When I heard these words, I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)
This was the verse for meditation this morning in the NRSV Daily Bible (Harper Collins Publishing, 2012). The contemplation that follows from Richard Foster discussed the word penthos, a Greek word that is the equivalent of the heart break that Nehemiah expresses, and is also used to describe the people who were cut to the heart by Peter's words in Acts 2:37.
After reading this, I am today contemplating what cuts me to the heart, and remembering the question we were asked to consider at our March presbytery meeting: What breaks God's heart in your city? I have been thinking that the answer in Galveston, my city, is homelessness, but today I am realizing it's deeper than that, and that the answer is much more broadly true for all of us: evangelism.
I was very excited to discover this blog on Next Church about evangelism, and I encourage you to stop now and read this: click here
Maybe you're wondering what was exciting about this. I had been struggling with doubt, so for me it was confirmation that what I think God has been putting in front of me is indeed from God and the way to go.
Today I discovered that there are more blogs that have been posted on Next Church about evangelism, so I encourage you to read this one by Jessica Tate, too: click here
This blogger says we are in an evangelism crisis, and I agree. Actually, my church has been asking for help with this lately and as their pastor I have been remiss in not moving fast enough to give them that help. We have probably all had old school evangelism classes in our various pasts, but we have gotten beat up a little and we're hesitant to try those methods. I really like that Ms. Tate encourages us to get back to basics - theology. What do we believe? What is it about our faith that is compelling enough for us to want to share it?
Ms. Tate's answer is: "I answered my friend saying that I believe the central story of our faith is the movement from fear and death to hope and new life. I see that most clearly in the cross and resurrection and believe that movement is what God is about. In a world that feels like it is always tipping between fear and hope, I trust in God’s movement and I need to regularly gather with other people who are trying to embody that trust and movement in their lives."
I like that. I think my version would be something similar: "I know that God loves me and loves you so much that he is continually sending us that message through beauty and compassion and more clearly through Jesus and the cross, and that Jesus' resurrection is proof that God can bring new life to all the places that death seems to reign." Or something like that.
What would you say? Where can you say it? What do you think about this whole idea of an evangelism crisis? Please comment below.
I'm going to keep on reading and talking about this. Next Church has made evangelism their blog topic for this month, so there's lots more to read here: click here. I'm excited about our renewed understanding of God's call to us to spread the good news. I hope you are, too.