Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Secular Strategies of Evangelism (2 Corinthians 10:3)

When Paul speaks of walking and warring in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 10, he is using “flesh” in two different ways. His accusers have labeled him as “fleshly” meaning worldly, or not spiritual. He counters by saying that, though he is human, and therefore limited and imperfect, he does not conduct himself in worldly manner. He is a jar of clay, but his efforts and his ministry are divinely empowered. He is carrying a treasure with supernatural power. He does not do things the way the world does.

When a believer shares their story, they should be careful to keep this in mind. They should keep in mind that the message they are bringing to the world—the Gospel—is a powerful message that can change people in miraculous ways. They do not need to do things the way the world does with clever marketing and branding. They do not need to bait-and-switch people into finding God. The Gospel needs no sugar coating.

Truth be told, though, the history of missions is a long history of adding things to the Gospel in order to reach people for the Kingdom of God. And, that is not always a bad thing. In many ways, missions is a little like time travel. When we go to another culture that is not as advanced as ours, it is like we are coming to them from the future. We offer all sorts of technological and medical advances and say that they are gifts from God because of His love for them. Then we share the story of Jesus. That is a little bit of sugar coating for sure, but we justify it because people accept the love of God. The question has to be asked, however:

Are they recognizing their sin and need for forgiveness, or just accepting “supernatural” advances that aid their lives?

In Europe, we are also engaging in a sort of time travel doing missions. But ours is a case of traveling to the future. Everyone says, and they are right in saying, that Europe is about 20 or 30 years ahead of the USA culturally. We do not have anything to offer in the way of technology or medical aid. Our financial resources are largely inconsequential in the European Union. All we have to offer is the Gospel. The question we have to ask ourselves there is:

Is the Gospel enough?

The other human approach to ministry and missions that has been adopted over the past 30 to 40 years has been a sales-pitch approach to Evangelism. In fact, Evangelism has effectively replaced Discipleship. Jesus commanded His followers to go and make disciples, but we have reduced that whole process to a five minute sales pitch. All people are taught to do these days is deliver a canned sales pitch for Jesus.

True Discipleship as Jesus did it is about so much more. It is meeting people where they are and getting to know them for who they are. It is about sharing Jesus’ story and our story with Jesus in a way that people can understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus and makes them want to be one as well. It is about teaching and training them to walk the walk of a follower and to in turn disciple others as well.

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