evangelism

Awkward Is Better Than Silent

Finding Courage for Missed Opportunities

The Citadel of Erbil in Northern Iraq sits high in the center of town. It’s an UNESCO site filled with ancient history. “The oldest continuous living community on the planet,” reads the marker on the gate.

One day friends came to Iraq to visit us, and we took them to the citadel. We wandered into the Gemstone Museum and then to the museum shop. The proprietor approached me with some crystals in hand. After some polite exchanges, he said to me, “Many Europeans think that if you hold these crystals to your chest you can achieve inner peace.” He held out the crystals expectantly.

He seemed to think I might be one of those odd Europeans who might actually believe such nonsense. I knew he was trying to make a sale, so I examined them and said they were pretty. Then I rolled my eyes and said, “I don’t think you get inner peace from a rock.” He rolled his eyes, too, and we both smiled. It was clear that we were in agreement about rocks and inner peace.

And that was it.

Missed Opportunities

 It didn’t strike me until later how much I had blown it! As you read this, you’re way ahead of me. You’ve already thought of the things I could have said — should have said. “May I tell you where I find peace?” Or, “Hey, I know a rock that brings peace. Do you know what the Bible calls Jesus?” Or, “I remember when I didn’t have peace, but I do now.” You can think of other things I might have said.

But I said nothing. I settled for a smile, a quip, and a departure.

Why am I so slow in evangelism? Why am I so good at thinking up stuff to say after the fact? There’s lots of reasons, really. But before I answer, let me lay out for you some thinking that comes from years of blowing it and replaying my failures.

It’s Not Really Evangelism

 First, just what is evangelism? I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 30 years to come to a good definition:

Evangelism is preaching or teaching the gospel message with the aim to persuade or convert.

Notice four things about this definition. First, it’s not really evangelism if you aren’t proclaiming the gospel by explaining, teaching, preaching, or otherwise talking. That’s because if you only do good deeds without proclamation, you’re lifting you up, not Jesus.

Second, it’s not really evangelism if you don’t talk about the message of the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is the message from God that leads us to salvation. This gospel message answers three huge questions: Who is God? Who am I before him? And what bearing does the life and claims of Jesus have on my life?

Third, it’s not really evangelism if it doesn’t have the right end in mind. It’s not just information transfer — a gospel dump from one hard drive to another. Evangelism is intentional and purposeful. We’re always ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), because we want this person to have the hope that is in us.

Fourth, it’s not really evangelism if the aim isn’t to persuade or convert. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “We persuade others.”

Without these four things we’re not doing the work of evangelism. I’m not saying if one leaves parts of this out that you’re bad, or unchristian; you’re probably doing wonderful, helpful things. It’s just not evangelism.

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Source: Desiring God | Mack Stiles

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