“Christians and non-Christians have something in common. We’re all uptight about evangelism. Our fear as Christians seems to be How many people have I offended this week? We think that we must be a little obnoxious in order to be good evangelists. A tension builds inside: Should I be sensitive to people and forget about evangelism, or should I blast them with the gospel and forget about their dignity as human beings? Many Christians choose between to be aware of the person but then feel defensive and guiltyt for not evangelising” (p. 11)
I think Rebecca Pippert does a pretty good job unearthing the voice of many Christians I know. I too struggle at times with this tension (even though I’m a pastor) On one hand, I can’t and won’t forget about evangelism. And yet, i want to be sensitive to where my non-Christian friends’ are in their life journey. I recognize impatience does not help genuine evangelism but I also feel that inactivity and apathy is not an option.
I’ve always loved the title of the book Out of the Salt Shaker: And into the World. It kind of captures the essence of Evangelism as a way of life in a ordinary daily life metaphor. I managed to work through the book (the revised IVP UK edition – which i think has great improvements, especially the addition on “the witness of community” & reworking her thoughts using “the three ways to witness” as a framework!) for the first time in preparation for three sessions in the SUFES D’Nous Academy (new youth camp) based on the book.
Her stories, humility and honesty really encourages even the most timid. And I think she’s done a wonderful job bringing together sound theological reflection and practical application (i.e. the “how tos” which is helpful to get us started and be clear of the stages/process involved as long as we don’t “fossilize” methodology). Her comments on “How do we work in sync with the Spirit of God in bringing a person to Christ?” is noteworthy:
” … conversion is a profound mystery … conversion is beyond our control. Again, it’s a mystery and ‘mystery,’ writes Flannery O’Connor, ‘ is a great embaressment to the modern mind. Ernest Becker concurs: ‘Moderns try to replace vital awe and wonder with a “How to do it manual.” …The mystery and the paradox of conversion is also seen in the fact that God doess all, yet he chooses to save us in and through human decision and obedience.” (p. 184)
In my quest & pursuit for a model of evangelism that is “natural” (I can be myself so can they!)-“relational”(more human!)-“conversational” (which is more fun & enriching) -“long-term”(cures the impatient bug)-“communal” (glad I’m not alone in all this) & “spiritual” (i.e. genuinely trusting in the work of the Spirit) I find her contribution a blessing to me to move forward! And move forward we must!