Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Evangelizing respectfully

From Chicago Lutheran bishop Wayne Miller's introduction to a discussion of the topic "Should We Evangelize?":
.... The mass exodus from the current manifestation of mainstream liberal Christianity suggests the possibility that even if history doesn’t exactly repeat itself, history rhymes. Christian virtue that retreats or hides from Christian evangelism inevitably withers by cutting itself off from the source of its own love and power. And by bearing witness to its own goodness while keeping the source of that goodness hidden in the shadows so as not to offend anyone, our virtue bears witness to a lie.

The challenge to Christianity in a pluralistic cultural landscape is NOT to figure out how to be Christian without evangelizing. The challenge is to learn how to evangelize respectfully. And the reason we must learn to evangelize respectfully is not merely so that we can all tolerate our neighbors in a state of detached peaceful coexistence. We must cultivate respectful evangelism because a style of evangelism that is violent, manipulative, dominating, controlling or otherwise disrespectful is a force that drives others away from the love and power of Jesus instead of inviting them into it. Paradoxically, evangelistic activity that alienates or devalues others becomes the very barrier that authentic evangelism is sworn to dismantle.

Respectful evangelists must begin their work by listening openly and honestly to those who differ, and then continue by taking responsibility for the clarity and conviction of their own identity and their own witness, rather than by trying to control another person’s response to their witness. .... [more]