Evangelizing - Core Christian Mission?

Before I delve in to my subject, I would like to explain the context. I’m giving a speech at a Lutheran retreat in two weeks. My speech stresses the importance of the lay person in the church. I’m working off an outline that was provided to me to write the speech. One of the points they want me to stress is about evangelizing.

I’m not a religious person. I was brought up Catholic. The Catholic priests talked briefly of evangelizing, but not much. As an adult, I chose atheism, especially with regards to considering a god that lives up in the clouds. Anyhow, I’m trying to be open-minded and learn more about my wife’s faith. In my adventures, I went to a past retreat weekend and enjoy some elements of it enough to try again. I’m trying to understand some of the doctrine of Christianity and see if it makes any sense to me.

I’m writing in hopes that someone can explain the following statement:

The core mission of the Christian Church is to evangelize the world.

I understand that Christians want to share their faith (Good News) with others. As a result, maybe they can fill up their pews and bring the joy that they feel with their faith to someone who could use the lift. What I don’t understand is why this would be the core mission of the faith?

Here’s my shot at an analogy. I have progressive beliefs regarding politics and social issues. I spent a lot of time researching my ideas and talking with other people who have similar beliefs. I would go as far as to say that some of my ideas are more worthwhile and meaningful than the alternatives. The question then becomes, how do I act on my beliefs? My preferred method is to live my life in accordance to my views. I may talk with others and share my beliefs if I think they are open to them. I do not want to disrespect someone who sincerely disagrees or has alternative ideas. My point is that I think it’s more important to live by my values than to evangelize to others. Yes, my values may make a bigger difference if more people follow them. I just don’t see where see where converting other to my progressive ideas is the most important aspect of living my beliefs. (One could alter this analogy to include, conservative beliefs, religious beliefs, etc.)

How are spreading one’s beliefs more important than living by one’s beliefs?

Someone may have experienced something that makes them the nicest guy in the world. Everyone who knows him thinks “Damn, that’s the nicest guy I know.” The guy never shares what he experienced. Thus, no one gets to share that experience & become as nice. Thus, his niceness dies with him. And the Source of that Niceness never gets proper credit either.

Now, a large definition of evangelism isn’t limited to witnessing & making converts, it is truly living out Christ’s values in one’s life & letting people know the Source of those values. The Christian is to live out the Grace of Christ and also to share his/her faith, and hopefully to reproduce Christ’s Grace & faith in the lives of others.

Christ said the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart. He said the second was to love your neigbor as yourself. That is open to wide interpretation but I think it forms a good basis on how to use the bible to do God’s will.

Putting butts in the pews isn’t the only goal of evangalism but it is one. Sometimes it’s a more important one than you think. My church is progressive to put it mildly. One of our stated missions it so welcome and affirm every everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status past or present, etc. etc. etc. We do this because we believe Jesus would want us to be excellent to each other in this way. This is a big deal for people who may have been rejected by other churches or even their own families or have had people try to “fix” them.

You explain evangelizing quite elegantly. I associate witnessing and converting others heavily with evangelizing. From your post, I may not be looking at the whole picture.

I enjoy talking with others about my beliefs in a respectful way. It’s when I cross the line or someone crosses that line with me that causes problems. I’ve been told by others that they are afraid for my soul since I don’t follow their beliefs/faith. They may truly truly believe that. It also dimishes my respect for them becaue they seem to be minimizing my persceptive. I suppose there’s a happy medium.

What’s more important than I think, evagelism or filling the pews?

I appreaciate how open your church is to people from many walks of life. When thinking of filling the pews, perhaps evangelism is best used to welcome others. It’s only when people use judgement, guilt, or disinenuous pleading to bring others in to their faith that evangelism becomes a dirty word. Before evangelizing to others, one could ask whether I’m doing it out of love or something selfish.

I think FriarTed is so perfectly on target here that all I can do is add to what he has to say.

I found something that made my life much richer, fuller, more meaningful, gave me peace within myself, allowed me to become the person I am (and which a lot of people, for some reason or other, seem to like) instead of a fearful, self-condemning, judgmental creature that nobody liked including myself. I don’t care if what made you feel better is your new puppy, falling in love, using Mrs. Dash’s seasoning in your cooking, or whatever, it’s something you want to share with others. And that’s what I do.

