Friday, June 22, 2012

The Evangelized Evangelizers

Have you already been evangelized?

Ok, so here is the way I am used to thinking about evangelization. I was evangelized; my dad and others preached the gospel to me and I invited Jesus to live in my heart. After that moment, I no longer needed evangelization because I had already been evangelized. Now I needed discipleship. I needed to be instructed in the way to live life, and taught what beliefs I should hold. With practice, willpower, and the proper instruction, I would become well equipped to resist temptation, refute the heathen, and walk the path of Christ all the way to Heaven.
The presupposition I want to focus on is that evangelization is for the unsaved; and that after evangelization, the strategy of discipleship changes to a primarily intellectual and practical affair of learning beliefs and behaviors.
I believe that I made an error in how I understood the gospel. I thought that the cross reoriented me; I was headed in the wrong direction, and Christ re-directed me toward God. I thought that once my feet had been set to walking the right course, that I no longer needed the cross. I had my bearings, I knew the truth, and that was all I needed. How far off can a guy be!?!
Darrell Guder points out the flaw in my assumptions: “Christianity has no universal message to proclaim . . . witness is not the interpretation of philosophy but the continuation of the event of God’s self-disclosure in human history.”[1] The gospel is not a message; it is Christ. Evangelization is not conveying an idea or a philosophy to which one might intellectually assent; it is an encounter with a person whom one must either follow or reject.
If this is true, then that means that I must completely re-think my notion of evangelism. Evangelism is not conveying a set of propositions or beliefs. Such a definition would align well with a “once and done” understanding of evangelization: once I learned that the earth was round, and I filed that knowledge away in my brain so that I never had to re-learn it. But, if being evangelized is, instead, an encounter with a living person whom I must decide to follow, then I must also continually be re-deciding to follow Him, as the option to leave is always open. If this is an accurate picture of evangelism, then that means that evangelization applies to all people, not simply the unsaved.
I believe, therefore that evangelization is an ongoing existence characterized by the presence of Christ.. To evangelize is to allow oneself to be used as a conduit for the presence of Christ. To be evangelized is to submit; to surrender, moment by moment, to the Kingdom of Heaven. To evangelize is to be the living, concrete representative of that Kingdom; a catalyst for Heaven’s colonization of earth. To be evangelized is to be open to that Kingdom and its movement.
As Christians, it is our job to simultaneously embody the encounter between Christ and the other, as we open ourselves to encountering Christ in the other. We are to be, simultaneously, continually evangelizing and continually evangelized. Simul Peccator et Justus; simultaneously sinners and justified; the evangelizers being evangelized.
So, what do you think?

[1] Darrell L. Guder The Continuing Conversion of the Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 29.

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