Message – Proper 23 – October 11, 2020
Views from the Pews
Michael Green in “Evangelism Through the local Church” states, “We need to lead attractive Christian lives.” I share with you the following extract:
“This has, somewhat belatedly, become evident to those who are seeking to evangelize. The scandals that have disfigured the scene, particularly to what we must be if people are even to begin to listen to what we say. Holy living, warm, friendly living, joyful living, compasonate living, is essential if we are to commend the good news of Christ. This will take many forms, according to the situation of those we are trying to help, but it is indispensable. If our lives do not attract people, our message certainly won’t. And a loveless, joyless, legalistic narrow Christianity is going to do more harm than good to the cause of Jesus, that delightful and liberated friend of publicans and sinners.
So important is this that a whole new approach to evangelism is now being advocated. It is called “lifestyle evangelism.” The current emphasis is a reaction against the heavenly structured ‘programme evangelism’ on the one hand, which seeks to give a tight, sometimes rather shallow, methodology for people to shoot at their friends (and foes) with, and on the other, against the dull, legalistice, loveless and unChristlike living which, alas, marks so many Christians and churches. As such it is an emphasis that is much needed. There is a lot of truth in the saying, ‘You can only evangelise friends,’ and the ‘friendship evangelists’ are saying just that. Lifestyle is a precondition of evangelism at any level. So this modern emphasis, welcome as it is, contains nothing new. It is simply getting back to an aspect of New Testament Christianity that had been lost through other emphases. Look at those early Christians. Their lifestyle was eloquent indeed. They showed tremendous practical love. They had a joy that overflowed. They cared for the poor and the needy. They were not in bondage to past custom. They knew Jesus personally, and it showed changes in their personality and way of life. They were generous to a fault, and untouched by the materialism of the day. Their Company was good to be in. They bothered about justice, and there was no sniff of the Christian ghetto about them; they kept looking outwards.
Lifestyle evangelism, friendship evangelism? Yes indeed it is vital; but one caveat is needed. By itself, lifestyle will not do the trick. Plenty of people lead delightful and generous lives without any faith, and unless life and word go together, we shall not see the changes in our friends that we hope for. We need to talk to them, once we have won their friendship. ‘Lifestyle evangelism’ tends to be strong on life, but weak on lips.
Think on these things!