Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with a kid who is thinking about quitting his sport.
This young man is a devout Christian; he goes to and/or leads several church and youth functions.
One of the points I made to him was that his sport is a ministry; it is an incredible sphere of influence. “Look at your teammates,” I said. “They are in need of Christ. Share the gospel with them and talk to them about Jesus! If you quit, you won’t have that opportunity. Sport is an incredible platform for the gospel because there’s something about bleeding and sweating with your teammates that bonds you and brings you close. You can, of course, still share with them if you quit, but you won’t have the same respect and authority.”
His eyes kind of lit up when I said that. I wonder how many times he’s heard that before. Probably not many. I haven’t yet heard it in any of the messages that have been given at the one student Christian group I attend. I’ve heard about “hurting God’s feelings,” but not about talking about Jesus.
This reminds me of what commenter Tim said the other day in reaction to one of my posts:
I agree that talking to people about salvation through Jesus Christ is important, but do you think you might be working with a narrow definition of evangelism. By calling it ‘evangelism proper’ and referring to this as the act of talking to people about your religious convictions I think you miss the wider meaning of what evangelism is. I think we could agree that the word evangelism comes for the Greek word euangelion or good news. The good news Jesus says he came to proclaim in Luke 4 says nothing about belief or faith or doctrinal convictions. Instead he speaks of release of captives, blind people seeing and the downtrodden freed (sounds a lot like social justice to me).
All I’m saying is I think it’s a both/and kind of situation. Unfortunately the majority of traditions have chosen to major in either one or the other and not both.
I can certainly agree with Tim in the last paragraph. It’s a both/and. That’s what I’ve been arguing a lot lately. In a certain sense, I can also agree with the first paragraph. The problem is that in the church’s effort to embrace a wider definition of “missional,” it is very, very easy to leave the “talking about Jesus” part out. It’s unpopular. It’s just not sexy. People will speak ill of you and regard you as slightly annoying. Many in church leadership, who are trying to bring the Church a little positive PR, might subconsciously drop that and still think, “hey, we are sharing the gospel.”
Speaking and proclaiming and dialoguing about our sin problem and *the* solution Jesus offers (the only adequate solution!) is not sufficient…but it is necessary.
Yes, in Luke 4 Jesus might focus on the “social gospel” and might speak little or nothing of doctrinal convictions and such and salvation by faith, but both Him and His apostles do elsewhere all over the place. That needs to be emphasized.
My point is not that we should dump the “freeing the downtrodden” part. My point is that we need to correct the imbalance and emphasize sharing our Savior via proclamation more. If we don’t, we’ll be missing an incredible opportunity, just like the young man above.