“The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds,” – Matthew 11:19
A few days ago, my brother had sent me a text asking how to, in the kindest way possible, tell the door-to-door evangelists that they’re wasting their time. I told him to invite them in to smoke pot or whatever else would make them extremely uncomfortable and walk away (you see, it’s funny because my brother doesn’t smoke pot).
I never heard back as to what happened next, but ever since then I’ve been wondering about evangelism and the typical ways we go about it. Door-to-door, handing out pamphlets or business cards on campus, or simply walking around town telling people to go to a specific church are all common ways we encounter (and maybe even carry out) evangelism. But is this the way Jesus wanted?
Many of my friends attend a church in town that did this sort of evangelizing; they walked around neighborhoods, campuses, or various parts of town handing out business cards. They’re now one of the largest churches in town with at least two different campuses and several services every Sunday. If the goal of the church is to multiply the number of believers, they most certainly succeeded. But what if the goal was relational development? What if Jesus cared more about His church growing emotionally and spiritually together as they grow with Him? Leaving such a thing to a business card, then, might not be what He wants.
Of course, I don’t see things from God’s perspective. And I certainly believe that many people have come to know the Lord because somebody handed them a piece of paper or told them about a specific church in town. But, as in the experience of my brother, I wonder if we’ve begun to trust more in the system of church rather than the personal, relational power of Christ? What I mean is how well do we know our neighbors? How well do we learn about the people we hand our business cards to? How deep does our love go for them?
I know. These are questions you can’t really answer with demographics and polls. But I find asking them to be important not because church-goers are wrong to invite non-believers to their church, but because trusting so much into a system could severely disable opportunities for relational growth with other people. I won’t learn much about them nor will they about me. We’ll all become plagued by comfort and security, trusting only in ourselves and the few closest to us (if our trust even extends that far).
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” – Romans 12:15
Paul gives a difficult exhortation here. In my experience, when other people are happy and overjoyed by something, I might nod and say something like, “Good for you,” but I won’t share in their joy. Why? It’s because I haven’t trained myself to feel what someone else feels. Instead, I let their happiness be their own while I continue on with whatever is going on in my life. I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but there is a lot of room for improvement – improvement that would never happen if I hid behind my business cards.
How, then, are we to share the good news of Jesus without going door-to-door or handing out our church information in public? How are people supposed to know that we belong to God – that we worship Jesus?
Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard because He spent a lot of time in peoples’ houses sharing meals with them. How many parables did He share that talked about feasts and banquets and parties (ex. Luke 14:12)? What was His first miracle (John 2:1-11)? Jesus went door to door not to hand someone a business card or tract outlining His spiritual laws, but to have dinner with them, play games with their kids, and talk about unconditional love. He evangelized this way because that’s what His kingdom about: Kids playing, people eating and drinking, and unconditional love being shared.
As for how people might know that we follow Jesus; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” – John 13:34-35. The end of Acts 4:13 says, “And [the elders, scribes, and priests] recognized that [Peter and John] had been with Jesus.” Based off of how you act and how you treat people, can people recognize that you belong to Jesus? When I think about this for myself, I’m not sure people can tell by how I treat them.
Remember Matthew 25 and how Jesus says that if we do all those kind things to people that we’re really doing them to Him. Do we want to have Jesus over for dinner or simply hand Him a business card and hope He’s there come Sunday morning?
Jesus was slandered for His method of evangelism. And “yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” May we learn to interact with people with no strings attached – not expecting them to come to church with us (unless they really want to).