I always had trouble with the concept of evangelism. I liked the motto of “preach Christ everywhere and if necessary, use words” because it gave me an out.
Part of the problem lay with my acute awareness of my own sinful nature. I was so far from the perfection, power and joy preached as accessible only to Christians that I felt hypocritical sharing my faith to people who seemed so much happier and ethical than I.
But, visions of eternal hell were laid before us. Didn’t we love our non-believing neighbours? Why wouldn’t we offer them the living water in the desert of life? How selfish to keep it to ourselves!
This didn’t lead to active evangelism, however, but more guilt for not doing it. One time while working at a donut shop, a particularly grumpy regular customer stopped me and asked me why I was so happy. I felt that I should tell her about Jesus, but was afraid. Instead I asked her if she had a boyfriend. She looked at me puzzled and asked if I had one. The answer was no. She was more puzzled. I’ve felt bad about this “missed opportunity” for years.
The truth was, Jesus didn’t make me happy. Never did. My favourite part of the bible was the minor prophets. And you can bet I felt guilty about Jesus not being the reason for my joy. It was probably good our church emphasized the Holy Spirit more than a personal relationship with Jesus, or it may have been worse.
Now I do want to tell other people. It is a relief not to have to merge intelligent design theories with evolutionary theory. It is a relief not to have to find some way of interpreting the bible that gives me equal value as my male partner. It is such a joy not to believe myself a wretched worm or feel guilty for not experiencing freedom in Christ or any of those other promises of the gospel according to Paul and his interpreters.
My brother says that he won’t tell people why he finds Christianity not to be the truth because he believes they are happy in their belief. I disagree. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying hard and feeling unhappy for not succeeding. I may have looked happy. I may not have come to this conclusion as fast or at all if I hadn’t listened to what non-Christians had to say.
What keeps me back is the distress I know some will experience at the thought of my ‘leaving the fold’.
Now I finally do have that desire to evangelize out of sincerity! But I hope I have more maturity to know when, who and how to discuss it.