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#200WOL: Should Reformed People Even Do Evangelism?

Editors' note: We're teaming up for our post today with our friends over at YALT. You can find their blog at Thanks YALT!

We're starting a new feature here on YALT's Momentum blog - it's called "#200WOL" or "200 Words or Less". We're taking a topic we think is relevant, allowing multiple voices to speak into that topic and forcing them to keep their comments efficient. 200-words-or-less efficient.

To start us off, we're tackling an issue that seems to be problematic for many Christian young adults in 2014: how do I balance sharing my faith versus showing my faith through actions? To add a wrinkle to the question, we're taking it in a smaller slice - how to Calvinist or Reformed people, with their solid doctrine of election and their commitment to social justice, balance this out - especially in the politically-correct atmosphere of 21st century North America?

Some say that the commitment to seeking the lost must remain our primary objective and others say evangelism should happen primarily - or even exclusively - through the question-inducing way we practice our faith in their presence. Add to this the fact that most of us who were born in the last 40 years have been raise in a culture that teaches us - for better or worse - that all perspectives/beliefs should be respected and held as equally valid so claiming the exclusiveness of Christ becomes increasingly difficult and awkward.

We've asked four contributors - two YALT regulars and two non-regulars, two Canadians and two Americans, two women and two men - to take a stab at responding to this quote, which surfaced following Missional Cafe 2014:

"Advocacy/Justice can never replace evangelism, even if we feel less guilty doing it."

Chris Cassis
Lead Pastor of The Source Church (Pembroke Pines, FL)


"Social Justice is an important piece of evangelism.  Elements of social justice are evident in the parable of the Good Samaritan, The Lord’s Prayer, the feeding of the 5,000, and in Jesus’ famous words found in Matthew 25:35-36 when he declared; “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”  He, too practiced social justice while on earth. Theologians call this “common grace”.  The call of a Christian is to take action when someone is in need regardless of her faith.  However, social justice will never replace evangelism.  Christians are specifically commanded in Mark 16:15 to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.  In Acts 1:8, He directs believers to be witnesses to all.  God desires to relieve all suffering in the world, including eternal suffering. To reduce social suffering without communicating eternal suffering is not only insensitive, it is un-Christ like. The Social gospel without Jesus is no Gospel at all."

Jane Halton
Certified Coach, Business Owner, YALT Writer (Vancouver, BC)


"A simple definition of ‘evangelism’ is ‘the task of sharing the good news with the hope of conversion’ (the good news being that Jesus died for our sins). When operating from these definitions, this ‘task’ can be more like awkward conversations of trying to ‘win souls.’ Thus it becomes something many of us avoid (and feel guilty about doing OR avoiding). In addition, it furthers the stereotype that Christians just want to “shove our beliefs down peoples’ throats.”  In Mark 1, Jesus actually has a different definition of the good news: the Kingdom of God is here. This drastically changes the meaning of evangelism. The Kingdom of God or the reign and work of Christ is here now and will continue until Jesus returns.  Thus evangelism is sharing (and joining) the reign and work of Christ. We join in the work we see Christ doing because we love and experience His irresistible grace, not because we feel guilty.Jesus lived out the good news, not only by loving but, by turning over tables of injustice, sharing meals (and water bottles) with outcasts and putting religious zealots in their place. He calls us to love like this too - not to give information to strangers in hopes of getting them saved (after all, isn’t it God’s job, not ours, to save?)."

Mark Hilbelink
Lead Pastor, Sunrise Community Church & YALT Writer (Austin, TX)


"I remember the first time someone I knew “converted” to Christianity. I think that, up until that point, I had spent a lot of time debating who chose who with fellow Christians while never actually believing conversion was a thing that happened on North American soil. As a Millennial & introvert, I was also hoping for that. Many missional relationships, awkward conversations and adult baptisms later, it’s hard for me to imagine a Christian life without evangelizing the lost. I know the lines - that we need to love people into the Kingdom instead of speaking and hopefully those who watch my Christian lifestyle would attest to my patient, deliberate pursuit of those far from God with time, energy, compassion, alms, restoration, reconciliation and justice as my first foot in evangelism. But I have a second foot: words. Words are still as important today as they were in the early, exploding Church. And I’m not even talking off-the-pulpit words (although those can be sometimes-effective) – I’m talking relational discipleship words. Words of truth, admonishment, hope, Gospel, recovery, reconciliation, and worthwhileness-of-life. Discipleship starts when people are far from God and never ends. I’m not an altar-call, hit-and-run evangelist. But I am an evangelist."

Danielle Rowaan
Justice Communications & Education Coordinator for CRC & Co-Editor of Do Justice (Hamilton, ON)


"For many people I know, the name of Jesus is not good news. It’s a hard truth, but years of Christian complicity with the powerful through things like residential schools mean that Jesus and my friends have some baggage to deal with. (And now there is a cultural tendency to see all the bad the Church has done and none of the good.) The driving passion of my life is to begin to unravel that baggage by helping the Church listen deeply and respond to marginalized people. Once I am in relationship with someone and they know that me talking about Jesus comes from that place and not from a “notches on my belt” kind of evangelism, then I can try to hold justice and evangelism together in one whole. Christ is genuinely transforming me, despite all my failings, so that should show in an authentic relationship. The problem is that once I’m invested in that kind of relationship, the cost of saying anything that might be taken as stereotypically Christian is scary. There have been a few times when I think I was open enough to the Spirit to do this, and many times that I’ve failed."


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