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Musings on Missions and Evangelism: Evangelism as Art

02/07/2013

I don’t know about you, but my life of faith has had its fair share of doubt and uncertainty. This was clearly evident during my graduate education in theology. I wrestled with all the questions you would expect. It was, and still is, hard to intellectually reconcile all the competing theories, arguments and experiences related to the existence and activity of God. In the end, I left graduate school with some serious doubts and questions. Yet, strangely enough, my faith was stronger than ever before.

Those trends have continued, and escalated, during these years serving in cross-cultural ministry. I constantly grapple with serious questions about God, but answers continue to evade me. The cosmological, ontological, and all the other -ological arguments fail to bring satisfactory resolutions, while the problem of evil continues to give me nightmares (pun intended). I still have no idea how atonement works, and Joshua and Judges remain thorns in my side. And don’t get me started on divine agency.

However, despite my intellectual conundrums, I am wholly and completely captivated by the story of Jesus Christ. The longer I spend observing, seeking, following Jesus, the more beautiful his life, and the life he offers us, becomes. I don’t remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ purely because I think it is true; I continue down this path because I am moved to my core by the potentiality of life seen in him.

This is why I say that evangelism is less like science and more like art. The tendency in evangelism is to focus on convincing others of the scientific, logical, and rational veracity of our faith claims. While this aspect of evangelism has its place, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ should be more akin to writing poetry, performing music, or painting a canvas. We should be less concerned with explaining the logic of the incarnation and more interested in awing others with the portrait of a God who was born in a manger. We could give fewer defenses on the authority of Scripture and instead perform dramatic acts of reconciliation and restoration. We can spend less energy on convincing people of how Jesus atones for their sins and more on describing the beauty of what happens when a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies. We do not have to persuade people of the historicity of the resurrection as much as point to the new creation that breaks forth when we participate in the resurrection life.

The other day Ann was spending time with a friend of ours who has caught a glimpse of the beauty of Jesus Christ. Ann was talking to her about the significance of Jesus being Lord. Ann then asked her to name the characteristics of Jesus that make her want to follow him. Her immediate response was, “Everything! I want to be like him in every way!” That kind of response does not come from someone whose growing faith is based primarily on the reasonableness and logic of the gospel. It only comes from one who is being consumed by the beauty of the life lived by, and found in, Jesus Christ.

 

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7 comments

  1. Thanks, Derran. I want to be like him, too!


    • … and that’s from me. -Russ


  2. I have learned to take a few days of reflection before responding to your Musings, but sometimes it does not take long to recognize significant truth. Jesus is lovely in every way and broken people like me are naturally drawn to him.


  3. Perhaps ‘evangelizing’ might be more like Christ if we focus much less on getting anyone out of something and focus more on being channels by which Christ might enter someone’s world more deeply?


    • Well said. I like how that sounds. Thanks.


      • the relevant aaonlgy, i think, is the search for a wife. you don’t keep exploring all of the women before settling down. you find one that fits well enough, and you stick with her. christians will argue the same way, though i think quite a sizeable proportion of them haven’t tried outside of their own church. to that extent the statement has something to recommend it.


  4. I love the analogy of evangelism as art. Very inspiring. I can see many connectons here. Every (good) artist approaches her work with planning, preparation, training, and an idea of where the work will lead. But in the end, in my experience in theater at least, the only way to create anything worthwhile is to release the need to control and allow the artwork to grow organically out of personal experience, to leave room for mystery and dissonance because that is where the deepest truth often lies. I think the same can be said for good evangelism. Being open and sensitive to truth and to the needs of those around you, living authentically and openly, thinking creatively, relying on a community…these are all characteristics of good artists and evangelists.



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