Today’s guest blog comes to us from Kimberly Reisman, an author, pastor, teacher and theologian serving as Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council. Kim is also an Adjunct Professor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and The School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.
One Friday evening while I was doing my doctoral work, John and I were at an art gallery opening when we ran into an acquaintance I had come to know through work in a community organization. As we introduced our spouses, he mentioned to his wife that I was a PhD student but couldn’t remember the exact area of study. I explained that I was studying the theology of evangelism. With the word “evangelism” barely out of my mouth, they looked at each other and recoiled in unified horror. Realizing the obvious negativity of their reaction, my friend launched into damage control: “Evangelism. Wow. I never would have thought. You’ve always struck me as so open minded.”
Hmmm. I suppose my friend isn’t the only one who needs to engage in some damage control.
It seems everybody, including Christians, (still) have a problem with the E-word. People both inside and outside the church are uncomfortable, hesitant, and maybe even hostile when it comes to this emotionally and historically charged issue. There are likely many reasons for this, but I believe three myths in particular have created a whole lot of problems.
Myth #1 – Evangelism is something we do TO someone.
When we come to understand evangelism as sharing with someone in the context of relationship, our horizons are expanded. It’s no longer about a pressured situation of influence or persuasion, but an ongoing journey of exploration and growth. Shared hopes and pain, shared questions and meaning, shared struggle and joy.
Myth #2 – Conversion happens in a single moment.
Yes, conversion can include a wonderful aha moment when things become more clear or when we begin to see things in a new way. But more often than not, conversion consists of many smaller aha moments, each of which occurs because of all that has gone before.
Myth #3 – Conversion is the goal of evangelism.
Conversion is the beginning of the process not the end. That’s why in the early Methodist/Wesleyan movement evangelism often took place in the context of class meetings, those safe spaces of trust and care where people could explore their fledgling faith together – sharing their hopes, struggles, fears, joy, questions, meaning. (See Myths #1 and #2)
Click here to read the entire article.
Your partner in ministry,
Share This Post