Recently I read a book that has gotten me thinking; Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis. The book is a discussion about how Christian approaches to evangelism can cause more harm than good at times. One theme that kept repeating itself was how if Jesus is lifted up, then He will draw people to himself. The point is merely to reveal Jesus to people, to show them who he is and to speak about him, without arguing theology, defending Christianity or using christianese.
In my own life, the word evangelism has caused me lots of stress. My mouth goes dry, my palms get sweaty and my mind goes blank when I think I have to evangelize someone. Why is that? Why should speaking about Jesus, the one who provides life and peace cause so much stress?
Because all of the pressure is on me.
I need to defend my beliefs, to be able to reason and verbalize such complex ideas such as sanctification, redemption and justification. I need to prove that my God is greater than Allah, or Krishna, to explain why evolution is not scientifically sound and why a homosexual lifestyle is not God’s plan. I need to know what the original Quran says about violence, I need to understand the fine details of every world religion and be able to explain the mysteries of why God would order the Israelites to kill nations, or why God lets bad things happen to good people. Not to mention defending or justifying the horrors that other Christians, Constantine, the Crusaders and even Hitler did to people who did not believe what they did. But if I am not an extremely convincing orator, than the person I am supposed to evangelize will be lost forever to eternal suffering!
Hold up a minute!
Who saves people? Laura the master debater? Not at all! Jesus is the one who saves. How could I even try to compete with the king of kings, who even as a twelve-year-old boy was confounding the smartest scribes in Jerusalem? (Luke 2:47)
I don’t have to defend the theology and history of Christianity at all, I only have to show them who Jesus is!
One thing Carl brings up in his book is various interviews he’s had with people. Fifty people he interviewed said that they did not agree with Christianity, and they had problems with various Christians they had met. But fifty of those people also said that they would like to hear more about Jesus. How mind-blowing is that? The fact that the world has a problem with Christians, but is open to Jesus is extremely freeing for me. All I need to do is show them who Jesus is without letting my Christianity get in the way!
Don’t get me wrong, I think that theology, apologetics and knowing what you believe and what others believe is important and can all enrich your walk with Jeus. BUT those things were all created to give deeper understanding to who Jesus is and it can never be healthy the other way around. Spending time learning these things should never be a substitute for spending time with Jesus and learning who he is.
In the words of Paul, probably one of the most educated of Jesus’ followers in the early church and a very eloquent and intelligent orator "For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified." (1 Cor 2:2)