclaim Christ to others.Are we just talking about Christ to fellow Christians or are we going to other sinners and outcasts as Christ did?
Christ has changed me heart when it comes to evangelism. I mentioned in an earlier post a little big how Point 11 (specifically Keith Chancey) changing my heart towards spreading the gospel to others. I will give a brief history and look at what God has done in my life for the past year specifically.
The first time I heard about evangelism was on a mission trip in New Orleans. I grew up Presbyterian and evangelism was not a word we used at all in my church, but on this mission trip we were living and working through a Baptist ministry and they were offering an evangelism workshop. All the adults were laughing and joking about evangelism. So in my mind I translated that into "Okay, evangelism is something wrong and ineffective and therefore stupid to do." This is not to say that is what the people around me were actually saying, but we Presbyterians generally do not evangelize, we may create relationships in order to discuss Christ, but even then in all the years I went to CPC I never had a feeling that I needed to tell others about what Jesus had done on the cross for everyone.
So, fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. I started attending a Bible youth group (and later the church) and one night at youth group that youth pastor gave us a crash course on how to use an Evangi-cube and we hit the streets. I was absolutely terrified, we went door to door and asked people if we could talk to them about Christ. My group seemed to only get people whom had already accepted Christ and just listened to help up "train." Suffice it to say I once again transferred this memory in my mind as a evangelism is obviously not a good thing to do because I am uncomfortable. Through most of my high school career I avoided evangelism like the plague. From becoming physically sick before a ski trip where the main focus was evangelizing on the mountaintops with strangers to scoring low on evangelism for a spiritual strengths test, I kept telling myself I was not made to evangelize therefore God won't mind if I just never talk about Christ to anyone.
Oh how wrong I was. Fast forward to last summer when I went to Point 11 with the youth group I was interning with. Keith Chancey changed my entire look on spreading the word of God simply by how he spoke about telling others about Christ. He was excited, it was natural, it was an overflow from the love he had received from Christ. He really questioned us on why we hesitated to tell others, to hide such a beautiful and precious gift as knowing Jesus Christ is. Why do I want to hide this life from people when I have committed my life to Christ? This really shook me and opened my eyes to how beautiful it is to tells others of the being who changed my entire life story. I had hope that I could actually tell others about Christ.
I am going to insert a side note here: I do not like the word evangelism because I think in society it has a horribly negative connotation. In Matthew Jesus says "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20) It is easy to take parts of this passage and only act on those parts and we call it evangelizing. But I think the whole passage is what spreading the good news is to people. It is not just going into a crowd and telling them they are all sinners and need to repent right in that moment, neither is it telling others what they need to do better in their lives, and neither is it getting large numbers to preach to. For me and what I believe the Great Commission is, it is getting to know people of every walk in life, sinners who don't know Christ and sinner who do know Christ, it is having open conversations with people about Christ and explaining that we as humans can never reach Heaven and God on our own, none of us are good enough because we sin, but Jesus Christ, God's Son was sent to be the ultimate sacrifice that wipes away all the sins every human being has committed and we need to understand and acknowledge that Christ did this and we need God in our lives to try and live like Jesus Christ did on this Earth. I think the Great Commission calls us to walk alongside one another in this journey of life, not just share the good news and walk away hoping that each person we meet keeps walking toward God. True, some people we may never meet after we talk about the good news, but if there is an opportunity to walk alongside them and show them just how beautiful God's love is, I think we need to make that a #1 priority in our life above all else, this being discipleship.
Okay, I will continue with my little history story.
So I went back to college and became more aware of people around me, who I was hanging out with, what my actions looked like to others, etc. I was still scared about this new insight I had and I allowed pride to make excuses as to why I was not asking others what their spiritual journey was. Fast forward to Winter Conference. For one of the day's activities we were going to do flash mobs all over Ft Worth and then go into the crowds and talk to people about Christ. Once again, I got a little (okay very) nervous and really had to pray and talk with my group about my feelings towards sharing the gospel to strangers. My group was headed to the Stock Yards (where I had been before, so luckily I knew the layout) and Mary (the one who always pushes me out of my comfort zone) paired us up into groups of two to go around and talk with people. Believe me, I would see a group coming toward me and I would make an excuse in my mind about why I should not start a conversation with them (they have kids, they look like they are in a hurry, I am too scared at the moment, etc.) Until finally I saw a man and his dog and I thought "Perfect, I can go up and pet the dog and just slide into conversation with the man" with Renee my partner right beside me, we struck up a conversation with the man for a good 30 minutes. No, I did not lead him to Christ, but that was the first time I really felt the Spirit was leading the conversation and I felt so pumped afterward! Throughout the week the speakers all brought up how evangelism should not be a "have to" mind set, but rather "I need and want to tell others about this because I cannot contain this joy within me!"
Once again, I went back to TU, and overtime I realized also that evangelism should not be a job or something I make myself do, if I am living in and with Christ, then spreading the good news is just telling others about what Christ is doing in my life, it is not a sit down and have a conversion discussion, it is on going, it is different with every relationship and moment. Garner really reminded me of that this Sunday and how society and humans (cause let's face it, we all mess up, even when it comes to telling people about Christ) have made evangelism really negative and hypocritical. I am so happy that God has changed my heart 180 from what I thought evangelism is to how excited (still a little nervous) and humbled I am to learn what God sees as spreading the good news.
I apologize if this is a little confusing or disoriented, I am still learning (and always will) what the Great Commission is and how I should overflow with the good news of Jesus Christ. I am not trying to say "This IS what God means" because what I have thought God is saying has changed over time because I have tried to take out what society and my selfish heart have tried to tell me the definition of evangelism is. I am just beyond grateful that God has stripped away most of my preconceived notions and shown me a little bit of his knowledge and truth of the Great Commission.