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25 July 2011

Why Evangelicals Should Stop Evangelizing

"...now that I'm no longer obsessed with converting people to Christianity, I've found that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling."
 
You should be able to pick that sentence to pieces if you're worth your evangelical salt.
 
Carl Medearis' post at CNN.com's Belief Blog, "My Take: Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing", is likely to spark some sort of emotion in you unless you're completely apathetic toward God, Jesus Christ, and/or religion. Medearis and his wife are former missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon, and the apparent change in his way of thinking from 20 years ago to now is stark.
 
Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, you'll likely concur that Medearis makes a few stinging, on-target points in the piece. I think you'll find it to be an interesting read. His closing comment is worth some consideration: "...since evangelicals like to say that it's not about religion, but rather a personal relationship with Jesus, perhaps we should practice what we preach." In theory, we do believe that God will bring about transformation in the life of a person who follows Him (Romans 12:2), but in practice we tend to feel it incumbent upon ourselves to go about affecting change in a person's life.
 
I was certain there'd be reactions like what I read in the comments. "William," apparently a Christian, begins his comment with this gracious phrase: "Carl is an Idiot. He should shut up and go back to his cave." William then piously proceeds to expound upon Scripture. Another self-proclaimed Christian commenter, "Andre," opines within his comment about Hezbollah in Lebanon, "Turn the other cheek my [expletive deleted]". Hezbollah has an absolutely murderous, bloody history. They have set themselves against God's chosen people, the Jews. Still, given all that, I'm not thinking Andre's response is on the right track.
 
I think these kinds of people and sentiments are among the reasons Medearis and a growing number of believers have stopped identifying themselves as "Christians" and prefer to be identified with Jesus instead of a religion.
 
To clarify my opinion, doctrine is important, as the author notes. And all things are not truth; there is right and there is wrong -- all roads do not lead to the same God. Jesus the Son was God in the Flesh. And the idea that Jesus was just a good teacher simply doesn't work. This brings me to one of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes of all time, from Mere Christianity:
 
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
 
We must lead people to Jesus, not convert them to Christianity.
 
Personal thoughts or observations? Keep them gracious.

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