Evangelism is a term very similar to “Jihad” in terms of public relations. It is a term cherished by those of us “inside” Christianity, but despised by those on the outside. Christians may think “spreading the Gospel, ” but to others it means “socially awkward situations where you pressure me to accept YOUR beliefs.” Some on the progressive side of Christianity have suggested we should just stop proselytizing [converting] all together, conservatives often respond “What’s the purpose of our faith if aren’t trying to spread it?” I suggest the problem is the term “evangelise” itself.
Brothers and Sisters, We Are NOT a Virus
Too often churches judge their success by their growth, and Christians place internal value on their ability to “convert” others. There is only one thing on this planet which exists for the sole purpose of self-replication: a virus. More and more Christians are realizing that following Christ isn’t what doctrines we accept, but rather how we live and who we ARE. You can persuade someone to “agree” with you in an argument, but you can only change a person by showing them a new way to live, and coming alongside them in that change.
The Power of Adoption
When most people think about the term “adoption” we usually only think about a family adopting a child. However, to “adopt” is “to bring into your family.” Adopting a child is certainly the most potent form of adoption, but there are many degrees after that. You can adopt a single mother, and her children, into your family (speaking relationally, not legally). You can adopt the alienated and lonely into your social circles. You can adopt those outside your socio-economic status into your community. Like adopting a child, it is a commitment to say that no matter who they are, or what happens, they are family.
The Effectiveness of Hospitality
Hospitality is an intentional decision to put the needs and comfort of others above our own. Sometimes this means inviting those we are “uncomfortable” with into our homes, but often it means visiting others in their homes, places, and environments which make US uncomfortable. Either way, hospitality powerfully says “you are important and of great value to me.” Declaring people’s own value to them is often the best way to start sharing the Good News.
We Must Not Forget the Gospel is “Good News!”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying “evangelism” is bad, but rather too easily misunderstood. Billy Graham is still a hero of mine, showing the best meaning “classical” definition of the word. But then there are others like Ray Comfort who use legal trickery, guilt, and shame tactics to strong arm people into converting to his manifesto. Jesus Christ showed us a new way to be human, a new way to love, and new way to live and work FOR each other instead of against each other. Most of all, he showed us we are loved. That is Good News!
Adoption and Hospitality Are Clear and Effective Practices
Adoption and hospitality call us to specifically put the needs of others above our own. They call us to commit to the people and relationships we engage in, regardless of circumstances. They call us lift up others and show them they are valued. Perhaps most importantly, they challenge us to face our own sins, prejudices, selfishness, and immaturity. Evangelism is often mistaken as “Christians to the rescue” but adoption and hospitality understand that we heal each other. In the end, those of us growing communities in the name of Jesus Christ should grow like a garden instead of a virus.