In the previous weeks wrote about faith and what it is and what obstacles we might have in sharing our faith. This week I want to continue down the path and move towards what it means to share one’s faith. For the author’s of Faith-sharing this leads into a conversation about what faith sharing is. Faith sharing is evangelism. And evangelism isn’t necessarily what what we think it is.
I well understand that most of us have some negative ideas about evangelism especially those of us from the Wesleyan tradition. Also most of us know from our own experiences of faith sharing that there are a number of ways to evangelize others. I like very much the conclusion that the authors come to: “No one way is the way, but each way, by God’s grace, can become a way.” [p.50] The key thought here is God’s grace brings one to Christ. That is to say, however way we tell others about Jesus, it is God’s grace that brings them into a new relationship with the Messiah.
So what is evangelism? How best can we understand what we should be doing to share our faith with others. The authors explain the first century understanding of evangelism which comes from the Greek word euangelion is nothing like how we use the term today. Euangelion is a compound word meaning “good message” which is commonly translated as good news or the gospel. The word was a common word along with the verb form in the first century meaning the carrying of the good news or announcement of a coming event or the coming age. The followers of Jesus developed the word to tell about the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, who came into the world the fulfill the Hebrew scriptures and inaugurate the coming of the reign of God through his suffering, death and resurrection. This is to say simply that evangelism is nothing more than telling another that Jesus is the good news. And that is where our responsibility ends. We have planted the seed like the sower in the parable told by Jesus we heard two weeks ago (Mark 4:26-29). It is God who takes it from there. It is God that opens the eyes and ears, the heart and mind. It is God that convicts the soul. Conversion comes when hearing the good news the hearer is moved by the Holy Spirit to trust in the Lordship of Jesus to renounce their former life of away from God and to accept the responsibilities of God’s love in their life.
The authors also rightly point out that the communication of the gospel is more than a verbal expression. It must also be a visible expression that is fully lived out in public and private life. As the authors say it “One illumines the other.” For those of us who hold to being Wesleyan, one is impossible without the other. It is in the name of Jesus that we served the afflicted, the down-trodden, the desperate, the lost. It is always in the name of Jesus and no other.
Another interesting point made by the authors, evangelism is also about signs and wonders. In scripture signs and wonders validated the message and the messenger. Why is it any different today? I have seen and heard too many stories of unexplained events preceding or following conversion experiences, placing the stamp of the Spirit on the conversion experience. Is it our overloaded senses and jaded minds that prevent us from seeing the signs and wonders for what they are?
These theological considerations are offered as guidelines for our moving forward as faith sharers: Faith sharing is about pointing to a person, the person of Jesus, not to convince them of our point of view. Faith sharing is about introducing a Person and His reign. Jesus does not call people to a religion, Jesus calls them to his person and to his reign. People give themselves to God because God sends them Jesus not because he sends them a tract or doctrine. Faith sharing is about relationships: ours with Jesus, ours with others, ours and others together with Jesus.
[Based on Faith-Shariing by H. Eddie Fox & George E. Morris, Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1997]