It’s been quoted before several times, but is so perfectly àpropos here that it deserves saying again: St. Francis of Assisi is said to have taught: “Proclaim the Gospel at all times to all whom you meet. When necessary, use words.” The point, for the innuendo-impaired, is that how you live your life, how you treat others, is the best message for what Christ has done within you. Any formal witness about it can only supplement that, never replace it. I could write treatise-length posts here about Soteriology, “prove” with a string of Scripture posts that would have raindog panting that my theories about salvation are the right ones, etc., etc., but the key to the matter is in I Corinthians 13 – without agapé love, overt and infusing every word one says, you will merely be seen as a judge and condemner of others, not as a person with good news to share. And the very word “evangelist” means “messenger of good news” – not “herald of ukases of doom.”

The Good News is that God is quite real and for some strange reason loves you – and even loves me, little as I deserve it. And He wants to be in an intimate relationship with you. And has set me up in the improbable role of matchmaker between you and Him. He wants to be there with you listening to Bach’ B Minor Mass, with His arm across your shoulders as you gaze at the Grand Canyon, laugh with you as you run down the beach, enjoy ecstasy with you in private. Of course, like any successful love relationship, it’ll take something from you to make it work – maybe a lot. But I’ve been there, without Him and with Him in my life, and I can tell you that it’s a lot more fun when He’s part of your life.

I’m not certain I undertstand the question. “Filling the pews” as I put it is one aspect of evangelism, not something distinct from it.

I’d like to think we are doing this form of evangelizing for the right reasons. That’s why I said to use the two great commandments as a guide. We are concentrating our evangelizing efforts on our closest neighbors. We are an inner city church and our nearest neighbors are not as a rule wealthy. We’ve given a lot of thought to this as we are not a wealthy church and offerings do not usually cover our meager budget. We decided that putting our efforts into higher income neighborhoods was not our mission.

Non-christian here. :slight_smile:

I don’t disagree with what Polycarp said:

In other words: show, don’t tell.

I also remember, however, that the Christian Church is an earthly organism, and therefore has the earthly political instincts of any other organism: to survive and grow. It seems to me that so much so-called ‘evangelism’ exists to fulfil these earthly goals of the organization, not to genuinely help the Other.

This is EXACTLY the problem I have with evangelizing, and why I almost never listen to anyone who actively tries to convert me.

No offense to you personally, Polycarp, but why should I believe you have all the answers, especially since no god ever came to me and told me so? You are only human, like myself.

Survival is a political instinct… I don’t even know how to debate that.

Elenia28, in all fairness I don’t think Polycarp ever claimed to have all the answers. I respect that you don’t want to be prosletyzed to and I’m sure Polycarp feels the same way. Christians still have a commandment to love our neighbors, not just the ones who want to be converted, so I hope it’s okay if we’re still nice to you.

I don’t, Elenia, and I’m sorry if I implied I did. I’m not trying to sell you an encyclopedia, but introduce you to a friend whom I like a lot and think you will like too. To encourage you to know Him is in the context of Connaitre, not savior.

I shall begin with stating that I very deeply disgust for anything that even points remotely to proslytizing, if only (and that is the main reason) because of the inherent arrogance “I am better then you are” = my religion is better then yours or then your non religion.

To any aspirant-evangelizer I would say:

  1. Do not transgress the limits of hospitality in any way = do not abuse the hospitality of people.
  2. Ask the ones you want to talk to if they are interested to hear you talk about your religion. If they say no, do not insist.
  3. Stay away from countries where your proselytizing is not wanted or (in many cases) in transgression of the law and where your proselytizing can put your audience (often not even knowing you come to proseyltize on them) in danger.
  4. In the light of the above: stay all the time honest and open about your goal, which is proselytizing people who do not believe in your religion and among which there are who follow already a religion into switching to yours.
  5. Think about it that nobody but God decides who goes to hell and who does not go to hell. You have nothing to say or to declare about that. If someone worships a tree and declares that tree to be God, that is his/her business. You can’t even know if God does not take this worship for a valid one = You can’t know if yes or no the tree worshipper by his adoration for the tree in fact adores and worships all God’s creation and hence also God (be it a bit indirectly in my view, but I’m not God).
    Salaam. A

An alternative word to use (as opposed to evangelising) is “witnessing”. We are all able to bear witness to the way God has (or hasn’t) been a part of our lives and the difference that He has (or hasn’t) made. Polycarp has done so eloquently already in this thread and others have done so elsewhere on these boards.

