Thursday, July 18, 2013

Evangelism: my original prejudices and what I've come to realize

I read something on evangelism tonight that really struck me I had to write about out: 

"[w]hen we opt for rescuing souls over loving neighbors, compassionate acts can soon degenerate  into evangelism techniques; pressing human needs depreciate in importance, and the spirit becomes the only thing worth caring about... When we skip over the Great Commandment on the way to fulfilling the Great Commission, we do great harm to the authenticity of the faith."Robert Lupton 

Wow. Really, wow. I was rereading part of his book about rethinking ministry to the poor, and it hit me. Something has changed in me. 

I recall when I first heard the description of my current "job". Teaching English at a Bible College training evangelists. I'm not going to lie, now that I remember clearly the whole Bible College for Evangelists part of it made me apprehensive (ok, the teaching English in another language to adults worried me some to, but that's another story!). 

For those of you who know me, the thought of evangelizing used to really make me uncomfortable (if you didn't know that, consider this my confession). Thanks to this reading, I feel like I finally somewhat understand why. 

So, before coming to Tanzania, when I thought of evangelists or evangelicals, the pictures that so often flooded my mind were the people standing in public places yelling at you, condemning you, basically threatening you to believe in God. Or, those in public places not giving you a chance to choose for yourself if you would like to listen to them or not. . Forcing you to hear, their outlook on salvation. Or those who love to talk at you but leave no room for discussion ... Basically only negative things came to mind :/. 

But why?? I feel like I have a strong faith in God and I believe Jesus died, our Savior to forgive us our sins aaand moreover I think it is a good thing for more people to know about this amazing love and grace of God ... So then what is my problem exactly? 

To be honest I now have forgotten much of these reservations. It wasn't until I read this passage i remembered I had them in the first place. Truth be told, the school I work at, the people I work with, and the evangelists I have the honor to teach are such blessings to my life. So... what is the problem ...??

The problem is this, as Robert Lupton pointed out in his book, if we start focusing on evangelizing without remaining focused on God's love and how we are to share that first and foremost, we focus too much on saving souls rather than loving our neighbor.

 Lupton gave an example at a Bible college he visited in the states. When all the students were focused on evangelizing, rather than love. So a student raised the question whether or not telling someone about Jesus and saving them ultimately was not love.. (see above quote for Lupton's response!)

 So, what has changed? I guess I've grown to realize while I one-hundred percent agree with Lupton, my students devoting their lives to being evangelists have shown me how wrong my original  prejudices were. Just because you devote your life to evangelism, does not necessarily mean an autofocus on soul-saving and a disregard for human needs, compassion and well, love. My students become extremely involved in their communities, do many home visits (in which can take hours, and feels a lot more meaningful and personal than all of my prejudicial and pre-Tanzania experiences/feelings.) 

So... My problem... I let my prejudice and my own negative experiences with evangelists at home effect how I looked at evangelism as a whole. Luckily, I have been blessed to witness evangelism paired with love and compassion of the human, rather than just a soul. 



"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22: 37-39

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age." Matthew 28:19-20

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