I need to start this post with the usual qualification…
I think evangelism and missions are good and necessary parts of the Christian life. And this post is a not criticism of those things in and of themselves. So please do respond as if I have attacked them.
But I do still wonder why we talk about evangelism and missions the way we do.
Maybe it’s the pastoral heart that still beats beneath. But I worry about how we talk when we talk about them. The language we use. The tone. The commands.
There is no instance in the New Testament of reprimand for not being involved in evangelism. There is no shaming people for not going on the mission field. Or considering it. Not from Jesus. Not from Paul. Nor from any of the other Apostles and writers in the New Testament.
Am I saying this should free us from the desire to see others enter the Kingdom? Of course not. And should we tell others of the glories of our King? Of course.
But it has to be significant that while we find it very easy and natural to talk about everyone’s responsibility to evangelize and to shame those who do not, nothing similar ever happens in holy writ.
Usually it is those with the gift of evangelism who are the most eager to evangelize and then they see those who do not have the same passion for it, in a negative light. So you would expect Paul, the great evangelist…a blood-earnest evangelist to shame someone or point out the guilt of those who have not been evangelizing.
Unless you think everyone he talked with was already doing evangelism as they ought to and there was no need for a reprimand or command or hint of guilt.
Again a pastoral heart beats. Many people are used to hearing the guilt-inducing lecture of the need for more evangelism, they just assume they are guilty and then wallow away in it. And it’s a guilt that goes much further than the Scriptures.
The Scriptures give us a lot to feel guilty about. I cannot see that this is one of them. If I can be proved wrong, I’m willing to listen. Regardless, we in modern-day evangelicalism make people feel guilty more than the NT does.
And though I am not a pastor anymore, my pastoral heart beats with a fear of men and women laboring under a yoke that is not easy and burden far too heavy.