We had a good lesson from the youth minister at our church on Wednesday night. It was about evangelism and how it has an aura of distastefulness in American churches. One of the main reasons he gave is that evangelism is often feels (or actually is) contrived.
Now before I go any further, I have to say that one of the reasons that we chose the church we did is that evangelism actually occurs. The leaders participate in sharing the Gospel with the lost. Actual people from the world give their lives to Jesus and are baptized instead of just people from the youth group who have been going to church their whole lives.
Now back to the point of this post. I believe that one of the biggest hindrances to the overwhelming spread of the Kingdom of God in America today is a lack of community. As a member of the missions committee, I get to hear stories of how whole people groups are converted to the Lord. All of peoples that I know about are societies where the people live in community.
What do I mean by community? I mean a group of people whose lives are woven together on a daily basis. I mean a setting where friendships and work and religious ceremonies and family are all tangled together. For example, the shepherd and the weaver have a relationship because they rely on one another. Everyone in town knows your worst mistake because they were their when you did it but they still hang out with you anyway. People who have done some hard things together often form lifelong friendships. We Americans hardly have any of that. We are largely disconnected from people outside our immediate family. What connection we have is often tempered by technology; we often interact without actually being near the person.
Let me give an example from my own life. My husband has something of a community at his work with a Christian ministry. I am forming something of a community with the Christian homeschool co-op. But my husband and I aren't really in community with anyone as a family except in some respects with our small group at church. And the people we are in the most contact with have knowledge of and are trying to live for Jesus.
When we lived in Phoenix, it was somewhat different. We had no kids. I worked at a landscape architecture office, and my husband worked as a bill collector and then in financial services. We had lots of friends that were searching for the truth about Jesus and we were happy to share what we knew. Two people were even baptized in our swimming pool.
But if I want my kids to experience evangelism, I will have to contrive something. It might be going on a short term mission trip or involved in a ministry at church . Or I could try to form a deeper relationship with our old lawn mower man since I know that he and his family do not have a church home. Now I am not saying that any of these ideas are wrong or bad. I am saying that they do not flow from my normal life.
In places where the Good News of Jesus flows through the land like healing water, there are already relationship channels for it to flow through.