Back in May when Rockbridge was over I found myself very suddenly on the other side of something that had been a--well, I'm not even sure what to call it. I mean everything InterVarsity was for me. They took care of me and I cared for them and it's funny how this group of people and everything that it was is something I could never find one descriptor for. Just living, moving. What surprised me, though, what brought on the feeling of suddenness was that I realized that all the things I especially cared about for my friends were things I couldn't work at with them anymore. That's not fully true--but I am graduated and it looks different.
The last couple of nights, my roommate and I have been talking about evangelism and everything to do with that that she'll be leading for the next semester. Leaving that was probably the part of graduating that made me most hesitant--everything else I'll miss, but this I still want so much for. And after two years of leading this, even in the months since graduating I'm understanding things I didn't before.
Last night we talked about how it seems so often (in the context of our experiences with students on an extremely passive campus in a very nominally Christian part of the country) we're forcing this on people and how evangelism shouldn't be a checklist of things to get through and then be done with or something we have to do. And I thought about how when you love something, wherever your heart it, that's what comes out all the time. I have friends who love music, who you can't have a conversation with without them bringing it up. And I have other friends whose conversations always come back to a boy or a girl. I talk about Romania all the time. I don't mean to say that these things are being put in front of God or anything like that--how do I know?--only that wherever your heart is, whatever's in it, it pours out.
What if it were like this with God? I think ''evangelism'' would be so much more natural if it were--conversations about him would come up more naturally and it wouldn't be so much something we are obligated to do but something we just spill over with. What if evangelism weren't a heavy word with too many negative connotations, but instead was a synonym for God being the center of our lives, our very identity, and all that that implies? What if basing your whole life out of the knowing and loving of God were the definition of evangelizing? I think the way this looks is not limited by any means to the traditional sense of open air preaching or going door-to-door or handing out Bibles. You are passionate about the environment and it shows--so with whatever you care about. If you are passionate about the Lord then evangelism is in some ways is the natural by-product (barring things like being nervous or afraid or whatever challenge).
Why would I buy something from someone who didn't believe in the product? (The double meaning with the word believe is unfortunate here because a lot of the times the issues with motivation and evangelism aren't that we don't believe in God but that we don't know him or want to. Also, the metaphor about buying and selling and calling it a product is kind of unfortunate too... but bear with me.) And how could I ever expect someone to ''sell'' something their heart isn't in? Of course they're going to do the minimum requirement, of course they're going to want checklists and feel like it's an obligation. It's like in Walk the Line when Johnny is trying to sell whatever he's selling door to door--he just ends up going back to music and the recording studio. Well, of course. It's what he loves. He doesn't love washing machines, or whatever he's selling.
I'm thinking of Isaiah 43:10. "'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no other god was formed, nor will there be one after me.'" So that you may know and believe me (yet it doesn't say 'that the rest of the world will know me' or 'so all the people who aren't Christians will know me'). He chose us as his servants and witnesses--evangelism is this, yes? Saying this is who the Lord is, this is what he has done, and we have to want to know him, we have to be on that road that probably won't ever end toward knowing him. Not that we can muster it up ourselves, and this explains so much. If evangelism is the end, if stepping into "the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 2:20) is the end that we're trying to get to, we won't ever really because our heart won't ever be there. The end has to be the Lord, it has to be knowing the Lord and loving him and when he's where our heart's at, it's not an obligation anymore. It's in everything we do. And I wonder if, when we start running after God and longing to know him better, we'll find ourselves living evangelism instead of just doing it. I think we're meant to live it. This makes me think of part of a song by Mumford & Sons: "Where you invest your love, you invest your life."
This is all a jumble and it's by no means exhaustive and certainly this comes out of a very specific context with specific challenges (and things that have been helpful as well). I've been learning all this over two years and I don't expect to be done learning any time soon--I want to know what you think, how you understand evangelism. Tell me your thoughts, people.