April 10, 2013

evangelism is hard.

The title of this post about sums it up, boys and girls. But you didn't need me to tell you that. Anyone who grew up in a reformed protestant church setting surrounded by wind-weatherd Dutch farmers who lived out their faith through hard work and fierce family devotion as opposed to pentecostal hand-raising and soap-box preaching would know that the phrase sharing the Gospel causes some severe heart palpatations. To a lot of us, the concept is so foreign and scary that we pretty well write it off as someone else's job. Someone who has that spiritual gift. Because I certainly don't.

I don't have the spiritual gift of evangelism. I really don't. I'm not articulate and this is mostly because I can never remember how to verbally string together nouns and verbs in proper sentence formation (and this causes problems in more than just the theatre of evangelism). However Jesus didn't say to go therefore, articulate and conversationally gifted Christians, and make disciples of all nations, He just told all of us to go and be empowered by the Holy Spirit and roll with it. Well, not in those words. Jesus articulated it better than I just did. See Matthew 28:18-20.

Evangelism is hard because it puts you way out there. It makes you desperately vulnerable. It's like that guy who spent his whole senior year of high school smiling at that pretty brunette in the hallway when they passed between third and fourth period, and he finally gets up the nerve to ask her to prom, and he does it, he stammers out the question, and he feels like his clothes have all been turned inside-out and she's looking at him and realizes she's caught a glimpse of what's actually going on inside his soul, it's spread all over his inside-out shirt, and the next move is hers. And she can say whatever she wants, think whatever she wants, because he just handed her a chunk of his vulnerable soul and told her to do whatever she wanted with it.

That's why evangelism is hard. Except when evangelizing, you're not just asking someone to prom. You're working your way towards asking them to give up their whole way of life, their whole worldview, their ideals, their philosophy on ethics and morals -- and trade them in for something that on the outset seems completely off the rails and terribly offensive. 

Then they look at you and realize that you yourself have given up all of those things for this Jesus guy and realize that you just handed them a chunk of your vulnerable soul and are letting them do whatever they want to do with it. And then they might think you're crazy. They might even call you that, too. 

And even if you get past that first hurdle and they want to hear more about why you believe what you believe, there are endless ways in which you can screw things up. You can say the wrong thing, use too much Christian lingo, make the Gospel too simple and soft and suddenly they're believing some Christian-lite version of the faith and you've really set them down the wrong road and something deep down inside you says, "Great job, you're such a valuable asset to Kingdom Work, you should probably just stick to singing in the church choir so that you don't mess anyone else up."

A few weeks ago I made a weak and bumbling attempt at explaining my faith to a friend. I was pretty sure I had botched the job completely and confused the poor girl to pieces and lamented this to Wayne and he said, "Suzanne, you've got to be a little bit more of a Calvinist."

All snide "you know you're a seminary couple when..." comments aside, Wayne was right. I was putting far too much weight on the effect that my words and abilities were having and forgetting that the real life-flipping heart-changing work is done by the Holy Spirit, and as evangelists we are merely tools to be used by Him. It's a humbling thing... especially when you are not very articulate. 

Evangelism is hard. It's not something that I'm very good at. It's not something I'm comfortable with. I would much rather talk about the weather or my latest project or the impending royal birth over in jolly old England. And I guess I could just not bring up the Gospel at all. I could avoid it very easily -- I'm well-practiced at that. But over the years I've found that when opportunities present themselves -- and when I shut my eyes to those opportunities -- the sticky film of Something That Has Been Lost clings to me for hours, days, years. And then I think of Jeremiah, and of his determination to never ever speak God's name again, to never prophecy, to pin his tongue in place and cease the preaching of his message for good because it costs too much and no one's listening anyway. But there's that fire in his bones, and he tries to shut it in but he can't because keeping it in makes him weary.

I'm not sure that I have fire in my bones, but when I'm presented with a Gospel opportunity there's definitely a spark that flits through my ribcage, a Holy Wave of You Know What Comes Next that crests and breaks over my heart and soul and stomach, yes, stomach too. And I don't know if I want to say anything because if I say something I'm handing someone a chunk of my vulnerable soul and that exhausts me, but if I always stay silent I'll grow weary with the struggle of keeping the Gospel to myself. So I open my mouth and I might not screw up but I probably will and that's okay because God's in charge of this, not me. 

But more on that later. 


  1. If it helps, try leading with "I know what I'm about to say sounds crazy, because it is." All you can do is share what you know; whether they're receptive to it has surprisingly little to do with how articulate you are.

  2. Love it Suz! So true how it "crests and breaks over my hear and soul and stomach." Exactly right. And that sticky film of a "lost something" is oh, so sticky.