As some of you know, Krista and I have been testing the waters of the Anglican tradition lately. I’ll write more on that in a future post, but suffice it to say that the liturgy has brought us a fresh hope and a renewed heart for worshipping God.
Like many denominations, the rapidly changing culture of the past 50 years has resulted in some crisis within the Anglican leadership. One of the issues being talked about right now is evangelism. Some wish to make an official statement from the top about how converting people to Christianity is a major aim for the Anglican churches.
This has ruffled a few feathers because of those who are concerned that such a statement may result in the opposite effect: damaging relations with other religions.
Having been a Christian since childhood, I don’t have a very good frame of reference for this conversation, but I think a lot about how the way of Christ looks to those peering in.
As I was scanning news about Anglicanism, an article about evangelism from The Guardian in the U.K. caught my eye. The author believes that “conversion is hardly ever about intellectual conviction, whether it is to or away from Christianity. . . It is overwhelmingly about joining a tribe or a people and about shifting affections and allegiances rather than ideas. Conversion to Christianity or to Islam results when people find a tribe or a family they want to belong to…”
While I don’t share his cynicism toward the intellectual struggle that goes along with conversion, I was intrigued by his statement that it “is overwhelmingly about joining a tribe.”
Perhaps we should consider more carefully how much this plays into how the Gospel is presented, whether in word or deed.
If he’s right, evangelism is very much an act of demonstrating to others that our “tribe” is one that is bonded together in the grace, love, and mercy of God. I think our biggest problem with regard to evangelism is not our ability to answer all the tough theological questions and give a logical presentation of how to be saved. The intellectual concerns are important, but they are as a “clanging cymbal” if there is no evidence that our tribe, our family, is one that welcomes the work of God and lives out his redemption in our relationships, as difficult as they can be.
So it matters what we say and how we respond to people. This is a real problem for me.
I would rather not be anywhere near most people. If I could hide in a cave and disappear, I would. It’s easier. People annoy me. I annoy me. It’s simply a matter of preferring not to be annoyed.
But I have been called out. Out of the cave, and into the lives of others. Because I’m an introvert, that won’t mean that I’m investing in large numbers of people at once. But those God has brought across my path carry God’s word to me, and I carry that word to them. It’s an exchange of strength that happens in a marriage between believers and between two Christ-following friends.
That’s the kind of interaction that the world is rarely exposed to. But it may be what they most need to see: Christ alive and at work in the middle of our messy (and sometimes annoying) relationships.