Provocative Evangelism

<%image(20050308-question mark.jpg|120|85|question)%> In following up on yesterday’s post, I have given a lot of thought to the concept of evangelism as our response to the questions of others. Perhaps living provocatively, radically embodying the Gospel, is a sorely needed aspect of sharing the Gospel that we have been missing. Instead of “righteous” Christians challenging “sinners” to get right with God, the provoked (seeker) should be asking the provokers (Christians) for the reasons behind their actions (does that sound curiosly like 1 Peter 3:15?

My friend Eugene added some good perspective to this. In a context of suffering, Peter is proposing some unthinkable responses. Check out the net Bible translation (the random numbers are footnotes for translation):

3:8 Finally, all of you be harmonious,13 sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. 3:9 Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless14 others15 because you were called to inherit a blessing. 3:10 For
the one who wants to love life and see good days must keep16 his tongue from evil and his lips from uttering deceit.
3:11 And he must turn away from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are17 upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the Lord’s face is against those who do evil.18
3:13 For19 who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? 3:14 But in fact, if you happen to suffer20 for doing what is right,21 you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them22 or be shaken.23 3:15 But set Christ24 apart25 as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.

It is in the context of living in the power of Christ and letting his Spirit take over our default responses that people will begin to ask us about what’s different in our life. Why would we want to bless those who insult us anyway???

This also bears a curious resemblance to the teaching of Jesus that we are to be light. Light does not have to go around setting homes ablaze in order to accomplish its purpose. If the light is doing it’s job and it’s going out to the darkness where it is needed, then it will surely bring change to the darkness.

If we are intentionally placing ourselves in situations where we can be light and we can swallow our pride enough to let God have his way when things aren’t up to snuff, I have a feeling that people will notice. When we bring food to the needy, help out with community events, or even provide a place for a community to hang out with no strings attached (that’s right, no cheesy Christian songs that we hope will covertly evangelize and no awkward moments of prayer), perhaps then people will begin to ask us what we’re all about. They see the life, now we can share it.

Instead of Christians feeling like we need to push the conversation toward a certain point, let’s make it a point to love people, always listening to the Spirt and hoping and praying for a chance to share Christ. I hope that no one reads this thinking that I advocate the end of sharing the Gospel message. Quite the opposite. I think we place so much pressure on starting a conversation about the Gospel that it rarely happens and if it does happen, it is not done in a winsome and loving manner on many occasions. We tend to drop the spiritual hand grenade into a conversation and hope that after the initial shock wears off we can at least drag the casualty to church with us.

I believe that evangelism should be aggressive and intentional, but not always in the form of phrasing questions for people. Of course we will have chances to steer a conversation with Christ, but that should not be our ONLY method for sharing Christ. If our lives do not draw questions from people about the life that they see in us, then perhaps we need to examine our hearts and see if Christ needs to do some house cleaning within us. Let’s step back a little and let Christ do some provoking.