The Way We Talk About Evangelism

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.

The guilt.

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.

6 thoughts on “The Way We Talk About Evangelism

  1. grace4everyday April 1, 2013 / 10:40 am

    Thanks, Matt, good post and I agree. I have actually heard people say that “it can be assumed” that the first century believers were all evangelizing or else Paul would have scolded them. Thanks for these thoughts.

  2. Julie Anne April 1, 2013 / 11:54 pm

    At my former church, people would be shamed if they didn’t go out evangelizing. And if you didn’t evangelize the “right” way sharing the “tough” gospel message, you were shamed. :::cringe:::: Thanks for sharing this, Matt.

  3. eternally alive April 2, 2013 / 9:17 am

    I copied this to hubby last night; he has made the same observation several times and I thought he was the only person in America with that perspective 🙂

    Anyway, this was his reply.

    “Very well stated. But he did leave out one important point. While it’s true that Paul never called his readers to evangelize (at least not clearly so; there are places that could be interpreted as vague references to evangelism), and absolutely never rebuked his readers for not evangelizing more (not even vague unclear references that could be interpreted that way), he DID call his readers to pray for those who do.”

    By the way I loved your book and bought five copies to give away.

    • mattbredmond April 2, 2013 / 9:19 am

      No question he did that. Will probably discuss in future post.

      And thanks for buying the book!

  4. 2samuel127 April 5, 2013 / 4:48 am

    Hi Matt,
    You are a breath of fresh air to me. Love your posts and loved your book on the God of the mundane. If you ever are a pastor again let me know. I think I would like attending a church you preach in.

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