A few days ago, Christmas Eve service here had been a slightly sweaty affair. Also, I’d mistakenly gone up to the altar for the bread and wine, and wandered back and forth in full view of everyone before being directed to kneel for the bread (but why? I did not ask).
Rico took us through 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)
Q: What is evangelism about?
It is not about recruiting the soft-minded into the latest (or oldest cult). It is about stating the truth, proclaiming the gospel, the good news of the glory of Christ. It is fab glad tidings that Jesus Christ is Lord!
Why is this such good news that Jesus is Lord – the master of this world?
- Because it means that this world will not end in chaos or with someone’s itchy finger on a red button that launches a nuclear missile – it will end exactly when God wants it to end and when Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead.
- It means that all the injustice in this world that we are all angry about will be dealt with one day by Jesus the judge.
- It means that what Jesus said he had come to earth to accomplish more than 2000 years ago – to die for our sins so that by believing in him we might be saved – has indeed been accomplished, and so we can be confident in putting our trust in him and be assured of our salvation from a harsh judgement on the last day.
Q: Who is at work in evangelism?
We are, since we have this ministry, to make open statements of the truth, to proclaim the gospel.
But more importantly, God is at work in everything and everyone including us: in his mercy (he did not need to, but did, out of compassion for humankind) he has given us this ministry. The gospel is God’s word, not ours. And it is he who opens blind eyes – it is not the sheer willpower (or stupidity some might say) of Christians or the charisma of the ministers that changes hearts. In fact, the verses above suggest that the conversion of a unbeliever is such an immense undertaking, it is like the recreation of the universe.
Q: So then, in what manner should we preach Christ?
We don’t lose heart. “How did the event go?” we are usually asked and usually ask. And by that we mean what are the success rates like? But we are not into numbers. We cannot be into numbers because all we can do is to preach Christ; it is God who opens blind eyes.
And because we are not some horrid multi-level-marketing scheme, we do not use secret and shameful ways of getting followers for Christ. We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.
It is usual for people to leave out the rather important bit about God’s wrath or Jesus’ coming judgement so that people will be more willing to accept our message. But by doing so we present falsehood and demonstrate that it is not Christ we are preaching but ourselves (and the worldly success of our ministries, or our popularity).
I am always sorry when people lump all sorts of “extremism” together. While I can’t speak for Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism, it seems from this passage that Christian “extremism” is what one might expect of a outstanding upstanding member of society and of the human race: honest, truth-telling, humble, who preach themselves as the servants of others for Jesus’ sake.