Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is there still a place for evangelists?

Let me start by saying that I'm uncomfortable with the label "evangelist."  The word has so many negative connotations in our culture that I'm hesitant to use it.  Add to that the fact that I believe that all followers of God are called to be salt and light in the world, which means that I don't like drawing a distinction between someone who is "an evangelist" and someone who is not.

But the reality is that there are some people who are more passionate about walking with others spiritually.  And some people are very clearly called to leading and discipling within the body of those who regularly meet together as followers of Jesus (yes, the Church).  So assuming that there is a similar calling to evangelism, I think that I have that.  I didn't know about it at first.  Maybe I should have, when I was attending a Christian college and nearly suffocated living within the Christian bubble.  It was all I could do to force myself to finish instead of running off to some other part of the globe doing some kind of mission or relief work.  As it is, I lived for a long time with a vague sense of dissatisfaction that I couldn't pinpoint or get rid of until I stopped hanging out with only people who believed the same things I did.

Anyway, I can't deny that the thing that brings me the greatest joy in life is being able to walk with people as they move from hostility toward God to a point of surrendering their hearts and lives to him.  Let me note that I don't see it as my job to move someone from one point to another.  It's very much being sensitive to the things that I perceive God is doing in someone's heart and life and being there to walk with them, to help them identify God's movement in their lives, and to help direct them to the right resources.  So much of what I do is listening and asking  questions.  That, and praying day and night for God to break through the darkness.

I struggle though, to know where to fit into the church.  Where does someone whose calling and passion lies outside the church fit into what is so often an institution that is primarily concerned with its own existence?  The greatest problem is that my world looks so different than the world of your average churchgoer.  I don't even know how to connect.  In my mind, I know that we are necessary to one another - I need that body as much as that body needs me.  But I struggle to find my place.  I feel like I'm always running against the grain.

This becomes even more difficult when you realize that anyone whose calling is to evangelism is actually already under a ton of spiritual oppression.  So often it's felt like I'm battling on two fronts.  And if I have to choose where I'm going to put my spiritual energy, it's going to be fighting the darkness that's in the world rather than the darkness that sometimes surrounds the institution of the church.

So this is a problem that I don't have an answer to.  Do you have a place and a role for the evangelists in your body?  Do you know if there are people in your church who feel like they belong more in the world than at church on Sunday?  If so, what are you doing to affirm their place?

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