Against Evangelism: Evangelism and the Evangelical

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I’m tossing around an idea: the idea of being against evangelism. Evangelism is a project, an enterprise, disconnected from the Church. Evangelism is segregation: us vs. the world. Evangelism puts Jesus in words but isn’t a lifestyle. Evangelism is something we talk about but not something we do. Evangelism is inherently parachurch.

Yes, the church is inherently and forever evangelical. Reformed or not, the Church had better be evangelical. Christ told His disciples to go into all the world to speak the good news, the evangelion. And then He told His Church that they are His witnesses. He went further to tell the Church that we would be His witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth.

We tend to limit witness to evangelism, but to be evangelical is to let our witness be a fire. As a fire, our witness will consume our heart, soul, mind and strength. Witness is anti-evangelism (as a program), because witness is evangelical: the gospel, as Paul says, does not come in talk, but in power. The gospel must give us freedom in everything we do.

Some like to emphasize that we are in the world, but not of the world. But so many have a gnostic take on this: we drive a wedge between enjoyment of God and enjoyment of this world. We take a verse and beat that drum until we forget the whole counsel of God. To be evangelical is not simply to be counter-cultural, but to take every thought captive for the glory of God. We are not of the world because the gospel is a fire: the world must become of God. For God so loved the world…

Evangelism is reductionistic, because it focuses on a cerebral knowledge over the integrity of our relationships. But these things are one: if we are living for God, people will be bound to ask for the hope that is in us. If we are living for God, then we will also be quick to share that hope. If our life speaks the gospel and people challenge this lifestyle, our response should be: how can I ever leave my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

To be evangelical means to sanctify, to make holy, the Lord Jesus in our hearts and always be prepared to give an answer. And that requires a lot of work: that requires a focus on the cross, and the way of the cross. Evangelism focuses on the talk, but to be evangelical requires discipline and discipleship in every area of life. Evangelism is relegated to the Bible Study, but evangelical Christianity spills out into art, architecture, landscaping, film-making, farming, scholarship. Evangelical Christianity does not plaster Bible verses over everything, but it does use the Bible as a blueprint for everything else.

Evangelism is glorious, because I look like I am starting a new Reformation, changing the world. But to be evangelical means to be faithful in the little things: respecting parents, loving siblings, and doing the crappy work with a joyful heart on the job site. To be involved in evangelism looks great, but to be evangelical is to get our hands bloody and dirty, shouldering our cross with a joyful heart and a glint in the eye.

The evangelical will transform the Christian aesthetic, because the gospel begins to transform us in the little things. The Christian life is often cruciform, it takes on the shape of the cross, because it seeks to build up others. God’s beauty transforms reality by taking on reality. Jesus’ story begins in a feed trough in Bethlehem. Evangelism claims the mind, but the evangelical claims everything.

– This is something else I wrote in 2014, in my senior year at New Saint Andrews College. I made a sad attempt to imitate the writing style of my theology professor, Dr. Peter Leithart, in his book Against Christianity. This book was quite transformative for me in the way that I think about the connection between intellect and life in Christianity, and challenged me not to segregate my faith to only a corner of my life. It is a must read.

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