Approaching The Big “E” Word: Evangelism
By Student Servant Leader, Corey Bergman
Corey here for another semester of LCM blogging. I am typing this up on an airplane returning from San Francisco where I was visiting PLTS, a seminary I might attend next year. As part of my visit I got to sit in on a class called “Evangelism”.
Before I get into what I actually want to talk about I will go on a (hopefully) brief tangent about what the term Evangelism means in a more basic sense, and what it has come to mean, or at least be associated with, in the modern discourse. Evangelism, like a lot of big church words, has its roots in the ancient Greek language it comes from the word “ϵυ” meaning good, and a form of the verb “αγγέλλω” meaning to bear a message so Evangelism means “to bear a good message”. In the world of today though Evangelism, and the people it is most generally associated with has come to mean something very different than just sharing the good news. I’m sure you’ve all seen the people on campus with the big signs telling you that you’re going to hell, or pacing and reading verses out of the bible. These people are generally known as “Evangelicals” and their way of bearing a good message has become commonly associated with the use of the word “Evangelism”.
Alright back to the class. It was the first day so instead of discussing a reading, the conversation revolved around our own personal experiences with Evangelism. In the group I was put in we had two positive and two negative examples. We started talking about the similarities, and differences between the examples. One thing we noticed is how the person who was doing the Evangelizing treated the person they were trying to evangelize. In the negative cases, we noticed that the person who was trying to do the evangelizing was treating the other person like a blank slate. By a blank slate we meant they weren’t appreciating the ideas and beliefs the person already brought into the situation. They would just try and write the way they expressed their faith onto the other person as if there wasn’t something there already. In one example the person being evangelized tried to enter into a discussion about the differences in their faith but the evangelizer backed away after realizing they couldn’t make them into what they wanted. The other way of approaching the situation was treating them as an actual person and trying to meet them where they are when bringing the “good news” of Jesus. I found this profoundly important for anyone who feels like they need to convert people into God’s Kin(g)dom. If that is your goal, remember that the person you are talking to is a person, and the Savior you are trying to emulate is the best example of meeting people where they are at, whether they are adulterers or tax-collectors he always went to them as they were and didn’t just try and change them into who he wanted them to be.