There are countless opportunities for Christians to be engaged in Christ’s mission. But “evangelism” is blocking Christians from participaing in Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving lost people. Craig L. Nessan explains what needs to happen so that God’s missionary people can be fully engaged in sharing the love of Christ with the lost people of this world.
What needs to occur is nothing short of the death of evangelism. By this we mean that the prevailing opinion about evangelism as one program in the church, among many of other programs, must die. Evangelism has been reduced to one function of ecclesia existence and to the work of a committee alongside many other committees. In the worst-case scenario, evangelism has been reduced to an activity used to prop up the survival of the institutional church. Only when we begin to worry about church attendance or finances do we begin to consider the need for evangelism. The deeply rooted conviction that evangelism is an optional program of the church must die.
What do we imagine for a church in which evangelism has been put to death? We pray for the resurrection of an evangelizing church culture by the power of God. By culture we mean “the total body of belief, behaviors, knowledge, sanctions, values and goals that mark the way of life of a people.” No longer will evangelism be one program or ministry alongside others. Rather, engagement in evangelizing will become so rooted in our identity as a church that speaking the name of Jesus Christ and telling the story of what God has done for us will become as natural as talking about our families. … Like the proverbial fish that cannot distinguish itself from the water in which it swims, we need to become so immersed in an evangelizing culture that our communities of faith cannot but help tell the story of Jesus and his love.
From: Craig L. Nessan, “After the Death of Evangelism — The Resurrection of an Evangelizing Church” in The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution, editors Richard H. Bliese and Craig Van Gelder. Augsburg/Fortress, 2005:114.