A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to teach in a classroom again! I had thought that days of chalk dust were behind me. It had been a couple of years and I didn’t know how I would feel about it or how I would do, for that matter. I was given the topic “Evangelism” and four class periods. In my previous incarnation I taught 4 – 5 classes per semester under the banner “Evangelism” so I had no shortage of material but a dearth of class time! Preparation became boiling things down to the essentials, always a good task.
It was formation week at Taylor College and there were six keen students about to commit themselves to be ‘Evangelists in Training” with Threshold Ministries. What was essential for me to communicate?
We began by looking at the character required. We studied the scriptural accounts of Philip the Evangelist, who is the only one given that title. Chief among his virtues is ‘humility’. Here was a man identified as fill of the Holy Spirit, a man with clear gifts in communication who began his ministry ‘waiting on tables’. This attitude is essential to the incarnation of the Gospel as any reading of Philippians chapter two will plainly show. Humility in my experience does not just happen, it is a clear and conscious choice based on an awareness of the smallness of our role in this service of evangelism.
God after all is the chief evangelist. By his ‘prevenient’ grace He work in lives. His Holy Spirit woos and calls. Paul plants, Apollos waters but it is God who causes things to grow.
Our friend is next in line. Each must respond to God’s grace. Each must seek some how, if they are to find.
The Church acts as evangelist, as sign, it stands as a community of those who have responded to God’s grace. The Church, the Body of Christ, by living out the precepts of the Kingdom of God attracts our friends to Christ. At the same time a dysfunctional Body impedes this trust. The third evangelist though is this mystical body of believers.
The last, and least, of the evangelists is the Evangelist, who by word and incarnational deeds calls and ushers folks into the Kingdom of God. This role is humble but like all of the calls of God, is vital!
It is not through self-exalting effort but by humble service that we earn the right to speak and it is for this crucial moment we ready ourselves.
Through humble service, we like Philip, win the opportunity to be a ‘show and tell’ both incarnating and explicating the Good News. It is of this moment that Peter writes “Always be prepared to share the hope that is within you but do so with gentleness and respect.”
Sometimes we think of the pastor as the one to ‘love’ folks and the evangelist as the one who confronts people. I suggest that the reverse may be more true. It is only as we love that we adequately fill our role. 1 Cor. 13 reminds us that “love never fails” or as Rob Bell writes “Love Wins!”
Christ became incarnate through humility in the manger and through his sacrificial life and death and he still comes in humility to a world that does not know him. This ministry as Evangelists is not for wimps but for those who have the courage to ‘take up their cross and follow Him.’
I was glad for this opportunity to hear myself teach and be reminded once more of this great truth. I convicted myself!
Shortly after my renewed teaching experience I was invited to teach a unit of a “Perspectives” course at Crandall University (thank you Paul for the recommendation) and so I am discovering that my teaching days may not be over after all, and I am grateful.