ESP — Evangelism for Shy People

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I was talking to someone about my recent evangelistic enterprise and that person suggested I write here what I said in regards to my meaning.

Christians, as most folks know, are not always the best at laughing at themselves or even understanding parody. As Mark Twain is my hero in writing, it is not surprising I slip sometimes into a less than reverent perspective.

All parody has, or should have, a point. Mine is clear, at least to me. Contemporary churches now tend to function apart from Paul’s admonitions in regards to the body. Having a presentable personality does not mean one has gifts in specific areas, nor does having a lack of dynamic social graces imply that a person has no, or little, part in the kingdom.

The difficulty is that we have become so obsessed with Evangelism, we have lost sight of the Good News, which is revealed in manifold ways through diverse people. So, in order to become involved a person feels a need to become someone else, to act against their natural tendencies, to try and diminish real interests for the sake of some higher mission.

The reality is that the Holy Spirit has designed and filled us, so that who we are is sanctified. We are not to try to become someone different, we are instead urged to truly become ourselves. For some this means going out and preaching. For others this means serving the poor. Everyone is unique, and has a unique blend of gifts and talents and personality which makes us all essential colors on the divine palette. Together, as a body, we preach the Good News in ways which are not always obvious, but through the Spirit are effective.

Sadly, we do not trust the Holy Spirit, and see Christ as a powerless figure dependent on us to do the work. We emphasize our own efforts, and go overboard in trying to let others see how much we are doing. The goal is not God, but ourselves in this, with Pride a very similar taste to Faith. Each generation and community has a gift or set of gifts which then make the body unwieldy or misshapen.

For the Corinthian Church this over emphasized gift was tongues. Our generation has taken Evangelism and made it the sign of holiness. The fact is that a person can evangelize, even effectively, and not even be a real Christian. As we read in Matthew 7:

“Not everyone who says to me, ” Lord , Lord ,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, “ Lord , Lord , did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ”I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Our goal is not to do what seems impressive to each other, or try and become heroes to a world which measures success through numbers. Our goal is obedience, to follow the movement of the Spirit with passion and discernment.

Of course evangelism is wonderful and needed, but only if empowered, directed, and focused by the Holy Spirit. And not all, in fact not very much, of what we pass off as evangelistic in our world fits into that category. When it does there is power, and there is change, all the fruit of the Spirit ripens.

Sometimes following the Spirit means jumping at a chance, and sometimes it means backing off until the time for fulfillment has come. Above all following the Spirit means learning to embrace what the Spirit is doing in us, and doing in others, rather than trying to make everyone fit, however imperfectly, into some ineffective mold.

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