One of the greatest pleasures of possessing this faith I have is sharing it, as joyfully and recklessly as God has shared love with me. As Virginia Woolf wrote, “Pleasure has no relish unless we share it.”
The universal mission of the Christian church is to do that – share God’s love with everyone. It sounds simple, and yet too many Christians still have trouble doing this. But here’s the thing, How will people know, that they are loved by God, if no one ever tells them or shows them what God’s love looks like?
As you can see this is a question the Apostle Paul asks in his prolific letter to the churches in Rome.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved... For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?
When Paul wrote this theological dissertation, he meant it to be shared among the many small house churches that were spreading like weeds throughout Rome.
Unlike us, these churches had to hide in the shadows - because confessing Jesus as Lord was a serious offense against Caesar. Paul knew what he was asking here was dangerous. He knew it could get them killed. But he also knew the power of God that was demonstrated at Jesus’ résurrection. And the fear of death no longer had a sting.
So Paul encourages the local churches to not only confess but to share what they believe to be true about the power of God’s redemptive love in Christ Jesus.
After all, he asks, “How will people know to call on him if they have never heard about him? How will they hear if no one proclaims him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?
If we really believe, then we have to go out and share our faith with the world. Evangelism not an option, it’s our mission.
Sadly, the word “evangelism” has become a kind of dirty word these days. It’s often associated with people on the religious right who have weaponized the gospel for political gain.
Because of my upbringing, the word still makes me think of those angry fundamentalists who’d rather use the fear of Hell to make people obedient than to welcome someone with Christlike love. Which all seems a bit ironic considering the word literally means “to tell Good News.” Holding up signs that say “God hates” seems a little off brand.
(It’s also worth pointing out that the root word of evangelism is “angel.” If you ask me, the world could benefit from having more angels around.)
In an age of uncertainty and shaky foundations, the church should be a beacon of hope to those who may not ever get a chance to experience God’s love. But if you give Christlike love to someone in need there’s a good chance they will see Christ in their midst and be move to follow him.
I have a friend from seminary who between classes would stand on the streets of Pasadena, desperately trying to win non-believers over to Christ. I don’t know how he did it, or how effective he was, because every time he asked me to join him I made up some excuse not to.
Unfortunately, this way of doing ministry caused David to burn out. But while he was taking a break from it, he noticed how much easier it was to make friends with non-believers when he wasn’t burdened down with converting them.
David would realize that “evangelism is much more than preaching and proclamation it’s putting your whole life on display for the world to see who Christ is through you.” The voice of the one proclaiming is Christ himself who speaks through those he sends. That’s you and me.
Like Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Jesus has no face but ours.” He has no hands, no feet, no voice now but ours. We are his church, his body. He entrusted us point people to him. And we do that by being like him in all that we do.
Jesus didn’t resort to using fear or shame or guilt to get people to follow him. He just lived his life in honor of God’s glory and people naturally wanted to be a part of it. That’s the cause and effect that God’s love produces.
People need to hear the good news if they are going to find what God has to offer. Thus, “We should never shy away from sharing the gospel whenever God gives us the chance.”
In May of 2018, some 29 million people tuned in to watch Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle. Amidst all the royal pageantry, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the most Reverend Michael Curry, preached a powerful sermon about God’s profound love for the world to hear.
With all eyes on him, he stated, “If humanity ever captures the energy of God’s love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.”
Knowing and believing that faith comes by hearing, Bishop Curry seized on the opportunity God had provided for him to share the gospel. And it left people wanting more.
Evangelism is not an option. It’s our mission. It’s who we are as people of faith.
Evangelism can be as simple as standing up for a kid who’s being bullied, or making grocery bags to be handed out at the food pantry, It can be as easy as even sharing this messages on Facebook. Better yet, inviting someone to join us live, online or in person.
I remember the day I was talking a neighbor about a personal issue I was dealing with. Towards the end, she asked me how I was able to get through it without losing my mind. Instead of telling her, I asked “What are you doing next Sunday morning around 11?”
(That invitation was to join me at the same church we would eventually get married in. Talk about the positive cause and effect of evangelism).
If we believe that in Christ, God has redeemed the world, forgiven sin, offered grace upon grace…then why would we want to keep it to ourselves.
Good news needs to be share just as much as hope and grace and forgiveness does. There will always be someone out there who needs to hear that they are loved, no matter what. There’s a good chance when they hear the good news, they’ll want to know more.
Evangelism is all about putting our faith into action. It’s about making Christ visible and available for the entire world to see.
Paul urges us to embrace a life based on faith that is both written on your heart and spoken with your lips. For such a life of faith has the divine power to transform the world and all who are in it.
It’s time to reclaim evangelism from those who have weaponized it. It’s time to claim it and proclaim it by living into our own Christlikeness; loving one another as wildly and recklessly as God has loved on us.
With the Spirit of Christ upon us, let’s go out into the world proclaiming our faith, knowing God isn’t looking for perfection just participation.
It’s not our job to save the world. That’s what Christ was sent to do.
Our job is to lead others to him in the many different ways we love God, love others, and serve both.
Evangelism is not an option. It’s our mission.
Adapted from Sharing God’s Love. August 1, 2021.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word Year A, Vol 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011).
Byassee, Jason. "Temptation to Cheat." Sojourners, Feb 2016: 48.
Park, David. From an email he sent on August 10, 2023.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”