Evangelism has been a difficult concept for me. I’ve never thought I knew enough. I can’t quote Bible verses from memory. I don’t have a complete understanding of church history or teaching. My words can sound sanctimonious and saccharin even to my own ear. In the un-churched community in which I live I fear my witness would do more to offend than to welcome.
Yet, as I have begun to know our Lord better, I’ve at times felt as though I would burst if I didn’t find some way to share His beauty and gentleness and love with others. It’s a natural outcome of His sharing His abundance with me, who has done so little to deserve it.
When we don’t know how to do something that at the same time feels so urgent, it’s often true that our understanding of our purpose is lacking. My concept of evangelism in this case has been faulty and incomplete.
This morning Henri Nouwen addressed “The Fruit of the Spirit” in his book of daily meditations, Bread for the Journey. He says,
Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives.
But this explicit missionary endeavor often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.
Talk about an arrow straight to my heart. “…an insecure heart…creates divisions.” Here’s the nut,
The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). These fruit speak for themselves. It is, therefore, always better to raise the question “How can I grow in the Spirit?” than the question “How can I make others believe in the Spirit?”
I’m not sure there are words to express the relief I felt as I read this. My job is to grow myself. I’m increasingly certain I can do that.
Henri continues in the next meditation to discuss “Right Living and Right Speaking” saying that,
To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking. When we forgive our neighbors from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words. When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.
Father, I pray Your grace guides my heart and my actions and my words; that they honor You and are acceptable in Your sight; that they bless those You bring into my life.