“I’m not sure I consider myself a Christian anymore,” a friend of mine softly declared while sitting on a couch in my living room in Sioux Center. He was moving across the country and had stopped by for the evening to catch up. It became clear as the conversation progressed that he had become disillusioned with the church and felt alienated and isolated. I may be overly hopeful, but I don’t think his statement was so much a declaration of change in personal conviction as it was of a loss of affiliation. My impression was that as he moved into more culturally diverse communities and was able to see the Christian community through their eyes, he did not like what he was seeing; arrogance, condemnation, and abuse.
Reading Romans 10 with this conversation fresh in my mind is like someone pushing his or her finger into an open wound.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
These verses draw a line through the relationship between believer and non-believer. The believer is to be sent and to preach; the non-believer then has the opportunity to hear, believe, and call on the name of Jesus Christ. This is a defining tenet of evangelical Christianity.
But what does it mean to be sent and to preach?
Perhaps like me, when you hear the word evangelism, your “go-to” picture is a minister in a black shirt with a white collar and a bible in one hand preaching on a street corner. You may picture something like this, even though you know it is completely clichéd, misrepresentative, and you aren’t even sure where the image came from. Unfortunately, these images have power.
Our images of ourselves, our family in Christ, the Muslim refugee, our atheist neighbor all come with a lot of baggage. These images can present substantial obstacles in our ability to share the good news. Our starting assumptions about the person we are talking to and our assumptions about their perception of us will inevitably shape our interactions. This happens on an individual and corporate scale.
Are you preaching so that the other can hear and in hearing believe?
It is inevitable that our lives send a message about the veracity of the gospel. It is also clear that society is hearing a message from evangelicals. Is it a message of justice, mercy, hope, peace, healing, and salvation?
Do you have beautiful feet?