Our church is preparing for Midnight Madness. Don’t worry, we aren’t turning worldly or weird. Midnight Madness is an outreach we do every year in the month of November when the main street of Howick is blocked off and shops stay open until late. Last year we had about 5000 people on the streets from around 7pm till very late. And our church sits right in the middle of it (or close thereby). A wonderful opportunity for evangelism don’t you think? We think so too.
This year, in preparation for the event, we had Lew Meyer from OAC ministries come and help us prepare for it. Lew is a great guy, and a good teacher. He’s relaxed, interesting and easy to listen to. He’s also quite humorous, which helps with communication.
I thought Lew would leap straight into the “how to” of evangelism. He didn’t. He started first with the “why.” And that’s important. There are plenty of biblical reasons for evangelism, which I won’t go into right now, because every Christian knows them…right? You’d assume so. But Lew didn’t assume anything. He wanted to know we knew.
And then he did something interesting. He quoted a section of the Lausanne Covenant. What’s that? It’s a document put together by some of the world’s leading evangelical scholars (John Stott, JI Packer, and John Piper to name a few) that defines evangelical theology and practice. Lew showed us the section on evangelism which gives the following definition:
To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gifts of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.
I thought this was helpful. It was helpful because I hear the word “evangelism” being tossed around willy-nilly and used to define everything from car-washes and church pot-luck dinners to Christian drama and feeding the poor. Now perhaps those things may involve some aspect of evangelism (or lead to evangelistic opportunities). But until the message of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection is actually proclaimed or announced, it’s not evangelism.
Lew had many other helpful things to say, including this quote from an unknown source: “Money can put a new suit on a man, but only the gospel can put a new man in a suit” (I really liked that), and one of Lew’s own; “The Holy Spirit is a missionary spirit.” But I’ll finish with this last little gem: Lew put up a slide which showed a graph of Christian growth and practice. Now I’ve seen plenty of such graphs over my lifetime, but not anything like this. The line he’s pointing to shows what happens when an individual comes to faith in Christ (what the Bible calls being “born again”). God declares them perfectly righteous – not based on anything they have done but on what Jesus done for them. That’s how God sees us in Christ. But that isn’t what we are in practice. In practice we fall short of that, in varying degrees, depending on the day and the trials or temptations we encounter. What Lew was pointing out was although we may fail in our evangelistic attempts (or non-attempts), that doesn’t change our standing before God. He still accepts us and loves us, completely – in Jesus.
Now that has to be something worth telling the world about.