Here's an excerpt:
Picture an evangelist.
What are they doing? What are they like? Do you warm to them?
Now picture the person or persons most significant in bringing you to Christ.
What did they do? What were they like? Why did you warm to them?
How do your two sets of answers compare?
Invariably when people are asked to imagine “an evangelist” they picture a bold enthusiast with boundless energy. A salesman who could sell ice to Eskimos but, praise God, now they’re selling Jesus. They are born communicators and can turn a pub discussion of the off-side rule into a proclamation of Christ – our Last Defender.
We are inspired by them sometimes. Daunted by them more often. Do we warm to them? Well, we’re grateful that they’re out there. Because, Lord knows we couldn’t do what they do. We are not “evangelists” – not like them anyway. So God bless them in their efforts.
Every once in a while we’ll rein them in off the streets to turn their wild-eyed enthusiasm on us – drumming up support for the church’s next ‘big push.’ But once that’s over they will ride off into the sunset and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
I’m exaggerating. Slightly. But, lest you think I’m setting up a straw-man, try this experiment at your church. Raise the topic of ‘evangelizing your friends’ and then count down the seconds until someone complains ‘But I’m no Billy Graham.’
What does this kind of thinking betray?
It reveals, for one thing, a belief worryingly similar to that medieval division between clergy and laity. At root there is the constant guilt felt by ordinary folk who know their failings. And then there’s the offer of some small relief. The riff-raff can pay for professional Christians to live the really holy life for them. The professionals (this strange breed of “evangelists”) are secretly delighted to be put on such a pedestal. And inevitably these experts aggravate as much as alleviate the guilt feelings of the common folk. But really, once the guilt is in place, the divide will follow. And both sides will have strong reasons to reinforce it.
How can we possibly address this situation? There’s a big problem here. If anyone tries to remove the guilt from ordinary Christians they’ll be accused of building up the dividing wall: Are you saying the ordinary folk are off the hook?? Are you saying only certain people can/should evangelize!!? And if anyone tries to remove the division they’ll be accused of guilt-mongering: Are you saying everyone’s under this burden?? Are you saying we all need to be Billy Grahams!!?
But the gospel flushes that whole paradigm down the toilet where it belongs. The gospel addresses both the guilt issue and the division issue. And it doesn’t just re-balance them, it abolishes them. Think of the priesthood of Christ. It means the end of guilt. And then think of the complement to that truth – the priesthood of all believers in Him. It means the end of divisions.
So what would evangelism look like which glories in the perfect priesthood of Christ and the corporate priesthood of all believers? What would evangelism look like if it was motivated not by the high-octane marketeers but by the goodness of the gospel itself?