Are we willing to share it, or not?
What gets your attention? Enough so you want to talk about it?
Rick Richardson thinks “a good statistic can capture our attention and ignite debate” (cf. “Do 47 Percent of Christian Millennials Think Evangelism is Wrong?”, Christianity Today, March 2019).
The stat? 47% of practicing Christians who are Millennials believe “that it is wrong to share one’s beliefs with a person of another faith in hopes that the person will come to share one’s beliefs.”
Yep. These are 25-40 year olds who identify as Christians, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church within the last month.
But, before we pass judgment on them, please note that these Millennial Christians also affirm that “being a witness is a part of faith,” that “the best thing that could ever happen to others is to come to know Jesus,” and that they “feel more confident in their ability to share their faith than other generations.”
Hmmm. So what’s going on here? Are Millennials saying one thing one moment, and another thing the next?
WHAT DOES “EVANGELISM” MEAN TO THEM?
Richardson goes on to suggest that we should understand the true nature of the hesitancy Millennials feel. The very idea of “evangelizing” appears to connote actions which coerce, judge, insist. Little appetite exists for such an approach.
- They seem to struggle with evangelizing someone of a different faith because they do not want to undermine the rights of others to believe what they will.
- They struggle with trying to convert others, not wanting to adopt a coercive posture with others.
- They struggle with evangelizing to influence the thinking/beliefs of others, fearing coming off as judgmental to others, or rejecting them.
- They struggle sharing your personal story in a way that implies that “my story needs to become your story.”
A paragraph or two ago, if you were ready to label Millennial disciples conviction-less, perhaps you find yourself sharing their concerns. In sharing the good news of Jesus, we are not called to steam-roll over anyone, right?
NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL?
Mulling this over, it seems to me that the “sharing the good news” pendulum can swing one way or the other too far.
On the one hand, the concerns of Millennial Christians feel to me like a good corrective to an overly aggressive approach to sharing the gospel.
On most days within the circle of acquaintances God has given us, the “prayer, care, and then share” approach is one which the Holy Spirit loves to empower. We begin simply with prayer in our closets for those around us whom we sense (or perhaps outright know) need to come into faith/trust relationship with Jesus. We ask God to create a sense of need for Him in the circumstances of the lives of those around us, willing to love and care to others way before ever getting to sharing truth-and-faith issues. Judgmental attitudes toward the lifestyles of unbelievers should be set aside in humility. Respecting where anyone might be calls for listening and learning, first! Diving pre-maturely into issues of “what I believe” vs. “what you believe” can drive the unbeliever further from anything that sniffs of Christianity.
On the other hand, the pendulum can swing the other way. The concerns of Millennial Christians can be used by our spiritual Enemy (who is THE deceiver) to consistently posture us into inaction. He can convince us that “it’s not your job to save or convert anybody!” We may find ourselves second-guessing any word we might speak as judgmental or coercive. In effect, we can become practically “ashamed of the gospel,” rather than being ready to speak a timely, prayerful word.
Paul reminds in Romans 10 that “How can they believe if they do not hear?” and “how beautiful are the feet of them who bring the good news.”
LEARN FROM EACH OTHER…AND BE READY TO CLEAR SHARE
Satan loves to push the pendulum to the extremes. Conversely, his deceptions can be muted as believers pray for those who need Jesus, lead with genuine, non-judgmental love, and listen well for the opportunity to share a word of the hope that is uniquely found in Jesus…and in Jesus alone.
The apostles and disciples of the first century had it correct. They lived compellingly and pointed people to Jesus when the lives of those around them kept coming up empty. We can do the same. The Holy Spirit can bring an acute sense of need to the surface in a pre-occupied heart. “What must I do to be saved?” the jailor asked Paul.
Paul and Silas had sung open the iron bars of a Roman prison. They were ready with a timely, non-judgmental, converting answer for a man who needed a rescue from all that he had believed before. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”