February 11, 2008

I’m Guessing That Peter, Paul, And Mary….

Didn't tell people about Jesus because they felt compelled to obey a commandment. I could be wrong, and one day I'll find out. But I have a hunch it wasn't the case.

So imagine my surprise when reading an article recently on evangelism that implored the necessity for all people to evangelize "Our culture that has descended into the deep pit of shameful immorality" and the article used the name of Jesus ZERO times. ZERO. None. Zilch. Nada. Niet. Goose Egg. Doughnut. Empty. To be fair, the word Lord was used ONCE. The word Christ was used ONCE. So it had that going for it.

So we're supposed to tell people about WHO? And we're supposed to do it WHY?

It doesn't take long to find multiple articles, essays, and speculations as to why conversions, baptisms, etc are DOWN in almost every major denomination in the United States. And not just DOWN, but PLUMMETING would be the more proper word to historic lows (or at least lows we haven't seen in almost fifty years).

And as sure as you can find those articles, the answer to fixing the problem almost always goes something like this:

"Now dadgonnit, get out there, fire up the folks sittin in your pews, tell em to start praying fer their neighbor and witnessin to em. But before you do that, tell em they got to start bein righteous and settin a good example for all them shamefully immoral people out there. We all know people ain't gonna come to Jesus if they think we're just a bunch of sinners too. So boys, strap it up, leave here on a mission, and for God's sake start winnin them souls to Jesus."

The one thing that kind of advice is devoid of is the true source of everything we do in the Christian life. Jesus himself.

And I wonder when we're gonna finally own up to the fact that maybe the reason evangelism is non-existent is because the majority of the people in our pews are lost and don't the first clue about who Jesus is. Just a thought.

Because when I think about Peter, Paul, and Mary (not the band mind you), I see people who were brought face to face with exactly who they were, and exactly who Jesus was. I see a people who were not "nominally" associated with a good teacher, but rather radically transformed by God become man. I see people who, by the grace of God, were made transformationally aware of the vast gulf that lie between them and their Creator.

And in that realization came the necessary leap from "have to" to "can't help but to do it". Most people in church are doing things because they feel they "have to". I think, personally, this is a very strong sign of a seriously defective faith in Jesus. Whereas we see in the earliest examples that they couldn't help but to do what they did.

The answer to our defective lives is not "try harder", "do more", "learn more", "organize it better" or "come up with cool acrostics for it". The answer to our defective lives is Jesus. A deepening, growing, thankful, humble, repentant life with Jesus.

Evangelism is not an act. It is a person. It is news that cannot help but be communicated. It is an announcement that cannot be muted. It is a transformation that cannot be dismissed.

And its power lies in the evidence, ethos, and expression of the one who proclaims it.

Instead of "trying harder" or setting numeric goals that are completely man made - maybe it's time for us to take stock of what we call a "Christian" these days and readjust the definition to a more Biblical, Jesus centered, cross-saturated, resurrection rejoicing, and eternity focused one. Maybe it's time for the Gospel to reclaim its rightful place in our lives, our homes, our pews, our preaching, our associations, our denominations, our states, our countries, and our world.

It may be time to really examine why Peter, Paul, and Mary did what they did. And I don't think it had anything to do with "because they were commanded to".

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