As to why we do this, in part, because we want to share the excitement and fun that knowing God has bought, and in part because Jesus asked us to - the book of Acts records his last words to his followers as being: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”


That is someone’s belief or some denomination’s belief of what the mission of their church is. Many Christians may agree. I don’t.

That attitude reminds me of my first husband when we got our first computer – a Commodore 64 – in 1985. All he did was download terminal programs. At some point, you have to say, “And then what?”

TopherX I’m confused by one thing. Why is an admitted atheist giving a speech at a Lutheran retreat? While I understand your desire to learn more about your wife’s faith, why are you making a speech?

Goodness gracious, I agree with every word Aldebaran said. Who’da saw that comin’?

I am not surprized.
You could not know this, but my shining personality is most of the time oppressed and made invisible by my complete innocence and extremely harmless modesty.
Hence you should not be surprized either that my charm weakens your heroic defence at the most unexpected moments in a way that makes you agree with whatever I write.

I’m so sorry…From now on you are to be counted among my victims even if I don’t want that to be. It is something I have no defence against myself.

Salaam. A

ROFL – that was truly beautiful, Aldy!! :slight_smile:

In all seriousness, what is the “official” stance in Islam (if it varies between orthodox schools, do feel free to clarify that) regarding what one’s duty toward the “infidel” (atheist, Christian, etc.) might be? Is there anything similar to “Go, make of all disciples” in the Qu’ran?

I am not a Christian. (I have much admiration for what Jesus of Nazareth taught, said, and did, but my interpretation of much of that is radically different from its interp within conventional Christianity).

A word to Christian proselytyzers and evangelists, if I may:

At the time that the original instruction to spread the word was issued, the world was filled with folks who had never heard the message.

In modern mainstream western culture, any given audience you attempt to reach is largely composed of people who have heard and either accepted or rejected the central Christian message, probably in at least a dozen of its various common variations. Atheist, agnostic, person adhering to another spiritual viewpoint, Christian like you, or Christian with Differences of Opinion, nearly every one of them has heard that:

• Jesus died for their sins
• Jesus was the Son of God
• They can be saved / born again / accepted into the Body of Christ by asking
• If they do that, they get to go to Heaven after they die, otherwise perhaps not
• This is what God wants from them (and then to help convert others).
• The Bible is the Word of God and they should read it and believe it.

I would suggest to you that reiterating this stuff, in these words and phrases which they’ve heard before, is about as productive as pissing your pants. It may leave you with a warm feeling but it makes many of the rest of us wrinkle our nose and want to get away from you. If you can’t say something in your own words, if you can’t say something that doesn’t sound like another tired rebroadcast of an overused commercial, give it a rest.

That is all.

You’ve got a real point there, AHunter, and those of us who are Christian would do well to listen. My personal take is that Jesus meant what He said “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more fully.” And that He was not merely speaking of some nebulous post-mortem survival but of practical matters here on Earth. Accepting Jesus as a “get out of Hell free” card in the Game of Life (I know I’m mixing board games here; sue me! ;)) is for me not the point – He provides a practical way to have something important enough to live for and to die for, something that’s made my everyday mortal life much richer. If that were not so, don’t you think that I would have told you? That, and not the throw-your-mind-away subscription by blind acceptance of a bunch of metaphysical propositions, is what moves me to say what I do.

And yes, I’m well aware that I’m only feeling of one of the elephant’s appendages, and that it may feel different to someone else who grabs a hold of a different appendage. What I have and know is what I testify to, pure and simple. I respect Freyr’s perception of something quite different that has led him in quite opposite directions from me, and I respect him for following what he believes to be the right path for him. The same goes for Gaudere’s sense that we’re both out to lunch, so to speak – she’s acting as her mind and heart lead her, too.