We boil it down to the basics: Love Jesus. Help others love him too.
But we have different approaches:
• Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
• Help people. And if you can’t help, at least don’t hurt them.
• Give what you can, and you will receive more. Helping others achieve their dreams will help you achieve yours.
We like to boil things down to the simplest form. We like quips that affirm and encourage us. If it sounds good, we think it is good. If we can’t readily see how something contradicts Scripture, we assume it’s consistent with Scripture.
But that’s not always the case. We have to know Scripture well in order to find what is consistent and what isn’t. In many cases, we can find or recall a verse that supports just about any perspective we want. That approach only affirms us; it’s not a reliable way to live a faith-filled life. That kind of life requires humility, which we don’t always like because it makes us feel vulnerable and gets us out of our comfort zone.
Vulnerability and discomfort often describe living out the gospel too. We prefer living out and sharing the gospel in more comfortable and convenient ways. Lifestyle evangelism—living out the good news in our everyday lives—is an excellent approach to sharing Jesus with others because we have established influence on those in our immediate circles and regular routines.
However, we can sometimes fall back on a distortion of lifestyle evangelism as if we’re falling into a comfortable couch. It feels good. We don’t have to do much more than what we would be doing otherwise. We just continue living our lives and let God use everything we do and say. He’s powerful enough to do that. We can trust him to work in our lives and in the lives of others.
But our motives matter. If we simply want to boil down how we share faith in the simplest approach, how humble can we possibly be? Evangelism becomes more about us than others, and that’s not true evangelism. God won’t always have us go out of our way, but he will always have us set aside our way for his.
The two sometimes coincide, but we should never settle for starting with our own way and trying to rationalize God’s support for it. Instead, we get to know him well and check with him every step of the way so that there is less of us and more of him.
Living the good news doesn’t always have to be difficult, but when it becomes chronically easy, we need to question our efforts. We have a responsibility to GO, to get off the couch and move about the neighborhood and engage the world. It’s not just what we do for others but how we live life with others.
Consider the words we often place in front of church: at church, in church, my church. Is it your church or God’s church? If it’s truly God’s, you’ll spend as much or more effort to “go” than to convince people to “come.”
The church’s reputation outside the walls will be more radical and relevant than what happens inside. You’ll invite God to clear out any hypocrisy or self-centeredness as an individual and church family by living faith-filled lives outside the walls of a building.
The good news is simple in truth but takes intentional, humble, authentic, sacrificial effort every moment of every day. It requires
• patience with the person who opposes you;
• kindness for the person who offends you;
• gentleness when you confront someone;
• love when you’d rather retaliate;
• faithfulness when you’d rather give up;
• self-control when you’d rather do things your own way.
Susan Lawrence serves as small groups and communications coordinator at Taylorville (Illinois) Christian Church. She speaks at conferences, retreats, and leadership seminars, and writes studies, devotionals, and ministry resources. Her most recent book, Pure Submission, explores examples of submission throughout Scripture.