Hi Trip! Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. I think we’re both on the same page regarding evangelism. I’ve been so hurt and disillusioned by the church it does tend to come out here and there in my writing…what you’ve picked up on is probably a good example of that.
I think what I was getting at is that I’ve seen people approach evangelism/soul-winning as if it’s adding another notch in their belt, so to speak, with the real focus and motivation being on the evangelizer rather than on Christ and the one receiving the Good News. You know, people who can tell you how many people they’ve led to Jesus but haven’t spent any time discipling them or making sure they’re connected to someone who can. True evangelism definitely is about the very good news that we are chosen and adopted by God, and that Jesus has made a way for us to access the Father as a true son or daughter. I actually wrote a book about just that called Grafted In: Leading Your Orphan Heart to the Spirit of Adoption.
In the case of both “new believers” and “wayward sons,” I feel like the root issue is not knowing about or understanding the reality of what their sonship really means. My older adopted kids struggle so much — not only because of their backgrounds — but also because they are unable/unwilling to receive the love we have to give them as parents, and all that comes with being a true child in our family. Being able to receive and then walk in that love and belonging would radically change their lives!
I believe so strongly that the most effective way to evangelize is not to begin with Jesus saving them from their sins — that almost always gets people’s feathers up, and what if they don’t recognize or care whether they’re sinning? Same with where they are going to spend eternity — what if they don’t care or believe it? True evangelism is about the LOVE of the Father, which burns so strongly for you, He went to the greatest lengths possible in order for you to know who you are and where you belong. He wants desperately for you to be whole, to be healed, and to experience the joy and peace and fulfillment that can only come through relationship (and salvation) with God. People need to know that that love and belonging and identity can change their lives right now!
I’ve always felt that, even though Jesus often confronted sin head-on, we have to remember that the person He was speaking to was having a face-to-face love encounter with Jesus himself while they were confronted! I believe our own sinfulness and unGod-likeness usually prevents us from having that effect unless we are actually walking out a loving relationship with that person in the first place.
Addressing the deepest human needs for love and belonging is so critical because we were made to need God — pretty much everyone can tell you they’ve had those longings that nothing seems to satisfy. And when we erase those lines and just approach people from our common experience of having those needs and hurts and empty places, it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
I just want to see us evangelize out of genuine love for others — not for performance, or out of duty or obligation, but because we have such fiery love in our bones we cannot hold it back.