I was raised Catholic so evangelism was never a priority. I believed in "lifestyle evangelism" where I was taught to live life in such a way that reflected Jesus to others. When I started to really get serious about living out what the Bible taught, I was challenged by Jesus' last command to his followers: go and make disciples. That was an active command, not passive where I could just live my life as I pleased and leave it to others to choose to follow Jesus. It meant I actually had to reach out to strangers and share the Gospel.
In my mind that was no different than the crazy street preacher predicting the end of the world, or the annoying door knockers interrupting my Saturday morning. And I wanted no part of that.
I remember walking across campus with my friend Jim talking about this challenge and my opposition to it. We stopped at a table set up to the side of one of the major thoroughfares between classroom buildings. There, his campus ministry was handing out hot chocolate (it was the middle of winter) and offering a friendly invitation to come to church on Sunday.
That's it? That's all it meant to evangelize? (Well at the time, yes, that was all it meant.) So I eagerly went- most of the time- around the dorms knocking on doors and stopping people coming to and from class to strike up conversations. I wasn't very good at it. I seldom met anyone who said, "why yes, I have been looking for a church!" Yet every so often someone would sheepishly sneak in to the back of our Sunday morning service and when asked who they knew they'd answer "some guy named Frank invited me." I didn't bear much "fruit" (our codeword for our legalistic approach to filling seats on Sunday) however and I slowly became cynical about this idea of making disciples.
As I continued to soak in the Bible like a sponge, some convictions began to gnaw at me. I grew to the conviction that evangelism was not the same as inviting someone to church, and that "sharing my faith" was literally sharing my faith. ("Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have." 1 Peter 3:15) I also became convicted that the Great Commission said more than just to go and make disciples. Matthew 28:20 continues the command with Jesus saying, "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." I looked around and I didn't see that. Then I read Sticky Church by Larry Osborne in which he talked about the danger of focusing on bringing people in through the front door while ignoring the many who were leaving out the back. So I made teaching a crusade, so to speak.
Yet instead of these growing convictions producing a godly sorrow (earnestness, eagerness, indignation, alarm, longing, concern, readiness- 2 Corinthians 7:10-11) it produced cynicism and a hard heart. I would have flashes of eagerness, sharing my faith with a coworker here or there or talking to another parent at the park, but nothing in my heart that would ever last. But then my wife and I started our Crazy Love group, opening up our home to anyone who wanted to come and grow together in Christ. It didn't matter what church you went to- I prayed God would sort that out (and over time he did!).
I was struck by something one of the brothers at church shared one midweek right around the same time. He was out "sharing his faith"and he ran into a theology student studying Hebrew in the food court at the mall. He said to him, "I'm not looking for someone to come to church with me Sunday morning. I'm looking for someone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus."
That approach, simple and straightforward, tore down the walls of division that pitted my church against yours and brought us together for the same cause- to be disciples of Jesus. I was inspired, encouraged, and my faith was renewed. I was studying the Bible with others like never before (and it wasn't that much, which says a lot). I was joyful. My wife and I were inviting people into our home, we were serving the poor, I want to believe we were actually making an impact.
Then life happened. Long story made real short- kids, family, work- every facet of our lives took a hit. And everything came to a screeching halt. You could say that Satan was actively opposing our new found faith and conviction. I'd argue instead that we were due to reap what our lives have been sowing.
After a year of taking blow after blow, I have grown restless; knowing what God has asked me to do but feeling unable to do it. Then I read that Francis Chan and David Platt were collaborating on a book. I couldn't imagine a better pairing and waited eagerly for the book to come out. I soon found out it wasn't just a book, but "movement", hmmm, that caught my attention, and the book wouldn't be a convicting challenge to my heart like Crazy Love or Radical, but would instead be an almost catechism with an emphasis on evangelism and discipling.
Well, sign me up. Book after book have been written on evangelism- how to, where to, what to- but really all we need is a renewed commitment to what Jesus commanded. Yeah, I'm going to study this to death, that's my nature. But I'm not going to wait until I finish a book or have the perfect study written up. I am pledging to go and make disciples in 2013. Who's with me?