Evangelism today has become blurred in the mainstream. It is often perceived as an over-zealous and passionately ardent enthusiasm or support for a cause. So when I first heard ‘evangelism’ within the church context, I mentally took one step back. Evangelicals were a teensy-weensy bit scary. It conjured up images of shiny suited American tele-evangelists. Door-to-door types pushing pamphlets, asking zealously, “Are you ready to be saved? Have you accepted Jesus into your life?”
But here’s the weird thing. Remember that feeling you used to get in the pit of your stomach, waking up when you were a kid on Christmas morning? That excited sense of anticipation. My youngest describes it as smiles in her tummy. Well, as I quietly started to talk to God and Jesus about ‘stuff’, I would awake each morning with that feeling. Every single morning.
During the early months it was too precious to discuss. Whilst a small bit of me was scared of ridicule, most of me simply wasn’t ready to ‘fight the good fight’. I didn’t have any arguments to explain to people why my faith was unfurling, to articulate, as the SAP terms it, the ‘new operating system’ my soul had downloaded. I just knew it felt right, but like most operating systems, there were bugs to sort out.
One of the bugs was evangelism. The evangelical ‘spreading the news’ warred with my belief about free choice: it’s nobody else’s business what a person believes. It’s OK for God and Jesus to shove me (or drag me), but not anybody else.
But back to that fizzing feeling of anticipation. People would ask what I was so happy about. I would flippantly tell people I was on new meds. Or batten it down. Which was kind of like trying to shove Disney’s Genie back in the bottle.
That new teenage boyfriend feeling
Much as it’s probably blasphemous to liken learning about Jesus to being a teenager with a new boyfriend, it’s the closest analogy I can come up with to explain evangelism in a way that makes me feel comfortable. Teenage girls like to drop their boyfriend’s name into as many conversations as possible. It’s all about Martin/Daniel/Frankie/Bono. It was a massive shock to realise, internally, I was doing something similar with my own experience.
The joy just kept bubbling over. I was both amazed and horrified. I’d have these internal dialogues, “Don’t say anything, don’t say anything,” but then would find myself quietly offering a bereaved friend support with an invite to attend one of the quieter, reflective church services. Sharing the church kids club. Even suggesting appropriate marketing messages for one of the ministries. Hang on…
In the midst of another theological email to the SAP, the dots connected. Yikes. Even. Gel. iCal. Nothing like shiny suits and door knocking. As I wrote at the time, “I guess that serves me right for stereotyping what evangelising looks like! Laugh as much as you like. I can literally hear the angels in stitches.”
The SAP replied, “This is why Christianity spreads – people meet Jesus and realise that He’s worth talking about.”
But me? Really? FFS.