Processing my 20s and why the word ‘evangelism’ makes me want to vomit still…

So there’s this video doing the rounds of an American chat show host talking about his faith to a guest.

It seems to have captured the imaginations of people of faith, to hear such beauty and depth spoken in places which are often reserved, by the nature of their purpose, for light reflections, for promotion of films. There was so much resonance with what he said and the clarity of his voice in a world which I think is aching for truth, integrity, authenticity, love and gentleness.

I think the reason it wooed so many is because of the confidence, the integrity with which it was spoken, the honesty and the reality. You can watch it for yourself and make your own thoughts on this droplet of beauty and why we ache for it so much.

What I’m writing about is my supreme annoyance and triggered thoughts I had when I made the mistake of reading some corners of Christian Twitter talking about it. Which took me down the rabbit hole of my days hanging around people who talked about ‘evangelism’ a lot. To be honest the word still makes me feel a little ill. It was the random analysis of what the chat host said that made me want to vomit most. The tweaks of what he could have said to make people properly understand the ‘gospel’ (again a word I would like to redeem one day, I like good news, I just can’t say that word without a dump of memories of people deciding who is a good Christian based on how well they recite the ‘gospel’).

It’s this kind of approach which makes me never want to think about ‘evangelism’ again, this critic of anyone who talks about faith in the public sphere, this over excitement about people who do, and this weird desire to correct them about what they could have said better. When I was more in tribes that talked about these things lots I would sink deeper into my chair, why would I talk about faith if I had to recite a script or be scared to get it wrong? Why would I be honest about all the things I have no flipping idea about if peoples eternal destinies were at stake if I hadn’t memorised the ‘right’ answers? Evangelism training days would leave me cold, unable to find my real voice within and feeling like I had to pretend. They were some of the most inauthentic moments of my 20s.

If I had to do an ‘evangelism’ training day now (I mean I wouldn’t, but if I really had to..) I would just spend a day helping people connect with God. Creating space where they had time to hang out and work out who they were with this God, delighting in that God, raging at that God and trusting that God to show up and bring reality into peoples lives. At the end of it some might discover they have little faith, that would be ok, some might leave with smiles on their faces, that would be ok, some might be in tears, some might be laughing with the relief of being able to be themselves and be known. We would find out where we are with God and that might just lead to a more confident authentic way of life in our everyday world.

We would hold our experience of God together and hopefully leave with more congruence within. Not trying to recite answers to questions there are no answers to. Not trying to crowbar Jesus into conversations but deeply connecting with the God of our lives. So there might then be no need to get sweaty about ‘evangelistic’ conversations but instead we could live life authentically with our Maker and be honest and open about that at appropriate times and places. (Just as we would about anything else about ourselves in our lives.)

Just like Stephen Colbert did.

Sigh.

All this goes to show I really should spend less time clicking on Twitter and more time hanging out with the One who loves me most and strangely works with us in all our errors, odd ways and behaviours. The One who calls us to love through all this. I’m aware I’m probably wrong but you know. I like being this kind of wrong.

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