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Evangelism is Not So Much an Intellectual Process

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I can’t honestly say that I love arguing, but I am fairly good at arguing (being a lawyer suits me in that regard).  Actually, it’s ugliness in arguing that I don’t like.  I do love an open and honest exchange of differing viewpoints. I think that’s what I like about the blogosphere.  It is a “pure” form of discussion, without any of the biases or prejudices that come with too much knowledge about a person’s background.  We don’t draw quite as many premature conclusions about each other in this “blogging” realm.  So, arguing (nicely) works pretty well here.

Evangelism with words

But I have come to believe something about the intellectual process and arguing as it applies to evangelism: it doesn’t work.  In my 40+ years as a follower of Christ, I have yet to see a single person listen to a compelling “argument” about why it is right to be a follower of Christ and suddenly succumb to the logic and fall on their knees in prayer.  I just don’t see apologetics as the key to evangelism.  I honestly do not believe the “lost” world is looking for persuasive reasoning, and I definitely don’t believe young “post-modern” thinkers are looking to engage in an intellectual discussion about faith.  I think the paradigm of a one-on-one intellectual exchange about God and faith is the wrong paradigm for evangelism in our culture.  I think it is a mistaken notion that if we just learn to say it smartly enough or persuasively enough (or loud enough) we will win and people will have no choice but to agree with us and come around to our way of thinking.  I think people today (maybe always?) are looking for something a little more tangible than words.

I think they are looking for changed lives.

If the church today is really interested in the concept of “going” and of “making disciples” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28, it is going to have to demonstrate changed lives through genuine community in order to get the attention of a skeptical (yet watching) world.  Let’s face it, most people in America have heard some form of the gospel…maybe not a very good form of it, but from their perspective, they have already heard it.  They are not asking to hear it again from you or from me, despite our pleas for them to hear it one more time, but this time the right way.  Words have been so cheapened in our society that I just do not think they are the most effective way of communicating the gospel message anymore.

But if you live in Christian community where people love each other unconditionally, lean into one another’s lives because of that love, hold one another accountable to a genuine relationship with Christ and with Christ’s people, minister to one another’s needs and pray as if prayer really can change the world, then I believe that communicates infinitely more than words.  I believe even the most hard-hearted people will pay attention to that.

I do want my children to know how to explain their faith with words.  I want them to know how to tell their part of the story of God.  But much, much more than that, I want them to know how to live and to grow in Christian community with other Christ-followers and how to make new friends whom they can invite into that community.  That is what I really want them to know.  Because that is what is going to salvage the mess we have often made of church in America.

You can disagree with me on this if you like.  But you would be wrong and would eventually give in to the logic of seeing it my way…

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